Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Carlos Perez, Arne Duncan and the Tyranny of the Majority

Just about any time an article is written in New Jersey about charter schools the reporter goes out to Carlos Perez of the New Jersey Charter Schools Association for the pro-charter party line.  His disdain for districts that are fighting back against the charter invasion is palpable.  

Check out this press release in response to the PIACS lawsuit against the districts:

The Association supports the parents and children who want to send their children to PIACS,” Perez said. “We don't believe public school districts should be using valuable taxpayer money to fight to keep other children from having high-quality public school options. It's unfair that a start-up charter school is forced to spend its limited resources fighting a public school district instead of using that money to educate children.”
Perez said New Jersey school districts have a long history of imposing long, expensive legal action against charter schools dating back over a decade, from Red Bank and Highland Park.
Highland Park has done nothing other than respond to FOUR APPLICATIONS submitted by Tikun Olam founders, which have been clearly shown to be filled with misrepresentations.  No expensive lawsuits.  No expensive legal action.  Just responses from our district's attorney and our community, and our community has done it for FREE!   We're not dragging anything out, they won't stop re-applying, and the NJDOE won't stop supporting them so we won't stop defending our public schools!
Here's my favorite quote from Mr. Perez that was in my home town paper, the Highland Park Mirror.  He is, once again, giving the pro-charter party line on New Jersey's deranged charter law that allows the Commissioner to decide yet forces the districts to pay.   
In New Jersey, charter schools are funded by the students’ home school districts, through a formula based on per-pupil budgeting. The 2010-2011 Highland Park Public Schools budget provides $352,208 to two existing charter schools where 23 Highland Park students attend.
The result is that “towns like Highland Park [whose funds] support the schools have no voice in their creation or administration," says Julia Sass Rubin, a member of Save Our Schools NJ, a grassroots organization seeking charter school reform.
New Jersey’s state approved but locally funded charter schools are an oddity, according to Rubin, who says that nationwide 90 percent of charter schools are either locally-approved and locally-funded, or else state-approved and state-funded.
New Jersey Charter Schools Association Carlos Perez said the current charter approval and oversight system provides freedom from a “tyranny of the majority.”
Let me just get this straight, Mr. Perez.  Are you referring to that pesky little thing we like to call democracy as A TYRANNY OF THE MAJORITY?  
Why is Mr. Perez so hell bent on overriding the wishes of the majority of parents in any given school district?  NJ Spotlight wrote a, well, Spotlight on Perez when he came to New Jersey via his native Chicago (are you thinking about Arne Duncan, too?  You should be…) Perez worked for the Chicago based Illinois Network of Charter Schools from 2005-2010.  John Mooney reports that while Perez took Chicago by storm, with the help of Arne Duncan, he had a hard time increasing numbers in the rest of Illinois. 
Both with charter laws into their second decade, Illinois has about 96 charter schools, New Jersey 73. But while New Jersey’s are spread throughout the state, all but nine of Illinois’ charter schools are located in Chicago, the product of a restricted law that requires local districts to authorize charters within their borders. Chicago boasted a mayor and a school superintendent -- now U.S Education Secretary Arne Duncan -- who were more inclined, but there was still stiff union opposition that Perez said was tough to overcome. “Virtually every one of the charters was out-performing the district schools,” Perez said. “Still, nobody wanted to believe that charter schools were successful.” (emphasis mine)

Sounds like Perez was a hit in Chicago when Arne Duncan was Superintendent, but got stymied in the rest of Illinois by districts that were allowed to *GASP* decide for themselves if they need or want a charter.  This really brings his "tyranny of the majority" quote into focus.  

New Jersey has become a bad flashback for Mr. Perez.  The pesky, noisy people in Highland Park, Cherry Hill, Teaneck and beyond that don't want to be a notch in his charter belt are a trigger; we're reminding him of the districts in Illinois that weren't buying his snake oil either.  

It's no doubt Governor Christie keeps saying that charters should be focused in "failing" districts.  It worked in Illinois, why not here?  Maybe if we can convince President Obama to send Arne Duncan back to Chicago he will take Carlos Perez with him.  

A girl can dream, can't she?

1 comment:

  1. I'm doing research about charter schools in Illinois and came across this blog post about Mr. Perez. If it makes you feel any better (and it probably won't/shouldn't), Mr. Perez is not an intelligent man. All evidence points toward a career of being in the right place at the right time. He doesn't understand research or data. He understands only spin and politics. Good luck, NJ.