Thursday, January 24, 2008

Void of ideas

If Oregon Republicans are ever going to win back majority status in Oregon, it will be because we present a reform agenda with a portfolio of principles and ideas that make sense to people. When voters want reform, they vote Republican, and when they want government programs, they vote Democrat.

So it makes no sense for Republicans to offer establishment-oriented programs as a way to win the hearts and minds of voters, yet that is what our leadership offers time and time again.

We were treated to another shining example of this lack of vision in a post on today's Oregon Catalyst. The source of the press-release that motivated the post is the Senate Republican Office. If this is what passes for a Republican reform idea, we can look forward to a long run as a minority party.

The Senate leaders, in the press release, try to capitalize on a recent report that gave Oregon a failing grade for "preparing and supporting teachers." Senator Ted Ferrioli delivers the punchline:

“Last session Senate Republicans championed a number of proposals to bring excellence to Oregon classrooms, like professional standards and resources for teachers or ensuring financial accountability in school districts. Unfortunately, those proposals received little attention from the Democrat majority.”


So the big problem in our schools is that we dont have sufficient "professional standards" or enough "resources" for teachers? Is this what passes for vision in our Republican leadership?

Hey, I get trying to score political points on the heels of a national report that shows Oregon's schools in a bad light. But to think that this is an effective way to capitalize - by touting things that would only have served to empower the education bureaucracy (and the unions) - shows an intellectual laziness or a complete lack of understanding about the real issues that confront the schools.

It also reveals an inexplicable lack of courage. In the middle of a presidential election where every single one of the Republican candidates have school choice at the center of his education proposals, Oregon Republicans can only muster this kind of mealy-mouthed nonsense.

Here's what Rudy Giuliani (no movement conservative, he) had to say about "resources for teachers" in a video clip that is front and center on the issues page of his campaign web site:

Rudy: What we need is choice.

Questioner: That is going to bring back public school teachers?

Rudy: “I love teachers, I think teachers are wonderful. There are great ones, there are average ones, there are bad ones …. but I really care about the kids more. Sorry. We should have choice. We should empower parents. They should decide - private school, parochial school, public school, charter school, home school - that will give the parents control over the kids education. I think it's the single largest civil rights issue in the 21st century.”

Why is it that a presidential candidate, with his entire national candidacy at stake, has the courage to say this, and our local Republican leadership doesn't?

Honestly, if this is the quality of the ideas coming out of our leaders, we deserve to lose.


Anonymous said...

These are the same "leaders" that are throwing Wingard under the bus, right?

Clueless. We are in trouble.

Anonymous said...

Rob you're exactly right. Leadership requires boldness and that is what the Republican "leadership" is lacking. That boldness would include the ability to clearly define the differences between the two parties and explain why the conservative agenda is best for Oregonians. Say it like it is!

Reform is needed not only in Oregon but also in the Republican party. Let's hope they listen and grow some before the election. I would say before the session but why mention an unconstitutional act.

Steve Plunk

Anonymous said...

Rob –

Appreciate the feedback. I think it is important to note that several Senate Republicans have introduced school choice legislation in the last few sessions, but we haven’t gotten much traction in a Democrat controlled legislature.

However, school choice is not the only needed reform. Oregon falls well behind the national pack when it comes to requiring minimums from our teachers, whether we are talking about course specific education, professional development or being held responsible for classroom results. That is a vision of accountability and reform that will bring results to the classroom. I think that makes sense to people. They want to see accountability for results in state government.

These reforms do not “empower the education bureaucracy and the unions.” As a matter of fact, these proposals were deep-sixed by unions last session, because they require ACCOUNTABILITY and results. I think most teachers want accountability, and see it as a way to gain access to better pay and benefits through working hard, but union bosses don’t.

Michael Gay
Communications Director
Senate Republican Office

ExSchoolBoardMember said...

And the elephants in the room are the teachers union and the school staff union (certified and classified unions). They shut down even modest reforms from the Chalkboard Project. Our district REJECTED extra money to pilot a program where MORE (private foundation) MONEY would have been provided (above and beyond the existing contract money) to pilot modest incentive programs to reward the excellent teachers. The union in our District shut it down because they might actually be shown that some teachers are stars and others are not.

