Gotta Ask: Who Benefits From Public Education Rights Dying In Darkness?

Washington Post op-eds are a major education media platform both locally and nationally. Despite (or possibly because of) excellent local print education reporting (here’s looking at you, City Paper & independent journalist Rachel Cohen!) and superb TV and radio coverage of local education stories (hey there, Evan Lambert & Nathan Baca & Scott McFarlane & WAMU!), Post op-eds on education enjoy a large and dedicated readership that dwarfs that of other, local editorial venues that cover local education issues (hello, DC Line!).

Which is why what has happened of late with Post education op-eds is so, well, disturbing.

Take this short piece, written by DC school budget expert Mary Levy and Ward 7 Education Council chair Eboni-Rose Thompson. It was submitted almost two weeks ago to the Post as a letter to the editor, attempting to correct inaccuracies in this op-ed, which mischaracterizes charter test scores to suggest DCPS schools be replaced by charters. The letter concentrates on the op-ed’s (mis)use of NAEP data, which both Levy and Thompson know very well, as experts in DC education matters.

They got no response.

Before that submission, and immediately after the publication of that op-ed, Levy had submitted an online request for correction of test score inaccuracies in the op-ed.

She got no response.

Levy then worked with Thompson to craft this letter *as* an op-ed–and was immediately told it should be submitted as a letter to the editor.

So it is that apparently no one at the paper of record in our city wants to hear from experts about inaccuracies in an education op-ed it published. Worse, those inaccuracies appeared deployed for one purpose: to replace DCPS schools with charters.

To be sure, this is not entirely surprising: Op-eds naturally explore and take positions. But that non-response to two local education experts trying to correct inaccuracies in support of charter schools is hardly the only instance of what appears to be purposeful obfuscation of the truth, to one end, in what the Post has published as education op-eds.

Recently, for instance, DC’s deputy mayor for education (DME) took to twitter to correct another recent op-ed that demanded more DCPS buildings turned over to charters. While the op-ed implied charter demand is increasing, as shown by waitlists, the DME noted that waitlist data do not show demand, as individual students can be on many waitlists.

Just a few weeks earlier, the DME had attempted to correct the misimpression that the mayor has been stingy with buildings for charters–for which there was predictable blowback.

Sadly, the DME didn’t even have to stop there: that recent op-ed also contained the canard of AppleTree being “forced to close” its campus at DCPS’s Jefferson MS.

Recall that this was debunked at a council hearing in June, after the executive director of the charter board said the school had been “evicted” from that site. Council member Charles Allen pushed back, noting that AppleTree had knowingly signed an extended lease whose nonrenewable end date was July 2019, due to renovations at Jefferson.

Yet, the obfuscation continued: several sites in the same area that the school reportedly has under lease for 2020 and beyond were not only completely UN-mentioned in not one but TWO editorials lamenting AppleTree’s fate (in the Post and in the Wall Street Journal), but also omitted from this recent Post op-ed.

All of which begs the question: who’s benefitting from what appears to be functional propaganda to close DCPS schools and repurpose their buildings?

And then tell me: what PTA parents; what teacher union leaders; what DCPS personnel; what local education experts in support of DCPS and education rights are given prime real estate in a major American newspaper as a platform for a singular view–not once a year, but multiple times a year, with multiple instances of inaccuracies that remain, to date, uncorrected in that venue?

Really: Just what is in this for the folks who continue to promulgate such inaccuracies?

Because logic suggests that these inaccuracies–and what appears to be suppression of opposing viewpoints–are not mistakes. Rather, they appear to be part of a larger effort at this newspaper’s editorial board to cast charter schools not merely as victims (of an uncaring mayor, of lack of resources, of DCPS’s greed), but also as the only solution for deep and difficult problems in a segregated educational system that, despite decades of that rhetoric, continues to have outrageous, and growing, achievement gaps.

In the meantime, the real victims are the truth and actual reporting, including the very people employed by that newspaper to do that reporting. Not to mention the public at large, who must mount a defense for *their own public assets* and the entire idea of public education without the benefit of a large and widely circulated local platform to do so.

In that letter that the Post will now never publish, Levy and Thompson wrote, “we don’t advance opportunities for children or help the city make better policy decisions when inaccurate data and purposefully partial analysis lead to misleading claims.”

No kidding.

One thought on “Gotta Ask: Who Benefits From Public Education Rights Dying In Darkness?

  1. It’s funny that charter school applicants seem to pay so little attention to the reality that they are responsible for finding their own building when they are applying for a charter and only after the money for their school is set in the DC budget, do they begin to concern themselves with such a basic part of having a school in the first place.
    Then they get caught up in making fools of themselves in battling with the same government that is paying for their school just because it won’t ALSO hand over more taxpayer dollars in the form of DCPS buildings.
    The Post, by the way, as a member of the Federal City Council association of the city’s largest businesses, has supported charter schools from early on so it’s no surprise that they allow certain op-eds but not others.
    The op-ed linked to in this post by the two charter school supporters was, in my reading, nothing but an advertisement for charter schools decorated with a few “facts.” Unfortunately, the attempted op-ed from the education/truth advocates missed the point of the op-ed being an advertisement and aimed themselves at it’s “fact”ual decorations instead. Well intended no doubt, but for me, not very helpful.


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