The same Clarion-Ledger that hired the Executive Director of the Democratic Party as an assignment editor, is the same Clarion-Ledger that now refuses to publish pro-charter school letters. Surprised? Followers of the education debate over the last twelve months have seen the Clarion-Ledger act as the propaganda machine for Nancy Loome of the Parents' Campaign, as it regularly publishes letters by Ms. Loome and Claiborne Barksdale. No shocker there, as the long-time editorial page editor was married to the communications director for Jackson Public Schools and always neglected to inform his readers of that fact. However, the newspaper's unethical conduct continues after David Hampton's retirement, as it refuses to print responses when its education darling decides to play schoolyard bully.
The newspaper published a story today under the headline "Advocate focuses on teacher training." The entire article is about Ms. Loome and her legislative goals for 2013. There is not one word from anyone else, just the Gospel on Education according to Loome. The Clarion-Ledger published this article after it published a 432-word column by Ms. Loome attacking charter schools supporters on December 31 titled "Public Education for Sale?" (See comments for the column.). Regular readers of this website will recall last year how the newspaper published a lopsided number of columns, letters, and articles by Loome and her friends while giving scant room to the other side.
True to form, Community Editor Sam Hall, published his own column, "Lets not ignore the side effects of charter schools" on December 9, 2012 attacking KIPP charter schools in Helena, Arkansas, a charter school success story often cited by Chuck Espy and other charter school supporters. Mr. Hall used his column to accuse charter schools of financially draining school districts and cherry-picking students. Its the Clarion-Ledger's right to publish such opinions. However, the newspaper did not play by the same rules when charter school supporters submitted their own responses.
MS Coalition for Public Charter Schools submitted two responses to the newspaper on December 13 from Scott Shirley, the CEO for Kipp:Delta, and Erika Berry, the Communications Director for the Coalition. The Clarion-Ledger's David Magee told Ms. Berry both responses would be published. Unfortunately for the Coalition, that is not what happened.
The Clarion-Ledger published a shortened version of Ms. Berry's letter and refused to publish Mr. Shirley's response. Yes, the same newspaper that creates space out of thin air for Nancy Loome and Claiborne Barksdale on a regular basis can't seem to find any newsprint for the CEO of KIPP charter schools in Helena, Arkansas when Sam Hall writes a column attacking his schools. The same newspaper that neglected to tell readers about the Hampton-Hampton connection as the editorial page attacked charter schools on a regular basis but then, we are talking about ethics and the Clarion-Ledger. Unfortunately for the Coalition, the newspaper's unethical conduct didn't stop with refusing to publish responses to Mr. Hall's column.
Ms. Loome's column attacked education reforms in Florida:
"And then there’s Florida. Since 1999, Florida has invested billions of dollars in real education reform that has catapulted the state’s student achievement into the realm of some of the most successful countries. Yet, Florida’s most vocal “education reform” advocates, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, attribute Florida’s success to school choice.
Research shows otherwise. Florida’s own study of its “opportunity scholarships” (neo-vouchers) shows that children who received vouchers and attended private schools had outcomes virtually identical to the children who remained in traditional public schools. This year, almost 50 percent of Florida’s “F” rated schools are charter schools — despite the fact that charters make up only 11 percent of Florida’s schools. Many are for-profits.
Turns out that the Foundation for Excellence in Education has a lobbying arm and Super PAC, the Foundation for Florida’s Future Action Committee. They are raking in millions, and they’ve made their way to Mississippi.
Let’s hope our children’s future isn’t really for sale."
Strong stuff. Makes you want to tar and feather all things charter schools and run them out of town on a rail. It must have affected the minds of the editors so much that they refused to publish a response by Patricia Levesque, CEO of Florida Excellence in Education submitted on January 2, 2013. Ms. Levesque wrote in the response posted below:
"Loome also cherry picks data to make her case. She notes there are a higher percent of failing charter schools in Florida than traditional public schools. While this is a true statement, it does not reflect the full picture of charter school performance in Florida.
Charter schools in Florida serve a greater proportion of at-risk students (i.e., low-income, minority or students with disabilities). As a result, they start out with F grades, but most quickly improve. They have to, because Florida law says charters can be closed if they receive two consecutive F grades - a policy that is not applied to traditional public schools.
She also fails to point out the steady improvement in charters and that most are considered high-performing schools. Between the 2002-03 and 2010-11 school years, the percent of charters receiving an A or B grade has grown from 53 to 73 percent, and the percent of failures has dropped from 16 to 6 percent."
It is now January 10, 2013. The Clarion-Ledger still refuses to publish these responses. While the newspaper brags about its coverage of the 2013 session of the Mississippi Legislature, it is not bragging about how it is using its influence to oppose educational reforms and is preventing supporters of those reforms to have any voice in the debate. These repeated refusals to publish responses are not neglect. They are not malpractice. They are flat-out unethical conduct on the part of the "state newspaper" and should be treated as such. The citizens of Mississippi deserve a vigorous and thorough debate on education. Make no mistake. Mississippi is dead last in education. Period. Debates are good. Debates are needed. Propaganda from the Clarion-Ledger is not and what the "state newspaper" is engaging in is propaganda. The Clarion-Ledger should publish these responses in full and apologize to the readers.