Now playing: award-winning film critical of charter schools (18)

(18th in a series on Education and Charter Schools)

Over a series of posts we’ve been thinking about charter schools and their place and role in public education in Bethlehem. Thus, this film is timely. And it is also — obviously — critical of charter schools. Probably very one-sided. Gadfly plans to see the film. And hopes some of you can too. It seems a wonderful opportunity to learn. But, as always in Gadville, we try to keep an open mind till we have all the possible information we can.

BackpackYou Are Invited to A Free Screening

presented by BASD Proud Parents and the Bethlehem Area School District
MARCH 21, 6:30pm – 8:00pm  NITSCHMANN MIDDLE SCHOOL
Discussion to Follow
“BACKPACK FULL OF CASH” DOCUMENTARY – Narrated by Academy Award-winning actor, Matt Damon, BACKPACK explores the real cost of privatizing America’s public schools. Before the 2016 U.S. presidential election and the appointment of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, filmmakers Sarah Mondale and Vera Aronow couldn’t have known that the new administration would dramatically shift the national debate about education to the very issues at the heart of their film: charter schools, vouchers and privatization. Now, this timely new documentary takes viewers into the world of market-based education “reform”.
BACKPACK FULL OF CASH follows the tumultuous 2013-14 school year in Philadelphia and other cities where public education – starved of resources and undermined by privatization – is at risk. The documentary also showcases a model for improving schools – a well-resourced public school system in Union City, New Jersey, where poor kids are getting a high-quality education without charters or vouchers. BACKPACK FULL OF CASH makes the case for public education as a basic civil right. The film features genuine heroes like the principals, teachers, activists, parents and most hearteningly, students who are fighting for their education. Former Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch, writer David Kirp and policy expert Linda Darling Hammond are among the national thought leaders who provide analysis in the film.

Make room for one more: Ashley Daubert running for Council! (14)

(14th in a series of posts on candidates for election)

Just learned that Ashley Daubert is running for the two-year slot, against Grace Crampsie Smith and Will Carpenter.

Ashley Daubert

Info from a Morning Call article:

  • registered nurse
  • campaign and political initiatives would be “quality-of-life centered”
  • “I decided to run for Bethlehem City Council because I want to be the voice for vulnerable populations in our great city; namely, the homeless, mentally ill, addicted, our children, and our aging residents”

Priorities:

  • Partnering with the Bethlehem Area School District to solve the lunch debt problem
  • Opening up dialogue to de-stigmatize mental illness and fight the opioid epidemic
  • Promoting policies, such as pedestrian safety, to protect senior citizens

Occupation:

Daubert is American Nurses Credentialing Center board-certified in psychiatric-mental health nursing and the clinical manager of the Lehigh Valley Health Network Street Medicine team, which provides services to the homeless in the Lehigh Valley. Last year, she launched a business, Daubert Home Care, that provides personal care services to senior citizens.

Charter schools: need to explore what school choice really means (17)

(17th in a series on Education and Charter Schools)

Timely to our discussion is the showing of the “Backpack full of Cash” documentary this Thursday, March 21, 6:30pm – 8:00pm at NITSCHMANN MIDDLE SCHOOL, sponsored by Bethlehem Proud Parents – Free!

Anna Smith is a life-long Southside resident and Director of the Community Action Development Corporation of Bethlehem, a non-profit dedicated to improving the quality of life in south Bethlehem by fostering economic opportunity, promoting community development, and empowering residents to actively participate in the decision-making process regarding the future of our diverse community.

Gadfly:

When discussing the concept of school choice, I think it’s important to ask “what is the role of public education in our society?” Scholars typically cite three primary goals of public education in a democratic society—1. Prepare individual students with skills necessary to succeed in our society (individual economic opportunity); 2. Prepare students to fill positions in the US job market (vocational training); and 3. Prepare students to be full participants in our democracy (education for active citizenship). Most schools try to balance these three aims as they design policies and curriculum, and throughout US history, there has been tension among the proponents of each approach. However, I doubt many would propose wholly eliminating any of these aims.

