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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Backpack full of mishmash

Backpack Full of Cash, an anti-charter documentary showing at film festivals, blames charter schools for taking funding from traditional public schools, writes Mark Walsh in Ed Week.

The documentary follows the 2013-14 year at South Philadelphia High School, where Marian Anderson, Chubby Checker, and Frankie Avalon attended school, but where there is now no money for a music program. . . . Charters such as the String Theory school “are islands of privilege in a sea of inequity,” public school activist Helen Gym, now a member of the Philadelphia City Council, says in the film.

String Theory schools, which focus on performing arts and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and medicine), enroll students by lottery. About half the students are white and come from middle-class families.

I wonder if Gym would prefer to expand String Theory options to serve more students or to close popular, high-performing charters (and magnets) in hopes of improving low-performing schools.

This video features String Theory teachers.

Backpack is narrated by actor Matt Damon, who sends his children to private schools, but wants to deny low-income parents the same choice, writes Erika Sanzi, who named her blog “Good School Hunting.”

The actor claims that private education “most matches the public education that I had, but that kind of progressive education no longer exists in the public system. It’s unfair.”

Backpack Full of Cash “suggests that the school choice movement is all about making money off the backs of poor kids,” writes Sanzi.

It makes me wonder if he has ever met some of the brilliant, dedicated charter leaders and teachers across the country doing the impossible with limited resources but boundless determination. . . . And does he understand that while he may want a progressive education for his kids, not everybody does? Some folks want a classical education. Some want Montessori. And some want the kind of structure that “no excuses” charter schools provide in order to achieve some absolutely game-changing, gap-closing results.

Damon has been caught up in the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse scandal, Sanzi notes. Sharon Waxman, a former New York Times reporter, said Russell Crowe and Damon called her to defend Weinstein when she was working on a story about his sexual misconduct in 2004. The story was “gutted,” writes Waxman.

Damon denies that he tried to kill the story and says he didn’t know about Weinstein’s behavior.

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