In Sephira Shuttlesworth’s Guest View (“Charter Schools Represent Opportunity, Nov. 10”) she offered a heartfelt tribute to her late husband, Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, a pioneer in the Civil Rights movement. However, in her quantum leap to education reform-equating support for charter schools with civil rights — Shuttleworth’s words bear the ring of empty rhetoric.

Her position, oft-repeated in the born again education reform camp, is that “charter schools are doing more to close race and poverty-based achievement gaps than any other groups in the country.”

Such a pronouncement, typical fodder by those supporting for-profit outfits like SABIS School Network- with whom Shuttlesworth is affiliated — has arrived after their brand has suffered a setback. In this instance it was the Massachusetts General Court’s rejection of legislation to raise the statewide cap on charters.

Elected officials might, indeed, have cowered “in the face of entrenched resistance from teachers’ unions and the education establishment,”as Shuttleworth maintains. Or the track record of charters, including the squeezing out of high percentages of their recruits long before graduation, simply, was not credible in the eyes of lawmakers.

The rejection of the SABIS School Network by the city of Brockton, also, drew the ire of Shuttlesworth.

“…Despite the fact that Brockton doesn’t have a single charter and is among the lowest-performing districts in Massachusetts (the Brockton charter proposal) was again rejected,… (and) the opposition was led by, powerful, well-funded special interest groups.”

Who are the “education establishment” and the “powerful, well-funded special interest groups?” These culprits, according to Shuttlesworth, are blocking the schoolhouse doors to progress. No specific groups in her guest view are named besides teachers unions. And It is unlikely that a lifetime of sponsoring bake sales or paying union dues could ever trump the funding provided to private charter schools (like SABIS) from the Billionaire Boys Club of the Koch brothers, Eli Broad, Bill Gates, et al.

So what says the city of Brockton about why the SABIS Model was turned away?

In an article by Nancy Bloom on the Edushyster website entitled “Straight Outta Brockton,” she wrote: “Brockton is home to one of the best large, urban high schools in the country. People from all corners of this large city seemed to take pride in telling the board of education members that their school system is doing an extraordinary job of educating all of Brockton’s students, and that SABIS, which has made two previous attempts at establishing a charter here isn’t wanted or needed.”

Bloom went on to report that, “SABIS supporters at the hearing claimed bragging rights over their flagship school in Springfield, with its comparative high test scores. Like most charter schools, SABIS’ record on educating English Language Learners can not compare to Brockton’s. While 25 percent of students in Brockton are ELL, a mere 4 percent of students at the SABIS Springfield are learning English.”

Is Brockton, as Shuttlesworth alleges, a city among the lowest performing school districts in Massachusetts? According to the mantra of Shuttlesworth, the moral litmus test is “when confronting injustice, truth is supposed to be the best light.”

And truth be told, In 2014 Brockton’s median student growth percentiles were above the state average for both math (52) and ELA (54). 

So where does that leave Shuttlesworth and media shills like the Boston Globe, in referencing Brockton which stated in an editorial, “SABIS students in Springfield consistently outperform peers (read:ELL students) from similar backgrounds in their home districts.” 

Globe editorial writer, Lawrence Harmon, sums up the next move succinctly.

“Charter school opponents are sure to go on the march now that they have tasted victory in Brockton. Expect to see a slew of anti-charter school bills introduced in the legislature.” 

Whereupon, the legislators will either cower at the feet of teachers unions or understand the truth that charter schools do not measure up to the hype. 

Bruce C. Ditata 

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