Beware of outsiders shouting reform while trying to buy elections. Back in March there was a primary election for school board in Los Angeles. In May there was the runoff. Out of town and out of state interests spent millions of dollars to influence the local election. Why? Wouldn’t that money be better spent on educating students instead of trying to buy elections in the name of reform?
New York City’s billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg spent a million dollars, Michelle Rhee’s group spent over $250,000, and Rupert Murdock’s group spent more than $250,000. These outside influences raised about $4 million dollars to fight local teachers’ choices for the school board. The teachers’ union political action committee raised about $450,000. Howard Wolfson, a New York deputy mayor and counselor to Mr. Bloomberg, said: “For years, the expenditures in these races were one-sided from the unions, now they are not happy there is a counterbalance to their efforts, but they are going to have to get used to it.”
Is almost ten times as much money a counterbalance? These are people who don’t live in Los Angeles and don’t care about Los Angeles, but could make money in many ways from charter school groups, testing materials, computer hardware, and software by stealing some of the billions of dollars spent on education in Los Angeles.
Have Rupert Murdock or Michael Bloomberg spent decades, years, one year, one week, or even one day teaching in an inner city classroom? They wouldn’t last a day in my former classes in Los Angeles. They don’t have the knowledge or ability. It takes a certain type of patient, caring, and dedicated person. Not a billionaire greed-head. What do they know about teaching or Los Angeles?
Most of the people in the teachers’ union have dedicated their lives to making Los Angeles a better place by working long, difficult hours teaching, preparing lessons, grading papers, being surrogate parents, and doing the thousand other parts of the job that aren’t on the test. In the meantime these union teachers are being underpaid, abused, and worn out by those who can’t teach. A counterbalance? Who knows better what is needed in the schools? Someone who spends half their life working in the schools or someone who lives in a mansion thousands of miles away?
The end result was that the big money won one and lost two school board elections. In the primaries, Steve Zimmer won despite being opposed by big money for being a moderate. His major transgression was asking for a moratorium on charter schools. Michelle Rhee the failed school chancellor of Washington D.C. now makes huge amounts of money starting charter schools. The runoff election in the east San Fernando Valley featured a teacher, Monica Ratliff, who won despite the large amounts of money spent fighting her. The teachers’ union did not support her because of a deal with other unions which sided with the big money. She won against the large odds because the people are getting tired of the political clout of big money.
Education can be reformed and improved. Spending big money on elections is not the way. The wasted money could be better spent directly in the schools. Why have these out-of-towners wasted their money? They have things to sell which would make up for their losses at taxpayers’ expense. They are selling charter schools, computers, tablets, software, workbooks, tests, and study guides for the tests. The so-called reform is greedy capitalism at work. If they want to improve schools, put the money into the schools, not buying elections.