Saturday, September 17, 2005
You Make The Call...
Per the below, that's just one take and there is no revealed truth in this business. So, what do you think the Ds should do (policy)/say (politics) about this? Reader JJ suggests a "You Be The Strategist" contest for the best advice about how the Ds should respond. Great idea! Send suggestions and ideas to this email. Please note, unless you specify otherwise your name may be used when entries are posted later in the week.
A few more thoughts on the Bush hurricane voucher proposal. Upon more reflection not sure Ds are in a noose they can't slip or that there is not a middle ground here.
Most people would agree that the primary goal here should be minimizing additional disruption for impacted kids and getting them in school as soon as possible, no? That ought to be the basic principle here which means that concerns that normally bear on a policy change like this can be suspended. In other words, if helping these kids immediately involves non-public schools in the short run, it's not that big a deal if the Democrats don't make it one. It's an extraordinary situation and Zelman does apply in terms of the constitutional question. However, such a program should be neither long nor large and should be well targeted. Like John Roberts, it should stress modesty.
And, as more details become clear (though limiting it to one year is a step in the right direction) in the actual legislation, that seems like a reasonable benchmark to ascertain if the administration is serious about helping these kids and not playing politics on school vouchers. If compassionate, any initiative will be modest, targeted, and temporary. If conservative, it will try to establish some sort of beachhead for school vouchers and that qualifies as using this disaster to advance their agenda. Fortunately, there is a wide gulf in policy between a genuine relief effort and a political gambit, let's see if the administration respects it.
A modest and brief program here should set no precedent because the imperatives of public policy (school finance, accountability, etc...) in the wake of an emergency are markedly different than how a broader policy should be designed. By making that point now rather than turning this into a fight over vouchers Ds can sidestep the precedent trap later. If, however, the administration is up to some political mischief here, D's better get out in front and explain to the public why. Otherwise this has that '02 Homeland Security vibe...
It would be more encouraging, however, if the administration either had more specifics or any sort of analysis in terms of how many displaced kids are using or are likely to use non-public schools in the short run. For instance, how did they arrive at this $488 million figure beyond some rough guess based on the number of LA kids who were in private schools (a higher percent than the national average it should be noted) prior to the storm? Right now they do sort of give off the sense that they came up with their preferred solution before they figured out and worked the problem...and the salivating and "national experiment" talk from spokespeople for the Catholic schools doesn't inspire confidence either...
Worth noting two things. First, most kids will be in public schools so flexibility on funds is going to be important there, the admin has proposals on that and, second, the Senate HELP Committee has put together a sensible bill on K-12 and higher-ed that touches a lot of important bases of relief. Can't find a link online though, sorry.
Didn't get a lot play in the speech but yesterday's rumor is true. From the WH:
To ensure that displaced families have maximum flexibility to meet the education needs of their children, the President's proposal would provide compensation to displaced families for enrollment in private, including parochial, schools.
Clever. Going to be awkward for D's to argue against this but the future line of argument/trap is obvious: Why should only kids displaced by hurricanes get this...More later.
Update: Helpful reader TP sends along Senator Kennedy's response emailed to reporters today:
"I applaud the President for his announcement of federal funds to serve the educational needs of the children displaced by hurricane Katrina. But I am extremely disappointed that he has proposed providing this relief using such a politically-charged approach. This is not the time for a partisan political debate on vouchers. We need to focus on getting these kids into the classroom as quickly as possible, and the public school safety net has responded. But equally important, we need to focus on rebuilding the public school systems which are the cornerstones of the Gulf Coast communities and economies. I have been working on a bipartisan package that will get assistance to these families as quickly as possible. These families need real relief, not ideological battles that threaten to slow down their recovery."
Talk about cross-presssured, the Ds are in a vice. But, seems like someone should call Lakoff! If the Bushies succeed in framing this their way Ds have a problem because they'll be seen as obstructing the aid. But, if the Ds can frame it as experimenting on an already traumatized population and politicizing the relief effort (per Kennedy above), they win. That's the politics.
On the policy, the normal voucher arguments don't really apply because this is an exceptional situation more akin to IDEA's provisions for private placement in extraordinary circumstances than basic questions of choice policy. But it does seem like administrating this will be a challenge (and how long will the program last?). Any guesses on how many kids are going to go to non-public schools? In any event, after the last few weeks Eduwonk's confidence in the government's ability to pull this off in an organized manner is pretty shaky...And of course, is this a bone to the right or a real proposal anyway?
Another illustration of the utility of blogs...gotta give the UFT credit, they do tolerate some dissent on EdWize...they can't be too pleased with NY Daily News' front page splash about it though...Headline: Teacher's Web Rage. A taste:
Outraged over proposed contract givebacks, city teachers unleashed their fury yesterday - attacking their own labor boss, Randi Weingarten, and Mayor Bloomberg.
"We were screwed," an instructor wrote on Edwize.org, a teachers union Web site.
"Atrocious," another fumed.
"Makes me think of what kind of lawyer Randi was ...We start with givebacks and we are OK with this!!!" another ranted. "I am saddened by my union."
