Colbert transcript with Campbell Brown as right wing scripts continue their well-funded paths to the public

From one point of view, you could say that Campbell Brown just got a promotion. From an obscure "reporter" at CNN, she has been elevated to what Substance will call the "Ann Coulter Chair of Right Wing Punditry" in American media. (See below for another version of this, based on 20th Century history). One way or the other, four years after "Waiting for Superman" and four years after Michelle Rhee pouted her way out of Washington, D.C. just ahead of a major cheating scandal, Campbell Brown has arrived to smile and repeat her teacher bashing and union busting talking points for America's corporate media to promulgate.

Former CNN hack Campbell Brown is now devoting full time to teacher bashing and union busting.One of the more delightful ten minutes during the past week has been watching Stephen Colbert (who got his comedy start, like so many, at Chicago's Second City) interviewing the sanctimonious Campbell Brown on his July 31, 2014 show, the Colbert Report. As many know, Campbell Brown was met by protesters outside the studio when she showed up in New York City for the show. Teachers have long been irate at her for her public proclamation that teachers' unions "protect child molesters." Recently, parents have joined the protests because Campbell Brown has established an organization (the so-called "Partnership for Educational Justice") to push Vergara-like lawsuits against teacher tenure laws (the Vergara case was the California case that ruled against California's teacher tenure laws).

Campbell Brown's group is apparently poised to take over the right wing public fact of "supporting children" now that Michelle Rhee's posings and posturings have finally bored even her most avid acolytes. There is no word yet about whether Hollywood will supplement these activities with a 2014 addition to the immortal fictions "Won't Back Down" and "Waiting for Superman."

Just as for years the public had to hear about the latest book by Ann Coulter pushed by fans of right wing crazy ladies, and then Sara Palin, then Michelle Rhee... So now it's Campbell Brown. Rest assured, those who began their fan clubs with Coulter, that the Eva Braun fan clubs will not run out of people auditioning for the role over the next quarter century.

Thanks to Mercedes Schneider for doing the transcript of the following interview. As Diane Ravitch said, the questions are more fun than the answers. For Substance readers I hope everyone will note especially how Campbell Brown refuses to answer the question about where her money is coming from. Following the transcript of the Campbell Brown interview, Substance is including three other documents. The first is a point-by-point refutation published in The Washington Post of the "facts" Campbell Brown recited on the Colbert Report (and which she regularly regurgitates in her speeches and media events). The second is the commentary by the blogger "Jersey Jazzman" on Campbell Brown, and the final is the commentary by Mercedes Schneider. Readers will also enjoy Ms. Schneider's book.

The Colbert Report. Transcript of Stephen Colberts (SC) interview of Campbell Brown (CB). July 31, 2014

Transcribed by Mercedes Schneider

August 3, 2014

SC: Welcome back, everybody. My guest tonight is the founder of the education group, the Parents Transparency Project. One of our first goals: Saying parents transparency project three times fast. Please welcome Campbell Brown.

Campbell, good to see ya. Thanks for coming on. Nice to see you again. Its been a while.

CB: It has been a while.

SC: Now, you, you are a former anchor for CNN and NBC. Since leaving TV news, youve become an advocate for school choice and education reform, most recent project is the Partnership for Educational Justice, which filed suit against the State of New York this week, challenging teacher tenure in the public schools. Now, I am no fan of unions, but why do you have your guns out for these people? Is it the same as I am? [CB: I dont no, no, no, no, no, no.] So they can quit their lavish lifestyle of their 1983 Civics driving around town? [Audience laughter.] Yeah?

CB: Well, first let me correct something you said. [1:00] Were not filing the lawsuit. The seven parents in New York City who have some kids in the, um, in, in New York State who have kids in public schools are bringing this lawsuit, and were.

SC: And what is your role. Youre gonna ski? [Audience laughter.] [CB: Im]

What are you? CB: Were, were helping them and supporting them. And they are

SC: How are you supporting them? Giving them money? Cash? [CB: No, no.] Any money here? No money?

CB: Were helping them find legal help to, in order to bring their case.

SC: Okay. Youre not helping to pay for the legal help.

CB: The legal help is pro bono.

