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OP-ED | ‘The Other Guy is Worse’ Is A Tired Strategy

by Sarah Darer Littman | May 2, 2014 6:00am
(63) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Education, Election 2014, Opinion

During the 2012 presidential campaign, I got a phone call from Obama for America asking for money. At the time I was still a registered Democrat, and I’d given frequently during the 2008 campaign, so the ask wasn’t a stretch.

But things had changed since 2008, particularly in an issue of great importance to me.

“I’m sorry — I will not give anything to Barack Obama until he commits to getting rid of Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education,” I told the operator. “Please feel free to pass that message on.”

He persisted, with this line: “But Mitt Romney will be worse.”

That’s when I went ballistic. By the end of my rant, in which I told him just how very sick I was of Democrats asking me for money over the years using that pathetic, negative argument, he probably would have preferred if I’d just hung up on him.

Like other parents, in Connecticut and across the nation, and further, across the breadth of the political spectrum, I have been speaking out for years about the misguided and problematic nature of current educational policy. For the most part, our voices have been ignored, because the corporate reform lobby has more money. Much more money. And as a politician laid it out to me quite bluntly in black and white — or should I say white and green — “Until Citizen’s United is overturned, I live in a world of money.”

Every time I have tried to discuss with Democrats at any level the very real problems with education reform in Connecticut, the very real anger voters (Democratic voters) feel with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and his ham-fisted education commissioner Stefan Pryor, the answer I get — with no small degree of arrogance — are variations on, “Where else will you go?” . . . “The other side is worse” . . . “Are you really going to vote for Governor Foley?”

That attitude has become even more apparent since April 18, when Neil Vigdor reported that former state representative and Wait What? blogger Jonathan Pelto might be considering a third party or independent run for governor. Instead of acknowledging there are real problems with their candidate, the Dems are doubling down on the “you have nowhere else to go” message. And instead of looking at why there is support for what would surely be a long-shot Pelto bid — a bid that is being fed by the widespread anger at Malloy that has people considering voting for a third party candidate and which might affect the broader Democratic ticket — they are instead focusing their energies on propaganda and attacks on Pelto. Nothing we haven’t seen before from the Malloy folks. Remember the infamous John DeStefano in a dress ad?

What’s been even more eye-opening — and to the truth, desperately depressing — are the remarks of white privilege uttered to me as if I should agree. When I expressed my concern and disgust that Democrats would support a charter revision that took away the rights of Bridgeport residents to elect their own school board, I was told that “education is a complex issue” and that it is one thing to have elected school boards where parents are educated, “like you and me. But Bridgeport . . . ?” Not so much.

One Democrat sent me an email chiding me for criticizing Democrats publicly, and saying that I should instead try to turn them to my point of view, as if I haven’t been trying desperately to do that for the last decade or more. This person concluded an email with: “We need a savvy PR strategy toward GOOD EQUAL PUBLIC SCHOOLS for the ‘brown’ children of America’s future.”

Well here’s the difference between my email correspondent and me — I want good equal public schools for ALL children, not just “brown” children. I want the same educational opportunity for every child in this country as I’ve wanted for my own. Good public schools are how my family made the transition in one generation from immigrants living in the tenements of the Lower East Side of New York City to being successful professionals. I don’t view this crusade as a Rudyard Kipling-esque “White Man’s Burden.” To me it is an essential part of preserving American democracy and the fast fading American dream.

Last Sunday, I took a teacher friend to a YA Literature panel and tried out the “Foley will be worse” line on her. “If the best you can offer is ‘the alternative is worse’ then you’re not giving me a reason to vote for you,” she said.

The Democratic Party needs to take a good long look in the mirror. If they decide to stick with the “status quo” and re-nominate Dan Malloy at the upcoming convention, they should seriously consider how that’s going to affect the ability to get an angry and frustrated electorate out to vote. “The other guy is worse” isn’t a winning strategy, and they’ll only have themselves to blame for losses in November.

Sarah Darer Littman is an award-winning columnist and novelist of books for teens. A former securities analyst, she’s now an adjunct in the MFA program at WCSU, and enjoys helping young people discover the power of finding their voice as an instructor at the Writopia Lab.

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(63) Comments

posted by: ABC | May 2, 2014  7:32am

Absolutely, Right on!  Don’t settle.  We need Pelto for Governor NOW!!

posted by: Nutmeg87 | May 2, 2014  7:53am

guess this is why no one votes….

Nothing is going to change in a 2 party system…

posted by: art vandelay | May 2, 2014  8:35am

art vandelay

My question to you Ms. Littman, Would the other side be worse?  Would Mitt Romney have been worse than Obama considering what we now know about the ACA & Bengazi?  I think you said it all about Democrats and how they feel about the people that elect them by not allowing residents of Bridgeport to elect their own BOE members.  Democrats have always felt that the common folk are not capable of governing themselves and have to be directed. Republicans have always believed in self direction, individualism, liberty & freedom.  Maybe as you are getting older you’re beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  My heartfelt congratulations.

posted by: ka3kcj | May 2, 2014  9:08am

I agree wholeheartedly. The dems here in PA are wholeheartedly against our anti-Ed governor, but vastly different in their Ed views. When examining the ed positions, I was very disappointed to find my preferred candidate admires both Diane Ravitch and M.Night Shamalayan. Now I have to rethink my vote. Can’t admire both - they are diametrically opposed. The worse thing about the Governor is he used to be a teacher and should know better.

