MRS. JAZZMAN (looking up from sipping smoothie): Yes, it would. Not only is it unnecessarily provocative, it's untrue. They're not the stupidest people on Earth.
ME: But they wrote this!
For perspective, know that the reforms [NJ Democratic gubernatorial candidate Barbara] Buono opposes are supported not just by our Republican governor, but by President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who have defied the teachers unions on these issues despite the political cost. Buono is positioning herself to the left of that bipartisan coalition.MRS. JAZZMAN: Are you telling me they are actually arguing a policy must be correct just because Chris Christie and Arne Duncan both support it?
MRS. JAZZMAN: (pause) Yeah, that is really stupid.
ME: And what about this?
Begin with the new teachers’ contract in Newark. It provides bonuses to the best teachers while freezing the pay of those who perform poorly. It eases the path to get rid of persistently bad teachers. It brings the kind of accountability that the NJEA has always resisted as it seeks to protect its members, good or bad.
Buono opposes merit pay, and is skeptical about the use of tests to help assess teacher performance. She would slam the brakes on this kind of change.ME: I just wrote several posts about the merit pay plan in Newark (here, here, and here). Not only are the Newark teachers getting gypped out of the Facebook millions they were promised; a teacher is more likely to be rated "Highly Effective" if she isn't in the merit pay-eligible pool!
MRS. JAZZMAN: Really?
ME: Haven't you been reading the blog?
MRS. JAZZMAN: Like I have time for that. Anyway, that paragraph is dumb even without the merit pay: why does the Star-Ledger always think the NJEA wants to protect "bad" teachers? All they want is for evaluations to be fair.
ME: Well, once the former president of the NJEA said one sentence Tom Moran didn't like. He can't let that go. Besides, he loves calling teachers "liars," even when they aren't.
MRS. JAZZMAN: Why would his publishers think it was a good idea to insult teachers? Don't they teach people how to read? Don't newspapers need readers?
ME: Exactly my point! These people are stupid! Look at this!
On charter schools, she is even worse. She would require a municipal referendum on each new charter school, turning what is now a sober and professional screening process into a political dogfight that the union would probably win every time. It is a poison pill, plain and simple.
In Newark, roughly 10,000 families are on waiting lists to get their children into charter schools, and for good reason. A study by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes found that charter students exhibited almost twice the achievement gains of students in Newark’s traditional schools.
Why halt a promising reform that is in such high demand?MRS. JAZZMAN: So what Moran is saying is that if a charter came to our town, even if we all voted that we didn't want it, we should still be forced to take it and drain money away from the Jazzboys' schools to fund it?!
ME: That's exactly what he's saying. And I know you've read my posts about the CREDO study.
MRS. JAZZMAN: I did, but I'm glad you linked to Darcie Cimarusti and Bruce Baker and Julia Sass Rubin. Bruce's post really explained it well:
The kids in the charters aren't the same as the kids in the public schools. Why don't you make more fun cartoons like this?
ME: Because you made me spend all afternoon yesterday searching the attic for the car carrier.
MRS. JAZZMAN: That took maybe five minutes!
ME: Whatever. What about this?
Finally, she wants to fully fund the education formula, which is plainly unrealistic in these tight budget times.MRS. JAZZMAN: But the funding formula is the law! It HAS to be funded! And the gap between spending out here in the suburbs and the cities has gotten worse under Christie! Shouldn't the Star-Ledger be outraged that Christie is giving away tax gifts to wealthy people while the students in the cities get less funding and wind up in crumbling schools?!
ME: You would think so -- but the Star-Ledger Editorial Board members don't know any of that because they're stupid! The "Stupidest People on Earth!" Why can't I say that?
MRS. JAZZMAN: Look, you've got a point. But saying that sort of thing is beneath you. You can't expect people to listen to what you're saying when you start throwing words like "stupid" around. No one's going to take you seriously.
ME: (pause) Can I say: "ignorant"?
MRS. JAZZMAN: (pause) Yeah, OK. After you weed the front walk.
ME: You gonna finish that smoothie?
MRS. JAZZMAN: Yes.
Star-Ledger Editorial Board
(This conversation, like most of our conversations, may exist slightly differently in my mind than in reality...)