By Diana Robinson
By Diana Robinson

New York Times Shills for Cuomo

by / Jan. 11, 2015 11pm EST

Great NBA shot blockers not only have a preternatural sense for rim protection, they also have a genuine hatred for uninspired drives to the hoop. Contempt for the pretense that a flailing run to the basket could produce anything but a sharp rebuke and an unstoppable fastbreak in the other direction. You can read it on their faces: scorn with no hint of pity.

On cue here comes the New York Times’ Editorial Board crossing halfcourt: too much dribbling, no sense of the clock, no feeling for the people shifting uncomfortably in the cheap seats, no inkling of the fate of their ill-timed lay-up.

“Racial Isolation in Public Schools” is the title of the Board’s January 9 entry in its Opinion Pages. The foray begins—as do all such forays—in breathless panic: there’s a crisis and only our legislators—selfless, competent and just, as experience in the NYT alter-verse has proven—must act. To adorn the piece, the Times has tossed aside the lid on its abundant chest of clichés and dove in; nonetheless, the elemental arguments may be distilled and re-presented in unornamented form: 1) New York State’s schools are the most segregated in the nation; 2) minorities suffer from unequal educational opportunities; 3) New York has a “moral obligation” to these kids; 4) magnet schools are a proven means whereby educational opportunities may be expanded to include minorities; 5) Buffalo is under pressure from the federal Office of Civil Rights to examine alleged discrimination in its magnet schools; Buffalo should expand its magnet program; 6) by virtue of its pioneering history with magnet schools, the previous recommendation is especially pertinent; 7) Buffalo cannot afford a magnet program; 8) teachers are overpaid and uncooperative; 9) the Buffalo Board of Education is incompetent; 10) the district has failed to file “acceptable, legally required plans with the state for turning around low-performing schools”; 11) Governor Cuomo wants to intervene; 12) governor Cuomo should intervene.

To begin with, a major factual inaccuracy needs to be addressed—that is, point number 10 on the failure of the district to file “acceptable, legally required plans with the state for turning around low-performing schools.” True but not true. Members of the BOE are meeting on January 12 and 13 to review five plans presented for the four so-called failing schools. The plans—upon which much easily accessible and compelling ink has been spilled—are not due in Albany until later in the month.

More telling is the flow of the Times’ reason, which recognizes that the magnet school program has been historically effective (point 6), while hinting that Buffalo probably cannot afford to expand its magnet program (point 7). Effectively, the Times makes mutually exclusive recommendations: for Buffalo to accept receivership from the State (points 11 and 12), and, it is implied, for the State, in turn, to expand Buffalo’s magnet school program.

But, where is the evidence that the state has any intention of doing so?

What we do know is that two powerful Buffalo BOE members (with the probable consent of three human rubber stamps) have expressed enthusiasm to hand over their authority to the State, and that the State is pushing for more choices (read: charter schools; do not read: magnet schools) in the Buffalo Public School system. (Point 9, psssst, is a shot at the Minority board members). We also know that the BOE majority is looking at privatization as the answer to the exaggerated woes of the Buffalo Public Schools.

Instead of putting sincere support behind a plan for magnet schools, the Times is shamefully hiding behind the language of equal access to give Cuomo a helping hand in breaking what he calls the public “monopoly” of education (see point 8 for the Times’ dig at unions). The editorial gives a weak nod to magnets, while tacitly acknowledging that charters (“choice”) are the answer. The Grey Lady Bait and Switch.

Serious discussion about racial isolation would start with at least mentioning the UCLA Civil Rights Project, which is conducting the study on discrimination in Buffalo’s criteria based schools (the UCLA team is alluded to in passing; see point 5). The Civil Rights Project is after all the body behind the “most segregated schools in the nation” grab, which the Times slyly attributes to Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch.

How about it then? Some relevant hits from the Civil Rights Project’s findings:

  • In 2010 over half of black and Latino students in New York attend schools with less than 10% of white enrollment.
  • The proportion of schools that are considered intensely segregated schools has doubled in New York since 1989.
  • There has been no significant policy effort to desegregate black and Latino students over the last two decades in New York
  • Very high percentages of black and Latino students remain in intensely segregated and apartheid schools, while white students remain extremely isolated.
  • [The] majority of charter schools in New York City were highly racially isolated in 2010.
  • Though low-income students made up 56% of the charter enrollment, white students attend charter schools where, on average, low-income students made up just 25% of the population. [This startling discrepancy means that white students attend very different charter school environments than their black and Latino counterparts.]
  • Officials should … consider pursuing litigation against charter schools that are receiving public funds but are intentionally segregated.
  • Most of the segregation in urban/suburban areas is due to segregation across district boundaries rather than within districts.
  • Meaningful school choices for the most at-risk students, foster buy-in from suburban areas, encourage collaboration between urban and suburban districts, and provide state-supported transportation.

It’s cunning of the Times to wave the segregation flag to distract from the conversation about local vs. central control; it’s stupid of the Times to expect that the thinking members of the Buffalo population believe that Cuomo has a serious plan to integrate schools. He doesn’t. Alas, the Times’ editorial board wields power in disproportion to its intellectual capacity.

On the court, the wimp is always exposed; in the press, he may run his mouth without fear of the smart swatting he deserves. The game has been/is/will be rigged.

Hopefully, the good people of Buffalo have drawn up a solid defense.

Shane Meyer reports on New York State policy and education.