Questions for the man who would “save Philadelphia schools”

I am fond of journalists. Here’s a profession, vital to the institution of our country, under siege by unsavory profiteers, reckless disrupters, and the cold heart of technology. I sympathize. And I disagree some and I antagonize a few, but that should not be conflated with disrespect. Most of the journalists I know, and most that I don’t, hold strong feelings for a job that can feel completely void of meaning. I get that.

So this post is about lazy journalism, and I take no joy in it. I relish being a heel, when the time calls for it. I don’t enjoy roasting a journalist. We need them, and we need more of them.

But this article raised my dander. I don’t believe in conspiracies1. I don’t think this is biased journalism, bloggers playing make believe, or fake news. It’s just lazy. Laura Goldman, the author, refused to provide the reader with an iota of context, research, or critical thought. She spends an entire paragraph slobbering over a Yass, and not a single sentence on the plight of the inequitable school funding system in the country. It’s barely clickbait because clickbait holds interest; the author aggregates an idea, throws around words like “bette noire” as if style matters, slaps a fancy headline and gets the eyeballs.

But Ms. Goldman will most definitely keep her positive relationship with the source. So there’s that.

There’s plenty of terrible journalism. Why write about this? Well, I’ve argued with journalists before, but never before has one explicitly asked me to do their job.

@CMcGeeIII @mr_saltz I attended an event and reported on what Yass. It is the job of others to point out the fallacy of what he said.

— Laura Goldman (@laurasgoldman) January 6, 2017

I’ve never been to J school, and as El-P says, I don’t like working for free. All that aside, I submit some questions for Mr. Yass about his plan for Philadelphia schools:

 

1). According to every verifiable source, Philadelphia spends far less than the $16,000 figure you quote. You appear to take the total amount spent in the city and divide it by the number of kids. While Ms. Goldman fawns over your ability with numbers, that’s obviously not the way money is distributed. In fact, Philadelphia spends far less than most major cities on its children, and your plan for savings would be short almost $3,000 per family – over 18% of what you advertise.

Another pitfall in your plan: Certain children have special needs. Children with ADHD or dyslexia, those on the autism spectrum or with low-incidence disabilities are much more expensive to educate. In your plan, schools would have a strong incentive to reject special needs students, or at least those with serious disabilities.

What do you say to parents of special needs children, who would see your plan as an attempt to shortchange their child’s education?

In addition, most who study education argue that education funding should be weighted. That is to say that children in poverty or in adverse circumstances should receive more funding to promote equity.

What do you say to those who study education and have concluded a weighted funding formula is needed to combat poverty?

2). Ms. Goldman goes to great lengths to illustrate your skill in the financial world. Yet, she neglects to mention your failures in politics. You backed Anthony Hardy Williams who, despite having huge establishment support, failed to garner 30% in the primary election. You also backed Rand Paul, who could not even qualify for the final debate.

Why do you believe that your success in the financial world would translate into the world of education, as it has clearly not worked in politics?

3). Your plan would be laughed out of Lower Merion or any other district, but Philadelphia is not in control of its schools.

Since you believe in the power of choice, do you believe that Philadelphians should have the right to vote on a school board, or other governing body?

Additionally, voters in Philadelphia have firmly rejected two school-choice candidates, in Governor Tom Corbett and State Senator Anthony Hardy Williams (who literally has his name on a charter school). Indeed, voters overwhelmingly elected a union-backed, pro-public-education Mayor along with fierce advocate for public schools in Councilwoman Helen Gym. Neither you nor the author mention this.

Why would you impose your plan on people, even if they have firmly rejected similar ideas at the ballot box?

4). You have supported many libertarian candidates, including Rand Paul who famously would not support the Civil Rights Act. As most of the people you wish to help are people of color, it feels hypocritical to say they your support their right to an education but not their right to equal protection under the Constitution?

Do you support the Civil Rights Act? How would your plan help those most impacted by systemic racism?

5). You describe, unchallenged by any journalist, Philadelphia schools as failures, and that teachers “torment” their students.

What experience do you have in Philadelphia schools? Which have you visited? Which parents have you spoken with? What time have you spent in our city’s schools that you can reach such a bombastic conclusion?

Additionally, hundreds of educators from some of the top private and independent schools in the country will come to Philadelphia to learn how to innovate. Many of the presenters are Philadelphia public school teachers and students, the same ones you and the author describe as tortured failures.

Have you gone to EduCon, EdcampPhilly, or any other events that showcase Philadelphia’s best schools? Would you? Do these events impact your negative ideas about Philadelphia schools?

6). Many in the Pro-Charter (and Progressive Education) movement see schools as a way to resist modern racism and support marginalized groups. They argue that, in addition to test scores, schools must fight systemic racism. More conservative reforms have pushed back.

How do you feel about schools that see fighting inequity against marginalized groups? Would you want government funds supporting them?

7). Assuming the numbers work, $10,000 would be enough to send most kids to Catholic Schools. But it would be barely half the tuition to send them to the top private schools in the area, where tuition is well over $20,000.

Why do you believe that Catholic Schools should be prioritized over, in your words, Government Schools? What would you say to students who prefer a secular education?

8). You posit to “save” Philadelphia schools.

Has anyone actually asked you to save them? I mean someone in and of the schools, coming up to you saying “Please, Mr. Yass, save us!”.

I ask this because the image of a rich white man coming to “save” a bunch of poor people of color is not a good one. Especially when that “saving” won’t allow them the same access you and I may have to elite private schools and the other benefits of white privilege.

Are you concerned that you are “saving” a population as a rich white man who has been elevated to power through a lack of democratic process?  

______________________

I have  no illusions these will be answered. Powerful people don’t like answering questions. But next time someone has an idea to “save” Philadelphia schools, be a journalist. Don’t let them get away with it.


  1. conspiracies are done privately 

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