Writing in Stream of Unconsciousness – John Hood’s Latest Op-Ed on Public Education in NC

Most times, I look forward to reading John Hood’s perspectives on education in North Carolina. They reaffirm my stances on what is happening in the Old North State and its public schools.

Needless to say, I usually disagree with his stances. I also wonder sometimes at his lack of clarity.

Yet there are instances where there is no clarity at all. It’s almost reading stream of unconsciousness.  Consider his latest missive from the News & Observer, “Spending more on K-12 schools might not be the smart move” (http://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/op-ed/article208990409.html).

I do not have Hood’s bandwidth. As the president of the John William Pope Foundation and the past chairman (still on Board of Directors) for the John Locke Foundation, Hood serves as the mouthpiece of Art Pope, the leader of the Civitas Group and considered by many to be the biggest financier in North Carolina of ultra-conservative politics.

John Hood will be heard. Too many microphones have been bought to be placed near his mouth.

But I have my blog and a teacher voice.

I find most everything that Hood writes about public education to be extremely slanted (not surprising), yet smugly conciliatory, as if he is appeasing the more liberal people into thinking he wants what they want from our state government. He seems to want to take a moral high road, ask for civil discussion, insert the opinions of those who pay him, and then take credit for having called for the conversation.

In an op-ed posted on EdNC.org entitled “School reform is good economics”, Hood begins,

 

Liberals and conservatives disagree about means, not about the ultimate ends — and often, even our disagreements on the means of school improvement are more about priorities and details, not about basic concepts. I know these policy debates will continue for years to come. I welcome them.

In the meantime, however, it’s worth devoting more attention to those ultimate ends.”

It’s as if he is saying, “Hey, I want what you want!” but then is thinking, “But I just want to help my cronies make money from it all.”

This is the same with the recent N&O op-ed. Except after reading it many times, I am still trying to figure out what the hell it is talking about.

In it, Hood tries to explain how the recent NAEP score report for North Carolina actually shows that NC should not spend more money in per pupil expenditures. He begins by making a point that poverty has an effect on student scores. Then he talks about Massachusetts who leads the nation in scores. They also spend more on per-pupil expenditures.

“Conservatives, while recognizing and admiring the high level of achievement in Massachusetts, point out complexities. They note, for example, that the composition of the test-taking population clearly affects a state’s average score. States with relatively low poverty rates tend to populate the top third of the student-achievement list. High-poverty states tend to populate the bottom third.”

Ever see Hood argue to help poverty levels in North Carolina? He just simply goes off on more equivocation exercises.

“If we look at the 2017 NAEP reading and math scores just for eighth-grade students with household incomes low enough to qualify them for free or reduced-price school lunches, Massachusetts still fares well. It’s one of only eight states — along with Idaho, Indiana, Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming — where low-income students outperform the national average (to a statistically significant degree) in both subjects.”

North Carolina has a profound rate of poverty. Hood might want to explore those numbers more deeply in comparison to those other states he mentions. He might also want to consider the vast amounts of date breakdown that paints a clearer picture.

Read further and you sense the circular reasoning. Actually it’s not circular. It’s more like a broken circuit or an array of tangential non-sequiturs. From Massachusetts to poverty to national averages to indirect evidence to ” raw data don’t represent causal evidence in either direction” Hood rambles on to apparently nowhere.

Usually when data does not favor Hood’s agenda, he simply flies above it and looks at it from a hazy height and paints it with a pleasant hue. That what he tries to do with the NEAP scores just released.

What the NEAP scores for North Carolina really show is that whites in more affluent suburban area schools tend to outperform minorities. Students who receive services for disabilities and those who receive free-reduced lunches tend to have lower scores.

And those NEAP scores have flat-lined over the past few years and that coincides with the education reforms that Hood and his cronies favor – the very reforms that Hood uses cherry-picked numbers to show that they are “helping” our state regain prominence in the country. I have written about these  assertions before and those of his contemporary, Dr. Terry Stoops of the John Locke Foundation, on this blog before. These following are links to those posts, and please note that they were written in response to something written by Hood and Stoops.

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/04/13/unlockeing-the-john-locke-foundation-dr-terry-stoops-and-charter-schools/

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/04/16/unlockeing-the-john-locke-foundation-teachers-and-advanced-degrees/

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/05/17/open-letter-to-john-hood-unlockeing-the-john-locke-foundation-part-3/

If you read these posts and the pieces written by Hood and Stoops that inspired these posts, you will see that both Hood and Stoops reside in the gray nebula of lack of explanation and platitudes. Their love of broad statements and sweeping assertions really are a smokescreen for a political agenda that wants to further priviatize public education here in North Carolina.

 

Because that is what has happened in North Carolina.

We are spending less per pupil now than we did years ago, and years ago we in North Carolina had what was considered the strongest public school system in the Southeast. Our teacher pay (no it is not better as the GOP claims for veteran teachers) is still in the lowest tier of the nation. Politicians have created grading systems that repeatedly cast public schools in a bad light to create the excuse for the very reforms that Hood champions.

Do not forget that John Hood works for Art Pope, who was the architect of the first Pat McCrory budget and campaigned to remove due-process rights from veteran teachers. He succeeded in removing them from newer teachers as well as removing graduate pay bumps – things that Hood has made hollow arguments for in the past (see referenced posts above).

But I digress. Hood ends his N&O oped with this:

“So, let’s talk about more than Massachusetts and budget math. Let’s go deeper.”

 

I think that is pure bullshit.

If you know anything about what has happened in North Carolina in the last six years with teacher evaluation protocols, teacher salaries, removal of due-process, unregulated charter school growth, vouchers, and ideas for merit pay, then you see an ALEC-based blue print for what people like Art Pope have financed and John Hood has vocally championed.

And then ask, are these “re-forms” really working?

And then ask Hood “What the hell are you really talking about?”

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