Tonight on Gadfly Radio w/ Martha Montelongo and CalWatchDog’s John Seiler, CA City Journal’s Ben Boychuk, with special guest Ben Austin of Parent Revolution

Gadfly Radio Tonight, at 8 PM PT


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August 23, 2011 Tonight live at 8PM PT:  Tonight on Gadfly Radio, Ben Boychuk of CA City Journal and also policy adviser for education at The Heartland Institute and a former managing editor of School Reform News, joins me as we talk with John Seiler of CalWatchDog.com, and  special guest, Ben Austin, Executive Director of The Parent Revolution  and co-author of The Parent Trigger Law.   

 “While it has changed over time and changes somewhat from year-to-year, about 52 to 55 percent of the State General Fund Budget is spent on K–12 and Higher Education.” (CA.Gov)   
Ben Austin is a proven effective education reformer.  He is also a self described Progressive who vehemently defends unions, collective bargaining and even card check.   Ben Austin, together with co-author for The Parent Trigger Law, Senator Gloria Romero and supporters,  developed and helped bring into being, a powerful and effective tool for The Movement which Diane Ravitch claims in an op-ed posted below, is “already failing.” 
The coalition of reformers includes Progressives,  Democrats for Education Reform, conservatives and libertarians, business leaders, and of course parents.  
What is the strength of this coalition?  How threatening is the divide around unions and card check, and partisan politics? 
  Do all Democratic Reformers defend Teacher’s Unions?  Both Steve Brill and Joel Klein are also formidable leaders with Democrats for Education Reform.  Brill prescribes turning around public schools  “not by abolishing the unions but by persuading or forcing them to engage in real reforms so that they can help move those 3.2 million teachers in the right direction…”
Tonight’s show will be a spirited discussion among allies who want to see parents engaged and empowered, and all children have a shot at being well schooled–no excuses.  If a child can read, write and is numerate, he or she is capable of forming his or her own opinions and venturing outside of dogma to seek truth.  That is why everyone who believes in individual liberty and possibility should be engaged in this very real movement. 


Some related links:

When Adults Need to Act Like Grown Ups by Ben Austin, published today, Aug 23, 2011

…The vast majority of the public discourse around education reform ends with name-calling and finger pointing — depending on which ideological extreme has the microphone, either charter schools or teachers unions are single-handedly dismantling American public education.

So it was no surprise that all sides retreated to comfortable ideological corners last week when the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) accidentally released their secret plan to “kill” the Parent Trigger.

The Parent Trigger is an historic law in California, Texas, and Mississippi that gives parents unprecedented power to transform their children’s failing schools through community organizing. The Parent Trigger allows half the parents at any failing school to transform their school based on what’s good for children, not adults.

Four Opinions are posted in an excellent series, published this week online at Reuters Blog and I’ve posted them below: 
The Great Debate

First Two are by Education Reformers (Two Education Reform deniers follow below): 

The school reform deniers by Steve Brill–A label is coined.  The whole piece is fascinating, but scroll down to the facts section… for a super charged reminder for why reformers are so committed. 

Whitney Tilson, Director of Democrats for Education Reform noted the following excerpts from Steve Brill’s, and Joel Klein’s op-eds posted below, in his e-newsletter yesterday:   

That said, the issue of whether we need to throw out a system in which we allow unaccountable, unmeasured civil servants to produce failure when our nation’s economy, security, and core values depend on success is not complicated at all. It doesn’t take Woodward and Bernstein to see that the deniers are running on empty. It reminds me of the old debates over whether cigarette smoking is bad for your health. Curing lung cancer is complicated. Identifying a leading cause wasn’t. It only seemed complicated for as long as it did because those with an interest in denying the obvious spent so much for so long to keep the debate going.

The parents: the force that can’t be beat By Joel Klein

…But relying on strong leaders alone is folly. Their survival, as Fenty’s experience suggests, depends on building political constituencies that will support them, and push them to be even more aggressive. If that is to happen, we have to start with parents, who must stop tolerating a system that is failing their kids, and start insisting on great schools and teachers.

