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Frank Bruni Writes Another Heartwarming Story that Subtly Undercuts Public Education and Promotes Charters

April 26, 2017

Today’s op ed column by NYTimes writer Frank Bruni profiles a successful partnership between University of Southern California and one public school and three charter schools they developed to help students raised in poverty succeed in college. The article profiles several first generation college students who have succeeded at USC despite their lack of support at home as a result of the Neighborhood Academic Initiative or NAI. The article opens with heartwarming descriptions of USC students who succeeded because they attended Forshay Learning Center, a public school that partnered with USC. But, as is inevitably the case in a Frank Bruni article, there is a slap at public education and an emphasis on how charters are the best way to help students succeed in the face of adversity. In the middle of the article, Mr. Bruni offers this “insight” from USC’s president:

“We’re not doing a good job in K-12 schools,” C. L. Max Nikias, the president of U.S.C., said to me recently. “The pipeline is not there. I feel that puts more responsibility on our shoulders to improve the raw material for us.”

And how does USC do that? Not by expanding partnerships with public education but by operating its own parallel system of charter schools that unapologetically siphon the best and brightest students from the public school system.

And what I find especially sad is that Mr. Bruni and USC college president believe they’ve “discovered” something amazingly new: a partnership between post-secondary schools and high schools! These kinds of partnerships have existed for decades between community colleges and public high schools long before NAI was on the map. And many elite colleges and universities have offered programs like NAI for decades. Dartmouth College, for example, has offered programs to help economically disadvantaged public high school students prepare for college since the mid 1960s!

I am glad Mr. Bruni and C.L. Max Nikias “discovered” the importance of identifying prospective college students early and providing them support throughout their middle and high school years. The shame is that they didn’t work hand-in-hand with public schools who are willing, able, and eager to help their best and brightest succeed in school.

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