Yesterday, the editors of the Washington Post printed a commentary attacking the stand Vermont Senator and Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has taken against charter schools. The headline grabbed tremendous attention and was perfectly framed. It is entitled, There’s nothing progressive about strangling charter schools. They wrote:
“’The proliferation of charter schools has disproportionately affected communities of color,’ wrote Mr. Sanders as part of his 10-point education plan this month.
Mr. Sanders is right about the outsize effects on minority communities — but those effects have been positive, not negative. Of the nearly 3.2 million public charter school students, 68 percent are students of color, with 26 percent of them African Americans. Studies indicate that students of color, students from low-income families and English-language learners enrolled in public charter schools make greater academic progress than their peers in traditional schools. Research from Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes found that African American students in charter schools gained an additional 59 days of learning in math and 44 days in reading per year compared with their traditional school counterparts.”
I’m glad that the Post editorial board has proclaimed its opposition to Mr. Sander’s education policy prescriptions. However, I’ve stayed away from talking about his recent speech on the subject. I really do not want to give him the attention. His disparaging of charters that have benefited so many young people who have gone on to college but in the absence of their education would have ended up in prison or dead, proved all I need to know about this man. Here’s the bottom line. Mr. Sanders cares much more about attracting liberal votes than he does about the people living in poverty he professes to want to help. The senator is clearly one of those individuals who is focused on the needs of adults instead of the kids. It is also obvious that he would sacrifice the future of all of the less fortunate among us for support from labor unions.
I’ve seen multiple comments on Twitter about the Post piece. Many of my friends and colleagues that support charters are cheering its publication. Others who wish to see these alternative schools disappear strongly disagree with the polemic. It doesn’t really matter. The battle lines have already been drawn. The only way that those of us who champion true reform can win is to get more and more families and students into these high-performing schools. We cannot be distracted from the negative rhetoric and the countless efforts to curtail our very existence. We need to takeover the public education system, and to do that we have to be relentless in our pursuit of excellence. When the government or other entities put roadblocks in front of us we must find ways around them.
I just finished reading “The Education of Eva Moskowitz, by the founder and chief executive officer of Success Academy PCS. In one section she points to the variance in standardized test scores between her charter network and those of the traditional New York City schools:
“Some people try to explain away our results by saying that we serve fewer poor and special needs kids than the nearby district schools. Consider Bronx 2. Eighty-eight percent of our students there were Title 1 (meaning poor); at the district school in the same building, PS 55, 96 percent were title 1 (8 percent more). Fourteen percent of our students had learning disabilities; at PS 55, 15 percent did (1 percent more). But while the differences between our students and PS 55’s were minuscule, the difference in results were huge: ninety-nine percent of our students were proficient in math compared to 15 percent at PS 55; 70 percent of our students were proficient in English compared to 7 percent at PS 55. Clearly an 8 percent difference in poverty and a 1 percent difference in special needs doesn’t explain an 84 percent difference in math proficiency and a 63 percent difference in English proficiency” (page 298).
We cannot back down. Educational malpractice has gone on far too long. Every student deserves a seat at a quality school. We have to keep fighting until this last civil rights struggle comes to a just and final conclusion.