Chronicle of a Death Foretold

This New Yorker piece on how a combination of a dysfunctional school system and hordes of consultants sucked down the $100 million that Mark Zuckerberg threw at the Newark Schools is too rich in stupidity to summarize, but let me highlight this:

As Booker negotiated the Zuckerberg gift, he was facing a potentially ruinous deficit, aggravated by the recession. He was laying off a quarter of the city’s workforce, including a hundred and sixty-seven police officers—almost every new recruit hired in his first term. The city council was in revolt over Booker’s bid to borrow heavily from the bond market to repair a failing water system. Meanwhile, he was managing a busy speaking schedule, which frequently took him out of the city. Disclosure forms show $1,327,190 in revenue for ninety-six speeches given between 2008 and May, 2013. “There’s no such thing as a rock-star mayor,” the historian Clement Price, of Rutgers University, told me. “You can be a rock star or you can be a mayor. You can’t be both.”

Getting back to the schools, we all hear that inner-city schools have far more administration that their suburban counterparts. Newark’s has 4 times more administrative overhead than comparable suburban districts, with clerks hired to do clerking for other clerks. But one thing that’s rarely discussed is that these low-end administration positions are essentially a jobs program for the inner city. Even though the bureaucracy can’t even reliably cut a payroll check, it’s still almost as impossible to change or dislodge, and if you do change it, the city becomes poorer.

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112 replies
  1. 1
    c u n d gulag says:

    “Privatization” of government functions, is the best way to move public tax money into the pockets and offshore accounts of the corrupt (and some well-meaning) politician’s corporate cronies.

    The politicians are then assured of a “feather-bed” to land on, if they decide to retire from politics for a more lucrative position with less work, or, if/when the voting public finally tires of them, and votes them out of office.

    We desperately need to “Un-privatize” all of the former government functions, because, in reality, without having to look for ways to make additional profits, government DOES do many things better than private business – schools and the military, being primary among them.

  2. 2
    Tiny Tim says:

    Patronage doesn’t go away, it just shifts. “Reformers” take the money and send it to wealthy wealthy interests – consultants, charter school operators – because the elite press see that as less “corrupt” than a few extra unnecessary moderate wage jobs or a 5% teacher salary boost.

  3. 3
    Baud says:

    I don’t know enough to comment on Booker’s term as mayor, but that block quote is patently trollish. The 96 speeches covers a five and a half year period. It reveals nothing about how well Booker managed the city.

  4. 4
    Tommy says:

    I just read that article late last night. I strongly suggest it to everybody here, with the warning it goes on and on and on for thousands of words. It doesn’t really get to the “good” stuff, like the quote above until near the end. The first few thousand words is really a history of how Newark schools, since the 50’s have been going downhill to the point that only 53% of incoming high school freshmen will graduate. White flight to the burbs and a lowering of property taxes. All kinds of things.

    There is one section where they note the city has four times as many support staff, like secretaries, then most school districts their size. In some instances secretaries have secretaries. They then say that one of the massive problems is the district can’t hit any deadlines for paperwork. It boggles the mind!

    Honestly as a person that comes from a family of college educated folks, many with PhDs we all went to public school. From grade school through graduate school. We could have afforded to go anywhere, but alas we felt public schools were good enough for us. I wouldn’t change the education I received and the overall experience for anything.

    I guess I should just say I wish everybody had what I had. Heck my little rural town of 8,700 people has a 96.7 percent pass rate for the standardized tests students have to take. The only school in the area even close, with a .2 percent higher rate, is a private Catholic school that costs almost $15,000/year.

    I should also note the salaries of the teachers and staff are public. Funny thing, most teachers with any tenure make $60,000+. The Principal and senior staff, well over $100,000. I think the phrase, you get what you pay for might come to mind.

  5. 5
    Egypt Steve says:

    @Baud: Which works out to something like $200K a year in outside income. That’s a second job. A second very good job. It’s in the Good Book: you can’t serve two masters.

  6. 6
    Comrade Jake says:

    Is there some kind of one-paragraph tl;dr summary of that piece? I made it through about the first 1000 words and punted.

    Did they really piss away $100M?

  7. 7
    Belafon says:

    @Tommy: That view of public schools has been my view as well. My mom was the first to graduate from school in her family. Including my dad’s family, I was the fourth person to graduate. I was the first person to graduate from college. And all of this came from what I considered a really good public education. The only reason I see people fleeing public education is that they don’t think they should have to pay for people who are not their children. But I wonder who they think paid for their education.

  8. 8
    Tommy says:

    @Egypt Steve: I am not an expert on Booker either. But what I’ve heard about him was echoed in this article, to where his huge financial backers, even when he just won a City Council election, were talking about him being the first African American POTUS. I’ve felt, right or wrong, that with every election win he has already moved on to the next step up the ladder.

    Maybe that is how all successful politicians think. I don’t know. Heck maybe you could say that about Obama. But I am an IL guy and while in Springfield Obama actually got some shit done. In the Senate in DC, not so much. But not sure how much you can get done there if you’ve been in the body for a decade or two, much less a freshmen Senator.

  9. 9
    raven says:

    @Tommy: He went to school with Rachel, she’s loves him.

  10. 10
    Baud says:

    @Egypt Steve:

    Then ban honorariums to public officials. But the point of the quote seemed to be not that Booker was serving two masters, but that he was neglecting the city because he was out giving speeches. It’s made worse by the fact that the quote begins with “As Booker negotiated the Zuckerberg gift,” which makes it seem like the author is talking about a discrete period of time, but then the speech statistic spans a 5 and a half year period. Maybe the underlying criticism is correct (I don’t know), and maybe the whole article provides context I’m not seeing here, but I don’t think this particular quote from the article has much to commend it.

  11. 11
    Barbara says:

    Haven’t read the article but one immediate improvement might be moving some of those clerks and secretaries into classroom aide positions.

    Even in my fairly deep-pocketed suburban school district, the classroom aides are mainly middle-aged moms without any special formal training or degrees, they just have big hearts and finely tuned “looks of death” rays to beam on naughty children when warranted. But their presence can make a huge difference in a classroom. Of course, they make way less than an office worker does, so that messes with the jobs-program aspect.

    Also worth remembering that it’s the POVERTY. Schools with high concentrations of poor kids don’t function well. The lower the concentration of poor kids, the better the school does. American schools which serve middle-class kids *compare favorably or above* those in ANY other industrialized nation.

    Nationally, our schools look rotten in comparison to say, Finland’s, because one quarter of our kids are in poverty and only a few percentage points in Finland are. We have too many poor kids. Though I think everyone here already knows and agrees we have too many poor kids and it’s disgusting, criminal and sinful that we allow that.

  12. 12
    Belafon says:

    @Egypt Steve: $200/year at $35K-50K per speech. that 4-6 speeches. That’s not even breaking a sweat.

  13. 13
    Tommy says:

    @Belafon: My parents and I went on a two week tour of grad schools. Honestly I feel in love with both Duke and Tulane. My parents just kept saying what about the University of Illinois, Kansas, or LSU (where I went). Places my family members went. Duke didn’t accept me. Tulane did, but my parents paid for all my college (gosh was I so lucky), and honestly they couldn’t afford it without financial aid, which I didn’t qualify for.

    Not sure I would have gone if they could afford it, but my experience at LSU rocked. My first year I was the graduate assistant to Sig Mickelson. He was the former President of CBS news. His two big claims to fame are he hired Walter Cronkite and fired Edward R. Murrow. I got to talk and meet with him daily.

