Paul Tractenberg, a distinguished law professor at Rutgers University, challenges the idea that all-charter districts based on the New Orleans model are a magic bullet for Newark, Camden, and other low-performing districts in New Jersey. He notes that for the past four years, we have been bombarded with propaganda films like “Waiting for Superman” and “Won’t Back Down,” intended to convince us of the superiority of privatized charter schools over traditional public schools.
But, Tractenberg notes, the evidence is missing. Contrary to media hype, the Recovery School District in New Orleans is one of the lowest-performing districts in the state. No miracle there.
He asks questions that the propagandists for an all-charter district can’t answer:
“Do we really believe that the education of our most vulnerable students will be enhanced by constant churning of their schools and teachers? Do we really believe that we will improve education by replacing experienced and credentialed teachers with bright young college graduates — B.A. generalists as we used to call them in the early days of the Peace Corps — who are trained for six weeks before they are placed in the nation’s most difficult classrooms for their two-year commitments? Do we really believe that, despite growing evidence to the contrary, charter schools will begin to fully serve the needs of special education and LEP students? Do we really believe that balkanizing our already undersized New Jersey school districts to the charter-school level, where each charter school is technically an independent school district, will satisfy our state constitutional mandate of an “efficient system of free public schools”?
I have just finished reading Kristen Buras’ book about New Orleans. I will review it soon on the blog. It is the counter narrative to the reformer boosterism about New Orleans, “Charter Schools, Race, and Urban Space.” It tells the story of the past decade from the perspective of black students, parents, teachers, and communities. It is a story of dispossession, of white supremacy, of community destruction. The publisher put a crazy price on the book, but I hear there will soon be a reasonably priced softcover. Buras shows that the destruction of public education in New Orleans is no model for other cities.