Students join a union protest of layoffs in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

While reading an article about an investigation at a charter school – one where a person I interviewed taught for Teach for America for a year – I came across a comment that caught my attention:

“state takes over and privatizes schools? Bwahaha isn’t privatization always better?”

“Bwahaha?” As in, “Bwahaha, this school is under investigation and is failing its students therefore validating my dislike of all charter schools and that’s awesome?”

Everyone likes finding something that supports their arguments. But laughter at yet another school seems to be failing its students seems misguided, to say the least.

This post isn’t about the charter debate. We know that some charters succeed while others fail at improving upon public education. But as in other areas of the national debate, discourse around education has become excessively polarized and politicized, shifting from problem-solving discussion into ideological warfare.

Stories around education often look like this:

Interest A says problem B is the biggest facing education, and it’s problem’s C’s fault for being lazy/money-grubbing/unaccountable. (Insert rhetoric-heavy quote from Spokesman A). Interest D counters that problem E is the real culprit, and says interest A is only defending its job/money/laziness, not helping students. (Insert counter-jab from D’s spokesman).

Meanwhile, many students, public and charter, are busy becoming completely unprepared for college.

In all of the reporting that I have done for News21, it turns out that people, not policies, are educating children. Superintendents organize principals who organize teachers who teach the kids. When capable people occupy those levels, education rarely deteriorates. When a bad link in the chain causes problems for anything below it, good people leave, problematic personnel can remain, and the children affected suffer.

Poverty may be the most common corollary between failing schools. But good events in school can help overcome that. Plus, people writing education policy can’t eradicate poverty — unless you count giving students the skills they need to break out of it.