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The Star-Ledger regularly hosts a debate between Democrat consultant Julie Roginsky and Republican consultant Mike DuHaime. They often disagree on issues but, in a rare instance of consensus, are equally condemnatory of the Murphy Administration’s decision to refuse to approve expansions to some of the state’s highest-achieving charter schools where student achievement dwarfs traditional district schools. One example: Newark’s North Star Academy, rated by Murphy’s very own Department of Education as a Tier 1 school, its highest rating, was denied an expansion of 300 seats despite 10,000 Newark students on wait lists. For context, at North Star Academy 75% of students meet state expectations in reading and 65% meet expectations in math; in the traditional district schools 36% of students meet expectations in reading and 26% do in math.
Another surprise: both Roginsky and DuHaime agree that Murphy’s decision to end mask mandates in schools was based on politics, not science.particularly his extremely narrow win over GOP challenger Jack Ciattarelli.
Here is the charter school discussion:
Q. The NJ Public Charter School Association criticized Murphy for rejecting another round requested expansions, including one from North Star in Newark, one of the state’s most successful, calling it “a crushing blow to low-income students of color throughout New Jersey.” Is the governor dancing for the teachers’ union, which opposes all expansions?
Mike: Gov Murphy is wrong on charter schools. Period. Full stop. In failing school districts, parents and children deserve more educational choices, not less. It is time for him to lead on this issue.
Julie: At the very least, the state should have provided a more robust explanation to some of these charters for the denials. Some highly ranked schools were denied an expansion even though they overwhelmingly serve traditionally underserved communities of color and even though their test scores are through the roof, with long waitlists to boot. As a result, some of these schools have no idea of what to improve in order to receive a better outcome next time. Without an explanation, it may only lead the families of these charter school students to conclude that the decision was based on politics and not on empirical metrics.
Here’s the discussion on masks:
Q. Gov. Phil Murphy lifted the mask mandate in schools, leaving it to local school districts to decide. Yet teachers can still refuse the vaccine in favor of testing, and students who must take the measles vaccine are free to skip the Covid vaccine. Does this make sense?
Mike: I think it’s the right approach. It is time to move forward without masks, yet it still gives local school districts the flexibility based on local caseloads and infection rates. We still must encourage vaccinations as well.
Julie: It was a political decision and the governor admitted as much when his aides inexplicably leaked to the NY Times that they conducted focus groups after the election to study voter attitudes on this subject, when all along his administration touted science as the only relevant determinant in COVID decision-making. If you are going to make a political decision, make it when you are running for re-election, not now. If you are going to make a healthcare decision, mandate vaccines for COVID, the way you mandate them for mumps and measles. I don’t know whom this decision intends to please but by trying to have it every which way, the governor just sends out a convoluted message.