Monday, May 29, 2017

The Star Ledger's #FakeNews On NJ Charters

I swore I wasn't going to do this anymore. I wasn't going to respond to irresponsible editorial boards that make grossly inaccurate claims about public and charter schools because they will never change their minds anyway. But then, this little tidbit dropped front and center on the Star Ledger's Sunday editorial page yesterday, and...

So, let's give this a go...

First, read Jersey Jazzman's piece that blows the roof off every single cockamamie claim made by the Ledger by presenting facts and figures:

  • Students in Newark and Camden charter schools are less expensive to educate because they have fewer special needs than their TPS counterparts
  • Newark and Camden charter schools enroll significantly less students who are Limited English Proficient
  • Newark and Camden charter schools employ significantly less experienced teaching staff than their TPS counterparts
  • Newark and Camden charter schools have much higher administrative costs than their TPS counterparts
  • Newark and Camden charter schools do have access to public funds as well as private, philanthropic money

But facts and figures aren't the only things the S-L gets wrong:

In Newark and Camden, where parents have fled failing district schools by the thousands, charter schools have been one of the great social successes of the past decade.

I guess that's true if you count 'success' as discriminating and segregating. The S-L has reported countless times about those thousands-deep charter waiting lists with nothing more than charter cheerleaders saying so. But this isn't surprising in the era of fake news and alternative facts. 

The truth is that in Newark and Camden, thousands of students have been forced out of their beloved neighborhood public schools, communities up-ended, and families scattered because their state-appointed superintendents have deemed them as 'failing' or simply not worth saving. Or, as in the case of Newark, which has the one-two punch of being underfunded by Christie and bleeding millions to the charters, they have had to hold fire sales. This is state-sponsored destruction of democracy, and you are paying for it.

But the Ledger consistently supports this.

What about parents who want to save their local public schools? They vote with their feet, too—by marching in protest. But they still have no say. There are no billionaires lining up to write nine-figure checks to save their schools. And in both these state-run districts, their boards of ed are powerless. In Camden, the appointed board members are nothing more than head-nodding minions of the local Democratic political machine. In Newark, the board has been reduced to 'adivsory' status, with no real power. So much for government of, by and for the people.
Yet the Democratic candidates in our governor's race are all curiously skeptical about charter schools. Each is departing from former President Barack Obama's courageous support for charters that defied the teacher's union, which is a real threat to this progress in our cities.

Maybe because they're looking at the facts that say well-funded, neighborhood public schools that are open to every student, supported by the community, and employ highly-educated, well paid teachers do, in fact, succeed? 

I've said this before and I'll say it again: President Obama, the first African American president, whom I voted for twice, did more to segregate public schools than any other president in this modern era. He completely turned his back on the core Democratic Party principles of equality and social justice. And he wasn't alone. Many Democratic leaders, from the local to national level, have stood with him in supporting state-sponsored segregation. As Diane Ravitch reports in The New Republic
The Obama years saw an epidemic of new charters, testing, school closings, and teacher firings. In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel closed 50 public schools in one day. Democratic charter advocates—whose ranks include the outraged [former Newark mayor, now Sen. Cory] Booker [D-NJ] and [Sen. Michael] Bennet [D-CO]—have increasingly imported “school choice” into the party’s rhetoric. Booker likes to equate “choice” with “freedom”—even though the entire idea of “choice” was created by white Southerners who were scrambling to defend segregated schools after Brown v. Board of Education.
Whether they're in it for the 'reformy' donations (Booker, Bennett, Govs. Cuomo, Brown and Malloy among many) or just political revenge as is the case with NJ Senate President Steve Sweeney vs. NJEA, far too many democrats have turned their backs on their core base of supporters and their party's founding principles. The fact that the democratic gubernatorial candidates are taking another look at charter regulations is (maybe, possibly) a sign that they are looking at the facts instead of their campaign account balance sheets.

Oh yea, and while newspapers like the Ledger and others shill for the anti-union, 'reformy' elite, this has quietly been happening all across the country:

As the saying goes, 'If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.' And then make 'em better and stronger!


My high school alma mater, Queen of Peace, in No. Arlington, NJ announced it's closing its doors come June 30. The S-L/ posted several articles about it. It's a Catholic school, and the lack of funds and declining enrollment made it unsustainable. I was sad. I have a lot of memories of that place, both good and bad, and some very dear friends still to this day. Back then, every good Catholic who could afford it—and many who couldn't—sent their kids to Catholic school. The area was solid middle-to-upper middle class White from Scottish, Irish, Italian and Polish descent. Everybody knew everybody. 

How must it feel for those current students and parents whose lives are now completely upended? Where will they go? What will happen to friendships? To their community? What will happen to academic goals and dreams? What about the staff? Where will they go? What must it feel like to suddenly have all that ripped out from under them? 

Now ask yourself how it must feel for the mostly low-income, Black and Brown students and families in places like Newark and Camden who live with this real possibility on a daily basis; who may have experienced this not once, but several times in their academic careers? What about their connections? Their neighborhoods? Their academic goals and dreams? Their futures?

Why don't you write about that, Star Ledger?