Who the F*ck Is Campbell Brown and What Has She Been Up to Lately?
Earlier this week, Charles Pierce posed a question in a post he wrote for his Politics Blog at Esquire:
To paraphrase from my grandmother, the former shepherd lass from the hills and hollows of north Kerry, who the fck is Campbell Brown when she’s at home?
A former broadcast journalist, Brown once anchored a couple of news programs on CNN. To be sure, a man as politically savvy as Pierce KNOWS perfectly well who Campbell Brown is. In fact, he provides readers of his blog with information about Brown, her education, her spouse, and what she has been up to lately:
Well, on the basics, she’s from Ferriday, Louisiana, the hometown of Jerry Lee Lewis, and she graduated from Regis University in Denver — after a brief stop at LSU — with a B.A. in political science. She is married to Baghdad Dan Senor, one of the most conspicuous prevaricators in the employ of the late Avignon Presidency… She also spent a year teaching English in Czechoslovakia, which I guess qualifies her for her current job, being a public spokesperson for the latest attempt to privatize American public education, Michelle (Big Grift) Rhee having apparently run her course as the rake in this long con, what with the cheating scandal and the big salary and all that sweet corporate sugar. The make-education-a-business scamsters needed a new face for the operation. Enter Campbell Brown, B.A. in political science, and professional communicator.
As Pierce noted in his Esquire piece, Brown is currently “out there shilling for the latest ‘reform’ scheme — using the courts to bust the teacher’s unions and to deny public school teachers the freely-bargained rights to due process that ensure that they will not be altogether subject to the whims of local school board fanatics.”
Last week, Brown—who is the founder of the Parents Transparency Project and the Partnership for Educational Justice—appeared on The Colbert Report. Colbert, host of the “faux” news program on Comedy Central, did a much better job of interviewing Brown and putting her feet to the fire than the members of the brain trust at Morning Joe who appear clueless and ill-informed about the ulterior motives of “school reformers” like Michele Rhee and Campbell Brown and charter school advocates like Eva Moskowitz. (Note: Moskowitz earns more than $475,000 a year as the CEO of the Success Academy Charter Schools.)
Alyssa Hadley Dunn (Washington Post), a former high school English teacher who is now an assistant professor of teacher education at Michigan State University, said that Colbert’s “questions seemed difficult for Ms. Brown to answer. She was there to talk about her Partnership for Educational Justice, whose first initiative is supporting plaintiffs in a lawsuit against New York State’s teacher tenure laws.”
Pierce also noted that Brown, the former CNN anchor of No Bias, No Bull, “had a bit of a time of it” with Colbert. When Colbert asked her who was funding her crusade against teacher tenure, she declined to name names. In an aside, Pierce said that it was “nice to see she’s transcended that nasty transparency tic so common to the members of her former profession.” He described her refusal to divulge the names of her donors as being “rendered in fluent weaselspeak.”
Why didn’t Brown want to divulge the names of the people funding her crusade against teacher tenure? Because, she told Colbert, “she thought it was important to give anonymity to donors so that they wouldn’t become ‘a target’ of people who were protesting her appearance outside the studios before the show.” Brown said, “They are going to go after people who are funding us.” Brown also complained to Colbert that the protesters were attempting to “silence the debate.” That’s when “Colbert asked her if she was trying to silence the protesters.”
So much for transparency from a former broadcast journalist! One has to wonder why Brown doesn’t want anyone to know who her donors are. What do her donors have to hide if they truly believe what they are doing is in the best interest of the public school children of New York? Shouldn’t the teachers in that state know the names of the people/groups that are financing the effort to take away their right to due process?
Valerie Strauss (Washington Post) wrote that when “Colbert referred to the lawsuit as Brown’s, she demurred, saying that her group wasn’t filing the lawsuit but that seven parents were and that a law firm had agreed to represent them for free. Later, Brown inadvertently revealed the truth when she told Colbert that she wanted to recognize some of ‘our plaintiffs’ in the audience.”
Pierce rightly claimed that Campbell Brown isn’t doing this for the kids. He said, “She’s running a con on behalf of some pretty shady people. He talked about her organization’s Board of Directors.
I see a powerhouse lawyer, a private equity cowboy, and three people who are already experienced in the school “reform” movement, one of whom once worked the beat for all-around union-buster Chris Christie. (And Howard Fuller’s institute at my alma mater is heavily financed by the Bradley and Walton Foundations, both huge reservoirs of wingnut welfare.) I do not see any actual teachers, unless you count Brown’s year of teaching English to the Czechs. One can extrapolate from this that the corporate backers of this latest scheme are even less connected to actual education.
(Note: The powerhouse lawyer Pierce referred to is none other than David Boies, Al Gore’s lawyer in Bush v. Gore.)
