When A Mayor Shoots An Air Ball
Inaccuracy reigns in U.S. politics today.
We turn to Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a two-term Democrat who rose to fame as a star guard in the NBA. Mr. Johnson is now visiting U.S. cities on a Mayors for Educational Excellence Tour with three mayors: Julián Castro of San Antonio; Michael Hancock of Denver and Angel Taveras of Providence, R.I.
In a recent Politico opinion piece “On the road to school success,” Mr. Johnson shot an air ball concerning public education in Sacramento:
He wrote: “Facing the inherent difficulty of addressing the challenges of the city’s five school districts, Sacramento saw a need to attract proven education practices to the city. The mayor’s office helped convene and recruit prominent national organizations, and within just one year, City Year, Teach for America, StudentsFirst and College Track launched sites in the city. Each organization has had an immediate impact on schools and on student learning, and the influx of talented individuals invested in student success has created a promising environment for collaboration and innovation.”
It is inaccurate to write that “Sacramento” saw a need to change its K-12 public education system. For the record, the public did not vote on the matter as Mr. Johnson described it.
Further, what exactly is the data on an “immediate impact” in the Sacramento classrooms in which Teach for America instructors work? The evidence for this is either accurate or it is not.
TFA, whose classroom teachers just welcomed their students in Sacramento for the second year, has no longitudinal data on its effectiveness for student achievement since arriving. That is none, as in zero, for those of us who use math.
I know this much about TFA in Sacramento for a simple reason. Nikolas Howard, the TFA’s executive director in the Golden State's capital city, told me so in his office recently.
Apparently, Politico did not fact-check the opinion piece that Mr. Johnson co-wrote. A Politico editor made that choice, but why?
Speaking of classrooms, TFA teachers sign up for a two-year commitment. Not one and done, but two and through.
TFA, launched in 1990, employs recent university graduates, or corps members, to instruct low-income students. TFA teachers instruct pupils in 34 states across the U.S.
In 2012, TFA had 16 teachers in six Sacramento-area schools last year. There are 30 TFA teachers in California’s capital city this year.
TFA receives 30 percent of its operating revenues from public sources (federal, state, and local school districts) and 70 percent from private sources, according to its 2011 IRS Form 990. The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, and Walton Family Foundation contributed over $5 million each to TFA, while the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave an amount between $1 million and just under $5 million.
The WFF is the philanthropic arm of Wal-Mart Inc., the nation’s biggest private-sector employer, and labor union-free. An estimated 90 percent of U.S. charter schools employ non-union employees, teachers and other staff.
For 2012, the WFF granted $250,000 to Mr. Johnson’s St. HOPE (Helping Others Pursue Excellence) Public Schools, which he launched in 2003. SHPS operates St. HOPE Public School 7, Sacramento Charter High School, and Oak Park Preparatory Academy, all of which are charter schools.
The same charter schools employ TFA teachers on at-will contracts. It is worth noting that under Mr. Johnson, before his election as mayor of the capital city, St. HOPE took over Sacramento High School as a non-union charter operator when pupils’ scores on math and reading achievement tests fell in 2003.
In policy and politics, it is vital to follow the money on issues such as public education. The hedge-fund backed political action group Democrats for Education Reform is part of the “leadership team” of the Mayors for Educational Excellence Tour.
Mr. Johnson’s claim about education results after TFA arrived in Sacramento, and prior public demand for its presence are inaccurate. In other words, he shot an air ball.
Seth Sandronsky lives and writes in Sacramento. Email firstname.lastname@example.org