Friday, April 23, 2010

Off the Charts

This whole media assault on Bill Perkins is very strange indeed-it's almost as if the NY Post-and the Daily News as well-is suddenly dyslexic and is now unable to read all that it wrote last year about the Bloomberg educational miracle. And the Post reporter with the most severe learning disability is Carl Campanile, the designated hitter against Perkins. Here's his latest snarl: "Even though charters in his Harlem district have greatly outperformed students in nearby traditional schools, Perkins has proposed legislation that would cripple the charter-school movement. Charter advocates describe him as the most anti-charter lawmaker in the state Legislature."

Now we are by no means enthusiastic supporters of the current public school regime-where overspending with little to show for it, and top down misjudgments have stalled educational improvements. But the Post and the News have been the system's (or is it the mayor's?) biggest cheerleaders-touting too good to be true test results that have been proven to be just that. Now, however, they want their readers to simply forget everything that they said in touting the renewal of mayoral control in the most egregious example of an Emily Litella moment: "Never Mind!"

Here's the Post's usually prescient Andrea Peyser's observations about the wonders of one Harlem charter school: "Like all charters, Democracy Prep, which serves 402 students grades six through nine, is funded by tax money, but is run like a private school. It also gets less money per pupil -- $12,500, compared with $16,000 to $18,000 for an ordinary school. Yet it pays teachers more, has longer days, and students consistently outperform next-door neighbors. Last year, 91 percent of eighth-graders there passed the citywide math test, in a district where just 69 percent passed."

Okay, and does this unusually outstanding performance say anything about the larger system that it has siphoned off these kids from? Maybe just a little critique would be in order? But nooo. It's as if-Soviet style-the public record of encomiums to the Bloomberg miracle have been expunged from memory, as the two tabloids go back to bashing their traditional teacher union enemy. The UFT-allied with the mayor as a co-conspirator on governance-is now the anti charter villain and can once again assume its proper role for excoriation.

So, in our view, this charter flight fight is a plague on both their houses. We have a failing public school system run by private school parvenus that gets lavish praise from media sycophants; and a charter school movement with few checks and balances to prevent schemers like Floyd Flake and Greg Meeks from exploiting the process for beaucoup bucks. Some choice.

But until the Post and the News do a much needed confessional over their undeserved praise of the mayoral controlled shortcomings, we believe that they should both maintain silence. The whole episode reeks of hypocrisy.