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Bloomberg's New Slogan:
A Harry Potter in Every Pot

In the latest step in his undeclared presidential exploration, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg today stepped onto Democratic turf, giving an impassioned speech at the National Urban League's conference on the failure of America's education system to improve the performance of minority children. The mayor castigated Washington for failing to deliver. "Today, black and Latino 12th graders, who should be reading college catalogs, are reading at the same level as white eight graders," the mayor told the civil rights group's convention in St. Louis, according to prepared remarks provided by his aides. "And a shockingly high percentage of black and Latino 4th graders, who should be reading Harry Potter, cannot read even a simple children's book. This is not only unacceptable, it's shameful."

He cast the education problems as part of a larger crisis involving Washington being ineffective, a message he has repeatedly offered over the last month since abandoning his Republican party registration for new status as an independent -- a move that fueled national speculation about his 2008 plans.

While Bloomberg has denied White House ambitions, his appearance at this conference, where Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Barack Obama will speak on Friday, was another move in his non-campaign. And his message on education was an explicit challenge to the Democrats. He said "no group of children has paid more than African-Americans" for failures in education. And he directly rebuked several Democratic 2008 candidates who have criticizedthe federal No Child Left Behind law for inadequate spending on kids. "When No Child Left Behind comes up for authorization, there will be many things that need fixing, including its lack of funding. Politicians love to talk about this lack of funding, because it's easy. But they don't want to talk about the hard part: how do we ensure that any new money actually results in higher student achievement?"

Bloomberg laid out an agenda that includes several items opposed by teachers' unions, a major backer of Democrats, including making it easier to fire ineffective teachers, offering bonus pay for teachers and principals whose students perform well on tests and even denying tenure to teachers whose students don't do well. While African-American voters may not agree with all these measures, Bloomberg's speech effectively seeks to pit the interests of blacks against teachers unions. If Bloomberg runs, such tactics could make for a very interesting race.

-- Perry Bacon Jr.

By Susan Glasser  |  July 25, 2007; 3:37 PM ET
Categories:  A_Blog , Michael Bloomberg  
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Mayor Bloomberg has proven that he can grow, roll, learn, and lead. On the subject of education, and his vast on-target grasp of how continued negligence of a right-now crisis will escalate into a giant crime, disease and poverty snowball over the next 20 years, is a much more hands-on and pragmatic tack than backstabbing and bluffing on the sexier issues of dealings with despots which trigger the most likely to vote sector. He's far from perfect but he's also quite straight and decent when properly persuaded with undoctored facts and indisputable performance evidence.

Posted by: wennifer | July 26, 2007 10:28 AM | Report abuse


Your point about lack of student motivation has some validity, and I agree that our society is becoming increasingly complacent about many things....but I would point out this:

In my opinion, a truly excellent teacher is one who not only has a firm grasp of pedagogy and content (and a flair for lesson planning)....but also one who effectively invests and motivates their students in the material and in learning itself....and it doesn't take fancy technology or gimmicky lesson activities to do it.

No small task, to be sure...which is why we desperately need more talented teachers.

But if parents don't do the motivating, somebody has to... we can either throw up our hands about it...or we can TEACH.

***We can't be reponsible for their home lives, but we ARE responsible for making sure that the time they spend with us is incredibly valuable****

Posted by: holzhaacker | July 26, 2007 1:49 AM | Report abuse

Not discounting teacher quality and administrator quality, student motivation and accountability at all levels are major factors in student success. It's easy to pin illiteracy on ineffective teaching, but I've had the great pleasure of seeing students under the worst teaching conditions take matters into their own hands and learn the material on their own or with the help of another teacher. Granted, this in itself is a sad statement of our education system, but it also shows how significant student motivation and personal accountability are in academic achievement. You can't make a teenager learn if they are consistently disinterested and concerned with other issues. If you ask any teacher, I'm sure they'll agree that triggering motivation is more than half the battle in the classroom. You can have all the fancy classroom technology and lesson planning ready at hand, but an unmotivated student with little or no sense of his/her own personal responsibility for their own academic success will trip you up every time.

This said, yeah, education needs quality teachers and quality administrators (who actually help their staff), but in order for our education system to really succeed, our culture has to promote the value of education. Too many students don't value the gift they're given in the U.S. Social and economic access aren't the only obstacles to student motivation. There is a general lack of complacency with the status quo that is growing in today's teen generation. And unless this changes, people can talk about the problem in education all they want. Good luck identifying and dealing with the real problem--it's a damn mess.

Posted by: socorroplazola | July 26, 2007 12:49 AM | Report abuse

I am a teacher and the two biggest things holding our schools back are

teacher quality
administrator quality

Are there other problems? Sure. But these two are the two biggest obstacles to reform.

It's time for accountability and rewarding those who get the job done right.

