The Record Editorial Board supports the bill (A1877) approved by the State Assembly last week that would subject all aspiring charter schools to a public vote. The Record’s first line of reasoning is that new charters belong in failing urban districts, not in successful suburban school districts, and the bill represents a “a growing suburban backlash against Christie’s relentless promotion of alternatives to failing traditional schools.” Fair enough (although the parents whose kids go to, say Princeton Charter School, might have a different point of view).
The editorial notes that the same bill made it through the Assembly last year but died in the Senate. This year, however,
We urge opposing senators to reconsider their position this year and send the measure to the governor’s desk. And if Gov. Chris Christie balks, it would be interesting to see how he explains denying such power to the public in this case while pushing to let the people decide on gay marriage.
Okay. Now the Record has missed a step.
Anyone who follows me knows that I’m opposed to the idea of resting the fate of an aspiring charter – which by definition would serve a tiny minority of students – on a public ballot. (See here and here, for example.) The opposition will be fierce no matter if the proposed location is urban or suburban, rich or poor, and the charter advocates will be vastly outnumbered in their ability to mount what will become a marketing campaign. This bill is as transparently anti-charter as Gov. Christie is transparently anti-gay marriage. That’s why both approaches are wrong.
Here’s what Newark Mayor Cory Booker had to say (via the Star-Ledger) about Gov. Christie’s idea put a civil right — in this case, gay marriage — on a public ballot:
Dear God, we should not be putting civil rights issues to a popular vote, to be subject to the sentiments, the passions of the day. No minority should have their rights subject to the passions and the sentiments of the majority. This is the fundamental bedrock of what our nation stands for.” Booker added that Jackie Robinson would never have broken baseball’s color barrier if the matter had been put to a vote.
Couldn’t you say the same thing about subjecting any minority interest to a public referendum?