Friday, August 22, 2008

No Excuses for Schools...

....but for the rest of government, A-OK!

Accountability? Go find it


See NYC Educator's excellent related post on conditions No Excuses BloomKlein allow to exist in schools. Readers of Pissed off teacher's blog know all about her lovely trailor. (I hope NYC doesn't mind that I stole his picture.)

An item in today's NY Times "Emergency Radio Network Fails Tests" is a prime example why I reject the No Excuses theme applied to schools. You know the mantra - "Since there's no funding for education, we have to fix schools the best we can and not use things like kids' lives, high class size, etc. as an excuse."

Gotham Schools' Phylissa Cramer likes the "no excuses schools" expression in a reasoned piece on what KIPP offers. But I disagree with the one-way accountability argument.

Here are just a few points on how this emergency radio failure strikes a chord. Like the $2 billion in the contract Gov. Pataki gave to M/A-COM (a subsidiary of Tyco Electronics) whose credentials were questioned at the time. But Pataki's close ally former Senator Alfonse D'Amato represented the company, so why quibble over potential lost lives because the emergency radio network doesn't work?

In my narrow reasoning, multiply this deal by hundreds. Thousands? Millions? Billions of dollars that no one is held accountable for.

So don't talk accountability and no excuses for underfunded schools.

No excuses allow the acceptance of this crap and allows politicians and the business community off the hook while defusing the struggle to do what's right for the urban school children of this nation.

One of the biggest failures of the UFT/AFT has been the acceptance of the accountability trap which has distracted the prime force that should be out there fighting for full funding into defending an increasingly narrowing turf.

That's the real civil rights struggle of our time.

UPDATE: An article on medicare fraud in the NY Times on Aug. 20 was pointed out to me as another example of No Accountability. But when you choose auditors who are themselves part of the game, what do you expect? I expect they all should be taken out of their offices with bags on their heads.

Medicare’s top officials said in 2006 that they had reduced the number of fraudulent and improper claims paid by the agency, keeping billions of dollars out of the hands of people trying to game the system.

But according to a confidential draft of a federal inspector general’s report, those claims of success, which earned Medicare wide praise from lawmakers, were misleading.

In calculating the agency’s rate of improper payments, Medicare officials told outside auditors to ignore government policies that would have accurately measured fraud, according to the report. For example, auditors were told not to compare invoices from salespeople against doctors’ records, as required by law, to make sure that medical equipment went to actual patients.

As a result, Medicare did not detect that more than one-third of spending for wheelchairs, oxygen supplies and other medical equipment in its 2006 fiscal year was improper, according to the report. Based on data in other Medicare reports, that would be about $2.8 billion in improper spending.

“This report doesn’t surprise me,” said Representative Pete Stark, Democrat of California and a senior member of the Ways and Means Committee. He has pushed to cut improper Medicare spending. “To look better to the public, you cook the books,” he said. “This agency is incompetent.”

Think $3 billion would help close the class size gap? If the agency were a school they would close it.

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