What's Campbell Brown Doing Smearing Teachers All Over the Media?
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Unfortunately, teacher-union-bashing has become one of the few areas in which many Democrats seem to agree with Republicans—and where people with no experience in the classroom declare themselves experts and pontificate to anyone who will listen about how if we could just fire those bad teachers, everything would be fine.
The latest self-proclaimed expert to grace the pages of the national media -- in this case Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal -- is Campbell Brown, former CNN and NBC anchor and reporter. Brown, whose expertise appears to be that she testified in front of Governor Cuomo's Education Reform Commission, doesn't note that she has a personal connection to an organization that spends its time doing just that--demonizing teachers. She painted what appears to be a horrific tale of sexual predators let loose in public schools to prey on our children, and blames the processes that exist to provide teachers with some sort of job security—processes that unions have fought for over the course of decades—for keeping them there. She then hit Morning Joe, MSNBC's morning program, to make the same argument.
There's just one problem with Brown's argument: it doesn't hold up under even the most casual scrutiny.
The relevant portion of the contract, which you can read in its entirety here, says:
6. Sexual Offenses Involving Students or Minors
A tenured pedagogue who has been charged under the criminal law or under §3020-a of the New York State Education Law with an act or acts constituting sexual misconduct (defined below) shall be suspended without pay upon a finding by a hearing officer of probable cause that sexual misconduct was committed.
In §3020-a proceedings, a mandatory penalty of discharge shall apply to any tenured pedagogue a) found by a hearing officer to have engaged in sexual misconduct, or b) who has pleaded guilty to or been found guilty of criminal charges for such conduct.
For purposes of this section, sexual misconduct shall include the following conduct involving a student or a minor who is not a student: sexual touching, serious or repeated verbal abuse (as defined in Chancellor’s Regulations) of a sexual nature, action that could reasonably be interpreted as soliciting a sexual relationship, possession or use of illegal child pornography, and/or actions that would constitute criminal conduct under Article 130 of the Penal Law against a student or minor who is not a student.
In other words, school districts not only have the authority to terminate teachers who commit sexual misconduct—they are required to.
There's no reason for a professional reporter not to know this. This contract was agreed to by Joel Klein, the former New York schools chancellor, and the teachers' union. Klein is now the chief executive of Rupert Murdoch's “ fledgling education division” and is a board member of StudentsFirst, the infamous anti-union organization led by scandal-plagued former Washington, DC schools chancellor Michelle Rhee. Also on the board of StudentsFirst? Dan Senor, Campbell Brown's husband.
Though Brown denied that StudentsFirst had anything to do with her Op-Ed and her TV appearance, StudentsFirst sent an angry email to supporters when Brown's connection to their organization (whose talking points she's parroting) was pointed out by, among others, American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten. StudentsFirst claimed that questioning Brown's connection to their organization was “sexism.”
It is sexist, apparently, to ask where one's household gains its income, and whether that should have been disclosed in Brown's Op-Ed or in her television appearance. Yet male reporters from the Washington Post's education columnist to the Nation's Christopher Hayes have felt the need to disclose possible conflicts of interest to their audiences.Brown herself has disclosed in other appearances that Senor is, for instance, an adviser to Mitt Romney, but there's no mention of her connection to an organization that makes its living bashing teachers' unions—indeed, her credentials as a journalist are the only qualifications she has for her to pose as an expert on sexual misconduct in schools.