Too Much Fun to Pass By: Planet Princeton Trips Up Public School Choice Opponent Julia Sass Rubin

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Planet Princeton, a highly-regarded news platform run by former Star-Ledger journalist Krystal Knapp, is in a Facebook contretemps with Julia Sass Rubin, founder of Save our Schools-NJ, the state’s anti-charter/anti-accountability organization. The online paper has an article on a civil rights complaint filed by the NJ Latino Coalition, the same group that filed the same complaint against Red Bank Charter School, claiming that the public charters enroll disproportionately low numbers of Latino students.

I covered the Red Bank complaint here, which was filed with eager assistance from NJEA.  At the time several Latino parents commented on the complaint:

Felipa Pastrana, a Mexican immigrant who has twin daughters in second grade at Red Bank Charter School, said “I want it to be known to the entire Red Bank community that the many Latino parents at Red Bank Charter School fully support the school.”

 Lourdes Hernandez, who moved from Veracruz, Mexico, to Red Bank 16 years ago, said she “is thrilled with the education her four children received at Red Bank Charter School.”

The Princeton civil rights complaint, Knapp reports, is based on the claim that Princeton Charter School (PCS), one of the first charters established in New Jersey after the passage of the 1995 charter school law, is segregated by race, income, special needs, and English Language Learners. White students are proportionately represented and the K-8 school has a higher percentage of Asian students than the traditional district. Students enroll through a random lottery. In December PCS petitioned the state to allow an expansion of 76 students from its current 350 and committed to change the random lottery to a weighted one in order to shift enrollment demographics to reflect Princeton’s student body. However, this petition sparked blowback because the district is concerned about the fiscal toll of tuition payments. which this year came to $3,210,172.

According to the latest figures available from the NJ DOE’s Taxpayers Guide to Education Spending, the annual cost per pupil in the traditional district is $24,634 and the annual cost per pupil at PCS is $20,737. Both are well above what the state considers “adequacy.” Both the district and the charter have excellent student outcomes, by the way. This, after all, is Princeton, where 30% of households have incomes over $200K and the median sales price for homes is $787K.

Larry Patton, head of PCS, called the complaint “baseless” and noted that the Latino Coalition never bothered to speak to PCS representatives or parents. Echoes of Red Bank, right?

The factual and fair Princeton Planet article enraged Ms. Rubin, who is deeply involved in the fight against PCS. She is also a spokesperson for a new group called “Keep PPS Strong.” The Facebook page urges readers to click on a presentation given at a Superintendent’s Forum where Ms. Rubin played a starring role. Even Phil Murphy, gubernatorial shoo-in endorsed by NJEA before other candidates even filed for candidacy, weighed in, saying, “I don’t live here but based on what I know, I’m dead set against the expansion of the Princeton Charter. It reminds me of the debate we had in Red Bank … or the debate you may have noticed in Montclair. It does not have local support as far as I can tell and without local support I don’t think there is a rationale to pursue it.”

Perhaps our governor-in-waiting should first speak to the parents on PCS’s waiting list.

(Murphy, who lives in Red Bank* [see correction below], sends his kids to private schools. He regularly insists that he would fully fund the state’s 2008 funding formula, a mathematical impossibility that no governor has ever overcome.  Murphy, apparently, is never one to let facts get in his way. Tip of the hat here to Jeff Bennett at NJ Education Aid.)

Read the whole Facebook exchange at your leisure, but here are a few excerpts.

Julia Sass Rubin Krystal, you are making statements about me in this article for which you have no data . Do you feel comfortable standing by those statements in a court of law or would you prefer to stick to the truth and modify your unsubstantiated statements?

Planet Princeton We have not continuously slandered Julia Sass Rubin. Her charts are used by the group in the complaint. Regardless of what one thinks, we take no position on the charter school expansion and have no opinion, because that is not our job. It is not our job to write stories that are slanted in favor of the opposition or the expansion. It is up to readers to decide what they think on the issues. And we will continue to report even if threatened with legal action, and we will defend our reporting in court. We are sorry if opponents of the charter school are angry that our stories do not slant in support of their position, but it is our job to remain neutral.

