2007-06-15 / Columnists

From the Editor's Desk

Nobody Asked Me, But …
Commentary By Howard Schwach

Commentary By Howard Schwach

...The New York Times, "The Newspaper of Record," has tarnished its reputation once again. When the story broke in early April that a terror plot involving JFK Airport had been averted by the FBI and the NYPD, newspapers all over the nation ran the story on the front page of their Sunday editions and television news networks led with the story. Not the New York Times, however. The story ran on page 37 of the Times' Sunday edition. That piece undermined the importance of the arrests, stating, the "plot was unlikely to work, experts say, citing safeguards and pipeline structure." The Sunday edition this week introduced a new "Public Editor" to the paper. He looked at the controversy over the paper's coverage of the terror arrests and concluded that The Times did a pretty good job. A Times' editor wrote on the paper's website, "A few editors felt the story should have received more prominent play. But the story went inside because law enforcement officials said that JFK was never in any immediate danger. The plotters had yet to lay out their plans. They had no financing, nor did they have any explosives." What did The Times run on the front page that day? The legality of detaining "boy fighters" in Guantanamo Bay, how the bricklaying community in India is benefiting peasants and the proper upkeep for "the most treasured violins." I have to believe that the editors were not really convinced that those stories were more compelling than the terrorist plot, even if it never coalesced. It appears that the story placement was part of the Times agenda that Muslims can do no wrong and that they are being persecuted by the American (and Israeli) government because of their religion.

...Mayor Mike Bloomberg is about to start paying selected public school students for getting better test scores. Hundreds of principals in low-performing schools were notified recently that city hall is getting ready to release a "cash incentive" plan for thousands of low-income students who will take the new assessment tests the city will begin using next September. The schools involved are all part of the chancellor's Empowerment Program. Under the new plan, fourth graders who get a perfect score on the test will get $25. Seventh graders who get a perfect score will get $50. Some kids would get $5 or $10 (depending on their grade level) just for taking the test. Many educators and parents are arguing that paying kids to do what they should have done in the first place is not the answer. The mayor, however, defended the program, saying, "As one of the new approaches to try to tackle the intractable problem of poverty, we have said that we would raise $50 million privately, to encourage people using economic incentives. Money for test scores is one of those possibilities." One of the two Empowerment Schools in Rockaway is MS 53 in Far Rockaway. I have often written of the school's principal, Claude Monereau. He has been an empowerment principal for two years now, and his test scores are in. What a success he is; a poster boy for the Empowerment Program. In the sixth grade, 29.1 percent of his pupils are on grade level or above. In the seventh grade, 30.3 percent of the students are on or above level. In the eighth grade, a whopping 18.6 percent of the students are on or above level. For this he gets rewarded? No wonder our schools are falling apart at the seams under Bloomberg and Klein. Their legacy will be a system in ruins.

...City Councilman Charles Barron doesn't care whether or not the council defeated his proposal to name a street for that famous racist kidnapper, Sonny Carson. He is going to do it anyway, and there is apparently nothing the city can do to stop him, short of ripping down the signs he plans to put up. One of our city councilmen, James Sanders, voted with Barron on the honor for Carson. He said that he voted for the street-naming proposal because the local Brooklyn community board had voted for it, and he did not like the process being changed. Sanders, however, often votes with Barron on racial matters. Our other councilman, Joe Addabbo, voted against the honor, as he well should. The one black councilman, Leroy Comrie, who voted against the street naming has been vilified by the other black members and even threatened for his rational vote.

...The cable television sports network, ESPN, lost 29 percent of its May sweeps audience when compared with last year. After years of stealing audience from broadcast television, cable is getting a taste of its own medicine. Nine of the top ten ad-driven cable networks posted single and double-digit drops in viewers this May. At the same time, ratings for the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric fell so precipitously that the network is reportedly looking for ways to push her aside next year. The networks figure their costs as a function of "cost per viewer." Katie Couric costs CBS $2.51 per viewer. Dan Rather ($1.00) and Bob Schieffer (.48) cost CBS much less. Charles Gibson costs ABC .89 per viewer, while Brian Williams costs NBC .55.

...When Chancellor Joel Klein and Mayor Michael Bloomberg did away with the school district offices to save money, they came up with a plan to create 10 regional offices instead. Now, they are doing away with the regional offices in favor of several options. What has this meant in terms of spending for administrators? That cost has gone up. One example: In 2005, there were 97 Department of Education officials making a base salary of at least $150,000. There were no teachers or principals in that price range, so it is clear that they were all DOE functionaries. At the end of 2006, there were 229 officials in that same category. Do the math, and you'll see what having a businessman like Bloomberg and a lawyer like Klein in charge of education can do for the system.

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