Questions for Sam Ronan

In the aftermath of the Hillary Clinton loss and transformation of our representative democracy to authoritarian rule under Donald Trump, I’ve been reflecting on the failures of the Democrats. Specifically, the missteps of establishment Democrat politicians and pundits, the machinations within the DNC, and the obvious bias in mainstream media-all of which combined their forces to bring us to where we are. I’m no Obama-zombie or Clinton fan, but neither did I want the keys to this great nation passed on to Donald Trump-who continually displays lack of grace, humility and common sense and also shows a lack of respect for others and for his own responsibility to the office. But a Trump presidency, if you view it negatively, is something that could easily have been avoided. I won’t say that a DNC nomination for Bernie Sanders instead of Hillary Clinton was the only way, but I am  saying that a major shift in the Democrat’s platform was needed but stubbornly resisted. As a registered Independent voter who has leaned to the “D” over 90% of the time I have had moments of regret, spread throughout my almost 32 years of voting, for how I chose to register. In New York, Independents cannot participate in voting in the primaries. The state saw a challenge to this closed primary approach  in this past season, and I hope to see something done about it in the near future-but for me it might be too late, spiritually speaking. Over the last decade my votes have been wandering into third party territory more and more. I will never vote strategically for any evil, even if it’s “the lesser” one. My vote will be earned by candidates who speak to my values and priorities.

And that’s how Trump won. I didn’t vote for him, but he certainly spoke for those who did. So I have to ask, who speaks for and represents my desires for the future of America? Looking for more, hoping to hear something…anything that might convince me there was some hope in this happening, I came across some video of recent DNC chair debates.

One of the most disappointing things was seeing that the Democrats looking to lead the party want to play their future strategy as a more careful and crafty version of what just lost them the 2016 race. But Sam Ronan, a virtual unknown (I mean, I had never heard of him before) shows up on stage, looking casual and comfortable…I have to admit when I saw the thumbnail image attached to the link I thought a practical joker had crashed the event and somehow taken a seat right next to Keith Ellison. My hope in clicking “play” was that I was going to see a clever smart-ass grab a seat, take a selfie, and then get bum-rushed and dragged off by event-security.

(Sorry Sam, but if it helps- I’m way happier with what I did see.)

Sam inspired me to believe that younger energy, a fresh perspective, and some honesty is making the stage in the debates and conversations regarding the priorities for our next DNC chairperson. It becomes tiresome listening to the cautious tap-dancing some of the “hopefuls” do in addressing the issue of a clearly rigged system meant to deflect needed reforms . This is what has kept the Democrats and Republicans on a steady course taking them further and further away from the will of the majority. Sam’s willingness to be honest about why Democrats lost, and about what needs to be done to bring that party back to its people (as opposed to how to trick people into voting Democrat without changing the party) demonstrates the kind of character lacking in our representatives and our leaders.

So I shot a few questions at Sam to help me figure out what he’s all about. As a teacher, my priority is education-but understand that to me, education encompasses a whole lot more than just what happens within the walls of our schools and our elected leaders bear a significant responsibility for it.

ME: Tell me your thoughts on “education reform”, public schools, and accountability in education.

SAM: What do we really need to do to improve outcomes for today’s students? It’s a necessity to reform our education, and not just University or College. Our education used to be the envy of the world from K – Doctorate school and now we are tailing nation’s that we would call under developed in some areas! This cannot be allowed to continue! We need to focus on improving the pedagogy of our nation’s teacher’s, funding our school’s adequately, paying our teachers much, much more, and in general making school not a grind that brow beats students with information to be regurgitated.

I go into a lot of detail in terms of mixing: Finnish, Japanese, and German educational programs into our own American version that emphasizes growth of the individual, and guides them on their path to adulthood!

ME: Do you see some value in “choice” schools or charter schools that operate under the conditions described in the NAACP moratorium statement? Do you think those conditions are too restrictive?

