In a stunning post at Salon, Christopher Bonastia describes the ugly origins of the charter industry in the segregationist movement. The basic idea behind efforts to fight desegregation was school choice, paid for by taxpayers. The goal was to allow white students to continue to attend all-white private academies with public dollars. Today, the charter industry targets black students, which ironically popularizes the idea of all-black, segregated schools. Desegregation is no longer a priority for public policy, despite research that shows its benefits.
“The now-popular idea of offering public education dollars to private entrepreneurs has historical roots in white resistance to school desegregation after Brown v. Board of Education (1954). The desired outcome was few or, better yet, no black students in white schools. In Prince Edward County, Virginia, one of the five cases decided in Brown, segregationist whites sought to outwit integration by directing taxpayer funds to segregated private schools.
Two years before a federal court set a final desegregation deadline for fall 1959, local newspaper publisher J. Barrye Wall shared white county leaders’ strategy of resistance with Congressman Watkins Abbitt: “We are working [on] a scheme in which we will abandon public schools, sell the buildings to our corporation, reopen as privately operated schools with tuition grants from [Virginia] and P.E. county as the basic financial program,” he wrote. “Those wishing to go to integrated schools can take their tuition grants and operate their own schools. To hell with ‘em.”
Though the county ultimately refused to sell the public school buildings, public education in Prince Edward County was nevertheless abandoned for five years (1959-1964), as taxpayer dollars were funneled to the segregated white academies, which were housed in privately owned facilities such as churches and the local Moose Lodge. Federal courts struck down this use of taxpayer funds after a year. Still, whites won and blacks lost. Because there were no local taxes assessed to operate public schools during those years, whites could invest in private schools for their children, while blacks in the county—unable and unwilling to finance their own private, segregated schools—were left to fend for themselves, with many black children shut out of school for multiple years….
“Attorney David Mays, who advised high-ranking Virginia politicians on school strategy, reasoned, “Negroes could be let in [to white schools] and then chased out by setting high academic standards they could not maintain, by hazing if necessary, by economic pressures in some cases, etc. This should leave few Negroes in the white schools. The federal courts can easily force Negroes into our white schools, but they can’t possibly administer them and listen to the merits of thousands of bellyaches.” (Mays vastly underestimated the determination of individual black families and federal officials.)…”
“The driving assumption for the pro-charter side, of course, is that market competition in education will be like that for toothpaste — providing an array of appealing options. But education, like healthcare, is not a typical consumer market. Providers in these fields have a disincentive to accept or retain “clients” who require intensive interventions to maintain desired outcomes—in the case of education, high standardized test scores that will allow charters to stay in business. The result? A segmented marketplace in which providers compete for the “good risks,” while the undesirables get triage. By design, markets produce winners, losers and unintended or hidden consequences.
“Charter school operators (like health insurers who exclude potentially costly applicants) have developed methods to screen out applicants who are likely to depress overall test scores. Sifting mechanisms may include interviews with parents (since parents of low-performing students are less likely to show up for the interview), essays by students, letters of recommendation and scrutiny of attendance records. Low-achieving students enrolled in charters can, for example, be recommended for special education programs that the school lacks, thus forcing their transfer to a traditional public school. (More brazenly, some schools have experienced, and perhaps even encouraged, rampant cheating on standardized tests.)
“Operators have clear motives to avoid students who require special services (i.e., English-language learners, “special needs” children and so on) and those who are unlikely to produce the high achievement test scores that form the basis of school evaluations. Whether intended or otherwise, these sifting mechanisms have the ultimate effect of reinscribing racial and economic segregation among the students they educate — as the research on this topic is increasingly bearing out.”
The Néw Jersey Charter School Association filed an ethics complaint against Rutgers professor Julia Sass Rubin, because she identified herself as a Rutgers professor when speaking and writing critically about charter schools. She and doctoral student Mark Weber published a research paper about the demographics and test scores of charters. She has been an active member of Save Our Schools Néw Jersey. The charter association claims that she should not acknowledge her professional identity when writing or speaking. This would be laughable were it not an effort to intimidate her.
Here are the remedies the NJCSA seeks from the NJ State Ethics Commission:
“• In the event of any further installments of her study with Mr. Weber, or any future Rutgers work product concerning issues of education policy, that she be ordered to include appropriate disclaimers upon its release, and secure review and approval of the appropriate Rutgers officials prior to releasing same publicly;
• When making public appearances, Dr. Rubin be ordered to not use her Rutgers title in any capacity, and if her title is raised that she clearly state that her positions are hers alone and not those of Rutgers or any of its academic units;
• Direction to either adhere to Rutgers policies regarding outside activities or withdraw from her involvement in outside organizations including SOSNJ.”
Just for the record, I usually identify myself as a Research Professor of Education at Néw York University when I write opinion pieces, blog, give testimony before legislative bodies, or lecture in public. No one has ever said it was unethical to do so.
Here is Peter Greene on the subject.
“NJCSA has tried to attack Rubin professionally by bringing ethics charges against her. Her alleged unethical behavior is, as near as I can tell:
1) Saying things that the NJCSA doesn’t like
2) Telling people what her job is when she speaks.
“The complaint seriously seeks the remedy of having Rubin stop identifying herself as a Rutgers professor when she says these things that make the NJ Charter operators look like lying liars who lie.”
“I can understand their confusion to a point. It is, of course, standard operating procedure in the reformster world to NOT identify who you actually work for, get money from, or otherwise are affiliated with. It’s SOP to put out a slick “report” without actually explaining why anyone should believe you know what you’re talking about, but Rubin and Weber go ahead and list their actual credentials. Apparently NJCSA’s argument is that it’s unethical to let people know why your work is credible.”
Professor Rubin posted the following on her Facebook page:
“The NJ Charter School Association filed an ethics complaint against me on Monday with the NJ State Ethics Commission, claiming that I was violating Rutgers policies on lobbying by identifying myself as a Rutgers Professor when I wrote editorials or spoke in public meetings and articulated a position consistent with that of Save Our Schools NJ.
“Their complaint is not only completely devoid of substance, it also demonstrated very unethical behavior by the NJ Charter School Association as the complaint distorts the Rutgers Lobbying and Advocacy Policy, including actually editing parts of that policy to change its meaning and omitting the list of communications that are expressly not considered lobbying. Of course, every example of my writing or testimony that they categorized as “lobbying” [editorials, speaking at public events, etc.,] was actually on the list of communications that do not constitute lobbying.
“Aside from demonstrating the NJ Charter School Association’s stunning lack of morality, this also is a chilling attack on personal and academic freedoms. If Professors of Public Policy are not allowed to testify or write editorials that displease well-funded constituents, we are truly in trouble as a country.”
Here is Marie Corfield’s hilarious commentary. She includes an excerpt from Bob Braun’s Facebook comments, where he reveals how few educators are on the board of NJCSA.
Star Ledger coverage:http://www.nj.com/education/2015/01/charter_schools_association_files_ethics_complaint_against_rutgers_professor_sosnj_founder.html#comments
Philadelphia Inquirer http://www.philly.com/philly/news/new_jersey/287983381.html