So yesterday it was a little surprising to hear a state senator, Kevin Parker, in one breath sing the charter gospel and in the next lambaste the Bloomberg administration for its management of the public schools.
At Brooklyn Charter School Night yesterday, Parker told me that his position isn’t really a contradiction. Everything he loves about charter schools, he said — their freedom from bureaucratic restrictions, their creative spirit — is absent from traditional public schools. And he said that charter schools’ long waiting lists reflect families’ frustrations with district-run public schools.
“If you look at traditional public schools, they teach to the test. Arts, music, athletics, dance aren’t regular parts of the curriculum,” Parker said. “It takes a lot of the strength of our teachers away. The strength of our teachers is their creativity.”
I told Parker that school officials often dismiss criticism of their work as coming mainly from affluent parents. Which parents are you talking to? they will ask me with a knowing glance.
Parker shook his head no. “I’m hearing it from black and Latino parents, every parent who sends their children to traditional schools,” he said. “It isn’t that it’s gotten worse,” he added. “It’s that it hasn’t gotten better. And he promised results.”
“The dropout rate confirms what I’m saying,” Parker added. “This is a mayor who has been a failure on education after saying he would be the education mayor.”
Parker said he plans to support efforts to carve away the mayor’s power over the public schools when the mayoral control law expires in 2009. “I certainly am not voting for anything that looks remotely like what we have now,” he said. “I think people are going to go away from this model totally. They don’t trust this mayor.”