Way too many times I have found myself in a position to vote for the lesser of two evils. I think we need a third party that has some sense.

posted by: Sarah Darer Littman | May 2, 2014  9:42am

Actually Art, I started my electoral life as a Republican but left the party when they started obsessing and trying to legislate on social conservative issues, which are totally against the notions of “self-direction, liberty and freedom”.  As for ACA, I question the “failure” there. Although Anthem did rescind my policy last year (I am one of the many self-employed people this happened to) I was able to get cheaper insurance with dental as of Jan 1st. There are also millions of people who didn’t have health insurance who are now covered.  How is that a failure?

posted by: Sarah Darer Littman | May 2, 2014  9:44am

Nutmeg - this is why we need to campaign for an open primary system similar to what they have instituted in California. We need to break the lock of the two party system. It’s the only way we’ll stop being Corrupticut.

posted by: CAPE-TEACH | May 2, 2014  11:26am

Sarah,
Just this week former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens testified before a Senate committee on campaign finance calling for a Constitutional Amendment overturning Citizens United. Unfortunately, in today’s society money seems to be the only thing our elected officials concern themselves with. Perhaps there’s still a chance that when brought together, our collective voices can still be heard.

posted by: BillM | May 2, 2014  11:30am

It’s interesting that Sarah wrote this article. That argument is precisely what Melodie Peters and Stephen McKeever of AFT-CT have said to me whenever I advocate against supporting Malloy. My response is that there is no evidence that the other guy would be worse because (1) we don’t know who the other guy will be, (2) it would be extremely difficult for anyone to be worse for education, and (3), fool me once . . . shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me!

Bill Morrison

posted by: Stan Muzyk | May 2, 2014  12:49pm

@Sarah Darer Littman: Congratulations on your new outlook showing that the “one-party allegiance is not always the best for our state and country” and you are not being used as a rubber-stamp against the party which apparently did not help your father in a given situation. I’m happy to see that one-political-party is no longer in control of your superior literary skills. Keep up your good work.

posted by: Bluecoat | May 2, 2014  4:01pm

The ACA is a failure because no one knows how many people have actually paid their premium. And was always meant to be free insurance, to collapse the system, and move us into a Universal System, run by the same clowns that invented this nonsense.
Dr. Thomas Sowell coined a phrase for people like this in his early 1990’s book - “The Vision of the Anointed”.
“Everyone is for a beneficial outcome; they simply define it in radically different terms. Everyone is a “progressive” by his own lights. That the anointed believe that this label differentiates themselves from other people is one of a number of symptoms of their naïve narcissism.” — P. 95

posted by: Bluecoat | May 2, 2014  4:02pm

“In their haste to be wiser and nobler than others, the anointed have misconceived two basic issues. They seem to assume (1) that they have more knowledge than the average member of the benighted and (2) that this is the relevant comparison. The real comparison, however, is not between the knowledge possessed by the average member of the educated elite versus the average member of the general public, but rather the total direct knowledge brought to bear though social processes (the competition of the marketplace, social sorting, etc.), involving millions of people, versus the secondhand knowledge of generalities possessed by a smaller elite group.” — P. 114

posted by: Bluecoat | May 2, 2014  4:06pm

“When the anointed say there is a crisis this means that something must be done - and it must be done simply because the anointed want it done. This word becomes one of the many substitutes for evidence of logic” -pg 182 -The Vision of the Anointed by Thomas Sowell

posted by: LongJohn47 | May 2, 2014  5:35pm

Bluecoat—Sowell seems as arrogant as those he’s criticizing.  It’s easy to set up a straw man and then knock it down.

I’d be much more interested in hearing from you directly rather than having you quote the opinion of someone else.

posted by: LongJohn47 | May 2, 2014  5:46pm

Sarah—if you want to be a one issue voter, that’s your prerogative. 

I don’t like Malloy’s education policy either, but I do like paid sick days, the superb rollout of the ACA in CT, a higher minimum wage, the Earned Income Tax Credit (yes, it was scaled back, but it’s better than nothing), higher taxes on the wealthy, a move toward a rational energy policy, stricter gun laws, a first-in-the-nation GMO bill, an end to the death penalty, and a governor who’s willing to take tough stands and fight for what he believes in (even when I don’t agree).

