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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Comments on Rushern Baker's planned school coup d'etat, Part four, Post editorial supporting Baker is mostly irrelevant and wrong

See the Washington Post editorial: The Post’s View; Rushern Baker makes his move on Prince George’s schools (originally posted online 18 Mar 2013).

The Post begins it editorial (as opposed to news) support of Rushern Baker's school takeover plan with the irrelevant observation:
WHEN SIX young people were killed within a brief period recently in Prince George’s County, County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) convened a meeting of major stakeholders. What more, he wanted to know, could be done to protect the county’s youth? But school officials he invited didn’t even show up to the meeting. For Mr. Baker, it was a last straw: one more indication that the structure for managing — and hopefully improving — county schools isn’t working as it should. Failing results are too widespread, and no one is held accountable.
The unfortunate truths are that none of the six young people were at or near a school, or in events that had anything to do with any school, or under circumstances that any school or school board action or policy could have prevented.

The reference to school officials is a very misleading cheap shot.  The Post's reader deserve better, but as everyone know, the Post has gone downhill rapidly and has recently killed the ombudsman position about which it once bragged would bring fairness and accountability to the paper.

Since none of the six killings were school related, and there have been mo murders in the schools, we could better argue that having the police force under Baker's control is failing to protect our young people and we might do better putting it under the school board.

The next paragraph asserts that
Mr. Baker wants to fix that by making himself accountable. It’s a brave, sensible and overdue move.
But if you read on, it becomes clear that what Baker and the Post really want to divide authority over the schools, with Baker getting control of the budget and patronage while leaving  a weakened school board with no authority, but as a target that can continue to be the whipping boy for all that is wrong with the county and Baker's administration of it.

The Post closes the editorial with the questionable claim

Mr. Baker understands that the schools need strong leadership and sustained support to achieve the turnaround that is critical to the county’s future as well as its children’s. Lawmakers should give him the chance, and voters will then know whom to hold responsible.
But the fact is that they won't know whether to blame Baker or the new board, and Baker has already set himself up to avoid being accountable for anything by breaking his oft-repeated promise to create a strong Inspector General who would bring accountability to the county government.

The Baker and Post arguments that Baker's coup d'etat would bring more, rather than less, are at best wishful thinking, but more likely just Orwellian Newspeak aimed at misleading the public.

The Post admits that there have been "small gains in student achievement."  They claim, but without one shred of evidence or convincing argument, that giving Baker control of the schools will improve student achievement.  Nor does the Post mention how Baker's past involvement school governance led to less accountability and the employment, by a Baker-created politically appointed board, of a felon as superintendent.

The Post goes on to state that "Student enrollment is declining" without saying anything about the cause or why that fact should prompt Baker's takeover.  It is another biased statement that has nothing to do with the real issue at hand except to inflame the public against the status quo.

It would make about as much sense to say that because Post readership is declining the Post should be taken away from the Graham family and shareholders and handed over to some czar who could bring more accountability.

While it is true, as the Post says, that "there is a lack of public confidence" in the school system, it is also true that there is a growing, but unreported by the Post, lack of confidence in Baker, his administration, and his veracity.

It is unfortunate that the Post, on both the editorial and news sides, seems to be a cheerleader for Baker rather than providing thorough independent analyses and critiques of his plans, promises, and actions.

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