"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Bloomberg Defense

A reader writes:
I've been reading your blog for a couple months now and usually appreciate and am with you on most things. I think you're a little quick to jump the gun here though. First - the facts. The "private management companies" must be non-profits.

Yes, and the College Board is "non-profit," too--but they cleared over $500,000,000 last year from their testing products. Besides, how could the corporate sultans receive tax credits or deductions for their largesse if the edu-business companies they plan to fund were not set up as non-profits?
Second - I think the revolutionary part of what Bloomberg/Klein are doing has been lost - the Fair Student Funding Initiative. This means a school like mine in the Bronx that serves the students who need the most will be seeing more money at the expense of schools that tend to serve the Middle Class and Upper Class in nicer part of Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens.

I have my doubts as to whether any remaining middle class parents who continue to have kids in NYC public schools will allow their kids' funds to be drained off. It has never happened before, and I don't expect it happen now in this reverse Robin Hood era.
Third - yes, Empowerment Schools can outsource services to other companies. But Empowerment Schools can also partner with community organizations and receive funds that are unavailable to most schools. I teach in an Empowerment School, and we get somewhere in the range of 25%-50% of our total budget from our partner organization - FEGS. Among other things, this allows us to increase our support staff (we have a full time college placement specialist, just like the top private schools)

Sad, indeed. This is the typical neo-liberal treatment to the poverty and racism issue: ignore the real problem, provide services that only the middle class can use, and then blame the poor for not using them.
. . . .Not to mention the fact that literally every request I have made for classroom materials - from technology to books to curricular materials - I have received. Are there flaws with the Tucker model of education reform? Of course, and you've highlighted a lot of them. But with that said, there are a lot of benefits, which I am seeing first hand (and believe me, we are not a KIPP like school - I'd like to think people like Paulo Freire and Myles Horton would be proud of most of what they saw at Bronx Lab).

That Bloomberg and Klein would be falling over themselves to pander to the "empowerment" schools in order to prove their superiority should be expected, I think. That is the Marc Tucker horse they have their money on, after all. Wonder if the schools served by the remaining superintendents have the resources to honor every requst from teachers?
Maybe I am being a little naive here - but I always come back to the fact that the Bronx has something like a 30% graduation rate. What has been done in the past hasn't worked. Isn't it worth trying something new?

The fact that the City, the State, and the Nation have ignored the poverty, repression, and racism that produced what "hasn't worked" does not seem reason enough to give up on the public schools for not accomplishing what no school system alone can ever accomplish, anyway. If Bloomberg's privatization plan is allowed to succeed, I am sure, Steve, that the Mayor's Office will stay busy congratulating you, your colleagues, and themselves for the new bright successes that were so recently painted as dismal failures. Something new, indeed.


  1. The equal funding thing from Mayor Mike may be a Trojan Horse designed to make it unattractive to hire or retain veteran teachers, with those nasty pensions and everything. It makes a lot more economic sense to staff schools with ever-changing 22-year-old career-changers who'll garner half the salary and leave within five years.

    This mayor is very, very canny, and he's gotten away with a blanket of insubstantial reforms by playing the media like a cheap fiddle. Though I don't comment as much as I should, I'm very thankful for your presence on the web.

  2. Couldn't use all the HTML I wanted to in the comment, so it's up on my blog. Here's my response.