I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Reformy Fainting Couch

Laura Waters is so anxious to defend charter schools against the criticisms of Diane Ravitch that she actually attempts to claim expertise on teacher unions over America's best-known education historian:
Here's a fact.
If Albert Shanker was alive today he'd still be an education reformer and would support NJ's efforts to expand school choice for poor urban students.. Here's another fact: he wouldn't have given this answer to a parent's query, which appears in the comment section of Dr. Ravitch's blog.
Parent: "Diane, what would you say to the poor urban minority parent who, due to her life situation, is forced to send her child to the chronically under-performing neighborhood public school? Would you still be in favor of leaving this parent with no options? There are many such urban parents who desperately want something better for their children. Where would your recommendations leave them?"
Ravitch: "My recommendations would send them to a good, local school, not a corporate school looking to exploit them for profit."
No, Shanker would have done better than that.
I guess maybe Laura has a ouija board now with which she communes with Shanker to get his answers. But here on planet Earth, Ravitch's post was directly quoting from Shanker:
In 1993, when Shanker saw that the charter idea was going to be used to privatize public education, he turned against charter schools. He opposed the takeover of the charter idea by corporations, entrepreneurs, and for-profit vendors. He became a vocal opponent of charter schools when he realized that his idea was embraced by “the education industry.” In his weekly column in The New York Times, Albert Shanker repeatedly denounced charter schools, vouchers, and for-profit management as “quick fixes that won’t fix anything.”
Quoting Shanker out of context as a supporter of charter schools is like quoting Malcolm X on racism before he made his Hajj. It's like using David Brock's or Arianna Huffington's early writings to claim they support conservative positions, or David Horowtiz's to say he's really a leftist.

People change, Laura. Ravitch makes that explicitly clear in her post, and in her book (p. 122), which you and ACTING Commissioner Cerf really need to read. You'll see Dr. Ravitch has had her own epiphany, and implying that Shanker would support "choice" makes as much sense as saying Ravitch supports No Child Left Behind based on positions she held 30 years ago.

More Waters:
Comm. Cerf tells us that he wants to "go beyond the frequent misrepresentations to have an honest conversation about what charter schools are and why they are important to New Jersey." While not part of the local district, they "are public schools, with public school students and public school teachers, funded with public dollars. Like district-run public schools, they are open to all students and, unlike many magnet and vocational schools, they are legally prohibited from using admissions criteria."
That is just plain wrong. As Bruce Baker explains, there are fundamental differences between a charter school - which operates as its own district - and a public school district. A public district MUST accommodate a child; a charter school can limit its enrollment. Charters and their self-appointed, unelected boards run expulsion proceedings under their own criteria. Charters can also "... set academic, behavior and cultural standards that promote exclusion of students via attrition."

The proof is in the charter pudding: over and over, we see evidence that "successful" charters serve different student populations than their neighboring public schools. And, even with the new "Performance Framework" from the NJDOE, charters do not have to actually have diverse populations; they need only demonstrate good intentions to the ACTING Commissioner's satisfaction.
Pretty mild stuff, all covered in statute, and particularly timely because the DOE justapproved nine new public charters. Yet Dr. Ravitch responds angrily, declaiming that charter schools are run by "privatizers and profiteers" and cheering New Jersey residents who are "beginning to revolt against for-profit charters, especially for-profit online charters, which Cerf is promoting...Citizens of the state have good reason to oppose the Christie administration's efforts to turn more taxpayer dollars over to private entrepreneurs."
In fact, all of NJ's charter school operators are non-profits, as mandated by state law. So what's getting Ravitch so riled up?
First, can we stop with this "angrily" nonsense once and for all? I know the slightest little vexation gives Miss Laura the vapors, but this fainting couch routine is getting really, really old. Nothing Ravitch wrote is remotely offensive or even mildly angry, and it's really grating to see Waters, once again, take the easy way out of the argument by objecting to "tone."

Second: here's the relevant passage in statute from Waters's link:
18A:36A-4. Establishment of charter school
a. A charter school may be established by teaching staff members, parents with children attending the schools of the district, or a combination of teaching staff members and parents. A charter school may also be established by an institution of higher education or a private entity located within the State in conjunction with teaching staff members and parents of children attending the schools of the district. If the charter school is established by a private entity, representatives of the private entity shall not constitute a majority of the trustees of the school, and the charter shall specify the extent to which the private entity shall be involved in the operation of the school. The name of the charter school shall not include the name or identification of the private entity, and the private entity shall not realize a net profit from its operation of a charter school. A private or parochial school shall not be eligible for charter school status. [emphasis mine]
Got that? A private entity can establish a charter, and that entity can't turn a profit. But there is nothing stopping that entity from subcontracting with a for-profit firm. Which is exactly what happened with one virtual charter that was given a "planning year," or a blended charter that was approved, and their contractor, K12 Inc.:
Rayer had sought to open two hybrid schools in New Jersey, and received preliminary approvals for both of them. The other would be in Trenton. But he said a decision was made early on that it would be a difficult lift to get them both operating, and they sought a one-year extension for the Trenton school that was granted by the state on Monday.
The second hybrid charter to open this fall will be Newark Preparatory School, also out of Newark. It will be operated by K12 Inc., the nation’s largest online education company and one that sought to also launch an all-online program. [emphasis mine]
So Ravitch is well within her rights to talk about charters and the "privatizers and profiteers" who stand to make big bucks from them.

I dare say, she could even raise her voice a little about it...


1 comment:

Deb said...

People change, but somehow I doubt Laura Waters will ever decide to actually research the issues she decides to comment on, and I have little confidence that she will ever be bound by facts or truth....THANK YOU for calling her on it. I know it takes fortitude and strength of character to do so, yet again.....