There is a lot of grumbling today about this Diana Jean Shemo story in The Times about school vouchers and minorities. The voucher crowd will never be happy unless a story ascribes effects of Biblical proportions to vouchers, but charter school supporters are complaining, too, saying that the story is unfair to charters somehow (see next graf). Sorry, I don’t get it, it seems straight to me, if anything it’s sympathetic to vouchers!
The charter folks (and at least one journo who emailed me) are upset about this line: “In the mostly minority Dayton, Ohio, school district, for example, 28 percent of schoolchildren have opted out of public schools in favor of charter schools, which are publicly financed but privately operated.” But I think while perhaps an imprecise use of language around an unfortunately toxic phrase the intent here is to say that charters aren’t run by the local school district, which is accurate in a general sense. I don’t see any great bias. In fact, think the problem is that there is blood in the water per the correction at the bottom of this article from the other day and some generalized griping about this whole episode and that’s got everyone all worked up.
Also, if Ed Secretary Spellings wants to really help clarify that charters are public, and lift NY’s ridiculous cap, perhaps going to a Christian school to talk about it isn’t the best idea…Please. Maybe she really does have it in for charters? And the “private” phrase appears here again in that story. “Privately” run and private school are two different things and The Times is saying the former. Nonetheless, seems The Times needs a synonym for “private” that isn’t as loaded and conveys the full range of groups, community groups, groups of teachers, school districts, parents, universities, etc…who can run charter schools along with the fact that the schools are accountable to public bodies but isn’t as long and wordy as all that. Suggestions? Nationwide less than 10 percent of charters are even privately managed (in the real sense of that word) so this whole thing is a bit of a misdirection issue anyway.
Update: Some must-read Joe Williams. He says The Times language is evolving on this, and not necessarily in a direction that warrants the benefit of the doubt I gave above.
Update II: Williams digs more and reconsiders: “In fairness to the Times, a closer look shows they have been all over the map with this issue in the last decade.” So, the mission to find some good verbiage is on…