June 12, 2012

When you haven't got any argument for why you think it's a good idea to cut down on the number of teachers, firefighters and police officers around the country, there's only one thing left to do: Cite right-wing think-tank studies that aren't actually factual, but lend some air of credibility to a ridiculous claim. Today's doozie comes from S.E. Cupp in response to Romney's claim that we want less teachers in this country than we have right now.

Who does conservative commentator and intellectual dishonesty giant Cupp cite? Why, none other than Michelle Rhee, that "deformer in sheep's clothing." Rhee actively campaigns against class size reduction, insisting that a great teacher can handle a large class and teach just as effectively. As Bashir points out at the very end, if they really believe this, then why is it that Romney sent his kids to posh private schools where class sizes were capped at around 16 students or so? And it's not just Romney. Those other "deformers" - Gates, Bloomberg and Education Secretary Arne Duncan -- do it too.

Via Class Size Matters:

In the past year, some of the richest and most powerful men in America – including Bill Gates, Arne Duncan and Michael Bloomberg – have come out in favor of increasing class sizes, claiming that this would be good for our kids – even in NYC and other large urban districts where students who have the greatest need for smaller classes are crammed into classes of 28, 30 or more.

It has not escaped notice that several of these men, (not the 1%, but the .00001% in terms of their wealth), send their own children to private schools where classes are capped at 16 students or less, yet they seem able to blithely ignore this contradiction.

I am sad to report that their musings are not hypothetical. Class sizes are increasing throughout the nation, and here in NYC, are now the biggest in over a decade in many grades. This fall, there were over seven thousand classrooms which violated the union contractual levels. These sharp increases have occurred despite the fact that the state’s highest court ruled that our students were deprived of their constitutional right to an adequate education, due in large part to excessive class sizes.

If larger classes don't matter, why didn't any of these men send their children to schools with large classes? In fact, one of their arguments for charter schools is the smaller, limited class size. So Rhee, Murdoch, Gates, et al argue for and fund charter schools while leaving traditional public schools to manage with less funds, less resources, and yes, less teachers.

I'm happy to be able to end this story on a positive note. In New York, where the charter school and class size battle rages on, one candidate for Congress in New York actually rejected an endorsement from StudentsFirstNY, the Rhee organization backed by Murdoch operative Joel Klein, saying “We did not seek it, do not want it and will win without it.”

Good for him. Perhaps there's some room to re-educate him about why he should not only reject the Rhee organizations, but the Rhee-forms, which include heavy emphasis on online learning and charter schools as answers to overcrowded public schools.

You know, when I was in school, this sort of problem just wasn't this complicated. More students per teacher = less individualized education. Less individualized education = less learning. More money to for-profit charter school management organizations and online providers = less money for traditional public schools. Less money for traditional public schools = less teachers. Less teachers = lower achievement.

It's not even algebra, folks. It's simple math. Perhaps S.E. Cupp was educated in large classes, which is why she cannot seem to actually reason her way through this class size argument without citing the Queen of Education Deform, Michelle Rhee.

Here's a bonus: A great article from The Nation explaining the simple economic math behind why having less public sector employees is bad for the economy.

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