SC: Oh, its pro bono. I dont speak Spanish. [Audience laughter.] Sorry. No habla pro bono.

CB: Kirkland Ellis is the law firm whos doing the work, [SC: Okay.] and theyre doing it for free. [SC: Okay.] That means for free.

SC: Okay. So, uhh, uhh, you got some people mad at you for this. This doesnt happen very often, but there were protesters outside of my studios. [Audience applause.]

CB: I know. [SC: Okay?] I know about that. [Audience applause.] SC: Goin after a Campbell Brown. What have you done to upset these people?

CB: Well, I, I mean, theyre trying to silence the debate thats a really important debate that we should be having in this country.

SC: Do they not have the right to protest?

CB: Of course, they could.

SC: Are you not silencing their protest? [Audience laughter.]

CB: Absolutely not. [SC: Okay.] But I want these parents to have a voice in this debate, too. [2:00] [SC: Kay.] What theyre trying to do is change a, a public education system in this country that people across the political spectrum believe is in crisis and needs to change.

SC: Okay, hows the crisis in New York? Whats the problem here?

CB: So, if you look at, if you look at the, um, outcomes, student outcomes in New York, okay? So, 91 percent of teachers are around the state of New York are rated either effective or highly effective, and yet [SC: Sounds good.] 31 percent, [SC: Yep.] 31 percent of our kids are reading, writing, and doing math at grade level. How does that compute? I mean, how can you argue the status quo is okay with numbers like that??

SC: Well, I went to public school in South Carolina and 31 percent sounds like a majority to me. [Audience laughter.] Its not? Is that wrong? Okay. Okay. But, okay, so why are we blaming, why are we blaming the teachers, though? Why are we blaming the teachers? Maybe its the dumb kid. [Audience laughter.] You ever thought about that? Kids are rated effective, maybe we can cut the kids loose, put em back in the bobbin factory. Sover though about that?

CB: This is not about, [Audience laughter.] this is not about blaming teachers. The vast ma

SC: This is not about blaming teachers? Sounds like you are. CB: the vast majority of teachers

SC: Sounds like youre blaming the teachers union Youre blaming the teachers union here, arent you?

CB: [3:00] I am blaming the teachers union because they are fighting attempts to change laws that are anachronistic, that everybody thinks need to change.

SC: Okay, I dont know what that means. [Audience laughter.]

CB: Outdated, antiquated.

SC: Outdated? Okay, great. That sounds good

CB: So, um, you know, it, it, it comes down to what your priorities are. And if public education is about kids, then every decision we make [SC: Uh, hum.] should be focused on the question of, Is this good for a child? And that should be the driving focus and the priority when we decide what our policies should be and what our laws should be. SC: Okay, what are the, um[Audience applause.] Theyre going to clap because [CB: What do they know?] youre playing the good for child card. Um [Audience laughter.]

SC: Okay, uh, let, you, is this based upon, uh, children, uhh, being able to have access to equal education?

CB: Thats exactly right. There was a similar case in California, and the plaintiffs in that case won. And can I just mention that some of our plaintiffs are here tonight, too? Theyre very happy to be here.

SC: You can mention. Ill edit it out, but you can mention it. [CB: Okay.] [Audience laughter.] All right, now, but, heres, the thing is arent you opening a can of worms there, because [4:00] if you say the kids are entitled to e, equal education, if thats your argument, doesnt that mean eventually, youre going to say, Every child in the state of New York should have the same amount of money spent on their educationrich community, poor communitypool it all in, split it all up among Bobby and Susie and Billyeverywhere. [Audience applause.] Because the argument is, everyone gets the same opportunity. [Audience applause.]

CB: But, but you, youre suggesting that mon, that its all about the money, and I think its not about the money.

SC: Well, youre suggesting its about equality, and money is one of the equations in equality, or have I just schooled you? [Audience laughter.]

CB: There have been many cases brought to fight the, the cause that you are bringing up right now. But in addition to that, because I do think there should be equality in the money. I think we should be paying teachers more. But on top of that, we should also be treating teachers like professionals, and evaluating them, and trying our best to get an effective teacher in every kids classroom. And all the research shows that the least effective teachers are being centered in the most disadvantaged schools, so the poorest

SC: How does that work? How does that work out?

