If you are a habitual watcher of the Colbert Report, you probably caught the segment a few weeks ago where he ridiculed the recent decision of the Wake County, N.C. school board to dismantle a successful school program that had achieved schools of high performance, high economic diversity, and high parent satisfaction, because...well, because they are idiots, mainly. But now they have some compatriots in the New Jersey state legislature who want to do similar damage to their own school system. Over at Wonk Room, Pat Garofalo runs down the gory details:
According to a report in the Newark Star-Ledger, Republicans in the New Jersey legislature want to cut New Jersey's preschool program from a full day to a half day, and send the money they save to richer, suburban school districts:
"A proposal being pushed by Senate Republicans would shift state money to cash-strapped suburban districts by cutting back preschool for the state's neediest students, according to a document obtained by The Star-Ledger. The senators suggest slicing preschool funding in half -- reducing programs from a full-day to a half-day -- then using the $300 million saved to boost funding for suburban and rural schools, some of which saw their state aid wiped out in last year's budget cuts."
Why on earth are they doing this? Well, when you deprive affluent school districts of funding, the people who pick up the phone and complain are the same sort of people who provide money to political campaigns, and who feel entitled to a certain amount of immunity from "austerity." Ideally, nobody's schools should go without, but in New Jersey, just as the rest of the country, the better-off have a louder voice.
Just as in Wake County, the preschool curriculum for the state's most disadvantaged students is a successful one. As the Star-Ledger's editorial board reports, "Kids who graduate from those programs are making solid and measurable gains in reading and math. As a result, poor minority kids are closing the gap with their peers in the suburbs on fourth-grade tests. That's no small achievement."
But let's recall the excuse offered by Wake County "Tea Party" school board member John Tedesco: "If we had a school that was, like, 80 percent high-poverty, the public will see the challenges, the need to make it successful...Right now, we have diluted the problem, so we can ignore it." See, in New Jersey, if poor children come too close to closing the education gap, we might forget that they are poor! By helping to exacerbate the education gap, their problems -- the ones that they were on the road to overcoming -- will finally become real to everyone.
Then "something" can be done about it. And by "something," I basically mean, "getting rid of public school teachers" for failing the kids they were not failing before the mechanism that enabled their success was completely dismantled in order to re-create the problem that was already solved. It's brilliant, really!
Naturally, one can't help but reflect on how this was going to be the year of super-important bipartisan school reform, which was mainly to come in the form of a faddish devotion to wealth-extraction schemes known as "charter schools." By the way! Have you seen the recent numbers on those out of New York?
The data also cast new doubt on the ability of charter schools to outperform their traditional school peers. Statewide, only 10 percent of students at charters graduated in 2009 at college-ready standards, though 49 percent received diplomas. The state has not yet calculated results for every district and school.
Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) has been noncommittal on his party's proposal, but in the past has said that preschool is simply "glorified baby-sitting," And "he recently called it 'crazy' that poor districts get such a large share of state education aid."
Yes, that program that is succeeding is just CRAZY. (Also, I guess only rich families that can afford day care are entitled to "glorified baby-sitting?")