Every weekday morning WNYC host Brian Lehrer hosts a radio show on “what matters most now in local and national politics, our own communities and our lives.” The first segment of Friday’s show, with guest Jimmy Vielkind of Politico New York, was called “Albany’s Big Ugly,” a reference to the last-minute scramble of state legislators to pass bills that have piled up before the end of the session. One bit of unfinished business on Friday was how long to extend New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s control of the city school system. (See my write-up here.)
About 11 minutes into the show, a gentleman named Kofi from the South Bronx called in. Here’s my transcript of the conversation.
Brian: Now we have Kofi from the South Bronx.
Kofi: Yes, Brian, this question should actually go to Mayor de Blasio. I live in the South Bronx besides the White Plains Road. I know that when he was running as mayor he was so much against charter schools even though it is the most important thing that has ever happened to poor people who live in the poor neighborhoods. Everyone knows that the schools in poor neighborhoods, in the inner city, are not good. So how can he be so much against charter school which are building schools in poor areas and now he wants control of the school system? How can that be fair?
Discussion ensues between Brian and Vielkind about “being fair to the bigger political picture.” Research, says Lehrer, shows that charter schools don’t do much better than district schools. [Note to Mr. Lehrer from a big fan: take a look at Democrats for Education Reform’s testimony to the DNC, which clears up “misconceptions about charter schools,” including this: “In 11 states, public charter students made greater academic progress than their traditional public school counterparts in both reading and math: District of Columbia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Tennessee.”]
Brian: I’m just curious. Is this personal for you? Do you have children in charter schools?
Kofi: Fortunately for me, three of my daughters went to charter schools and my first one went to Swarthmore College on a full scholarship. My last one is at Stonybrook [a SUNY university] on a full scholarship and the other is on an out-of-state scholarship. From my own experience, knowing I couldn’t afford private school, I know what a charter school could do and what it did for me. So when I see these people who are against charter schools even though it is the best thing that happened to poor people in the poor neighborhood, it baffles my mind.