Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Reformy Heavyweights Behind New York's Tenure Lawsuit

Yesterday a Facebook friend wondered aloud about the parents behind New York's Vergara-like case. The article he posted featured quotes from "Staten Islander Sam Pirozzolo, who is both a parent plaintiff and vice president of the NYC Parents Union". 

"Someone with skills needs to find the funding behind the 'New York Parents Union,'" my friend posted.

Naturally, I was intrigued...

First I checked out Sam Pirozzolo, and quickly learned that he is not quite your average NYC parent. He is not only Vice-President of the New York City Parents Union, he's been the President of Staten Island Community Education Council 31, which is a "school board like entity", since 2007. Pirozzolo was also an unsuccessful Republican candidate for Assembly in 2012, losing to the Democratic incumbent.

And let's just say, Pirozzolo has had some interesting ideas as president of CEC 31, not the least of which was his proposal to put armed retired police officers in schools in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre.

“It’s another layer of defense,” Pirozzolo said. “We’re looking to let the bad guys know, if you choose a school on Staten Island in New York City, you may have resistance. We’re not a soft target.”
But the city’s Department of Education is not considering the idea, saying the schools are the safest they’ve been in a decade. Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott’s office released a statement that read in part: “We know what works. Putting an armed guard in every school building is not the answer.”
But Staten Island’s board president is asking if students are really safe.
“Are they safe from a terrorist attack? Are they safe from a madman with a gun?” Pirozzolo said. (emphasis mine)
Oh my. 

Pirozzolo talks about the "TROUBLE WITH SCHOOLS"
Pirozzolo has really been out there as the face of the New York case (don't miss Pirozzolo's appearance on Fox and Friends with Tucker Carlson!) - he's the main contact for the NYC Parents Union on the group's press release, which reveals that all eleven children involved in the lawsuit are the children of members of the NYC Parents Union. 

Let's just say, the press release seems, well, a bit unpolished.
At present, there is no effective system that rewards excellence and minimizes failure. Instead, there is a complex system of “bad laws” that perpetuate mediocrity or, worse, inferiority. This lawsuit seeks to challenge and end the power and inequity of “bad laws” and promote “good laws” – good education policies — that truly benefit our children and our good teachers.
The entire document uses the phrase "bad laws" five times. 

So to recap, Pirozzolo wanted to put "GOOD GUYS" in schools with guns to protect kids from the "BAD GUYS" with guns, and now he wants to overturn the "BAD LAWS" that hurt kids and replace them with "GOOD LAWS" that benefit kids (and our GOOD teachers, whichever ones those are).

Yeah, OK...

While a look at Pirozzolo is certainly somewhat entertaining, the place you really have to look to understand how the Vergara case spread to New York so quickly is at Campbell Brown and her "newly launched" 501c3, Partners for Educational Justice

It is so new that there are no 990s or other documents yet available to check the group's funding sources. However, one need not look much further than Partners for Educational Justice's Board of Directors and Advisory Board to get an idea of where the money may come from.

None other than Joe Williams, Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) Executive Director, is on the Board of Directors. Yeah, the very same DFER that tried to trample Ras Baraka's campaign for Mayor by throwing well over 2 million dollars into Shavar Jeffries campaign through Super PAC Newark First. I don't feel like I'm going out on a limb by saying it seems pretty likely that DFER will be throwing some cash behind Brown's lawsuit.

The happy couple is so unhappy with teachers!
As an aside, Campbell Brown was right there beside DFER in the Newark mayor's race, and personally chipped in $7,800 for Shavar Jeffries. When I found her name in the ELEC filings I did a bit of digging to see if, and if so how, she was connected to the world of ed reform, and that was when I learned her husband, Dan Senor, is on the Board of Directors of Student's First NY (and was an advisor to Mitt Romney). 

Seems Brown and Senor share a passion for trampling teachers' due process rights and seniority protections. 

How quaint.

Derrell is far cooler than you could ever hope to be...
And don't miss one of the other stars of members of the Partners for Educational Justice Board of Directors - why, it's none other than Derrell Bradford himself! Jersey Jazzman has done an amazing job detailing Bradford's reformy career over the years, up to and including his move across the Hudson from New Jersey to New York to become the Director of the New York Campaign for Achievement Now (NYCAN). 