    I mean how cool is that …..

  14. 14
    Ejoiner says:

    Newark’s has 4 times more administrative overhead than comparable suburban districts, with clerks hired to do clerking for other clerks.

    Veteran teacher for 21 years here – and that, in a nutshell, is a description of every problem I’ve ever seen with public school resources. (That and the fact that those “clerks” have more authority over what goes into and on in the classrooms than the certified/experienced teachers hired to do the job!)

  15. 15
    raven says:

    @Tommy: Oskeewowow!

  16. 16
    Tommy says:

    @Barbara: In this article, towards the start, Booker takes Christie by where he first lived in Newark before when he was five his parents moved to the burbs. He noted that in the last year the school had had three murders and many more violent attacks of students in and around the school. They note that more than 85% of the students get some aid, in the form of school lunches and other things. Drugs and gangs everywhere.

    You could be a rock star teacher and I don’t know how you can work in that environment.

    I am not that far from East St. Louis. My schools are amazing. 20 miles away the worse in the state, by far. We’ve tried everything. Tried reform. Threw money at the issue. Even put huge bounties on successful teachers, in the form of cash bonuses, to teach there. Nothing has worked. It is heartbreaking. But alas I got no idea what you do.

  17. 17
    Tommy says:

    @raven: Yeah. I went undergrad at Western Illinois University. They offered me a golf scholarship. I got into Illinois, but well no golf scholarship. Grandfather who went there at 16 until he got his MD was not happy (that at 16, well a long story).

    He was no longer with us when I went to LSU, but sure he would have approved of that. After Illinois and his residence at Barnes in St. Louis he enlisted. Was sent to Wichita Falls, TX to be a flight surgeon (HUMP planes). Would venture to New Orleans on the weekends. Fell in love with the state and area. So dad ended up going there for his PhD. As a kid, grandfather took us to Louisiana as a family every year.

    I guess in hindsight, it was kind of a given I might go to school there as well.

  18. 18
    Cassidy says:

    @Tommy: the solutions are being thrown at the wrong targets. While it’s a given that schools need more and better funding and teachers need more and better pay, the problems with our schools are symptoms of living in the poverty/ renter class. When we address that problem, then our school problems will start fixing themselves.

  19. 19
    Eric says:

    Poverty, poverty, poverty. Barbara said it earlier. You can throw all the money in the world at the schools, but without getting some help to impact the child’s home life, results will continue to be similar. The article addressed it early on saying that Zuckerberg’s wife realized that was the problem, but it went away from that theme because of the subject of the article, but you cannot separate poverty from poor school performance.

  20. 20
    Roger Moore says:

    @Belafon:

    The only reason I see people fleeing public education is that they don’t think they should have to pay for people who are not their children.

    It’s not that they don’t want to pay for people other than their own kids, it’s that they don’t want to pay for (or send their kids to the same schools as) Those People. Gutting public education and widespread private schooling took off shortly after de jure or de facto integration. You do the math.

  21. 21
    FlyingToaster says:

    @Belafon:

    The only reason I see people fleeing public education is that they don’t think they should have to pay for people who are not their children.

    We are sending WarriorGirl to private school because our local public school has tanked. I’m still paying my property taxes, and I wish I had the power to undo two decades of mismanagement by the district administration and school committee, but I don’t.

    And since our district is classified “Level 3 – struggling”, they’ve gone from testing in 4th, 8th and 10th (MCAS) to testing every year. The beatings will continue until morale improves.

    So long as NCLB, RTTT, and testing for Common Core go on, I’ll opt the fuck out.

  22. 22
    Tommy says:

    @Cassidy: In and/or on most if not almost all issues I will tell you what I think. That I have a “solution.” Just listen to me. I am smarter then you (joking really — I don’t mean you). With public schools in lower income areas I will openly admit I throw my hands up in the air and say I got no idea.

    I am white. Middle class if not upper middle class. I went to public schools starting in Lubbock, TX. Leavenworth, KS. Southern IL where I have moved back to after living in DC for 15+ years. Western Illinois University and Louisiana State University. All stellar places.

    When I lived in NE DC, the house I owned, across the street a huge closed school. The schools around run down and falling down. My best friend there is a raging liberal. A senior lawyer at the EPA. His wife a doctor that works full-time at a free clinic, not a practice.

    They are sending their three children, between 7-12 to public schools. It is hard, very hard. It shouldn’t be hard.

  23. 23
    Rob in CT says:

    one immediate improvement might be moving some of those clerks and secretaries into classroom aide positions.

    This sure sounds right.

  24. 24
    raven says:

    @Tommy: We used to got through Macomb on our way to Hamilton/Keokuk from Champaign-Urbana. We fished the big river below lock and dam #19.

  25. 25
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Eric: Yep. If a kid shows up to school hungry, she isn’t going to learn. If the kid’s parent are working 4 part time jobs each in order to pay the rent and buy food, they are not going to be able to help the kid with homework. If the family is in poverty, it is unlikely that there are many books in the house – IIRC one of the markers of whether a child succeeds in school or it is whether or not someone frequently read to the child in the preschool years (it is a tell with respect to time and money).

  26. 26
    FeudalismNow! says:

    I will echo the refrain, 6-8 hours a day in school can not overcome the realities of the other 16 – 18 hours out of school in impoverished neighborhoods. How the hell can you expect kids to improve Math and ELA when they are worried about MS-13 camping the playground or whether they will eat tonight. The schools can ameliorate some of this but they are not designed ( or funded) to be society’s fix-all. You need a heck of a lot more infrastructure to help repair urban life at all levels.

  27. 27
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Tommy: The problem is poverty. It is that simple. Any “reform” or “fix” that does not acknowledge that in the first paragraph on page one is a grift.

  28. 28
    negative 1 says:

    For the most part the biggest response on the public level to the problem of poverty and school performance has been ever-increasing before and after school programs. The problem is a.) it often takes hiring new people, rather than just paying existing people more (which most school systems have no desire to do, even if their budgets are starting to turn around) and b.) since the funding goes through several streams it’s difficult to measure as a ‘metric’, which has been important since the school reform crowd took over. To illustrate, the closest urban district to me has several Title grants and the IDEA grant from the federal level, but some of the after school programs that the school participates in are funded through community development grants through a local 501(c)3. Those programs, while extremely helpful and successful for the children, will not show up as an improvement from the school system.
    Anecdotally, does that approach work? It’s tough to say. Having a teacher isn’t a substitute for a parent in any way, but generally the kids are getting homework done and are at least in the presence of a responsible adult. There is no way to cure poverty through schools, but programs where kids are being looked after is at least a start. The biggest missing piece IMHO is that they don’t seem to have anyone to advocate for their interests as involved parents do.

  29. 29
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @Tommy: A lot of graduation rate depends on family factors at home and even early childhood factors that the schools cannot do anything about. So we are evaluating schools based on community issues the schools can’t possibly fix.

    Lowing income inequality, increasing income and support so that families stay intact and are under less stress and parents aren’t working over 40 hours/wk, as well as supporting head start which helps the most at risk children get a leg up before formal schooling even begins could help with these problems.

    By 3rd grade it’s way, way too late.

  30. 30
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @Tommy: He got one thing done–he befriended Ted Kennedy. Then, as president, he put all of his political capital on getting health insurance reform through. So it was “not for nothing” as they say.

