Friday, August 01, 2014

Brown is the New Rhee

 Update:  Washington Post's guest post refuting claims Brown made to Stephen Colbert on his show.  Pretty interesting stuff.

Move over, Michelle Rhee - here comes Campbell Brown.

Did you hear about this?

Rhee's star is waning. Her StudentsFirst group has closed up shop in about five states and the billion dollars she was hoping to raise didn't materialize.

Well, nature abhors a vacuum and so we have former CNN anchor, Campbell Brown. This newest ed reformer on the block is going after the teachers union and, in specific, teacher tenure.  (But like the star-crossed coupling of Wendy Kopp of TFA married to Richard Barth of KIPP, Brown is married to Dan Senor who is on the board of the NY state StudentsFirst.)

Let's pause here for a moment and all say together:

Tenure for public school teachers is NOT the tenure of university professors. Teacher tenure basically guarantees due process for teachers so that they cannot be stripped of their jobs for things like teaching evolution, being homosexual, etc.

I think all of us would say it's a fair thing to have due process for any kind of job. Does that always happen?  No.  Do I think the disagreement is over seniority being the deciding factor in teacher retention should be up for debate? I do.

Against this backdrop, you may remember the Vergera case in California that overturned the use of teacher "tenure."

It was brought by some California public school students who said they had received a poor education because of bad teachers. Students Matter is a California group that helped find and fund this effort.
Students Matter is a national non-profit organization dedicated to sponsoring impact litigation to promote access to quality public education. - See more at: http://studentsmatter.org/#sthash.OZNSfRS6.dpuf

Students Matter is a national non-profit organization dedicated to sponsoring impact litigation to promote access to quality public education.
 From Salon:


A UCLA law professor who recently reflected on that decision noted, “My prediction is that [the decision] will not stand up on appeal because [the judge] never adequately shows that it is teacher job security that is responsible for the poor quality of some schools in California … It is easy to scapegoat teachers for the problems in schools. But it misdirects attention. California is one of the worst states in the country in student-faculty ratios. Estimates vary, but it is in the bottom half of all states in per pupil spending. Directing attention here would be far more important to improving education than eliminating job protections for teachers.”

I'll pause here to point out that Missisippi has no teachers unions so no teacher tenure.  It also is last in the country for academic performance.  From Diane Ravitch's blog:

I don’t think that unions or tenure necessarily lead to high performance, but there’s no evidence that getting rid of them is a recipe for success.

Brown, for whatever reason, has decided this will be her signature cause. She has formed a group, the Partnership for Educational Justice, to help file lawsuits across the country to overturn teacher tenure and work for school choice and ed reform. She found a law firm (Kirkland, Ellis)  that is going to do this work pro bono.  The lawyer on the board of her new group also fought the parent trigger case in California (guess which side he argued?).

Interestingly, she has another group, the Parents' Transparency Project. 

The Parents´ Transparency Project is a watchdog group whose mission is to expose deals that put special-interest groups ahead of NYC students.

Last night, Brown appeared on The Colbert Report.

Brown's  long, strange trip to finally appearing on the show is documented here at Storify with tweets and video.  What's fascinating is that Brown's group seems to have appropriated a line used by...one of the teachers unions.  The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) has a line, "Reclaiming the Promise (of public education) and that line is also at the website for Brown's group.  AFT has been using it a lot longer.

As usual, Stephen was very funny and very pointed. He noted that it didn't happen often but there were indeed protestors outside of their studio. She said they were trying to "silence the debate." When Stephen pointed out that they were using their First Amendment rights, she just shrugged.

She did pull out - what Colbert called "the good for child card" (which in Seattle Schools is "it's for the kids") - and said the focus has to be on kids.   Well, who can argue against that?

Jersey Jazzman, a noted (and hilarious) public education blogger had this to say on this question:

The phony juxtaposition of the interests of teachers and students is probably the most specious part of the anti-tenure/anti-seniority argument. Yes, tenure is good for teachers - but it doesn't follow that, a priori, tenure is bad for students.

Brown, on the other hand, says that if you get rid of teacher tenure, well, everybody has a right to due process so no need for teacher tenure.  It does not seem to occur to her that just because something seems "right" that it it will follow that employers will always do the right thing.

The biggest issue around Brown is her out and out refusal to name her funders.  She went back and forth about five times on funding with Colbert and finally said this:

"Part of the reason is people like those outside today, trying to protest and silence our parents who want to have a voice in this debate but they are also going to go after people who are funding this.  If someone wants to contribute to the cause without having to put their name on it so they don't become a target of the people outside earlier today, then I respect that."

