2011-12-09 / Columnists

School Scope

The Big Lie(s) And Where Bob Turner Stands
Commentary By Norman Scott

Well over a decade ago they were branded as radical education reformers looking to change the way education is delivered. They were embraced by both those on the right, who had been attacking public schools as a monopoly, and liberals on the left, who had become frustrated at the lack of progress. As an experienced educator I knew from day one that they were tossing around a load of crap – no real reforms but a political ideology based on making changes that would in the long run reduce the costs of education, mainly from the largest source – the labor factor – ergo, teacher salaries. I could never manage to even use the term “reformer” and indeed started using quotes around the word until I came up with the term “education deformer” because that is what they were doing — deforming education.

The mantra of the Education Deformer:

Did you know that the reason almost a quarter of the children in this nation are poor is because we have a lousy educational system? And why do we have a lousy educational system? Because we have lousy schools. And why to we have lousy schools? Because we have lousy teachers. Research shows, we are told – though the actual research is rarely sited – that the biggest in-school factor is not high class sizes or the principal or the number of children struggling with academics or family problems or the lack of resources provided by the people running the system – but the teacher. And didn’t you know that the reason we have so many lousy teachers is because the teacher unions prevent the removal of so-called lousy teachers. But, oh, we really do love most of our teachers but if only we could remove those few bad apples. And in order to do that we have to eliminate the unions – or at the very least take away their collective bargaining rights and maybe even their ability to recruit new members (wink, wink: so we can weaken the ability of the only organized opposition to turning the billions of dollars of public school funding over to private hands).

And we need school choice (charters) since only competition and free enterprise can work. Hey, maybe we can do the same with the police and fire departments – set up competing agencies in some higher crime and higher fire neighborhoods – so that when there is a fire people can decide whether to call 911 or 912.

Of course the only way we can accomplish any of the above is by turning over entire school systems into the hands of one person – usually the mayor – and thus removing any vestige of democratic governing or control over the billions of dollars that go into the education budget. Even better if he happens to be a billionaire who can buy the press, politicians (see Christine Quinn, et al.), and many local community organizations that might put up opposition.

And there’s another big lie. That the above is a Republican attack on the public education when in fact just about every Democratic politician, led by the Commander-in-Chief and his Education Secretary attack dog, Arne Duncan who was appointed after sevenyears of failure leading the Chicago school system down the road to failure following the very same ed deform policies.

Did Obama, who has out-Bushed Bush on ed deform, live in Chicago, which led the way with ed deform starting in 1994, with blinders on? My answer is NOT. In fact, Obama has proven himself to be corporate all the way in so many ways that the charge he is a socialist is absurd.

So where does our local Congressman Bob Turner stand on ed deform? As I pointed out in my November 25 column, Turner is a free enterprise guy. You know the type. If Eva Moskowitz’ Success Charter spends $1.5 million in advertising – $1300 per child they manage to recruit and then complain that the public money they get and the free space in pubic schools is not enough – while the local public school may not even have a working copy machine – that is the free enterprise system. When the day comes that the most capable students are lured out of the local public school, leaving an underfinanced hulk with struggling students and the poorest parents, thus leading to that school being closed and parents having only a Moskowitz-run school to go to – unless they are special ed or from non-English speaking families which Eva doesn’t take into her schools – there is the free enterprise system at work for you with a privately controlled monopoly replacing the supposed monopoly that had been under public control.

Speaking of Turner, he wrote a piece in the November 18 edition of The Wave extolling his support for veterans. Paul Krugman wrote a column in the Times on November 13 about a proposal from Mitt Romney (whom Turner will support if he is the Republican nominee) to privatize the Veteran’s Health Administration (VHA) by offering vouchers. Krugman writes:

American health care is remarkably diverse. In terms of how care is paid for and delivered, many of us effectively live in Canada, some live in Switzerland, some live in Britain, and some live in the unregulated market of conservative dreams. One result of this diversity is that we have plenty of home-grown evidence about what works and what doesn’t. Naturally, then, politicians — Republicans in particular — are determined to scrap what works and promote what doesn’t. And that brings me to Mitt Romney’s latest really bad idea, unveiled on Veterans Day: to partially privatize the Veterans Health Administration (V.H.A.). What Mr. Romney and everyone else should know is that the V.H.A. is a huge policy success story, which offers important lessons for future health reform. Many people still have an image of veterans’ health care based on the terrible state of the system two decades ago. Under the Clinton administration, however, the V.H.A. was overhauled, and achieved a remarkable combination of rising quality and successful cost control. Multiple surveys have found the V.H.A. providing better care than most Americans receive, even as the agency has held cost increases well below those facing Medicare and private insurers. Furthermore, the V.H.A. has led the way in cost-saving innovation, especially the use of electronic medical records.

I say this all the time about politicians and union leaders: watch what they do, not what they say.

Norm blogs at: http://ednotesonline.- blogspot.com/

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