I haven't posted on the topic in a little while, but the District 15 public/private school battles rage on.
One recent issue that's been particularly contentious is the claim by some private school parents that their children's bus service had been changed this year, creating a tremendous amount of inconvenience for many district students. In response to the outcry on the part of parents, some of whose children had been given absurdly early pickup times or unsafe bus stops, the school board set up a fact-finding meeting that was attended by many parents. After this meeting, the district's findings were that this was not a deliberate act aimed at "punishing" the private school community for sending the budget to contingency, but an error on the part of the district's transportation office that would be ironed out in due time. People on both sides were willing to accept that finding at face value, and the controversy seemed to die down. But not for long.
Apparently, the public school community didn't like the way the private school community made this into an issue, and decided they wanted their opportunity to do the same. So they did, and Newsday obliged in carrying their ridiculous claims. This piece
is a perfect example of the classic biased reporting that we've come to expect from Newsday - and what an especially shoddy piece of reporting it is. It's clear that somoeone with strong anti-private school inclinations got their hands on this reporter and managed to sell her this story even though it has no beef in it. The quotes that make up the article's claims came from meetings that happened weeks ago. Which means that the only news that is being peddled in this pathetic excuse for a news item is a bunch of scurrilous allegations, cobbled together so as to have them resemble facts. Here goes:
First, the extremely inflammatory headline:
School bus plays favorites
Lawrence district violates policy by making door-to-door stops for students in private schools
Not "allegations that school bus plays favorites". Just "school bus plays favorites". As if that is borne out in the article. Which it isn't.
Then the story goes on to make some quite serious sounding allegations:
But in a revelation that has roiled the already divided district, it turns out that for years, in violation of district policy, some 300 stops were in front of homes of private school students and that some parents were bribing drivers with gifts and cash. All the while, most public school kids have had to walk to corner stops.
Why that happened isn't clear. Some public school parents said that for years they noticed that when they drove behind a bus, it made many stops on one street. But when they questioned school officials, they were told there were no special house stops.
But where's the proof of that allegation?
There is none in the article.
None. Absolutely not a shred.
Is there a bus driver who was interviewed by the reporter, who backs up these amorphous claims of bribery? No.
Does the superintentent of the district, who is quoted in the article, himself allege that bribing took place, or specify that he feels the private school community got preferential treatment? No.
So what is that all based on? The following quotes:
Renee Freedman of Lawrence said the bus stopped in front of her house for the past 21 years, which brought hisses and groans from the public school crowd. After the meeting, she explained that her stop also served about 10 other children on her block.
"It shouldn't be considered door-to-door pickup," she said. "It's a convenient stop for the kids who live in that area."
Now, the bus passes her house to get to a stop about two-tenths of a mile away, where fewer students live, she said. "To go to that corner doesn't make sense," she said.
Um, this is the door-to-door pickup that the reporter is claiming as fact? A stop that picks up ten
children on one block, and happens to be in front of one of the children's houses? Well, according my fabulous math skillz, it would seem to me that 9 out of the 10 private school students who get picked up at that stop are not getting home stops. So this doesn't seem to be about preferential treatment in the past - just about one lucky student who happened to be in extremely close proximity to the stop.
The next quote that "proves" the vast conspiracy:
Private school parent Michelle Muehlgay of Cedarhurst, who complained of no longer having a bus stop in front of her home, said busing is a small privilege for the taxes she pays toward a school district she doesn't use.
Um, ok? So the stop was in front of her house and was now moved? Who says that the stop in front of her house wasn't the one given to her by the district transportation office? Did the reporter care to follow up? Did he check if this particular family lives on a corner, in which case, not stopping in front of their house would be silly? It's one thing to have a policy of not acommodating parents' requests for stop changes to in front of student's homes, but some stops simply start out that way due to convenience. I would be extremely incensed if I would find out the that school district was deliberately placing stops away from student's homes, whether in public or private school, just to keep to a "policy".
Now, what does the reporter bring as "proof" that the public school community is not getting similar treatment? More quotes:
Public school parent Andrew Levy, of Atlantic Beach, said he grew up in the area and never had a bus stop in front of his house. He added that perhaps busing would not be so controversial if the community as a whole were more supportive of the district's financial needs.
Well, if Andrew Levy says that he grew up in the area and never got a bus stop in front of his house, then there must be no public school students who ever got a stop in front of their house. Right? Isn't that the way logic works? Well, obviously not. The reporter from Newsday seems to be relying on the public school community's mad math skillz. Bad idea.
This two-bit reporter expects us to sit idly by and allow her to write an article that is pure drivel? An article that uses two examples of private school parents' experience vs. one example of public school parents' experience - and that is reporting??
Please, everyone, if you have a minute, dash off a letter to Newsday's editor. When people calling themselves reporters produce garbage like this that doesn't belong in print, there needs to be a public outcry. And I'm talking to people on both sides of the community divide. If there's a point to be made, then please, by all means, make it. But this article is nothing but a hit job with nothing but allegations that are never borne out by evidence. And I am hopping mad that this piece of biased drivel that doesn't even belong...well, on a blog, could find its way into a paper that fancies itself a real publication.
My readers should be equally incensed.
Previous posts on the subject:
September 2006: I
August 2006: I
July 2006: I
June 2006: I
May 2006: I
April 2006: I
March 2006: I
December 2005: I
November 2005: I
October 2005: I
August 2005: I
July 2005: I
June 2005: I
May 2005: I