(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)
The Nashville y’alternative band BR549 wrote a great song about a woman who used to be a punk rocker, but changes into a hardcore country and western enthusiast. The lyrics describe the conversion:
She done traded in her Doc’s for kicker boots
Safety-pinned tee shirts for Manuel Suits
Her hair’s grown out and it’s piled up high
She only shows her tattoos one at a time
She ain’t ashamed of the way she was
She hears old Hank, she can’t get enough
Her punk rock records are gathering dust
‘Cos little Ramona’s gone hillbilly nuts
This song involuntarily comes to mind every time I read a blog post by Diane Ravitch like this one. It could just be me, but Ravitch’s dislike for NYC Chancellor Joel Klein seems to have gone beyond the pale.
Let’s assume that Klein has spent gobs more money without getting much in the way of results. That is a matter of dispute, and I don’t have a dog in that fight. But even if it were true, Klein would have plenty of company: spending more money with flat academic achievement is about par for the course of American education over the last thirty plus years. For instance, the NAEP long term reading scale score for 17 year olds was precisely the same in 1971 and 2004.
Nationally, real spending per pupil doubled during that same period. As sorry as that record is, you could be rightly dismissed as nuts if you tried to argue that the nation’s public school leaders were out to destroy public education. Klein doesn’t support vouchers-so there’s no story there, even for inhabitants of the anti-voucher fever swamps. He does support charter schools, but charter schools are public schools and support for charters is well within the mainstream of the Democratic Party. And yet Ms. Ravitch writes:
So this is the strange new era we are embarked upon, in which the mantle of “reformer” has passed to those who would dismantle public education, piece by piece.
What seems strange to me is making such a charge against Klein, Booker, Rhee and Fenty without presenting a scintilla of supporting evidence. Stranger still to see someone accused of spending too much money on public schools and of seeking to dismantle public education in a single post.