Posted by: holzhaacker | July 25, 2007 10:21 PM | Report abuse

I live in Wisconsin where two thirds of the state budget is distributed back to the schools to even things out. Each year our students are first or second in the nation on college entrance exams. Even with the evened out spending Milwaukee inner city schools are horrible in comparison to the rest of the state. One in five new teachers in Milwaukee quit teaching in the first few years out of frustration with their jobs. The problem with high taxes in Wisconsin to get the overall results that we do is that it is driving businesses steadily out of the state. Wisconsin's per capita income is steadily falling farther below the national average. College graduates regularly leave upon graduation making the problem worse. The current answers are slowly killing our state. Some thing different needs to be tried.

Posted by: ehedman | July 25, 2007 10:12 PM | Report abuse

I'm a teacher, and my personal motto is this:

Teach the students based on what they can become...NOT based on what they are.

It's true that many students come from difficult situations, but we have to stop making excuses for the schools, the teachers, and, yes, the students themselves.

As teachers, we can't control their home lives....but we CAN control how much they learn while they are in our care.


Posted by: holzhaacker | July 25, 2007 9:43 PM | Report abuse

The problem is that this society does not appreciate intelligence, unless there is a way to make money off of it. It has been this way since the baby boom generation, who cared more about the culture wars and getting ahead that they lost the intellectual curiosity that supports our dumbed down popular culture. The baby boomers have been so concerned with the consumerists culture and the acquiring of things, that they failed their children with their own selfishness. They raised a generation of lazy idiots who are now raising this latest generation of Americans. As someone in this latest generation, I believe there are those excelling and their are those failing, and for the life of me, I don't know why those excelling don't get more publicity. Maybe you can figure out what works or what's wrong, by spotlighting success and not failure.

Posted by: johnnyspazm | July 25, 2007 8:51 PM | Report abuse

I have 30 years experience secondary and community college teaching experience in N.Y. and Massachusetts. In common with most of my peers, I thought that the Brown Decision and the 1960's liberation from America's ossified country-club culture presaged a new era of achievement for American public school students. Why has it gone in the other direction (lower skills, greater conformity of opinion)?
1) the fallacy of treating adolescents as adults. Can you remember being 16? Was ego less than 90% of what you were about?

2) teacher's unions. They are absolutely about nothing more than 24/7 whining and "more money, less work". Real union workers despise them.

3) a huge waste of time and money spent on victim studies and ravings by multiculturalist loonies at the expense of individual achievement by students and scientific research by academics.

Bloomberg can afford to challenge the major party candidates to get real on schooling. The first one to do so gets my vote.

Posted by: edmass | July 25, 2007 8:47 PM | Report abuse

I'm a teacher, college level, with no kids of my own. I have lots of great students from all walks of life. There are a lot of foreign students in grad school, and lots of domestic students as well. The gross exaggerations mentioned above just don't hold up.

However, I teach one entry-level class, where usually one-half of the students are not prepared academically or socially. More and more, they can't sit still or be quiet for more than 15 minutes. All of the teachers are talking about this. Is it the result of Mtn. Dew and Doritos, ridiculous levels of collaborative work and no individual work in high school, or just no social training? The students are the ones who are going to suffer (well, I do too).

On another subject, money, I would love to see taxes in any given state divided equally for the students. I'm going to guess that parents in wealthy areas would scream. But my feeling is, let them make up the difference. It's just ridiculous that children from poor districts are funded through property tax. Money does have something to do with the problem.

Posted by: zoggdoc | July 25, 2007 8:25 PM | Report abuse

It would be interesting to have an objective review of Mayor Bloomberg's accomplishments re the New York City educational system before we accept or reject his prescriptions at the national level. The largest public school system in the country could be a reasonably representative indicator of the validity of his assumptions, reforms, and outcomes. Without such an objective review, he may be just another politician choking the public with second-hand smoke.

Posted by: jazz1417 | July 25, 2007 7:59 PM | Report abuse

ag1976, my nephew is from a single parent household, yet he is a straight A student and has never been disciplined at school. Your analogy of thinking that everyone will do better if they have two parents is not correct. Sometimes two parents only means two times the indifference towards the child's education.

Posted by: acindc007 | July 25, 2007 7:53 PM | Report abuse

Let's waste some more ink, electrons, and air dancing around the congenital differences between ethnic groups. Scientists know that these differences are already established before they enter school. So why do we have to keep pretending that it's the fault of the schools?

It's not doing these minority children a favor to keep pretending that these differences don't exist. Perhaps if we acknowledged the problem, we could work toward solving it.

Posted by: parrott.matt | July 25, 2007 7:35 PM | Report abuse

Uh, ok. Well back to Michael Bloomberg. Seems like he's grounded in reality and might actually make a better President. I also like the fact that he's a Reagan Democrat and not a Neo-Con nutball. Something tells me he would spend those billions on education, health and wellness and not subsidizing Exxon's development of Iraq's oil fields and making Israel safe for ethnocracy.

Posted by: tsicby | July 25, 2007 6:59 PM | Report abuse

Gosh.. Everything is right vs left in this country. (And you expect the Iraqis to live together...)

