Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Dear Bernie, An Open Letter About Consolidation To A Charter Cheerleader. From, Darlene

My post about the hullabaloo in East Brunswick attracted a new sparring partner named Bertin Lefkovic.  He has responded to my post both on Marie Corfield's Facebook page (sorry Marie!) and Diane Ravitch's blog (you can read the whole exchange there.)

I decided to post my latest response to him on my blog, well, because I have one and I can, but also because he brings up an issue that has always irked me, but I have never written about; charter supporters advocating for the consolidation of public school districts.

While Bertin Lefkovic took lots of time to craft responses, he didn't bother to get my name right and referred to me, without fail, as "Darlene."  

So Bernie, here's Darlene's response...

First, my name is Darcie…
Second, there are things upon which we agree, including the need to exclude “privatization privateers” in public education.
I also agree that if our property taxes were not so directly linked to school funding, many school funding arguments would be greatly diminished.
You take me to task for saying that the way charters are funded will not change Mr. Lefkovic, but I have participated in these discussions at the state level. I sat at a table with a group of other concerned citizens from around the state and we directly asked the Commissioner of Education to consider that if the state decides which charters to open, the state should fund those charters, not the district. We told him that this would greatly diminish the opposition to charters in communities across the state. The Commissioner all but laughed at us and told us the state doesn’t have the money, to which we replied, almost in unison, “Neither do we!”
You describe New Jersey as a “machine politics state devoid of any legitimate democratic processes.” I am trying to work within that system to ensure ALL children in this state receive the education they deserve, and it can indeed be quite frustrating. Your assessment of me as someone who would be happy if there were “no more charter schools created and if the ones that were in existence suddenly disappeared” and “quite satisfied with the parameters of (my) current crusade and whatever fame or infamy it brings (me)” is wildly outrageous.
You know nothing about me, and I refrained from creating any caricatures of you in my comments. I have NEVER advocated the closure of ANY child’s school, public or charter, and in fact think it is abhorrent to close ANY child’s school. I would greatly appreciate an apology from you for this assumption about my position on such a crucial issue when you had nothing to base such a claim on.
You are correct however that I would like to see a moratorium on new charters until this state can get a handle on the charter and public schools that already exist, and make sure they are working in the interest of ALL children.
I will put right on the table what I see as the fundamental difference between “progressive” people such as myself and you, Mr. Lefkovic. You seem to be perfectly happy to support one set of rules for you, and another set of rules for everyone else. I on the other hand, feel passionately that my children are not entitled to any special treatment from the state, and if I want something and expect it for my kid, then I should want it and fight like hell for it for ALL kids. Otherwise, I should pay for it myself.
Allow me to explain.
You bring up a point that I have heard bandied about by many charter supporters, which is “home rule” and the cost savings districts would attain through consolidation. You go so far as to suggest countywide or statewide consolidation. So for the majority of children in this state, if I understand you correctly, you are advocating for massive, bureaucratic, consolidated districts which will essentially serve as fortresses, next to impossible for parents to infiltrate to make their voices heard to advocate for their children.
But Mr. Lefkovic, you have chosen to send your child to a charter school. Do you not understand sir that a charter school is it’s own district??? You have chosen to send your child to a school district of 194 students, but for the rest of us you want county or state wide districts.
Well, that seems fair…
You complain about overpaid, redundant school administrators, even school business administrators, yet the 194 children attending your district could easily be reabsorbed by their HOME districts, negating the need for the additional administrative cost Hatikvah (which has it’s own SBA by the way…) therefore represents. In addition, a link to the Highland Park budget can be found on our website, which details all administrative salaries. I see no such link on Hatikvah’s website.
You casually mock the “barely-democratically-elected school boards” of traditional public schools, yet the Board of Trustees of your child’s school is hand picked, and completely unaccountable to the public for the tax dollars they spend.
In fact, if Hatikvah’s Board of Trustees indeed functioned as a democratically elected School Board must, and were as accountable to the public, the current kerfuffle over the East Brunswick Zoning Board’s decision to allow Hatikvah to relocate into a warehouse in a light industrial zone would likely never have happened.
That warehouse was purchased by a private foundation, using 2.7 million private dollars. Therefore, there was little to no public input BEFORE the purchase. A true public school would have been required the get the agreement of the taxpayers for such an expense, thus creating far more transparency and accountability to the public at large before the purchase was ever made. And while you state you have no knowledge of anyone making a profit off of Hatikvah, do you have intimate knowledge of the leases and subleases that have been drawn up for the new property, and are you quite sure that no one is making money off of this proposed new facility? The facilities are often where many charters investors make their money.
You mock the loss of $160,000 from my district’s budget, but our School Board IS accountable to the public for the money it spends and how it spends it. Loss of revenue to charter schools represents the SINGLE HIGHEST increase in spending in the Highland Park budget over the last ten years, (a 626% increase) and we have no control over that expense whatsoever.
I could continue to address your post point for point, but it would get tiresome to write and to read as well. Suffice it to say Mr. Lefkovic, you seem to be fine with one set of rules for your child’s school, and another set of rules for my child’s school.
I am not

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