State Sen. Shirley Turner recently introduced legislation seeking a moratorium on expanding enrollment for New Jersey’s charter public schools. This legislation will rob educational opportunity from thousands of New Jersey’s children already in charter schools, and deny more than 20,000 children on waiting lists the opportunity to attend a charter public school. Turner’s bill (/A-4351) intends to incarcerate thousands of students in the generationally failing local public schools that they are trying to escape. We cannot allow this bill to become law -- and I will tell you why. [emphasis mine]So now we're equating public school students with prisoners. Just lovely.
How many times do I have to point out the "Sixty bazillion children on the NJ charter waiting list!" talking point is a complete crock? How many times do I have to challenge the New Jersey Charter Schools Association to show us, once and for all, their source for this absurd claim?
I have no doubt that Dale Caldwell's charter school has terrific teachers and amazing students and committed families, and that he should be very proud of all of them and their work. But what he writes here is both toxic and idiotic:
Why would Turner, vice chair of the Senate Education Committee, introduce such legislation? The bill is nothing more than an attempt to limit parent choice in communities of need and stunt the educational achievement of our state’s charter public school students. Achievement that is very real and measurable. Charter school students’ success is a direct threat to the lucrative franchise the NJEA holds on a public education system that has failed generations of New Jersey children, especially in some of our state’s most challenged communities, including Trenton, Newark, and Camden. And this is where we need to address the miseducation of our lawmakers.Oh, I see: the problem isn't poverty, or chronic school underfunding (nearly $30 million this year for Trenton alone), or the extra money districts have to pay charters under the new "hold harmless" provision (nearly $1 million for Trenton alone). No, the problem -- in some evil, magical way that Caldwell doesn't care to explain -- is unionized teachers!
(By the way -- the NJEA does not represent Newark's teachers. But, hey, why let facts destroy a good sliming?)
Why would someone like Caldwell make such an obnoxious argument? Because he doesn't want you to think too carefully about this:
Wrong, senator. The five charter schools in the Trenton area (Sen. Turner’s home district) outperformed the district schools as measured by both the High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA) and New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge (NJASK) standardized tests. HSPA math scores were 30 percent higher, and language-arts literacy (LAL) scores were 25 percent higher for charter school students vs. their peers in the district public schools. NJASK scores show that charter school students outperformed district public school students by 24 percent points in math and 19 percent in LAL. With such progress, it is difficult to understand -- even when pressed by the NJEA -- why anyone would stop the success of children?Wow -- look at how much better the Trenton charters do compared to the district schools! What could possibly explain such a difference? Why, it must be the charters are free from the nefarious grip of the NJEA! There couldn't possibly be any other reason, right?
Trenton's charter schools serve fewer free lunch-eligible students, fewer boys, and way fewer Limited English Proficient students.
Caldwell's own charter school, Village CS, has the second lowest FL eligible population in the city of Trenton.
Village CS also enrolls proportionately far fewer special education students than TPS.
It's bad enough that Caldwell takes cheap shots at the NJEA. But bragging about your "successes" and demeaning public schools without acknowledging that you serve different students is just about as low as a charter cheerleader can get.
As I wrote last year, 90 percent -- yes, 90 percent! -- of the variation in Mercer County's proficiency rates on Grade 8 English Language Arts (ELA) tests can be explained by differences in schools' FL percentage.
The answer is obvious: the comparison wouldn't be fair. But it's just as unfair to compare charters with large rates of FL students to suburban schools as it is to compare those charters to urban district schools serving even greater numbers of FL students. And if Dale Caldwell doesn't understand this basic fact, he isn't qualified to run a school that uses taxpayer funds. School leaders have an obligation to understand the larger environment in which public education exists; maybe take a class, Dale.
If the New Jersey charter industry wants to argue against the moratorium bill, that's fine. But this offensive and foolish nonsense isn't helping anyone. The charter cheerleaders discredit themselves every time the spew this chemical waste. Raise your game, folks.
The NJ charter industry prepares another op-ed...