School Choice & Charters

Reporter’s Notebook

By Sean Cavanagh — September 17, 2004 3 min read
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Charter Cheers

Like many of her friends in the Morrisania section of the Bronx, Anais Rodriguez, 12, had never heard of a charter school until someone told her about one nearby. A few years after enrolling, she’s starting to think about going to college, which until recently was an equally mysterious educational option.

On Aug. 31, the seventh grader and a roomful of her classmates played host to a group of moderate Republican members of Congress, who came together to praise the Bronx Preparatory Charter School’s focus on preparing students from disadvantaged households for college. The lawmakers are members of the Republican Main Street Partnership, a group promoting moderate conservative policies.

Namina Bah

The event’s organizers had hoped to draw Secretary of Education Rod Paige and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California—both featured speakers at the Republican National Convention that night. Neither made an appearance at the event, however, leaving other GOP officials to heap praise on the school.

“This is the kind of example of what you can do with education in this country,” U.S. Rep. Michael N. Castle of Delaware told a gathering of students and teachers at the school, which emphasizes college preparation through its curriculum. “You have been given the opportunity to be educationally ready.”

Ms. Rodriguez would probably agree. She knew of too many public schools plagued by fights, she said, and felt safe at the Bronx Preparatory school.

This being a political event, not everyone was as sold on the benefits of charters. Outside the school on 3rd Avenue, a small group of parents with picket signs said the Bush administration, and the state of New York, needed to do more to improve traditional public schools.

“Our children go to schools in the Bronx that are underfunded,” said Ronn Jordan, a resident of the neighborhood. “If you’re going to bring Republicans to town, let’s not make it a shell game.”

A Full Deck

The last time politicians were handing out playing cards with mug shots on the front of them, the deck included a certain deposed Iraqi dictator, his sons, and a few other select military leaders the U.S. armed forces were gunning for.

Audio Extras

• Highlighting President Bush’s prime-time speech, the presence of silent protesters, as well as some celebrity sightings, staff writer Michelle Davis files her final report from the GOP convention. (3:28) Windows Media format | MP3 format

•Staff writer Michelle Davis reports on Gov. Schwarzenegger’s appearance at a public elementary school in Harlem, and the upcoming address Thursday evening by President Bush. (2:30) Windows Media format | MP3 format

• Staff writer Sean Cavanagh reports on the convention addresses by Education Secretary Rod Paige and first lady Laura Bush. (3:03) Windows Media format | MP3 format

Education Week staff writer Michelle Davis reports on the education chatter, or lack thereof, at the convention. (2:21) Windows Media format | MP3 format

Education Week staff writer Sean Cavanagh files a report on the weekend buildup to the convention. (3:01) Windows Media format | MP3 format

But this week at the Republican National Convention, a new deck has emerged, with prominent GOP faces adorning them and a less bellicose message. These cards were being distributed by Republican activists eager to promote their party’s message to convention attendees and gin-rummy devotees alike.

On Aug. 31, Alex von Rosenberg, who identified himself as a member of a group of New York state college Republicans, was selling the Bush deck of cards, which he said he created along with a few friends. Mr. von Rosenberg also sells a similar deck featuring the Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.

“This reclaims the playing card as a means of communicating a positive message,” Mr. von Rosenberg said outside a Republican event in the Bronx.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California is the six of diamonds; U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas, the House majority leader, the six of spades. Columnist George Will is designated the three of spades. This being a Republican convention and deck, Mr. Kerry is the joker, as is his Democratic colleague, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts. On the second day of the convention, Mr. von Rosenberg was peddling the decks of cards for $10 a pop, or three for $20.

Pressed as to why the deck did not include the Bush administration’s secretary of education, Rod Paige—a featured speaker at that night’s convention—Mr. von Rosenberg said it was a fellow GOP activist who had made the final choices, not him.

“Rod Paige actually was originally slotted,” he said with a shrug. “My colleague was the driver on this deck. You could put him on the spot.”

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