The Lottery Makes a Strong Statement About Charter Schools
An interview with the flimmaker behind the new documentary that highlights the desperation of parents and children affected by school choice — or the lack thereof.
July 23, 2010 - 12:00 am
“You find Democrats now on either side of the issue,” she says, adding that President Barack Obama’s leadership on the issue is helping his fellow Democrats take a stand on the matter. (Although the Obama administration sided with unions when it came time to find school choice options in Washington, D.C.).
It’s hard to argue with statistics like this. It costs New York City $250,000 to fire an incompetent teacher. And in one fascinating sequence, a union defender tries to spin the fact that only 10 bad teachers were fired over a given period to TV talker Charlie Rose.
The Lottery isn’t the only film tackling today’s public school system. The recently released documentary The Cartel casts a critical eye on New Jersey’s bloated, underperforming schools. And this fall, Davis Guggenheim’s Waiting for Superman will tread similar terrain.
“I think there’s a movement that’s growing. People have been working on this for a long time, and it’s starting to hit a tipping point,” she says. “I was blown away by the number of parents that were there [for the lottery drawing].”
Filming the movie taught her a great deal about modern educational woes.
“Most people just don’t know how bad the problem is and how dramatically it affects families,” she says.
The shoot also dispelled the notion that students fail due to negligent parents. Tell that to the gaggle of parents who line up for the lottery each year, begging for a chance to get their children off on the right academic foot.
“What I saw was so contradictory to that,” she says of her days compiling the 140 hours of footage that would become The Lottery.
Still, even charter school advocates may walk away from Sackler‘s film knowing the director had her thumb on the scale on their behalf.
The director takes umbrage with that position.
“If you look at the movie, it’s really just about the four families and what they want … and the obstacles that stand in their way,“ she says. “I don’t understand how that’s propaganda. I’d like them to say that to the parents who experienced this thing.“
Partisans will take sides with the film, but Sackler says her focus remains on the children affected by school choice — or the lack thereof. Only one in seven children end up enrolling in Harlem Success each fall.
“[Parents] were forced to put their kids and themselves through something no one should have to experience,” she says of the nerve-wracking lottery process.