This time it was over my column that ran this week on Diane Ravitch's blog about the Cleveland Plan. I felt compelled to respond to his claims because, frankly, it was a personal attack against me -- something which I have never done to him. In fact, I have gone out of my way to talk about how much I respect Terry's commitment to education and have tried to open dialogue with him and others on all sort of topics. He knows I'm a reasonable partner on education.
Here's what he said of my support for Charter Schools in 2010:
"In Cleveland, the school district has embraced charter schools as part of its academic transformation plan. Rep. Stephen Dyer (D-Green), who shepherded the education budget through the House last year, has relaxed his language around charters, acknowledging in recent hearings that for-profit operators per se aren't bad."
That's what makes his column so deeply disappointing.
Terry takes great pains to discredit what I said in Dr. Ravitch's blog by arguing that I lost an election in 2010 (conveniently leaving out the fact that I won twice in a district that had been held by a member of the opposite party for about a dozen years), like that has anything to do with the price of tea in China. Terry is more than willing to knock those in public service, yet doesn't have the courage to put his name and ideas before the public as a candidate. When he does, perhaps we'll see how popular his ideas are. Until then, he should refrain from knocking those who do put their names and ideas before voters.
He can speak to me about losing elections when his 5-year-old is followed to school and has to watch a huge rolling billboard denouncing his Dad (funded by My School, My Choice, a K-12, Inc. operation) drive by during his kindergarten Trick or Treat trail. Then when he has to console that 5-year-old after he becomes afraid of walking outside because he doesn't want to see people who "want to hurt Dad," he will earn the right to make fun of my election loss.
He also spends much of his column discrediting me by knocking the Evidence Based Model -- the strongest criticism of which he offers is this: the promises made were not followed through. He, of course, neglects to mention that because I lost, I was not given the ability to follow through on it, and my successors made clear it was they who would not follow through.
He always ignores that one of the the nation's top bipartisan Education Policy groups, the Education Commission of the States, found that the EBM and the reforms that followed it in House Bill 1 from 2009 received the 2010 Frank Newman Award for the nation's most "bold, courageous, nonpartisan" education reform of 2009. I emphasize non-partisan because while Terry trumpets the bipartisan nature of the Cleveland Plan, he conveniently forgets that the EBM was also a bipartisan measure, with Republicans in both the House and Senate voting for it in HB 1. In fact, I know that some stomached voting for HB 1 because of the EBM, for they told me so. He tries to paint me as a partisan hack, yet refuses to acknowledge these (and other) inconvenient truths. In fact, I received significant campaign contributions in 2010 from the same Cleveland Charter School folks he now holds up as paragons of excellence.
He also knows that it was a bipartisan School Funding Advisory Council that unanimously upheld the direction the EBM was headed by making recommendations to improve it. Even Michael Dawson -- one of Gov. John Kasich's top advisors -- voted for the recommendations, which increased the cost of the EBM.
Then he spends time critiquing me for never saying where the money was coming from. In fact, I was one of the EBM proponents who clearly stated throughout the discussion where it was coming from -- I would have increased the portion of the state budget going to education by a little more than 1% each year of the 10-year phase in. I even had legislation drafted that would have committed the state to doing this. It has always been my contention that the state needs to re-prioritize education in the budget. Terry knows I've said this again and again. He's heard me say it again and again. Yet he acts like I refused to do so.
Terry also neglects to mention that I did not spend time trashing the Cleveland Plan in my blog -- I spent time criticizing and praising the plan, especially around its early education provisions and non-financial Charter provisions. That would seem to be a much more fair and balanced assessment of the plan than Terry's effusive genuflecting over it. Really, Terry, there aren't any issues with it? And I argued that the levy should pass because if it doesn't, Cleveland's in real trouble.
As for his claim that my budget cut figures are misleading, I don't know how to do this but to use the actual numbers. According to the Ohio Department of Education, in the 09-10 budget, Cleveland received $84 million more than they did in the 11-12 biennium. The 15-mill levy is set to raise $77 million. Included in those losses were state cuts to reimbursements for losses in public utility and tangible personal property taxes, as well as the state's decision to not make good on replacing State Fiscal Stabilization Funds.
That number does NOT include (as Terry and his friends frequently assert), the loss in Title I and IDEA stimulus dollars. I include SFSF because that part of the ARRA was meant to replace anticipated revenue losses from the recession. The expectation was once the economy started coming back, that SFSF money would be replaced. In fact, the current leadership group in Columbus has used the SFSF as an excuse to summarily cut that amount out of the budget, claiming it was pure stimulus, not what it really was -- a bridge to better times. It was never intended to give states an excuse to simply cut budgets by billions two years later, as this state has chosen to do.
He then uses a hugely misleading number -- $1.4 billion -- to say that this is the real amount we should be looking at when looking at per pupil cost in Cleveland. Yet included in that figure is the $117 million Cleveland never spent because it went to Charter Schools, and the $12 million it lost to Vouchers, and the $1 million it lost to Open Enrollment and other adjustments. He ignores that the federal money he includes in there is very prescriptive and non-discretionary, which gives CMSD very few options about how to spend it. Through the state Bridge Payment Report, at the end of the day, CMSD received a net $289 million from the state last year to fund 41,000 kids (according to ODE). That's about $7,100 per pupil from the state. Charters got about $7,300 per pupil from the state.
The reason I harp on state money, not total money, Terry (and fellow critics) is because it's the state, not the local residents, which bears the Constitutional duty to fund education. Our local taxpayers have been overly responsible for this cost for too long.
This brings me to my biggest disappointment in Terry, policy wise: He never has really stood up for the principle that it is the state, not locals, who bear the school funding responsibility, as it is stated in the Ohio Constitution. Instead, he argues that either we're spending too much, or that cuts don't matter, or something else. He has never fought for more state share of education. He is perfectly willing to argue that when you pay for a Chevy, you should be furious if you don't get a Cadillac.
He wants to give up on failing schools, never says publicly that it's a problem that Ohio's Charter School funding system cuts all other students' per pupil state funding by 6.5%, and ignores that basing everything on a test score has inherent methodological problems or biases.
He simply dumps on teachers, blames unions and promotes ideas that have little evidence suggesting that they will have a positive impact on students.
Then when someone suggests there may be a better way, or other ideas might help bolster his, he attacks them personally over issues that have nothing to do with the suggestions -- some of which he actually supports. He just sits back and takes shots at people who are willing to put themselves in the public eye and gives solutions that bear little resemblance to what peer-reviewed, objective research has most strongly demonstrated actually improves education.
I have been more than willing to give Terry credit for his occasional brave stances. His column today is a sad, disappointing roll in the gutter for someone I respected.