Sunday, April 18, 2010

Amazing Race to Nowhere

Andy Wolf has an incisive look In Sunday's NY Daily News at the pointlessness of NY State's, "Race to the Top" effort: "If state officials were smart, they'd walk away from this so-called competition. The loss of local discretion over policy simply isn't worth the meager cash. And if nothing else has been proven here in New York State in recent years, throwing more money at the schools does not lead to better outcomes. New York spends more per student than any other state, yet results on reliable independent measures, such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests, and the more familiar SAT exams, show consistently flat results."

What a remarkable observation! Last time we checked, our city schools were on the cusp of greatness-and all of the grandeur that was Klein and Bloomberg was being described in language most hortatory by the scriveners on the editorial pages of our tabloids. We even had a group set up by some of the country's richest philanthropists for the sole purpose of saving the poor school kids from a fate worse than Mayor Mike.

That group, inaptly named, "Learn New York," deserved a more appropriate moniker-how about, "Scam New York?" And in the immediate aftermath of the re-approval of Mayoral control by the legislature, the group disbanded-and are no longer around to hang around the mayor's neck as an albatross. Its presence today would provide a wonderful teaching moment, something along the lines about you can never go broke underestimating the intelligence of supposed savvy New Yorkers.

But who can really blame the put upon polis? After all, all that they've been hearing has been how wondrous the educational achievements have been under the Bloomberg/Klein regime. Ah, but now, as reality begins to intrude and the spinners are slapped silly with test results that silence their false narratives, we find that the money that these free spenders have lavished on the system-and not just for a more robust public relations department-has been, how should we put this, rather ill spent.

Wolf continues the deconstruction: "Tisch and new state Education Commissioner David Steiner, both relatively new to their jobs, are well aware that New York State test results are now so inflated that they may be worthless. They are taking the unprecedented step of allowing a complete research audit of recent tests by Harvard testing expert Daniel Koretz. Koretz will not be paid for his work, and can publish the results without restriction, insuring his independence. While Koretz completes his study, are we to propose linking anything to a testing regimen that is likely to be largely discredited?"

Given the meager output from all of the mayor's excess spending, it is he-and the hapless Klein-who should be afforded the rubber room treatment. And speaking of the rubber rooms, Michael Goodwin has an interesting take in yesterday's NY Post on the mayor's lack of accountability for their continuation: "Mayor Bloomberg is a miracle worker. Not because he got a deal to get rid of the rubber rooms, but because he makes it sound like he wasn't responsible for them in the first place. "The public is not going to stand for this anymore," he said about the pact with the teachers union.'

But the mayor not only is responsible for the rubber rooms, but also for the constant toadying to the teachers union that has left us with, not only these roomy monuments to bureaucratic stupidity, but an out sized budget that adds injury to insult: "The number of teachers in the do-nothing rooms swelled as schools were closed and union rules made it almost impossible to fire them, even though there were no jobs.The problem is that Bloomberg never demanded the union give up those rules. He gave teachers raises of 43 percent in various negotiations, yet failed to get any significant concessions, including ones that would make it easier to chop dead wood."

And, as Goodwin points out, this is all done with an elaborate charade that allows Bloomberg to evade his own responsibility. Imagine if David Dinkins had tried to flim-flam us in this manner? So, while it certainly is welcome to know that the rubber rooms will be history soon, inquiring minds want to know just how much this is going to cost us?

In the educational pas de deux between the mayor and the UFT, it is the tax paying stiffs who get spun around a flipped into the air: "Klein is always at war with the union and paints it as the source of most of his problems. Meanwhile, his boss lavishes on the same union goodies that cost big bucks and hamstring Klein. Bloomy was so close to the union, he even first offered the chancellor's job to its former boss, Randi Weingarten, who turned it down before Klein got it. All of which leads me to believe the rubber-room deal won't come cheap. The city and union are negotiating a new contract, with Bloomberg offering raises of 2 percent, even though most city workers got 4 percent. At settlement, the rubber-room deal likely will be presented as a union concession justifying a 4 percent raise. Taking us for suckers, Bloomy and the union will mug for the cameras and declare it a win-win."

So let's tell the Feds to keep the chump change-and by all means encourage the state legislature to do a thorough cost benefit analysis-after the Harvard prof does his due diligence on these phony tests-of all the money that the mayor has wasted in Horton Hatches a Who fashion. The last thing the NYC DOE needs is more money-especially cash that comes with strings attached from a failed Chicago educator.