In Part I, I focused on Campbell Brown.
Why Are Campbell Brown, David Boies, Robert Gibbs, Hedge Fund Managers, and Other Wealthy Elites Going after Public School Teachers and Their Right to Due Process?, PART I
In Part II, I’m focusing on David Boies.
David Boies, Star Trial Lawyer, Education Reformer, and Limousine Liberal
John Thompson, an award-winning historian and inner city teacher, wrote an article about David Boies last week for Huffington Post. According to Thompson, Boies, one of America’s most well-known lawyers and the attorney who represented Al Gore in Bush v. Gore before the Supreme Court, is now “shilling for the decade-long, test-driven, scorched earth campaign that demonstrates its pro-student commitment by imposing nonstop test prep on kids, and crippling teachers’ power to resist mandates for soul-killing, bubble-in accountability.” Thompson said that “dilettantes like David Boies” used to be called “Limousine Liberals.” He said today liberals like Boies are “known as corporate reformers.”
Last week, Mitoko Rich (New York Times) reported that Boies would be heading a group that is challenging teacher tenure in a lawsuit filed in the state of New York. Boies, “the star trial lawyer who helped lead the legal charge that overturned California’s same-sex marriage ban,” has become chairman of the Partnership for Educational Justice, “a group that former CNN anchor Campbell Brown founded in part to pursue lawsuits challenging teacher tenure.” Rich said that Boies, in “aligning himself with a cause that is bitterly opposed by teachers’ unions,” has become “emblematic of an increasingly fractured relationship between the Democrats and the teachers’ unions.”
The son of two public school teacher, Boies doesn’t appear very knowledgeable about the main causes of the problems facing public schools in the United States today. He seems to be drinking the anti-teacher/anti-tenure Kool-aid of people like Michele Rhee, Campbell Brown, and charter school prima donna Eva Moskowitz.
In an interview in his firm’s offices in Manhattan, Mr. Boies said he viewed the cause of tenure overhaul as “pro-teacher.”
“I think teaching is one of the most important professions that we have in this country,” he said. But, he added, “there can be a tension” between union efforts to protect workers and “what society needs to do, which is to make sure that the social function — in this case teaching — is being fulfilled.” Mr. Boies, who said he viewed education as a civil rights issue, is offering his services pro bono.
This is not Mr. Boies’ first engagement with efforts to overhaul public education. He is on the board of StudentsFirstNY, the New York chapter of the advocacy group led by Michelle A. Rhee, the former schools chancellor in Washington, which also supports teacher evaluations based on test scores and the expansion of charter schools.
Teachers’ unions say the lawsuits against tenure demonize educators and ignore real problems. “The bigger issue is how do you attract and retain great teachers into schools and how do you address the many issues that are created by poverty?” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, the country’s second largest teachers’ union, who called the lawsuits “smoke screens.”
As John Thompson noted, “Boies claims no experience with public school teaching.” Thompson added that he doubts that Boies “actually knows and loves any individual poor students of color.” Thompson continued by saying that the famous lawyer loves poor students of color “in the abstract”—but probably doesn’t realize “how much harm his agenda would do to actual students.” Thompson contends that Boies would be helping to “drive teaching talent out of schools where it is harder to raise test scores.”
I wonder if Boies fully realizes that the lawsuits he is fronting for are merely props in assault on the teaching profession, as well as unions and the democratic governance of public schools. Whether he knows it or not, Boies is fronting for a market-driven agenda which, as Karen Lewis observes, seeks competition-driven schools that would turn out Masters of the Universe and Walmart greeters.
David Boies and the Anti-Tenure Public School Reform Gang
The thing that I find most troubling about Boies being a part of this effort that attacks tenure and due process for teachers is that—as Thompson wrote—he “gives no hint of having read the vast body of social science that argues against the test and punish policies that his allies would impose.” Thompson even said he wonders if Boies “has even studied the five papers cited as research by the Partnership for Educational Justice website, much less the evidence that fellow corporate reformers presented in Vergara v California, the first of these legal campaigns against the rights of teachers. I would be shocked if he understood how the top Vergara expert witnesses presented evidence that argues against his New York case.”
Thompson also said he thinks it’s “virtually inconceivable that Boies has taken the time to understand the common, questionable methodology of the small group of narrow papers that supposedly support Brown’s, Rhee’s and his claims, and how irrelevant it is to the complexities of school improvement.” He wonders if Boies is even “curious about why data-driven reformers have created an echo chamber that ignores the lessons of the long history of successful and failed school improvements.”