SAM: On principle I have nothing against Charter Schools, that being said they do not deserve a single cent of Taxpayer’s dollars, nor should they be able to crumble and fail and receive an insurance payout once again at the taxpayers’ expense. This exact scenario happened in Ohio and was called #CharterGate and for good reason! So with that being said Charter Schools that are held to a strict standard equal to or greater than Public Schools is fine in my book, but if they accept public dollars at all, then they will be beholden to the public, completely.

ME:  What message(s) and or platform items should the DNC be committing to? Not so much how the DNC should commit to self-managing, but what should the DNC be more committed to policy-wise? How do you feel about these?

Clean water and air

SAM:Number 1 priority

A higher minimum wage, more stable gainful employment available at sustainable wages for workers

SAM: -Number 1 priority

Sound public education, funded and supported effectively as if it is the priority that it should be.

SAM: -Number 1 priority

Corporate money out of politics, or at least full disclosure

SAM: -Number 1 priority

Notice how all of these things are a number 1 priority? They have to be if we are to ever regain the trust and respect of the American People!

This was just a brief contact and I hope to have more time to follow up with Sam myself. I will be sharing as much as I can here and on twitter (@dmaxmj)

Let’s keep “choice” honest

Instead of repeating the words choice and accountability as if they are stand alone solutions and suggesting that the most important results are linked to fudge-able stats (test scores, graduation rates…) we should be demanding real educational accountability- for honesty; for integrity; for the good of all children, not just the ones with parents equipped to participate in the “choice” market.

And while those streaking across our public commons with their shiny, well-funded behinds hanging out, waving a banner saying “Me saying ‘accountability’ proves how much I care about the poors” can appear honest-we never really get into HOW the exemplar supposed stellar performing charter schools achieve their results.

This should also be part of the conversation.

Now I am fully in favor of parental right to choose. My wife and I  spent a lot of our time chasing down choices that according to regulations should have been available, and then got told it depends on whether a school can afford to or wants to provide them. When alternative choices or settings exist, parents should be free to choose them but better questions would be:

  1. Why are our traditional schools not empowered to bring Al Shanker’s original vision for locally controlled, professionally driven charters to life within the public school system?
  2. Why all the praise for the opaque, privately controlled, selective charters who are held up for comparisons to disrespected and underfunded traditional schools?

A prime example is Success Academy’s Eva Moskowitz who has been clear and proud about how she keeps some students out, gets rid of others, refused to sign standard preK contracts for funding then claims that holding her to them hurts children.

“If they backfilled older grades, [Moskowitz] said, the incoming students’ lower relative academic preparation would adversely affect the schools’ other students.”

Traditional, truly public schools are not free to operate this way and their doors are open to any student coming to them regardless of their readiness to learn. They don’t filter their enrollments to artificially stroke and protect their testing and graduation stats (ala’ Moskowitz). They plow ahead, underfunded and over-mandated, trying to meet the needs of a mixed group of students that include top students and peers needing maximum support. It’s not just disingenuous to disparage obligation and prop up artifice-it’s shameful.

And yet every time a pro-choicer wants to prove the value of “choice”, Moskowitz’s “high performing” Success Academy is held up like a beacon with little examination of how she and the school is allowed to operate in order to make protecting those results first (putting students second). Not only is she more than willing to defend how the school filters in and pushes out students, she is shameless in her self-promotion, willing to  empty her schools of staff and students to lobby in the streets for her private, selective enterprise during school time! 

AND she had the nerve to call it a civics field trip or something. But who wrote that lesson plan?

“An option was not presented. The schools assigned everyone with a job, so you were either going to be an instructional coach or a bus captain,” one teacher explained. “They weren’t really asking us if that’s what we wanted to do. They were telling us that that’s what we were going to do instead of teaching for the day.”

Can you imagine the Education Post articles that would have been written if local schools had done this in order to push for and end to the ongoing failure of the Governor to meet public school funding obligations?

I do believe high quality choice means honest choice through valid comparison of earned (not manufactured) results that include test scores but go beyond.

Maybe the NAACP has some ideas on how to make this happen. Some way where we can have honest choices and valid comparisons instead of transparent campaigns to undermine schools that belong to the public.