Jeff Kuhner

The Catholic Church is not the only institution facing a sex abuse crisis. The Los Angeles Unified School District has an ugly scandal of its own--and teenagers are again the victims. Richard Winton, a reporter at the Los Angeles Times, has written several incisive articles on the burgeoning crisis involving a former L.A. assistant principal, Steve Rooney. According to the Times, Rooney is alleged to have had a sexual relationship with a then-15-year-old female student at the Foshay Learning Center.

The Foshay student says she told a school administrator that she was having an affair with Rooney, in which she lived with him at his downtown apartment for some time. Rather than report the improper--and illegal--relationship, the student alleges that the administrator urged her to "recant" her statements. Why was the administrator, whose name has not been divulged, so determined to cover up for Rooney? Because the student feared that the revelations would result in Rooney being criminally charged for committing lewd acts with a minor and going to jail.

Hence, Rooney was never discharged, suspended, or even investigated by the LAUSD--even though law enforcement authorities had conducted a criminal probe into accusations by the Foshay student's stepfather that Rooney threatened him with a gun for demanding the relationship be terminated. Instead, Rooney was transferred by school district officials to Markham Middle School in South Los Angeles last year. During his tenure at Markham, Rooney is alleged to have molested two female students, one a 13-year-old,...

Greg Anrig is smart, eloquent and likable, as was his dad, whose memory I cherish. (His mom is pretty terrific, too.) But he's overhasty in declaring that the voucher movement has "stalled" and not until you get to the end of his long piece does he acknowledge the larger point, which is that school choice in its infinite variety is accelerating and that the voucher movement is largely to thank for that.

A majority of U.S. students now study either in bona fide ???schools of choice??? or in neighborhood schools that their parents chose with a realtor's help. That's an amazing change since I was a schoolboy in the fifties and a very positive one. The pity is that the girls and boys with the least access to decent education options today are poor and minority youngsters trapped in wretched urban school systems.

Those are the kids being helped by vouchers in Milwaukee and D.C. and Ohio--and who would be helped in myriad other places if Greg and his friends would allow this to happen (and if a bunch of states would repeal their nativist, anti-Catholic "Blaine Amendments").

I surely do not suggest that vouchers are the only worthwhile form of school choice, much less that the mere existence of vouchers leads to improved student achievement. The schools have to be worth attending, too, places where quality teaching and learning occur. That's true of many but not all private schools, just as it's true of some...

Birthday-boy Coby beat me to the punch, but here you go.

Regarding the Absent Teacher Reserve controversy, Randi rants:

"The chancellor should stop his grandstanding. The chancellor's ideology of simply wanting to fire people at whim-regardless of fairness, reasons for displacement or statutory/contractual obligations-have gotten him into this mess. To pretend the union hasn't tried to offer solutions is just wrong."

How fitting that Randi admits in her own statement that "statutory/contractual obligations" might be related to something other than fairness (otherwise, why mention them both?). And speaking of fairness, what's not fair is that taxpayers have to keep paying the salaries of people who don't work and probably can't teach. Maybe those taxpayers should get some "contractual" protections of their own.

* Last week's here.

Education Sector just released a new survey, Waiting to be Won Over, by Farkas Duffett Research--a top-notch policy research firm that's done great work for Fordham in the past (and is working on a teacher survey of our own, due out later this year). It looks at teachers' views about various reform ideas and includes some interesting (and generally depressing) trend data. The top-line findings are that unions are ascendant (54 percent of teachers view them as "absolutely essential" vs. 46 percent in 2003) and that merit pay (at least via test scores) has taken a bit of a beating (support is down four points to 34 percent).

Still, there are plenty of findings to hearten reformers, including strong support for "hardship pay" for individuals willing to serve in tough schools (8 in ten teachers support it) and, at least among newcomers, extra pay for shortage subjects like math and science (almost two-thirds of newbies support that).

These data are illuminating, and no doubt the survey's authors are correct that "independent public opinion research that investigates what teachers think about various issues is a necessary contribution to the national conversation on education policy and reform."

Still, as Rick Hess would say if he had a blog (Rick, no one reads books anymore), the views of current teachers (even new ones) shouldn't be the last word on how tomorrow's teachers might react to various workplace reforms. The point of merit pay, for...

Liam Julian

In Australia's state of Victoria, teachers are about to receive a mammoth pay raise. But Kevin Donnelly, the Australian-education guru, doesn't like it. He sees lots of other problems that need remedying.

Instead of a blanket pay increase, a real education revolution would focus on raising standards and improving learning outcomes by identifying the best way to deal with underperforming teachers and to attract and reward successful teachers.

??Donnelly also notes:

It makes sense that, instead of imposing on schools teachers who may not agree with the school's educational philosophy, the power to hire, fire and reward staff should be at the local level, allowing those most affected by decisions to have a say.

