In the heated debate over charter school funding in New York City, the only people losing more credibility than Mayor Bill DeBlasio and his union supporters are the local media. The mayor has made Eva Moskowitz and her network of Success charter schools his target, trying to make them “pay rent” for using public school buildings and blocking them from “co-locating” with public schools.
Of course, charter schools are public schools and the students who attend them have just as much right to taxpayer funds as any other school. And Success Academies have a significantly better academic record than the vast majority of public schools in New York.
But outlets like the New York Times and WNYC (the local public radio station) have now taken to casting aspersions about the supporters of charter schools, particularly those Wall Street folks who have decided to fund them. WNYC ran a story called: “Who Is Behind the Pro-Charter Schools Group Fighting de Blasio? Wealthy, powerful people and organizations backing non-profit behind ads and rally.” ).
The reporter did not manage to interview a single person who had actually given money to a charter school. But she did find someone from a union-funded nonprofit to explain how wealthy financiers are out to destroy public education:
They crashed our economy. They crashed New York City. We were at a standstill for a very long time economically here. And now we’re going to trust them with our students? That seems preposterous for me,” said Natasha Capers, a parent leader at the Alliance for Quality Education.
A New York Times column by Michael Powell about the high salaries of successful charter school principals also mocked the hedge fund managers for their support of these institutions. It was called “Gilded Crusade for Charters Rolls Onward” and suggested that these financiers were too “triumphalist” about the schools they funded.
So here’s the question that none of these articles seem to answer. What exactly is the secret agenda here of Wall Street titans who want to give money to charter schools? I can tell you what the union-backed nonprofit gets out of opposing charter schools. More jobs for unionized teachers. But why do people with billions of dollars care whether kids in Harlem are getting a decent education or not? There is no explanation. There are lots of ways these men and women could spend their money. A wing at the museum, a plaque in the hospital, a new building at their Ivy League alma mater. Where is the glory for them in supporting charter schools?
The inability of reporters to ask the most basic of questions was also on view in a column over the weekend by Gina Bellafante at the Times. She suggested that DeBlasio should spend more time touting so-called hybrid schools rather than charter schools. She tells readers that a hybrid school is one that offers “the experience of a private education within the context of the traditional public system, using union teachers.”
What does that mean? How is it like a private education? There’s no explanation.
In fact, from her description, they seem to resemble private schools a lot more than public ones. The principal seems to tell her he has the power to fire bad teachers: “When teachers haven’t done well for him, he has gotten rid of them.” Does Bellafante actually not realize that the reason most education reformers don’t like the unions is that they make it impossible to get rid of teachers who “haven’t done well” for schools?
Whether it’s ignorance or intellectual dishonesty I can’t say, but either way the problems with reporting on this issue are glaring.