Lion Tamer Strikes Out

Lion TamerIt’s a good thing that the Parent Imperfect cares enough about all educational perspectives to receive information made public by the Mass. Charter Public School Association (it must be because we applied to a charter years ago and are probably still on the “waiting list”). How else would I know what certain people are saying about me?

As the pressure builds toward a vote on the much-awaited “compromise” language to lift the cap on the creation of new charter schools in the Commonwealth, the Association is pulling out all the stops. They shared with charter supporters a letter sent to Joint Education Committee Co-Chairs, Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz and Rep. Alice Peisch. Desperation must have driven them to turn to such a tasteless bit of communication (flawlessly written, but tasteless).

I am familiar with the battle being waged between district and charter schools, with a strong group of voices emanating from QUEST, a group of predominantly middle class parents from Jamaica Plain working to minimize the educational choices of other families in Boston with lesser means. Should the children of parents in Mattapan remain on a charter school wait list for years because another group of parents, with far more choices at their disposal, say so?

So, it’s a battle? The military metaphor starts things off with just the right tone. I’m “battling” with my neighbors, my friends from church and the parents of the kids on my daughter’s soccer team. I have different opinions from people who matter to me. I take those opinions very seriously, my friend, but I’m not “battling.”

I suppose my friends at Quest should be happy to draw the attention of a person of such stature, but I could do without it. I can’t help but wonder how the writer has come to know so much about everyone’s “means.” It must be wonderful to be all-knowing.

If members of Boston’s teachers union can opt to send their own children to private and parochial schools (and many that I know do), where is the equity in denying families without comparable means from having additional public school choices in the city where they reside?

What a dynamo! She’s also an expert on the means of BTU members and where they send their children to school!! But there’s that word, “equity.” She shares an interest with Quest in equity, which has to be the silver lining here.

…but when groups like QUEST condemn charters for not serving these groups in adequate numbers they ignore Boston’s exam and pilot high schools that also hold restrictive admissions policies. In fact, most members of QUEST that you met with earlier this week have children at Boston Latin, where — out of 2,400 students, 00.1 percent are ELLs, and 1 percent are SWDs. No charter school in Boston has ratios this low.

That’s called “going for the jugular.” If my children happen to go to Boston Latin, then of course I can be shamed into silence about how schools should be run in Boston. Why, then, is the writer not shamed into silence? I find it soothing to know that at least some Boston Latin parents are allowed to have opinions. And just how does the women know who met with the Senator this week and where their children go to school? I bet the NSA doesn’t even know that (at least not yet).

Just for the record, Quest, to my knowledge, does not “condemn” charter schools in anything like the way Quest is “condemned” by our writer. To my unending frustration, dear Quest said almost nothing about charter schools until about two weeks ago, at which time this organization of “means” (that has yet to be able to get up a website) dared to QUESTion whether or not lifting the charter cap was best for ALL children in the city (including those in Jamaica Plain and Mattapan). If you haven’t signed the petition, do it right now!

If you have wasted perfectly good hours reading these ravings before, you know that my children have been at the Hernández, the Hennigan, the Irving and now both have ended up at the nation’s oldest public school. (Yes, I plead guilty, as charged. Take me away!) You know that I have celebrated wonderful things about all of these schools, and railed about the harmful and silly things that sometimes go on in each of them.

And then, on to the dramatic conclusion:

Educational opportunity should be a choice, not a game of chance.

Hah? Educational opportunity a choice? She must have had a deadline that forced this to fall so flat at the end.

right to educationDear friends, equitable access to quality education is the right of every child, not a choice, a game of chance or something we do for young people because we’re good adults. If we believe that my child, the writer’s child and every child in the City has a right to education, then we have to look at every policy from the perspective of its effect on everyone. We may not be as clever as our writer, but we do the best we can.