Mark Weber—aka Jersey Jazzman— is a teacher, education researcher, and musician. He wrote about Boies’s appearance on Morning Joe last week. Boies was there with his anti-tenure co-conspirator Campbell Brown. Weber said that Joe Scarborough and Mike Barnicle appeared to be “blown away that a “liberal” icon like Boies is getting behind an anti-union jihad against tenure.” He guessed that the two MSNBC talking heads hadn’t heard that “other ‘liberals’ like Rahm Emanuel and Andrew Cuomo and Dannel Malloy and Arne Duncan and lord knows how many other neo-libs have been spouting reformy nonsense for years. Boies has a well-known school privatization pedigree; getting him to lead this foolish lawsuit to overturn New York’s tenure laws is hardly a big surprise.”
As noted earlier, Boies is a member of the Board of Directors of the anti-teacher group StudentsFirstNY. He serves on the board along with Michele Rhee (founder and CEO of StudentsFirst), Success Charter Schools CEO Eva Moskowitz, Joel Klein, and Dan Senor—who just happens to be Campbell Brown’s husband. It’s interesting how certain names keep popping up in the groups leading the charge to eliminate due process for teachers and to establish more charter schools. It appears to be almost incestuous.
A little breakdown for you:
– Adrian Fenty is a member of the Board of Directors of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER). Fenty was the mayor who hired Michele Rhee to manage the schools in Washington, D.C.
– David Boies serves on the Board of Directors of Campbell Brown’s group Partnership for Educational Justice—as does Joe Williams who is the Executive Director of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER).
– David Boies, Michelle Rhee, Eva Moskowitz (CEO of Success Academy Charter Schools), Joel Klein (former New York City schools chancellor, chair of the Broad Center and, head of Amplify—the education division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.), and Campbell Brown’s husband Dan Senor all serve as members of the Board of Directors of StudentsFirstNY.
– Michelle Rhee and Joel Klein also serve as members of the StudentsFirst National Board of Directors.
– Campbell Brown Serves on the Borad of Directors of Moskowitz’s Success Academy.
– (Note: Joel Klein also serves on the National Board of Directors of Teach for America.)
Boies and the “Enthusiastic” Educational Stars of Teach for America
According to Thompson, Boies and his wife have hosted Teach for America teachers at their home. Boies has been impressed “with their enthusiasm.” (Note: After graduating from college, inexperienced TFA teachers work in troubled schools for two or three years. After that, most move on to better paying jobs outside of education in more prestigious professions.)
Excerpt from Boies’s appearance on Morning Joe:
Boies, 5:20: “You look at a program like Teach For America — every summer, we have the Teach For America volunteers up at our house for a picnic — and they’re just great, and they’re enthusiastic, and yet some people want to keep Teach For America out of New York City schools. It doesn’t make any sense, if what you primarily concerned about…”
Scarborough (interrupting): “Why do they want to keep them out?”
Boies: “Because they view them as competition for people who are already teaching there. I think they’re, listen, maybe disruptive in the sense, they have new ideas, enthusiasm… and that’s what teaching’s about!”
Campbell Brown and David Boies on Morning Joe
So…Boies hosts TFA teachers for picnics at his house and has become enamored of them because they’re enthusiastic…and they have new ideas! To be sure, no “regular” public school teachers are enthusiastic and have new ideas. To be sure, no “regular” public school teachers with years of experience can hold a candle to the TFA educational ingénues! To be sure—all public school teachers with years of experience lose their enthusiasm and never EVER innovate in their classrooms.
As Weber noted, David Boies can’t understand why some people don’t want to staff “our most difficult schools with young people who’ve had five weeks of training!” Weber added that Boies was so impressed by the TFA teachers with whom he talked when he hosted them at his house that he’s convinced that “they’re great teachers!” How does Boies know this to be a fact????? I wonder: Is that how one performs teacher evaluations…by having conversations with teachers at social events?
I have to ask: Why is Boies such a strong supporter of TFA when “more than 80 percent of its members leave teaching after their third year?” Weber wondered why Boies thinks that “a policy of replacing experienced teachers with neophyte, poorly-trained, constantly churning, recent college graduates would be good for schools serving at-risk students.” I have to wonder too. Has Boies even taken the time to think through what he is doing?
Abolishing tenure so we can staff schools full of at-risk students with inexperienced teachers is perhaps the most inequitable education policy anyone could conceive of — yet it appears that this is exactly what David Boies wants to do.
From his experience, Thomspson has learned that “once TFAers spend some time in the classroom they usually realize that the inequitable distribution of teachers is not due to tenure, but due to attrition.” He added that if Boies “had the time and inclination to listen to educators, Boies might have felt compelled to lead a campaign for full-service community schools where teachers could better help overcome poverty.” But that would be too complicated. There is no easy fix for poverty. It’s better to attack teachers and their right to due process.
