What that reporter should’ve said to Matt Damon

Matt Damon is in the myth-making business. He knows a lot about myths, like the one about how two nobodies (not true — both were working actors) wrote a Oscar-winning script (with considerable help).

In rising to the defense of teachers, Damon notes their low pay and asks, “Why else would take a shit salary and really long hours unless you really loved to do it?”

Riposte: So janitors must love their job? Why else would anyone want to clean up shit, considering the pay and hours?

For the record, I partly agree: Teachers should be paid more. Good teachers. Not all teachers are quality or even qualified. Surely I wasn’t the only one who had tenured professors who never came to class. They were the minority, but it happens.

Damon speaks like your typical partisan, more interested in placating a constituency than fixing a problem. I’m sure in his world the teacher’s unions are nothing but heroic when in fact they deserve as much blame as anyone — if not more — for the shitty state of our public schools.

Quid pro crock

AT&T is lining up support for its acquisition of T-Mobile from a slew of liberal groups with no obvious interest in telecom deals — except that they’ve received big piles of AT&T’s cash.

In recent weeks, the NAACP, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and the National Education Association have each issued public statements in support of the deal.

The groups all say their public positions have nothing to do with the money they received from AT&T. And AT&T says it supports nonprofit groups because it’s the right thing to do — and not because of any quid pro quo.


The fallout has begun, as GLAAD’s president resigned Friday. Unfortunately, the irrelevant organization he led remains.

Teachers never to blame

The Daily Beast’s Diane Ravitch takes Secretary of Educaton Arne Duncan to task for suggesting poor teachers contribute to low test scores.

Apologists like Ravitch seem incapable of admitting bad teachers even exist. “Behind the teachers’ rage and skepticism is the fact that Duncan has time and again said that ‘bad’ teachers cause low test scores, refusing to recognize (as he did, belatedly, in his letter) that low test scores are primarily caused by poverty and lack of family support,” writes Ravitch.

It’s not the teachers’ fault. It never is. Accountability is for other occupations.

I’m not arguing that teachers are solely responsible for our average, at best, public education system (14th among developed countries). And I agree that testing is over-emphasized.

But it’s hard to be sympathetic when the teacher’s unions refuse to take any responsibility.

No working class heroes in this bunch

Norma Wrong!

Don’t confuse Wisconsin’s public employees unions with the average working stiff. I can be fired for incompetence, unlike public school teachers. My benefits are nowhere near as sweet. And, like many private sector workers, I’ve gone years without a raise.

Why should public employees be immune? And when will the teacher’s unions be held accountable for routinely placing self-interest over education?

Meanwhile, some Wisconsin teachers decided to make a mockery of their own profession by penalizing their students after an irresponsible call to action by Mary Bell, the chief of the state teachers union.

“On Thursday and Friday, we are asking Wisconsinites to come to Madison,” Bell, president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, said Wednesday. She then claimed disingenuously that she wasn’t telling the union’s 98,000 teachers to walk off their jobs.

Unfortunately, that’s what many of them did. There were no classes in Madison schools. Port Washington High School had to close. The same was true at other schools around the state. Do these teachers care more about their jobs than their kids? We wonder.

Joe Klein nails the self-serving, anti-democratic Wisconsin protests.

Governor Scott Walker’s basic requests are modest ones–asking public employees to contribute more to their pension and health care plans, though still far less than most private sector employees do. He is also trying to limit the unions’ abilities to negotiate work rules–and this is crucial when it comes to the more efficient operation of government in a difficult time. When I covered local government in New York 30 years ago, the school janitors (then paid a robust $60,000 plus per year) had negotiated the “right” to mop the cafeteria floors only once a week. And we all know about the near-impossibility of getting criminal and morally questionable–to say nothing of less than competent–teachers fired. The negotiation of such contracts were acts of collusion rather than of mediation. Government officials were, in effect, bribing their most activist constituents.

Boehner (wisely) calls Obama’s bluff

The Ohio Republican, along with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), will introduce legislation on Wednesday to reauthorize the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program, the speaker’s office said Monday, making a school voucher initiative that Democrats, including Obama, have strongly opposed as a bargaining chip for beginning discussions on the administration’s desired education proposals. …

Teachers unions have fought against the voucher program and Obama’s budget pulled funding for new scholarships after 2010.

Supporters of the program, which currently funds scholarships for roughly 1,000 D.C. students, argue that it gives poor students access to better education.

De-funding the program would return many of  those students to D.C.’s public schools, decreasing their odds at success. The stats prove it, but such change doesn’t jibe with a progressive orthodoxy that demands blind support for teacher’s unions — even when they’re a large part of the problem.

James O’Keefe is no journalist

Sleazy right-wing journalist prankster James O’Keefe, deified by conservatives after an undercover stunt exposing alleged criminal behavior by ACORN, is back at it, targeting one of my favorite villains — the teachers unions.

So he sent one of his flunkies to a bar after a teachers’ conference to buy drinks for a special education teacher named Alissa Ploshnick, and prompt her to dish about incompetent colleagues while secretly recording her. One of Ploshnick’s stories was that a colleague of hers referred called a student a nigger” and was demoted but not fired. She was clearly outraged.

O’Keefe released the recording, and Ploshnick was suspended for using the “N” word. Never mind that she once threw herself in front of a careening van to protect her students, an act commended by President Bill Clinton.

None of this change the corrosive influence of teachers unions. But O’Keefe is not a trustworthy messenger. That he considers himself a journalist is offensive.

A conservative activist known for making undercover videos plotted to embarrass a CNN correspondent by recording a meeting on hidden cameras aboard a floating “palace of pleasure” and making sexually suggestive comments, e-mails and a planning document show.

Say what?

Gail Collins has apparently never heard how difficult it is to get a bad public school teacher fired:

In his new film, the American Federation of Teachers, a union, and its president, Randi Weingarten, seem to be playing the role of carbon emissions. The movie’s heroes are people like the union-fighting District of Columbia schools chancellor, Michelle Rhee, and Geoffrey Canada, the chief of the much-praised, union-free Harlem Children’s Zone.

“I want to be able to get rid of teachers that we know aren’t able to teach kids,” says Canada.

That’s unarguable, and the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program has turned out to be a terrific engine for forcing politicians and unions and education experts to create better ways to get rid of inept or lazy teachers. But there’s no evidence that teachers’ unions are holding our schools back.