None of that comes with Foley.  None.  So, yes, the choice is easy for me.  It should be for you, too.

posted by: Bluecoat | May 2, 2014  6:58pm

Longjohn47
I guess I never looked Sowell’s writing that way
I didn’t mean to quote so many either but I couldn’t tell if the first one I posted was registering, then I found another and got carried away.
Oh we’ll
To get to Sarah’s point, is that I feel there are many people on both side of the political spectrum that have pointed out the problems with the new Ed reform and are tired of being called names, wackos, conspiracy theorists, crazy and uninformed.
For me the Benghazi story of the Ed reform that isn’t getting the right coverage is the illegal and inappropriate data collection of Common Core, RTTP, Teacher Evaluation, and Smarter Balanced Assessments.

posted by: JusticePartyCT | May 2, 2014  8:44pm

Fundamentally, both the Democrats and Republicans need each other. They work together to put up massive barriers to entry into our political system. They have gerrymandered a terrible situation for congressional seats. They need each other to serve as the bogey man. That allows them to go to lobbyist and get money, less the ‘other side’ work against their interest. And they do the same with voters, ‘You need to support the lesser evil. We are less evil!’ People in Connecticut and around the country are becoming more wise as witness by greater unaffiliated voters. Bottom-line, Sarah, you are spot on with your comment: “Until Citizen’s United is overturned, I live in a world of money.” They are forever in campaign mode and all the money that flows in, must be paid back by votes by politicians to their special interest. These votes are far too often against the interest of the people. We need citizens to demand politicians serve, WE THE PEOPLE. Connecticut Justice Party (http://www.facebook.com/JusticePartyConnecticut)

posted by: mbracksieck | May 2, 2014  8:56pm

Even if the other guy (presumably a republican) is worse, they will face stiff opposition from a Democratic legislature.  Unlike Malloy who was able to get much of his education reform passed through because many did not want to vote against the leader of their party.  It’s much easier for a Dem to stand up to bad republican policy than it is to stand up to bad Dem policy.

posted by: BillM | May 3, 2014  3:29am

Longjohn,

That one issue contains many more than one issue. For example, the education reform supported by Malloy is highly corrupt. His Commissar of Education Stefan Pryor has been responsible for stealing billions of dollars in state funds to support his Achievement First Charter corporation, his CONNCAN friends, his friends at Pearson, etc. Malloy’s policies have led to increased numbers of students who cannot read at the 3rd grade level being sent to high school, where they simply cannot function. Malloy has demonized public school teachers, making us the scapegoats for everything wrong with society, much like Hitler demonized the Jews. Sir, I will gladly support the ABM ticket . . . anybody but Malloy.

posted by: Sarah Darer Littman | May 3, 2014  4:26am

Long John - It’s precisely because I wasn’t a one issue voter that against all my better judgement,  I voted for Malloy in the last election. Also, because “the other guy was worse.” The very things that I was concerned about in Malloy’s character have played out in the issue that is so important to me, and his hypocrisy about transparency, unwillingness to listen to data or research on education (basically, unwillingness to listen to anything except for DFER/ConnCAN/Mandel/etc $$) is why I’m not going to give him my vote again.

posted by: LongJohn47 | May 3, 2014  10:06am

mbracksieck—Agree completely, and it happens on both sides

bluecoat—back to your original point. It’s absurd to say that the ACA was designed to fail and therefore bring about free universal healthcare.  If the ACA fails (which it won’t), the only possible outcome would be a return to something similar to what existed before, just worse.

I’d love to have Medicare for all, but Obama et al were too afraid it even try.  Quelle dommage

posted by: art vandelay | May 3, 2014  12:31pm

art vandelay

@LongJohn47,
You’re not a good student of Progressive American History.  Socialized medicine (Single Payer) has been their goal since the Wilson Administration.  They tried desperately to obtain it during FDR’s tenure. He was lucky to pass Social Security and did not want to push progressive legislation any further.  The war also intervened.  Single Payer was resurrected during the Truman Administration but dropped.  It wasn’t till a chance meeting between Ted Kennedy & Nixon that it almost was brought to the Senate floor. There was a disagreement on a small issue.  Kennedy walked out of the meeting.  Years later Senator Kennedy stated that he had it in the grasp of his hands.  Clinton tried with Hillary at the helm and it was a disaster.  The only reason Obama got a watered down version (ACA) was because he had majorities in both the House and Senate.  It almost failed except for some clever maneuvering by Harry Reid.  He brought the legislation to the floor prior to Scott Brown taking his seat.  Brown would have voted against it and that would have been the end of it.
Yes it is designed to fail because the Progressives want complete universal healthcare of single payer.  It’s been their goal since 1913 and they are not going to stop until they achieve their goal.  Unfortunately universal health care is here to stay.  In a few years it will be converted over to single payer.

posted by: Sarah Darer Littman | May 3, 2014  12:48pm

Long John - another thing: if you thing Malloy is good on labor issues by raising the minimum wage, he and the Dems are taking money from Mandel and DFER, big supporters of TFA. TFA, an organization that gives “corps members” five weeks of training, is putting teachers from accredited education schools out of jobs. To paraphrase Martin Neimoller: “First they came for the teachers…”

posted by: Doug Hardy | May 3, 2014  2:36pm

Hi folks - thanks for all these comments and please do feel free to continue the discussion!

Unfortunately, we have had to delete a few comments because they have violated various parts of our comment policy.

I would urge folks to give that policy a read before making baseless allegations of criminal wrongdoing about anyone, or engaging in name calling, or simply being uncivil.

Thanks!

posted by: LongJohn47 | May 3, 2014  2:38pm

Bluecoat—you’re right, we want it, but the ACA was not designed to fail.  It was designed to deliver healthcare to more people through the existing system, slightly tweaked.  It’s being successful, so we’re unlikely to move to a more rational system.