  31. 31
    raven says:

    @Tommy: Pick up “Savage Inequalities” by Kozol, it’s set partly in your neighborhood.

  32. 32
    Patrick says:

    @Tommy:

    To quote Biden; passing ACA was a “big ****ing deal”. And I totally agree with Biden.

  33. 33
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @Barbara:

    Nationally, our schools look rotten in comparison to say, Finland’s, because one quarter of our kids are in poverty and only a few percentage points in Finland are. We have too many poor kids. Though I think everyone here already knows and agrees we have too many poor kids and it’s disgusting, criminal and sinful that we allow that.

    Too many of our kids live in poverty. Words matter.

    It’s not that we have some poverty factory and poor mothers are the engine. It’s that having a child in the US will throw you into poverty because our society does nothing or next to nothing to support parents and children. Finland, on the other hand, supports children before they are even born, starting with the baby box. That is why almost no Finnish children grow up in poverty. They are all valued.

    It doesn’t mean they grow up with luxuries like in the US. Finnish indie director Timo Vuorensola had to go bleg for money for a new computer to do CGI renderings about a decade ago, to the incredulity of American geeks who took new gear for granted and he had to explain that ‘highest standard of living in the world’ didn’t mean big houses, cars, and toys. Americans have enormous houses and terrible healthcare outcomes and access to healthcare. It’s all about setting our priorities right. We don’t need enormous houses–they’re a fucking burden–look at your A/C bills, the time spent cleaning–we need to make sure that every child is housed and clothed, has excellent healthcare and enough nutritious food to eat. We need to make sure that young parents have community and financial support to be parents. We are doing a lousy job at doing these basic things.

  34. 34
    Another Holocene Human says:

    Why Finnish babies sleep in cardboard boxes.

    Even googling this brings up a blog entry about why this will “never happen” in America.

  35. 35
    The Moar You Know says:

    Getting back to the schools, we all hear that inner-city schools have far more administration that their suburban counterparts. Newark’s has 4 times more administrative overhead than comparable suburban districts, with clerks hired to do clerking for other clerks. But one thing that’s rarely discussed is that these low-end administration positions are essentially a jobs program for the inner city.

    While nice as a jobs program, that level of administrative overhead makes teaching impossible.

    I don’t have a good solution, but you can’t burden the schools like that and expect to retain good teachers or graduate functional students. Put those people to work elsewhere.

  36. 36
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @Roger Moore:

    It’s not that they don’t want to pay for people other than their own kids, it’s that they don’t want to pay for (or send their kids to the same schools as) Those People. Gutting public education and widespread private schooling took off shortly after de jure or de facto integration. You do the math.

    That’s a glib way to put it but it was driven by the same sort of hysteria that drove block busting–sometimes block busting was the prime mover, not any concern about schools–and continued through the 1990s and 2000s and Americans segregated themselves by little gradations in income with “communities” built with a very tight range of home prices and more expensive houses geographically separated. Because this happened in the North and in the South. While most Northerners I would bet are pretty unfamiliar with the shitty-ass “Christian academies” that existed to resegregate schools (I know I didn’t learn about them until this blog), I grew up in an environment defined by the twin forces of white flight, and urban renewal. Urban renewal is a code word for blowing up ethnic neighborhoods and it was so outrageous in Eastern Massachusetts that even my very prejudiced Irish Catholic 5th grade social studies teacher talked about the building of the Mass Turnpike extension and its deliberate routing to displace a historical African-American neighborhood with contempt. A highway onramp encircles a Baptist Church today, one of the last structures left. The end results of these activities was to benefit and enrich the few who circled the seats of power. If you wonder why there is emnity between minority urban communities and labor, particularly construction unions, there, too, is part of the answer.

    In Boston proper they razed an Ashkenazi Jewish community to make a condo developer rich. Eventually people had enough, the term “urban renewal” became an ugly term, Tent City stopped the Southeast Expressway, and an era of neighborhood-based obstructionism was ushered in. Its had its problems, too, but the preceeding era was far, far worse.

  37. 37
    Barry says:

    @Baud: “I don’t know enough to comment on Booker’s term as mayor, but that block quote is patently trollish. The 96 speeches covers a five and a half year period. It reveals nothing about how well Booker managed the city. ”

    $1,327,190/5= $265,438 per f-ing year, for outside speaking.

    According to the NY Post[1], he draws a salary of $174,496 per year. Now, that doesn’t count benefits, but it looks like he was making as much for speeches as he was making for being mayor.

    [1] http://nypost.com/2013/08/11/n.....in-office/

  38. 38
    Barry says:

    @Comrade Jake: “Did they really piss away $100M? ”

    No, it went into the pockets of the ‘reformers’, as was intended.

  39. 39
    Barry says:

    @Baud: “…which makes it seem like the author is talking about a discrete period of time, but then the speech statistic spans a 5 and a half year period.”

    You either can’t divide by five, you’re bullsh*tting. Please don’t plead that you couldn’t do the math.

  40. 40
    raven says:

    @Another Holocene Human: Hey, the southern christian academies aren’t all about resegregation. If you can shoot the rock or sack the QB there is a spot for you in many of them. Sort of like the Catholic schools work in Chicago.

  41. 41
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    I don’t have a good solution, but you can’t burden the schools like that and expect to retain good teachers or graduate functional students. Put those people to work elsewhere.

    That employment may be a legacy of the pre-computer age. In which case all they can do is institute a hiring freeze.

    I temped at Mass Dept of Health once (it’s in this weird island of a building near Arnold Arboretum) and they had people who basically did nothing all day (for low pay), clicking off many, many years until they could retire (the retirement is modest… unless you’re a friend of a pol, then they give you a golden parachute out of the clerks’ and social workers’ retirement fund after a no-show job, it’s completely SICK), with not much to do, meanwhile, two proper inspectors for the entire STATE. Eventually some of these folks do retire and aren’t replaced, although good luck getting the state to hire more inspectors. What happens politically is that the pols will NEVER ante up to fund more of the key positions. Much more ground to be gained threatening to cut those positions every year. Meanwhile the bureaucratic wheels grind on.

    The sad thing is, some of these office ladies probably could be retrained, but sexism, lack of morale, and political interference means they don’t train people to move into other positions. It’s sclerotic.

  42. 42
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @raven: As above, so below, all the “elite” colleges are like that, too. But that’s just a little game they play.

  43. 43
    Kay says:

    @Baud:

    The next mayor of Newark ran against Corey Booker’s (and Chris Christie’s) education agenda. He won last night.

    At some point ed reformers are going to have to start bringing people into their plans for local public schools. I get that democratically-run public schools are a pain in the ass and people like the Facebook founder are not used to negotiating with the peons, but these are PUBLIC schools. They need the consent of the people in these places to “reform” them. That doesn’t even take into account whether privatizing public schools is wise, or workable, or smart. Just leave that question aside and look at the process that is being used in city after city. It’s a take-over. Merits of the plans aside, they object to the take-over. Can you blame them?

    This is baseline democratic process. It shouldn’t even be a question. It’s not up for debate. They can’t choose to exclude local people from decisions on a public school system. That’s disallowed, it’s not an option.

    We just built a new school here. It took 2 elections, umpteen meetings, hundreds of small compromises, but the people own the new school because they participated in planning it, not just paying for it. All of that messy democracy was worth it.