Fact-Checking Campbell Brown
Alyssa Hadley Dunn noted that others had already “written about the ongoing debate between Ms. Brown and teachers’ unions leaders and about the connections between Ms. Brown and Michelle Rhee.” Dunn said that she was “more interested in checking the ‘facts’ that Ms. Brown uses to make her case. Quite simply: there is no research demonstrating causation between teacher tenure laws and lower rates of student achievement, which is the entire argument behind the lawsuit.”
Here is one of Brown’s facts that Dunn checked:
WHAT BROWN SAID:
“It takes on average 830 days to fire a teacher who’s been found to be incompetent.”
WHAT RESEARCH SHOWS:
This statistic, which Ms. Brown peppers in all of her speeches, appears to be from a research brief of the New York State School Boards Association. This brief was based on the results of a self-report survey to which only 59% of districts responded and in which New York City (the largest district) was not even included. Jessica Glazer has written about whether or not the numbers are even accurate, and Bruce Baker points out, importantly, that quality may vary significantly between districts. Further, since the data was collected, after 2008, the state made efforts to reform tenure laws, changing the minimum years from two to three. Now, according to one report, only a slim majority of teachers receive tenure on the first attempt, and, in 2013, disciplinary cases took, on average, only 177 days statewide.
Additionally, I question Ms. Campbell’s use of one study (that used data between 5-10 years old) as her primary empirical evidence for such a drastic campaign against teachers’ rights. This research examined the context in only one state and left out the most populous city in the state, yet Ms. Campbell argues it is generalizable enough to be used as evidence for bringing her campaign across the country. To make the argument that these results are true for whole nation is misinformed at best and dangerous at worst.
In her blog post titled Who Is Campbell Brown and Why Does She Want to Eliminate Tenure?, Diane Ravitch said that a curious aspect to the tenure lawsuit being brought by Campbell’s group “is that no one has been able to establish the basic claim that every child would have a ‘great’ teacher if no teacher had due process rights or any job protections whatever.” Ravitch added that what would be more likely to happen if teachers lose the right to due process “is that teachers will flee to affluent districts, if they can, to avoid the low value-added scores that are attached to teaching the most challenging students. Inner-city schools attended by the poorest children will find it more difficult to maintain a stable staff. Some victory that would be.”
Ravitch said that if people like Brown were truly concerned about quality education for poor children, “they would fight for small class sizes, arts teachers, school nurses, libraries, and improved conditions for teaching and learning. They don’t.”
Campbell Brown’s Law
Arthur Goldstein, who teaches high school ESL in New York City, explained how Campbell’s Law had been replaced by Campbell Brown’s Law in a post at the NYC Educator blog:
…Campbell Brown’s Law says whatever goes wrong in school is the fault of the tenured teachers. If you fail, it’s because the teacher had tenure and therefore failed you. Absolutely everyone is a great parent, so that has nothing to do with how children behave. Campbell Brown’s Law says parents have no influence whatsoever on their children. If parents have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, that will have no effect. If they provide no supervision because they aren’t around, that won’t affect kids either.
Campbell Brown’s Law says kids themselves are not responsible either. If they don’t study, that isn’t their fault. The teacher should have made them study. If they fail tests because they didn’t study, it’s a crime and the teacher should be fired. Under Campbell Brown’s Law the only obstacle to studying is if the teacher has tenure. This is unacceptable and it is therefore the reason that the parents work 200 hours a week. It’s also the reason the kids didn’t study. The kids figured they didn’t have to study because their teachers had tenure.
Campbell Brown’s Law is demonstrated in charter schools, where teachers don’t have tenure. All kids excel in charter schools, except for those who don’t. That explains why, in some charter schools, that all the students who graduate are accepted to four-year colleges. It’s neither here nor there if two-thirds of the students who began ended up getting insufficient standardized test scores and getting dumped back into public schools. That’s not the fault of the charter teachers, because they don’t have tenure and are therefore blameless. Campbell Brown’s Law says so.
In fact, as long as the teachers don’t have tenure, it’s OK for kids to fail in charter schools. And once again, all kids pass in charter schools, except for those who don’t. That’s why charter teachers, like students and parents, have no responsibility whatsoever. Also, under Campbell Brown’s law, the charter owners aren’t responsible either, and may continue to collect their half-million dollar salaries. That’s not part of the problem because it’s important for charter school owners to hobnob with the well-to-do. You can’t just waltz into an Eva Moskowitz gala fund raiser in some tux you rented from the Men’s Wearhouse.
Who The Fck Is Campbell Brown? (Esquire)
Fact-checking Campbell Brown: What she said, what research really shows (Washington Post)
Campbell Brown (Wikipedia)
Who Is Campbell Brown and Why Does She Want to Eliminate Tenure? (Diane Ravitch)
Campbell Brown’s Law (NYC Educator)
Campbell Brown’s transparency problem: Why won’t she say who funds her “ed. reform” group?: Anchor turned teacher tenure foe says revealing her group’s donors could lead to pushback. Right, that’s democracy VIDEO (Salon)
Silicon Valley billionaire joins NY tenure lawsuit (New York Post)
Obama alums join anti teachers union case (Politico)