Monday, December 29, 2008

Qualifications, Shmalifications.

Caroline Kennedy, famous primarily for being Caroline Kennedy, wants to be our next US Senator. Her qualifications? Well, she's co-written a bunch of books, and it's entirely possible that she actually wrote some part of those books. I mean, some people put their names on books they didn't actually write, but there's no proof that's true in Ms. Kennedy's case.

Over at Accountable Talk, Mr. A. lays out her qualifications neatly:

1. I am a Kennedy.
2. I have written a children's book, which got published because I am a Kennedy.
3. I have raised funds for education, mostly by virtue of being a Kennedy and thus able to put the bite on other rich people. ("Hello. I'm a Kennedy. Would you care to contribute tax-deductible funds to my cause?")
4. I am a mom.

Now there's nothing wrong with all that, of course. But if Ms. Kennedy's boss, Mayor Bloomberg, weren't shoveling kids into public schools like sardines so as to make room for non-unionized charters, perhaps her work wouldn't be necessary. In fact, Wayne Barrett of the Village Voice suggests she was not precisely as accountable as unionized teachers are expected to be:

For months after she started, even some high-level education officials said they were not quite sure what she did. In an interview about eight months into her tenure, she would not say how often she worked at the department headquarters or how many hours she spent on the job, saying only, 'I put in as much time as I can.'"

Can you imagine what your supervisors would have to say if you reported with that attitude? I doubt you'd make teacher of the month anytime in the near future. And it appears her best buddies, Mike Bloomberg and Joel Klein, are juking her stats just as they do standardized test grades and dropout rates:

Klein "credited her with bringing in a $51 million gift from Bill Gates's foundation," according to a Times piece yesterday, but a top former Klein aide told the Voice that the Gates grant "was totally put together" by Michele Cahill, senior counsel to Klein who came to DOE from the Carnegie Corporation and has returned there. Though Klein has praised Kennedy in the past for raising $65 million for an entirely different initiative--the Leadership Academy--he's never attributed this Gates grant to her, the largest ever for the school system.

So here, in the era of accountability, is yet another poser who's accomplished nothing and trumpeting her alleged qualifications. Very Michelle Rhee of her. And what does she say about education?

Ms. Kennedy would not say, for example, whether she supported proposals to abolish tenure for teachers and offer them merit pay instead.

To sum up, she said absolutely nothing. Frankly, I'm unimpressed by people who claim to have expertise on public schools but refuse to send their kids to them--people like Mike Bloomberg, Joel Klein, and Caroline Kennedy. And while Ms. Kennedy has eluded that she'd support a Democrat for Mayor, there's no law saying Mayor Mike couldn't run as a Democrat (If there were, he'd ignore it, just as he ignored two referendums on term limits). Has she got any disagreements with Mayor Bloomberg's policies? According to the NY Times:

But when asked how she might differ with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg or with Governor Paterson, who has sole authority to make the Senate appointment, she demurred.

“I’m not going to talk about my disagreements with him,” she said. “You’ll find out over time.”

In other words, "Trust me."

But how on earth can we trust anyone who asks us to do such a thing?

Thanks to David Bellel
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