Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Campbell Brown Can't Connect Dots

Monday, Campbell Brown, the new face of the attack on teacher job security, tried to "set the record straight." I suppose she did, a little, in the sense that she made it even clearer that her proposed lawsuit makes no sense. But I'm guessing that's not what she had in mind.

The tenacious New York parents who are challenging the state in court have one goal in mind: ensuring that all of our public school children have good teachers.

You know, I think I could comb the entire country, every state, every school, every teacher's lounge, every grocery store, every ballpark, every haberdashery, every Starbucks, every back alley with bad lighting-- I think I would be hard pressed to find someone who would say, "What I want is for some of the public school children in this country to have crappy teachers. That's what I would like to see."

So let's start out by setting the record straight on that goal-- it's like coming out in favor of air or food or cute puppies. It means nothing.

Lots of people want to see that every student gets a good teacher. Teachers become teachers because they dream of personally being that good teacher. The real issue is how to make that good chicken in every classroom pot dream come true.

An organization devoted to that goal might advocate for any number of things. They might advocate for more attractive teacher pay or working conditions to aid recruitment. They might advocate for a more robust system of professional support and development so that it's easy for teachers to keep getting better. They might demand better funding of ALL public schools from state and federal governments. They might even start by collecting some data beyond the anecdotal about exactly how widespread the problem of not-good teachers in classrooms actually is.

Any of these initiatives might make sense. But Campbell Brown wants us to believe that these parents sat down and said, "You know, of everything that makes it hard to insure a good teacher in every classroom, the biggest most central problem is that teachers have job security. Let's get rid of that."

Campbell says, in her straight record-setting way, "So let us dispense with the absurd: Seeking good teachers for all does not mean you are somehow going after teachers." I think she got it backwards. Going after teachers does not mean you are seeking good teachers.

Campbell tries to assert that her lawsuit is about "working to end laws that are not in the interests of children." But what she has failed to do, and what the Vergara plaintiffs failed to do, is connect these dots-- exactly how are tenure and FILO laws damaging to the interests of children? Or come at it from the other direction-- how would a school climate in which teachers were aware that they could be fired at any time for any reason help students get a better education?

This is central to these suits, and yet it has never been answered.

And in setting the record straight, she only fuzzes things up further. The lawsuit to end tenure would help students, somehow, and besides "for those who have the added due-process protections of tenure, the goal here is only to make sure that system actually makes sense, without undercutting our kids’ constitutional rights."

So, the lawsuit to end tenure is not supposed to end tenure??

And this quote from Arne Duncan "sums it up well." "Tenure itself is not the issue. Job protections for effective teachers are vital to keep teachers from being fired for random or political reasons."

So the longer Campbell works at setting things straight, the more crooked the whole things seems. Also, she adds, civil rights laws.

And tenure doesn't insure good teaching. Well, now, there you have us. Also, food and clothing and windows in a room also do not insure good teaching. If we are going to sue to get rid of everything that does not insure good teaching, we are going to be here a long time.

So what's say we go ahead and stick with things that support good teaching. Like, say, the knowledge that you can't be fired for arbitrary reasons or being too expensive.

Campbell Brown has tried to set the record straight, and yet it is more murky than ever. She is suing-- oh, no, wait-- a group of "tenacious" parents is suing, and Campbell Brown is just--what? Their new BFF? A concerned rich citizen who's now laid off and depending on her husband the charter school magnate to support her? The nice lady who writes their press for them? If this is a tenacious parent lawsuit, why are you here, Campbell? Anyway, somebody is suing in order to-- do something? Get rid of tenure, but not really hoping to fully succeed? Make it easier to fire teachers, but you know, only some teachers, because that will get students a better education... somehow?

As an exercise in record straightening, this was not very successful. I hope the next attempt by America's newest ed crusader is more helpful.


  1. I often agree with you but support of tenure I really don't understand. It causes the appearance of people who don't want to accountable. Name me any other job that has tenure. In people's normal experience they can be fired without notice or reason. It makes teachers look like they want special rights. The union needs to be aggressive about maintaining high standards for its members.

  2. I think I answer at least part of that question here--

  3. I just read an article posted on my district's web site about the newest Supt. Kriner Cash (Buffalo Public) and written br an author from the 74 million. I feel afraid of what might be to come-knowing that this is Brown's baby. What do you think?