NYCAN can bring Gates money to the table, so even if DFER doesn't want to go it alone, it looks like Partners for Educational Justice will still be able to fund their lawsuit.

And while Brown claims the New York suit won't be as costly because they are getting the legal work pro bono ( from "a former deputy assistant for domestic policy to President George W. Bush no less), it can't be cheap to hire a PR firm run by former aides to President Obama!
The Incite Agency, founded by former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs and former Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt, will lead a national public relations drive to support a series of lawsuits aimed at challenging tenure, seniority and other job protections that teachers unions have defended ferociously. LaBolt and another former Obama aide, Jon Jones — the first digital strategist of the 2008 campaign — will take the lead in the public relations initiative.
There you have it folks. 

The New York Vergara case brings heavy weights from DFER, NYCAN, StudentsFirstNY, together with top level former Obama staffers, and even a former Bush lawyer, to see if they can pull the wool over the eyes of a judge in New York like David Welch and his somewhat similar cast of characters did in California.

Quite honestly, I don't think they can replicate what happened on the West Coast. It's hard to imagine this case won't be seen as the dog and pony Public Relations show it truly is. Especially when Brown is saying as much in the press before the trial has even started.
“The PR piece of this is essential because for the first time, we’re having a dialogue in this country about anachronistic laws and how we revamp our public education system for the modern world so it serves children first and foremost,” Brown said. “Having that conversation is as important to me as the litigation itself.”
While I give props to Brown for having the vocabulary skills to call the laws she aims to change "anachronistic" instead of "bad," a la Pirozzolo, it still seems ill advised to head into a lawsuit talking about how "essential" PR will be to your case. 

This case should not be tried in the court of public opinion; if it even makes it into a courtroom it should be tried based on facts and facts alone, not the rhetoric and hyperbole favored by the groups amassed behind this bogus lawsuit, and the spin doctors hired to do their bidding.

In the name of all that is factual, Bruce Baker needs to get on the stand and destroy what he has dubbed the "VergarGuments" that will no doubt be used in the trial.
And so it goes… The VergarGuments keep-a-comin… spreading their way from California to the Empire State, from Albany to Buffalo. And what are VergarGuments you say?
Well, a VergarGument is a fallacious form of legal reasoning applied in the context of state constitutional litigation over causes of inequities and inadequacies of schooling selectively suffered by disadvantaged children. Yeah… that’s a mouthful, but it is worthy of its own newly minted, excessively precise definition.
What he said.

7/10 UPDATE: 

I received a comment on this blog (on the post A Silicon Valley Entrepreneur, A Billionaire And I USDOE Assistant Secretary Walk Into A Courtroom...) from Mike Reilly, a member of CEC 31 with Sam Pirozzolo. Reilly has written a Letter to the Editor in defense of teacher tenure for the Staten Island Advance. 

Reilly makes a point to state that CEC 31 is NOT a party to the lawsuit, and concludes that Vergara 2.0 will not be successful in New York.
Following the statutory process that is in place will ensure our students and the majority of dedicated teachers will not suffer at the hands of the small minority of poor teachers. 
 In my opinion the New York State courts will agree that Chancellor Farina should be afforded the opportunity to address this issue for the betterment of the New York City public school system.
Bravo Mr. Reilly!

Here is his comment in its entirety: (seems we disagree on guns in schools...)

Just to clarify this lawsuit is not an action taken by Community Education Council 31. 
I am Co-Chair of the CEC 31 Safety & Transportation Committee and co-author of the Comprehensive Safety Plan, which includes response measures, system upgrades, training and school resource officers. The NYS Legislature & Governor Cuomo agreed with this plan and included it in the Budget and NYS Safe Act. 
Mike Reilly CEC31  


  1. Hi Mother Crusader,
    Jason did follow the money from CA to NY with Partnership for Educational Justice. Here is the article. Let me know what you think.

  2. It's interesting & damning that DFER is also in bed with the Kochs.
    These people have so little respect for the public that they think they can pass off their propaganda without someone exposing their incestuous relationships with their sugar daddies.

  3. It appears the tragic truth that capable academic examination does not contend with falsehoods and misleading statements in the government funded instruction area now. How shocking when instruction has dependably been the quest for extreme truth.........

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.