The Smartest Guy in the Room

Over at Publicola, the jousting goes on.  Firing back at the letter that WEA President, Mary Lindquist, wrote yesterday, Knight-in-Shining Armor, Nick Hanauer writes a long reply.

What is somewhat funny is he agrees with her on nearly all the reasons why as a "lifelong Democrat and committed progressive" he shouldn't want Rob McKenna as governor.  But then, speaking of education, he says that "McKenna is on the right track and we are not."  Keep in mind, McKenna is not on the ed reform train - he looks like he could be the engineer.  Vouchers, anyone?

Alert! New ed reform talking point, speak of Washington State:

We may be headed in the right direction, but we aren’t in the right lane.


It is not classroom teachers who are afraid of change and innovation—it is their union.

But, clearly the union is backed by its members so the union IS the teachers.

Then Hanauer does what so many do,  "I'm not a teacher but...",  and regales us with his vast work experience which means his advice is to run schools like businesses and all will be well.  Nope.  (Although I will say they should be well-managed but not the same thing.)

And uh oh:

As I write, the new Seattle School Board—which WEA money championed—appears to be in the process of terminating the contract with Teach For America, a nationally acclaimed program that brings a very diverse group of the nation’s most talented college graduates to teach in low performing schools. This sort of behavior is irrational, self-destructive, and it undermines the cause that unions work to further.

 I'm thinking he doesn't know that TFA costs districts extra money.  Or that they have less than 6 weeks of training.  Or that our site-based hiring teams just didn't see the quality or the experience.  Or that, in the entire Puget Sound region, only 11 got hired.  Or that they are certainly not a diverse group in this region.

Then he gets into data on south Seattle students.  I would take what he says with a grain of salt given that LEV created a flyer to support charter schools that called out Rainier Beach High School AND used incorrect data.   That's a whole other thread but clearly, LEV and Hanauer think they know what's best for those communities.  A bit paternalistic but Hanaeur is another in a long line of wealthy white guys who say they know education well and if only people would listen to them.

He has a lot to say on charters and he singles out KIPP without noting that the charter bill he is touting could kick KIPP out in a lottery system if there were too many charter proposals approved for educationally disadvantaged students.  I'm thinking he didn't read the whole bill.

Then he criticizes the WEA for getting their membership out in force and working to defeat charters in our last election over it.  Really?  Like the wealthy people who own Costco did?  You work to get members in a group to work to win an election.  Stop the presses.   Oh wait, they were union people; well, that's different.

He says at the end that he's a "committed Democrat."  People committed to a party don't threaten to take their toys and walk if they disagree on a single issue.  He would take his most valuable possession as a citizen - his vote - and give it away on a single issue.  Or, maybe it's just a way to stomp his foot and get attention.

On my title for this thread - I meant that I'll bet he runs for School Board or gives a huge amount of money in the next School Board election.


Jack Whelan said…
These days there are two fundamental factions within the Democratic Party: the kitchen table Democrats, which is most of us, and the Aspen Institute Democrats, which are mainly running things.


Hanauer aligns with the second, and so everybody he knows thinks thinks what he thinks, and they're all rich, successful people, so they've got to be more right than teachers. What do teachers know about big-picture issues? Let the smart, rich guys do the heavy lifting when it comes to what schools really need.

All these elites talk among themselves and they've convinced themselves within their echo chamber that teachers are the problem. It's become axiomatic.

See also this absurd piece by Aspenista Democrat Nicholas Kristoff:
Jack Whelan said…
Lynne Varner this morning predictably tells us that Hanauer's message was "tough love" for Democrats. Yes, we kitchen-table Dems are like children who need to be scolded, or we're like substance abusers who need an intervention.

What Varner thinks isn't important except as it represents the group think of the downtown business elites. All she's doing is telling us what all her downtown friends think, and for that group, their echo-chamber thinking is what passes for independent thinking. Therefore Hanauer's cliche-ridden, clueless screed is a model of independent thinking.

They're the elite Aspenista Dem version of Limbaugh's Dittoheads. Their blame-the-teacher, anti-union groupthink is as fact-free and predictable as a Rush Limbaugh tirade on taxes.

No Lynne, your thinking or Hanauer's isn't independent; it's about as non-independent as thinking can get. If there is anyone in need of a tough-love intervention, it's people in this neo-liberal cult which worships at the altar of the Market, and believes that the high priesthood of "business" has the answer for everything.
Anonymous said…
Please go write that in the comments at The Times, Jack.

Savvy Voter
mirmac1 said…
Mary Lindquist
The war of words with gazillionaire Nick Hanauer goes on. Here's the latest:

Dear Nick,

Your most recent letter begs for a response centered on facts and what is actually taking place in our public schools. To those of us who work with students every day, you appear unaware of what is actually happening in our schools and what WEA is doing to support the work of outstanding educators.

