Monday, September 04, 2006

Charter Champ

I was very excited when Eduwonk was covered by the leader of a unionized charter school, Steve Carr. I was sure I'd get a glimpse into something more positive than what I've seen about charters over the past few months.

But Mr. Carr did not convey much of a message. At mayoral control in LA, he proclaimed, "Kids win!" but failed to give a single detail as to why. In a follow-up, the only support Mr. Carr offered was the vague promise of more charters.

Yesterday, Mr. Carr wrote of teachers who "gladly give up tenure" because they "want to be accountable."

It's curious that talk of accountability invariably refers to union employees. If the price of working in a unionized charter is giving up tenure, I can't help but wonder why those teachers even need a union. Anyone who follows the news would have to conclude that Americans need more, not fewer job protections. Ask Nicole Byrne Lau about that. Then compare America with Europe.

I'm afraid anyone willing to trust in the good graces of folks like Ms. Lau's boss (or mine), are bound for disappointment. For all I know, Mr. Carr is the nicest guy in the world. Historically, though, working people have not benefited from trusting their employers and hoping for the best.

Furthermore, there are scores of great unionized public schools, with tenured teachers right here in Nassau County. I'd pit my daughter's school against that of Mr. Carr any day. For example, she entered first grade monolingual, and is now, entering fifth grade, fully fluent in Spanish. The primary difference between schools like hers and the one in which I work (a very good one by NYC standards) is that suburban schools haven't been subject to thirty years of systematic neglect.

Here in New York, the Supreme Court has demanded we address that issue. Mayor Bloomberg thinks it's a fine idea, but has steadfastly refused to pay for any part of it, creating years of delay. His predecessor's policy of reducing city aid by precisely whatever the state increased it certainly aggravated this problem. Bloomberg, however, prefers to save up for charter facilities and stadiums.

Once again, I'm convinced that public facilities and policies need attention before we even start talking of charters.

While Mr. Carr celebrates, the Daily News reports on the grotesque inequities that still face the overwhelming majority of New York City's kids, despite mayoral control:

Isaac is enrolled at Intermediate School 187, a gifted-and-talented school, while Isiah is at Junior High School 259, where roughly half the kids are meeting standards.

That's a tough situation for a parent to face.

"The mayor is doing all right," their dad said. "The system is not where it should be, but some improvement is better than none."

That's an odd conclusion, because gifted-and-talented schools were doing fine before the mayoral takeover. Once again I'm left to wonder what good mayoral control has done. Of course, the dad's actions speak far louder than his words.

...Rodriguez plans to move his family to Orange County before the twins start high school. "I think my kids will get a better education outside of the city, a better quality of life, period," he said.

Mr. Rodriguez is right, of course. I moved to the suburbs because I was priced out of the neighborhood in which I work years ago. But I work in one of the very best regular schools in the city, and the contrast between my daughter's school and mine is striking.

It's simply criminal that Mayor Bloomberg is allowed to defy a Supreme Court mandate and leave schools the way they are. The way they were, in fact.

Celebrate, Mr. Carr. But please don't pretend your victory is for working people, or for our kids--who will have to face the US job market when they get older.

Thanks to Schoolgal
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