Thursday, March 27, 2008

De-Kleining at the Manhattan Institute

It's been an interesting week. Tuesday morning I was at the Manhattan Institute (the conservative think tank) breakfast where Joel Klein was the featured speaker. He said the usual - a friend told me a colleague from the DOE was there too, couldn't stomach it and left before Klein finished.

Should MI members have their heads examined for supporting BloomKlein?

After Klein came the panel with his former employee Michele Rhee, who runs the Washington DC schools, Paul Vallas (Chicago, Philadelphia and now, New Orleans, and Tom Payzant (Boston, retired.) Don't any of these people have large school systems to run? I guess using their valuable time to go to these things is sign of the political ideology they are laying down. I've heard the line a million times about how schools should be there to meet the needs of the kids, not the adults. But that is what these so-called reforms are all about - the ideology, not the kids.

I had a bunch of questions to ask but didn't get called upon during this panel. I'll get into the details about Klein's speech and the panel in a future post.

The 2nd panel had David Bloomfield from Brooklyn College (who I know from Leonie's list) but he unfortunately supports Mayoral control with some slight modifications - he subscribes to the theory that BloomKlein are aberrations and the next mayor will make the system much more responsible. Dream on David.

Joe Williams was on the panel - the former reporter from the Daily News who now runs Democrats for Education Reform, another supporter of BloomKlein. I wasn't impressed with his presentation which talked about how bad things were before and how much better it is with one strong person in charge. My question (I didn't get called on again) would have been that having one person in charge makes it easier for them to cover up the same crap that happened before. I had a nice chat with Joe afterwards - he said he used to call me when he was a reporter and I used to tell him how I wouldn't talk to the press because they were so biased against teachers but then talked to him anyway. I have no memory about that, but a lot of brain cells have died since then.

Seymore Fliegel, a former Superintendent (and deputy under Anthony Alvarado in District 4 when AA made his bones before becoming chancellor) DOE flunky and current Bloomberg flunky ( someone told me he's on he payroll) told distorted anecdotes.

Finally, the piece de resistance - Diane Ravitch, who surgically dismantled every single thing Klein said, ripping apart the phony stats piece by piece. I was sitting next to parent leader from District 1 Lisa Donlon ( who made a great presentation arguing in favor of a localized community control governance plan at the City Council hearings) and I'm black and blue from her punching me every time Diane hit another zinger. The only problem with Diane from my point of view is that she, as everyone else up there, also supports mayoral control, but with what she terms checks and balances, which take the form of the mayor appointing a majority of a board, I believe for a fixed term - I don't get how this is a check. Or a balance.

Leonie Haimson was there and got in a good statement/question on class size.
The UFT's Joe Colleti (the designated attendee at these events) and Peter Goodman (Edwize and Ed in the Apple blogs) were there but the UFT doesn't send people to stand up for teachers in these forums (and I told Joe that they never effectively counter Klein's arguments) - which leaves it to me, but I didn't get called on again. I may have to wear a disguise. Almost feels like the old days when I tried to hide behind a seat at the Delegate Assembly to fool Randi into calling on me.

The event was taped and I hope it pops up on C-Span.

At the end of the meeting, I got to hang out with Ed Notes fave Elizabeth Green from The NY Sun (that was the day her article on the UFT Charter school was out) and she filled us in on her adventures the night before when the UFT didn't let her into the PTA meeting. Sol Stern came by to chat with Elizabeth. (Sol may be the only BloomKlein critic at the Manhattan Institute.) Since I was standing there, Sol and I finally made up (once again) after not talking for a year. After the ruckus he caused at last year's Radical Math Conference (it's coming up again next week) which somehow lead to our argument (more of my brain cells are gone so I don't remember the details) he is not interested in attending again. Some of the gang from NYCORE and RadMath often chide me for putting Sol onto them. I do enjoy jousting with Sol over ed policy and always come out sharper for it. So I'm glad we're talking again, though after writing this piece, he'll probably get mad again.

We shared a cab to the Sheraton to get press passes for the AERA Conference. Having a well-known journalist run interference got my dinky Wave press pass through, enabling me to hang out at the press office, drink coffee and eat bagels and danishes for the rest of the conference. More on that Friday.

1 comment:

Leonie Haimson said...

thanks for the mention but I didn't talk about class size, but about the results of our parent survey on mayoral control -- and asked why the DOE should be the only city agency that shouldn't have to follow city law. I also said that the whole point of our governmental system of checks and balances that the current form of mayoral control ignores was that it is not only more democratic but also leads to better decision-making.

Somewhat surprisingly, Joe Williams, who otherwise supports most of the administration's initiatives, agreed w/ me that the DOE should be subject to city law, while David Bloomfield, who opposes many of them, did not. Perhaps someone else can explain this. I cannot.