Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Mayoral Overdose, part II

Rhode Island Red:

The response is quite interesting. School Committee president Cathy Crain publicly resigned last night, following the example of Philip Gould a few weeks ago, and apparently, Supt. Tom Brady. I think we should not make heroes out of people who drank the Kool-Aid and realized only too late what was in it. Personally, I think it’s great that Crain and Gould resigned, and I’d like to see ALL of the School Committee members do the same. I was happy to hear Crain state, paraphrased in the Journal, that “she hopes parents will take control of their children’s education because it’s clear that the politicians will not.” What a realization! Of course, I think the politicians already have taken control, backed up by their billionaire buddies and with the help of “reform-minded” individuals like Crain herself. Maybe she should read that Diane Ravitch book…

But it’s notable that Crain and Gould did not apologize for the actions they took while on the School Committee. Crain did not apologize for the school closings, the teacher firings, etc. Instead, she clearly felt herself to have been used as a tool by the Mayor (which is true), but then believes herself to be a martyr. Gould’s statement was along the same lines. These are people who believed the wrong things about education reform, and now realize they’ve been had—but are still unclear about whom they’ve been had by, and for what reason. Are they our allies? I’d hardly trust them!

It opens up a larger question that I’ve been pondering for some time now. In brief, it seems like Taveras has been trying to out-Broad the Broadies. For all that the Broad Academy trains bureaucrats in draconianism, it still preserves some veneer of being about education; in contrast, Taveras seems to have pulled a number of maneuvers that the Broadies have gone along with, but that are even faster and more destructive than they’re used to. Now the rats are abandoning the ship! But it begs the question: what’s really going on?

Most simply, I'd guess Taveras thinks he's playing catch up to a successful model from New York. If I believed the Bloomberg-era reforms in NYC were an unmitigated success, I'd make the kind of moves he has.

But more generally, Rhode Island school reform is currently distinguished by a self-destructive over-emphasis on mayoral control. If Rhode Island had passed a normal charter school reform bill a couple years ago, instead of that self-indulgent Mayoral Academies law, Achievement First would be shopping for space in Providence already.

What's happening in City Hall looks like a big power play, but I don't understand how in helps Taveras, or any other PVD mayor, in the long run. The next three years are going to be extremely rough for the PPSD, no matter who is running the show. Choosing this moment to pile the authority and responsibility onto one Mayor is just... strange.

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