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

Monday, July 16, 2012

This Is What "Democracy" Looks Like?

Back to today's truly awful op-ed by ACTING NJ Education Commissioner Chris Cerf:

I already explained how Cerf twists facts to make charters look like they serve many poor and minority children when, in fact, compared to their neighboring public schools, they do no such thing.

Diane Ravitch gave Cerf a history lesson and explained to him that Albert Shanker, contrary to Cerf's assertions, would never have supported the NJDOE's charter school plans.

I'll go back a few months and link to Bruce Baker, here and here, who already explained how wrong Cerf is to assert that charter schools are public schools; they may receive public funding, but they differ from public schools in profound and meaningful ways.

I'll also rely on the good Dr. Baker to show how silly Cerf's claims about TEAM Academy are. TEAM may be a fine school, but it is simply not replicable.

Having shredded much of this ridiculous piece, let's move on to this claim of Cerf's:
Opponents of charter schools have made careers out of maligning them. They claim that charter schools are an effort to privatize public education. They are not -- charter schools are public schools. Opponents claim that charter schools are “undemocratic” because citizens do not vote to open them. In fact, charter schools are the most democratic schools we have because if parents do not choose to enroll their child in a charter school, that school will close. [emphasis mine]
Really? Charter schools are the "most democratic" schools? Really?

Let's review just how "democratic" charters really are:

- There is only one charter school authorizer in the State of New Jersey: ACTING Commissioner Chris Cerf, who is unelected and unconfirmed.

- ACTING Commissioner Cerf has unilaterally appointed the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, a private group only accountable to him, to review charter applications.

- The reviews of those applications are only made public after Open Public Records Act requests. If the NJDOE chooses to refuse an OPRA request, it goes before the Government Records Council. Who sits on this unelected board? The unelected and unconfirmed Chris Cerf.

- The payments to the NACSA reviewers are made with private monies, which prevents the Legislature from having any "power of the pursestrings" over the process.

- Local school boards are compelled to budget monies for charters that haven't even received their final approvals.

- Those school boards with their elected representatives do not have any approval or oversight powers for those charters, even though they have to pay for them.

- Parents who "choose" to send their children to these charters have no legal right to demand oversight, policy changes, or changes in representation on the governing board.

- A student may be dismissed at any time if the administration of a charter feels that student is not adhering to a policies or codes of conduct, which are developed and administered solely by the school's leadership.

- Charters often behave as though they are not state actors in regards to employee and student rights.

- Charters may receive all manner of private renumeration; there is no public input or oversight into the terms of accepting these finds. (See the links to Bruce Baker's posts above for more on these last points)

This is not what a democratic process looks to me; frankly, the secrecy, autocracy, and cronyism remind me of another form of government...

So, young Boris, tell me more about this charter school of yours...

ADDING: Well, the Kremlinologists will be looking over this announcement about the newly approved charters in NJ very carefully. Stand by...

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