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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Here's Why Michael Antonucci is the Michael Yon of Education Reporters

Michael Antonucci has been all by himself as an independent journalist covering the education unons for more than a decade. I've been reading his Education Intelligence Agency Communiques for years and I've known for a long time that he is the most comprehensive, factual and incisive journalist covering the schools beat.

After reading the first item on the latest Communique - about John Stossel's superb "Stupid in America: How Lack of Choice Cheats Our Kids Out of a Good Education" - it occurs to me that Antonucci's work is analogous to that of Michael Yon in covering the War in Iraq.

Yon is an independent who has gone against the conventional wisdom of the mainstream media and done the tough work of getting inside the military and reporting the stories that don't get reported on the front pages of The New York Times and on the CBS Evening News. It's tough, dangerous work and often is ignored by far more prominent journalists who can't hold a reporting candle to Yon's work.

Similarly, Antonucci has taken it upon himself to be an independent reporting resource on a beat in which the major news sources are often among the most secretive and determined not to allow much of the truth to be exposed. Antonucci doesn't have Iraqi insurgents aiming AK-47s and IEDs his way, but he covers two of the biggest, richest and most politically savvy unions anywhere - the National Education Education and the American Federation of Teachers.

I've never met Antonucci in person and wouldn't know him if he walked up to me on the street and handed me a confidential NEA political strategy document, but I know great reporting when I see it and he does great work.

Take, for example, his piece on Stossel's emphasis in Stupid on the black market in good schools in public education. It's an important angle that rarely is covered in the mainstream media, so Stossel deserves plaudits for including it in his report last week.

Antonucci has been on that issue for five years!

Note the links to his previous reporting on the issue:

"1) Thoughts on 'Stupid in America.' Normally you can go a whole year before you see two 'buzz-worthy' stories on public education, but we've already had two in 2006. On the heels of The Wall Street Journal highlighting the financial disclosure report of the National Education Association came a report by ABC News' John Stossel called 'Stupid in America: How Lack of Choice Cheats Our Kids Out of a Good Education.'

"Stossel's message board received almost 24,000 responses, including one by someone who posted an internal NEA e-mail to its activists that tries to tie Stossel to The Bell Curve. When it comes to webs of conspiracy, NEA needs lessons from these guys.

"Evidently when NEA gives money to People for the American Way or the Council on Foreign Relations, it is merely a grant to groups 'who share NEA's commitment to public education and to the human and civil rights of all Americans.' But when Stossel delivers a speech to the Cato Institute, it is evidence of 'his personal ties to right-wing organizations' and 'lack of objectivity.'

"EIA will leave it to others to thrash out the story's implications. But let us note Stossel's decision to place in a school quality/school choice story the issue of school district boundary enforcement.

"Stossel detailed the stories of people lying about where they lived so that their kids could attend better schools, and the efforts of school districts to stop them, including the hiring of private investigators. Stossel even referred to this as a 'black market' in school choice.

"Where have we heard this before?
"August 27, 2001: '
The Black Market in School Choice'
"March 18, 2002: '
Districts Hunt Down Out-of-District Students Like Common Criminals'
"May 20, 2002: '
Connecticut Schools Have Their Own Border Patrol'
"September 16, 2002: '
Baltimore County Makes Latest Attempt to Snuff Out Black Market in School Choice'
"September 23, 2002: '
School Choice Black Market Dragnet Nabs Teacher'
"November 25, 2002: 'The Return of the Black Market in School Choice'
"December 2, 2002: 'Florida Union Defends School Choice for Member'
"August 11, 2003: 'School Choice Black Market Revisited'
"September 13, 2004: 'Upholding the Law in Public Education'
"February 7, 2005: 'Black Market in School Choice: Teacher Edition'

"School choice - the concept, if not the voucher system by which it is best known - is a fact of American life. Rich people exercise it by moving to the suburbs. Poor people exercise it by pretending to move to the suburbs. Fighting it is like trying to prevent waves from reaching the shore."

Go here for the EIA home page.