First things first: if any of the yahoos on talk radio or in the press decide to make a big stink about these kids cutting classes tomorrow, remind them of this:
So I don't want to hear any grousing about these brilliant, determined, beautiful young people from Newark standing up for their right to an education from anyone in the "reformy" crowd. You folks have been happy to take kids out of school and use them as political props whenever the mood suited you; don't wag your fingers at these students for doing exactly the same thing on their own behalf.This past week, pro-voucher forces in New Jersey bussed kids in from local Catholic schools to rally in support of a school voucher bill.
Chris Christie condemned that rally; he thinks it is wrong to take kids out of school for a protest:
"The schools did a lousy job in really permitting all these students to walk out in the middle of the school day. Their parents send them there not to protest. They send them there to learn. And I have no problem with students protesting. They have absolutely every right to exercise their first amendment rights. But they should exercise their first amendment rights either before school or right after school."Good for the governor! Children should never be used as political pawns...
Oops! Oh, is my face red! See, this is a quote from last year. He wasn't complaining about a pro-voucher rally where kids - many of whom did not know why they were there - were bussed in by adults. No, he was complaining about spontaneous high school student walk-outs in protest of his cutting nearly $1 billion from public education.
Gosh, sorry to get that wrong. But I'm sure the Governor will be as equally dismissive of this rally as he was of the student walk-outs last year. He'll be out with a condemnation of this right away.
Yep, any minute now...
Newark's schools are facing a $57 million budget deficit; the kids who aren't being shuffled off to charters are about to see all sorts of programs cut from their schools. Of course, Chris Christie thinks Newark already gets too much money: he complains about it while his own kids attend private schools that spend gobs more per pupil than Newark and don't take kids with special needs, who are far more expensive to educate.
Of course, the hard right in the state - represented by the brain trust of Paul Mulshine and State Senator Michael Doherty - loves any opportunity to slash funding for urban schools. Hell, they're even push-polling the idea:
There are about a dozen Democratic districts in which Democrats would want to dodge that question. Doherty said the GOP did a poll in four of them asking voters whether they would be more or less likely to vote for a candidate who promised increased school funding.
"It was overwhelming that they would be more likely to vote for this candidate," he said.Sure - if you frame the question without saying where the money is going to come from! What if they asked the same voters: "Would you support a candidate who wants to slash state school aid to the poorest children in New Jersey?" Aside from the Tea Partiers, who's dying to go down that road?
Over and over, the reformy right keeps telling us that education is the key to fixing poverty and inequality. They go on and on about testing and tenure and "choice" all sorts of nonsense that has little research base to back it up. But when it comes to actually providing the funding necessary for a high-quality education for all of our neediest kids, they suddenly go silent.
Luckily, the kids in the public schools, contrary to what you read in the paper, are not stupid. They know exactly where these people really stand. So good on them for standing up for themselves. Good on them for calling b.s. on "reform" that doesn't include adequate, stable funding. Good on them for actively getting involved in saving their schools.
I can't be with them tomorrow physically - I'll be too busy in my own classroom, destroying America - but I'll be there in spirit. Newark's students, you make us proud with your activism; make us proud tomorrow with your conduct, your integrity, and your passion. We'll have your back.