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, June 16, 2012

It's Not About Reform; It's About the Reformers

Exactly one year ago today, I wrote something I have thought, from time to time, about taking back. This was right after Derrell Bradford announced he was leaving E3 to start B4K, NJ's premiere anti-tenure lobbying shop. I thought it was important to point how ridiculous it was for Bradford to have any power to move education policy:
Derrell is a spectacularly unqualified member of Christie's task force in charge of screwing teachers eliminating tenure. He lives to hobnob with the rich and famous. He has admitted that his is banal platitudes and faux digital hipster shtick are nothing more than a cheap attempt to advance his career. He is Michelle Rhee with a bad Horatio Alger story grafted on to his bio.

His arguments are slick but facile. He has no command of actual research on teacher effectiveness. He is, for all intents and purposes, a clown.
It's that last sentence I've regretted. Because, whatever I may think about B4K and Derrell himself, that was probably too personal of an attack. I've often thought of apologizing, because it really comes close to hitting below the belt.

But then, this morning, I awoke to this:
Ladies and Gentlemen, not only are you working hard, you are looking good out there. This real estate is dedicated to you and your amazing fashion sense.
Just like the commitment to school choice ...
wicked style is a way of life for some of us.

Derrell Bradford, Executive Director of Better Education for Kids, Inc. (B4NJKids) and formally Director of Communications for Excellent Education for Everyone (E3), redefines the rules with his style. B4NJKids (B4K) is an independent voice for common-sense education reform in New Jersey. B4K stands for the proposition that the first priority of the New Jersey public school system must be the best interests of New Jersey students, not the special interests that dominate the status quo.

We love Derrell's work almost as much as we love his style!
Learn more about what B4K is doing!

Yes, it's true: I called Bradford a clown. But if the shoe fits...

Once again, in Derrell's own words, here is his mantra:

I'd like to be able to tell you to watch the entire video of this speech Derrell gave in 2008, but it's been pulled; gosh, wonder why...

If you could watch it, you'd hear Derrell opining that selling a "lifestyle" is how you get people on board with your "movement." Conveniently, that means promoting yourself as the way to get what your backers want; neat trick, huh?

So Derrell has Karaoke night and goes on TV and accepts awards and flaunts his shoes... and he convinces himself it's all for the kids. He then takes the platform his wealthy backers have bought for him and uses it to screw teachers out of workplace protections and push policies that have no research to back them up

In all fairness, he's not alone:

Michelle Rhee spent $100K of a patron's money to give herself a makeover. Jonah Edelman pals around in Aspen with incompetent trust-fund baby James Crown. Ben Chavis pretty much uses his charter schools as an ATM, according to a California District Attorney. Ben Austin is supplementing his income quite nicely, thank you, while leading an astroturfed "parent revolution." And, as you can see above, Wendy Kopp and Richard Barth don't have to worry much about paying off the mortgage.

To varying degrees, all of these people make the same case: teacher interests and student interests are not the same, so anything that benefits teachers must be looked at with suspicion. Bradford summarizes the argument thus:
"The one really important difference is that the people we represent are the kids and the families," said Derrell Bradford, executive director of the policy arm of the group [B4K]. "I know everybody says it's all about that. We have no financial interest in public education, at all. Every other group does. I don't say that in a way that's meant to disparage anyone. We can be about pure activism because we don't have anything to gain from the success of the agenda other than that kids get better educational opportunities." [emphasis mine]

Except the record shows they ALL have much to gain from the success of this agenda: their faux-celebrity status and very livelihoods depend on it!

Let's stop this garbage once and for all about how teachers and their unions have all this skin in the game, but these noble crusaders do not; considering how much more all of these people make than your average teacher, it's ludicrous to pretend otherwise.

One more thing: as Jonah Edelman has shown, these people are often quite bad at their jobs. Perhaps their wealthy backers might stop for a minute and actually question what they are doing with their days. Here's Darcie from the comments:
You know what I find endlessly fascinating? Shelley Skinner of B4K was at the Assembly hearing, tucked away in a corner scribbling away while others actually testified about the legislation. 

Why doesn't B4K ever testify? Why don't they add something other than sound bites and manipulative ads? They have very little substance to add to the debate, yet they carry one of the biggest sticks. There is something really, really wrong with that.
Indeed. The actual case these people have built up for their agenda is incredibly weak. Their level of participation in the policy debate rises no higher than bromides. Don't all these rich people ever wonder why they are getting so little more than social posturing, a few tweets, and on-line fashion shows for their money?


Deb said...

Bravo, Duke, Bravo.

Duke said...

Thx, Deb - as always.