Thompson said he’d love to have an “equal” opportunity “to school Boies on education research and what it really takes to create equity.” He doesn’t expect, however, that Boies would “take the time to study the ‘Billionaires Boys Club’ hypotheses on how to improve schools, or how and why their agenda has caused so much damage to teachers and students in high-poverty schools.” Thompson added that it would not be too much to ask Boies, a lawyer, “to look into both sides of the biggest legal issues.”
As Education Week’s Steve Sawchuk writes in the context of Whoopi Goldberg’s “rant,” and other high-profile personalities recruited to the corporate reform campaign, “tenure laws–which prevent teachers from being dismissed without cause, typically established in a hearing–are actually complex, obscure, and context-specific.”
For every complicated problem, there is an answer that is quick, simple and wrong. It’s great that Boies likes socializing with current and former TFA instructors, and it is also great that he loves yachting. But, I doubt he would trust his boat to sailors or mechanics who have no experience on the water or fixing boats. And, that raises some questions.
How much time do elites like David Boies invest in consequential decision-making before investing in a yacht or another hobby? How little effort do they invest in understanding public schools before they impose their hunches on society?
Educational Research and Teacher Experience
Anti-tenure proponents like Boies and Brown have an excellent PR machine and a gullible mainstream media that is only too happy to broadcast their anti-teacher and anti-tenure rhetoric. Research, however, doesn’t support what they are peddling. Research has shown that teacher experience is an important factor in student achievement. In its article How Teaching Experience Makes a Difference, Parents Across America wrote the following:
Even as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Michelle Rhee and others around the nation are arguing for experienced teachers to be laid off regardless of seniority, every single study shows teaching experience matters.
In fact, the only two observable factors that have been found consistently to lead to higher student achievement are class size and teacher experience, so that it’s ironic that these same individuals are trying to undermine both.
Generally speaking the corporate reformers argue that only the first few years of experience matter, though you can see from these charts from a study by Thomas J. Kane, now at the Gates foundation, Jonah E. Rockoff and Douglas O. Staiger that at year five, effectiveness is still going up for all categories other than uncertified teachers.
Of course, most Teach for America recruits are gone by then, which is why their dotted line vanishes at year three.
Actually, there are many studies that show that teaching experience matters, for 15-20 years – with each year in the profession leading to more student gains, especially in reading.
Addendum: Encouraging the “Youth Cult” in Public School Teaching Ranks
Excerpt from my Turley Blawg post Should the High Teacher Turnover Rate in Charter Schools Be a Cause for Concern? (September 7, 2013)
In a recent New York Times article titled At Charter Schools, Short Careers by Choice, Mitoko Rich wrote of how charter schools seem to be developing something of a “youth cult” in their teaching ranks. She reported that in the charter network “teaching for two to five years is seen as acceptable and, at times, even desirable.”
Teachers in the thirteen YES Prep Schools, which are located throughout Greater Houston, have a reported average of two and a half years of experience. The teachers who work for Achievement First—which has 25 schools in Connecticut, Brooklyn, and Providence, R.I.— “spend an average of 2.3 years in the classroom.” And the individuals who teach in the KIPP schools and the Success Academy Charter Schools stay in the classroom for an average of four years. This youth culture—or culture in which most classroom practitioners have little teaching experience— differs from that of our country’s traditional public schools where teachers average nearly fourteen years of experience…and where public school leaders have made it “a priority to reduce teacher turnover.”
In the NYT article, Jennifer Hines, senior vice president of people and programs at YES Prep, was quoted as saying, “We have this highly motivated, highly driven work force who are now wondering, ‘O.K., I’ve got this, what’s the next thing?’ There is a certain comfort level that we have with people who are perhaps going to come into YES Prep and not stay forever.” (Note: New teachers at the YES Prep schools receive just two and a half weeks of training over the summer before arriving in the classroom.)
Rich says it was Teach for America (TFA) that was mostly responsible for introducing the idea of a “foreshortened teaching career.” TFA is an organization that recruits “high-achieving” college graduates and places them in some of our neediest schools. In a piece for Policymic, Benjamin Cosman wrote about TFA recruits. He said that after just five weeks of training, “Teach for America participants lead a classroom for two years, slap it on their resume, and leave the school with a bevy of opportunities.”
Wendy Kopp, the founder of Teach for America, contends that “strong schools can withstand the turnover of their teachers. The strongest schools develop their teachers tremendously so they become great in the classroom even in their first and second years.” (Question for Wendy Kopp: Are you sending your teaching recruits into the “strongest” schools?)
