There’s a conceit among those who protest the expansion of school choice that they are protecting communities, especially poor minority ones, from the craven schemes of money-mad moguls. For example, here’s three statements from an editorial by Lauren Wells, Chief Education Officer in Newark Mayor Ras Baraka’s administration:
A market-driven public education agenda has been passed off as school reform that is in the interest of the black and brown children often living in poverty and educated in Newark's public schools.
Politically well-connected wealthy people have used their power and resources to impose educational policies on our community, our schools and our children.
Individual interests have been manipulated to diminish collective power.
Wells alleges that school choice proponents are advancing a “short-sighted view of educational and social equity” by expanding school choice in Newark. Through this lens, then, groups that fight charter schools -- Newark Teachers Union, N.J. Communities United, Education Law Center, Save Our Schools-NJ, NJEA -- are advancing a philosophy of educational and social equity by promoting, as Wells does here, a moratorium on all NJ charter school expansions, i.e., curtailing of school choice.
These groups, as well as, apparently, Baraka's administration, presume to speak for families. But families can speak for themselves, and they do.
Example: during the first round of Newark Public Schools’ universal school choice program, where parents list preferences among the city’s traditional and public schools, 42% of Newark parents listed a charter school as their first choice.
Let’s look across the Hudson River to New York City. This past year there were 64,600 charter school applications for 22,000 seats. Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy, the largest charter school operator in the city, fielded 22,000 applications for 2,317 seats. Achievement First received a record 21,000 applications for just 1,000 available seats for the coming school year. In fact, ninety-five percent of NYC charter schools have waiting lists.
Yet NYC’s teachers’ union lobbies against school choice, against the preferences of NYC families.
This pattern replicates itself like aberrant DNA: anti-choice folk claim that money-grubbing charter school moguls hoodwink families and, as Wells says, “erode democracy.” This is where I get lost. Families in NYC and Newark speak eloquently for themselves, Isn't it insulting to declare otherwise? How does obstructing the will of families mesh with anti-choice lobbyists' declarations of alignment with the common good?