ByBob Braun/Star-Ledger Columnist

John O’Boyle/The Star-LedgerGov. Chris Christie is shown talking at the Robert Treat Academy in Newark in this file photo.

HIGHLAND PARK — Marilyn Valentine of Franklin Township was one of the few African-Americans in the audience the other night at Highland Park’s Bartle School. She came to hear a panel discussion about charter schools. Much of the discussion was critical of state policies concerning the privately managed but publicly-funded alternatives.

Valentine, who raised two children into successful adulthood, said she understood the criticisms but pointed out that many parents who looked like her despaired of traditional public schools. “Where are the solutions?” she asked.

If charter and other privatized schools aren’t the solution—and she didn’t say they were—then what are parents to do? “You’re telling the people there is nothing for you.’’

Valentine’s complaint reflects what Gov. Chris Christie and other proponents of privatizing public education—especially in the cities—have been saying. Christie insists a child’s education should not depend on a zip code.

Her questions raised the most fundamental issue in public education: What is the responsibility of the state to the education of its children. What should it do in response to continued failure?

The debate about privatization—about charters and vouchers and increased aid to private schools—really is a consequence of the failure of what was once thought to be the ultimate school reform: The state takeover of failing schools.


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