Here is the post that started it all. Just doesn't seem like it's all about the kids...
In Gadfly NCATE's Wise responds to this Fordham pub.
Partnership for Public Service's new Best Places To Work in the federal government rankings are out...Department of Ed, third from the bottom...out of 30...
Couple of notes from readers about recent happenings. From the DC side a dismayed reader writes plaintively...
Am I the only one who thinks that there are some people within the education community and the Bush Administration out there who are trying to take advantage of Katrina?
Meanwhile, a political type in NYC writes about this to say:
The thing that is so enraging is your original point: we were just starting to get our elected Dems feeling comfortable about looking at school governance issues from the perspective of kids and ready to tackle the more difficult issues. Now it feels like we are going back to step one. If I’m a politician, any ideas I had about speaking up are now erased – for good reason. This is too bad for Moskowitz, but I’m even sadder for the rest of us who are trying to move the ball up the field a little bit.
The only bright side right now is the fact-finding report pretty much validated what people like Moskowitz and Klein have said all along about the impact of the contract on quality public schooling. The panel treated it like the obvious no-brainer that it is.
There is a rumor floating around that the education ideas in this op-ed might be what Eduwonk's more literary friends would call foreshadowing...in this case of elements of the President's speech tonight...could just be paranoia, could be a clever gambit by the President...making Democrats oppose vouchers for displaced kids seems like just the sort of jam Karl Rove gets paid the big bucks to put Democrats in...
Edison’s Chris Whittle turns in an op-ed based on his new book in today’s Washington Post and there is already some early swooning. Whittle is extremely bright and fascinating to watch. Nonetheless, this piece, while interesting, disappoints because, apologies to the choice crowd, it implicitly shows a fundamental conundrum of the education marketplace – politics. Whittle argues that a redesign of American schools could free up resources to pay fewer teachers a lot more. Theoretically, sure. But, he refuses to take on an obvious culprit that would allow school districts to move in that direction now, even in the absence of a radical whiteboard redesign: The single-salary scale that basically precludes districts from rewarding teachers for taking on especially challenging assignments, having special skills or knowledge, or exceptional performance. Isn’t Edison a private company now…why pull punches?
Sure, a triple-7 style project would be interesting (though that is in fact what Edison set out to do more than a decade ago) but in the meantime more flexibility now would allow for incremental progress because as Whittle points out there is the potential for some natural dynamism in the labor market now simply because of attrition from various causes.
Of course, raising questions about the steps-and-lanes system is a ferocious attack on teachers so we can’t do that! (Incidentally, one reader writes to ask why you can criticize American policy in Iraq and still support the troops but not raise questions about these contracts without being a teacher basher? Good question...)
Update: Jenny D. on the book seems a little harsh...
Using Good Judgment...And Irony In NYC...Updated: Eva Moskowitz's Atrocities Toward Teachers!!!
If you want a quick lesson in why it's so hard to get a lot of pols to do the right thing on education policy, New York is a good place to look.
Eva Moskowitz, chair of the city council's education committee was running for Manhattan Borough president. Moskowitz has been a favorite target of the UFT since she first ran for council. In her first race they endorsed a former Gulliani fundraiser who had sworn off vouchers in order to get the endorsement over life-long Democrat and educator Moskowitz because she supported charter schools...
Things never really got better. Most recently, Moskowitz held hearings on the various collective bargaining contracts that govern large swaths of operations in the city's schools. This is generally considered an off-limits issue despite the enormous impact these arrangements have on the day-to-day operations of schools and the general consensus that there are some problems that need to be addressed. Says the UFT's house organ:
Weingarten was referring to Moskowitz, who alone of all the candidates is said to take a hostile view of city unions, including the UFT. Weingarten charged the outgoing East Side councilwoman “showed poor judgment” in sponsoring and conducting four days of hearings solely on how union contracts affect schools, where her intent was to excoriate union workers, disparage teachers and publicly denounce the UFT for its positions on protecting teachers’ rights and winning a new, fair contract.
“She’s played a pivotal role in derailing the first set of negotiations with the mayor,” Weingarten said. “She’s one reason we still don’t have a contract. We can’t forget that.”
EduTranslation: When Bloomberg was getting nervous she went public and prevented a sell-out.
(See also this biting dissent).
"Showed poor judgment", however, is a phrase that needs no translation it's a barely disguised threat to other pols...Dirty campaigning at the finish line helped do in Moskowitz (see this, this, and this) in her bid for Manhattan Borough President -- she was facing term limits on the city council in her next term. Smart money in New York sees the hand of the UFT in the new attacks on her as a friend of sweatshops (never mind that she twice voted against the anti-sweatshop measure she was accused of supporting).
Yet the irony is that as the NYT reports this morning, the ice is thawing on the contract anyway (although this ICE is not happy about it). Hard to imagine that things would have reached this point, at least this quickly, without the public clarion call from Moskowitz (worth noting the UFT is now also opening charter schools...). Unfortunately, she lost in the primary yesterday but, still, reform here does seem an almost irresistible force. The UFT can continue to play political whack-a-mole with independent minded Democratic politicians but that game is term limited, too, in New York and elsewhere.
