Independent filmmaker Madeleine Sackler looks at Harlem Success Academy, the lottery to be accepted, and families who have entered the lottery in her documentary, The Lottery. The sad statistic is that 58% of African American fourth-graders are functionally illiterate. That’s not because those children can’t learn. Knowing that in some schools only 10% of eighth-graders can read at grade level, what choices are available for parents who want to see their children have a chance at success? Not a lot.
There are parents who choose where their families will live based on the school systems; others send their kids to private schools. Not everyone can afford to do either of those things. If you had to send your child to a school where you know they won’t learn, what are your child’s college and career prospects? Sackler focuses her lens on several families who do not want their children to enter a failing school system where their bright young children’s educational needs will be neglected, at best. When the lottery results are announced, we feel the disappointment along with the families whose young children are not winners.
Charter schools have been a hot topic that has divided communities. When a school like the Harlem Success Academy succeeds, why would there be opposition to expanding the program and serving more children? The Lottery points the finger of blame at the teachers’ union as the largest (and best-funded) opponent of charter schools. Having worked in public schools (not in New York), and having been on the union side of contract negotiating teams, I agree.
The teachers’ unions are funded by unionized teachers’ in public schools. While the unions may support educational initiatives or programs, they are in the business of supporting teachers, specifically insuring that they have the very best pay and benefits that can be negotiated, that they are treated fairly, and that they don’t get fired. It’s a business, and unemployed teachers don’t pay union dues (although they can elect to do so, as can retired teachers), so charter schools that demand excellence in teaching are not in the best interests of teachers who cannot or prefer not to provide superior teaching and student experience. Don’t forget, administrators also have unions, and school boards have their own organizations—there’s a lot of entrenched tradition and special interests to be laid aside if charter schools are to flourish.
Through interviews with parents, teachers, administrators, and politicians on both sides of the issue, Sackler explores the issues arising from public charter schools. The film cannot be faulted for being pro-charter schools; that would be like finding fault with being anti-child abuse. Shocking statistics about educational success rates (literacy and reading levels) and teacher firings (in 2008, 10 teachers out of 55,000 in New York were fired) support the need for charter schools. As one interviewee stated, schools are not in the business of providing jobs, they are in the business of providing educations. The Lottery asks, “How can this best be accomplished?”
Excerpted from: http://technorati.com/entertainment/film/article/the-lottery-looks-at-public-education/page-2/#ixzz18EjYRUJD