Dennis Mikolay: Terrible Lies: The War on Charter Schools!

Submitted to IPR by Dennis “DJ” Mikolay:

If there is one thing that can be said about New Jersey politicians, it is that honesty certainly isn’t their strong-point. Our lawmakers often circumvent the established legislative system to advance their agendas without having to play by the rules. A prime example of such back-handed tactics is the Democratic Party’s latest attack on “school choice,”  a misguided crusade that seeks to condemn lower income residents to chronically failing schools.

The Democratic machine’s disdain for the “school choice” movement is certainly not new. During the days of the Corzine administration, it was made abundantly clear that Governor would do almost anything possible to hinder the advancement of vouchers or charter schools. Now, in the wake of the Christie Administration’s education reforms and facing growing public support for “school choice,” the Democrats have had to seek a new means to keep New Jersey’s financially disadvantaged students in failing schools.

Their latest trick: utilizing a referendum to stagnate the development of charter schools.

The New Jersey Education Association, the state’s monolithic teacher’s union, is currently advancing four bills which, if passed, would mean that charter schools would require voter approval. If implemented, this would likely signal the death of charter schools. And that is exactly why the NJEA is backing this legislation. While the teacher’s union seems to control Democratic Legislators, it has almost no leverage over Republican elected officials, most of whom remain adamant in their support of “school choice.”

The NJEA realizes it could never sway the Republicans to oppose charter schools. A well coordinated media blitz, however, would very likely turn uninformed voters against “school choice.”

It is a tactic the NJEA has used several times before. If they can’t control the Legislators, they seek to manipulate the voters.

Their propaganda campaign would almost certainly propagate the past fallacies regarding charter schools: that they will destroy our state’s public schools, fund religious education, and damn financially disadvantaged students.

It must be noted that none of these accusations have any basis in reality. The financially disadvantaged actually benefit the most from “school choice” programs! Despite what the NJEA wants you to believe, the purpose of charter schools is to present low-income students, most of whom live in urban areas, with an effective alternative to the failed inner-city schools.

Vouchers and charter schools are not meant to benefit the wealthy. Those who live in affluent areas with superb school systems, who can already afford to send their children to top-notch private schools, simply don’t need “school choice” programs. Their financial security already presents them with a choice regarding where their children will receive an education.

Those on a fixed or lower income, however, don’t have a real choice. Their only option is to send their  children to the local public schools, many of which are antiquated, dangerous, and overall undesirable.

These families might want to send their children to private academies or religious institutions, but they simply can’t afford to do so. Charter schools (and vouchers for that matter) would remedy this problem.

The NJEA, however, is not actually concerned with making sure these underprivileged students (whom the system has failed) receive a good education. They are primarily interested in preserving their own wealth and political influence.

The NJEA’s claim that there is nothing wrong with New Jersey schools is ludicrous. The parents and teachers who argue this point tend to be rather sheltered. They live in suburban or rural areas, far removed from the reality of the urban schools that exist in Newark, Camden, Paterson, or Trenton. They are either oblivious or apathetic to the desperation urban families face when it comes to educating their children.

Urban schools are certainly not thriving. If anything, they are creating a vacuum that sucks in taxpayer money, rewards administrators, all the while giving our students nothing in return. Sure, they house children for six or seven hours a day, but the environment is certainly less than stellar and the quality of education undeniably low.

And yet, if the NJEA has its way, students (even those who truly want to learn and achieve to the best of their abilities) will not be given the ability to go elsewhere.

The NJEA knows that voters are easily swayed and often apathetic. By placing decisions regarding their implementation in their hands, the NJEA’s propaganda machine will likely be able to influence the outcome of several referendums.

The union’s ads often prove quite effective, despite the fact they have no regard for the truth. For the past several months, they have run a radio spot claiming Governor Christie gave a tax cut to millionaires.  In reality, he did no such thing. But that hasn’t stopped the union from brazenly making claims to the contrary.

For far too long, low-income students have been lost to a broken system. While the system has failed countless generations of urban students, it doesn’t have to be that way. The NJEA and the Democratic machine may oppose charter schools, and their latest efforts to squash them will very likely gain some momentum, but it is time for New Jersey voters to do what is in the best interest of our most disadvantaged students.


Dennis “DJ” Mikolay is a co-founder of Reform Party of NJ.  Above article originally posted on the blog Populist Approach on May 25, 2011.  Read the original here.

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