You don't need more money in education. You need to hold people accountable.. Teachers and Parents....

Only in U.S.A, school is a place that kids go to have fun. Not an education...

College education is fixed.. Why is it not based on one single common test for all students....

Go to any graduate technical school in the U.S. You'll only find Chinese and Indian Kids..

They are not smarter... Their parents hold
them to a higher, strict standard and the expectations are high...

Yes.. Kids find it tough....

GUESS WHAT????????????????


I'm an immigrant (legal) and love this country..

(But I'm also happy in a wicked sense... My kid will beat the average american kid and make it to a top school.. It's a given...)

Back from where i came from, the kid would have to fight it out with other kids who may be even more motivated...

On a serious note... the next generation of innovation may move to Asia..

It's a sad fact..

Now back to "Right vs Left" again..

Posted by: kvenky | July 25, 2007 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Dear idiot JeffPA1,

I often wonder how idiots like you live with yourself but then it is really simple - with wonderful disregard for facts, and no introspection, and obvious problems with reasoning, it is indeed easy. Do yourself a favor and look at the budget and then do a countdown of where most of the money goes. Last time I checked the ballsy republicans unmoored from reality were spending 600 billion dollars of American tax payers money on the cottage industry manned by their scheming bretherens. We could have paid for health care for everyone with a fraction of the money we spent in Iraq. But guess what, douchebags like you won't ever do the math unless of course it means straw manning the puppet Demcorat.

Posted by: soodus | July 25, 2007 6:15 PM | Report abuse

For those who think the problem is simply that we don't spend enough money on education, or that teachers don't want to do their jobs, spend a day in any school and see for yourself the attitude of many poor students. Ag1976 has hit on a major point -- the necessity to train students to ultimately become personally responsible adults.

Posted by: rjc116 | July 25, 2007 6:11 PM | Report abuse

You want root cause analysis of why our education system is broken?

I am going to employ the KISS method here.

1) More single parent homes
2) Lack of parental involvement (It's not my job to teach my kid, that's her job.)
3) Personal responsibility
4) Entertainment industry

Those are the reasons our school systems are failing. Parents use schools as day cares, single moms or dads are either at work all the time or to tired to help. Everybody is going to be a football player or rock star so who needs an education?

Get real people, until we take personal responsiblity and stop blaming others for any negative aspect of our lives (race, gender, poverty level, whatever), then the America you see now is better than the America you will see in 10-20 years and so forth.

Get ready or get busy making people take responsiblity for themselves and if they don't....forget them. They don't want to better themselves, they just want a free ride and I am broke and I don't do loans.

Posted by: ag1976 | July 25, 2007 5:59 PM | Report abuse

You can hold the teachers as accountable as you want but until there is measureable accountablity for the parents as well, the whole system will fail.

Posted by: jnaway | July 25, 2007 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Major Bloomberg points to problems that are conspicuosly present. True that blacks and latinos perform worse. But before punishing teachers whose students do not perform well, what needs to be found is the causes. Pointing to results is relatively easy. Finding the root of the problem is not. And when looked at attentively and deeply and without preconceived judgments or personal or political agendas, the truth will come out. I speculate the the root of the problem lies in the racist fiber that permeates the whole American society. And said racist fiber was brought around, let's face it, by the white sector of our population. So, it is the system, the whole system that must be revolutionized and revamped. Visit NY City and you will see certain areas well kept and taken care of and other areas that are simply slums. So, Mr. Bloomberg, after you clean up your room, tell me how are you going to clean up the whole nation.

Posted by: telerosaricensis | July 25, 2007 5:46 PM | Report abuse

It would be so difficult, for me, to wake up every morning and have to live as a highly partisan member of any party. I'd have to wake up and think: how can I find new ways to complain about how awful the other partisans are without actually trying to solve problems, to diminish their positive achievements and exaggerate their mistakes and foibles. I'd have to be so self absorbed that I don't recognize that others may also be of good faith and just trying to do the best they can every day of their lives. Geesh. How do you partisans live with yourselves?

Posted by: userdomain | July 25, 2007 5:43 PM | Report abuse

It would be so difficult, for me, to wake up every morning and have to live as a Republican. I'd have to wake up and think: how can I keep more money in my pocket and make the environment, health care, military, police departments, and school systems worse off -- and then blame the government for making me a multi-billionare instead of a multi-trillionare. I'd have to be so self-absorbed that I don't care about anyone in the world except myself. Geesh. How do you Republicans live with yourselves?

Posted by: wwkayaker | July 25, 2007 5:02 PM | Report abuse

It would be so difficult, for me, to wake up every morning and have to live as a Democrat. I'd have to wake up and think: how can I browbeat hard working Americans out of their hard earned income through legal taxation in order to spend (waste) more money on our educational system and make more and more of our students illiterate, and then blame the hard working Americans for not forking over enough of their hard earned money in order to achieve educational excellence. Geesh. How do you Democrats live with yourselves?

Posted by: JeffPA1 | July 25, 2007 4:25 PM | Report abuse

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