Alternet blogger Paul Buchheit’s July 5 post reviewed several studies done by both pro-charter and pro-public education that all come to the same conclusion: charter schools are no better than public schools and far worse when it comes to financial accountability. In successive sections of the post he offers specific findings from several studies, the lack of public accountability for spending, examples of fraudulent spending buy charters, and evidence that public schools are improving, contrary to the “failing schools” meme promoted by conservative politicians and “reformers” who want to monetize public education.
Buchheit has written about this before… as has Diane Ravitch and countless other bloggers, including me. I thought of skipping over Buchheit’s recent post for that reason. But recent conversations with those who are NOT familiar with the privatization movement make me realize that bloggers need to tell this story over and over to as many people as possible in order to offset the “true believers” in the media who want the wishful fantasy of the free market politicians to be true. They want to believe that “throwing money” at schools is unnecessary, despite the fact that the best funded schools perform and despite the lack of evidence that schools can be made more successful if they are subjected to the magic of the marketplace. As Buchheit notes in his conclusion:
But the education reformers, who have a lot of money but little knowledge of the real world of education, don’t want to provide that funding. They frighten America with words from people like Rupert Murdoch: “The failure rates of our public schools represent a tragic waste of human capital that is making America less competitive.”
A better reason for fright is the rapid progress made by the charter school reformers. They want our children to be their human capital.
Over the past several years, I’ve read article after article on the impact that pension costs are having on local budgets and in many cases (e.g. Scott Walker and Chris Christie) politicians have pointed the figure at union contracts as the problem. Today’s NYTimes features an article on the Chicago pension program that illustrates the point indirectly, with Rahm Emmanuel bemoaning the fact that in order to keep the pledge to pay teachers’ pensions he will need to cut teachers. He’s at this point only because he lost a court appeal to renege on the payment altogether, a ploy that was successful in many states where the constitution did not explicitly require negotiated agreements to be met.
The problem with pensions is not the union’s doing: it is the fault of “management” (e.g. mayors and state legislators) who agreed to the pensions in lieu of higher wages and more benefits on the premise that rosy revenue projections would enable them to pay the costs for these agreements some time in the indefinite future. Now that private corporations have shed the defined benefit pensions they routinely offered employees public sector, public sector “management” finds itself in a predicament: they cannot shed these agreements as easily as their counterparts in business and so they have fueled the resentment of taxpaying voters, their “shareholders” to make their willingness to break a bargain palatable.
Today’s editorial in the NYTimes describes Mayor de Blasio’s “surprise attack on Governor Andrew Cuomo, whom the Times editorial describe a politician who poses “…as liberal and reform-minded when it suits him”. de Blasio (and the Times editorial board) was upset with Cuomo’s unwillingness to enact any legislation that would help him improve the quality of life in NYC. Because of the legislative arrangement in NYS, the Governor has an inordinate amount of power over the mayor in the city and that dynamic invariably results in tension. But the philosophical rift between the idealistic progressivism of de Blasio and the pragmatic neo-liberalism of Cuomo make the tension greater than it has been for decades, and according to the editorial board, needlessly so. Many political insiders question de Blasio’s wisdom in attacking the governor, who has a track record of vindictiveness. The editorial concludes with these paragraphs:
Mr. de Blasio’s many critics say he was foolish to go on the attack and are waiting for Mr. Cuomo to bury the hatchet, in Mr. de Blasio.
But really — what should he have done?
State law gives the Legislature and governor far too much control over New York City’s business, and whenever the mayor — any mayor — takes his petitions to Albany, he has to beg, wheedle, cajole and bargain.
For a year and a half, Mr. de Blasio — maybe naïvely, maybe cunningly, maybe because he had no other choice — played nice with Mr. Cuomo, stressing their decades-long acquaintance and going out of his way not to pick fights. Sometimes it worked, as when the mayor won funding for a huge expansion of prekindergarten. Sometimes it didn’t. He was never going to eliminate longstanding mayor-governor tensions. But he has seemed to be making an effort to get past the nonsense, with a steadfast focus on policy over personality and power plays.
Some are now wondering whether Mr. de Blasio’s stand-up-to-the-bully tack will backfire. If it does, it will make clearer than ever who the bully is.
In reading this, the highlighted phrases jumped out at me because they reflect the difference between Mr. de Blasio’s approach and that of President Obama, whose executive authority has been similarly challenged by recalcitrant and bullying legislature. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
One more news item I’m eager to read about on the editorial page: the conclusion that Mr. Cuomo’s bullying extends to public schools and his desire to undercut public education is a power play as blatant as the one he is taking against the city.