Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Schooling the Naked Emperor

In this morning's NY Daily News, Michael Goodwin makes what we think is a valuable point-the name calling between Mike Bloomberg and the state senators only benefits the mayor; and, in our view, also takes away from the real substantive issues that undermine the inflated claims Bloomberg makes about school achievement:

"File this one under "The rich get richer." Mayor Bloomberg is set to reap a windfall from the chaos in Albany. Not a cash windfall - that's the last thing he needs - but a political one. His need there, while hardly desperate, is still real, with one poll showing a majority of New Yorkers think it's time for a new mayor. Against that backdrop, the buffoonery in Albany is tailor-made for an incumbent looking for a hot issue to ride. Legislators are giving Bloomy that and more. Besides serving him a big chance to convince voters he deserves four more years, the clowns are making themselves his punching bag."

Exactly so; and especially because the mayor has a bloodless, green eye shade kind of image that imparts a less than real persona: "One day he warned the Albany clowns might spark riots in the streets, linked them to the Soviet Union on another day and then to British appeaser Neville Chamberlain. He outdid himself Saturday, calling on Gov. Paterson to send troopers after state senators who gave themselves the summer off. "The governor can call back the state Legislature every single day in Albany, and he can send the state troopers to drag them back" Bloomberg said on his WOR radio show. "Enough, we're not going to take it anymore." And now he has launched TV and radio campaign ads tied to the battle, a sure sign his internal polls tell him the chaos is his friend."

Which is why our four amigos need to cease and desist that cathartic-like outbursts; and substitute a withering critique of the mayor's false claims for the pointless feel good bombast. And there's a lot to criticize in the deconstruction of the mayor's overblown "triumphs." In fact, there's an entire laundry list that goes like this:

(1) Watered down tests that give the false impression that learning has increased significantly;

(2) Flatlining on the national tests (NAEP) that are counter indicative to any real progress;

(3) A huge increase in the school bidget-from $13 billion to $21 billion-an increase that, given the flatlined national test scores indicate very lttle benefit to all of the increased costs;

(4) Misleading graduation rates that, even now, the comptroller is questioning for veracity: "The New York City comptroller, William C. Thompson Jr., released a report on Tuesday suggesting that the city’s graduation rate was inflated, saying he had found instances where it appeared schools had wrongly changed student grades and improperly awarded credit." But even if the cooking of the books isn't as bad as Thompson says, the fact that the grads themselves can't do college work and must undergo intensive remediation in the community colleges, is indictment enough of the Bloomberg puffery;

(5) An outrageous $20,000/pupil expenditure that has bloated the school bureaucracy and added millions to the city's already bloated pension obligation;

(6) No bid contracting that Juan Gonzales has been tracking-that underscores just how little accountability exists in the current governance regime;

(7) The as yet undetermined financial windfall and giveaway that the UFT received for backing away from its opposition to the assembly mayoral control bill.

So, there's a lot to focus attention on that doesn't involve the kind of incoherent personal invective that is coming from the faux outraged Bloomberg. In fact, we think that the mayor-always guided by polling since, otherwise, he is totally tone deaf politically-is consciously picking this fight to focus attention away from the substantive issues.

Bloomberg needs to be thoroughly debunked on substance; this will demonstrate just how dishonest his claims are, and, at the same time, discredit his multi-million dollar ad campaign. If the amigos-and the rest of the senate dissenters-do this, the name calling mayor will look desperate and out of place-and, hopefully, out of office as well.