Friday, May 28, 2021

The Yang Gang and Me

I've made no secret of my distaste for mayoral candidate Andrew Yang. At first, I had little or no opinion about him. As a presidential candidate, he appeared a long shot, but didn't appear insane or anything. He was not on my list of Democrats I would absolutely not support, like Mike Bloomberg and Corey Booker, both famous for anti-public education stances.  Things changed for me when Yang started running for mayor, and made the egregious error of opening his mouth

“I think it’s ridiculous that we’re tenuring teachers at like the two-year mark or something, and make it so you can’t be paid or you can’t be disciplined or fired.”

That is so off the wall. This man doesn't know the first thing about the topic he's discussing, in public, in front of every UFT member. The fact is that tenure takes four years, and it's been that way for a good decade or so. Before that, it took three years. Isn't it due diligence, when you're running for office, to speak about things you know and not simply make stuff up?

In any case, these comments display an adversarial stance to those of us who teach NYC's students. I'm chapter leader of a very large school, and I can give you chapter and verse on teachers being disciplined. I know teachers who've been fired. As for not getting paid, well, you'd have to ask Yang himself what the hell that's about. 

Yang also blamed us for schools not being open. That's ridiculous. The United Federation of Teachers, to the absolute disappointment of some members, has bent over backward to accommodate school opening. We have insisted on safeguards and abundant testing so as to preclude disaster, and it now appears we've achieved that for the most part. 

When confronted with this, in a one on one with Michael Mulgrew, Yang pulled out yet another old chestnut.

So let's unpack that, just a little.  Diane Ravitch says, "Merit pay is the idea that never works and never dies." It's been tried for over a hundred years, and every teacher knows it does not and will not work. A principal once told me that he expected 100% from teachers, and that any teacher hanging around waiting for merit pay ought to be fired. But alas, reformies, like wealthy lobbyist Bradley Tusk, who used to work for Bloomberg and now works for Yang, know what's best. Otherwise, why would they have all that money?

Now Yang says he won't be influenced by his wealthy benefactor, but there are some indications otherwise. For one, even Tusk refers to Yang as an "empty vessel." There's little doubt in my mind how Tusk intends to fill this vessel:

One of Mr. Yang’s very first proposals after announcing his run for mayor was that the city should put a casino on Governors Island.

Doubtless it's sheer coincidence that Tusk has a longstanding interest in casino investment. Me, I'm more interested in public school investment. Yang, though, as evidenced by the tweet above, favors charter schools. It's not a big secret that most charters are non-union. Nor is it a secret that charters, while graciously taking our money, are still privately run. And, as a Yang supporter reminded me, his support for privatization does NOT end at charters.

That brings him squarely into Betsy DeVos territory. I didn't much like Arne Duncan, but even he drew the line at school vouchers. Now sure, Yang calls them opportunity scholarships or something, but it's absolutely the same concept--public money going to private schools. Do you think a thousand bucks is gonna help some inner-city kid go to Dalton? Think again.

I am really disappointed to read that Grace Meng, who I really like, has chosen to back Yang. Another disappointment is Ron Kim, who's been outspoken on the miserable corruption of Andrew Cuomo. I've been asking Kim to defend Yang on the issues.

He hasn't mounted much of a defense. First he defended his actions against Cuomo. I've actually long admired his standing up to the bully Andrew Cuomo. Then he asked who I support for mayor, and I'm sticking with public education champion Scott Stringer, despite the single accusation against him. The fact is, though, who I support for mayor has absolutely nothing to do with the shortcomings of Andrew Yang. 

What's in a name? Perhaps considering Andrew Cuomo, Yang represents one too many Andrews. Who knows? After failing to defend any of Yang's positions, Kim came back with a snide reference to Stringer:



In fact, rather than address my issues about Yang, Kim took to criticizing me further. This strongly suggests that he has no defense whatsoever for the anti-public education stance of his chosen candidate.

So here's the thing--the Yang Gang had quite a bit to say about my tweets. One wrote, "Shitlib alert." Another suggested, "When you throw out buzzwords and hope that they land. Nice try Arthur." Several referred to mayoral hopeful Kathryn Garcia and her support of lifting the charter cap, blissfully unaware that Yang too supports charters. What I have yet to see, though, is a defense of Yang. While Kim is more eloquent than some Yang proponents, he too has failed to address any of the candidate's stated positions.

So let me be clear--privatization of education is not a progressive position. Yang's educational position is more extreme than that of Mike Bloomberg, more extreme than that of John King, and resembles nothing more than that of Donald Trump and his chosen education gazillionaire, Betsy DeVos. (And of course I know I ought not to criticize Betsy without first sailing a mile in her yacht.)

But it's heartbreaking to see progressive, generally well-intentioned politicians backing a corporate hack like Andrew Yang. I sincerely hope they reconsider.

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