CB: [5:00] So, so, if, what the tea, tenure laws do, combined with these dismissal protections, is make it almost impossible to fire a teacher whos been found to be incompetent. It takes on average 830 days to fire a teacher who has been found to be incompetent.

SC: Who gets to say whether a teachers a good or bad teacher? Who gets to make that call?

CB: Its a combination of the principals and the people who are in charge of this, who, you have to evaluate people.

SC: Parents complaining? Parents complaining?

CB: if a lot of parents are complaining, theres probably something to that, dont you think?

SC: What if theres someplace where the parents dont want certain things taught to the kids? Cause Id love my kids not to be taught evolution. [Audience laughter.] Could I get a teacher fired if my community believed that evolution wasnt a good thing, if the teacher had tenure?

CB: Now thats one of the arguments that the union makes is that theyre gonna lose

SC: Not in the union. Im not in the union, [CB: Okay.] but I did get that argument.

CB: that theyre going to lose due process rights if we change these laws, but thats simply not true. Everybody has the right to due process and the right to a fair hearing. Its very hard to argue that, that a law that, that makes teacher layoff decisions or employment decisions solely based on seniority [6:00] is the right thing to do when you have the teacher of the year in California being laid off and a teacher whos been found to be incompetent keeping their job. I mean, what does that do to the kids? I, I get that you want to defend teachers and that nobody wants to attack teachers but we have to focus on children.

SC: I dont really want to defend teachers or unions, I mostly just want to attack you. [Audience applause.]

CB: Why? Why?

SC: Just trying to win, Campbell. Just trying to win, all right? Um, your organization, where does its money come from? Thats one of the things they asked me to ask you.

CB: I, I saw that on my Twitter feed today. The, the, whos funding this effort?

SC: Yeah, whos funding your, your effort, [CB: Kirkland Ellis.] your organization.

CB: The law firm

SC: The law firm is funding it?

CB: Well, the law firm is doing this for free, so we havent gone out

SC: So, your organization collects no money, you dont get, you dont have to go about, out to raise any money?

CB: I, I, Im going to be raising lots of money because were going to try to bring this work

SC: After this, obviously the Colbert [fund], you can enroll in it, okay? [Audience applause.]

CB: But we want this to be, we want this to be a national effort, Um, we want to help parents in, in states across the country who want to do similar things.

SC: So, the Partnership for Educational Justice [7:00] has not raised any money so far?

CB: Yeah, we are raising money.

SC: And who did you raise it from?

CB: Im not gonna reveal who the donors are because the people (pointing toward window) are out

SC: Im going to respect that because I had a super PAC. [Audience applause.]

CB: I hear you. But, part of the reason is the people who are outside today, trying to protest, trying to silence our parents who want to have a voice in this debate

SC: Exercising First Amendment rights

CB: Absolutely, but theyre also going to go after people who are funding this, and I think this is a good cause and an important cause, and if someone wants to contribute to this cause without having to put their name on it so they can become a target of the people who were out there earlier today, then I respect that.

[Silence from audience.]

SC: Well, I respect you. [Audience laughter.] I was trying to figure out who I will respect at this table, and there was no one left but you. [Audience laughter.] Campbell, thank you so much for joining me. [To audience] Campbell Brown, partnership for Educational Justice. [Audience applause.] Well be right back.

[End of interview.]

Source of video interview: utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+JerseyJazzman+(Jersey+Jazzman)


Former CNN correspondent Campbell Brown appeared on The Colbert Report last week in her role as head of the new Partnership for Educational Justice, an advocacy organization that is supporting seven parents in a lawsuit against New York States teacher tenure laws. (Supporting may be underestimating what the group is doing, given that she called the parents our plaintiffs.) Colbert asked her some good questions but her answers were, well, questionable. In the following post, Alyssa Hadley Dunn, a former high school English teacher who is now an assistant professor of teacher education at Michigan State University, fact-checks Browns answers. Dunn researches urban schools, educational policy, and social justice.

