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George Clooney Loves School Choice: Now We Can, Too!

Movie stars love school choice. Even (especially?) when they don’t realize they’re exercising it.

For instance, Good Will Hunting himself, Matt Damon, narrated a documentary about how charters are “draining funds from our public schools” and why everyone should attend their zoned option in order to keep that from happening. While sending his own daughters to private school. 

Why didn’t he send them public in order to keep that money in the system? Well, you see, “progressive education no longer exists in the public system.” And that’s what Damon wanted for his children. But public is certainly good enough for yours! It would be criminal for you to leave and deprive them of money that’s rightfully theirs.

And then there’s Sex and the City’s Cynthia Nixon. A graduate of Hunter College High School (funded with public money, but not a public school), she sent her children to The Center School, a citywide 5th through 8th grade program that has its own acceptance rubric and doesn’t employ the general 6th grade admissions process. Yet, she too supports everyone attending their zoned school, lest it lose funding.

Now Damon’s frequent co-star, George Clooney, has expressed his support for school choice.

Full disclosure: I know nothing about Clooney. To give you an idea of how little celebrity watching goes on in our house, in 2018, my then 11-year-old daughter said she’d heard that, “Some prince married Angela Merkel?” So I don’t know where Clooney sends his own kids to school. (Though I do suspect it’s not just any place in LA Unified — if that’s even where he lives.)

What I do know is that, last week, a press release touted: George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Don Cheadle, Kerry Washington, Mindy Kaling, Nicole Avant, Eva Longoria, Working Title Films’ Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner and Creative Artists Agency’s Bryan Lourd Join with Los Angeles Unified to Unveil The Roybal School of Film and Television Production!

Further full disclosure, I don’t know where most of the other people on that list send their children to school, either. (Kerry Washingtong did attend The Spence School here in NYC, and Mindy Kaling produced and starred in an episode of her eponymous TV show where she demonstrated the hoops NYC parents jump through in order to get their tots into a prestigious preschool. In this fictional case, “the only nursery with a study abroad program.”)

Here’s what I do know, though: The Roybal School is a magnet school within the Los Angeles School District. Despite how it was covered by various media outlets, this is not a new school being created from the ground up by a dedicated group of celebrities. It’s an existing school with extant magnet programs for students outside their residential district, including Innovative Cinematic Arts/Music Production (iCAMP).

According to the press release, “Set to launch in Fall 2022 as a magnet school, the Roybal School of Film and Television Production will provide Los Angeles Unified teachers with access to renowned storytellers, along with industry professionals and experts, and support students with a robust academic education and practical training, establishing a clear pathway to good paying jobs. The inaugural program, to be overseen by Principal Blanca Cruz, will feature specifically designed curriculum developed to meet the standards prescribed by the state of California and the University of California system. In addition, students will receive real world experience through a dedicated internship initiative. The Roybal School of Film and Television Production will start with ninth- and 10th-grade students and include Grades 11 and 12 over the next two years, with potential opportunity to expand the pilot program to more schools throughout the Los Angeles area.”

When I inquired of the school whether the new initiative will replace iCAMP (and what will happen to those kids who currently attend, not to mention kids enrolled in other Roybal programs), I received no answer. 

I also inquired how students will be selected for the new program. 

Currently, LA students looking to attend a school outside their zone (in case they’re not convinced by official LAUSD documents which reassure: The school of residence can meet most students’ needs), have to apply for an intra-district permit

Permits are issued on the basis of Parent Employment (an idea I’ve floated before to increase school integration here in NYC), Specialized Program (the same excuse used by “everyone should attend their zoned school” advocates except when it comes to Gifted & Talented programs… and Dual Language programs… and progressive programs), Siblings, Childcare, Safety and Protection, and, the ever popular Exception (i.e. You Know Somebody or Are Willing To Be Super Annoying Until You Get Your Way and Have the Time and Resources To Dedicate To That Pursuit).

I emailed the Edward R. RoyBal Learning Center and LAUSD to ask what will happen if there are more applicants than seats for “this groundbreaking program (which) will help prepare students for good-paying jobs in the film and television industry.”

Will it be first-come, first-served? Will they hold a lottery? Will students be asked to demonstrate interest via interviews? Portfolios? Auditions? That’s what NYC Arts High Schools do. (Though Arts middle schools have gotten rid of that screening.)

Since the purpose of this new academy is to “help open the doors of opportunity for a diverse group of students from underserved communities,” will there be income and/or demographic requirements? 

The reply I received read: Thank you for your interest. We have attached the release about the new Roybal School of Film and Television Production. We have nothing further at this point.

(The forwarded email below it read: Please send our release and say we don’t have information past it at this point.)

A fine example of yet another celebrity pronouncement meant to aggrandize themselves — while the folks on the ground actually responsible for making it happen have been left in the dark.

Am I making fun of dilettante actors dipping their toes into the education space? I am. (Am I making fun of the hardworking teachers and administrators who will need to answer for their whims? Absolutely not. The least Clooney and company could have done was provide them with a dedicated Public Relations person to answer the inevitable media inquiries, instead of leaving them to fend for themselves. Why do I think this is a harbinger of things to come?)

But what I am really making fun of are the folks who want to have it both ways. The ones who court their fans by insisting they believe in residence based public education — Cynthia Nixon proudly crowed that she’d convinced co-star Sarah Jessica Parker to send her kids to public school; she did not (they went to the same private their dad, Matthew Broderick, attended) — while making different choices for their own children.

They’re celebrities. The rest of us are not. Those of us who believe in school choice for all — not just ourselves — are repeatedly tarred with a whole host of epithets, especially from hypocritical politicians (see: Bill De Blasio, Brad Lander, Scott Stringer, et. al).

But aren’t we all supposed to emulate the fit and fabulous? Wear what they wear? Eat what they eat? Vote how they vote? (What’s the point of all those celebrity endorsements, otherwise?)

So the next time someone questions your not sending your child to their zoned public school, feel free to respond, “George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Don Cheadle, Kerry Washington, Mindy Kaling, Nicole Avant, and Eva Longoria believe in school choice…. Which means now we can, too!”

What do you think?

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