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

Sunday, July 27, 2014

@StarLedger Editorials: Consistently Wrong About Newark Education

I reached the end of my rope with the Star-Ledger Editorial Board and its chief, Tom Moran, a long time ago. When it comes to education -- particularly in Newark -- both the paper's unsigned editorials and Moran's columns have displayed massive ignorance. Frankly, I'm tired of having to address their nonsense when it's clear that Moran and his board lack the journalistic integrity to engage in good faith arguments about the schools in a city their publishing company has abandoned.

But today's editorial is so wrong, so ignorant, and so full of sophistry that it just can't go unchallenged. Fortunately, Bob Braun has already done most of the heavy lifting: as he correctly points out, the discriminatory practices in the school district restructuring plan, One Newark, are quite real and quite pernicious:

The sheer chutzpah of a newspaper that is abandoning the city to leave behind a “Dear John” letter that essentially supports the denial of civil and human rights to its people–rights enjoyed by New Jersey’s predominantly white suburban population–is breathtaking. 
Amen. I just want to add a few more points to Bob's post:

The S-L mentions the "critics" of One Newark who have filed a civil rights complaint -- but slickly chooses not to tell us who these critics are. As the paper itself reported, these aren't "people whose jobs depended on the school infrastructure"; the lawsuit is being filed by Newark's parents.

Quite correctly, these parents have pointed out that the charterization of the district and the "renewal" of several schools disproportionately affects black students (it also disproportionately affects black teachers). When Bruce Baker and I pointed this out, the district published a response to our methods (a rather weak and innumerate response); what they didn't address, however, was our claim that the plan's effects are racial biased.

Had Moran bothered to read Joseph Oluwole's excellent legal analysis in our brief about Newark's teachers, he would have learned that the issue of whether this plan deliberately discriminates against black families is, to a large extent, irrelevant: the plan can be challenged under a claim of disparate impact.

Further, had Moran bothered to read Bruce, Joseph, and Preston Green's article in the Emory Law Journal, he would have learned that moving students to charter schools abrogates the due process and other rights of families. Charter schools are not state actors and do not have to adhere to the same standards of transparency and accountability as public schools. In Newark, this discriminatory situation is compounded by the fact that the parents have no say in how the district is run, and haven't had a say for 20 years.

These are unfortunate facts that the S-L Editorial Board never, ever discusses. Instead, like cognitively impaired parrots, Moran and crew squawk out the same tired, reformy talking points over and over again:

- "By creating a universal enrollment program, she [Anderson] is making sure that charter schools don’t cater to the most advantaged students." Except that the One Newark application uses a school ratings system that is utterly bogus, mislabeling effective schools as "Falling Behind" and schools that perform below prediction as "Great." Further, there is no guarantee the charters will take on a proportionate share of at-risk students and students with greater special education needs.

- "Not a single school in Newark is being permanently closed." Sorry, but when you turn a school over to private governance, or substantially change its mission, you are, in effect, closing it.

- "Several failing schools will be gradually transferred to the management of high-performing charters, including TEAM and North Star, in communities where parents demanded better quality options." As the parent lawsuit shows, what parents really want are well-resourced public schools responsive to the demands of the community; under 20 years of state administration, that simply hasn't happened, and Chris Christie has only made maters worse.

And we've been over the TEAM and North Star thing a million times now: they don't serve the same populations of students, and their attrition rates are high -- North Star's appallingly so. It's astonishing that Moran can't grasp this simple concept.

- "In the largely black South Ward, families have long been voting with their feet — 40 percent are signed up on charter school waiting lists." It's clear the charter school wait list statistics have been artificially pumped up. But even if they weren't, why would anyone be surprised that parents want to get their children out of crumbling, dangerous, overcrowded schools

How can public schools compete with charters when they are inadequately funded; when they must serve every student, no matter how expensive; and when educational tourists like Christie and Anderson create a culture of constant disruption and chaos within them?

Moran ends with a truly foolish question:
So where is the civil rights violation? Is there a failing school in Newark with a high percentage of white students that remains unaffected by Anderson’s plan?
As Moran knows, the white student population of NPS is quite small: there isn't any school in Newark that has a "high percentage of white students." The question is whether black students are disproportionately affected compared to other students -- largely Hispanic -- in the district. Without question, they are.

Further, and far more importantly: why don't Newark's parents have any say in the governance of their children's schools? Why weren't parents -- and, for that matter, all of the hard-working taxpayers of Newark -- allowed to decide for themselves what sort of school system they want, and who they want running it?

Why is "voting with your feet" good enough for people of color, but voting with your vote is reserved only for school districts with majority white populations?

This is an ugly truth Moran does not care to address. He'd rather throw his support behind plutocrats like Chris Christie, because slamming teachers unions is more important than standing up for the rights of parents and children in distressed communities like Newark. He'd rather argue that "choice" is the same as democracy, when he knows full well that no suburban community would ever replace representative school boards with charter school expansion. He'd rather convince himself that opening a few more charters and firing a few more teachers is the solution for Newark's educational woes. 

And so Tom Moran and his dying newspaper continue to live in ignorance. How sad.

"Discrimination? Where?"


Dave said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dave said...

23 seconds is all it takes to see the real Christie.