I suggest that the esteemed David Boies start visiting some inner city schools and begin talking to the “regular” school teachers who work in them. He might get new ideas about some excellent ways to improve public education for the poorest and neediest students in this country.
Limousine Liberal David Boies Wants to Fix Our Schools (Huffington Post)
Summertime Celebrity Education Ignorance: David Boies (Jersey Jazzman)
Celebrated Trial Lawyer to Head Group Challenging Teacher Tenure (New York Times)
How Teaching Experience Makes a Difference (Parents Across America)
Pretty Campbell Brown and Her Ugly, Misguided Anti-Due-Process Crusade (deutsch29)
Perhaps the greatest among your excellent ongoing contributions to discussions on RIL and FFS is your continued documentation of one of the most vital issues in America, which is the attack upon our Public Education System. The “Crisis in Education” is one created by the corporate elite running this country and its spokespeople the vile Michelle Rhee and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. These spear-carriers for the corporate elite are enriching themselves at the expense of the children they purport to serve. The public education system today is more segregated than in 1954 when SCOTUS handed down its decision in Brown vs. The Board of Ed. The truth is that it has been the public school teachers and their unions who have worked hardest to protect public education in the U.S.. They have been reviled by many, among them faux liberals, for their efforts. The answer is and always has been money. The financing of public education in the U.S. is distributed on a class/race basis that ensures that those without wherewithal are given short shrift. As you profusely documented the facts show this to be true. Thank you for keeping this current and for providing a vital resource of information on the question.
There is so much more to this story. It’s difficult to get hold of it all and write in down in a couple of posts. The corporate school reformers like Rhee and Brown and Moskowitz have won the PR battle. They have duped the gullible idiots of the MSM who are too lazy to do their homework…or to ask probing questions.
“They have duped the gullible idiots of the MSM who are too lazy to do their homework…or to ask probing questions.”
Duped possibly, but my take is more cynical and it is about following the money.
I don’t disagree with you. That said, you’ve got to admit that the talking heads/broadcast journalists on television “news programs” usually just spout opinions…pass along talking points. They don’t do any research. They are just there to fill up a time spot on the schedule. We rarely see real investigative journalists on the news programs these days.
There is a British term we would be wise to adopt in this country. Newsreader. It is not the same thing as being a reporter.
What Do Celebrities and Superstars Know about Teaching?
By Diane Ravitch
I worry for the future of our society when I see that education policy is being shaped by people who know nothing–nothing–about education. They never taught in a school. They never studied education. They know nothing about research. They are ignorant of the history, politics, and economics of education. Yet they feel that their Big Name empowers them to influence legislation and court decisions about the working conditions in schools. They make breezy pronouncements about “bad teachers” without indicating that they know any teachers at all. Let’s face it: If you are a Hollywood star or a superstar lawyer, how many teachers are likely to be in your social circle? How many hours do you think the celebrities have spent as volunteers in their local public schools? Do they know what they are talking about? Imagine television talk shows inviting celebrities to talk about how to treat patients who have certain diseases. Shouldn’t you know something about a subject before you present yourself on national television as qualified to comment? Television talk shows today are our great social equalizers: Those with genuine expertise will get equal time with those who are totally ignorant. What does Britney Spears think about tenure? George Clooney? Kim Kardashian? Beyonce? Other nations leave these issues to educators, but not us!
Schools confront poverty, why don’t education policies?
by Richard Rothstein
September 6, 2011
In a recent interview, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan reflected on his prior tenure as Chicago schools superintendent:
“I come from Chicago where 85 percent of our students live below the poverty line. If children can’t see the blackboard, they’re going to have a hard time learning so we have to get them eyeglasses. We used to get literally tens of thousands of kids eyeglasses every year. If children aren’t fed and are hungry, they’re going to have a hard time concentrating, so we fed tens of thousands of kids three meals a day. We had a couple of thousand kids we were particularly worried about so very quietly we would send them home Friday afternoons with a backpack full of food because we worried about them not eating over the weekend.
“Should schools have to do that? No, in a perfect world they wouldn’t have to do that. But we have to deal with reality and whether it’s eyeglasses, food, or physical and emotional safety, we have to address all of those things. And schools can’t do it alone. Non-profits, faith-based institutions — all of us have to work together.”
Then asked “All else equal, should we expect more of schools?,” Duncan replied, “We should expect more of society.”
Urging schools to solve vision, nutrition or physical and emotional safety problems by working with “non-profits” and “faith-based institutions” is silly. Voluntary organizations can perform isolated acts of charity, but only government can narrow the vast social inequalities that bring many children to school unprepared to learn.