Sarah—did you read the list of accomplishments?  You’re clearly stuck on one issue, and that’s your right.  You’re not voting for Malloy.  Are you voting for Foley?  Or are you essentially sitting this one out?  Those are the choices.

posted by: BillM | May 3, 2014  4:52pm

Longjohn,

Are you certain that the only choice will be Foley? He’s not even nominated yet! Are you clairvoyant? Even if Foley is the candidate, are you certain that he would be worse than Malloy? I’m not! Malloy the governor is not Malloy the candidate; his platform during the last election was full of lies, particularly his platform statement on education. Malloy is proven to be a liar, he is proven to be treacherous towards those who put him in office the first time. Perhaps Foley would have been better for the State; I have not the gift of clairvoyance of the future nor of the “What ifs” of history. Am I reading you correctly that you purport to have these gifts? Wow! I am in the presence of greatness! I am in AWE!

Malloy has already proven that he cannot be trusted. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me!”

Vote the ABM Ticket . . . anybody but Malloy!

posted by: RJEastHartford | May 4, 2014  9:40am

@Sarah Darer Littman, I agree with you, specifically regarding the effort of TFA.
In light of the recent decline of revenue projections for the sate budget (capital gains tax), which candidate will restrict the collective bargaining rights for all municipal employees, including teachers?
This issue cannot help the fight against
privatization. Interests need to be prioritized, because once dismantled the competition is over.

posted by: NoNonsense2014 | May 4, 2014  12:41pm

I don’t like Malloy. But I don’t think I can bring myself to vote the “Anybody But Malloy” way. And I don’t like Foley (and yes, I am assuming he will be the GOP nominee again). So here are my two choices: the lesser of two evils, or not voting for Governor at all. And I don’t like those choices, either.

posted by: Stan Muzyk | May 4, 2014  2:57pm

@BillM: Mr. Bill Morrison—I hope that the majority of our voters share your voting intelligence on Election Day. We need more educated voters to turn this state around from the current path to oblivion. There is NO JOY FOR MALLOY if we want any chance of a future in Connecticut.

posted by: CAPE-TEACH | May 4, 2014  4:15pm

Sarah,
I would like to create an opportunity for professional educators to once again have their voices heard in the political process. For those interested, please visit the Connecticut Association of Professional Educators website at www.cape-teach.org for additional information.
Len Beman

posted by: LongJohn47 | May 6, 2014  6:48am

Sarah—let’s think about “labor issues”. 

The minimum wage affects 700-90,000 workers in CT. 

The EITC goes to 180,000 low income families (with hundreds of thousands of children). 

Paid sick days ensure 750,000 workers some time off if needed.

How many union teaching jobs are allegedly lost through Teach for America?  190.  Not hundreds of thousands, not tens of thousands, not even one thousand. 

Just one hundred and ninety.

If Foley had been governor none of these programs would have seen the light of day, and if he’s elected there’s a good chance he’ll scale them back or eliminate them altogether.

So there’s your choice—190 union teacher jobs vs. programs that put money into the pockets of hundreds of thousands of the working poor.

It’s an easy choice for me, and it should be for you, too.

posted by: justsayin | May 6, 2014  7:39am

Any other party would be better than these two puppets. Neither can think on their own, just pushing a socialist agenda that has proven not to work. Just creating a bigger welfare state, in the end helping no one and hurting those they propose to help. So yeah the other guys is worse does not work, but the results are clear, the other is a lot better.

posted by: Sarah Darer Littman | May 6, 2014  8:06am

And your source for the 190 jobs allegedly lost is? .....

posted by: Sarah Darer Littman | May 6, 2014  8:21am

LJ47 - Ever heard “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world?” I lived in the UK for 15 years - you know, the country that our founders broke away from because we were trying to get away from the idea that the mere fact of our birth should determine our destiny. What I see happening here with the educational policy being perpetrated by Democrats -which has little difference from the one recommended by Republicans, other than the vouchers, but the state just okayed its first church charter school so nothing would surprise me any more - is the creation of the same two-tier education system that exists in the UK. One set of schools for the elites and another for the proles. So the working poor now have paid sick days? But if their kids don’t get a good education in the public schools how will the next generation stop being working poor? You accuse me of being a one-issue voter, but to me, this is THE issue. It’s what allowed my family to move from immigrants in a tenement to be part of the American Dream.

posted by: LongJohn47 | May 8, 2014  9:21pm

Sarah—we’ve always had a two tier education system, one for the elites (Andover, Exeter, Groton, etc) and the other for the proles, just like England (modeled, in fact, on England).  So this is nothing new.

What is relatively new, and very disturbing, is the development since WWII of a vast disparity in public education between the rich, white suburbs (e.g., Darien, Westport, West Haven, Simsbury, Woodbridge, Guilford) and the poor, black/brown cities (you know the list).  The public school two-tier system already exists, hiding in plain sight.

Charter schools hope to remedy this.  Teach for America hopes to remedy this. NCLB tried to remedy this. Common Core is another effort, as are magnet schools.

I’m not saying that any of these has worked or will work.  I’m not defending any particular program or approach.  But I do support making an effort, and I do reject the notion that these reformers are hell-bent on destroying public education.  They may be misguided and wrong in their particular approaches, but they aren’t evil.

