Monday, July 10, 2006

Kay Brooks Draws a Bead on Chamber and Takes Pot Shots at Gracie Porter, Updated

Kay Brooks seems a little miffed that the PAC of Nashville's business community is not endorsing her in the August election. As my public high school civics professor used to say, "Too bad, doo dad." In what seems to be a trend of Kay Brooks failing to fill out interest group surveys, she admits that she did not bother to give SuccessPAC a gauge for judging her. So, how can the Chamber group endorse a candidate who does not seem to be interested in informing them of her ideas?

The Chamber of Commerce may deserve its share of criticism (especially of the notion that solving MNPS's problems comes down to gimmicky remedies like blanket endorsements of challengers; public schools need more than just cliché), but Kay Brooks threw a low blow by insinuating that she has more of an interest in public school children than the business group does. It is truly something to witness a home-school mom accusing Chamber members, many of whom are public school parents, of caring less about Nashville's children than she does, simply because they did not endorse her.

And this story has got Kay Brooks running away from her newly minted "incumbent" title. Now that the Tennessean is pushing this "fresh faces" angle, she is in overdrive trying to project her outsider status once again. And that leads to her latest attack on Gracie Porter, who has never served on the School Board like Kay Brooks has. Nevertheless, Ms. Brooks tries to paint Ms. Porter into an insider corner that she already occupies herself. The Brooks blog slaps up a couple of statistical bar graphs on Alex Green Elementary student scores from 2001 to 2003, during the time when Ms. Porter was principal there. Then Kay Brooks encourages her likely and largely conservative blog audience to base their votes solely on these statistical snap shots (as District 8 incumbent Kathleen Harkey tells Bruce Barry in her unrelated podcast, accurate judgments of test score data happen by following trends in children's progress through the school system, rather than as simple snap shots taken in a period of less than 5 years).

Even the most cursory approach to statistics warns you that raw stats alone do not self-evidently say much of anything about the actual influence of various individuals on those results. That is why the test results should be "disaggregated" or divided up into constituent parts to interpret cause-and-effect. One of the commenters on Kay Brooks blog alludes to that possibility, but Kay Brooks responds by twisting that person's comments into an excuse for educators' failures, an allegation that she herself does not bother to prove. (Brooks makes no attempt whatsoever to point out in fairness that Gracie Porter has had a vested interest in the success of public schools as the parent of two sons who attended public schools all the way to graduation. She basically speaks of Porter as an uncaring cog or as if Porter was what Brooks refers to elsewhere as an "educrat," a term that she seems to have spun off from "autocrat" and a term she applies generally to teachers, administrators, and board members).

Brooks completely ignores the commenters' request that she post her own children's standardized test scores to show that she is a more competent educator than Gracie Porter. That fits Ms. Brooks' past tendency to fail to answer important questions as they arise. In her Scene podcast, Bruce asks Kay Brooks whether Metro schools currently have enough money. She quickly answers in the affirmative and then adds that there are programs she would "tweak and move out" and others that she would "encourage." Yet, she never gets down to brass tacks and tells us which ones she would "move out" and which ones she would promote. She has yet to give the same solutions on her blog. As a commenter put it, "Seven weeks on the board and you yet to propose a single reform."

And we are back to the rub: Kay Brooks, as much as she seems to want to have it both ways, cannot continue to have it both ways. She cannot both demand reform and offer no options. That makes her look like she has neither the skills for public service nor any idea what she is doing on the School Board. She cannot both be incumbent and be an outsider cliché. She is inside now and she can no longer run as a challenger. She can thank Michael Craddock, Ludye Wallace, Adam Dread, and the other 15 Council members who voted for her to serve in that state of limbo. While Brooks is looking fit to be tied, Porter is looking fit to be elected with her endorsements from groups as diverse as Democracy for Tennessee and the Nashville Chamber of Commerce. Brooks better start at least answering some questionaires.

07/11/2006, 2:45 p.m. Update: According to today's Nashville City Paper, Gracie Porter has also been endorced by SEIU.

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