As I warned yesterday, Arkansas columnist John Brummett was preparing another attack on me. Sure enough, Brummett threw his tantrum. He opens with name-calling: “He’s right-wing and quite the zealous advocate of many education reform notions.”
Then he assigns to me responsibility for all sorts of things that aren’t actually attributable to me. For example, he says (dripping with sarcasm): “He gives [teachers] summers off and calculates their hours of actual classroom instruction and concludes that he knows people in other professional fields who aren’t doing as well or significantly better.”
I didn’t do any of those things. Teacher contracts with schools give them the summers off. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) calculates their hourly and weekly pay. The BLS reports that teachers, on average, make more than other white collar and professional workers on both an hourly and weekly basis. I just repeated what the BLS reported.
He continues falsely attributing to me claims that were not invented by me: “He faulted [Fayetteville schools] for spending federal stimulus dollars not to stimulate the economy, but to pay teachers what he assumes to be twice their usual hourly rate for something they would have been doing anyway, and for much less, without the stimulus.” (emphasis added)
I didn’t assume that teacher pay was doubled with the stimulus dollars. The Northwest Arkansas Times reported that fact and I, again, just repeated it.
Finally, he makes the case for this use of stimulus dollars: “This is a new and different program that wouldn’t have been undertaken without the extra Title 1 money from the stimulus, [district officials] say. This will be high-intensity summer session with innovative techniques and individualized instruction and counseling, they say.”
I never disputed that the program might be a beneficial one. As I wrote in my initial post on this topic: ”The Leap Ahead program may well be a good one.” My objection is to paying teachers twice their normal rate (as reported by the NWAT) and three times what teachers in neighboring Springdale are being paid for the same program. Nothing in Brummett’s column justifies that. And he conveniently neglects to mention how Springdale teachers are being paid 1/3 as much for the same thing.
It’s clear that John Brummett uses his column to prosecute his own personal, political agenda. That’s acceptable for a columnist, but normally they have to be constrained by facts and logic in doing so. He can’t falsely attribute to me claims that are not my own. And he can’t switch the issue from doubling (or tripling) teacher pay for a program to the desirability of that program. At least, his newspaper shouldn’t let him do these things with their paper.
Who exactly is the zealot here — the person repeating the factual claims of the BLS and the Northwest Arkansas Times or the person omitting crucial facts, falsely attributing claims, and changing the subject?