Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Bring in the Auditors-Along With a Refund for the Voters

Last week we discussed the Bloomberg education record in the context of a cost/benefit analysis-and we questioned whether the excessive increase in spending, almost doubling the 11 billion dollar ed budget, has been worth it. Now we find some more evidence that the Bloomberg achievements have been a lot less than meets the eye-as the DOE brings in the auditors.

As the NY Times reports: "New York City school officials said Friday that they would introduce a new, rigorous system of auditing the test scores, grading practices and graduation rates of the public high schools, appearing to acknowledge rising concerns that some schools might be manipulating the statistics they are judged by."

Phony test scores, manipulated results-is there any reason left to credit Bloomberg with the Great Leap Forward? Think back to the fall of 2009, however, and we recall how the editorial boards of the NY Daily News and the NY Post excoriated the Bill Thompson record as president of the old Board of Ed-and, at the same time, emitted some of the most fulsome, and spurious, praise of the Bloomberg record. The papers owe New Yorkers an apology-and the News has to stop pointing fingers at the state ed officials while ignoring the complicity of Kleinberg in this Enron style fraud on the public.

What is revealed, after all of the phony hoopla is exposed for the misdirection that it is, is woeful performances and serious underachievement-in spite of the 16,000 more educational personnel that have been added in the Bloomberg Error-which is why the auditing is quite ironic: "The move comes as the city and the state have sought to raise standards to better prepare students for college and careers, and as mounting evidence has cast doubt on whether even the current standards are being met. In at least the past two years, an unusually large number of students have obtained exactly the minimum score needed to pass state Regents exams, which are often graded by their regular teachers. City officials say the anomaly existed even before Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg took control of the city’s schools in 2003."

If this were Enron, the US Attorney would be slapping the whole crew down at Tweed with RICO indictments-in our view, defrauding the public is a serious offense: "But observers of the school system, including those who have been skeptical of rising test scores and graduation rates, said officials seemed to acknowledge issues with some of the data. “It seems to me that the D.O.E. is realizing that they have a credibility problem with their numbers and they’re trying to address that,” said Kim Sweet, executive director of Advocates for Children of New York, which has questioned whether some schools tally dropouts incorrectly to help graduation rates."

This is further dramatized by Susan Edelman's commentary in Sunday's NY Post-where she goes after the failures at State Ed, and the DOE's collusion. Here's the money quote, with a reference to one of the righteous, Board of Regents member, Betty Rosa: "Then came even more spectacular, and suspicious, 2009 results. “Why are we celebrating these scores as a miracle, when there is no miracle?” Rosa said she asked."

The answer lies with the political advancement of the mayor-and why the RICO analogy is a strong one: "Another insider said Big Apple officials were urged not to “exaggerate” the results. But Mayor Bloomberg hailed the increase in 2009 as an “enormous victory.” At the time, he had a lot riding on the scores — he was seeking a third term and pushing for legislation to extend mayoral control of the schools.
City officials “got very angry,” the insider said, when Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch publicly downplayed the results, citing “troubling gaps” between the stellar state scores and lackluster outcomes on national exams."

Critics like Andy Wolf have been on top of this for years-and the situation is so egregious that voters in the city should be given a do-over for the fraudulent election of Three Term Mike. Given the amount of money that the mayor spent to pump up his phony achievements and denigrate Bill Thompson, the role played by the Post and News in acting as an arm of the Bloomberg campaign was even more shameful-it prevented any real countervailing information from reaching the less motivated voters.

And the endorsement of the mayor by the NY Times, in spite of how much his spending made a mockery of the paper's signature campaign finance law, puts that paper right up there with the two other journalistic co-conspirators. Here's the money quote we love: "Public education is better over all ..." All three publishers-billionaires in concert-helped fellow billionaire Bloomberg make a mockery of the local democratic process. (Although, in hinsight, the Times editorial has an even bigger howler: "What makes the mayor stand out is not his political skill, although he has come a long way since his first clumsy days in office. He has run the $60 billion government with a keen attention to accountability and efficiency.")

And the dummying up of the city scores is a direct result of DOE malfeasance-allowing teachers to grade their own students' exams. But why should we be surprised by this? After all, the DOE had to know-given the disparity between the state and national tests-that something was not Kosher. Yet silence reigned because it was politically expedient.

So now we have auditors. But something important is missing. When the average person is audited by the IRS, and discrepancies are found, it ends up with the unlucky subject paying back the money with interest. Now that we have seen how the NYC DOE-in partnership with State DOE-has defrauded the public all to the benefit of a sitting mayor, where do we go to get our money back?