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

Monday, March 25, 2013

Bye-Bye Ben Chavis

Diane Ravitch reports the latest news about one of the darlings of the reformy, Ben Chavis:

Politicians and pundits flicked to the school to sing its praises and to heap honor and recognition on Ben Chavis, its leader. Chavis flaunted his “no excuses” style and his disdain for liberal softies. His schools had some of the highest scores in the state so it was hard to argue with success.

As the media took turns lionizing Chavis, they failed to notice that he had managed to lose the American Indians and to tilt the enrollment heavy towards Asians.

But Chavis encountered another problem last year when an audit revealed that some $3.8 million or so of the schools’ funds had ended up in businesses controlled by him or his wife. That was a problem.

Last week, the Oakland school board revoked the charter, but only by a vote of 4-3. Three members of the board were willing to overlook the financial issues because of the schools’ high scores.
As Diane correctly points out, however, those high scores were due to the changing demographics of the school:
Please take a look at the changing percentage of students who belong in one of the following subgroups: American Indian or Alaska Native, Pacific Islander, Filipino, Hispanic or Latino, or African American. This is for the 13 school years from 1996-97 to 2008-09. All figures are from DataQuest at the California Department of Education’s website.
· 1996-97 = 100.0
· 1997-98 = 97.0
· 1998-99 = 93.8
· 1999-00 = 100.1
· 2000-01 = 97.0
· 2001-02 = 100
· 2002-03 = 98.7
· 2003-04 = 74.3
· 2004-05 = 55.4
· 2005-06 = 65.3
· 2006-07 = 51.1
· 2007-08 = 50.5
· 2008-09 = 42.3
The school’s American Indian or Alaska Native percentage in 1996-97 was 100%. This year it is 1.1%.
Now look at the changing percentage of the school’s students who are either Asian or White.
· 1996-97 = 0.0
· 1997-98 = 2.9
· 1998-99 = 6.2
· 1999-00 = 0.0
· 2000-01 = 2.9
· 2001-02 = 0.0
· 2002-03 = 1.2
· 2003-04 = 25.7
· 2004-05 = 44.6
· 2005-06 = 33.7
· 2006-07 = 22.4
· 2007-08 = 38.4
· 2008-09 = 54.4*
Ben Chavis took over the failing school in 2001-02. It only took him a short time to figure out how to maximize his school’s test scores. One of his primary methods was simply to change the demographics.
Nice. I've been following the sordid tale of Chavis for some time, but in all of the reporting about his  fiscal shenanigans, I've never seen this subject broached. John Stossel, for example, has never uttered a peep about Chavis's obviously segregating school:
School board members don't like Chavis. I understand why. He's obnoxious. Arrogant. He probably broke some rules. For example, he's accused of making a profit running his schools. Horrors! A profit!
If he did profit, I say, so what? He still got top test results with less government money. Good for him!
And if a state audit cites "numerous examples of financial conflicts of interest and fraudulent expenditures" at the school, I suppose Stossel will say "So what?" again. It's only money...

Here's Chavis and Stossel in a performance that should be watched by all drama students as an example of terrible acting:

(Hmm... the embed doesn't seem to work. Click through if you really want to subject yourself to this.)

So Chavis says he "knows how to educate kids." But then he says he doesn't work at the school. Yeah, that makes sense...

And don't you just love the smug sarcasm Chavis and Stossel engage in here? Whitney Tilson of Democrats for Education Reform sure does!
Chavis observed Barron berating one of the conference organizers, bringing that person to tears, and didn't like it one bit -- he thought Barron was being a bully, so and went up to him and, face only inches from Barron's, started RIPPING him, saying (I'm not making this up): "You're a mother f-ing black pimp, you're f-ing our kids.  Come to the reservation and I'll beat your ass.  You want our kids to take Home Ec?  YOU should wear a dress!"

Barron replied, "Well we're here, so let's do it right now."  Chavis said OK and started heading for the exit.  Barron, seeing Chavis was dead serious about fighting him, quickly wimped out and instead threatened to having Chavis kicked out of the hotel.  They shouted obscenities at each other, with Chavis getting the last words as they separated, saying "You're a pimp!  You're a pimp!"

I LIKE this guy! 

Here's another story I heard about Chavis: when he became principal of the first American Indian Charter School, he went down to the street corner where the drug dealers were hanging out.  They said, "What the hell are you doing here, white man."  To which he replied, "I'm not white, I'm Indian -- and I'll pay you $5 if you bring back any of my students who should be in school."  They said, "Hell, for $5, we'll not only bring them back, we'll beat them up for you!"  "No need for that," Chavis replied.  "Just bring them back."
As I said, I LIKE this guy!  I'm not sure I'd recommend all of his methods, but they seem to work for him -- and, most importantly, his students!
Whitney's "not sure" if it's a good idea to pay drug dealers to act as truant officers. But F-bombs? Hey, "they seem to work," so what the f-, am I right?!

What you'll never, ever get reformy folks like Stossel or Tilson to admit is that they love guys like Chavis not for his non-existent ability to "educate kids"; they love him because he takes such glee in smacking down unions and unionized teachers. It's perfectly fine to put a maniac like Chavis in charge of a school, play games with its enrollment to pump up scores, and allow him to pay himself with taxpayer funds - so long as he conforms to their ideologies.

They are cool with just about anything happening in our schools so long as it protects their interests.

Thurston, we need to put that f-ing maniac back in charge of his charter school!


Robert D. Skeels * rdsathene said...

In fairness Sharon Higgens has been pointing out the demographics issue with Chavis' schools from the beginning.

I figure you meant mainstream media when you were saying this was never discussed though.

Ultimately I won't be satisfied until Chavis is locked up in Pelican Bay or Folsom. He, like the rest of the well heeled charter executive crowd, deserves nothing less than a long prison term for his crimes against the community, and more importantly, against the students he came in contact with.

giuseppe said...

John Stossel is a far right wing uber libertarian ideologue. His views are contemptible, vile and unempathetic beyond human belief. He once argued that price gouging was a good and reasonable thing. Just horrific. In his view, whatever laissez-faire free market capitalism does is A-OK. Programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are examples of the nanny state and must be crushed and or privatized in his twisted Ayn Randian view of things.