Sounds familiar.

According to David Brooks, among others, yesterday's victory in North Carolina and near-tie in Indiana means Senator Barack Obama is almost assured the Democratic nomination. Now it's time for the general election pivot, Brooks argues:

Obama has a much more liberal profile than he did several weeks ago. Moderate, independent voters are now less sure that Obama shares their values. Hillary Clinton voters are much, much more hostile toward him. His supporters look more and more like the McGovern-Dukakis constituency, and the walls between that constituency and the rest of the country are higher than they were weeks ago.

Obama is going to have to work hard to tear down those walls over the coming months. He is going to have to work hard first to win over the Clinton voters, who are more economically populist and socially conservative than his supporters. He is also going to have to work hard to win over suburban independents, who are less economically populist than his current supporters. He's going to have to break conspicuously with orthodox liberalism to re-establish that values connection with people in Ohio and Missouri.

This will require a pivot, or at least a rediscovery of some themes that have faded into the background as the contest for partisans has grown more intense.

Can some new (or newly rediscovered) education policies and rhetoric help? Maybe. He should surely continue to channel Bill Cosby and talk about the need for parents to take responsibility for...

The ranks of American education's "newspaper of record" are growing ever thinner. Last month came news that Lynn Olson is heading to the Gates Foundation; now we hear that Bess Keller, the paper's "teacher quality" beat reporter, is heading to the estimable National Council on Teacher Quality. It's a great fit and exciting news for Keller and NCTQ--and another ominous development for Education Week.

There's more on the Absent Teacher Reserve and rubber room controversies in New York City. In today's Daily News, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and union head Randi Weingarten blame each other for the impasses, which will lead to budget cuts next year.


"Those are dollars we could give to schools to deal with issues," Klein said, a week before he expects to tell schools how much they'll lose next year.

Asked if the idle teachers were connected to the cuts, Klein said, "Of course, and I would tell [teachers union President] Randi [Weingarten], instead of making this a PR campaign, we get serious about addressing it."


"The chancellor should stop his grandstanding," Weingarten said in a statement. "The chancellor's ideology of simply wanting to fire people at whim--regardless of fairness, reasons for displacement or statutory/contractual obligations--have gotten him into this mess. To pretend the union hasn't tried to offer solutions is just wrong."

First, with regard to the "grandstanding" line, I'm reminded of that scene from The Godfather, Part II, where Michael sagely reminds Senator Geary that they're both part of the same hypocrisy. Weingarten could use a similar reminder.

More absurd, however, are Weingarten's continued attempts to attach the stigma of "ideology" to a proposal that seeks to impose at least the rudiments of an accountability system on New York's schools. Does she really believe that Joel Klein's proposal to shut down the money-sucking rubber rooms is part of...

Jeff Kuhner

Have you noticed kids no longer bike to school?

One of the reasons is that schools no longer encourage biking. Take the case of Bridgewater-Raritan High School in New Jersey. Students there banded together and managed to raise $2,000 to purchase a new bike rack at the school. But school officials denied their request. Katherine Dransfield, one of the students seeking to organize a school bike club, explained that "Essentially, what they told us was that they didn't want to promote biking as a way to get to school."

The school officials should be ashamed of themselves. Biking has numerous benefits. It promotes public health and exercise (and our students, many of whom are struggling with obesity, could certainly use it), reduces traffic congestion, and helps the environment by reducing pollution.

In fact, some here at Fordham regularly bike to work during the spring and summer. Mike Petrilli, our esteemed Vice-President for National Policy, is an avid biker. He's also our resident greenie and political squish, who champions organic food, energy conservation, and combating global warming. I, on the other hand, being a hard-boiled conservative, don't share Mike's--how shall I say it--romantic views. I'm all for steaks and gas-guzzling cars. I do, however, commute to work on the train and subway everyday. So, I can't be that much of a reactionary.

Regardless of our ideological differences, there is one undeniable fact: Mike is considerably slimmer and fitter than I am. A major reason for...

From the Boston Globe:

Enrollment in the Dorchester Catholic schools, which had been falling for years, is now rising as a result of a decision by affluent Catholic business leaders to invest tens of millions of dollars refurbishing the schools, the Archdiocese of Boston said yesterday.

A group of businesspeople, led by retired adman Jack Connors Jr., has raised $25 million toward the $67 million they are pledging to spend to consolidate, renovate, upgrade, and, in one instance, rebuild aging parish school buildings in Dorchester and Mattapan.

On the one hand, there's a question of whether this is really a viable model for saving Catholic schools. Surely raising funds on this scale is not easy, especially in other cities with much smaller Catholic populations than Boston.

On the other hand, maybe it shows how far a serious, concerted effort like the Boston Archdiocese's 2010 Initiative can go.