2015

25 November 2015: Reform movement in tatters after the Jeffco BOE recall

Reform movement in tatters after the Jeffco BOE recall

The results from the Jefferson County School District Board of Education recall were beyond lopsided; they were off the charts. Nearly two-thirds voted to oust the triumvirate, who had been beneficiaries of lavish support from outside money and who had snuck under the radar into power. This time, though, an aware and educated community unceremoniously booted them from their perches.

Had the vote been within a single-digit margin, it could have been interpreted as an indicator of a split community. The spread was thirty points. Message received loud and clear. No divided community in Jefferson County.

Despite the spin by the Denver Post editorial board, which opposed the recall, and others who poo-pooed it after the staggering numbers were announced, the vote can be interpreted only one way: A complete repudiation of the so-called reform movement that has roiled public education for decades.

Within the misnamed reformist camp, there are two approaches. The benign one that includes the president, Senator Michael Bennet, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, state Senator Mike Johnston, and the Post editorial board are not anti-public education. They have a simplistic take on how true education happens and end up playing into the hands of the malignant crowd.

The benign reformists believe that not only should rigorous standards be met; they ultimately can be measured only through testing. Lots of testing. Education reduced to a number, a statistic, a graph or chart. From their point of view, the aggregate total of those test scores are the only valid standard by which to determine the success of a student and a school. High number, a student or school is rocking it; low number, and they are the pits.

And when students fail to perform to meet their pre-determined arbitrary criteria, it can only be the fault of lazy and/or incompetent teachers protected by their all-powerful union that is, ironically, made up of teachers. That is the reason why teachers make up the one profession mandated by law to include in their evaluations their charges’ performances.

The malignant reformers have one goal: To put public schools out of business. While the benign reformers are educationally feckless, the malignant ones are not. They have a game plan that begins by taking over boards of education and doing exactly what the Jeffco triumvirate did and the Douglas County and Thompson Valley boards continue to do. Their strategy is to create a no-win system that will in turn cause the taxpaying public to do away with our traditional Jeffersonian approach to universal education.

The malignant camp is, in turn, divided between those who seek to create a for-profit educational system with no competition from a publically funded one and those who seek to implement religious-based—read, Christian—schools, the reason the Dougco BOE is fighting in court to maintain its faith-based voucher system. The goal of both is to produce not critically thinking citizens, but dutiful workers and consumers willing to do their part to maintain the hierarchal caste system. Tools and fools rather than critical thinkers that walk, not march, to the beat of their own drum. After all, who needs a well-informed—educated—citizenry to sustain a democratic system, when a plutocracy or theocracy would do nicely?

The reformist camp as a whole has treated the public schools as a political football. Otherwise progressive types jumped on the nation-at-risk bandwagon to demonstrate their independent streak; the pernicious sorts in concert with the Koch brothers and rightwing Americans for Prosperity political action group for more dastardly goals. The strove to create a strawman and bogeyman in the form of the teachers’ union. The Jeffco vote, though, has ripped the veneer of their positions away and exposed them for what they are.

It is disingenuous and even cheeky of those in the benign camp to now distance themselves from their more rabid brethren. The Post opposed the recall and the silence of the others spoke volumes about their persuasions.

With the reform movement in tatters, it is time to focus our attention on rebuilding our schools with a dedicated effort to restore funding, sane leadership, and respect for all those who dedicate their lives to enhancing the self-worth and skills of the generations that will take their turn to preserve a democratic America.

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