The concept of school choice allows individuals to privilege the first goal—individual pursuit of human capital for future personal gain—at the expense of the third goal (and potentially the second). Universal public education that integrates children of ALL races, ethnicities, incomes, abilities, religions, etc., in preparation for participation in a diverse society is antithetical to the concept of school choice in a society where major inequities exist in funding and resources across these demographic lines. If we allow individuals to act solely in their self-interest, many (if not most) students who already have access to more resources are going choose other options (private schools, charters) as a way to escape from underfunded public schools, creating both a vicious cycle of underfunding and a segregated system where marginalized students become further marginalized and isolated. When we center the question on the societal goals of free, universal public education, school choice just doesn’t make sense. Are we willing to give up the lofty goals of a society in which equal opportunity for success and civic participation is guaranteed to all? While we’re far from that reality, the more we expand opportunities for school choice, the more we concede that our society was set up to be unequal, and we abandon all aspirations toward meritocracy.

Many people like the idea of school choice, but I think it is worth exploring what that really means, and if it actually allows us to sustain a diverse democracy. Is making it easier to acting solely in one’s own interest good for our society as a whole?

Anna

You gotta listen!

The spectator value of last night’s City Council meeting from Gadfly’s roost in the cheap seats was totally front-loaded in the public comment space.

Yep, Council members did their business — necessary business — good business — especially involving $money$ (and big money, ’twas!) and approving resident members of City committees (have you volunteered lately?) and approving resolutions (especially of interest to Gadfly followers, resolutions of feasibility studies for the Rose Garden and a pedestrian bridge).

But you gotta listen to the quintet of resident speakers. It will only take you 15 minutes.

Barbara Diamond (min. 2:45) delivering Bethlehem Moment 8 on “Operation Book Move,” the community effort in 1967 to move all the books from the old library at New and Market to the current location in one day, and introducing 91-year-old Ed Beighe and his wife Eleanor — Ed was project chairman for the move.

Beth Behrend (min. 5:50) promoting a plan from the Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council to ban single-use plastic bags, with follow-up by Gadfly #1 Stephen Antalics (min. 12:33).

Bill Scheirer, Gadfly #2 (min. 8:55) presenting a wise disquisition on two major past problematic episodes before Council — 2 W. Market and the proposals from the Bethlehem Parking Authority — episodes well covered on Gadfly — spurring us to clear thinking, which requires weighing all relevant information.

Doug Roysdon (min. 13:04) supporting the resolution on the table (which passed) to seek funding for a feasibility study for a pedestrian bridge — which he did in a strikingly exciting way.

Gadfly will come back to talk about some of these presentations individually later, but he encourages you to listen now to sense how interesting these City Council meetings can be and how valuable public participation is.

And to be turning out or tuning in the first and third Tuesdays of the month.

You can catch the meetings live. Or at your leisure. You can even binge-watch. Just like Netflix.

Great opportunity.

Watch City Council Live (if you don’t have the hard-to-get tickets to be there in person) tonight at 7pm!

City Council meets the first and third Tuesdays of each month at 7pm in the Town Hall rotunda. That means tonight. These meetings are now live-streamed on the Council webpage and on YouTube.

On the surface, the agenda doesn’t look too “exciting.” But a good many Gadfly followers will be interested that approval of resolutions to seek feasibility studies for the Rose Garden and a pedestrian bridge are on the agenda.

But you never know what might happen. In any event, Gadfly followers know that he is enamored of our resident voices during public comment. And he likes to record and distribute them. Democracy in action.

As example, he captured these comments at the recent Planning Commission meeting: citizens Murdock Saunders, Anne Evans (min. 3:08), and a woman whose name he couldn’t catch (8:18) cautioning the PC about a proposal for student housing in their neighborhood.

Listen to the clear, courteous, firm, fair, reasoned voices. Speaking up. Exercising their right. Your fellow citizens in action. Makes you proud. Makes you tingle.

But, though the agenda looks docile, anything could happen tonight. Impossible to anticipate.

But what if we could anticipate some things of interest?

Gadfly followers know that he has been making “modest proposals” about the various City authorities and boards making periodic presentations about what’s going on in their worlds that affect us — presentations that we could advertise so that you could tune in.

So that, for instance, you would know, say, that you could hear from the Parking Authority tonight about what’s going on in their hands and heads?

If you like that “modest proposal,” write your Congressperson . . . er, Councilperson. Email addresses on the Gadfly sidebar.

So, if you aren’t coming in person tonight, at 7pm go to the City web site >>> Quick links (bottom left) >>> City Council Meeting Agendas and Documents >>> “View Live Stream City Council Meeting” at the top of the page.

On that same page you can find the agenda for the meeting, any pertinent documents for the meeting – and, for later reference, the print version of the minutes plus audio and video recordings of the meeting.

You can also go to YouTube at <City of Bethlehem Council> for live-stream and archiving.

But being there is always best! Gadfly will save a seat for ya.