The question is, how many promising Democratic politicians will the teachers' unions derail in the process?
Update: NY Sun says Moskowitz should have supported vouchers, policy aside, it seems unclear how this would have helped given the political dynamics? Leo Casey also responds here rewriting the history of her first race and the substance of the recent election complaints (though knowledgeable folks in NYC say this stuff is pretty standard practice). Regardless, this line says it all:
...the UFT opposed Moskowitz because of her attacks on NYC teachers — her efforts to sabotage a contract settlement is simply one among many exhibits in a rather substantial record in that regard. That is one of the reasons why teachers have a union.
When criticizing the contract is considered akin to attacking teachers, little can get done. It's not teacher bashing to point out that various seniority and excess provisions simply are not good for poor kids (never mind issues like differentiated pay etc...).
Update II: Several readers write with more examples of Moskowitz’s attacks on teachers. For those who can bear it, here are a few of the horrible examples: She sought to raise salaries, improve working conditions, waive the $120 fee new teachers pay for background checks, and she held hearings on why teachers leave teaching highlighting the lack of support they often receive in the system….my God…she’s a monster!!!
Per this contest, Leo Casey of the UFT sends along the following two questions and offers up a vintage 2000 Gore for President button (the year he won) to the winner. Email answers here:
Can you name the anti-union, former Senatorial candidate and ex-Socialist who passed through the AFT on her way from the left to the far right?
Can you name the Deputy Mayor with responsibility for education under Giuliani who was a member of the Progressive Labor Party, a hyper-Stalinist sect which makes a living out of defending Stalin and castigating Mao for being insufficiently radical?
Gotta get 'em both right to win...
Update: You need a fast gun in this corral, NY Daily News' Joe Williams wins in 41 minutes. It's Linda Chavez and Ninfa Segarra respectively.
U.S. News' Ewers takes a look at the AP debate. Eduwonk Flashback here. Good Noam Scheiber column from TNR ($) talking about poverty:
It turns out that poverty, like disaster relief, is one of those problems that demands pragmatism and technical competence rather than ideology. In the 1990s, technocrats in the Clinton administration ramped up initiatives like Hope VI and Section 8 housing vouchers--two highly effective programs for integrating the poor into mixed-income neighborhoods. Technocrats outside the administration have led the way since then. In Washington, for example, two former management consultants recently founded a publicly funded boarding school called SEED, which imparts life skills and career expectations every bit as much as it tends to the economic privation of its poor, urban students. SEED graduates attend college at remarkably high rates. Both programs reflect the spirit of nonideological problem-solving that has been out of fashion amid the hyper-partisanship of the Bush era. Now that Katrina has revived our interest in poverty, it'd be a shame if she didn't revive that spirit, too.
Look for more of this, no one expected $3 gallon...
It appears Julie at SOB is becoming radicalized...there was this...and now this...a burgeoning bomb thrower? Not surprising, happens to a lot of folks, but it does make the blog interesting to read...
OK, it's not as interesting as wondering when the NSBA powers-that-be will let independent minded Tom Hutton take off his hair shirt, but here's a fun parlor game nonetheless:
There is a new book out by an early TFA alum, Ed Week here, Teacher Magazine here. It's just one account but a reliable edubookie puts the over-under at 9 days from today before one of the usual suspects puts it out as an indictment of TFA overall. But it would be illegal to take bets on that.
So, instead, the reader who correctly predicts (closest) the time and date on the first e-newsletter, news blast, etc...that uses the book to indict TFA wins a personalized signed copy of this book or this one, winners choice. Email entries here and send possible indictments to the same.
If you're really into mathematics then the Fall issue of American Educator is for you...two interesting articles on math instruction and some other resources. While you're there, don't miss Ed Week's Keller (reprint from earlier this year) on AFT's Africa AIDS initiative and also GWU's James Horton on the American Landmarks series.
Meanwhile, over at Fordham, they're coming around again on the "disposition" issue in the NCATE standards (pdf). Worth reading if you follow the various preparation debates.
A free (cold) beer to the first reader who can correctly name a person who has worked at both Fordham and the AFT (current/former Fordham and AFT staffers ineligible, sorry). Email answers here.
Update: We have a winner, US News' Wildavsky, please stop sending entries (even the random, albeit funny ones), it's Matt Gandal, now #2 at Achieve.
Update II: Brown/Annenberg's Bob Rothman wins a bonus beer for this tidbit:
...did you know that Checker was once a member of the AFT? He had a kind of adjunct membership while he was assistant secretary. I don’t know if the union still offers that kind of membership.
Correction: Fordham's Prince Petrilli writes to note an important correction (though prize winners still get their beers):
...technically the answer is incorrect: Matt Gandal DID work for Checker, but before Fordham was launched. But there WAS someone who worked at both Fordham and AFT—our recently departed research assistant Michael Connolly, who is now at NYU Law.