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Jersey Jazzman posted four articles about charter schools in Hoboken. In this, his final post in the series, he draws together the issues that confront Hoboken and will soon confront urban (and perhaps suburban) districts across the nation as charter schools continue to proliferate with the active encouragement of philanthropies like Walton, Broad, and Gates and the of the Obama administration and Congress.
America is a society that sorts its citizens, and that sorting begins in school. Want your kid to get a high SAT score and consequently go to a competitive college? Your best chance is to enroll him in a school with low numbers of students in poverty. As I’ve said, it’s not wrong to act on this reality in the best interests of your child; I would be a screaming hypocrite if I tried to deny that I had. What’s wrong is to pretend that the reality of schools as engines of social reproduction doesn’t exist. Which brings us back to Hoboken… I have no doubt the supporters of Hoboken’s charter schools want to help children in economic disadvantage and children of color succeed. Nobody thinks it’s acceptable for poor children to be consigned to a life of poverty. I believe the efforts of the people who run Hoboken’s charters to recruit a diverse student body are sincere and well-intentioned. I further believe, as I have said before, that affluent charter school proponents who stay in their cities with their families, rather than decamp for the ‘burbs, can make a good case that they are doing more to help their communities than those that flee. So, to be clear: I am not criticizing anyone who teaches at or sends their child to a Hoboken charter school. God bless and good luck. No, my issue, as always, is with the charter cheerleaders who repeatedly refuse to have an honest conversation about what is really happening.
When charters claim they serve the same demographic as public schools, and when they claim that they “do more with less,” the discussion is pure spin, says JJ:
There is a serious conversation that needs to be had about segregation, school funding, gentrification, and charter schools — but we can’t have that conversation as long as nonsense like this is allowed to go unchallenged. The “doing more with less” arguments from the Hoboken charter cheerleaders are, at best, incomplete, because those charters raise substantial additional funds from their parents, and rely on a concentration of social and political capital to benefit their schools.
The charter cheerleaders deny the facts and distort the reality. Private schools have the same segregative effects, but they don’t take money away from needy public schools; charters do.
How can anyone make the case that charter school expansion isn’t having an unequal and pernicious effect on the neediest children of Hoboken? How can anyone seriously deny that the proliferation of charters is harming children in HPS — children who are far more likely to be in economic disadvantage?
What’s happening in Hoboken is, again, atypical. But as cities gentrify; and family size shrinks, making urban living more attractive; and income inequality grows, watch out: Hoboken may be the template for a new wave of charter school proliferation. The intra-city economic and racial segregation that used to be the exclusive province of private schools may well be replaced by charter schools, subsisting on the taxpayers’ dime.
We have enough problems with segregation between school districts; do we have to replicate that within cities simply to create diverse communities? Wouldn’t we be better off fully funding our urban — and, for that matter, non-urban — schools, so that they become as desirable as the best-resourced suburban districts? Or is the current form of charter proliferation in Hoboken as inevitable as the current segregation of our urban and suburban school districts?
These are hard questions that need to be discussed. Let’s get rid of the charter cheerleading, then, so we can do just that.