Monday, April 13, 2009

Jerks convention at Morning Joe

"Freeing teachers" from their collective bargaining rights...

It was D.C. Mayor Fenty exchanging banter and giggles with education "reformers" Joe Scarborough and Pat Buchanan .

Scarborough: "Is Congress standing in the way of some reform by getting in the way of charter schools?
Fenty: "Not yet...What we're hoping is that they will...incentivize public schools to do what charter schools have done. That is, to use privatization more. To free teachers from the burden of contracts."
Buchanan: "What you're saying in effect, we've got to bust the union."
Fenty: "You've got to do things differently."
Buchanan (laughing): "But why not be honest about it and just say, you can't have a union any more?"


  1. Fenty claims that Duncan and Obama support his polices. But Duncan cut out funding for D.C. voucher system which Fenty and Rhee supported. No?

  2. If I hear "incentivize" again I'm gonna go ballistic. Hear me, Fenty?

  3. In response to Octavia, No. Duncan didn't cut funding. It was Congress that voted not to fund the DC voucher program unless reauthorized by Congress.

  4. Interesting point Anon. But check out the response of the right-wing Cato Institute. They are attacking Duncan for being anti-voucher and calling for his resignation.

  5. Pat Buchannan is right, and right, BUT EVEN HE IS TO THE LEFT OF MICHELLE RHEE.

    I am a veteran teacher in Houston seeking a dialogue with Teach for America teachers nationally regarding policy positions taken by former Teach for American staffers who have become leaders in school district administrations and on school boards. I first became aware of a pattern when an ex-TFA staffer, now a school board member for Houston ISD, recommended improving student performance by firing teachers whose students did poorly on standardized tests. Then the same board member led opposition to allowing us to select, by majority vote, a single union to represent us.

    Having won school board elections in several cities, and securing the Washington D.C Superintendent's job for Michelle Rhee, Wendy Kopp's friends are pursuing an approach to school reform based on a false premise: that teachers, not student habits, nor lack of parent commitment or social inequality, is the main cause of sub-par academic performance. The TFA reform agenda appeals to big corporations who see our public institutions as inefficient leeches. This keeps big money flowing into TFA coffers.

    The corporate-TFA nexus began when Union Carbide initially sponsored Wendy Kopp's efforts to create Teach for America. A few years before, Union Carbide's negligence had caused the worst industrial accident in history, in Bhopal, India. The number of casualties was as large as 100,000, and Union Carbide did everything possible to minimize its responsibility at the time it embraced Ms. Kopp. TFA recently started Teach for India. Are Teach for India enrollees aware of the TFA/Union Carbide connection?

    When TFA encountered a financial crisis, Ms. Kopp nearly went to work for the Edison Project, and was all but saved by their managerial assistance. The Edison Project sought to replace public schools with for-profit corporate schools funded by our tax money. Ms. Kopp's husband, Richard Barth, was an Edison executive before taking over as CEO of KIPP's national foundation, where he has sought to decertify its New York City unions.

    In 2000, two brilliant TFA alumni, the founders of KIPP Academy, joined the Bush's at the Republican National Convention in 2000. This was pivotal cover for Bush, since as Governor he had no genuine educational achievements, and he needed the education issue to campaign as a moderate and reach out to the female vote. KIPP charter schools provide a quality education, but they start with families committed to education. They claim to be improving public schools by offering competition in the education market-place, but they take the best and leave the rest.

    D.C. Superintendent Michelle Rhee's school reform recipe includes three ingredients: close schools rather than improve them; fire teachers rather than inspire them; and sprinkle on a lot of hype. On the cover of Time, she sternly gripped a broom, which she presumably was using to sweep away the trash, which presumably represented my urban teacher colleagues. The image insulted people who take the toughest jobs in education.

    TFA teachers do great work, but when TFA's leadership argue that schools, and not inequality and bad habits, are the cause of the achievement gap, they are not only wrong, they feed the forces that prevent the social change we need to grow and sustain our middle class.. Our society has failed schools by permitting the middle class to shrink. It's not the other way around. Economic inequality and insecurity produces ineffective public schools. It's not the other way around.

    Ms. Kopp claims TFA carries the civil rights torch for today, but Martin Luther King was the voice of unions on strike, not the other way around. His last book, Where do we go from here?, argued for some measure of wealth distribution, because opportunity would never be enough in a survival of the fittest society to allow most of the under-privileged to enter the middle class.
    Your hard work as a TFA teacher gives TFA executives credibility. It's not the other way around. Your hard work every day in the classrooms gives them the platform to espouse their peculiar one-sided prescriptions for school improvement. I would like a dialogue about what I have written here with TFA teachers. My e-mail is


Agree? Disagree? Let me hear from you.