Monday, December 14, 2015

Bob Braun Attacks African-American Charter School Moms

Bob the Doxer is at it again. This former journalist from the Star-Ledger who bides his time hurling invective at education reform efforts has a new piece up slamming a Newark mother of five children who dared to speak out about New Jersey's need for more charter schools. Natasha Levant writes in today’s Star-Ledger that she is attending today’s “Parent Lobby Day” in Trenton because she wants to explain to lawmakers contemplating a three-year charter school moratorium that the charter school her special needs son attends “is not only preparing him for college and beyond, but working with me as a parent to instill the character and responsibility he needs to be successful.”

Ms. Levant writes,
I want to stress, especially to those lawmakers who have never stepped foot inside a charter school but who may be making decisions about them, that my son is not an easy child. I've heard people who are just not knowledgeable swear up and down that charter schools take only the best kids or encourage the troublemakers or kids with special needs to leave. 
My son is the poster kid of the child that people say doesn't exist in charter schools.
A child with special needs has found success at a public charter school. Good news, right?

Not to Bob Braun, a luminary among those who oppose all things non-traditional in Newark or any of N.J.’s chronically-failing school districts. How much of an adversary to reform is Bob? So much that he’ll eschew journalistic integrity and dox* Ms. Levant. It's so Braun; such certainty that poor minority moms are conspiring to corrupt the perfect purity of N.J.'s public education system.

So Braun ignores an African-American mother’s plea that lawmakers privilege children's educational needs  over political capital from lobbyists like NJEA, Save Our Schools-NJ, and Education Law Center. (Indeed, there’s an accompanying post from Bob that quotes in its entirety a press release from SOS claiming that charter schools are “immoral.”) Then he falaciously announces to his wide audience that Ms. Levant is a paid employee of North Star Academy Charter. the school that her special needs son attends. Not only that, but this Super Mom apparently works two full-time jobs, the other as an assistant media director at Prudential and -- gasp! -- Prudential has donated money to North Star. In a final act of malfeasance, North Star has purchased the Star-Ledger’s former site (N.J. charter schools receive no facilities aid from the state) and thus,  “the newspaper risks an appearance of conflict by not mentioning this.”

Oy vey. First, as Ms. Levant plainly states in the comments section of Braun’s blog, she is a volunteer at North Star, not paid staff: “my skills that I lend to my child’s school are strictly Volunteer!! Why? Because I believe in the vision of North Star being a Community School!!! And further more I am a parent first, and an advocate second.” She also requests that Bob take down her picture, which he got from her Linked In profile. (It’s still up.) Then, in response to Ms. Levant’s comments, he claims that she “edited” her LInked In profile to hide that she works at North Star. Really? This is how the man spends his time?

I asked Matthew Frankel of PC2E for his thoughts. (PCE2 helped organize the Parent Lobby Day that so offends Bob.) "The voices of parents,” said Frankel, “no matter what their view, should always be respected.  Mr. Braun's desire to scare parents away from speaking their minds is pathetic."

I’m not sure “pathetic” covers it.”

Let's recap:  a white columnist who doesn’t live in Newark and paid to send his children to private school is harassing an African-American Newark mother of five for availing herself of a free form of public school choice for her son with disabilities.

Sounds more like chutzpah than pathos to me.

Meanwhile, one hundred fifty parents, all from N.J.’s struggling urban school districts, are at the Trenton Statehouse today trying to convince legislators to support their ability to make choices about their children’s education. Let’s all hope that Ms. Levant’s righteous eloquence drowns out Braun’s illiberal trash.

* VIa Wikipedia: “The term dox derives from the slang 'dropping dox,' which according to writer Mat Honan was 'an old-school revenge tactic that emerged from hacker culture in 1990s.' Hackers operating outside the law in that era used the breach of an opponent's anonymity as a means to expose opponents to harassment or legal repercussion.”

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