    Here’s the question you have to ask. “What do people value in their public schools?” Not what does the Facebook founder value, but what do people who own the schools value? Obviously, given the results of last night’s election one of the things these people value is a VOICE in their public schools, that means more than “I get to (maybe!) pick a charter school”. This isn’t a consumer transaction. They’re designing a public school system.

    When Milton Friedman set out to privatize the US public school system, his theory was people wouldn’t need a “voice” because they would have a “choice”. That’s not a public system. It’s a shopping mall for schools.

  44. 44
    Roger Moore says:

    @Another Holocene Human:
    I understand the problem. Here in Pasadena, we didn’t have legal segregation, but blacks were concentrated in one corner of the city, not too far from the rich neighborhood where many of them worked as domestic servants. The school district built a new high school at the far edge of the rich neighborhood specifically so the school boundary would bring in the rich white kids and not the poor black ones. This was blatant enough that a judge countered it with a busing program to enforce integration. The bigots responded with a mix of going to private school (for the ones who could afford it) and in-district specialty schools that were located to make it difficult for the poor kids to get there. The quality of the schools declined and has never recovered.

    I think the latter point is an important one. Schools can reach a point where their bad quality becomes a self-sustaining problem beyond the original original cause. Parents don’t want to send their kids to bad schools if they can help it. Better off parents will avoid the district, either by sending their kids to private schools or by moving to cities with better school districts. The only kids left in the local schools will be the ones whose parents are too poor or too indifferent to leave. Families who send their kids to private schools will be indifferent and try to cut funding to the local schools because they don’t want to pay twice. At that point, it’s incredibly difficult for the schools to recover.

  45. 45
    Morzer says:

    @Another Holocene Human:

    Those Finns, they is smarter than what we ain’t.

    Funny isn’t it that properly funded, intelligent government works – and that a people with the sense to recognize this are happier and better educated? Sometimes I really think that the American people, with their relentlessly short-term, uninterested, self-pitying view of the world get what, as a collective entity, they deserve.

  46. 46
    Kay says:

    @Baud:

    What happened in Newark, NJ yesterday should matter to you no matter where you live in America. It is the story of the triumph of participatory democracy over a system flooded with money. And if you care about the future of public education, you will be especially interested, because the fate of Newark’s public schools became the central issue in this campaign. The winner, Ras Baraka, a high school principal, confronted the wave of “corporate” school reform and privatization that has become Newark’s (bipartisan) status quo under former Democratic Mayor Cory Booker and Republican Governor Chris Christie and his state appointed Newark school overseers.

    Democrats for Education Reform backed the loser. The Democratic power structure backed the loser.

    Democrats have to pay attention to this. In city after city, people are really resisting school privatization and they’re being completely ignored. I guess national Democrats can just charge on ahead with the reform agenda, but it won’t work. They need consent from the people who live there. I mean, this should have been obvious going in, but apparently they were blinded by all that sweet hedge fund cash.

  47. 47
    Morzer says:

    @Kay:

    We should call their proposals Education Deform, not Reform. The last thing these thieving oligarchs and grifters care about is the education of “those people”‘s kids.

  48. 48
    The Moar You Know says:

    That employment may be a legacy of the pre-computer age.

    @Another Holocene Human: I doubt it. Explosive growth in the ratio between school administrators and actual teachers is a fairly recent phenomena that post-dates computers in schools by a good decade or so.

    If one wanted to kill the public school system stone cold dead, there would be no better way to do it than by loading up the offices with as many clerks, secretaries, and administrators as you could afford to hire. Oddly enough, that’s exactly what’s happening nationwide in both our high schools and colleges.

  49. 49
    JoyfulA says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Number of books in the home correlates highly with school grades. If I had billions, I’d give a books baby shower for every new mother and made sure that infant had piles of kid books and a stack of whatever the mom was interested in reading.

    (Of course, that plan posits a decent place for them to live; books are hard to tote about from homeless shelter to rat trap to relative’s couch.)

  50. 50
    Kay says:

    @Baud:

    People in Newark had to appeal to the NJ ACLU to sue for release of the plans for their schools.

    A battle over transparency surrounding Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million donation to Newark schools will now be decided in court.
    In a motion filed just after noon today in Superior Court of Newark, the ACLU of New Jersey announced it is suing Newark, accusing the city of violating numerous OPRA regulations and demanding the release of all correspondence between Zuckerberg, Booker, Gov. Chris Christie, and Acting Education Commissioner Chris Cerf surrounding the September 2010 donation.
    The Secondary Parent Council, a 30-year old parent and grandparent advocacy group in Newark, filed an Open Public Records request on April 5, requesting all letters, emails and memos between Booker, Zuckerberg and Christie regarding the donation and its potential uses. The two-page request also lists almost every government official who could have weighed in on the donation including Cerf, former education commissioner Bret Schundler, deputy commissioner Rochelle Hendricks, the Newark City Council and members of the state legislature.

    We would have genuine civil unrest in this town if a billionaire and the mayor negotiated a deal to rework the entire public school system and then wouldn’t release information. They’d go bananas.

    Why did these people have to sue? These are their schools.

  51. 51
    Tyro says:

    It is ok for the public sector to serve as a jobs program (as my mom said, “the post office saved my family”), but they really need to leave the schools out of that. If you are well educated enough to become a teacher, then you get a good middle class public sector job in the school system. Otherwise, you work for the DMV.

  52. 52
    Tyro says:

    @Kay: In city after city, people are really resisting school privatization and they’re being completely ignored.

    To be fair, if all those people and activists were so clever, then the schools wouldn’t be such a disaster area.

    There is much to be said for the fact that poverty is a huge impediment to learning– you can learn unless you have a place to study and do homework in your home. However, the schools themselves are shitty places to be even if you do have a decent home life. In DC, there were schools where classrooms did not have walls or doors, left over from an era in which they experimented with “open class rooms”. The teachers used blackboards and bookshelves as partitions, but they couldn’t jury-rig doors. It shouldn’t be a shock that anyone who cared about the learning environment moved or sent their kids to private school, and everyone else just accepted it.

  53. 53
    Baud says:

    @Kay:

    Thanks, Kay. I don’t have children and have never paid much attention to education policy before I started reading your posts, which have been a real eye opener. I want to reiterate that my prior comments were directed solely at the quality of the journalism in the excerpted block quote and not to the underlying merits of the arguments about Booker’s policies.

  54. 54
    JoyfulA says:

    Like Newark and New Jersey, Pennsylvania took over Philadelphia schools years ago, and it’s been crappy charter schools downhill ever since.

  55. 55
    Kay says:

    @JoyfulA:

    We actually do that here, not a book shower, but the public health visits for low income mothers include books and work on pre-literacy, etc. They use the Dolly Parton book charity, so it’s not like we don’t appreciate celebrity bucks! :)

    I just went thru a community planning process for our schools and the fact is ed reformers don’t know what people value in a school until they ask them. The idea that the whole world bases every decision on test scores is an assumption. It’s a wrong assumption in this town, so I imagine it’s often wrong in other places, too. We heard all kinds of things. One of the biggest things people here value is KNOWING school staff, and continuity of staff. They hate turnover. That directly contradicts the whole ed reform “fire em all and let God sort em out” ethos, or, “if you don’t like this school, choose another!” They don’t want churn.

  56. 56
    The Moar You Know says:

    It is ok for the public sector to serve as a jobs program (as my mom said, “the post office saved my family”), but they really need to leave the schools out of that. If you are well educated enough to become a teacher, then you get a good middle class public sector job in the school system. Otherwise, you work for the DMV.

