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by Steve Timmer
Jun 4, 2013, 10:30 AM

Don’t listen to Doug

“Gov. Mark Dayton’s veto of a relatively small investment in the innovative Teach for America program tells us a lot about the power of the status quo in Minnesota education.”

That’s the lede of an editorial in the Strib that has the fingerprints — and the DNA; we can check for that now, too, you know — of the Orwellian Doug Tice all over it. Tice is a great sloganeer, but there is a reason he was moved from the news side of the paper to the opinion side: he’s a great sloganeer.

Take, just for example, his use of the adjective “innovative” to describe the program that many people, including me, call “Teach for a While.” If “innovative” only meant “different,” the statement would be accurate: take new college graduates, not credentialed in education, give them a five week boot camp, and throw them in a public high school classroom. But only expect them to last two years.

But innovate connotes improvement. And this is improvement?

I remain baffled as to why politicians have not figured out that TFA does not pay any teacher salaries or benefits. State and local school districts, including the poorest of them, must do that. Even more perplexing is that these politicians do not understand that TFA contracts require local districts to pay a finder’s fee for each TFA hire. Why do politicians not ask where TFA spends its resources? The answer is a matter of public record in the 990 form that the organization must file. Has anyone looked?

If policymakers did ask, they might learn that TFA has more than 1,600 employees. They might learn how much is spent on lobbyists, media gurus, strategic planners, and executive salaries and benefits. Sure, TFA spends funds on their five-week boot camps for recruits, but too many alumni have figured out from experience how unprepared they were for the students they faced. Policymakers might also learn that the federal government has already provided TFA with tens of millions of dollars from the federal budget. Where is the fiscal responsibility in this duplication of funding that these politicians usually decry? Where is the fairness to our neediest public schools?

That’s NEA chair, John Wilson.

If it is such an “innovation,” Doug, why not assemble a group of parents in Edina or Eden Prairie to get them to lobby for Teach for America teachers? If the program is so good, it ought to be migrated to schools like these, don’t you think?

And don’t kid yourselves, um, kids, this is ideological, again from John Wilson:

The worst example of Teach For America exploiting the teaching profession and colluding with political ideologues is occurring in North Carolina where legislators are anxious to destroy programs initiated under Democratic leadership. The North Carolina Senate has adopted a budget with an appropriation of $5 million for Teach For America. For this money, the expectations are a total of 275 teachers in North Carolina public schools, including, I presume, charter schools.

This is nothing more than a pathological hatred of public employees and public employee unions: a willingness to cut off your kid’s nose to spite her face. And a desire to hive off more of the money spent on schools for private interests. Here’s David Sirota in a recent article in Salon:

Meanwhile, despite the fact that many “reformers’” policies have spectacularly failed, prompted massive scandals and/or offered no actual proof of success, an elite media that typically amplifies — rather than challenges — power and money loyally casts “reformers’” systematic pillaging of public education as laudable courage (the most recent example of this is Time magazine’s cover cheering on wildly unpopular Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel after he cited budget austerity to justify the largest mass school closing in American history— all while he is also proposing to spend $100 million of taxpayer dollars on a new private sports stadium).

In other words, elite media organizations (which, in many cases, have their own vested financial interest in education “reform”) go out of their way to portray the anti-public-education movement as heroic rather than what it really is: just another get-rich-quick scheme shrouded in the veneer of altruism.

That gets to the news that exposes “reformers’” schemes — and all the illusions that surround them. According to a new U.S. Department of Education study, “about one in five public schools was considered high poverty in 2011 … up from about to one in eight in 2000.” This followed an earlier study from the department finding that “many high-poverty schools receive less than their fair share of state and local funding … leav(ing) students in high-poverty schools with fewer resources than schools attended by their wealthier peers.”

He’s talking to you, Dougie.

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