The unions know that parents are the only force they can’t beat and, as a result, they’ve done an incredible job over the past couple of decades cultivating them as allies. But, increasingly, parents — especially those in high-poverty communities — are coming to understand that it’s their kids who are bearing the brunt of the current union-driven, adults-first focus of public education…

Whitney Tilson goes on about Klein–“[He] also gives a nice and well-deserved shout-out for an important new book by Terry Moe, Special Interest: Teachers Unions and America’s Public Schools:

When it comes to persuading the unions, there’s another recent book, “Special Interests”, by Stanford professor Terry Moe, that’s well worth reading. Moe spends considerable time discussing what he views as the misguided notion of “reform unionism,” which is similar to Brill’s idea of persuading the unions to get on board for real reform. The simple truth, according to Moe, is that “beneath all the talk, important fundamentals are at work — and the fundamentals drive most of the action. Teachers fully expect that their leaders will protect their jobs, promote their economic well being, and win work rules that give them valuable rights and prerogatives.” Union leaders who fail to do those things, Moe adds, “do so at their own peril.” In fact, more than once, union leaders have told me that, even though a proposed reform made sense, they couldn’t support it and survive — and, they would always add, for good measure, that whoever replaced them would be worse for reform.

Let me be clear, reformers should always seek “to persuade” the unions to join them, and there are several encouraging examples to support this approach — some that I personally achieved together with NYC’s union president Randi Weingarten, and others that Brill recounts in “Class Warfare”. But so long as persuasion is the reformers’ only weapon, Moe concludes, “the reform movement will never get where it aims to go. It will never be able to build a school system that is organized for effective performance. It will never be able to simply do what’s best for children.”


Brill’s second theory of change — ” forcing [the unions] to engage in real reform” — appears to be more realistic.  But how is that going to happen?

I take the liberty to add to the preceding excerpt, what follows in Klein’s op-ed:

…The next political force for reform that needs to be unleashed, as Brill notes in “Class Warfare”, is teachers, especially those who are new to the field and haven’t yet bought into the union-driven long-term seniority- and pension-based system that has long served the veterans. Teachers need to be convinced that the model Brill advances — where salaries can increase significantly if we build a system based on performance, rather than longevity — is better for them financially, while also likely to enhance public respect and support for their profession. This is not so much a variation of reform unionism but, rather, the creation of a second — and different — teacher voice in the discussion. 

Klein mentions Educators 4 Excellence as an example.   Would California Teacher’s Empowerment Network CTEN be another example?
 
And two Deniers:

If only the unions were the problem By Deborah Meier  (below, this denier’s answer to Steve Brill’s comments on the Rubber Rooms… She loses me at ‘Hello.’

1.  Rubber Rooms. I happen to know some terrific teachers and principals who were sent to the Rubber Room.  They left 30-40 years of extraordinary work in despair and dishonor.  It wasn’t the union that created the Rubber Room—but former schools chancellor Joel Klein.The fact that many never get charged with any crime, much less given the opportunity for a hearing, is not the union’s fault either.   Brill might acknowledge that the contract was created by two groups, and that both the original decision to remove the teacher and the subsequent investigation and final appeal are part of management’s responsibility.  I don’t blame my lawyer if the prosecutor delays an investigation or hearing.
But should they be “sleeping, playing board games, chatting” for their $85,000 a year? Would Brill have been happier if they were reading Crime and Punishment?  One friend of mine tried to get excused from the Rubber Room to volunteer in New Orleans after Katrina.  She was not allowed.

The reform movement is already failing by Diane Ravitch

We are in the midst of the latest wave of reforms, and Steven Brill has positioned himself as the voice of the new reformers. These reforms are not just flawed, but actually dangerous to the future of American education. They would, if implemented, lead to the privatization of a large number of public schools and to the de-professionalization of education.

More Related Links: 

The Parent Trigger: A Positive Step or a Distraction for Improving Our Public Schools? an online debate featuring Ben Boychuk and Julie Cavanagh.

I want to ask our panel, Why the media black out of Ron Paul’s 2nd place victory at the Iowa Ames Straw Poll on Saturday?
I said I’d do it last week… Now a week later, hope to squeeze it in.  Um, will try; Would love to get John Seiler’s take on it.   

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