Halloween came early in Philadelphia. A new documentary wants to trick folks into believing that “alternatives,” i.e., charter schools, “compromise [traditional public schools’] ability to deliver quality education to all students.” The film, “Backpack Full of Cash,” premiered at the Philadelphia Film Festival on October 22nd.
I skipped the screening. I didn’t want to be spooked by the ranting of the usual suspects.
Besides, I believe the money should follow the student. Parents seek out “alternatives” because traditional public schools are not delivering quality education to their children.
Narrated by Oscar winner Matt Damon, the film wastes little time revealing its point of view. Damon, a well-documented skeptic of what critics call “corporate” education reform, begins the documentary with a dark warning:
“A battle is underway over who should control public education,” he says. Parents, teachers and activists are up against a well-organized coalition headed by business leaders and conservatives.”
Yeah whatever, dude. Tell that crap to John King, Acting Secretary of Education. Prior to joining the Department of Education, Dr. King was a co-founder of Roxbury (Massachusetts) Preparatory Charter School.
Dr. King recently spoke before the National Press Club. During the Q&A, he said, “I think any arbitrary cap on the growth of high-performing charters is a mistake in terms of our goal of trying to improve opportunities for all kids.” BOOM!
The producers of “Backpack Full of Cash” take creative license with the facts. But the fact is, charters work.
In an essay published in Essence magazine, singer and songwriter John Legend wrote:
Charter public schools are not the solution to every problem that’s plaguing public education. The NAACP is right to raise some questions over the practices of some individual charter schools. There are schools of all models - district, charter, magnet, private - that are failing to educate our kids properly and accountably. States and districts should hold all of these school types to high standards of accountability.
What’s shortsighted about the NAACP’s decision is that it’s ignoring the many successful charter schools that are delivering results for many communities. In New York City, third grade charter school students outscored students at district schools in math and in English. Charters here are closing the achievement gap between economically disadvantaged Black students and their more affluent white peers.