So in a sense, I agree with you.  I don’t want a two-tiered public education system, and I think the one we have (suburban vs urban) is bad for America.  No question we can and should do better.

But public education is not the only issue, and any fix is complex and long term in nature and effect.  Income redistribution is relatively simple and critically necessary now, and the gains we’ve made under Malloy are under threat.  That’s why I support him, regardless of his personal shortcomings.

posted by: Sarah Darer Littman | May 9, 2014  5:42am

The fallacy of your argument, Long John, is that I don’t see any TFA teachers or charter schools in Greenwich, Darien, Westport, Fairfield, New Canaan…and in fact when I was at a book event in Stamford yesterday, I had two long time, well-educated Democrats come up to me enraged about Malloy/Pryor’s decision to override the ELECTED Stamford BOE’s vote on the Stamford Charter. Not only that, if you look at the peer reviewed (and I emphasize PEER REVIEWED) research, TFA teachers are not not superior to traditionally trained teachers in fact are worse, and cost more to the community because of the churn and the “finders fee” paid to the organization. And let’s talk about teacher turnover in terms of a child’s well-being - how does it benefit a children if they don’t have consistency? Parents in the wealthy suburbs would NEVER put up with what has been inflicted in the cities, and that’s why you’re seeing this education spring - because now the awful policy of Common Core is starting to reach into the suburbs. And yes, Duncan can make disparaging, patronizing comments about “white suburban moms” but that just shows how arrogant and out of touch he, and the rest of the people making education policy have been. That’s what happens when policy makers listen to billionaires because they’re thinking about money and campaign contributions instead of looking at the research and listening to the people who actually work with children.

posted by: Sarah Darer Littman | May 9, 2014  5:49am

BTW, Long John, you never cited a source for the “190 jobs allegedly lost to TFA”. I’d be really interested to know where you got that figure.

posted by: sharewhut | May 9, 2014  9:03am

@LongJohn47-
It’s disingenuous to throw out rich/white vs poor/brown as an argument for educational disparities. Not all suburbs outperforming cities are rich and white.
The biggest factor in the ‘gap’ is not money,it continues to exist despite the dollars being poured into programs to fix- it comes down to PARENTS.
Parents who take time to sit and talk to, read to/with, interact with… well basically do the job of parenting.
Working parents who if necessary will bring their children to daycare, then pick up after work and interact with.
What is happening now, especially with the 3 to pre-k programming, is a ‘parent’ putting a child on a bus at 6 AM then collecting the kid off the bus at 8 PM to maybe bathe before putting to bed.
No need to feed breakfast, prepare a lunch, or cook dinner ( with the inherent ‘face time’ involved in sitting at breakfast and dinner tables)- the school will do that for you. And sadly, this major factor is the one that can’t be changed by throwing money at, or selling off to profiteering corporations.
Two tiers, kids with parents and kids with child bearers.

posted by: Sarah Darer Littman | May 9, 2014  9:48am

Sharewhut - have you ever considered that maybe those parents are forced to do that because they working multiple jobs because they can’t earn a living wage just working at one job? Wow. Disparaging those parents as “child bearers” shows your complete lack of empathy and, to be frank, racism.

posted by: GBear423 | May 9, 2014  11:55am

GBear423

racism?? wow really?  Gotta jump in and say that was an ignorant reaction to sharewhut’s comment.  Look who is stereotyping. Whites can be poor, under the grind of multiple jobs, and have only time to see their kid on weekends between shifts. BUT any “parent” can still use that example of hard work to motivate their kids. They are products of their environment and their own unique reaction to that environment. Parents have an obligation no matter what hours they work (or what shade their skin is), to ensure their Children are provided positive attention and not left to their own devices. Family, friends, neighbors, mentors, big bro/big sister, Church, etc. No matter your color or job hours, you DO SOMETHIN to give them the best chance at getting the free education while they are young. Seriously. Stop it with the color card, that is weak.

posted by: Joebigjoe | May 9, 2014  11:58am

Someone told me when I was young that I didnt want to get anyone pregnant until I could afford having a kid.

Another person told me that if I waited until I could afford a kid, I would never have one.

Both were right.

I understand what Sarah said about having to work that many hours so they can provide for their child.

Wouldnt it make more sense to start educating kids when they are young and hammer home the fact that you need to have an education before having a child?

I have a feeling that not many young uneducated women are happy about getting pregnant when they are 16-18. However, have we made it too easy for them to not do the behaviors to prevent that because we have removed the angst one should feel about making that kind of adult decision because the safety net is too good and does not serve as a deterrent.

