Pulitzer Prize Winner Thinks Ravitch Is Jindal
On October 30, 2015, New Orleans-based online news publication, The Lens, carried an opinion piece by its news editor, Jed Horne, who is described at the end of the article as “a veteran journalist who was awarded a Pulitzer Prize as part of the Times-Picayune team that covered Katrina and the recovery.”
After reading his opinion piece entitled, “Jindal and the Core: Louisiana Snubs the Manchurian Candidate,” I checked more than once to see if I had read Horne’s tag line correctly.
The arrogant propaganda that this Pulitzer-Prize-winning, veteran journalist passed off as newsworthy is an embarrassment to journalism, let alone The Lens and the Pulitzer.
Though the title does not betray as much, it is clear upon reading Horne’s opinion that one of his primary intentions was to rip education historian Diane Ravitch for the public endorsement that her Network for Public Education (NPE) offered to three candidates in the October 24, 2015, Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) elections.
All three candidates lost. Horne writes that they were “spurned by voters.” He also takes pleasure in pairing Ravitch with Jindal based on their opposing Common Core. He states that “in the eyes of Louisiana voters,” Ravitch and Jindal “both got handed their heads” based on the outcome of the 2015 BESE election.
Such supposed “head-handing” concerning Ravitch likely reads well to a man thrilled with his own vicious writing, but it reads as negligent journalism to those familiar with Jindal’s motive to promote his own career contrasted with Ravitch’s February 2013, thought-provoking public statement against Common Core, devoid of any motives other than reckoning with her own conscience.
Horne criticizes Ravitch as “a darling of teacher unions,” yet he misses that both national teachers unions support Common Core– and that at the 2015 NPE conference, Ravitch put both national union presidents on the spot for their Common Core fidelity.
It does nothing for Horne’s CC support to note that he is on the same side as both national teachers union presidents. Better skip that one and just keep laying into Ravitch.
Then, of course, there’s the Billionaire BESE Buy.
Yep. What Horne does not mention at all in his Ravitch-slam opinion piece is the over $3.5 million that was spent on the 2015 BESE election, much of it from out of state and funneled through a single Louisiana PAC, Empower Louisiana.
Later in his piece, Horne also criticizes Ravitch for her usage of the term, education “privatization,” but here before him is a component of education privatization: the out-of-state, billionaire purchasing of elections. This purchase (veteran journalist that he is) Horne astoundingly ignores.
As it turns out, of that over $3.5 million, $2.2 million was used by the Empower Louisiana PAC to purchase campaign advertising, including television spots and mailouts, for four BESE candidates who support corporate reform (see here and here). One of those candidates ran against Barrios, and one, against Beebe.
The candidate running against Barrios, James Garvey, also had the support of business and industry, and had $263,000 available to spend on the BESE race against Barrios.
As for Beebe and France, Beebe’s $42,000 was against Holloway’s $143,300 (plus the Empower Louisiana PAC millions), yet Beebe took 39 percent of the vote; France, who was in a five-way race and still took 11 percent of the vote, had campaign funds of $4,700.
And with her $14,600-funded campaign against Garvey’s $263,000-plus-out-of-state-millions, Barrios managed to still take 29 percent of the vote.
Nevertheless, Barrios did lose, and Horne celebrates her loss (along with the losses of Beebe and France) by noting that BESE will be “predominately peopled by folk who favor the Common Core.” And he thinks that Louisiana voters “spurned” candidates who did not want Common Core.
However, the pro-Common-Core candidates did not publicly posture themselves as pro-CC. On the contrary, they worked to hide it. This, too, is a feature of privatizing reform: Shape the message and control information in order to gain control over public power and public funding.
For example, I live in BESE District 1, where the 2015 race was Barrios against Garvey. I have four campaign mailers for Garvey, three 6″ x 11″ paid for by Garvey, and one 8.5″ x 11″ paid for by Empower Louisiana. The Empower Louisiana ad does not mention standards. The three mailers paid for by Garvey mention standards, but not Common Core:
[Garvey] ensured higher, Louisiana-based standards for our children.
Higher standards. Local control. Better education.
Jim Garvey: Putting Our Kids First: Improving Public Education: Ensured that Louisiana schools have higher standards that are written by our teachers and parents specifically for our children.
No mention of Common Core out of the Garvey who supports Common Core.
Whatever it takes.
Horne dismisses what he refers to “two mop-up runoffs for BESE seats”; yet the two favored individuals, Mary Harris (who Empower PAC tried unsuccessfully to eliminate) and Kathy Edmonston (a candidate to whom France lost) are both anti-CC.
Horne does not even mention the three BESE appointees from the next governor, nor does he mention the fact that Common Core is under review based on recent legislation and that the next governor has the power to veto the result and send it back to BESE. (See this post for more.)
Also, if the next governor is John Bel Edwards (which is likely), it is possible that he could appoint Barrios, Beebe, and France to the very BESE board that the billionaires tried to buy.
That would be five anti-CC seats out of eleven. But what is more important is that these five seats could prove to be an anti-corporate-reform force– not just anti-CC.
This could cause some real problems for privatizing reformer superintendent, John White. Horne is missing that the 2015 BESE is not as solidly on White’s side as the 2011 BESE. That combined with a governor who is actively attempting to dislodge White from his control over LDOE activities and information is a realistic threat.