    @Tyro: This is pretty much my point. You made it better.

    The incompetent and disadvantaged need jobs too, and they should have them. But not in the school system.

  57. 57
    Roger Moore says:

    @Tyro:

    It shouldn’t be a shock that anyone who cared about the learning environment moved or sent their kids to private school, and everyone else just accepted it.

    You left out the “and could afford private schools or a move to a more expensive area with better public schools” part. There are lots of families that want better for their kids but simply can’t afford to live in the places with good schools, much less pay for private school. Dismissing those families as not caring about the learning environment is blaming the victim.

  58. 58
    Linnaeus says:

    A sawbuck says the right wing response to this will be something like “See! More funding doesn’t help!”

  59. 59
    JoyfulA says:

    In my former school district, the Republican school board was voted out last fall because they cut costs by cutting full-day kindergarten to half-day.

    That full-day kindergarten had been instituted by a previous Democratic school board, but it’s a majority GOP district, and people forget.

  60. 60
    Linnaeus says:

    @Kay:

    ed reformers don’t know what people value in a school until they ask them.

    They know the cost of everything, but the value of nothing.

  61. 61
    Kay says:

    @Baud:

    I am biased, I think you naturally tend to think whatever you’re interested in Issue Number One, but I do think it’s coming to a head for Democrats. They have to advocate for public schools. They’re public entities. They won’t survive without support from federal and state lawmakers.

    Here’s what’s happened, politically. Democrats took this stance that they are “agnostic” on school sector (public, charter or private). Republicans of course are anti-public schools. Ed reformers are PRO charter schools.

    So we have “agnostics”, anti-public school people, and pro-charter school people. Where does that leave public schools?

    That leaves public schools political orphans. They don’t have an advocate in government, and they need one.

    They’re getting hurt. 32 states have cut public ed funding since 2009. We have no fewer than 5 new mandates in my district, and less money. How is this supposed to work? It’s no longer that ed reformers aren’t helping public schools. It’s that they’re actively harming them. They’re closing poor systems and weakening stronger systems. It’s ALL loss for public schools. Our schools never win in these schemes.

    This was sold as “improving public schools”. It was not sold as “replacing public schools with Milton Friedman’s life-long dream for public education”. I don’t think people would have supported reforms that harm existing public schools. That isn’t what we signed up for.

  62. 62
    Linnaeus says:

    @Kay:

    This was sold as “improving public schools”. It was not sold as “replacing public schools with Milton Friedman’s life-long dream for public education”

    Nor was it sold as “weakening political enemies”, but that’s part of it too.

  63. 63
    Tyro says:

    @Roger Moore: Dismissing those families as not caring about the learning environment is blaming the victim.

    Maybe, but why was there such widespread tolerance of poor conditions in the schools? People are praising the activist resistance of the locals to privatization schemes, but where were these activists when conditions in schools were going to shit in the first place?

  64. 64
    Kay says:

    @Linnaeus:

    The school “visioning” process was really interesting, because it goes to how complicated this is, and what people value, and assumptions.

    They hired this facilitator (who I thought was a pompous ass, but anyway, we made up by the end).

    So he wants to introduce whether we are interested in “project based learning” and he explains what that is and tells us it’s probably too advanced and progressive for us (in so many words) so we probably don’t want it.

    But people here would actually completely understand it, because it’s 4-H! 4-H is all project based learning. So is vocational ed, and we have a really strong vocational high school that covers 4 counties and at this point is competitive to get into, it’s so popular. They LOVE project based learning. They were 100% on board with it.

    I mean, if you think about it, a place that relies on agriculture and manufacturing SHOULD love project based learning, but his assumption was it’s “innovative” and “progressive” and beyond their “imagineering” or whatever :)

  65. 65
    Linnaeus says:

    @Kay:

    Did he say it was “disruptive” too?

  66. 66
    Baud says:

    @Kay:

    I do think it’s coming to a head for Democrats

    I agree. It strikes me as the next big intramural fight we’ll have.

  67. 67
    Roger Moore says:

    @Tyro:

    Maybe, but why was there such widespread tolerance of poor conditions in the schools? People are praising the activist resistance of the locals to privatization schemes, but where were these activists when conditions in schools were going to shit in the first place?

    You may not have been paying attention to the quality of inner city schools for a long time, but the parents in those school districts have been fighting for better schools for a long time. They’ve been consistently ignored because they’re disproportionately poor and minority, exactly the way people who want to rush into charters and school privatization schemes are ignoring them today.

  68. 68
    The Moar You Know says:

    I am biased, I think you naturally tend to think whatever you’re interested in Issue Number One, but I do think it’s coming to a head for Democrats. They have to advocate for public schools. They’re public entities. They won’t survive without support from federal and state lawmakers.

    @Kay: They don’t “have to”, but they’ll lose the teacher’s unions if they don’t. There are people in the Democratic Party obviously weighing just how much damage that would do to the party, and seeing if they can do it without the teachers.

    I have a neighbor who is always bitching about the teachers unions – bit of a Republican, he is. I asked him, what the hell do you expect them to do, give money to people trying to fire them?

    He then pivots to how the teacher’s unions do nothing but protect pedophiles. I’ll tell you, Fox News is as good as the Catholic Church in getting and keeping their people indoctrinated.

  69. 69
    Kay says:

    @Linnaeus:

    He did! I’ve been reading so much I was ready for him, I was just spoiling for a fight, but then most people agreed with me (generally) so I was a little disappointed and I had to calm down.

    He showed us the disruptive innovation film while pushing ed tech product shamelessly. Also! He wants us to start a High Tech High School charter school. He was basically a spokesperson for that charter chain.

    I felt a little sorry for him because he started out making that comparison they make, where schools are “19th century factories”, blah, blah, blah, innovate, cage-busting, bullshit.

    The teachers were (understandably) insulted by that, because they actually do try new things and they have real relationships with kids so it’s not a “factory” at all, and I think they take a lot of pride in that. He seemed not to know he had just insulted them, which seems like a real problem for a “facilitator”, that he didn’t pick that up.

  70. 70
    The Moar You Know says:

    You may not have been paying attention to the quality of inner city schools for a long time, but the parents in those school districts have been fighting for better schools for a long time.

    @Roger Moore: And people grossly underestimate the cost. We have a small district here, four high schools and about six junior high schools. The cost to do essential repairs, install AC in all buildings (we’re in SoCal, that should have been done from the start) and build a library for two of the high schools? Two billion dollars. That’s with a “B”. We’re a very wealthy district, and we still had to float a bond to do it, as we couldn’t get the money from the state to even do repairs. Poor districts don’t have the option to do bonds.

  71. 71
    Kay says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    They don’t “have to”, but they’ll lose the teacher’s unions if they don’t. There are people in the Democratic Party obviously weighing just how much damage that would do to the party, and seeing if they can do it without the teachers.

    I think that’s a strategic error. I’m unapologetically pro-labor, but I’m not a member of a teachers union. The labor issue is important to me, but it’s collateral to public schools as a public entity. It’s bigger than teachers unions. The number one issue for public school parents is funding. They want public schools funded. Not tested to death. Supported.

    I feel very strongly that I don’t want public schools privatized. I think people will regret that. This is a deal-breaker for me. If they continue to advocate for privatization, and continue to alternately bash and abandon public schools, I’m out.

    It’s not like health care. We never had a universal public health care system. If Democrats turn K-12 public education INTO the private health care system (and that’s where we’re headed) that to me is unforgivable. I think it’s an epic mistake, one that we will never be able to fix.

