Sunday, September 6, 2015

Debunking Reformy Logic One Tweet At A Time-Part 1

My blog was mostly quiet this summer. I made a conscious decision to dial back and re-charge my batteries after several years of non-stop work. But as if on cue, on the second day of school, this happened on Twitter and we were off to the races:

The exchange between Laura Waters, Derrell Bradford, Ryan Hill and I turned into an all-day affair with Save Our Schools NJ, Jersey Jazzman and a few other pro-public education advocates chiming in. It was a 3-pronged discussion focusing on:

  1. Waters' continuous, illogical reasoning 
  2. Hill's assertions that:
    - charter schools are underfunded compared to district schools
    - every child should have choice but only when that choice is a charter school
  3. Bradford's assertions that:
    - I'm a teacher, therefore I am not an expert on public education
    - I'm a white, suburban woman so I should "say nothing"

Part 1: Laura Waters' Illogical Reasoning

Waters, a 'reformer', blogger and Lawrence Twp BOE member frequently posts at NJ Spotlight and is frequently excoriated in the comments for her illogical reasoning and inability to grasp basic public education facts, policy and research. See here, here, here. See Mother Crusader here, here; Jersey Jazzman here, here, here; Bob Braun here

Here's an example from her latest post that started all this (linked in the tweet above):

Notice she doesn't deny any of this. But in her world, calling out the district and Hill's charter schools for possibly violating both state and federal laws in numerous ways, including segregating students who are most in need of these 'miracle' schools, is defending "the status-quo". 

As for the "lobbying groups" comment? This is news? If Waters is so concerned about lobbyists pressuring legislators, perhaps she should look in her own backyard. The NJ Charter Schools Association (which stayed mum during the whole exchange) is one of many education 'reform' (*ahem*) non-profits including Students First (Michelle Rhee), NYCAN (Derrell Bradford is ED), The Foundation for Excellence in Education (Jeb!s baby), The Gates, Walton, Broad and Koch Foundations, ALEC and a zillion other pro-charter/pro-ed 'reform' organizations that spend a lot of time and money lobbying legislators. And yes, so do ELC, NJEA and SOSNJ. Unfortunately, that's the business of government, made worse by Citizens United. 

But what does New Jersey have to show for all that lobbying, and other stuff, by ELC, NJEA and SOSNJ (which is a volunteer organization)? Plenty! The list of accolades for NJ's public schools is long. We consistently rank as one of the top three in the nation, we outperform many countries, and our school funding forumla (at least what's left of it after Christie has hacked away at it) which the Education Law Center originally litigated and continues to fight for, is a national model for school funding. NJEA provides one of the largest educator professional development conferences in the country (that pesky convention in November that Gov. Christie hates), and despite his best efforts to weed out all those "bad teachers", over 97% of us were rated effective or better last year. All of this didn't happen by magic. It happened because of the continued efforts of organizations such as these. Don't believe me? Check out their mission statements, then tell me about the status quo. 

But... we are also home to one of the poorest, most dangerous cities in the country: Camden, with a staggering 52% of children living below the poverty level. And while poverty numbers in the rest of the country have declined, NJ's have risen. So, it defies all logic and reasoning—not to mention research—to think that slashing funding, closing public schools and opening charter schools will magically cure all the ills in our poorest communities. But pesky facts never stop 'reformers' from spouting stuff like this:

Speaking of reality checks: where's the link to the research that backs that claim? Which students? Special ed? ELL? Disabled? Free lunch? Free and reduced price lunch? Do better at what? Which schools? What about attrition rates? So many questions, no answers from someone who refers to herself as “one of the premier analysts of New Jersey education policy”. I would think that if she really wanted to make her case, she would have posted a link to some research or at least the NJDOE website. C'mon, throw us a bone... a scrap... something... anything?

And as for that question I asked? Yup, never got an answer. I have never seen nor heard a charter advocate admit that most serve a different population than traditional public schools even though recent research confirms this. And therein lies the rub.

In Part 2 I take on Ryan Hill and his "All you need is [choice]" mantra.