She said that to dead silence.  Colbert seemed a bit taken aback.

Of course, people have a right to donate anonymously but when you are taking on a public group like teachers and calling protests "attempts to silence" discussion, you have to think that people are going to wonder who's behind it.

Salon has a whole article on the Rhee versus Brown story.  Rhee does not command the dollars she used to and, for example, in Alabama where her group, StudentsFirst says they have 17,000 members, just 20 showed up for a rally.

On the other hand, what StudentsFirst seems to excel at is funneling campaign contributions from its undisclosed financial backers to lobbying efforts and politicians, who are mostly Republican and mostly incumbents. So much for being a “change agent.”

With Rhee and StudentsFirst sinking under the weight of over-promises, under-performance, and unproven practices, the Blame Teachers First crowd is now eagerly promoting Campbell Brown.

As a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, the organizations promoting “Blame Teachers First” may keep their donors’ identities secret and spend money in electoral campaigns, so long as political activity doesn’t consume the majority of their time and money.

An advocate of transparency and full disclosure as a journalist, Brown won’t say who is backing her nonprofit organization.”

Brown used to have as her tagline at CNN, "No bias, no bull."  Guess those days are over.
As I've written before: the phony juxtaposition of the interests of teachers and students is probably the most specious part of the anti-tenure/anti-seniority argument. Yes, tenure is good for teachers -- but it doesn't follow that, a priori, tenure is bad for students. - See more at: http://jerseyjazzman.blogspot.com/2014/07/what-exactly-does-campbell-brown-want.html#sthash.JHwRnRoO.dpuf
As I've written before: the phony juxtaposition of the interests of teachers and students is probably the most specious part of the anti-tenure/anti-seniority argument. Yes, tenure is good for teachers -- but it doesn't follow that, a priori, tenure is bad for students. - See more at: http://jerseyjazzman.blogspot.com/2014/07/what-exactly-does-campbell-brown-want.html#sthash.JHwRnRoO.dpuf

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Colbert had marvelously sophisticated responses to her baloney. I don't know that a lot of educators caught how his points were really on our side.

Guide For Response to Campbell:

I.) If you want to fit in with the in crowd of the Ross Hunters, Rueven Carlyles, Ed Murrays, Frank Chopps, David Frockts, Tim Burgesses, ... - the kind of pols who are always reaching across the aisle to make sure Tim Eyman and Rodney Tom have the state in a straight jacket, If you want to fit in with Washington Education Association "leaders", you need to comment using really big words and really complicated sentences, stating how Campbell is possibly obfuscating and is somewhat disingenuous, maybe.

II.) if you don't mind being shunned by this "leader" class, note how Campbell's stuff is just a bunch of slicker than snot lies that work too well - and if you really don't care what this class of "leaders" think, point out that these slicker than snot lies work so well in large part because Campbell's opponents are political naifs ... or on the

WrongSide

Anonymous said...

A bit more about Brown's husband: He was chief spokesperson for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq and senior foreign policy adviser to U.S. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney during the 2012 election campaign.

Her spouse worked under Rumsfeld at the Pentagon during the ill-fated invasion of Iraq, built upon the Project for the New American Century, Achmed Chalibi and a secret informant known as - if you can believe it - "curveball." Shallow intellects are their trademark.

Politics aside, deception runs deep into the blood of so-called "reformers" as it did with pro-Iraq War supporters. It's their signature.

Without re-litigating all of that, however, Brown came off like the simple, ignorant, talking point spewing mouthpiece she is and always has been. Zero sincerity, zero integrity.

If this is the state of Big Ed Reform today, then we're winning and they're losing.

WSDWG

Melissa Westbrook said...

WSDWG, interesting comments.

I have a couple of my husband's relatives visiting from out of state and I was talking about my work. They kind of laughed at me and said, "You don't really believe Gates knows anything you say or cares, do you?"

I laughed back, no, I did not.

But the point is not whether Gates (or Duncan or Rhee or Brown) know me.

But my voice is one of many, many education writers and bloggers and teachers who are now raising enough awareness that it becoming problematic for those who want to control the narrative. (I don't say discussion because I don't see anyone saying they want a discussion. Indeed, Brown seems to want to just shut that down.)

The Internet is our weapon of choice and without it, we would have zero input on public education.

Charlie Mas said...

It's long been said that to enjoy freedom of the press you first have to own a press.

With the internet we can all own a press.