Film director Spike Lee has endorsed Bernie Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination, saying that the Vermont senator and Brooklyn native will "do the right thing" for African Americans.
"How can we be sure? Bernie was at the March on Washington with Dr. King, he was arrested in Chicago for protesting segregation at public schools," Lee says in [a] one-minute spot. "He fought for wealth and education equality throughout his whole career. No flipping, no flopping. Enough talk. Time for action….
I know that you know the system is rigged," he said. "Ninety-nine percent of Americans were hurt by the great recession of 2008 and many are still recovering, and that's why I'm officially endorsing my brother Bernie sanders. Bernie takes no money from corporations – nada — which means he is not on the take."
The South Carolina primary for Democrats is in four days and Hillary Clinton is ahead of Sanders in the polls by a margin of 57 percent to 33 percent.
Lee is, in the words of New York magazine, the "angriest auteur," so it's not surprising to see him endorse Sanders rather than Clinton. Sanders is the Democrat channeling anger and resentment at the status quo and despite Hillary Clinton's endorsements from establishment blacks, he has much-better chops when it comes to police abuses and issues such as the drug war. It's far from clear whether Lee's endorsement will matter at all, especially in South Carolina, which is far from his stamping grounds of New York and Los Angeles.
One issue on which Sanders and Clinton agree is education policy. Unfortunately, both are very much in the pocket of the status quo when it comes to K-12 education. Clinton praised charter schools in the late 1990s but has since crticized them on the (wrong) grounds that they don't take "the hardest-to-teach kids." In an event earlier this year, Sanders said he was against "privately-run charter schools."
"If we are going to have a strong democracy and be competitive globally, we need the best educated people in the world. And I believe in public education. I went to public schools my whole life. I think rather than give tax breaks to billionaires, I think we invest in teachers and we invest in public education."
Exactly what a "privately-run charter school" is remains unclear, as most are run by nonprofits. And which part of massive increases in per-pupil spending over the past 40 years Sanders has missed is also unclear. Last summer, in The New York Observer, Sanders characterized his childhood in terms that doubtless resonated with Spike Lee, arguably Brooklyn's biggest booster since The Robicellis packed it in.
"I grew up in Brooklyn. Many of the families were immigrants and they understood the importance of education," he says. "We don't have a strong economy unless we have a very well-educated workforce."
If Sanders and Clinton were serious about improving public education in Brooklyn and beyond, they'd do well to revise their opinions of charter schools, which have been shown again and again to particularly help inner-city minority kids when it comes to education.
From University of Arkansas' Jay Greene's writeup of the relevant research:
When you have four RCTs – studies meeting the gold standard of research design – and all four of them agree that charters are of enormous benefit to urban students, you would think everyone would agree that charters should be expanded and supported, at least in urban areas. If we found the equivalent of halving the black-white test score gap from RCTs from a new cancer drug, everyone would be jumping for joy – even if the benefits were found only for certain types of cancer.
For what it's worth, Spike Lee's kids "attend one of the top private schools in the city," according to New York.
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