Sunday, May 21, 2017

Screw Thy Neighbor

It's probably true that no matter how bad things look, there's always someone worse-off than you are. In no less than the alleged bastion of liberalism The New York Times, there's a piece by reformy Kevin Carey, extolling the virtues of value added. And while Carey pays lip service to the American Statistical Association, nowhere does he mention their key finding--that teachers affect the test scores of their students by a factor of 1-14%.

That's fake news, right there in the Times, on the topic that tortures working teachers more than any other. Peter Greene pointed out on Facebook (and now on his blog) that, despite the professed hope for more teachers on the right of the value-added bell curve, it could never actually happen, you know, because it's a frigging bell curve! Equally vexing, for reasons I will never fathom, our union leadership seems right there with Carey.

Exhibit A that things could be even worse is Lawrence, New York, where a bunch of parents who send their kids to religious schools have taken over the public schools. Screw the teachers, they say, as they deny them a contract for seven years. Screw the children, they say, as they demand reversals in class size restrictions. These people, in a town populated by veritable mansions, want to keep their taxes low, ensure services for their own children, and everyone else, evidently, can go to hell. They're building on the East Ramapo model, which ensures transportation for their own kids, and starves the schools full of other people's children to keep their tax rates down. This may or may not be exacerbated by the reprehensible Cuomo tax cap of 2% or rate of inflation, whatever is lower.

And while I was shocked by what happened in Lawrence, I'm even more shocked to see this model attempted elsewhere. I've received several letters now of failed attempts of school board takeovers in various New Jersey towns, but one is the most disturbing I've received, and I'll post it below. It's about an election takeover attempt at Ramapo Central:

They didn't get on the board but people are panicking. Our tax base is shrinking fast. We were afraid that they would get in as write-ins at the last minute. They've been buying up houses in the area and renting them. They have proposed a 2000 student yeshiva across from our school building on Cherry Lane Avenue. The Ramapo supervisor, who just got convicted yesterday enabled the permits for this monster on a two lane road in a residential neighborhood. When the district decided to curtail their insane bussing needs, they flooded our board meetings and accused our board of anti-Semitism. We all fear that it is a matter of time before they try to take over our board. We have asked the State to allow us to change our name to Suffern Central to attract people into the district and differentiate ourselves from East Ramapo. We are fighting this but it feels hopeless! Thank you for any help you can give us.

It looks like East Ramapo is a model they wish to spread. While I studied religion as a child, I must've missed the Commandment to Screw Thy Neighbor. But there is indeed an explosion of private school students in need of busing, along with concurrent demands for enhanced services. I guess you can call it democracy when a locality decides to enforce policies that favor one ethnic group over others. You can look away from the outright bigotry inherent in such policies and say this is what the people want.

But when people want racist and bigoted policies, well, they kind of need to be stopped. History is replete with examples of oppressed minorities and I'm not even gonna try and enumerate them here. It's curious, to say the least,  that one such minority would think about it and determine the solution is to populate one small space, become the majority, of voters at least, and then decide to oppress others.

I guess that's one way to approach the situation. And these days, with an administration in DC whose watchword is "ethics-shmethics," it seems par for the course. Much as I believe in democracy, though, I don't think it trumps human rights or fundamental decency. I don't think there are many things more fundamental than educating children. While we've managed to screw up royally with health care, that's not justification for moving backward on something we've gotten right for the most part.

We as unionists are in a very precarious place, with national "right to work" a virtual certainty over the next year or two. There are several areas we'll need to assert ourselves in order to not only support our members, but also keep them within the fold. To me, this certainly looks like one of them.
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