By Alyssa Hadley Dunn

Fact check time: On Thursday night, Campbell Brown, a former journalist and CNN correspondent, appeared on The Colbert Report. Stephen Colberts questions seemed difficult for Ms. Brown to answer. She was there to talk about her Partnership for Educational Justice, whose first initiative is supporting plaintiffs in a lawsuit against New York States teacher tenure laws. Others have written about the ongoing debate between Ms. Brown and teachers unions leaders and about the connections between Ms. Brown and Michelle Rhee. Here, however, I am more interested in checking the facts that Ms. Brown uses to make her case. Quite simply: there is no research demonstrating causation between teacher tenure laws and lower rates of student achievement, which is the entire argument behind the lawsuit.

Lets look at what she said versus what research actually shows.


All the research shows the least effective teachers are being centered in the most disadvantaged schools, so the poorest So what the tenure laws do combined with these dismissal protections is make it almost impossible to fire a teacher whos been found to be incompetent.


What does Ms. Brown mean by effective? Presently, many states around the country determine teacher effectiveness using complex and controversial measures called value-added models, or VAMs. This means that, in addition to principal observations, teachers are evaluated based on students growth on test scores over time. Many states agreed to use VAMs to secure federal Race to the Top funds, yet research continually questions the use of VAMs. Organizations like the American Educational Research Association and the American Statistical Association cite years of research demonstrating that VAMs are inaccurate and unstable in determining the effects of individual teachers on student achievement. Even the Department of Education found a high rate of error with VAMs! (Just to be clear: teachers, union leaders, and teacher educators are not against evaluating teachers. We simply differoften very stronglywith Ms. Brown and others on the way that teachers should be evaluated.)

Now, if she meant to say underqualified or least prepared teachers are centered in high-poverty schools, then she would be partially correct, but not for the reasons she identifies. True, there are more first-year teachers, more teachers working outside of their certified fields in high-poverty schools, and more teachers from agencies like Teach For America, who place their corps members in schools after only six weeks of preparation. But teacher tenure laws are not to blame. In fact, teachers in these schools have higher turnover, and a majority leave before the three to five years required to get job security in many states.

This attrition of new and veteran teachers is the real reason that the least prepared teachers are working in the schools Ms. Campbell purports to help. And why is there attrition? Research shows that inequitable working conditions such as low pay, lack of resources, and an increase in bureaucracy cause teachers to leave high-needs schools. Without due process rights, it is even less likely that qualified teachers will want to work in high-needs schools with difficult conditions, because it would also mean that students lower test scores could jeopardize their employment with no available no recourse.

There are many ways to draw effective teachers into high-needs schools. Disregarding teachers rights is not one of them.


If you look at student outcomes in New York, 91 percent of teachers around the state are rated effective or highly effective, and yet 31 percent of our kids are reading, writing, and doing math at grade level. How does that compute? How can you argue that the status quo is okay with stats like that?


In this statement and the lawsuit as a whole, Ms. Brown advances the idea that teachers are the most important factor in determining student success. Oh, that this were the case! This would make my job as a teacher educator significantly easier, if all that mattered was that new educators knew their content and their pedagogy. But thats not all that matters. The reality is that parents levels of education and income, poverty, segregation, school resources, and other out-of-school factors also contribute to student achievement, with some reports saying that teachers only impact up to 20 percent of student achievement and others demonstrating that teachers only account for between 1 percent to 14 percent of variability in test scores. Ms. Browns campaign is spending valuable resources (though she refuses to reveal how much or from whom) on arguing about a single factor (the teacher) that accounts for, at most, 20 percent of student achievement. Think of the ways this money could be better spent if she committed to addressing all, or even some, of the other contextual factors, like systemic poverty, that have an even greater impact on student success than individual teachers.

Further, no one is arguing that the status quo is okay. Whether measured by test scores or other ways, this is clear. But the irony in her statement is that the status quo has been and continues to be shaped by neoliberal reforms that Ms. Brown supports. These reforms are stifling creativity with the never-ending onslaught of high-stakes testing and are demoralizing and deskilling teachers. They are perpetuating structural and institutional racism when they support charter programs that increase segregation and contribute to the preschool-to-prison pipeline. What needs to change for the status quo to improve is reformers like Ms. Brown who, as Colbert put it, plays the good-for-child card in an attempt to manipulate public opinion.