That’s how I would deal with the young moms and that pales in comparison to the message I would drill with a Black and Decker drill into the head of young men.

posted by: sharewhut | May 9, 2014  4:09pm

@Sarah
I’ll let slide your knee jerk racism accusation, other than fact that nothing I said suggested race.
And really, do you think the numbers of children we’re providing this wake-to-bed schooling for is remotely related to the number of their parents working one, much less multiple jobs? How about requiring these parents to prove that they’re working 12 hours a day? And there are plenty of other daycare options, with State assistance available, to not need us to turn our schools into a babysitting service.
Look at almost any success story about someone who rose from poverty and a common theme is a parent/parent figure finding time for them. Thus I stand by my statement about parent versus ‘child-bearer’, to paraphrase- “any male (female) can make a baby, it takes a man (woman) to be a father (mother).
There is something inherently wrong when we’re dealing with in many cases 3rd and 4th generations of a family in the same situation. And all we do is throw money at the problem making it easier for each subsequent generation to continue and not break out of the mold. How can we be going on 3rd generations of ESL students? How many of our grandparents had to learn English to survive, with only the neighborhood businesses dealing in Italian or Polish to stay in business. You’ll probably yell “prejudiced!” at me for a statement like that, I say it’s really a matter of cultural difference.
I have plenty of EMPATHY, and I fully believe we need safety nets for those who fall. I AM running short on SYMPATHY for those who make no effort to work out of the situation they’re in.
I’m of an immigrant lineage. My grandfathers worked multiple jobs and my grandmothers worked when necessary. My parents both worked full time, my father two jobs for 15 years. My siblings and I have progressed to being able to get by with ourselves and our spouses only working one job. Barely getting by. And barely getting by because of the tax bite, an ever growing piece of which is being poured into ‘safety nets’ that have in reality become hammocks, and the ladder to the top has turned into a horizontal conveyor.

posted by: LongJohn47 | May 9, 2014  4:38pm

Sarah—I did respond with the source several days ago, but that posting as well as two others I’ve sent in didn’t get through the filter.

Here it is http://www.teachforamerica.org/where-we-work/connecticut

TFA’s own website showing 90 current positions in CT

posted by: ABC | May 9, 2014  4:51pm

Sarah,

You don’t see any TFA teachers or charter schools in Greenwich, Darien etc?  You’re not looking very hard.

There are plenty of “charter schools” in rich affluent towns.  They’re known as private prep schools.  And they’re not staffed by tired, burnt-out, bitter, card-carrying union members who wouldn’t dream of sending their own kids to the schools in which they teach.  No, the privates and the charters are staffed by well educated, affluent, college grads who otherwise would be perfect TFA recruits.  In fact some are!

And do you really mean to say that a TFA teacher is more costly to the taxpayers than a regular teacher?  Putting aside that the TFAers are the last ones to walk out the door each night as they burn the midnight oil on behalf of their students, they are on the low end of the pay scale because of the lack of tenure.  The cost comparison is not even close. 

And the quality comparison is equally ludicrous.  Putting aside their lack of tenure in a completely dysfunctional government-run system, TFAers are more effective than the average teacher because TFAers themselves are strivers.  What better educational role-models are there than people who have worked their butts off their entire lives and have been highly successful in college? 

And what “consistency” are you talking about?  Students change their cadre’ of teachers each year.  Each grade has different teachers.  In a big comprehensive high school, where is the consistency in teaching?

Lastly, you’re right about parents not putting up with the kind of education that they get in urban districts.  That’s why affluent people move to the suburbs!

And thats also why less affluent parents living in the city line up by the thousands to send their kids to charter schools.

posted by: Stan Muzyk | May 9, 2014  8:25pm

@NoNonsense2014: At least
Tom Foley is a proven and successful businessman, while Malloy is only a career politician who only has massive tax and spend skills if you care about the sad state of fiscal affairs in Connecticut. If people think like you—and won’t vote for Malloy or Foley—Malloy stays in office—and has promised to cut your taxes—if you are also buying the Brooklyn Bridge.
Why do you only procastinate?

posted by: Stan Muzyk | May 9, 2014  8:45pm

@Sarah Darer Littman: I like your current views of political arena and the fact that you are no longer being used as a sounding board for the Democratic Party. Keep up your great literary work.

posted by: LongJohn47 | May 10, 2014  11:54am

Sarah—I’m trying for the third time to respond to your source request.  Just google TFA CT and look on their home page.  Currently there are 190 TFA teachers in CT.

Compare that to approximately 43,600 public school teachers in just under 1,200 schools (about 37 per school).

And just to round things out, according to the state BoE there are 17 charter schools operating in CT, and if each has 40 teachers then there are another 680 non-union charter school teachers.  Add that to TFA and that comes to less than 900, about 2% of the total.

As to your comments about TFA teacher quality, I don’t dispute anything you wrote.  I’ve been associated with education for over 35 years, directly as a teacher and curriculum designer, or through my wife who’s been in education at the highest levels.  I know how difficult it is to teach, and I believe that good teachers spend a lifetime getting better.

But if you read my earlier post, I specifically said I’m not defending/advocating any particular solution to what I believe everyone should acknowledge is a deteriorating public education system. 

What I did say is that all of these approaches, however badly thought through or executed, were done in good faith by people who want to fix the system, not destroy it. 

And from a public policy point of view, does it make sense to experiment with 2% of the teaching corps?  I think an argument can be made for that level.

