Saturday, July 02, 2016

Chalkbeat NY Stands Up for the Gates-Funded Little Guy

I was pretty surprised to read that the NY Regents are passing policy without the input of the public. I mean, that's a pretty serious breach of basic democracy, isn't it? On the other hand, I've been to a whole lot of public hearings about schools and school closings, and I've spoken at them too. Several were at Jamaica High School, closed based on false statistics, according to this piece in Chalkbeat.

The thing about public hearings is this--yes, members of the public get to speak. In fact, at Jamaica and several other school closing hearings, I don't remember a single person getting up to speak in favor of school closings. I've also been to multiple meetings of the PEP under Bloomberg where the public was roundly ignored. In fact, Bloomberg fired anyone who contemplated voting against doing whatever they were told. While he didn't make them sign loyalty oaths, the effect was precisely the same.

State hearings are different, of course. When former NY Education Commissioner Reformy John King decided to explain to NY that Common Core was the best thing since sliced bread, he planned a series of public forums. However, after the public said in no uncertain terms they disagreed, he canceled them, saying they'd been taken over by "special interests." The special interests, of course, were parents and teachers. He may have implied they were controlled by the unions, but of course the union leadership actually supported the same nonsense he was espousing.

In fact, the only meeting King went to where he found support actually was taken over by special interests, to wit, Students First NY. Only one non-special interest actually got to speak, and that was my friend Katie Lapham. Other than that it was a pro-high-stakes testing party. Doubtless this was King's view of a worthy public forum, and given that it's taken until now for Chalkbeat to stand up to the lack of forums, I have to question whether it's theirs too.

The big change Chalkbeat points to is a link claiming that the Regents "wiped out" main elements of the teacher evaluation law. If you bother to follow the link, you learn that this is a reference to the fake moratorium on high stakes testing, which the article itself later admits to be limited to the use of Common Core testing in grades 3-8. The fact that junk science rules absolutely everywhere else, and will in fact be increased in importance next year, is evidently of no relevance whatsoever.

While Chalkbeat acknowledges these changes were urged on by Governor Cuomo's task force, it fails utterly to make connections as to what forced Cuomo to start a task force, let alone pretend he gives a crap about education or public school teachers. This, of course, was a massive opt-out, in which over 20% of New York's parents told their children not to sit for tests that Cuomo himself referred to as meaningless. But rather than speak to any of its leaders, Chalkbeat seeks comment from a Gates-funded group I've never heard of called Committee on Open Government.

After all, why go to Jeanette Deutermann, or Leonie Haimson, or Jia Lee, or Beth Dimino, or Katie Lapham, when you can get someone who's taken Gates money? And just to round out the forum, Chalkbeat goes to Reformy John King's successor, MaryEllen Elia, who's taken boatloads of Gates money and is therefore an expert on pretty much whatever.

Chalkbeat also makes the preposterous assertion that the Regents allowing children of special needs a route to graduation should have been more gradual because schools were prepping them for tests they didn't need. While that may be true, this did not remove their option of taking those tests. Announcing the allowance this year and enabling it, say, next year, would've helped absolutely no one. You don't need to go to a Gates-funded expert to figure that out.

While it may have been nice to have public hearings, the fact is the public has gotten up and spoken, and without that, none of these changes would have occurred. It's remarkable that Chalkbeat NY doesn't know that.
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