Let me start by disabusing you of one significant misunderstanding presented in your letter. You write:

“But in my experience as a business leader and entrepreneur, I have observed that all high-performance organizations share elements that are largely missing from our state’s public education system: relentlessly high standards, a culture of excellence, and a systemic commitment to innovation.”

It is not true these qualities are missing from our schools. Educators all across Washington are, each and every day, bringing high standards, requirements of excellence and dedicated, focused commitment to our students, in spite of the chronic underfunding of our schools. Educators working in our schools do not accept a “culture in which outstanding performance is resented or even discouraged, mediocrity is accepted, and low performance is tolerated.”

Here’s what I can state based upon what I see in our schools:

• The SPRINT program in Spokane, the Tri-Tech Skills Center in Spokane, Beacon Hill International School in Seattle, Aviation High School in Highline, and the School of Arts and Academics in Vancouver are all examples of innovative schools – and there are hundreds more across the state. Just last week the Seattle School board approved the Creative Approach Schools document to encourage innovation in Seattle – an agreement reached with the Seattle Education Association to promote “new different and creative approach that supports raising achievement and closing the achievement gap.” I’ve been in these schools. The teachers there are inspiring. I invite you to join me in visiting some of these innovative schools so you can see, firsthand, the commitment to academic excellence which our educators have and how our Association supports that work;

mirmac1 said…
cont. • At West Seattle Elementary, Totem Middle School in Marysville, and in 17 other schools across the state, “School Improvement Grants” (SIG) are transforming schools previously classified as low-performing or under-achieving. I’ve watched the dedicated teachers and principals working to transform these schools. I’ve seen them cry out of frustration and celebrate their successes. What do they all have in common? High expectations, an unwavering commitment to student achievement, a shared responsibility for student achievement and an infusion of federal and grant money. After school programs, parent outreach, and other social services provided at the schools demonstrate that it takes more than just the educators to boost student achievement. Do we need to do more to address the problems in our neediest communities? Absolutely. And it will take a better funding system than we currently have to do that. The Washington Supreme Court just came firmly down on the side of these educators and students;

• Two years ago WEA lead the charge for a new evaluation system with Senate Bill 6696. It created a system that will provide meaningful feedback to improve every principal’s and teacher’s performance. Working with superintendents, principals and school board members, WEA has been supporting the work in Anacortes, Snohomish, Central Valley in Spokane, and in 14 other schools districts for nearly two years. This year we added over 70 new districts while Seattle, Peninsula and other districts pioneered this work years ago. That’s nearly one-third of our districts moving in the right direction in less than two years. As teachers we knew we needed a new data-driven, research-based and fair system to provide every teacher with the opportunity to improve. The key here is research-based and what will really make a difference in student achievement, not some theoretical scheme from someone who has never stood in front of a classroom of students;

• Washington now ranks fourth in the nation for the number of teachers who have achieved National Board Certification, with nearly 10% of our teachers earning this highest honor, a rigorous, objective, uniform and national standard of what it means to be a great teacher. WEA is there to support these teachers from start to finish in the year-long process of achieving national certification. Each summer I speak to the new group of candidates. The energy in the room, their passion for teaching and their commitment to strengthening our profession is palpable. Engaging professionals in improving our schools is the only lasting way to produce change;

mirmac1 said…

• For the ninth consecutive year, the average score for Washington students on the three major SAT exams – reading, writing and math – was the highest in the nation among states in which more than half of the eligible students took the tests. This consistent result, year after year, belies your sweeping rhetorical statement that, “Washington public schools are not delivering the kind of results that families in this state deserve and our economy requires.” What do our best schools have in common? The same dedicated educators combined with communities of high social economic status, parents who are engaged in their child’s school and resources beyond the current inadequate level of state funding.

You write of the lack of outrage around South Seattle public schools. I invite you to join me in visiting some of those schools – and hearing, firsthand, from teachers not only about the challenges they are confronting, but what they are also doing to turn things around. We can start at Hawthorne Elementary where amazing things are happening. Maybe you could ask the educators there how you could contribute to their efforts and what would really make a meaningful difference in the lives of these students.

Finally, you write of “The WEA’s efforts to stop any of the changes needed to transform our system puts you and the politicians who support and enable this intransigence on the wrong side of kids, families, and history.”

You are wrong. As the professionals on the frontline of public education every day, we are putting our children and families first. We – not you – are the ones who see, firsthand, what is needed to ensure all our children and students are equipped for the significant challenges of the 21st century.

We do not have the luxury of theorizing from behind locked doors of high rise office buildings in downtown Seattle. We work with students every day. Often we work without enough books for every child, in buildings desperately needing repair with more students than we faced last year or the year before. And every day we focus on providing all of our children with the best, well-rounded education we can provide, one tailored to their individual needs and talents, given the resources we have. I invite you to work with us instead of attacking the professionals who are asked to do the most important work for our state’s future.



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