The union is the problem. They hate school choice. They hate performance incentives for stellar teachers. And yes, the even hate kids, when the kids try and come before the teachers. They blocked programs that would have provided for more new teachers (thus reducing class sizes) and instead moved the money over to higher pay for existing teachers (thus increasing class sizes), to the detriment of the kids.

Until we have BOLD action against the unions, nothing changes. Until some couragous teachers stand up against the unions, then the kids will continue to loose, and the teachers will win.

Sad but true, it's a win-lose game, and the unions are very happy to have the kids continue to loose. Sad to see the Oregon R's are helping out the status quo.

Carla said...


Are you not aware of how nearly identical some of that rhetoric is to the CIMCAM speil?
So mush so I fear Teacher benchmarks are coming. Benchmarks measured by proven unreliable measurements. Just like CIMCAM.

"Oregon falls well behind the national pack when it comes to requiring minimums from our students, whether we are talking about course specific education, basic development or being held responsible for classroom results. That is a vision of CIMCAM accountability and reform that will bring results to the classroom. I think that makes sense to people. They want to see accountability for results in state government. CIMCAM will provide that accountability."

Sound familiar?

We don't have an education system which holds anyone accountable for anything.
Certainly not administrators, ed. officials or politicians adopting failed policies.

Why should we trust the same people who have faced zero consequences for their past fiascos?

I think the teacher's union wants faux-accountability, and see it as a way to gain access to better pay and benefits through faux-reform.
Without any consequences.

Rob Kremer said...

Michael Gay:

I apparently define "reform" differently than the senate minority leaders.

Upping the "requirements" on teachers such as specific grad school courses and "professional development" is not a reform. It is a route to more bureaucracy.

The Chalkboard proposals are also not reforms. Just because the unions oppose something doesn't mean it is a meaningful reform.

This is as good an illustration as any of the real problem with the leadership: it gets suckered into believing that things like Chalkboard are reforms, and then spends a bunch of political capital pushing it.

A complete waste of time. Not only do you lose, but if you happened to win, you wouldn't have achieved anything meaningful.

rural resident said...

Even when the Republicans had a near stranglehold on the legislature a few years ago, look at the “reform” legislation they pushed. The charter school bill might as well have been written by OEA. It’s been a bonanza for school districts wanting large amounts of extra cash for “alternative education” programs they would have created anyway. Very few proposals coming from outside of school districts or relatively powerful constituencies have any chance of getting through the process.

CIM/CAM was a bi-partisan disaster, but much of it happened during this time. The R’s were enthralled by “accountability,” even when the underlying effort made no sense.

The changes proposed by both sides are so incremental, little change happens. It isn’t a matter of thinking “outside the box.” You can’t even get the legislature, ODE, or other parts of the bureaucracy to think off of the exact center of the box.

I know it’s a lot less fun than grandstanding for political points, but if the R’s want to make a difference, they need to talk with teachers – even those who are Dems. There are many legislative and administrative barriers to better performance, such as limits on reasonable classroom discipline and grading, certification standards, and monitoring of compliance with minimum standards that would have much more impact on what students know and can do than any additional amount of standardized testing. These aren’t generally political; they have to do with common sense.

Anonymous said...

"There are many legislative and administrative barriers to better performance,... These aren’t generally political; they have to do with common sense."

Spoken like a true public union employed teacher.

Summarizing all that blather above: "You can't measure performance, that's common sense."

The only reason you can't measure if you teachers are successful or not, is because the people who need to have their performance measured are union teachers who don't want their performance measured. That is obvious, but not 'common sense'.

Union teacher apologists like rural resident are very common, but their arguments (excuses?) make little sense.

Teachers are great said...

"CIM/CAM was a bi-partisan disaster"

That would be true only out of the gate in 1991. Or perhaps you could say that if it dies in 1997.
From then on multiple Republican led attempts to kill it were defeated by 100% of Democrats and a hand full of republiocans.

The ODE, OEA, COSA, OSBA and all the usual democrat "stakeholders" such Steve Novick were defending and perpetuating CIMCAM for the final 8 years of it's assualt on our schools.

Always tell the truth.

Hillary said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hillary said...

I'm interested in learning more about conservative politics and becoming active in this arena. I'm not only saddened by the state of our country but also tired of not doing anything about it. Any ideas where I can start?

U gotta be kidding me! said...

Did I read that comment right? The one from above, where the Senate media flack presumed to lecture Rob about education reform policy?

All I can say is WOW!

