Conflicts at The 74

Always good to discuss conflicts of interest, as Paul Farhi does today in The Washington Post regarding The 74, a publication I often turn to as a free lance education writer. It should be noted that on Nov. 16, a date when Betsy DeVos was an active candidate for Secretary of Education, The 74 published my analysis of the Trump education plan, a piece that suggested that Trump would likely have a negative impact on the high performing charter schools I write about.

In that piece, I hold up Michigan — a state where DeVos has had the most influence on education policy — as a school reform example to be avoided.  DeVos, whose  family foundation has been a supporter of The 74, can’t have been pleased by my analysis.

In addition, I questioned the pro-voucher inclinations of Trump/DeVos, pointing to Milwaukee as an example of what I see as a voucher experiment that has not spawned what is so badly needed in our cities: the creation of  new, high performing schools (an assertion that made me the target of pro-voucher forces).

I point this out as a way of adding perspective: The 74, despite its acknowledged conflicts , publishes a wide range of opinion, usually allowing the length necessary to make an in-depth argument. Thus, The 74 is a unique and valuable outlet for writers such as myself.

Perhaps the next time Farhi writes on this issue he could tackle an even trickier issue: bias in “straight” reporting about education issues. He could start with his own piece, where he uses the union-generated “privitization” term to apply not just to vouchers but also to public charter schools. That’s akin to a reporter adopting the emotionally charged language of one side of the abortion debate. When that happens in education reporting, and it happens often in numerous publications, the bias of the writer is revealed.

I suggest a brief field trip: Visit D.C.’s high-poverty 7th and 8th wards and talk to parents who routinely choose between public charter schools and traditional DCPS schools. The mix is roughly half and half. Ask them if they consider charter schools to be “private” and DCPS schools to be “public”. Their reaction (I predict a lot of puzzled looks) might prove helpful when framing that language in future pieces.