Caitlin Flanagan is right (Part II) | Jonathan Martin | 5 Min Read

As noted in Part I of this essay, I, like many others, including former independent school educator and parent Caitlin Flanagan, in a cover story of the Atlantic, and Fred Bartels a decade ago, believe independent schools have, as Flanagan says, “become truly obscene.”

I’m writing to call upon any and all educators within this set of schools; any, that is, who are genuinely committed to reducing the “savage inequality” of schooling in America and opposing rather than advancing the rapidly intensifying gaps between rich and poor in our nation, to commit to action to end these schools’ complicity with the grave economic injustices of our era.

I have a list of policies and commitments to suggest.  I offer my list and at the same time welcome others to add to it. I believe that before the next school year begins, a list of this kind should be consolidated and established as a kind of voluntary pledge, akin to the Billionaire’s Giving Pledge, that educators and schools can make.  In two cases, I call for a change in tax law that benefits elite private schools, a kind of legislative mandate that the schools themselves cannot effectuate (but they can voluntarily call and lobby for).  All other items here are, however, voluntary commitments for these schools to make, ones they can decide to do entirely voluntarily, just as in my example, billionaires are doing in regards to their estates.

Will these actions and goals be easy to implement and accomplish for the private-independent school world?  No.   Will there be necessary sacrifices and tradeoffs? Yes.

But we are seeing other examples of ambitious goals to be accomplished within a decade or two, commitments that until recently seemed impossible — most prominently declarations to be carbon neutral by 2030 or thereabouts.  There is no reason that an institution that could make a carbon-neutral pledge couldn’t also make a pledge to no longer exacerbate societal inequities of wealth and opportunity within a decade’s time.

Here are the eight theses I’d like to nail to the door of the private-independent school community of educators, demands to be accomplished before the decade is completed:

  1. An end to tax deductions for private school charitable deductions.  I state this flatly — an absolute end to the tax laws that benefit these private schools at the expense of other critical economic needs…
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Jonathan Martin

Jonathan E. Martin taught at and led schools in California and Arizona from 1989 to 2012; over the past decade he has been a writer, school consultant, and professional development provider to more than a hundred schools and thousands of educators in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and New Zealand. His affiliations have included EdLeader21, OECD PISA, NWEA, NAIS, Mastery Transcript Consortium, Blackbaud, Enrollment Management Association, CWRA, and Think Through Math. He is the author of Reinventing Crediting for Competency-Based Education (Routledge Press, 2020), as well as scores of e-books, special reports, and white papers over the past 10 years. He currently directs professional learning for a global not-for-profit educational organization.