Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Chartered Flight of Fancy

The NY Post has unleashed a media barrage in favor of the charter school movement in NYC-to the point of even questioning Merryl Tisch, the one absolutely righteous figure in public education today. But there is something very wrong with this picture-and we're here to tell you just how wrong it is for the paper to be on this wrong way headed white horse.

The Post's charter school campaign has lined up Senator Bill Perkins in its shotgun cross hairs, even going so far as to point out that the senator himself didn't attend a public high school (something never mentioned about Bloomberg or Klein). It has excoriated Perkins in article after article in the effort to paint all opponents of charters as enemies of the school children of New York. But if the Post truly feels that charters are so essential-to the point of demonizing the opposition-then the belief in their efficacy must be juxtaposed to the manifest failure of the public school system. That's the only way that this kind of intense Manichean advocacy can be justified.

But wait, that's certainly not the case-or it sure doesn't seem so. The Post has spent oceans of ink on its last educational crusade; insuring that Mike Bloomberg got to continue his hold over public school governance. In the process, the paper joined with the amen chorus-singing operatic solos in a command performance-in lauding the remarkable achievements that Professor Bloomberg had wrought for the previously downtrodden school population.

As it turned out, the remarkable performance turned out to be remarkably fraudulent-with phony test scores and accompanying teacher/principal bonuses providing the fraudulent foundation for an Enron-like scandal. Did the Post issue any mea culpas to this off key hootenanny?  Has it pointed out that the school system budget has skyrocketed without any real commensurate educational gains? Has it highlighted how the mayor bought off the "hated UFT" and saddled the tax payers with huge money for nothing salaries and pensions?

None of the above. But if the paper had any integrity on this issue, it would start by underscoring that, in spite of all of the excess money expended on the Bloomberg miracle, the result has been very Elmer Gantry-like. And in its charter reporting-with stories about frustrating waiting lists and poignant parent narratives-that is the impression one can infer. But inference is no substitute for the Post to call a spade a spade about the current status of the school system under Kleinberg.

One could, and should say, it has been an expensive failure. And if the Post did embark on this path of righteousness, than its charter campaign would be devolving from an honest perspective: the current public system has failed, and we need to do something to save the kids. Without this re-evaluation and recantation, the paper's charter flight should crash and burn-fueled as it is by hypocrisy and a dishonest double standard.

In our view, charters are no panacea-as a NY Daily News article points out today. Can they be part of a reform movement-along with a well supervised voucher experiment? Yes, we believe so. But the Post's hypertensive campaign-not to mention blatant hypocrisy-is not helpful in this regard. If it is to play a salutary role, the paper needs to begin by honestly telling its readers about just how lackluster all of the Bloomberg effort has been. If it does this, than we can begin to take seriously its educational reportage. But not a moment before.