Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Learn, NY parents -- about Learn NY!

The NY Times blog and Gotham schools ran stories about the new organization founded by Bloomberg to keep control over our schools – formerly called MASS, but now renamed Learn NY.

"... the group unveiled a Web site dedicated to spreading the Bloomberg school-reform gospel, a hub filled with fact sheets, carefully culled news clips and grassroots platitudes. (“We will listen. And we will be heard.”) One section, promoting the “real results” of mayoral control, takes a page from the global-warming-is-real play book. “It’s not just a feeling,” it declares. “It’s really happening.”

In interviews with reporters, the group’s director, Peter Hatch, offered what he called “opportunities for improvement” (he rebuked the term “criticisms”)—among them, finding ways to give parents more input, make city finances more transparent and nurture independent analyses of school data.

I expressed skepticism to the Times reporter that Hatch would propose ways to give parents more actual input – rather than simply suggest more public hearings. As any NYC parent knows by now, we’ve been subjected to hundreds of hearings, and never once has this administration really listened to anything we’ve said. If Bloomberg or Klein had been had been interested in our views, after all, they would have included questions in the parent survey about whether we agreed with their policies, but this they refused to do.

“Leonie Haimson, a critic of Mr. Bloomberg’s efforts and executive director of the nonprofit Class Size Matters, said she saw the group’s efforts as an attempt to preempt an onslaught of criticism from parent groups. She said she was skeptical of the group’s proposed changes to the mayoral control law. “What we want is real input, giving us some actual say in school policy,” she said. “Hearings are meaningless.”

While Hatch denied to reporters the organization has received funding from Bloomberg himself, he refused to disclose his contributors, though he admits to having “millions” to work with. His refusal to disclose the sources of his funding make his protestations that DOE’s own spending should be “more transparent” rather unconvincing, to say the least.

And the way in which Brian Keeler, the group’s media consultant, whom we had dubbed "the Mayoral control troll" left anonymous comments on our blog promoting Mayoral control, without disclosing his identity, does not bode well for this group’s sincerity about the need for more transparency.

From Gotham Schools:

“Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters has already done impressive digging into the group’s media strategy. A spokesperson for the group confirmed to me today that the blog commenter Haimson noticed voicing his passion for mayoral control is indeed on the payroll of Learn NY. Brian Keeler, an online-media specialist who ran unsuccessfully for state senate in 2006 with the help of a following he built at Daily Kos, has been posting positive comments on this blog, Leonie’s, and others. He is also an employee of the Web design firm that built Learn NY’s Web site and will write a regular blog on the site, the spokesperson, Julie Wood, said.”

The Times article confirms that the MirRam group has been hired as one of the lobbying firms that will try to push Mayoral control through the legislature. As noted previously, MirRam’s chief lobbyists are Roberto Ramirez, formerly chief political boss of the Bronx, and Luis Miranda, who is also head of CFE’s board. The other lobbying group that will work on this campaign is Brown, McMahon and Weinraub, one of whose principals, Tom McMahon, is the brother of CM Michael McMahon of Staten Island, who is now running for Congress.

The Mayor and the DOE won't stop there, of course. Along with the nakedly political campaign of saturation subway ads, etc. being pursued by the Fund for Public Schools, Elizabeth Green of Gotham Schools in a separate article has the goods on how Garth Harries, head of DOE’s portfolio office, used a retreat paid for by the Gates Foundation to persuade charter school and small school operators to help proselytize for continued Mayoral control;

There was also a lot of worrying about what is probably a bigger potential obstacle: The possibility that, come 2009, when the state Legislature votes on whether to keep, abolish, or alter mayoral control of the public schools, the system could be organized in a completely different way. There was no question on which side the Department of Education stood. At the end of the first day, a group that is fighting for the preservation of mayoral control of the public schools, but which has said it has no formal ties to the Bloomberg administration, spoke about its political plans. Chancellor Joel Klein also gave a speech passionately declaring that the successes that have happened would endangered if mayoral control was abolished.

Our tax dollars hard at work.


Anonymous said...

The Mr. mcMahon who is now a Congressmen from Staten Island voted against the term limits bill in the city council. Guess what? He was told he could vote against the Bill as they knew (Quinn&Bloomberg) that they had the votes needed to pass. I bet the Republicans-Molinari would like to know this. They are as thick as thieves these reformers.
They wanted to assure they would now control that seat on Staten Island. More than the garbage fill something stinks in Staten Island and Manhattan.

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