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March 01, 2008


Jeff Merkley has two obligations 1 to act as an elected official and to serve as a steward of public education. He has done that admirably in the legislature earning a 100% score from Oregon Education Association during the last session. His public record is outstanding in this regard. 2ndly he has a duty to his children to provide them every possible opportunity that he possibly can. Checking out a charter school (note that none of the kids ever went there) is completely consistent with a good parent doing their homework. For all you know Merkley's child needs special education that is not best suited for mainstream public schools.

The release of this information is almost certainly a clear violation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and it is reprehensible that the Willamette Week would pursue information gained through illegal means about a child to smear a politician. What educational advocate would want to undermine the bedrock of educational privacy laws for such a smear?

Neither of the applications to the Arthur Academy noted an IEP --a special ed Individual Education Plan. It's unlikely, then, that either of the Merkley children is a special needs student. Even if they were, public schools are better equipped than either charter or private schools to deal with learning disabilities.

As for Merkley's "obligations", there's a clear conflict between the first and the second, as I noted in my post. To claim otherwise is either disingenuous or blatantly hypocritical.

The "illegal" acquisition of the Arthur enrollment applications were accomplished through a simple request. If that constitutes a violation of FERPA, which isn't at all clear, then the responsibility lies with the Arthur Academy, not Willamette Week.

the problem lies in Merkley voting to prevent others from using charters/-but reserving that option for himself. But what's really a probell is having your spokesperson lie about the circumstances of the situation. They quite clearly hid the fact that BOTH children applied. Politics as usual from Mr. Usual Politician.

How tired your song is. In your declaration that those who disagree with you "certainly shouldn't, and probably wouldn't, call themselves advocates of public education" is saying the only way one can be a advocate of public education is by supporting whatever the union dominated democrats want to dump on the system.
How full of crap can one be.
You and yours dumped onto and sustained the CIMCAM assault on every K-12 public school in the state. The biggest crime against public education in the history of the State.
So enough of your soured pretense of defending public education. You're a political hack who places every public education and student interest beneath the Union power and control.
And making things worse you are chronically wrong and dishonest.

For the record, I think collective bargaining for teachers has been a good thing. I also think that the original CIM/CAM was an excellent experiment in authentic assessment. The legislatively revised CIM --passing a bunch of subject area standardized tests-- was a terrible idea, and I don't regret its demise.

As to whether I'm a hack or whether my defense of public education is a "soured pretense", I'll leave that to readers to determine.

By the way, Howard, you can call me Terry.

Hey There,

Being unversed in education law I can't comment on the legality of the disclosure of the Merkley charter applications, however I can't contain myself from responding to a few points Terry made. I'm not an adult, so you can wave my points away as childish and disrespectful, but I will throw them at the wall anyway...

Terry said, "I don't think one can run for public office on a pro-public school platform after enrolling one's child in a private (or charter) school. Even to consider public school alternatives is, quite frankly, hypocritical."

I think, if a person holds office in any sector of public education for the purpose of improving it, it would be hypocrisy to ignore the other educational models and claim public education as the best or only option for their own children. I think Terry's statement comes from a tunnel vision view of education.

Terry said, "To divert human capital --namely good students with strong parental support-- from public schools is to undermine the ability of those schools to succeed."

#1 - If you ever call me human capital again, you better run for the hills.

#2 - How can you separate student success from school success?

#3 - You think I would have been a better person had I stayed in school and undermined my own education options in an effort to help my school succeed?

But maybe you have a point. Maybe there are benefits of attending public school for 13 years. Had I went to high school:

- I would be working alot less which would be nice cause I would only have an after school job

- I wouldn't be making a terribly annoying car payment cause I couldn't have afforded mine with an after-school job

- I would be more up to date on the latest celebrity gossip

- I would have spent more on fad-trends

- I would try harder be normal, cause my public school friends say it's good to be as normal as possible

- I would have a broader vocabulary of four letter words and be more comfortable using them

- My knowledge of business would be text book accurate rather than only by experiences and mentoring

Ha, you call it "collective bargaining" that produces the crazy teacher contracts? I called it corrupted and dysfunctional.

You call CIMCAM an "excellent experiment in authentic assessment"?
Looks like you view students as rats too.

Early on CIMCAM was an assault on teaching, learning and school funding .
It quickily grew to be a fruad. Oregon's assessments today remain anything but authentic. Oregon's assessments have been one of the monumental failures of CIMCAM.
CIMCAM was to be all about high standards yet the entire 15 years Oregon graduation course requirements wer among the lowest in the country.
Even now your union/Democrat legislature postponed higher basic course requirement standards till 2014. That was some of your your collective bargaining. And once again our schools and students pay the price.

You're a dishonest union activist period. The politicians you support do your dirty work. That makes you an enemy of public education.
You view students as human capital and labratory rats, teacher paychecks as a political cash cow, our public schools as indoctrination and PAC centers and the taxpaying voters as selfish pests in need of their initiative rights taken away.

No doubt you're exactly the same as these union reps in this video.

Have a look at yourself.

I won't call you ignorant, Kid, but I will respond to your one legitimate question:

"How can you separate student success from school success?"