    We only have one public universal system, and it’s public schools. Publicly-funded privatized schools are not the same thing, not any more than a non profit health insurance plan on the exchange is Medicare.

  72. 72
    Baud says:

    @Kay:

    Is there a lot of variation in the quality/integrity of charter schools and/or their reps, or are they pretty much all cut from the same cloth?

  73. 73
    Lurking Canadian says:

    This is why the “private philanthropy can do everything governments used to do, if only we’d cut taxes” bullshit is bullshit. What the fuck does Facebook Zuckerberg know about public schools? Has he ever, in his life, darkened the door of a public school? Does he even *know* anybody who went to a public school? Why does the fact that he made bank selling social media give him any more say over public schooling than any other citizen? It’s ridiculous, but as long as we can’t raise taxes, and “government is the problem”, administrators really don’t have a choice but to keep chasing donations, since that’s the only money they have any hope to get.

  74. 74
    Kay says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    And privatization is the inevitable end-point. What happened in Newark is this: they started a bunch of charter schools and those schools either cherry-picked students or there was a self-selection effect, because they don’t have the same student mix that the public schools do. This had the effect of further weakening already weak public schools, and, incidentally, pushing kids into zones just like the dreaded zip code system does.

    So the proposed fix for that was to regulate after the fact, and force charter schools to take the kids they don’t want; English language learners, disabled. That’s what One Newark is. It’s a plan to distribute kids more evenly between charter schools and public schools. Once charter schools have to take all comers, like public schools do, the score differences will moderate. So why did we privatize the schools, again?

  75. 75
    Kay says:

    @Baud:

    It’s incredibly complex. My overall sense, looking at the schools and the various chains, is that states that have higher per pupil funding get the better quality charters because that’s where they choose to locate. You see this in cities. Newark got some high quality charter chains because NJ funds public schools adequately. Detroit, on the other hand, could not attract high quality charter operators because they only allocate about 7-9 k per pupil in Michigan. Detroit wanted high quality charters. They wouldn’t come, because (I think) they can’t operate on that level of per pupil funding.

    Which is pretty damn ironic, huh? The states that fund public schools better ALSO have better quality charter schools! Maybe it IS about the money after all! Glad we solved that mystery.

    For poor quality charters, it’s Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida and Arizona. Ohio is probably the leader in crappy charter schools, but Michigan is moving up fast.

    The “non profit” designation can be deceptive, too, because they can create a non-profit management org and then outsource everything from lunches to teachers to a for-profit manager.

  76. 76
    Linnaeus says:

    @Kay:

    So why did we privatize the schools, again?

    Because a teacher made more than $30,000 somewhere.

  77. 77
    Kay says:

    @Baud:

    In Ohio, the funding has become an issue because these are two separate school systems, charter and public, so charters have to replicate a “district” management scheme..

    What that has meant in this state is that each public school kid takes a 6.6% hit in per pupil funding to subsidize the charter system. We don’t even have a charter school in my district, and my kid gets 6.6% less state funding because public schools kids have to fund this replication of administrative costs for the charter system.

    In Detroit, the public school kids had to take a 700 dollar hit in per pupil funding to pay debt service on the school system debt. The charter kids didn’t have to pay it. It’s just unfair. They are (supposedly!) part of the public system. The kids should be treated the same as far as funding.

  78. 78
    Baud says:

    @Kay:

    That does seem to be the prevailing theme — that charters can only succeed via-a-vis public schools when they benefit from an unfair playing field.

  79. 79
    Kay says:

    @Linnaeus:

    When I read the One Newark plan I thought “oh, they’re re-regulating the schools and creating a system where they slot kids into schools”

    Much like a….. public school system, perhaps?

    The arrogance gets to me. I think smart people probably tried pretty hard over the last 200 years to come up with a more equitable public school system. The idea that 150 Ivy Leaguers are going to “reimagine” and create “choice” systems that solve all our problems is pretty godamned arrogant. They’ve created a whole set of new problems. Was that unimaginable to them? That “disruption” sometimes has unintended consequences?

    I mean, this is “let’s invade Iraq!” level arrogance. This is “nation building” level hubris. “Common schools” is an old idea and we’ve been working on it for a while now. They came up with a better one at an Aspen conference?

  80. 80
    Linnaeus says:

    @Kay:

    They came up with a better one at an Aspen conference?

    Heh, of course they didn’t, as you know. Perhaps I’m stating the obvious, but there’s a significant ideological component at work here. I don’t doubt that at least some people involved in the “reform” movement (if it can be called that) genuinely want to improve schools. But even the more liberal minded folks have, more or less, embraced neoliberalism* and so want to apply it everywhere. It must work because markets.

    *I know this is a dicey term to use, as it can be defined just about anyway you like, but I think it fits this situation quite well.

  81. 81
    TG Chicago says:

    @Barbara:

    Haven’t read the article but one immediate improvement might be moving some of those clerks and secretaries into classroom aide positions.

    Exactly what I was about to say. Agree 100%. Liberals shouldn’t try to defend superfluous, redundant government jobs. That’s a bad idea on a political level, and it’s not so hot on policy either.

    We should try to find things that actually need to be done and put the jobs there. There are plenty of things that actually need to be done!

    In addition to classroom aides, I think “inner-city” schools could use psychological counselors. Granted, you’d probably have to pay them more than a clerk. But I’d be all for a jobs program that taught people from these neighborhoods how to be good counselors for the kids. I think that could do more to reach the kids than someone who has never been poor swooping in from another part of town (often a white person coming to a nonwhite neighborhood).

    Anyway, regardless of the specifics, we need to be sure that we’re advocating for government jobs that actually provide some direct benefit–not just the economic stimulus. It’s better on every level.

  82. 82
    srv says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    Two billion dollars.

    Y’all are being taken for a ride.

  83. 83
    Roger Moore says:

    @Kay:
    The core issue is poverty, and we aren’t doing enough to deal with it. That still leaves us with crappy schools in poor districts. People who don’t want to confront the poverty head, either because they see it as an impossible problem or because they don’t want to admit that it is the problem, are trying to tinker around the edges in an attempt to fix the schools without fixing the underlying poverty. Naturally, it has also attracted grifters who smell money. The basic problem remains; we’re shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic.

  84. 84
    Kay says:

    @Roger Moore:

    I take testimony from teachers all the time because they’re called in abuse neglect and dependency cases. I was surprised how much they know about these kids. I mean, everything. They know who gets meals at home, they know who has clean clothes that fit, which one has a parent in jail, who is unemployed or a substance abuser and on and on.

    They are the best witnesses, by far, in any hearing as far as fact-finding. It was a real eye-opener for me because my kids go to these same schools and so in addition to whatever their teachers have to deal with as far as teaching them, they have this whole other realm of needs that have to be recognized.

    I sort of knew this, they are, after all, the children of my clients, but I don’t spend 6 hours a day with them and really had no idea how intense and demanding it is to juggle their basic needs and teach them something too.

    This is interesting:

    Here’s a different approach.

    They are told stories of schools that escaped years of dysfunction by becoming “community learning centers,” replete with dental clinics, mental health therapists and mentors from local banks and churches. They hear of sparkling new libraries, over-the-moon teachers and too many volunteers to count.
    Among the many visitors have been several candidates for mayor of New York City, who walked away so impressed that they have made replicating Cincinnati’s model a centerpiece of their campaigns.

