Valerie Strauss is well known for her education writing at Answer Sheet in the Washington Post. She writes with a an anti-reform bias, that she makes no effort to hide, and like most education minded folks this week, she decided to weigh in on the opening of LeBron James’ school in Akron, Ohio. One would think that his deliberate decision to collaborate with the district and create a new and different district school would have Strauss clicking her heels – it sure seems like James has checked all of her favorite boxes.
But alas, Strauss has suddenly decided that she is oh so concerned about “the other kids.” In her piece, “Props to LeBron and His New Public School—But What About the Other Kids?”, Valerie asks a question that she has long avoided. As families of means have, for generations, left lower performing districts and moved to the land of higher priced real estate and better schools—or private schools— Strauss has been A-Ok with that. Robert Pondiscio noted on his Facebook page this very same observation when he wrote of Strauss’s piece, “as ever, no one asks, “What about the other kids?” when white parents move to affluent towns with good schools, or pull their kids out of zoned district schools. But it’s a problem when poor black and brown parents want something better, and when someone tries to offer it.”
Strauss’ take here is, well, a head scratcher.
Yes, he deserves praise for throwing his money and celebrity behind what every kid in America needs: a good, responsive, free public school. No, there’s nothing in his I Promise School that educators haven’t known kids need. That means resources to deal with them where they are — academically, emotionally and psychologically.
It’s not rocket science. It’s harder.
Not rocket science, eh? Funny thing. Last time I checked, or read a Strauss missive, I didn’t come away with the sense that Strauss was pushing for much of anything that James’ school offers. Strauss isn’t a champion for an extended school day that goes from 9 to 5, like the one at IPromise Academy. And she isn’t an advocate for a longer school year either, like the one at IPromise Academy that runs from July to May. Has she rallied for new schools to open up with 4th graders, choose students via lottery who trail their peers academically, and give the gift of a bicycle on the front end and free college tuition to local local university upon graduation?
I didn’t think so.
Strauss also takes a needless and totally gratuitous swipe at charter supporters when she says “the praise for James has come from far and wide, including from charter school supporters who no doubt would have preferred that James opened a charter.” While I have seen an odd (and very public) cheering by anti-charter folks of his decision not to open a charter, I haven’t seen or heard anyone who supports charters give credence to Strauss’ speculation about which she says there is “no doubt.”
Who cares about what kind of school it is if it serves students well?
Strauss’ inclination to diminish all that makes James’ school amazing and unique is disingenuous and, well, insulting. But I do so looking forward to her next piece about what happened to all the other kids when she chose to enroll her own children in a pricey private school and leave the district behind.
Now that’s a missive I wouldn’t miss.