The Union-Tribune Tells Another Lie (About Education)

by on January 11, 2010 · 9 comments

in Civil Rights, Culture, Economy, Education, Labor, Media, Organizing, San Diego

education - sign protestSometimes when you throw a stone into a pond, you get surprised at the size of the ripples it creates. And I’m certainly surprised (and pleased) at the ripples that our coverage of the Union-Tribune’s editorial misrepresentations about the San Diego Unified School Board have created.

To re-cap, the U-T ran an editorial in their print edition last Tuesday warning San Diegans that the Board’s majority was ready to replace the School District’s Superintendent with a Teacher’s Union-inspired plan for a new management structure that would include as many as four administrators, each with limited and specific authority. The thinking, so the daily fishwrap would have us to believe, was that this new system would allow the Board (and its union subservient majority) to micromanage school affairs in a way that would make the local schools into a “national laughing stock”.

The only problem with this scenario was that there was no such plan ready to be implemented. The Board did agree to have a discussion about various leadership concepts. John de Beck, not generally considered one of the “union-subservient” Board members, authored a proposal for a hydra-headed management model. Board Chair Richard Bererra also suggested that the discussion even include (even though he personally doesn’t favor the idea) placing the Schools under the authority of the Mayor—a proposal favored by many business leaders. A KPBS news story included comments from Board member John Evans, saying that they were considering different models of leadership, including a team of leaders with equal power that report to the school board. He said the board wants to engage the public about these ideas before it moves forward. (My emphasis)

Somehow all this proposed discussion became, according to the local paper’s editorial, a sinister plan ready to be implemented. When we pointed out that a) there was no plan and, b) the concept up for discussion was placed on the agenda by Trustee de Beck, the story was picked up on local media Twitter feeds and mentioned on-line at the Voice of San Diego. The social media specialist at the paper contacted us, suggesting that we submit an op-ed or a letter. (I did, in fact, submit a letter, which, as of this writing probably sits in Mr. Reed’s recycle bin.)

Now here is where things get really twisted. U-T editorial writer Chris Reed, writing in his online blog and in Saturday’s print edition, now claims that our coverage is part and parcel of a plan, to wit:

Abetted by some alternative media sources, the San Diego Unified school board majority and its supporters are putting out the word that it never seriously considering scrapping the position of superintendent, contrary to a Union-Tribune editorial that ran Tuesday. This is dishonest revisionist history.

The facts speak for themselves here folks. The School Board agreed to have a discussion about various management concepts. (They ultimately agreed that, given the gravity of the budget crisis facing district schools, now was not the time to utilize staff resources to study the advantages and disadvantages of various management schemes.)

If the Board had intended to implement a new management system at this meeting, they would have been required by law to give public notice of their intention. They gave no such notice.

education misinformationThe U-T’s Reed and his cronies had their facts wrong. Or they don’t grasp the difference between having a brain-storming session and voting on a done deal. Or they believe that some good can come from the ongoing vilification of individuals and organizations whose views on education are not of the conservative persuasion. And they couch their attacks in rhetoric designed to imply that their opponents are somehow disreputable: when is the word “abet” ever used in the English language except in situations where there is criminal conduct?

As you may have gathered by now, though, facts have very little to do with the situation. Instead they have chosen to take the low road of repeating various falsehoods or misrepresentations in a way designed to foster a perception that public education is a failure unworthy of further taxpayer support.

PostScript: Now it’s time for a little transparency around here.

I started out covering the School Board and education issues for the OB Rag because I have a daughter that attends a magnet school, one that is endangered by the current budget crisis. (I‘ve said this in this blog several times.) Now I must amend that admission by telling you that I am (soon-to-be) becoming active with a grass-roots organization ( in involved in this fight. Sometimes you just have to draw a line a line in the sand, and I believe that the fight for quality public education is a worthwhile cause.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Shawn Conrad January 11, 2010 at 2:13 pm

You used “quality”, “public”, and “education” in the same sentence. You are more lost than I originally thought.

Good education can be had at a public school, but if you were really interested in her schooling you would be paying for it.

It like the OB Rag is some sort of neo-welfare state in the early planning stages.


doug porter January 11, 2010 at 11:06 pm

The concept of public education is something I believe in.
Lord knows it’s not perfect, and those flaws can justifiably blamed on many individuals who hide behind the institutional shield that exists with any large organization.
I think that it’s an important part of a positive American legacy that goes beyond the wars and mayhem that have characterized so much of our nation’s history. those that would seek to undermine public education, in my opinion, have in mind the ultimate goal of eliminating the democratic (small d) aspects of our society in favor of a nation ruled by ignorance, fear and authoritarianism.


Shawn Conrad January 12, 2010 at 9:04 am


I just post whatever comes to my mind. I could really give a shit about what is written here (except, of course what I write).


Brian January 12, 2010 at 8:54 am

I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that Mr. Porter is, in fact, paying for public school. Course, the bummer is, so am I… and I’m not attending.


Molly January 11, 2010 at 6:54 pm

Okay, everyone who was educated in the public school system, please raise your hand. Whoa, just about everybody – including you, Shawn. Aren’t you a “product” – so to say – of the public school system? I seem to recall that you were raised by bikers and hippies – not the sorts, I have to say, who could afford private – read expensive – education. And to top it off, you seem intelligent and smart (sometimes witty) – isn’t that proof of the pudding? (Unless of course you were home-schooled – which would explain your current Honda.)


Shawn Conrad January 12, 2010 at 9:08 am

You obviously know very little about biker side jobs. The Honda keeps me out of the profiling scope.

A guy with full gear (full face helmet, gloves, boots, armored jacket and pants) on a 750 cc Honda is not on the “outlaw biker” profile spec sheet.

I paid for my private schooling both in high school (part time) and post secondary. I am what they call driven.


Molly January 11, 2010 at 6:55 pm

I’m not suggesting that public ed works for everyone. But I know a damn lot of public ed teachers who have good hearts and who must have done something good to at least some of their damn students.


lane tobias January 12, 2010 at 1:34 pm

Doug, you’re right on with the idea that public school represents the democratic process in this country. Contemporary public school education tends to sort of focus on the top half or “the smarter kids” and sometimes loses sight of the bottom half. That has nothing to do with the teachers though. My mom was an educator for 42 years in the same public school district, and recalls a time whenboth administrators and teachers were flown to california to learn the curriculum and management policies that were, at the time, cuttting edge. She retired not because she was done with the work, but because the No Child Left Behind Act made it difficult for elementary school teachers to meet “guidelines.” For the most part, it was and still is a racist policy that bemoans the use of ESL and alternative teaching methods for children who aren’t in that top half. Namely, minorities and poor folks.

Shawn has no idea what he’s talking about. I am proud of my education, and know plenty of people who have accomplished a lot less that had parents spending 20k a year on middle school – only to find out their kids weren’t special, and the school didn’t cater to their needs as well as public schools. Unfortunately, California politics have gotten in the way of what should be the crown jewel of the public sector.


doug porter January 12, 2010 at 3:01 pm

yes, no child left behind was a clever little ruse by the bushies to send our schools down a path that could end in privatization. now we’re into phase two, which is where the conservatives jump up & down and claim that public education is failing and that it’s the teacher’s unions’ fault. according to them, after their “free market” economy crashed, the only possible solution is to further cut taxes and regulations, cut further funding for education…and then voila! everybody’s sick of it. cut corporate welfare first!


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