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

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Big Brother (NJDOE) is Watching?

Diane Ravitch reports on what it's like to dare to criticize the reformyists:
I got an email last night from Leo Casey at the United Federation of Teachers, informing me that the UFT had just received a dump of emails from the New York City Department of Education, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. Leo noticed that Deborah Meier and I were mentioned several times in the emails and so he shared the trove with us.
Pretty ugly stuff. Read it here, in two parts, if you can open a google document: 
The first thing I noticed was the chummy exchanges between the public officials in change of the New York City public school system and the top dogs of the charter leadership–the Wall Street hedge fund managers, the leader of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), the leader of the New York City Charter Center, and various others. It comes clear that there is a strong and concerted effort to hand over as much public space as possible to the charters. The charter leaders are not the poor and oppressed of New York City; they are the powerful and monied, and the public officials who are paid to protect and support the PUBLIC schools of New York City are working hand-in-glove to advance the interests of the privately-managed charters, not the public schools. You will also notice, in one of the emails, that the charters are very concerned to make sure that there is no cap on their executive compensation. Heaven forbid! It’s important that their leaders continue to pull down $400,000 a year to oversee a few small schools. [emphasis mine]
Those of us in Jersey know well that charter leaders are able to skirt Chris Christie's vaunted cap on superintendents' salaries. This had led to experienced, successful superintendents leaving for jobs out of state; in at least one case, to be replaced by a dedicated union basher with a small track record of success.

Ravitch continues:
For me, the other interesting point is that they are so afraid of any criticism. They are especially afraid of Deborah Meier, me and Jonathan Kozol. They refer to columns by Deborah Meier and myself–she an educator with decades of experience, I a historian with a long view–as “moronic” and “idiotic.” They refer to Jonathan Kozol and me as “deranged crackpots.”
How can anyone take these mean-spirited, ignorant, arrogant people seriously?
Jersey folks, I'd like to show you one of these emails:

Yes, that's ACTING NJDOE Commissioner Cerf, back when he was working for Joel Klein at Tweed. Remember, it was Cerf's job to lead a "truth squad" for the NYCDOE. This squad monitored critics like Leonie Haimson and Ravitch, and then fed information to friendlies in the media so they could write scathing replies - all funded by the NYC taxpayers.

Cerf went so far as to direct his squad to videotape Ravitch's public appearances for a J. Edgar Hoover-like file they kept on her.

I think we ought to keep this history in mind in the weeks ahead, yes? Information does seem to be released from the NJDOE at very... convenient times these days.

1 comment:

Deb said...

If only the NJDoE were capable of doing their job, and for example, writing the report on charter schools and answering phone calls......I guess they have more important things to do - at least important to them and their preservation of their house of cards.