Julia Sass Rubin My charts are all on the Princeton Public Schools website where anyone can access them. Your article makes it sound like I created the charts for the complaint. You also claim I am opposed to charter schools with absolutely no substantiation. And you claim that I founded Save Our Schools, which was founded by a number of people and is called Save Our Schools NJ. I think you brought me into the story at the Princeton Charter School’s request. They have been launching an all out war against me, even though my taxes pay for their salaries, and you have been a very willing participant. Please correct your article so that it is based on things you can substantiate. That is what journalism is supposed to be.

Planet Princeton No, Julia, we did not bring you into the story at the Charter School’s request, contrary to what you think. And that is your perception that the story makes it sound like you created the charts for the complaint. We did not intend to make it sound that way. Sorry if we were mistaken that you don’t oppose charter schools. Are you saying you support charter schools?

ulia Sass Rubin My position on charter schools is irrelevant for this story. What I would like to know is why you brought me into the story at all, Krystal?

Planet Princeton Because people should know the source of the charts. And your position on charters is relevant to stories on charter schools when your data is being used.

Planet Princeton The complaint uses your charts from the PPS Strong website, and you are one of the founders of Save Our Schools and those are facts. The sentence is not an attack, it is stating facts and we do not report on behalf of the charter school.

You go, Planet Princeton.  Score one for impartial journalism!

*Correction: Phil Murphy does not live in Red Bank. He lives in Middletown on a 6-acre riverfront estate with an estimated value of $9.6 million.

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  • Julia Sass Rubin, February 17, 2017 @ 10:16 pm Reply

    Dear Laura,

    Planet Princeton actually modified that story as I had requested, to reflect what was real vs. conjecture and hyperbole.

    Imagine that?

    A blogger who actually cares about writing the truth.


    I know you never let the truth get in your way.

  • NJ Left Behind, February 18, 2017 @ 2:25 am Reply

    Actually, Julia, I read the first version that was posted at Planet Princeton before you “requested” changes. Those changes were minor, as I recall: for example, your anti-charter/accountability organization was originally referred to as “Save Our Schools” and then was changed to “Save Our Schools-NJ.” Hardly substantive. But who's counting?

  • Julia Sass Rubin, February 18, 2017 @ 2:39 am Reply

    No, Laura, that is not accurate.

    Krystal deleted a sentence from the story that was completely unsubstantiated, which is what I asked her to do. When she did it, I deleted my comments as there was no longer any need for them, and thanked her.

  • me, February 19, 2017 @ 2:52 pm Reply

    I think Julia called you untruthful. That sounds like libel. Maybe you should threaten to sue her unless she retracts that. After all, she seems comfortable with that approach.

  • Princeton Resident, February 19, 2017 @ 6:34 pm Reply

    Planet Princeton barred me from even commenting after I asked, guilelessly and sincerely, if the claims of “fair and balanced” reporting were an intentional reference to Fox News. Yes or no would have sufficed, but I was attacked. Likely embarrassed by her own vitriol, Planet Princeton deleted all of my comments plus her responses. Meanwhile comments that violate Planet Princeton's own policy, supporting PCS, stay up. I'm not sure that's impartial?

  • Krystal Knapp, February 19, 2017 @ 7:06 pm Reply

    This is the original paragraph:

    As of the 2015-16 academic year, only three percent of the Princeton Charter School’s students are Latino versus 13 percent of the school district’s enrollment, only three percent of the charter school's students are black versus six percent of the school district's enrollment, according to the group, which references data and charts from Julia Sass Rubin, a Princeton resident and professor at Rutgers University who opposes charter schools and founded Save Our Schools.

    And this is the revision:

    As of the 2015-16 academic year, only three percent of the Princeton Charter School’s students are Latino versus 13 percent of the school district’s enrollment, only three percent of the charter school's students are black versus six percent of the school district's enrollment, according to the group, which references charts posted on the Keep PPS Strong Facebook page created by Julia Sass Rubin, a Princeton resident and professor at Rutgers University who is one of the founders of Save Our Schools NJ.

  • history matters, February 19, 2017 @ 7:22 pm Reply

    That's a substantive change, one that I applaud. The revision (to a run-on sentence, not truly a paragraph) removes an ascription of bias by deleting any mention of motives. Data stands apart from personal feeling, as all scholars know. I do wonder, however, why questions about Prof. Sass Rubin's age and rank are allowed to remain in the comments on Facebook? Surely those violate the Princeton Planet policy against ad hominem attacks?

