Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Real Scoop from the SOS/NJEA/ELC Meeting

Last week, at a panel discussion in Highland Park organized by Save Our Schools-NJ and Education Law Center, audience members, according to Bob Braun of the Star-Ledger, heard a lot of criticism about charter schools: they’re just “an exit ramp for some people,” a logical step in the trajectory from state takeover to privatization, and “cannot be considered a systematic, equitable strategy.”

I wasn’t there but Kathy Mone, Business Administrator for Elysian Charter School of Hoboken, gave this report:
I thought you might be interested to hear about the meeting, which was totally misrepresented by Star Ledger. (He [Bob Braun] was given praise at the beginning for being the only journalist in NJ on the right side.)

The lone African American woman asked the question of what alternatives inner city parents have other than charter schools.  They offered no alternatives.  Nothing.  It was horrible, awful; the silence was deadening.  And since the audience was composed completely of NJEA top brass (everyone from Vince on down was there), Rutgers professors and a few others, nobody challenged their inability to answer her question.
“Vince” is NJEA Executive Director Vince Giordano, who also serves as a Trustee for ELC.

Kathy’s commentary on the absence of inner city stakeholders at this meeting nails one of peculiarities of the alliance of ELC, SOS, and NJEA in their shared quest to tamp down the perceived threat of school choice. Snaps to Julia Sass Rubin, however, head of SOS, who broadened the conversation beyond the false dichotomy between charter and public and spoke about an “affordable housing strategy.”  (Really, Mr. Braun, SOS is a “pro-public school group”? Charter schools are public schools, a fact obscured by politics but surely transparent to one of the Star-Ledger’s lead columnists. Supporters of charter schools are pro-public school too.)


Deb said...

It is getting tiresome to monitor this blog for misrepresentations of Save Our Schools NJ, and respond when necessary. But lest anyone read this blog and believe the lies put forth, I am compelled once again to try and provide some facts.

Save Our Schools NJ is an independent, non-partisan and unfunded grass roots organization of concerned parents and community members who support public education in this state. The organization believes all children, regardless of zip code, should have access to high quality public education. Members include parents with children attending charter schools and Save Our Schools NJ has consistently, repeatedly rejected your lie that we are anti-charter or anti-choice. But choices must include community input in meaningful ways and keep the public dollars in accountable and transparent systems of education. They must also provide excellent public education if we are to support them.

As to the event in Highland Park, about which you felt compelled to comment on even though you were not there, it was sponsored by Speak Up Highland Park and included on the panel the founder of the Emily Fisher school which is being closed by the DoE without community input. This closure is another example of short-sighted decisions by the DoE and the desperate need for community input. Perhaps your friend did not fill you in on that part of the discussion....

The audience, of which I was a member, included residents of HP, surrounding towns, students, and yes, members of the NJEA. It was open to the public and you could have come as well. I am not a teacher or a union member.....and I was not alone in the audience.

As to the extremely good question by the parent referred to in your blog, there were answers that I heard - not deafening silence. And there was no one on the panel who wanted to deny her children those opportunities. But you neglected to cover the part of discussion that dealt with the extent to which charter schools, as they were originally created as a means of furthering social justice, have been co-opted by big money and under the current system of operating, have all to often lost that core value and goal which was paramount decades ago. I personally cannot imagine how we can defend for-profit charter schools, for example, as fulfilling that role. And there was also a discussion on virtual charter schools opening in NJ about which the law is silent.

I am appalled at your willingness to mischaracterize people you disagree with, and frankly stunned by your dogged insistence at spewing mischaracterizations and lies. There are valid and important discussions to be had on these topics, none of which can happen on your blog as long as you continue to have a deaf ear to participants in the discourse.

darciecima said...

Ms. Waters,
Have you read Bruce Baker's recent post about how public charter schools really are?


You may want to pay particular attention to this passage:

"Those who casually (belligerently & ignorantly) toss around the rhetoric that “charters are public schools” need to stop. This rhetoric misinforms parents, teachers and taxpayers regarding their rights, assumptions and expectations."

Last week's event, which I organized on behalf of Speak Up Highland Park, in conjunction with Save Our Schools NJ and Education Law Center, was videotaped. I will gladly send you a copy for your review so you can hear the responses to Ms. Valentine's question for yourself. You will then also have the framework of the entire evenings discussion to inform your understanding of the event. Although, from my experience with your blog, you are more than happy to write without full knowledge of your subject matter.

Until I can get you the video, here is a New Brunswick Patch article about the event that you may find informative and less challenging that Mr. Braun's piece.


Your mischaracterization of the event is unfortunate. First of all, Carlos Perez was invited and declined to participate, and a charter founder was on the panel. Every attempt was made to be inclusive and represent all sides of the debate. Panelists tripped over themselves to talk about charters, like Emily Fischer, that serve kids that represent their host community.

And not only was Ms. Valentine not the only person of color in the audience, the audience was not "composed completely of NJEA top brass, Rutgers professors and a few others." I spoke with several graduate students and parents as they left the event and said they walked away with a fuller understanding of how the charter school debate is tied to the current push to undermine local democratic control of public education.

I find it endlessly fascinating that the school board president of a wealthy suburban district has anointed herself the "Champion of Camden" and then casts aspersions on Save Our Schools and ELC for a supposed "absence of inner city stakeholders."

Ms Waters, the moderator of the event, ELC's Stan Karp, was a teacher in Paterson for 30 years. What experience do you have in Camden that makes you more of an authority on the wants and needs of inner city public school students and parents?

Perhaps your recent experiences in Lawrence, after having your budget defeated and slashed by your council, will give you a taste of what districts like Highland Park have been facing. Not having control of your district's budget is a frustrating experience, and clearly not one that you are enjoying based on this quote from The Lawrence Ledger:

School board president Laura Waters pointed out that the school district budget, which failed by about 200 votes, was already $500,000 under the state-mandated cap. Cutting the budget by an additional $700,000 would bring it to $1.2 million below the cap, she said.

”That’s a really hard hit for us,” Ms. Waters said.

Well Ms. Waters, how's it feel to lose local control?

kallikak said...

Should we be surprised that Laura can't even sell her own budget?

Physician, heal thyself!