It takes on average 830 days to fire a teacher whos been found to be incompetent.


This statistic, which Ms. Brown peppers in all of her speeches, appears to be from a research brief of the New York State School Boards Association. This brief was based on the results of a self-report survey to which only 59% of districts responded and in which New York City (the largest district) was not even included. Jessica Glazer has written about whether or not the numbers are even accurate, and Bruce Baker points out, importantly, that quality may vary significantly between districts. Further, since the data was collected, after 2008, the state made efforts to reform tenure laws, changing the minimum years from two to three. Now, according to one report, only a slim majority of teachers receive tenure on the first attempt, and, in 2013, disciplinary cases took, on average, only 177 days statewide.

Additionally, I question Ms. Campbells use of one study (that used data between 5-10 years old) as her primary empirical evidence for such a drastic campaign against teachers rights. This research examined the context in only one state and left out the most populous city in the state, yet Ms. Campbell argues it is generalizable enough to be used as evidence for bringing her campaign across the country. To make the argument that these results are true for whole nation is misinformed at best and dangerous at worst.


This is not about blaming teachers I am blaming the teachers unions because theyre fighting attempts to change laws that are anachronistic, that everybody thinks need to change.


Those teachers unions shes blaming? Guess who makes up the membership of those unions? Thats right: teachers. There is no way around it. Whether she wants to admit or not, because she knows the bad press that would result, Ms. Brown is clearly blaming teachers. Also, not everyone thinks teacher tenure laws are outdated. Clearly, the protestors outside The Colbert Report do not, as they held signs saying, Campbell doesnt speak for me. Those tweeting #questionsforcampbell before the show aired were also obviously in disagreement.

In other interviews, Ms. Brown has said tenure is permanent lifetime employment. This is an incorrect definition of teacher tenure, and both anecdotal and research evidence demonstrates that teachers with tenure are still terminated. Tenure has little to do with protecting bad teachers. As educational historian Diane DAmico writes about the history of teacher tenure, teacher tenure never really protected teachers and nor was it supposed to. Should a teacher who has been found to be incompetent work with children? Of course not. That is not what Ms. Browns opponents are arguing. It is, despite Ms. Browns claims to the contrary, really about due process. Job security means that teachers are entitled to a fair trial if they are wrongfully terminated, say for standing up for students rights or whistleblowing about inequitable treatment of themselves and others.


It comes down to what your priorities are, and if public education is about kids, then every decision we make should be focused on the question of is this good for a child? And that should be the driving focus and the priority when we decide what our policies should be and what our laws should be.


Ms. Brown, we agree on this. I wholeheartedly concur that educational policies should be determined by what is best for children. What I remain unconvinced about, however, is how eliminating teachers rights is what is best for children. We know that teacher working conditions are student learning conditions. So is an environment of demoralized and unsupported teachers who are fearful to speak up the environment in which we want our students learning?

I would also ask Ms. Brown her own question: Is it good for a child if those making the policies have no understanding of what is happening in the classroom and have never been teachers or administrators? This would be hard for Ms. Brown to answer, I imagine, because on the team and Boards at the Partnership for Educational Justice, there appears to be only one person with any in-school teaching or administrative experience. Instead, their biographies read like a Whos Who of protgs of philanthropists and organizations that are well-known for education reform. These connections include Teach For America, StudentsFirst and Michelle Rhee, Eli Broad, and Chris Christie, to name a few.

Is it good for a child if organizations committed to reclaiming the promise of public education demonize teachers in the process?

On the contrary, what research actually shows is best for children is teachers with long-term and sustained preparation in content and pedagogy; an equitable education that is not segregated by race and socioeconomic status; and student-centered, hands-on pedagogy that sustains students cultures and challenges them to be critical thinkers and engaged citizens. None of this has anything to do with teacher tenure laws. None. If we keep blaming teachers, we are missing the bigger picture.

As Albert Camus wrote, Good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding. Whatever Ms. Browns intentions are, they lack an understanding of both the current landscape of teaching in high-needs schools and of educational research. Its time to get some facts straight.



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