  • me, February 19, 2017 @ 9:57 pm Reply

    Princeton Resident – you are full of it. You deleted your own comments because, as I said on PP at the time, you left a breadcrumb trail a mile wide on your real identity, and got spooked that you might be called on to stand by your egregious posts.

  • me, February 19, 2017 @ 9:59 pm Reply

    history matters – if she's holding herself out as an expert in the field, it's utterly fair to look at her publication record, her rank, and her professional recognition. She can't have it both ways where she's an expert professor but nobody ever gets to check the credentials. As someone else said, 55 and an associate professor is not the fast track, and that is completely relevant to her credibility, especially when she has formulas that are sketchy at best, when one gets into the weeds.

  • Princeton Resident, February 19, 2017 @ 10:07 pm Reply

    Honestly and truthfully, I did not delete my own posts, nor did I ban myself from commenting further. Planet Princeton has every right to make those decisions, of course! But I can then question the standards of objectivity too. I stand by my remarks. Anonymity online protects people without privilege, and I would never follow someone's trail, “me.”

  • me, February 19, 2017 @ 10:20 pm Reply

    It's a little hard not to when… well, we wouldn't want to out you now, would we? I'm not the only one paying attention who figured it out independently. Didn't realize I was showing up with that ID, but since just now you apparently didn't figure out who I am after our repeated engagements online, even over this very topic, it's no surprise you were so careless in your own comments. – Liz Winslow

  • me, February 19, 2017 @ 10:21 pm Reply

    P.S. – You're hilarious for posting that you're without privilege. I'll leave it at that.

  • history matters, February 20, 2017 @ 9:55 pm Reply

    I understand your argument, “me,” but disagree and suggest that you are still advancing an ad hominem attack on the person, not the work. If the scholarship is published and accessible, then question that scholarship — not who produced it. There's no need to defame the source; to question age and status (so complicated in academe) is, by definition, an ad hominem attack. Should a stay-at-home parent who produces a comprehensive, compelling, well-documented analysis of fraud in the local government be discounted for not being a full professor of politics? Of course not. Could that analysis nevertheless be questioned? Of course. The norms of civil discourse would allow us to question the ideas a person produces without attacking the person.

  • me, February 21, 2017 @ 12:05 pm Reply

    But here's the thing: there are lots of people around town going through her numbers and finding many things to disagree with, and being shouted down because she's an “expert,” or as one person likes to write in all caps a lot, a “PROFESSOR.” So it again cuts both ways that if criticism leveled at analysis is disregarded because one is not a professor… well then, let's have a look at that professor's record. And frankly, if this professor is threatening to sue over work that she herself produced, it doesn't inspire confidence in that work. And that is relevant.

  • Princeton Resident, February 22, 2017 @ 10:55 pm Reply

    But setting aside the argument that everyone is doing it so why can't I, if you want to challenge the data then challenge the data. Who produced it is irrelevant.

  • Princeton Resident, February 22, 2017 @ 10:56 pm Reply

    (Because actually peer review is anonymous.)

  • Princeton Resident, February 23, 2017 @ 3:02 am Reply

    And I feel compelled to share here, having been summarily banned from Planet Princeton while others curse with impunity, that it is WELL DOCUMENTED why women remain in the rank of associate professor longer than men. Moreover, if you read the professor's CV, she earned a law degree before her PhD. Age in rank does not say anything at all; and for women, time in rank is difficult to assess given the research on bias in academe.

    Attack the data, not the person.

  • me, February 23, 2017 @ 2:16 pm Reply

    No, she earned an MBA, not a law degree. This whole thing started by people questioning her numbers, and then being absolutely attacked and shouted down that a professor could never be wrong. Then they were amazed that people with questions about numbers felt even less confident in them when the response was to attack and question how much one cared about community, then to actually answer the question. And I have seen nobody curse on PP. Sharp, yes, profane, no.

  • When Politics Undermines Scholarship: A New "Analysis" from Julia Sass Rubin and Mark Weber - NJ Left Behind, March 16, 2018 @ 4:05 pm Reply

    […] group that draws its members primarily from wealthy N.J. suburbs. She led the recent unsuccessful fight by Princeton Public Schools (with an assist from Weber) that sought to disallow the popular local […]

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