    Cincinnati went in a different direction in 2000. When everyone else was slavishly following the “private sector” test and punish model, they started this “community school” idea. They’re now the best of the “Big 8” urban districts in Ohio, 14 years later.

    They had a convention on community schools there about a month ago. Reverend Barber from North Carolina was the speaker. Pittsburgh public school policy people went to look at the model, but none of the big ed reform orgs went. No Gates, no Broad, no Netflix or Facebook founders, no Oprah or Michelle Rhee.

    This is ideological. They are married to the free market model, and they don’t want to hear about any other approaches, even if they work.

  85. 85
    fidelio says:

    @JoyfulA: Dolly Parton agrees, and she doesn’t care what the family income is. Kids need books.

    Every time I hear people talk about books for children, or the advantages of reading to children, I mention her little program.

  86. 86
    I'mNotSureWhoIWantToBeYet says:

    @srv: No offense, but you can’t know that. The schools may be 50 years old and filled with asbestos and not up to earthquake codes and who knows what else.

    *Big Number* doesn’t mean much without context.

    E.g. the OMG! $578M high school!!11 in LA isn’t one school.

    A single new Boeing 787 costs around $200-$300M. Stuff is expensive these days.

    My $0.02.

    Cheers,
    Scott.

  87. 87
    The Moar You Know says:

    Y’all are being taken for a ride.

    @srv: I know. I voted against it.

  88. 88
    Kay says:

    @Roger Moore:

    The language and themes are nonsensical to me. For example. They do this rhetorical thing, it’s always an attack, where they say “the needs” of children must always triumph over “the needs” of adults. Self-interested adults are the problem. That’s just crazy. These aren’t two groups fighting for resources, or a retail outlet where “the customer always comes first”. It’s not two cohorts who are at odds with one another.

    Adults and children both live in communities. More often than not, their “needs” intersect. We’re not sending them off to boarding school. This is where they live. If “the adults” aren’t doing so great, “the children” are not going to do real well either.

    What is the point of making this some kind of battle between two self-interested parties? It doesn’t even make sense in this context. It’s also WILDLY cynical, the idea that “adults” are these greedy creeps who never give a passing thought to children, because they’re always chasing health insurance benefits or something. That’s really cynical. They have this whole raised-eyebrow “are the adults self-interested?” analysis that defies logic to me. I don’t take a neighborhood and divide it into children and adults. How would that even work?

  89. 89
    rikyrah says:

    @Kay:

    Kay,

    you continue to be on point!

  90. 90
    JGabriel says:

    The New Yorker:

    … hordes of consultants sucked down the $100 million that Mark Zuckerberg threw at the Newark Schools …

    And now it’s all gone, gone, gone like cocaine at a Wall Street bachelor party.

  91. 91
    rikyrah says:

    Kay

    I take testimony from teachers all the time because they’re called in abuse neglect and dependency cases. I was surprised how much they know about these kids. I mean, everything. They know who gets meals at home, they know who has clean clothes that fit, which one has a parent in jail, who is unemployed or a substance abuser and on and on.

    My mother was a teacher in an ‘ urban environment’ for 30 years. She was like these teachers. She knew everything about these kids, including the people she could call if you couldn’t get the parents. My mother knew the neighborhood, and wasn’t afraid of it, even though we, her family, were afraid of it.

  92. 92
    rikyrah says:

    @Lurking Canadian:

    thank you Lurking.

    thank you.

  93. 93
    Barry says:

    @Tyro: “To be fair, if all those people and activists were so clever, then the schools wouldn’t be such a disaster area. ”

    Fooking wrong – did you not read all of the comments above yours discussing that little ‘poverty’ thing?

  94. 94
    Barry says:

    @Baud: “Is there a lot of variation in the quality/integrity of charter schools and/or their reps, or are they pretty much all cut from the same cloth? ”

    My apologies if somebody has also covered this, but from what I have read, there’s an amazing amount of really, really bad sh*t going on. The last figure I heard was something like slightly over one-third do worse than public schools, one-third do the same, and about a quarter do better. However there’s no way of differentiating that quarter ahead of time (IOW, you roll the dice and what you get is what you get).

    Some major problems is that education is a cash cow, and a number of companies/venture capitalists are working very hard to suck that money out. Give the fact that *all* contracts will be political, it’s a paradise for crony capitalism and rip-offs. For example, a company got control of the school buildings for 10 years in one district – they could ‘fire’ that company from teaching, but they’d have had to rent the buildings back, at a price named by that company. That company, of course, had connections to politicians.

    And it seems like the GOP is on this even more so than usual, because it offers crony capitalism + destruction of an opposing faction + destruction of a public service + subsidies for religious groups[1]

    Meanwhile the ‘reform’ money has taken over educational research; you either play ball or have no funding.

    [1] Right-wing, ‘Christian’; as we saw in Louisiana, others need not apply.

  95. 95
    Barry says:

    @Kay: “Which is pretty damn ironic, huh? The states that fund public schools better ALSO have better quality charter schools! Maybe it IS about the money after all! Glad we solved that mystery. ”

    Barry’s law of privatization:

    Corrupt, f-cked up governments will do privatization in a corrupt, f-cked up manner. Competent, reasonably honest governments will do privatization in a competent, reasonably honest manner.

    Kay: “but Michigan is moving up fast. ”

    A year ago I heard the term ‘Michissippi’. I expect to hear it a lot more.

  96. 96
    Barry says:

    @Baud: “That does seem to be the prevailing theme — that charters can only succeed via-a-vis public schools when they benefit from an unfair playing field. ”

    I’ve heard this a lot – people implementing charters play every game they can to make sure that the charters get extra subsidies/lower costs.

  97. 97
    Barry says:

    @Linnaeus: “I don’t doubt that at least some people involved in the “reform” movement (if it can be called that) genuinely want to improve schools. ”

    But somehow they generally f-ck it up and put vast sums of money into the pockets of connected private interests and don’t make education better.

    When somebody does that again and again and again, I vote against ‘well-meaning’.

  98. 98
    Kay says:

    @rikyrah:

    Thanks, but to be clear, it isn’t an urban environment.

    That is itself sort of a myth, that the only public school problems are in urban environments. I know you and I have discussed food stamp distribution in rural areas, and how it’s always portrayed as an urban thing when that’s not true at all. There are poor people everywhere. We have 50% free and reduced lunch. Half. The only reason we don’t have charter schools here is population density. There aren’t enough people to have a private school and a public school and a charter school.

  99. 99
    Barry says:

    @Kay: All right-wing propaganda, without exception, is freudian projection – they accuse others of what they do/would do.

    ‘They do this rhetorical thing, it’s always an attack, where they say “the needs” of children must always triumph over “the needs” of adults. ‘

    Means that they want to loot the schools and f_ck the kids.

  100. 100
    Kay says:

    @Baud:

    It’s more than that, deeper than that, though, because what’s the flip side of a universal education system with a special sector that doesn’t take every kid? Charters need a public system, if for nothing else as a back-up. You can’t have “choice” schools without public schools.

    It will be a system. There’s no wishing that away, and pretending everyone just makes their “choice” and it will all magically sort itself out. If they go full privatized, that’s a system. Will it be better than the public school system? I don’t know, but if it’s universal access to public education, it can’t just be ad hoc people making “choices”. There’s a commons aspect to public schools. They can’t just toss off “choice!” and ignore that. It has to be a system, because it has to have a spot for every kid.

