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

Friday, October 9, 2015

Who Tanked @campbell_brown's Education Forum? Campbell Brown.

Perpetual pearl-clutcher Campbell Brown gets very, very cross when she doesn't get exactly what she wants:
Democratic presidential candidates are blowing off an education forum that anchorwoman-turned-activist Campbell Brown was expected to host in Iowa this month, and Brown blames pressure from traditionally Democratic teachers unions eager to move the party away from President Barack Obama’s school reforms. 
In August, six Republican candidates appeared at a New Hampshire forum sponsored by Brown’s education reform news site, The Seventy Four, along with the school choice advocacy group the American Federation for Children. Those groups had announced a similar October event for Democrats in conjunction with the Des Moines Register, but the former CNN anchor said that none of the candidates would commit to attend even in principle before last week’s deadline, and that operatives from several campaigns told her privately that the unions had urged them to stay away. 
Obama and his outgoing education secretary, Arne Duncan, have often pursued policies that unions hate, like promoting charter schools and linking teacher evaluations to student test scores. Unions are also angry about Obama’s decision to replace Duncan with his like-minded deputy, John King. Brown has battled with unions as well, and she said the decisions by Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and the other Democrats to skip her event reflected their discomfort with Obama’s education agenda and their fear of the unions. 
What happened here is very clear: The teachers unions have gotten to these candidates,” Brown told POLITICO. “All we asked is that these candidates explain their vision for public education in this country, and how we address the inequality that leaves so many poor children behind. … President [Barack] Obama certainly never cowered to the unions. Even if they disagree with the president’s reforms, you would think these candidates would at least have the courage to make the case.” [emphasis mine]
Well, OK -- but that's Brown's opinion. I guess she's entitled to it... but is there any evidence at all that the candidates succumbed to union pressure to avoid Brown's event? Here's what Politico reports:
None of the campaigns would discuss the forum on the record. Union officials would not confirm that they exerted pressure on the candidates to skip it, but they are not fond of Brown or her advocacy against teacher tenure in public schools. In the past, they have portrayed her as a corporate-funded elitist doing the bidding of Republicans; Brown is a registered independent, but her husband, Dan Senor, is a former Bush administration official who served as a spokesman for the Iraq war.
So the answer is "no." Funny, because the Politico headline for this very story says:
Bowing to unions, 2016 Dems skip Campbell Brown’s education forum
But there's no evidence in their own piece that this is true. In fact, it makes absolutely no sense: both the AFT and the NEA have already endorsed Hillary Clinton. Why would any of the other Democratic candidates stay away from this event at the unions' insistence when those same unions have already made their endorsements?

This logic also seems to have escaped both the Weekly Standard and Hotair, who were happy to repeat Brown's charge without any corroborating evidence. But so it goes in the American press: when one of their own ventures an opinion, it gains a factesque sheen that simply can't be questioned.

This said, I do think the candidates were concerned with the backlash that would have ensued had they taken the stage with Brown -- but not from the unions so much as from teachers themselves.

Why? Because one consequence of Campbell Brown's relentless attack on teachers unions has been to make it look like our schools are full of perverts.

Here's Brown in the Wall Street Journal, 7/29/12:
By resisting almost any change aimed at improving our public schools, teachers unions have become a ripe target for reformers across the ideological spectrum. Even Hollywood, famously sympathetic to organized labor, has turned on unions with the documentary "Waiting for 'Superman'" (2010) and a feature film, "Won't Back Down," to be released later this year. But perhaps most damaging to the unions' credibility is their position on sexual misconduct involving teachers and students in New York schools, which is even causing union members to begin to lose faith.
Here's Brown in Slate, 8/20/12:
Most recently an op-ed I wrote for the Wall Street Journal was critical of New York teachers unions for supporting a policy that makes it very hard to fire teachers who engage in inappropriate sexual behavior with children. In this case, I failed twice. The teachers union immediately pointed to my Romney tie (apparently in their view only a Romney supporter would oppose sexual predators in school?). They then rightly asserted that  my husband serves on the board of StudentsFirst—New York, an education reform group that advocates for charter schools. He receives no money from the organization, yet the teachers unions blasted me for hiding this connection, and falsely accused me of a financial conflict of interest. Here I failed to disclose because I stupidly did not connect the teachers’ unions’ opposition to charter schools to their support for a system that protects teachers who engage in sexual misconduct. My sincerest apologies to the teachers unions for not fully appreciating how wrong they are on not one but two issues. 
As you may have guessed, I am not feeling very apologetic.
In late July, a Twitter user began to post a flurry of messages on what happens to be one of the Bloomberg administration’s newest education campaigns. 
Teachers union must stop protecting those who commit sexual misconduct with children,” read one post on July 29. 
“Unions have to be there to support great hardworking teachers. Not ones who sexually harass and endanger our kids,” said another from Aug. 3. 
The posts began to draw the attention of Randi Weingarten, the head of the American Federation of Teachers, who wrote on Twitter, “Union protects against false allegations,” which elicited this comeback: 
“Then how do u explain teacher asking child for striptease and not fired?” 
The author of these missives was not a mayoral operative or a city education wonk. It was Campbell Brown, the 44-year-old former CNN anchor and mother of two young sons, who from her home in Lower Manhattan had begun to insert herself into an uncomfortable political fight in a conspicuous way.
Before we go any further, let's take a moment to point out how completely misguided it is for Brown to blame unions for the small number of incidences she feels were improperly handled. Sarah Jaffe at Alternet rightly points out that New York City is required to fire any teachers who engage in sexual misconduct. Mike Mulgrew, head of the teachers union in NYC, tried to explain this to Brown:

Say what you will about Mulgrew, he was spot on here and unambiguous; if Brown didn't understand him, it's because she is willingly obtuse.

Now, I am certainly willing to concede that there have been cases where termination would have been warranted, but lesser punishments were given. But the solution isn't to do what Brown wants: overriding due process protections and giving the schools chancellor -- a political appointee -- ultimate power over these decisions.

The correct remedy is to spell out clearly what is and is not appropriate, train staff accordingly, and agree on punishments. But this would be an ongoing process that would require cooperation with the union and an atmosphere of goodwill. Brown, it appears, would rather continue trashing the unions, which helps to gin up support for her incoherent holy war against teacher tenure protections.

As Arthur Goldstein notes, Brown's demonizing of the unions has led to a flurry of media reports of alleged sexual misconduct by teachers in NYC. Lost in this frenzy is any acknowledgment that teachers have frequently been falsely accused of abuse, and the only protection they have against these charges is due process under the law. Brown, it seems, doesn't think these basic rights ought to extend to unionized teachers.

Further, there's a nasty implication in Brown's argument against due process for teachers: that those of us who support our unions' fight for our rights are either indifferent to the suffering of victims of sexual abuse, or too stupid to know we're being played by our unions. Neither is true: no one wants a criminal removed from a school more than someone who works in a school, and teachers expect our unions to protect our hard-won rights. We only ask that the bedrock principal of "innocent until proven guilty" be applied to our workplaces.

As far as I am concerned, no one who would so casually trash my right to a fair hearing before an impartial arbitrator has any business asking presidential candidates about their policy positions in my chosen field. We can have a serious discussion about how to make tenure laws and dismissal procedures better; what I'm not willing to debate is how I and my colleagues are so potentially dangerous that we have to be subject to the political whims of our employers.

Campbell Brown, for whatever reason, has created a toxic climate around teaching, aiding in the trashing of the profession by casually implying that perverts lurk around every corner of our schools. She has shown, time and again, that she will shamelessly trash our unions simply to score the cheapest of political points. She is one of the lead polluters in the systematic sliming of teachers across this nation.

If no one from the Democratic party chose to show up to Campbell Brown's little sludge-fest because they are afraid of offending teachers -- not just unions, but teachers themselves -- she has only herself to blame. I'm certainly not going to vote for anyone who thinks Campbell Brown is to be taken seriously, and I very much doubt I'm alone.

As if.

ADDING: More from Peter Greene:
Brown and some other reformster pilot fish will gladly claim they've been put upon by the union, because that makes them important. It's an old and venerable trick-- hell, if I could get Campbell Brown to attack me in print, my bloggy street cred would go way up-- but it doesn't always work. And to pretend that the Democratic party, which just fell all over itself lionizing the departing and union un-loved Arne Duncan-- well, that party hasn't shown all that much concern about upsetting the teachers unions.

At best, Brown is just a victim of the old internet adage "Don't Feed the Trolls." But it's just as likely that her Iowa shindig failed because she's just not that important or relevant.

1 comment:

Christine said...

She's irrelevant, not a journalist, just another paid for, talking- head cashing reformer checks. I think it would be great if candidates didn't want to be anywhere near her because of how she demeans teachers, unions and public schools.