Our Montclair Schools Should be About Our Kids…Not Politics

Over the past year, there’s been an increasingly loud, aggressive, and frustrating debate around our public schools here in Montclair. Most of the noise has come in the form of attacks from a few activists and the union against the district.

It’s fine for people to raise important issues, but the aggressive, intolerant way they’ve done it hasn’t been good for our community, or for the education our kids are receiving.

One of the problems with this seems to be the involvement of folks who have made a crusade of these issues nationally and elsewhere, and are now trying to use our town as a local battleground for their national political agendas. So rather than having a reasonable and productive discussion, their advocacy has taken the form of overheated, irresponsible political attacks.

First among these activists is Michelle Fine, an academic who has seemingly made a career of anti-education reform advocacy. A look at her recent books suggests her agenda…

“The Changing Politics of Education: Privatization and the Dispossessed Lives Left Behind”

“Charter Schools and the Corporate Makeover of Public Education”

“Privatization.” “Corporate Makeover.”

Apparently, her national activism on education issues has been so aggressive that she recently won an award for it from a national group called “FairTest”, which seems to be set up to oppose any sort of testing. Previous winners of the award include folks like Diane Ravitch  – who have been consistent attackers of things like President Obama’s Race to the Top Program and the Common Core standards.

Fine’s not the only one. The involvement of other professional activists like Stan Karp and Ira Shor – all pressing that same national political agenda – is a problem for our schools.

Here’s why: Instead of using Montclair as a proxy for their political fights, we should be looking at how we can improve our schools in our community and make sure all of our kids get a great education. Trying to make Montclair a battleground for their political grudges isn’t helping our kids and it needs to stop. We need a more respectful, responsible discourse that puts our kids here first and helps our schools move forward and provide a great education.

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