You may believe Arne Duncan is the devil incarnate, and that Malloy is his handmaiden from hell, but I’m not buying it.

posted by: Stan Muzyk | May 10, 2014  2:16pm

@LongJohn47:  To each his own—and you remain steadfast in your way. What else is new? I hope you aucceed in your quwst to win friends and influence people. I give you credit for never giving up your stance. Happy Mother’s Day!

posted by: Sarah Darer Littman | May 10, 2014  2:17pm

ABC - your TFA propaganda makes me laugh so hard. Really? So a traditionally trained teacher doesn’t work hard after the lights are out - simply by the virtual of being unionized and having tenure? Have you actually MET any of these teachers you bad mouth constantly? Because I work with plenty of them in the course of my “day job” as a young adult author - I correspond with them virtually every day, and the ELA teachers I work with are constantly striving to do the best by their students. And these are teachers in CT and all around the country, in urban and non-urban districts. And I hear from teachers and librarians in charter schools about the problems in those schools. As for teacher turnover, you are, in typical reformer fashion, twisting the issue to avoid the problems with TFA. Of course students change teachers each year. But not three teachers in the same class in the same year because their teacher has left. And as for “TFAers are more effective than the average teacher because TFAers themselves are strivers” - well actually no. When you look at the PEER REVIEWED research they aren’t more effective. And when you take into account the finders fee and the turnover, they end up being more expensive.  So yeah, the Walton Family and the Sacklers and the ConnCanns and the Zooms can spend billions on propaganda, but if policymakers and taxpayers actually start looking at RESEARCH they will see these programs for the expensive, non-cost effective expense to the taxpayers that they are.

posted by: Sarah Darer Littman | May 10, 2014  4:58pm

“There are plenty of “charter schools” in rich affluent towns.  They’re known as private prep schools. ”  Are you SERIOUSLY trying to compare Brunswick or Greenwich Academy or Greenwich Country Day to Achievement First?  Seriously? Because if you think the parents at any of those schools would put up with SLANT, Shirts of Shame, Kindergarten suspensions or any of the stuff that goes on at the charter schools in urban communities, I want some of what you’re on.

posted by: Common Sense | May 11, 2014  2:39pm

Let’s not throw in racism as a excuse for the poor handling of our affairs of state due to one-party Democratic control.
Gov. Malloy does not need another reason for his questionable leadership—“by interjecting the race card.”

posted by: ABC | May 12, 2014  8:17am

Sarah,

I attend many BOE meetings in different towns.  I would estimate 20% of the PS teachers are on total cruise control, whether its because they’re toast or because they aren’t interested or incapable of raising their game.  The other 80% are pretty good, and among the 80%, some are unbelivablbly good and caring.  BTW - the administrators have their own sets of problems.

What I object to is why should we keep the 20% around at all? Why do the 80% allow the 20% to be in the same building with them? They complain about them but then quietly vote for protectionist policies that keep them in the system even if its through a game of musical chairs.

I don’t accept a system that only accepts incremental change if that. I don’t accept a system that allows the interests of a group of entitled adults to trump the interests of disadvantaged families.  When it comes to education, it’s criminal to maintain the status quo.  That’s what informs my views and rhetoric.

btw - I’ve spent more time in failing urban schools than you ever will.

And I’ll continue to maintain that TFA are far, far less costly to the taxpayers on a fiscal basis and far better for parents on an educational basis.  So until someone can do a true side by side comparison, we will have to leave it at that.

And your response on the comparison of privates to charters highlights your fundamental lack of understanding about what a charter school is.

posted by: Common Sense | May 12, 2014  10:13am

@ABC:  How did you arrive at your arbitrary contention that 80% of the teachers are pretty good and 20% are expendable because they are not interested or incapable of raising their game?  It sounds more like “you are using the law of averages to back up your theory on grading teachers.”

posted by: art vandelay | May 12, 2014  10:45am

art vandelay

Let’s face facts. The Unions have a lock on public schools in this state. They will do everything possible to discredit TFA to protect their own interests.  There are excellent Union & TFA educators as well as poor.  The difference is that it’s much easier to terminate a poor TFA educator than a tenured Union one. Students deserve the best no matter where they are taught.  The only problem is that Union teachers are more apt to protect their own interests vs the students.  Union educators are also breaking the backs of taxpayers due to the Educational Enhancement Act of 86 and the Minimal Education Requirement mandates. TFA educators could minimize that effect.

posted by: LongJohn47 | May 12, 2014  9:59pm

For those of you who don’t know what Art is talking about, here’s a brief description of the 1986 Education act:

“PA 86-1 (Education Enhancement Act of 1986) established a series of interrelated grants to encourage school districts to raise teachers’ salaries. It raised teacher certification standards, creating a three-tiered (initial, provisional, and professional) certification system to replace the existing one (provisional and standard) and created a new entry- level certification and related teacher support program. The act required periodic certification renewal and established an alternate route to certification that did not require degree in education.”