The Obama Administration’s education program expects nothing of society, and everything from schools. It proposed a “Blueprint” for re-authorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that would hold schools accountable for getting all children “college and career ready” by 2020, whether they can see the blackboard, come to school hungry, or eat on the weekend. And while the “Race to the Top” competition (with funds from federal stimulus appropriations) awarded points to states for the administration’s favored school reforms, states got no points for providing eyeglasses or food, or for improving emotional and physical safety by, for example, adopting suburban zoning reforms that would permit family moves from ghettos to more stable neighborhoods.
The Broader, Bolder Approach to Education campaign convened by the Economic Policy Institute describes many practical programs that could ameliorate hardships that impede children’s ability to flourish in school. Duncan’s interview shows the administration is not oblivious to this need but simply chooses to ignore it.
Sen. Sanders gets the facts right on poverty; the fed’s solution will make it worse.
By Stephen Krashen
Senator Bernie Sanders reminds us that “… the United States has both the highest overall poverty rate and the highest childhood poverty rate of any major industrialized country on earth. This comes at a time when the U.S. also has the most unequal distribution of wealth and income of any major country on earth with the top 1 percent earning more than the bottom 50 percent.” (See his full essay below)
Stating the facts on poverty will not impress this administration. They think they know what the solution is: Improve education. The US Department of Education says that with better teaching, we will have more learning (higher test scores, according to the feds), and this will improve the economy.
But the research says it is the other way around and agrees with Martin Luther King’s position: “We are likely to find that the problems of housing and education, instead of preceding the elimination of poverty, will themselves be affected if poverty is first abolished.” (Martin Luther King, 1967, Final Words of Advice).
Research tells that there is no correlation between improved test scores and subsequent economic progress, that high unemployment in an area results in decreased school performance of children, even those whose parents are still employed, and it also tells us what we already should know: High poverty means poor diets, inadequate health care, and little access to books and all of these conditions are related to school performance.
The best teaching in the world will have little impact when there is high poverty, when children are under-nourished, in poor health, and have little or nothing to read.
The consequences of the US Department of Education philosophy are serious: Since they define school success in terms of test scores, money is being invested in new tests, instead of protecting children from the effects of poverty.
We know from a number of studies that increasing testing does not increase learning; it does, however, increase profits for publishers and test producers). It will increase the already huge gap between the rich and poor by feeding tax money directly to those who need it the least, that top 1% that earn more than the bottom 50% that Sen. Sanders talks about. In other words, it is a policy that takes from the needy and gives to the greedy.
Here is a link to a piece on Charter Schools in Michigan and Florida:
entitled ‘How will charter schools deal with their corruption scandals?’ The piece is based on investigations done by the Detroit Free Press, South Florida’s Sun-Sentinel, and the Florida League of Women Voters.
(Michigan) ‘In one case, the president of a school’s management company and the husband of its top administrator bought a piece of property for $375,000 and less than a week later sold it to the school for $425,000. This appears to have been completely legal. The two men would also go on to collect millions in contracts from the school. This is not an isolated case.’
‘In Florida, the League of Women Voters recently released a long list of conflict of interest concerns. Legislators cited included the chair of the Senate Education Committee, the House Budget chairman, the future House speaker and the sponsor of the Parent Trigger Bill.’
Final paragraph in the piece:
‘The charter school systems of Florida and Michigan were set up under the explicit assumptions that choice and market forces could allow a massive government funded set of private companies to run with only minimal oversight and regulation. With Michigan’s public-policy experiment starting 20 years ago and Florida’s beginning not much later, it is time to start questioning the effectiveness of these policies and their cost to both taxpayers and, more importantly, to students.’
Thanks for the link, Blouise! I’m currently working on a post about Michelle Rhee. Don’t know when I’ll finish it though. It appears there are lots of grifters who pose as school reformers.
Just like banking and wall street … grifters have invaded the field of education and digging them out of their hideyholes is going to take years.
One of the sure ways to understand what projects have the backing of America’s ruling oligarchs is to see how certain facts can be made public and yet get no traction in the media. The charter schools initiative has from its inception been rife with corruption made public, as Blouise illustrated, yet the major media pays little attention. People like Rhee and Duncan, who are lionized, are really just running a con for the sake of their greed alone.
That’s right! That the media pays little attention–or maybe the media has chosen to ignore the facts in evidence about what has been going on with charter schools.
You probably remember this post that I wrote for RIL:
Charter Schools and The Profit Motive
And this post:
From the ABC’s of Privatizing Public Education: A Is for ALEC, I is for iPad…and P Is for Profits
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