Horne might believe that White has this one in the bag, but White is keeping quiet about the issue.
But Horne is not quiet. He is not finished with his Ravitch-bash.
Horne tries to paint Ravitch as “an off the wall flip flopper” who “seems to spend a lot of energy thinking up ways to discredit [charter schools.]”
But it doesn’t take a lot of energy to discredit charters. One just needs to Google, “charter school scandals” to get an easy eyeful.
In the name of “autonomy,” charter schools nationwide are under-regulated, which lends to an endless stream of charter school scandals. One does not need to look far. Consider Ohio. Former Governor Ted Strickland questioned USDOE’s sending federal money to expand Ohio charters despite the fact that the Ohio charter sector is not faring as well as Ohio’s traditional public schools.
But Horne is keen on New Orleans charters. In spring 2011, he wrote an extensive article celebrating five years of post-Katrina charters in New Orleans. Here is an excerpt:
That made New Orleans a test not just of cutting-edge instructional practices but of variant administrative models as well. The city became a laboratory for the reinvention of its school system and, as was attested to by the enthusiasm of major foundations and the Obama administration, a crucible for ideas that might well be replicable in other cities.
As reformers hoped, the opportunity attracted a raft of independent school service providers ranging from charter management organizations to firms that aligned curricula with state standards and then developed metrics for measuring individual student achievement on a monthly or even weekly basis. Teach For America and the New Teacher Project saw opportunity and beefed up their presence in New Orleans, as did a homegrown organization called Teach NOLA. The Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools gained prominence as a deft legislative advocate for what was being called the New Orleans reform model. The largest of the independent reform groups, the nonprofit New Schools for New Orleans (NSNO), developed an array of services, subsidies, and other forms of support. To plug the human capital deficit in a city still depopulated by Katrina, NSNO began training prospective school leaders and directors as well as teachers. It also sponsored a small nonprofit to engage and inform parents about student choices in the new landscape. By 2010, NSNO had incubated 10 citywide, open-admission charter schools, the basic integer of local reform, and provided key personnel and services for dozens more.
Katrina spawned a gamut of visionary ideas for the transformation of New Orleans. They ranged from land-use plans to flood protection to the development of neighborhood health-care clinics to economic development and governance proposals. Many died at inception, undone by the impulse to re-create the old order before attempting its improvement. School reform was the exception. A sense of moral obligation combined with hard work and sheer exasperation to make it the most far-reaching achievement of the post-Katrina era.
What is interesting about the timing of Horne’s glowing article on the the five-year-mark for New Orleans charter turn-around is that it coincides with the administration of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). And interestingly enough, a recent analysis of 2011 student-level grade 8 NAEP data indicates that five years into its charter-centric transformation, the 2011 NAEP scores of Louisiana’s grade 8 urban charter school students (which means, mostly New Orleans charter schools grade 8 students) were the worst of the worst nationwide.
Let’s do another.
In 2012, the New Orleans Recovery School District (RSD) peaked at a state-reported ACT composite of 16.8— and it hasn’t been able to break the 16-point-something ACT score limbo that will get all-charter RSD grads nowhere. On October 29, 2015, White told nola.com that a student is not prepared for college with less than a 21 ACT composite.
There are also those thousands of “opportunity youth,” young people ages 16 to 24 who are not in school and not gainfully employed, that RSD assistant superintendent Dana Peterson admitted the decentralized RSD has no way of tracking.
Finally, and as previously noted, Horne does not like having the corporate-reform charter model referred to as a “privatized” model:
Calling New Orleans charters “private” is a fairly clumsy way to describe schools that remain taxpayer-financed, that are overseen by elected boards at the local and/or state level and that must, like every school in the state, meet state standards or be stripped of their charters and management teams.
It’s not quite that simple.
If New Orleans charters were truly public schools (and were truly overseen), then they would be subjected to regular audits, which they are not. (See here, also.) As a result, it is the New Orleans charters that can have out-of-state charter managers like Los Angeles-based Steve Barr waffling for two years and finally failing to deliver on rebuilding McDonogh High, or Lagniappe Academy not getting busted for faking a special education classroom until parents complained, or Milestone Academy skirting proper procedure to install a CEO and ending up with one who used the school credit card as his own.
And if Louisiana were not experiencing the privatization of public education, then public information on those public schools would be readily available to the public without favoritism and without the public having to sue (and sue, and sue) to get such information.
The goal of education privatization is to control public money while keeping accountability to the public for exactly how that money is being spent just out of reach in the name of “autonomy.”
It also involves the advancing of market motives of a cheap bottom line, a mass-produced product, and an easily measured outcome, and fixing it strategically and securely onto the face of public education. Too, if the measured outcome is not useful for the promotion of the educational product, then the outcome must be repackaged and the evidence kept from the public.
Education privatization also seeks to establish webs of influence that invariably involve conflicts of interest. In the end, this privatization potpourri leads to exploitation, ineptness, mismanagement and scandal.
And something else:
Promoting such a scheme while trying to pretend that one isn’t makes for some ridiculous writing:
Jindal is Ravitch and Ravitch is Jindal in their uncoordinated assault on progress toward better schools.
Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.
She also has a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, published on June 12, 2015.
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