KIPP-NJ Holds Rally to Fight Proposed Moratorium

Mila Jasey, a member of the New Jersey Assembly, proposed a three-year moratorium on opening new charter schools. She said it was time to pause and take stock of the charter law. Meanwhile, Governor Chris Christie is opening as many charters as possible in the state’s poorest, most segregated districts, with an occasional effort to place them in suburbs (which usually provokes intense parent resistance).

Now that parents and the Newark Students Union, as well as Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, oppose Cami Anderson’s efforts to eliminate their neighborhood schools, the usual corporate reform narrative has gotten scrambled because students and parents in Newark are fighting to stop privatization.

So KIPP-NJ organized a rally of 100 parents in front of Assemblymember Jasey’s office to protest the moratorium. Note that the legislation would not close their schools, although the statements of demonstrators assume that it would.

The rally was called “Hands Off Our Future.” Again, the moratorium would have no bearing on any of the existing charter schools or their students. Note in the press release that questions should be directed to KIPP’s marketing and communications specialist.

I have been impressed by the clever and appealing slogans–the branding–of the charter chains. Last year, when Mayor Bill de Blasio in NYC threatened to reject some of Eva Moskowitz’s charter proposals, her supporters (“Families for Excellent Schools”) quickly produced $5 million for slick TV ads called “Don’t Steal Possible.” (You may safely conclude that the “families” who came up with $5 million overnight don’t enroll their children in public schools or charter schools.) That, plus $1 million or so of campaign contributions to Governor Cuomo from hedge-fund managers, turned the tide. Cuomo became a charter cheerleader, and he pushed through a bill protecting Eva’s expansion plans and guaranteeing free space in public schools and requiring the public schools in NYC to pay the charters’ rent in private space.

Clearly, public schools must have their own branding strategy. How about this:

“”Wall Street: Hands Off Our Public Schools”

“Don’t Steal Democracy”

“Our Children Are Not for Sale”

“Public Schools Belong to the Public, Not Corporate Raiders”

Do you have better ideas? The charter sector is rich and ambitious. They start with the schools in urban areas, but they have already begun to push into the suburbs and even small towns.

The end result will be a dual system: one for the motivated students and families, free to exclude those students it doesn’t want; the other–our public schools–for the kids who were rejected by the charters. I thought the Brown decision of 1954 settled the issue of a publicly-funded dual system. But it is back again, not based on race, but on something else, maybe grit, ability to succeed, motivation. One system for strivers, another for the rest. When I was in graduate school many years ago, an economist who studied international education told me that systems may be shaken up but they tend to revert to long-established patterns. Like a dual school system.

I was in Oklahoma a few days ago, I talked to a principal who shares a building with KIPP. He told me that the charter sends him students they don’t want, usually right before the state tests. That’s how the new system works.

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