How Does N. J.’s Lack of School Choice Affect Kids?December 1, 2009
Your NJEA Dues at WorkDecember 2, 2009
The Record editorializes that plans to open a charter school in Englewood should be dropped because, first, “the district already spends $1.8 million on an existing charter school in the city,” and, second,
The district’s academic reputation isn’t where it should be. That’s part of the reason that many Englewood parents don’t send their kids to the public schools. Taking away more financial support for the district isn’t going to help. Charter schools and vouchers for tuition to other schools won’t going to improve the state testing scores in the district. Complete community support can make that happen.
One of the founders for proposed charter school told the board that the district’s money belongs to the children and “every kid has a right to be educated.” That’s true. And that right to an education is the public school system.
The Record’s editorial staff makes a commonplace error: charter schools are, of course, public schools, financed by taxpayers, open to all students, and subject to the great bulk of the accountability apparatus of traditional public schools. The argument seems to be that if parents opt to send their kids to any school not within Englewood School District then those parents are willfully undermining the system. School choice becomes renegade, a selfish, unpatriotic act, a betrayal of the community ethos despite any academic benefits that children might incur,
How widespread is this sentiment?
Widespread enough that famous education historian Dr. Diane Ravitch falls for it too. In her epistolary blog “Bridging Differences” she writes today,
Free public education helped our country to prosper. And above all, it provided almost everyone a chance to make a better life for themselves and their children.
Our public schools were never perfect. There was never a golden age when everyone graduated high school and learned to a high standard of excellence. Improving education and expanding equality of opportunity have been the slow, steady work of generations.
Yet now, we live in an age when it is the custom to bash the public schools, not to thank them for helping to build our nation.
(Actually, if you read her whole column you’ll see that it’s unpatriotic to bash public schools unless they are located in hometowns of either Arne Duncan or Joel Klein.)
Why isn’t it a patriotic act of “community support” (The Record’s words) or of “build[ing] our nation” (Ravitch’s words) to offer all children better schools? Since when did patriotism get defined as accepting mediocrity? Seems pretty un-American to us.