Monday, February 09, 2009

Dancing in the Streets

Mike Bloomberg has never been known for being funny-at least not intentionally so. His Friday statements on mayoral control of the schools, however, put him in with some of the best stand up comedians of our time. As Daily Politics reported: "As the Assembly Democrats prepare to grill Schools Chancellor Joel Klein this morning on reauthorization of mayoral control of the city education system, Mayor Bloomberg is warning of dire consequences if that power is not returned to him...'My assumption is there will be a bill called mayoral control passed by the Legislature," the mayor continued. "I think that the, if they didn't do that, I think that there'd be riots in the streets, given what's the improvement. I mean, parents have choices. For the first time we're funding all the schools equally.'"

Laugh out loud! This guy's so narcissistic that he has really started to believe his own BS-and since his DOE is basically engaged in self reporting (akin to a take home test that you mark yourself), we are given the mayor's own version of mirror, mirror, on the wall. The response of one commenter to the post really underscores the fatuousness of the mayor's remarks:

"Bloomberg cannot substantiate his statements with honestly reported data.The only independent check on student achievement in New York City shows a completely different picture. The results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress administered by the US Department of Education, considered the gold standard in testing, show that student achievement in New York City has stagnated since 2003 with virtually no improvements for Black, Hispanic and low income students."

This is along the lines of what Andy Wolf has reported:

"Wolf, writing in the Public Advocate Corner opines: "By the statistics, mayoral control has failed, as Diane Ravitch has previously pointed out in this space. Test results on the most reliable measures are flat, despite an unprecedented influx of funds – a 79% increase in the education budget in just six years." But this failure extends beyond the numbers themselves.As Wolf demonstrates: "But mayoral control has failed in a more profound way. Desperate to show “progress,” a laundry list of structural reforms has been implemented by the gang at the Tweed Courthouse. Most of these have to do with providing incentives to principals, teachers and students. If you want to believe that teachers will only do a good job if we give them the chance to earn an extra $3,000 bonus for higher test scores, than I have a bridge to sell you."

But count on the disinformation being a central feature of the Bloomberg air war come November. Unfortunately for him, however, the renewal of control is up to the state legislature-and there are many problems there. As City Room reported:

"On his radio program on Friday morning, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg suggested that if the State Legislature does not renew the 2002 law that gave him control over New York City schools there would be “riots in the street.” But hours later, as the Assembly Education Committee opened its second public hearing over the law’s renewal, most of the angry shouting was aimed at Mr. Bloomberg’s schools chancellor, Joel I. Klein. The eight Assembly members gathered in a crowded hearing room across from City Hall could hardly contain their frustration over Mr. Bloomberg’s seven-year reign over the schools as Mr. Klein testified for more than two hours."

This is what we meant by the Chico Marx nature of the mayor's defense-the obviating of fact-based analysis for multi-million dollar spinning by the Bloomberg machine. State assembly members, however, are a bit closer to the reality of the schools: "They remarked dozens of times that they felt as if parents did not have enough input, and said that even elected officials like themselves often found it impossible to get answers to basic questions about the school system." Not when the information flow is tightly controlled; and doctored before released.

And leave it to Assemblyman O'Donnel to capture the essence of the Bloomberg chicanery. Here's his response to Chancellor Klein's observation that accountability comes from voting the mayor in-or out: "Mr. O’Donnell, clearly unsatisfied with the answer, responded: “It seems that the only way is to replace the person that you report to,” referring to Mayor Bloomberg, who has promised to spend millions of his own money to win a third term. “That seems to be the only way that there is a way for parents to actually hold you accountable.” Then, Mr. O’Donnell, who could be described as a portly fellow, said: “That may or may not happen. With $100 million I could probably convince the city that I was thin.”

The NY Post also captures some of this inanity-particularly his bizarre claims about public disorder: "Bloomberg's bizarre comment only serves to underscore how completely out of touch he is with what public-school parents face every day," said Patrick Sullivan, one of 13 school policy board members whose appointments are at the heart of the mayoral-control debate."

In a media driven world, where one guy can spend tens of millions of dollars more than all of his opponents combined-even when adding all three elections together-than the notion of accountability has been rendered meaningless. The only thing that the legislature needs to do here, is to make sure that mayoral control is given the kind of hair shirt that will drive Bloomberg bonkers should he buy himself a third term. If, somehow, that fails to materialize, we'll be dancing in the streets.