I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Low-Information Editorials

I do not relish being the guy who has to set Tom Moran straight every week. But he really leaves me no choice when he writes pieces like this. I'll keep it short:

- Here are the things you will learn from reading Tom's piece:
  • The salary of the Executive Director of the NJEA, Vince Giordano; you will also read that Moran thinks it's "way too high for a union guy."
  • Giordano apparently has "considerable girth."
  • Giordano drives a "luxury car."
  • The Governor has high approval ratings with people who don't like the union, probably because he is always bashing the union.
- Here are the things you will not learn from reading Tom's piece:
  • The comparable salaries of other heads of unions so Moran's readers can make a meaningful comparison.
  • The fact that the Ruiz tenure bill, which Moran praises, does not specify how standardized tests will be used in teacher evaluations, essentially leaving this key issue to the discretion of the ACTING Education Commissioner.
  • The fact that the bill allows for the revoking of tenure without a hearing outside of the district, which pretty much negates the protections against cronyism tenure affords. 
  • The fact that the bill calls for four categories of teacher effectiveness when there is great doubt as to the ability of current instruments to make these fine distinctions.
  • The great concern that this bill does not provide protections for senior teachers who do good work against becoming victims of budget-driven layoffs simply because they make more money (and don't believe the hype that experience doesn't matter - it does).
Does Tom Moran care if his readers are informed about these issues? Or is he more concerned that they know Giordano is a hefty fellow?

- Moran has used this one a lot:
By now, the issues dividing Christie and the union might be lost in the tussle, so here’s a quick review: The governor’s plan is about 90 percent identical to President Obama’s. He wants to get rid of bad teachers, expand charter schools and close failing schools, to focus on kids instead of adults.
His main break with Obama is that he wants a small voucher program, as do people such as Cory Booker in Newark and the Rev. Reginald Jackson of the Black Ministers’ Council.
All that’s great. And the union hates most of it because it is old-school. Barbara Keshishian, the union chief, said famously that she doesn’t even know what a bad teacher is. Enough said. [emphasis mine]
That's a pretty damning statement by Keshishian. But Moran also says this:
The governor looks for gotcha moments that he can turn into video scores. Two weeks ago, Giordano was asked on NJTV about the voucher program: What should a poor parent do when the local school is awful, and private tuitions are out of reach?
“Life’s not always fair, and I’m sorry about that,” Giordano said.
The governor went berserk: “I cannot express how disgusted I am by that statement,” he said. “And remember something: The teachers union doesn’t believe there’s an education gap in New Jersey. As Vince drives out of the palace on State Street every day in his big luxury car with his $500,000 salary, I’m sure life’s really fair for him. ... That level of arrogance, that level of puffed-up rich-man baloney is unacceptable in this state. He should resign.”
Not the sort of thing that sets the table for a Cuomo-style agreement. And was Giordano’s statement really that bad? President John F. Kennedy said “Life is unfair” when he was asked about reservists being sent to Vietnam. Does that mean he didn’t care about the soldiers? [emphasis mine]
Wait: Keshishian said one sentence, presented here out of context, and we can assume she is all for protecting "bad" teachers? But it's wrong to take Giordano's statement out of context? How does that make sense?

I've tried to find an attribution for Keshishian's statement, as Moran has used it to hang her before. According to Moran himself, she said it at an S-L editorial board meeting (Kevin Manahan of the S-L confirms this). Yet the S-L, according to my searches, has never published the quote in context. What else did she say? What was the question that prompted her statement?

Tom, you make the case that Giordano's quote should not be used against him to imply he doesn't care about poor kids. By that logic, you have to give us the context of Keshishian's statement if you want to use it to make the case that she wants to protect bad teachers. This is Journalism 101.

- Last thing: Tom Moran loves the idea of firing a bunch of bad teachers. Leave aside he's never proved that there are hordes of bad teachers ruining kids' lives to begin with...

Who are you going to get to replace them, Tom? Especially since the governor has slashed our pay, benefits, pensions, and health insurance - all to your loud cheering? Who's signing up for the job?

Or had you not thought that all the way through?

(Yeah, you're right - it wasn't that short.)


czarejs said...

You left out people finding out that NJEA's principal goal is to protect bad teachers. What a joke....I'd laugh if it weren't so serious.

Anonymous said...

thank you for this article .you hit it right on the head .finished it in proper perspective .who is going to sign up fot this job .what will happen is one of two things .education as we know it will become obselete . it will be run by big corperations and be a big business or there will be a shortage like in the sixtys then they started to to give perks to get people into teaching you watch and see within 7 to 10 years .

Dr Phrogg said...

I know what a bad teacher is, and I know what a good teacher is. And I agree that experience does matter. I just don't know how to quantify it so we can tell where the line is. Without a valid line, termination can be political rather than based on due process. I do know, from experience, that bad teachers continue to work in our schools, not because they are protected by tenure, but because the administrators are not doing their job by making a case for a tenure hearing. Administrators provide the leadership for the school, not the unions. Why is no one looking a the leadership in bad schools? Is it because it is easier to blame the teachers than it is to actually do the job?

Duke said...

Why is no one looking a the leadership in bad schools? Is it because it is easier to blame the teachers than it is to actually do the job?

I really think it is that simple.