On schools, Gov. Brown chooses ‘subsidiarity’ over reality

May 15, 2013

By Chris Reed

jerry.brown.peopleHas Gov. Jerry Brown simply not been reading the newspaper for 40 years? Does he not see all the wars that the CTA and CFT fight on behalf of their members? Is he unaware of ACLU lawsuits targeting school districts for policies that help unions but hurt minority students?

For a veteran politician, he is either remarkably obtuse about K-12 education issues or good at faking it.

On Tuesday, in a telephone interview with opinion writers about his budget, Brown once again showed a shallow, uninformed grasp of public education. This is from a U-T San Diego editorial I wrote:

“He said more money and ‘subsidiarity’ — essentially, smart and thoughtful local control — are the keys to improving schools. The governor was asked why he thought local control would work better than it did before the reforms triggered by the ‘Nation at Risk’ report in the 1980s and No Child Left Behind in the 2000s, given that a key factor driving those reforms was that local control often led to a focus on adult employees instead of on students.

“Brown responded by ridiculing ‘top down’ policies that presumed people in Washington or Sacramento are wiser than ‘the teacher, the principal, the superintendent and the school board.’”

Jerry Brown channels Norman Rockwell: It’s still the 1950s! Trust your local institutions!

after_school_by_norman_rockwellFeel free to groan.  Jerry waxing philosophical — Jerry in Norman Rockwell mode. Oy. Back to the editorial, specifically to Brown’s spiel:

“This is a talking point, not a policy. It reflects a painful naiveté about how schools work in California. We live in a state in which teacher unions are so powerful that a 1971 law requiring that student performance be a factor in teacher evaluations has been ignored by most districts for decades — a state in which most teacher tenure evaluations are cursory and teacher job protections are so formidable that Los Angeles Unified believed it had no choice but to pay classroom sex predator Mark Berndt $40,000 to get him off the payroll.

“Instead of touting ‘subsidiarity,’ Brown should face reality. When unions run school districts, ‘top down’ education policies are often the only way to protect the interests of students.”

But for whatever reason, the governor has ensconced himself in “Leave It To Beaver” thinking.

Yo, Jerry, in 1955, maybe “the teacher, the principal, the superintendent and the school board” did know best. But in 2013, in a typical California school district,  “the teacher” — through his or her union — has vast sway over “the superintendent and the school bird.” And they know what’s best — for teachers.

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