Currently school success is defined almost exclusively by test scores. I maintain that good students, by virtue of their upbringing, family background, and relative wealth, provide the school those good test scores. It's not the other way around except in the rarest of cases.

In short, good students make good schools.

"Don't be intimidated by critics with political axes to grind." I believe that comment was meant to encourage Beth Slovic, but I believe that the source of her story (Kremer) is a "critic with political axes to grind." I also think that also describes you, Terry, and I am not intimidated by either of you. Whether or not you believe it or like it or want to be reminded of it, charter schools ARE public schools. Merkley's consideration to send his child to one does not undermine the public school system because charters are part of that system. Whether you like it or not. Whether you like the fact that union membership is optional rather than mandatory. Whether you like the fact that parents and students can choose a public school option other than the neighborhood school.

Kremer initiated the exposure of this information (about Merkley's kids applying to a charter school), not the Arthur Academy. Who knows why. Perhaps Kremer doesn't like Merkley and is trying to create problems for him. Maybe he doesn't want him to win the election so he's hoping this little factoid will jeopardize OEA's support. Who knows. What is really crazy is concluding that Merkley's paperwork from four years ago makes him a charter supporter, or concluding that his vote against the charter law nine years ago makes him a current charter opponent. Maybe he is, maybe he isn't, who knows, but I don't take either this four-year-old paperwork or nine-year-old vote as an indication of either his support for charters or as hypocrisy. To do either seems pretty simplistic. I guess the WW wants Novik to win, so perhaps the paper did these stories in hopes of causing OEA to fear that Merkley supports charters so enthusiastically that they may withhold their endorsement of him. I don't think OEA is that simplistic (or naive), or that a candidate's views on charters is the most important criteria on which OEA determines its endorsement.

Like it or not, Terry, an increasing number of Democrats support charter schools in this state. It's about time. Last time I checked, choice was a core Democratic value. I know the conservative Republicans carried the water on charters in the 1990's, but it's nearly 2010! In many other states, progressive Democrats are the most vocal advocates for public school choices. So, can we please move into this decade and this century and acknowledge that charter schools are not some right-wing agenda item intended to pave the way for vouchers? You don't like them, I get that. You want to blame the dismantling of the neighborhood schools in Portland on the tiny percentage of kids in charters. I get that. I just disagree, and I would encourage you to look at the complicated factors involved in the current challenges facing public education in Oregon, and quit using charter schools as a scapegoat.

I also take serious issues with your position that:
"Currently school success is defined almost exclusively by test scores. I maintain that good students, by virtue of their upbringing, family background, and relative wealth, provide the school those good test scores. It's not the other way around except in the rarest of cases."

Are you saying that if kids do not have a "good" upbringing, "good" family background, and relative wealth that they cannot be "good" students? That they cannot excel academically? That they cannot grow in their achievement? That they cannot change? That people and systems cannot support them enough to redeem them? What kind of Democratic thinking is THAT?!

The fact that "good schools" are primarily defined by "good" test scores is one of the biggest problems we have right now in the public school system. How about if we explore other ways to evaluate students and schools rather than try to force "good kids" to attend or remain in certain schools just to keep up the school test scores?

Please pardon my frankness and my sarcasm, but that seems to be the vibe here.

Sarcasm is not my "vibe", Pony. And I have no problem with your frankness.

The fact is that "successful" schools, at least here in Oregon, ARE defined by test scores. I completely agree with you that test score school accountability is a problem that should be addressed.

Furthermore, I don't claim that education doesn't make a difference in a student's life. My point is that successful schools, as currently defined, are always the schools with better demographics, meaning schools with more rich white kids blessed with supportive and well-educated parents. The data provided on PPS' own school profiles website supports that.

It's also generally accepted by educational researchers that standardized test scores are more a measure of affluence than of school related learning. That's not just my "opinion".

There are lots of ways to improve schools. I've written extensively about that. But school choice --and charter schools-- are not avenues to true school reform.

I appreciate your comments, Pony. I'm a staunch advocate of ways other than looking at test scores for determining how well schools are promoting student learning. Such assessments cost money, though, and until the public is willing to fund schools adequately, I'm afraid we're stuck with multiple choice testing.

"But school choice --and charter schools-- are not avenues to true school reform"

Legitimate competition is the only avenue to school reform.

Side Note: a "school" does not teach a student any more than a "car" runs over a pedestrian.

In both cases, there are individuals who have a responsibility to perform certain duties, and to perform them well at all times.

The difference between administrators and teachers and drivers is that when a driver who through negligence fails to yeild and runs over a mother walking to the grocery store, the driver suffers very serious consequences. Probably jail time.

The school administration who fails its students year after year after year, suffers NO consequences. No threat to their precious PERS, no threat to their livelyhoods. In other words there is no compelling motivation to perform or make difficult management decisions to get administrators and teachers who can.

The threat of legitimate competition is the only way to "reform" the public school system.

Having one's livelyhood "threatened" by competition is never comfortable, but it is the reality that the vast majority of working parents experience everyday. And those tasked with teaching the kids of those working parents should be no different.

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