Sometimes it’s a delight to highlight the great work of others. A blogger I’ve only recently discovered is Bruce Baker, a professor at Rutgers University. He is an expert on school finance, as one can deduce from his blog site, School Finance 101. If you want to follow the economic pros and cons (and I think they are mostly cons) of the current school reform movement, Dr. Baker’s blog is a refreshing site to follow. As soon as I spent some time reading his “Dumbest Stuff I’ve Ever Read!” blog category, (find it by scrolling down to the category menu on page right) I subscribed to the RSS feed.
Dr. Baker takes a dim view of the misuse of data by ‘reformy’ folks across the spectrum of public school critics. In his own words from the blog site, Dr. Baker explains his motivation for his work: “The purpose of this blog is relatively narrow for the time being. When school finance topics do make the headlines, there are often many “facts” and “figures” and arguments tossed about, usually to make one point or another. Public School Spending is out of control! Administrator salaries are exorbitant! Or, that liberal judge simply made up the facts to come to his predetermined liberal conclusion!
In this blog, I intend to share the best version of the “facts behind the headlines” that I am able to pull together in a reasonable amount of time, with sufficient citation so that you can check it out for yourself.”
Baker pulls no punches in highlighting the shoddy and distorted reasoning that is promoted to justify some of the current proposed educational reforms. He takes on some of the key figures and organizations in the reform movement and shows where their reasoning fails a reality test. And he accomplishes this shredding in an entertainingly clever fashion, in many cases. It’s witty and sarcastic, especially if you agree with his interpretations, as I do.
In the “Dumbest Stuff I’ve Ever Read!” category, he offers some outstanding examples of the use/abuse of data. What tops his list is a graph with fabricated data which was use by a Gates Foundation ‘expert’ to promote spending on tech-based learning technology which was presented to the New York Board of Regents, and then reshown by the New York Commissioner of Education to school superintendents. The data is nonsense, and is a worst case illustration of the bizarre arguments financed and pushed by business interests that want to commoditize education and capture the billions spent every year in public schools.
If you value responsible use of data and want to get a responsible take on the fiscal implications (and motivations) of the reformers, subscribe to this blog today.