This is not a simple question, from a rights perspective, but I am convinced that more charter schools–while they may offer “choice” to a small number of kids–will have a negative effect on the system that has to educate everyone. Whoever set up the funding mechanism for charters must have known that this would happen. I know many families who swear by charter schools and some very committed educators who are sacrificing their lives to make these schools work. We have agreed to disagree on this issue, but we manage not to treat each other as our ghost writer has treated people who don’t happen to share her views.

Beware when the lion tamer strikes out…

 

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10 Comments

Filed under Charter Schools

10 responses to “Lion Tamer Strikes Out

  1. Kathy

    Would she send her kid to a charter school?

  2. Interesting thought, Kathy. For once, I can say that I have no idea. I will say, however, that both Vince and Connie came quite close to going to charters for sixth grade. The problem for me is not that charters are bad schools, (although I think some are): It’s that funding them works to undermine the school districts in which they sit.

  3. Beth

    What’s interesting here is that the anti-charter crowd seem to completely ignore the fact that BPS can no longer keep throwing millions of dollars at 1/2 empty schools and paying teachers and administrators that are no longer needed. The BTU has found a loud and focal group of parents to carry their water for them but this BPS parent isn’t buying it! It’s easy to blame charters but please its time for BPS and the BTU to stop throwing money away while at the same time blaming charters for their mismanagement. Please don’t let a group of parents from largely Southwest Boston where under our current assignment system the choices are vastly better than the choices kids in Mattapan and Dorchester have, call the shots for an entire city. Every child deserves a chance at a good education not just the ones who’s parents are better organized with the help of the BTU. Sorry folks its not the charters fault!

    • Thank you, Beth. I’m always happy when someone who disagrees with me takes the time to say so.

      Which “anti-charter crowd” are you talking about? I honestly think that the charters are shooting themselves in the foot much more than any JP Mom is getting in their way, but this won’t be evident for a while. I happen to agree that there are enormous problems with the budgeting process of the BPS, and I’ve said it here (ad nauseum). I’m also at almost every BPS budget meeting. Please come say hi the next time you make one.

      Unfortunately, I don’t think that there is much danger of parents from southwest Boston calling any shots, the Globe, the Boston Foundation and a narrow sector of the City’s business community have that nailed down. Take a look at the 2500+ people who have signed the Quest petition. There are a lot from SCD’s district, but many more from Somerville, Fall River, Weymouth, Lawrence and other places outside Boston. The BTU is a remarkable outfit if it can get such a dispersed crowd to carry water for it.

      While I couldn’t disagree from you more, I’m very happy to hear from you.

  4. Carol

    All the time that this person spent on the school committee and not once did I ever hear her advocate to change the admission process at the exam schools to make them more inclusive. She could have used her position to open the doors to many children who deserve the same quality education exam school kids get. I know I would have supported her to the wall on that issue, as well as all of my fellow Quest members. If she really felt that strongly about it, she certainly missed her opportunity to use her position to at least shed light on the issues. What a waste.

    • Thanks Carol. I remember you saying something very much like this when the writer in question was doing her best to ram through a “neighborhood schools” assignment plan on the EAC and the School Committee. Thankfully, the Superintendent and MT’s colleagues on the Committee knew better than to pay much attention. That plan would have worked exactly against the “quality choices” for children in Mattapan that she claims to value so much today. Having seen her in action, I don’t buy any of it.

  5. Lynn

    Yes, its ironic that her middle class parent voice speaks for the BPS parents seeking choices and those of us working to improve the district schools do not. It is a well crafted article by someone who is using her position of privilege to divert resources from BPS.

  6. ben

    While I am on the same side as you on this issue, I think your criticism of your opponent’s letter is too focused on its author rather than the real issue.

    • Thanks, Ben. Several people who are on different sides of this issue (including one who I live with) have expressed a similar sentiment to me in private, so I’m glad you brought up here. I honestly think that the response was in line with the letter that generated it, but I can certainly see how someone would feel otherwise. I’ll keep your comment in mind as I try to keep the blog out of the gutter.

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