Education Reform Now — the advocacy organization now chaired by former Chancellor Joel Klein — unveiled a TV spot today that shows relatively senior teachers arguing against seniority.
The ad’s debut corresponds with Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s escalating campaign against the “last-in, first-out” law that requires the city to lay off teachers according to their seniority. It shows three city teachers with between four and 21 years of experience in the New York City schools saying that if the city has to lay off teachers, it should do so based on merit. The ad doesn’t say how the city should define merit, or what constitutes a great teacher, questions that the city will have to confront if the law does change. It also doesn’t name the city’s teachers union, like its previous more aggressive ads.
A spokesman for the group, Stefan Friedman, said the ad cost ERN “seven figures,” and would run for a month in Albany and New York City. He would not give the exact cost.
The ad features Jane Viau, a former investment banker-turned-teacher at Frederick Douglass Academy I who has already spoken out against the seniority law as a board member of Educators 4 Excellence, another advocacy organization that opposes the law.
“It is illogical and I feel it is irresponsible,” Viau says of the law in ERN’s ad.
Thus far, United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew’s argument against changing the law is that there’s no need to debate it because the city doesn’t need to lay off teachers this year.
Rise & Shine
While you were waking up, the U.S. Senate took a big step toward confirming Betsy DeVos as education secretary
Betsy DeVos’s confirmation as education secretary is all but assured after an unusual and contentious early-morning vote by the U.S. Senate.
The Senate convened at 6:30 a.m. Friday to “invoke cloture” on DeVos’s embattled nomination, a move meant to end a debate that has grown unusually pitched both within the lawmaking body and in the wider public.
They voted 52-48 to advance her nomination, teeing up a final confirmation vote by the end of the day Monday.
Two Republican senators who said earlier this week that they would not vote to confirm DeVos joined their colleagues in voting to allow a final vote on Monday. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska cited DeVos’s lack of experience in public education and the knowledge gaps she displayed during her confirmation hearing last month when announcing their decisions and each said feedback from constituents had informed their decisions.
Americans across the country have been flooding their senators with phone calls, faxes, and in-person visits to share opposition to DeVos, a Michigan philanthropist who has been a leading advocate for school vouchers but who has never worked in public education.
They are likely to keep up the pressure over the weekend and through the final vote, which could be decided by a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence.
Two senators commented on the debate after the vote. Republican Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who has been a leading cheerleader for DeVos, said he “couldn’t understand” criticism of programs that let families choose their schools.
But Democrat Patty Murray of Washington repeated the many critiques of DeVos that she has heard from constituents. She also said she was “extremely disappointed” in the confirmation process, including the early-morning debate-ending vote.
“Right from the start it was very clear that Republicans intended to jam this nomination through … Corners were cut, precedents were ignored, debate was cut off, and reasonable requests and questions were blocked,” she said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Week In Review
Week In Review: A new board takes on ‘awesome responsibility’ as Detroit school lawsuits advance
One of the board’s first acts was to settle a lawsuit that was filed by teachers last year over the conditions of school buildings. The settlement calls for the creation of a five-person board that will oversee school repairs.
The lawyers behind another Detroit schools lawsuit, meanwhile, filed a motion in federal court blasting Gov. Rick Snyder for evading responsibility for the condition of Detroit schools. That suit alleges that deplorable conditions in Detroit schools have compromised childrens’ constitutional right to literacy — a notion Snyder has rejected.
The performance of charter schools in Detroit and Michigan remained at the center of the DeVos debate. A national education policy site offered a detailed analysis of the evidence on both sides of the discussion. The same site looked at DeVos’ role in last year’s fight over charter school oversight. And a pro-school choice analyst offered his view on what reporters have gotten wrong about DeVos.