2010-09-17 / Columnists

School Scope

Charter School Hedge Hogs Take Fall In Primaries
Commentary By Norman Scott

Norman Scott Norman Scott I’m a registered Democrat, though I increasingly wonder why. Wait. I remember. Democratic primaries are more interesting and contentious. Republicans are boring.

But, when I went to the local voting booth at PS 114 to exercise my democratic rights, I found little choice in whom to vote for on the Democratic line – two choices, neither of whom I cared about. I looked hungrily at the Republican battleground. The trip was only worth it to learn about the new voting system. It’s certainly nice to have everyone around see how you voted. (Do those scanners put out any radiation? I think I was glowing as I walked out.) I would have voted for Paladino just for the fun of causing chaos in Republican ranks. Hmmm. On retrospect, I may still vote for Paladino in the general election against the slimy, arrogant Andrew Cuomo who is promising to attack labor, hoping to cause chaos in the Democratic Party. I do believe in Chaos Theory when it comes to electoral politics.

Teachers I know are very angry with Democrats, most of whom have abandoned them by supporting market-based education “reform” – which I have dubbed “Ed Deform” – that has undermined education in so many ways. Teachers unions have become a major target of the Ed Deformers for supposedly defending teachers, which teachers in NYC know the UFT does an incredibly poor job at. But even that minimal defense is enough to call out the anti-union hounds.

I find myself judging politicians from the very narrow perspective of education policy. Naturally, Obama who has out Bushed Bush by a landslide in Ed Deform, comes up F-minus. I know teachers who will vote for Sarah Palin over Obama, hoping she will be too busy trying to see Russia from Washington to pay attention to ed policy.

Speaking of Washington, the Ed Deformers took a big hit with the primary defeat of Mayor Adrian Fenty, the guy who hired the monster of Ed Deform, Michelle Rhee. Rhee went after Washington teachers with a vengeance but also alienated much of the local community. You know the drill from BloomKlein here in NYC: run over everyone to force feed your policies. They’ve gotten away with it here so far, but Rhee in DC just went too far. Her famous Time magazine photo of her holding a broom just pushed people the wrong way.

Now, that didn’t stop our former maximum leader, Randi Weingarten, who is bringing her sellout tour nationwide as AFT President, from pushing the Washington Federation of Teachers into signing a disastrous contract that gives Rhee total power, supposedly in exchange for massive bonus money for teachers, much of it based on high stakes test scores. But most of the money came from private sources that threatened to pull the funding if Fenty lost and Rhee is gone. My guess is Rhee will move on to destroy more systems – maybe even be hired by the Obama/Duncan team. Oh, what fun this will turn out to be.

Here in NYC, State Senators Perkins, Montgomery and Huntley all won handily despite being targeted by the charter school lobby because they dared to call for more oversight of charter schools. Perkins held 12 hours of hearings (most of which I taped) in March and was the major target. He had 75 percent of the vote against challenger Basil Smikle. I have written a whole bunch of stuff about the Smikle/Perkins race (and there’s so much I can’t even talk about). Just search my blog under Smikle for follow ups.

I hope you have been following the testing fiasco in which BloomKlein claim they have been closing the so-called achievement gap and raised test scores dramatically which has been debunked by the State Ed Department’s recalibration of the scores. BloomKlein have passionately defended themselves by pointing to how much better they did than the rest of the state, which I have dubbed the “at least we’re better than Rochester” argument. Of course, we don’t know if Rochester has yet adopted “test prep all the time” to explain their poorer results.

Howie Schwach has been reporting on this story pretty extensively. Some people have been patting the State Ed Department on the back, no one more than Commissioner David Steiner and his boss Meryl Tisch, who heads the State Board of Regents. Both bodies are as corrupt as could be and covered up for BloomKlein until their noses grew so big they couldn’t close their car doors. But then again, when you talk Regents as corrupt we only have to say two words as a reminder of our local Regent rep – Geraldine Chapey.

The billionaire Tisch, by the way, whose ed credentials consist of having spent 10 minutes teaching in a pre-k Hebrew School, is Bloomberg’s next door neighbor and has Klein over for Passover in which Joel is allowed to ask the Four Questions, one of which is, “Why was this test different than all the other tests?” Coming soon: scandals around the phony grad rates and credit recovery where schools and teachers are pressured to give kids credit for breathing.

Some parent groups reacted to the testing scandal by closing down the monthly Panel for Educational Policy meeting in August, the rubber stamp board of education (see my blog for videos I made). The meeting was rescheduled at LaGuardia HS where they were able to block off the first eight rows and put the microphones so far back you needed binoculars to see the Panel members. Coming soon to PEP meetings from the people who gave us Children First: mined moats.

Are you waiting for Superman? Keep waiting. The new film by the people who gave us Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” is lauding charter schools and Michelle Rhee. It is opening in New York on September 24. I’m working with a group of young NYC teachers who are outraged at the film for placing the blame on teachers when schools fail. I’ve heard a lot of veteran teachers bash younger teachers for not being union conscious or for going along with the Ed Deformers. Not this crew. We are making our own film and calling it “The Inconvenient Truths About Waiting for Superman” and are planning some fun street actions, including breaking into a song “Will the Real Reformers Please Stand Up?” with lyrics expressly written for us. While it may not be coming soon to a theater near you, it will be featured on the web. Look on my blog for the trailer which we are releasing in conjunction with the Superman release date on September 24.

Norm blogs at: http://ednotes online.blogspot.com/. Email him at normsco@gmail.com if you are interested in joining the songfests on September 24.

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