There's the problem! Instead of putting out this kinds of ridiculous blather, Ferrioli maybe - just maybe - ought to ask for Rob's counsel on their education reform agenda.

Nawww. We might risk actually winning that way.

rural resident said...

poken like a true public union employed teacher.

Summarizing all that blather above: "You can't measure performance, that's common sense."

A. I’m not a “public union employed teacher.” Haven’t been for years.
B. I’m generally a critic of OEA, though the blog postings I read from the lunatic right are beginning to make me rethink some of my views.
C. Any intelligent reader will see that that’s obviously NOT what I said.

Accountability is fine. But teachers have to have sufficient control over the process in order to be held accountable. Valid and reliable standardized tests are needed in order to accurately assess growth in knowledge and skills. Unfortunately, those created under CIM/CAM do a poor job of this. But you don’t want accountability. You want blame. They’re not the same.

teachers are great … You’re assuming that all (or even a large majority) of the Repubs saw the light about CIM/CAM as early as 1997. Based on what I saw, that didn’t seem to be the case. There were moves to change it, mostly by adding things to it (more tests, etc.); few to kill it until far down the road. In fact, had the powers that be listened to the “union teachers,” CIM/CAM would have barely made it out of the gate. Teachers saw that this was merely reinventing the wheel, at a great cost of time and money. However, whenever they said something, the response was, “You’re against change,” or “You’re against accountability.” This was all about advancing careers in politics and the Oregon Department of Education, which is where I think a great deal of the blame rests.

It’s easy to blame “unions” or “Democrat(ic) ‘stakeholders’.” Taking the time and trouble to analyze the components of the situation and design effective, common sense solutions is difficult. It actually requires people to be realistic, evenhanded, and creative. And you can’t do it without input from the people in the trenches.

What I DID say above is that someone could craft a piece of boring legislation addressing 15-20 small problems that would remove (or at least reduce) big barriers to student motivation and achievement. And they have little or nothing to do with “the union.” Politicians can’t posture and grandstand when they do this. What fun would that be?

Rob Kremer said...

I agree with you about the need for reliable tests. Our current testing regime is horrible - invalid and unreliable, and does not measure academic gains, which is the only meaningful measure of teacher effect.

I'd be interested in hearing specifically what small changes you would make to improve things.

The charter bill is not perfect, for sure, but it is not at all true to say it is OEA friendly. It brought us the statewide virtual school, which the OEA continues to try to kill.

teachers are great said...

The blame is on target.
Your impression and charaterization of the last many years of CIMCAM is revisionist history.
The “unions” lined up with the ODE,COSA ans OSBA to defend CIMCAM. The OEA and local teacher union reps assisted. I witnessed it and spoke to OEA and other union heirarchy myself.
You are wrong. Pure and simple.
Of course they don't want the stench of CIMCAM sticking to them and they have the lobbby and press to make sure it doesn't.

The ODE even fed labor union lobbists testimony to chime in with helpful testimony to defend it.
Democrat, Union staples such as non other than Steve Novick was a regulary contributor with testimony defending CIMCAM.

And at last the last 7 or 8 years of CIMCAM republicans were nearly all on board a repeal, while 100% of democrats continues to champion it.
I have taken the time and trouble to analyze the components of the situation.
It's pointless with the status quo cabal we have.
There is not any process whereby genuine common sense solutions are the goal.
The system is too politicized rendering it incappable of realistic, evenhanded, and creative solutions.
What could be more proof of my contention than the absence of the most fundemental component, a valid testing system?
There's no mystery there.
Or with bilingual education.

You say people in the trenches are needed?
I say ha, that's a joke.
You must not have been around when stearn warnings were spread to teachers and adminitrators to stay in line with CIMCAM.
They were in the trenches and were told to shut up.
There has been much legislation addressing small problems that would remove (or at least reduce) big barriers to student motivation and achievement.
The OEA and company kills them.
While instead lobbying for things like Cultural Competency requirements.
The unions and liberal democrat politicians controlling our schools are like a parasite.
Attaching and infecting everything, even independent efforts like Chaulkboard.
If you want to re-write history with your version of CIMCAM implementation and it's demise you better do it where no one who knows better will be lurking.

Teachers are spectacularly unique people deserving of admiration and respect.
So were teachers in 1972 before the OEA and the heavily politicized system that followed.

Anonymous said...

Hillary - check out to get involved.