Not sure why this qualifies as “breaking the backs of taxpayers”, but maybe Art can enlighten the rest of us.

posted by: art vandelay | May 12, 2014  11:01pm

art vandelay

@LongJohn47,
The Educational Enhancement Act of 1986 drastically increased teacher salaries.  The state picked up the tab for the increase for the first few years.  Local taxpayers through the property tax were responsible thereafter.  Binding arbitration is another “gun to the head” for local taxpayers. Board of Ed negotiators are very reluctant to resort to it when they negotiate with the teachers unions.  The arbitrators decision is final and always favors the teachers. Bottom line is local property taxes continue to increase as a result of the Enhancement Act.  There is no way to reverse the process.  I hope I answered your question.

posted by: Sarah Darer Littman | May 13, 2014  6:14am

From a TFA Corpsmember on Diane Ravitch’s blog:“I’m ashamed of doing TFA and I was a 96 Corps Member. I don’t put TFA on my resume or fess up to it unless directly asked, because I value my reputation as a dedicated, knowledgeable, lifelong educator. I have spent 18 years watching Corps Members come and go. So many things have disappointed me about TFA over the years, but my recent experiences as an instructor in their JHU Masters program left me feeling that there is no hope for this organization to regain its moral compass. While preaching the power of high expectations, TFAers leave Johns Hopkins University with artificially inflated GPAs and a Masters degree that they do NOT deserve. They have done a fraction of the work that other Grad students in similar programs in the School of Education are required to complete, with virtually no expectations as to the quality or timeliness of their assignments. The courses are created by Laureate Education and the professors are almost all TFA alums, some of whom have as few as 5 years experience and manage to teach 5 graduate level TFA sections while working for Baltimore City Schools full time as well. I keep hoping that someone will write an article about this part of the TFA attempt to convince the world that CMs are the smartest and hardest working teachers around, especially now that they have expanded this rigorous program, that was so carefully crafted to bring about transformational teaching, to several other regions. Of course nobody wants to talk about these things because that MS Ed degree is pretty much a jobs program for the alums that are “teaching” the 85+ sections of TFA only classes. If I were a student at Hopkins, I would be livid that other grad students can submit all assignments as late as they want (with strict limits on the amount of points that can be deducted) and resubmit every assignment to ensure that they can get a better grade. If I were a parent of a student in a public school, I would be outraged that my child’s teacher could plagiarize graduate work with impunity while standing in a classroom lecturing students about integrity and perseverance.”

posted by: LongJohn47 | May 13, 2014  8:40am

Sarah—you never responded to my source for the 190 TFA jobs, or to the discussion of the total TFA/charter school teachers as a percentage of the state’s public school teaching population.

So I’ll repeat my assertion: public policy experimentation with 2% of the teaching base does not seem egregious.  And once again I’ll remind you that I’m not espousing any particular approach, but I am defending the need to try something new.

posted by: Sarah Darer Littman | May 13, 2014  9:10am

John - TFA might just be 2% in CT but I am also looking at the overall picture of what the organization is doing nationwide. If you want to stay in the bubble and look at what affects our corner of the world alone, that’s your prerogative. Clearly, we aren’t going to agree on this - as we know from offline discussion, you have one point of view on how to go about things and I have a different one. I don’t think we are going to convince each other of what is “right” here. I expressed an opinion, which is my job in this context. You disagree with it. If you want to write an op ed, I’m sure there are plenty of outlets in which you can do so.ABC “continues to maintain that TFA far, far less costly to the taxpayers on a fiscal basis and far better for parents on an educational basis” based on what, exactly? Thin air? I provided Jim Himes with a peer reviewed study showing the opposite. Not conjecture. Not something I pulled out of my posterior. Peer reviewed research. Not “I continue to maintain based on anecdotal stories because I go to lots of BOE meetings”  - Peer reviewed research.

I also wonder why you - and the governor, and the State Commissioner of Education, and the Legislature and Congress - chose to disregard such peer reviewed research. But again, that is your prerogative. Just as it is the voter’s prerogative to make their own decisions in November.

posted by: Common Sense | May 13, 2014  9:19am

@Sarah:  Good answer to John.

posted by: LongJohn47 | May 13, 2014  9:42am

Sarah, you’re mixing up my comments with someone else.  I never disputed your peer reviewed research, though I don’t place much faith in one anecdotal comment from Diane Ravitch’s blog (much as I admire her and the work she has done).

My concern from the beginning is that you seem to view the upcoming governor’s race through only one prism—the alleged destruction of public education by charter schools and TFA, which I personally think is overblown.

There’s much more at stake here, as I tried to point out, issues which are important to the working poor like the minimum wage, paid sick days, and EITC.  All of those are under threat if Foley (and his pal, David Walker) are elevated to power. 

So, yes, you have every right to base your vote on whatever issues are most important to you.  I just wish I could convince you that the issues I’ve raised are immediate and critical to hundreds of thousands of people in this state.

posted by: GBear423 | May 14, 2014  8:52am

GBear423

Pelto announced formation of exploratory committee.  there is the solution all seek.  Attention to the issue will be paid in the Media, forcing all candidates to address it. If Malloy does not heed, he will certainly lose.

posted by: Sarah Darer Littman | May 14, 2014  11:35am

In addition, CT Dems might want to pay attention to the loss of the DFER anointed candidate in Newark last night, despite Education Reform Now sinking over $3 million into the race, and former Mayor Bloomberg an additional 400K.

posted by: Fisherman | May 14, 2014  7:14pm

Like most folks, I have met MANY a bad teacher; and a FEW very good ones.

But what is unfortunately obvious here is, that the writer believes in protecting the bad ones; at the expense of the good ones; and at the expense of the students and property values in towns which are inundated with bad teachers.

You DON"T put the fox in charge of the henhouse.

Still a One-Trick Pony… please try writing about another subject.