  101. 101
    Kay says:

    @Barry:

    I have obviously given this way too much thought, but I think it’s meant to divide, to divide and then isolate.

    The implication is all adults are self-interested except ed reformers, who are pure and noble. I would accept it if they framed it as “public school employees have some self-interest, but so do ed reformers, and thus it’s a battle” but they don’t. They insist they are acting out of pure motives, and anyone who objects is obviously and purely self-interested. That’s just nonsense. Either no one is self-interested at all (not true) or both sides have some elements of self-interest.

  102. 102
    Tyro says:

    @Barry: did you not read all of the comments above yours discussing that little ‘poverty’ thing?

    I’m not even talking about the fact that learning is hard if not impossible when the students live in poverty– what about the fact that they built schools with no classroom walls or doors? or that there are discipline problems that mean classes can’t be kept under control? These are basic functions that “activists” and “involved parents” who are being praised for “standing up to the privatization advocates” should have perhaps given some thought to over the last 30 years.

    Why are people only standing up for their schools now when they’re on the verge of being dismantled rather than when they were declining into the shithole for several decades?

  103. 103
    Someguy says:

    Sometimes when you throw money at a problem, and the problem is a corrupt city, none of the money winds up hitting the problem. You throw enough money at a city like Newark, you’ll find out that corrupt politicians and crooked crony businesses they befriend can catch that shit like they were the love child of Willie Mays and Yasiel Puig.

  104. 104
    Kay says:

    @Tyro:

    Well, they say they were. The guy who won the primary last night against the candidate backed by ed reformers was a high school principal. He’s also a decades-long anti-violence activist. He works with people to help them rid their neighborhoods of gang members. In his speeches he calls gang members “psychopaths”. I’m not sure the public school advocates are drum circle hippies. They’ve been at this a while.

    In the magazine piece mistermix linked to, there’s an anecdote about a public school that was forced to share space with a charter school. The public school had been complaining for years that they couldn’t get any action on making the outdoor areas safe for kids. It’s a bad neighborhood. The charter school moves in, and the principal of that charter school calls Corey Booker (then the mayor) and tells him she needs a police presence because her “scholars” will be walking thru this dangerous situation. She gets immediate action.

    So I’m not sure it’s fair to say they did nothing, or make that assumption. The prestigious people will only help with the plans they support. Public schools are not an entity they support.

  105. 105
    Kay says:

    @Someguy:

    This was Facebooks one and only foray into ed reform. Now they back immigration reform and climate change action.

    I wonder if that change of heart has anything to do with this:

    Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, whom he met at Harvard, embarked on education philanthropy as a couple, but they brought different perspectives. Chan grew up in what she has described as a disadvantaged family in Quincy, Massachusetts. Her Chinese-Vietnamese immigrant parents worked eighteen hours a day, and her grandparents took care of her. Chan was the first in her immediate family to go to college, and credited public-school teachers with encouraging her to reach for Harvard. While there, she volunteered five days a week at two housing projects in Dorchester, helping children with academic and social challenges. She had since become a pediatrician, caring for underserved children.
    She came to see their challenges at school as inseparable from their experience with poverty, difficulties at home, and related health issues, both physical and emotional.

    That isn’t the ed reform theory. They think one can separate school from home and community life. She apparently doesn’t believe that.

  106. 106
    rikyrah says:

    @Kay:

    Oh, you don’t have to tell me about poverty being everywhere. I know that. I think you know that I think of charter schools :

    IT’S ALL A FUCKING SCAM

    An absolute scam.

    I thank God that the teacher’s unions were as strong as they were, or the vultures would have long taken over.

    But, it’s been long enough for the cracks to be obvious. That they’re selling bullshyt.

    I know that you said your son lives in Chicago, and I’m telling you this is part of what stokes the opposition to Rahm.

    How you gonna close 55 schools in the Black community and then turn around to give money to charters?

    How you gonna plan for a Barack Obama Selective High School THAT ISN’T EVEN LOCATED IN THE BLACK COMMUNITY?

    Folks are seething, and now, the ‘ little people’ see, more and more, what was obvious from the get go – that charters are a crock of shyt and that they don’t have to take it.

    They thought the poor Black folk would be easy to steamroll, but now that these folks are gathering up serious resistance, because the RESULTS ARE NOT AND HAVE NEVER BEEN THERE, they’re out of the excuses.

    Folks aren’t taking it.

    So, they’re trying to expand into suburbia, but I just don’t think it’s gonna work for them. Won’t be able to steamroll people who moved where they did BECAUSE the public schools were good.

    I spent 4 years in the public school system. I wasn’t a teacher, but I was on the ground, in an ‘ urban community’.

    1. Those teachers shouldn’t be getting ‘ merit pay.’ They should be getting ‘ combat pay.’
    2. There is NO WAY to separate the school from the community surrounding it. Period.

  107. 107
    Kay says:

    @rikyrah:

    I’m addicted to it because it has everything: billionaires, labor, seemingly thousands of lobbyists, a whole section of the internet composed of furious teacher-bloggers…it’s just the most fascinating fight.

    This is the newest part- stodgy and calcified teachers unions getting taken over by social justice unionists. That started in Chicago and now it’s spreading to LA and Boston:

    On April 29, social studies teacher and longtime union activist Alex Caputo-Pearl was elected as president of UTLA following a run-off with incumbent Warren Fletcher.
    Caputo-Pearl is a member of Union Power, a reform caucus that, a month before Caputo-Pearl’s victory, took over leadership of UTLA. Union activists see the election of the United Power caucus as a step forward in the fight against business-led, top-down education reform and resource cuts that have beset Los Angeles in recent years.
    Caputo-Pearl, a longtime activist, has said he opposes pegging teacher evaluation to student test scores, expanding charter schools and other school-reform measures popular among city officials. A 20-year veteran of some of the highest-poverty schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District, Caputo-Pearl started his teaching career with the first round of Teach for America recruits. He is the union chapter chair for Frida Kahlo High School and serves on the Board of Directors for the union’s House of Representatives. He survived several targeted attempts to remove him from both posts after he fought the district’s plan to break his high school into three smaller schools as part of the nationwide “reconstitution” strategy pioneered by Arne Duncan.
    Throughout their campaign, United Power also placed an emphasis on Caputo-Pearl’s community-organizing chops, which they argued would be useful for the broader coalition the reform caucus hoped to build.

    It sort of makes sense to me on some level that it centers around public schools. It seems like that’s the most natural place for the anti-privatization movement to coalesce around, because that’s the only universal public entity we have. Anyway! I think it eventually spills over into mainstream D and R politics because it’s almost too big and intense at this point to remain cordoned off under “education”.

  108. 108
    Linnaeus says:

    @Barry:

    I was, perhaps, being overly generous in an attempt not to use too broad a brush. But the longer this goes on, the more I doubt it myself.

  109. 109
    John says:

    @Lurking Canadian: Zuckerberg graduated from Phillips Exeter, but he apparently went to a public high school in Westchester County in 9th & 10th grades, and presumably to public school before that.

  110. 110
    RubberCrutch says:

    MM: thank you for saying “rich in stupidity” instead of “rich in stupid”!

  111. 111
    Plantsmantx says:

    @Egypt Steve:
    Let’s not forget that Booker was basically given a company.

  112. 112
    jcgrim says:

    @Baud:
    Here’s all you need to know about Corey Booker

    http://blackagendareport.com/c.....-newark-nj

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