2012-10-26 / Columnists

School Scope

As A One-Issue Guy, It’s Not Easy Being Green
Commentary By Norman Scott

Norman Scott Norman Scott So, in this election I’m trying real hard to look at the overall picture. The economy. Defense. Foreign affairs. The environment. The fact that I believe a Mitt Romney presidency will bring us back to the 1930’s world of great depression and possibly nuclear Armageddon. You know, all that boring crap.

Most people who know me are aware that I have been obsessed with the politics of education over the past two decades to the extent that interest in all this stuff – and even sports - or worse, working out - is taking a back seat. My wife has been talking about having me committed. One night I woke up as she was attaching some wires to my head from her “do it yourself shock therapy” kit. So how has this addiction affected my vote in the upcoming election? Don’t ask. I told you not to ask. Now I have to go on another tirade about how there is little difference between Obama and Romney when it comes to education. In fact, there are relatively minor differences generally between Democrats and Republicans on education. Both parties agree that despite throwing all that love at teachers publicly, it is teachers, their unions and the general lack of quality teaching in this nation that is bringing down the entire economy of the western world. If I had to boil down a major difference between the two parties I’d say that the Republicans want to wipe out teacher unions completely while the Democrats want to weaken them severely but keep them around as a hollow shell for the money and election support the teacher unions give them no matter how badly they are treated.

I’ve railed here for almost the entire 4-year Obama term in office how his Race to the Top (RTTT) has taken George Bush’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB), and as education historian has so eloquently stated “put it on steroids.” An enormous amount of money has been used to bribe states into forcing teachers, at least in part, to be rated based on student test scores based on a system known as Valued Added Measures (VAM) that has been discredited. Governor Cuomo has jumped on that bandwagon by setting a mid-January 2013 deadline for the UFT here in NYC to capitulate or have the city lose an enormous amount of state education aid. Since the UFT supports having a portion of teacher ratings be based on discredited tests (while ironically many top-level principals in NY State are opposed) I’m guessing they will cave. Frankly, I would dare Cuomo to make these cuts and suffer the political consequences. But the union is so afraid of public retribution, which they will get no matter what they do, I’m betting on the cave. In addition, Obama and his education secretary Arne Duncan have put a billion dollars on the table for merit pay schemes that have been proven by all research to be failures. Yes, I said a billion. Remember how that half a billion dollar Solara solar energy company supported by Obama went belly up and the Republicans screamed bloody murder? Not a peep about the enormous amounts of money – like 750 billion - added to the deficit as a result of RTTT. Hey, Republicans will argue about a relative dime but when the money helps undermine the teachers and their unions it’s “Right on Barack.” Both national unions, the NEA and the AFT, now run by Randi Weingarten, our own former sell-out in chief, have jumped to Obama’s support, unconditionally, leaving many teachers scratching their heads. The unions are selling the idea that Romney is much more dangerous than Obama for educators. Much more? Well, maybe a little.

In selling Obama to the members union leaders like UFT’s Michael Mulgrew are toning down the education issues. All he is saying is “the president believes that public education is the great equalizer and we need to invest more in it and that Romney believes that we should cut funding in our public schools and get rid of thousands of teachers, and that every child is nothing more than a voucher or a dollar sign.” Well, I guess if you think that spending money on privatized charter schools, merit pay and an enormously expensive testing program used not to help kids, but monitor teachers is a good investment, then Obama looks better on the surface.

A surprising number of teachers facing this onslaught are not buying it and looking for other options, especially teachers in non-swing states where their Obama vote won’t mean much. Right now I am one of those even though I know Romney will ramp up all that other boring stuff: cut social security and medicare and let the market decide, savage the middle class, remove as many government regulations as possible to allow the financial markets to run wild once again and cut the federal government to the extent that you will need a food taster to check for contamination of everything you eat. Hey Mitt, let’s get rid of the FAA and let the market regulate aviation even as planes fall from the sky. You know, your basic right wing Republican program: cut taxes and every government program that services the bulk of the population while raising defense spending and getting us into at least two wars; a sure formula following up on the successful George Bush era.

I know, I know, with Mitt, who I believe as I write this is going to win, we are heading for catastrophe. But since I’m a one issue guy and my vote means nothing here in New York, I (and many other teachers) are voting for the Green Party presidential candidate, physician Dr. Jill Stein. I hope she makes house calls in case my wife, who claims she is voting for Obama, succeeds in getting those wires attached.

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