Black proposes turning ARIS data into a giant betting parlor
The call came in the middle of the night.
"Norm? Cathie here. Cathie Black. I saw the video of that loser Joel clinging desperately to you, hoping a share of your popularity would rub off on him. Things are not going so well on this end and I want some of that magic too so I decided Ed Notes would be the best forum for my first interview."
"Wow, thanks Cathie. I'm up for a hug anytime you want. Should I come over now?"
"This is not about that, you idiot. Don't you know I am a leading feminist and a pal of Gloria Steinem and she would cut your....never mind."
"We missed you at the Gotham Schools party the other night. Everyone was hoping you would come."
"Never heard of Gotham whatchamacallit. Let's get down to business. I want to share with you my plan for solving the fiscal crisis facing the NY schools by raising a billion extra dollars every year."
I was impressed with her no nonsense approach. I had heard about her fiscal skills and was about to ask her to come over and fix my personal budget. But she went on without giving me a chance to get a word in.
"Look," she said. "We are faced with a major crisis, right?"
"Yes," I said.
"Don't interrupt me, you fool. The Lord Mayor announced 6000 cuts in teachers. Between you and me he's a wus. I'm going to cut double that amount. Then I'm going to trash that entire bunch of clowns who have been criticizing me by raising enormous amounts of money earmarked for the school system."
"How can you do that in the midst of this crisis," I asked, with some trepidation?
"Credit default swaps," she smirked, "and derivatives."
"It's quite simple. We have all this data out there. We know it is all a scam to get rid of high salaried teachers, lower the pay of those left, close schools and replace them with charters and dump kids who can't come up with high enough numbers. And we know this data has nothing to do with the kids or education at all but to force our elite ideology down the throats of the commoners. The scam that it's about children first had been working until that schmuck Joel screwed up the test data this summer. I'm sorry Mike dumped him before the high school grad rate scandals hit so I could take it over real clean, but we'll filter out information on how it was all slimy Joel's fault."
She went on. "Maintaining these data systems like ARIS is expensive."
"You're going to get rid of ARIS," I said? "They will carry you in the streets."
"No, stupid. I need lots of money to expand ARIS a thousandfold by installing it in every child's home. All a parent or child has to do to get us to call the cops on a teacher whose value-added score drops is to press the big red button on the console."
"But how will they know..."
"A teacher's index score will not only be based on a test once a year but include every piece of data about a teacher, including my special interest, what they wear each day to school. Students will rate their dress each day and we will get instant feedback. I'm especially concerned that they don't wear the same pair of shoes two days in a row, which in my book is grounds for instant dismissal, tenure be damned. Imagine we can't fire people for such basic violations of common core standards of dress."
I tried to say something but the phone cord was strangling me. This Cathie woman has Superman power.
She continued, "So why not make better use of the data? I am proposing a system that will allow institutions and individuals to place bets on the chances of schools staying open or closing. We will also have an over-under on school closings and you will be able to use hedge funds to cover yourself both ways. We can even take bets on which schools charters will choose to co-locate in and on the timetable for the local public school to be entirely wiped out. How about placing a bet on the exact percentage number we will trump up to declare a school underutilized?"
"You ARE brilliant. Now I see why you got the job. But doesn't that allow the trumper uppers a leeway to bet on their own numbers?" I said.
"Stupid face, that's how we are paying them - they can make a lot of money, none of it on our heads, by placing bets on the very schools they are closing. Just the way they do it in the stock market. That's why I am such a legendary manager."
I was impressed already but wowed as she went on.
"The real money will be betting on the predicted results on each individual teacher's value-added score - think, you can bet on whether a teacher will go up or down or stay the same, with follow-up bets on how long it takes for the low scoring teachers to be disappeared from the system. That's 70,000 - er - 50,000 teachers to bet on."
"Didn't you say you were only going to double Bloomberg's 6000 cuts? Tha's only 12 not 20 thousand."
"Hah, dickface, that's only for public consumption through press dummies like you."
I could see the money rolling in already. "How will you raise test scores?"
"Easy. Teachers will get their choice of a Burberry coat if they come in with a high VA score."
"With all that money, I expect you will be using it to reduce some class sizes," I ventured.
"Why is there a problem with class size? My kids never had a problem and I don't see why that issue should even come up. Besides, didn't you read Bill Gates' orders for us not to reduce class size?"
"Well I am certainly impressed," I said. I gingerly asked, "People are saying that you were being kicked upstairs at Hearst and that this position is a fallback..."
"How do you think Joel got the job," she hissed. "They had already dumped him at Bertelsman when Mike bailed him out. That's why people like Mike and I hang out together and are so tight, especially when we are all in St. Barts. But it was always clear that Joel did not belong in this crowd. I knew something was wrong but had to read on your blog that he was born in the projects and was the son of a postal worker. Union worker, I bet. Ick! By the way, what did Joel whisper in your ear when he hugged you?"
I hesitated. Joel had sworn me to secrecy. But I couldn't hold back. "He said that he left so many poison pills buried in the system that the bitch would go down in flames. And he couldn't wait to see the reaction to you going to black neighborhood churches every Sunday like he did."
"You've got to be joking," Black said. "Another schmuck move by Joel, actually thinking he had to try to win some people over to his 'this is the civil rights issue of our time' bullshit. Mike told me none of that crap for me. I never have to see one parent or deal with anyone if I don't want. He is covering all bases by buying up all the media, except that pesky NY Times that has been on my case.
"But I'm not worried. Mike's money will take care of them, my little lovely. And their little dog too. Oh, and if you ever try to hug me, you'll get a spiked heel up your ass."