Perhaps the most grotesque tactic on the #NoOn2 side is to deny how parents of color really feel about the issue of lifting the charter cap that will appear on the ballot. While polling has consistently shown strong support for Question 2 among non-white voters — and this holds true regarding school choice nationally — there are some who continue to deny or question the feelings and opinions of voters of color. Not surprisingly, the doubts are being raised by white activists who are not poor but who are ideologues when it comes to labor and phonies when it comes to their claims of being progressive.
Jennifer Berkshire, commonly known as Edushyster, is well known for her sharp wit and snark in education circles. And she employs both in a relentless effort to puff up unions and denigrate charter schools, as well as most other organizations and people dedicated to transforming our schools and increasing achievement for our most marginalized students. She is suspicious, almost incredulous, that wealthy folks could possibly want to give money away to help low income children access schools that have proven track records of success. She impugns the motives of education change makers, casting them as creepy villains in some game in which she is on the side of virtue and the rest of us are union hating lovers of dark money. And maybe this is a game to her. She doesn’t have any children on charter wait-lists and she resides in Gloucester, hardly a bastion of failing schools.
But don’t try to get her to talk about student outcomes. Or school quality. Those topics are off limits when she’s busy cherry picking anti-charter stories and then ignoring identical (or worse) happenings in traditional district schools. I and others have asked her repeatedly to cover the stories of children suspended 25+ times in district schools but she has ignored us; instead, she has focused solely on suspension stories on the charter side. And the truth is, suspensions are an issue that permeate the educational landscape, regardless of school type, and deserve our attention and due diligence. Not snarky soundbites that leave out half the story.
Berkshire was recently asked on Twitter about the most recent Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll that shows voters of color much more in favor of lifting the charter cap than white voters. This is significant because the majority of children on charter wait lists — those most impacted by this ballot question –are students of color.
The poll shows that 58 percent of voters of color support lifting the cap while only 33 percent of white voters do. And Berkshire dismisses it out of hand because there aren’t many “electeds” on the #Yeson2 side. Really? Is she seriously pretending that the union pressure and promises of money don’t have more influence on “electeds” than the voices of voters and parents who lack the political muscle and giant war chests of the MTA? It’s as if, despite local and national polls to the contrary, she has decided not to believe parents of color could possibly be for something that she happens to be against. Because she thinks she knows better.
Talk about white privilege.
— Paul Friedmann (@mathteacherjedi) October 27, 2016
— EduShyster (@EduShyster) October 27, 2016
Having grown up in Wellesley, Massachusetts it is beyond depressing for me to see and hear suburban teachers, superintendents, and school committees speak out against Question 2. (I’m grateful that State Representative Alice Peisch has come out in favor of Question 2 and that the Wellesley School Committee has not passed a resolution in support of #NoOn2). The truth is, most who work in or attend schools in Massachusetts’ affluent suburbs don’t know how good they have it. Suburban voters can’t even fathom what parents in Mattapan, Dorchester, and Springfield face in terms of educating their children, who they love every bit as much as suburban parents love theirs.
And for someone like Jennifer Berkshire to use her platform to cast doubt on the will of Massachusetts’ voters of color is emblematic of how clueless so many are who haven’t walked a day in the shoes of the parents who just want access to a good school for their children. They don’t know what it’s like to be unable to afford to move. They don’t know what it’s like to try to find affordable housing in the suburbs only to find out that due to community backlash, there isn’t any. They don’t know the pain of seeing their child’s name on a wait-list year after year and being forced, again, into a Level 4 or Level 5 district school.
There is no rational reason to vote against Question 2. There is no moral reason to vote against Question 2. There are only selfish reasons and those are largely based on fear, misinformation, and outright lies.
Edushyster has picked her side. And in doing so, she has tried to erase the will of the people most impacted by Question 2.