Author Archive: Marie Corfield

Why push-back against charters? Because they don’t deliver the goods.

promoted by Rosi

Given the Star Ledger's overtly biased opinions about public education and teachers—most notably their New Year's day work of fiction and the firestorm it created in the Twitter/blogospheres (this link to the piece and my response also contains links to other opposing opinions including SOSNJ and NJParents1)—I do commend their Dec. 27 editorial, The push-back against charter schools, for trying to see both sides of this debate. But it does not go far enough, and ends up perpetuating some long-standing myths about these publicly funded but privately run schools.

Let’s start with the myth that they are a cure for failing schools. They are not. Two extensive studies done in the past two years, and partially funded by billionaire-turned-education-reformer Bill Gates—the CREDO at Stanford University study, and Gates’ own Center for Reinventing Public Education study released in November—conclude that the majority of these for-profit institutions do no better than their public school counterparts. A small number are better; many are worse. The latter study went so far as to say that the better ones “are not statistically significant.” So why is the state pushing them? Because they provide cheap alternatives to state funded education, while allowing wealthy investors to double their money in seven years and get a 37% tax break on their investment with little to no financial or academic accountability.

Myths continue, after the fold

Star Ledger Needs to Check Their Facts

I was very disappointed to start my New Year off this morning by reading a fact-less and biased op-ed piece in The Star Ledger about the Voucher Bill. It had already lit up the Twitter and Facebook feeds long before I had my first cup of coffee, with Save Our Schools NJ and NJParents1 posting fact-filled responses.

It is reprehensible and irresponsible for the state's largest newspaper to publish such a work of fiction. Anyone could do a quick Google search to find plenty of evidence to refute their claim that vouchers offer 'a lifeline for poor kids'. I do hope Politifact New Jersey does their homework on this one. 

This is not a Democrat vs. Republican or state vs. NJEA issue. This is an issue of our government offering false hope to families of struggling students, financial aid to struggling private and parochial schools, and tax breaks to big corporations. This program that has been tried in various cities around the country for 20 years with no measurable success does nothing to address the crushing effects of poverty on a child's ability to learn. And according to both the US Census Bureau and the NJDOE, poverty, or lack thereof, is a major factor in a child's success in school.

If Trenton is serious about helping struggling students, why not let corporations give those tax breaks to programs that will help the poor live decent lives including affordable health insurance, housing, jobs, and ESL classes? Or how about giving that money directly to the school districts not only to invest in measures that have been proven to work such smaller class sizes, rich, deep curriculums, and strong half day pre-K and full day kindergarten programs, but to help them buy much needed materials and fix broken down, dilapidated buildings?

Newspapers are supposed to uncover the truth, not perpetuate lies. The Star Ledger can and should do better.

As the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, "You are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts."

Let Your Light Shine Today!

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Depending on your viewpoint, those two phrases can either bring a smile or a scowl today. But the latter actually encompasses its universal celebration of light. And in light of the fact that our state—and much of the world—is suffering from a great lack of enlightenment right now, here's a little bit of history of this special day…

Having its roots in celebrations surrounding the Winter Solstice and the returning of light to the world as the days grew longer, ancient Babylonians celebrated the feast of the Son of Isis, Goddess of Nature, on December 25. Later, the Romans would honor Saturn, the God of Agriculture. Both celebrations included eating, drinking, singing (which later evolved into caroling), time spent with family and gift-giving. Sound familiar? In 350 Pope Julius l declared December 25 as the official date of Christ's birth as a way to bring Pagan Romans into the fold of Christianity.

The light of the Christmas Tree comes from German traditions. According to History.com:

Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition as we now know it in the 16th century when devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes… It is a widely held belief that Martin Luther, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, first added lighted candles to a tree. Walking toward his home one winter evening, composing a sermon, he was awed by the brilliance of stars twinkling amidst evergreens. To recapture the scene for his family, he erected a tree in the main room and wired its branches with lighted candles.

So, no matter what light you honor, whether its gazing at the stars, eagerly anticipating the return of sunlight to our dark days, or celebrating the birth of the “light of the world”, they all come together in one day of celebration. This day belongs to the world. It reminds us of the deep connections we have to each other as fellow human beings in a world that is so often so polarizing.

And what's so bad about that? 

So, to my fellow Blue Jerseyans—and yes, even those not so blue—Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! And Happy Hanukkah! I'm so happy that the light of my Jewish brothers and sisters shines brightly today, too!

Education Reform: For Profit, Not For Progress

Before the end of the year Governor Christie wants the legislature to pass the remainder of his property tax ‘tool kit’ including his education ‘reform’ agenda. And the fate of one of the nation’s best public education systems and thousands of its students hang in the balance.

Out of over twenty four hundred schools in this state, about two hundred are not doing a good enough job educating their students. These schools are mostly in the former Abbott districts, some of the poorest cities in this country, where the Black unemployment rate is almost double the state average, and one in five children live in poverty.

The governor and Acting Education Commissioner Chris Cerf, along with their education advisors, Better Education for Kids (B4K) and Excellent Education for Everyone (E3), do not address this almost criminal disparity of wealth despite the fact that one of the DOE's earlier Abbott district reports cites poverty as a major roadblock to student achievement:

 

Ed Reform 101 Extra Credit: Marie Corfield

Early in Chris Christie’s tenure, a Hunterdon public school teacher stood up to him at one of his early “Town Hall” meetings carefully stacked with adoring Republicans. To their delight, he used the opportunity to dress her down for the benefit of his cameras (paid for with your tax dollars) in his first “YouTube Moment”. Corfield has since become a lightning rod for national coverage of the governor, and of education privatizers whose first step is denigrating public school teachers. And Corfield is also now a candidate for the NJ Assembly, in the 16th District. She wrote this postscript to our Ed Reform 101 series, at our request. – promoted by Rosi

My favorite hero of fiction is Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. Set in Alabama during the Great Depression, Atticus, an attorney and single father, defends Tom Robinson, a black man, wrongly accused of raping Mayella Ewell, a white woman, and in the process teaches his children invaluable lessons about tolerance, compassion and understanding.

During the trial, Atticus asks Mayella’s father, Bob Ewell, why he called for help from everyone except the one person who could really help his daughter-a doctor-because a doctor would have seen right away that Mayella was indeed beaten by her father, and not raped by Tom Robinson. But in the end, prejudice won, and Tom was convicted.