Archives for category: Broad Foundation

Sarah Reckhow and Jeffrey W. Snyder explain the new educational philanthropy–and how it intersects with federal priorities–in this valuable article.

They spot three significant trends:

“Our analysis proceeds in three parts. First, we examine phil- anthropic grant-making for political activities and demonstrate that funding for national policy advocacy grew from 2000 to 2010. Second, we analyze the shifting policy orientation among top education philanthropies. We find that most major education foundations increasingly support jurisdictional challengers— organizations that compete with or offer alternatives to public sector institutions. Meanwhile, funding for traditional public education institutions has declined. Third, we examine the range of actors and perspectives supported by philanthropic grants, applying social network analysis to identify overlapping patterns of grant-making. We find that top donors are increasingly supporting a shared set of organizations—predominantly jurisdictional challengers. We argue that the combination of these trends has played a role in strengthening the voice and influence of philanthropists in education policy.”

What are jurisdictional challengers? These are organizations that challenge the traditional governance of education, such as charter schools. More philanthropic money goes to these challengers, less money goes to traditional public schools, and more money goes to networks of jurisdictional challengers, like the NewSchools Venture Fund and Stand for Children.

This is a fine scholarly work that confirms what many of us saw with our own eyes. The philanthropic sector–led by Gates, Walton, and Broad and their allies like Dell–prefer disruptive organizations of charters to public schools. Indeed, they are using their vast fortunes to undercut public education and impose a free market competition among competing schools. As they go merrily about the task of disrupting an important democratic institution, they work in tandem with the U.S. Department of Education, which has assumed the task of destabilizing public education.

Big money–accountable to no one—and big government have embarked on an experiment in mass privatization. Do they ever ask themselves whether they might be wrong?

In recent days, there has been an extended discussion online about an article by California whistle blower Kathleen Carroll, in which she blasts Randi Weingarten and the Teachers Union Reform Network for taking money from Gates, Broad, and other corporate reform groups, in some cases, more than a dozen years ago. Carroll also suggests that I am complicit in this “corruption” because I spoke to the 2013 national meeting of TURN and was probably paid with corporate reform money; she notes that Karen Lewis, Deborah Meier, and Linda Darling-Hammond also spoke to the TURN annual meeting in 2012 or 2013. I told Carroll that I was not paid to speak to TURN, also that I have spoken to rightwing think tanks, and that no matter where I speak and whether I am paid, my message is the same as what I write in my books and blogs. In the discussion, I mentioned that I spoke to the National Association of School Psychologists at its annual convention in 2012, one of whose sponsors was Pearson, and I thought it was funny that Pearson might have paid me to blast testing, my point being that I say what I want regardless of who puts up the money. At that point, Jim Horn used the discussion to lacerate me for various sins.

Mercedes Schneider decided to disentangle this mess of charges and countercharges. In the following post, Schneider uses her considerable research skills to dissect the issues, claims and counterclaims. All the links are included in this piece by Schneider. Schneider asked me for my speech to the National Association of School Psychologists as well as my remarks to the TURN meeting, which are included.

I will make two points here. First, Randi has been my friend for 20 years, and I don’t criticize my friends; we disagree on many points, for example, the Common Core, which I oppose and she supports. I don’t hide our disagreements but I won’t call her names or question her motives. Friends can disagree and remain friends.

Second, I recall learning how the left made itself impotent in American politics by fighting among themselves instead of uniting against the common adversary. I recall my first job at the New Leader magazine in 1960, where I learned about the enmity among the Cannonites, the Lovestonites, the Trotskyites, the Mensheviks, the Schactmanites, and other passionate groups in the 1930s. That’s when I became convinced that any successful movement must minimize infighting and strive for unity and common goals.

Even earlier, Benjamin Franklin was supposed to have said at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

David Sirota explains in the journal “In These Times” that there is a conflict between big-time philanthropy and democracy. He describes recent conference where the tech industry wrung its collective hands about inequality without acknowledging that it is a source of frowing inequality.

“Indeed, there seems to be a trend of billionaires and tech firms making private donations to public institutions ostensibly with the goal of improving public services. Yet, many of these billionaires are absent from efforts to raise public resources for those same institutions. Zuckerberg is only one example.

“For instance, hedge funders make big donations to charter schools. Yet, the hedge fund industry lobbies against higher taxes that would generate new revenue for education.

“Meanwhile, Microsoft boasts about making donations to schools, while the company has opposed proposals to increase taxes to fund those schools.

“To understand the conflict between democracy and this kind of philanthropy, remember that private donations typically come with conditions about how the money must be allocated. In education, those conditions can be about anything from curriculum to testing standards to school structure. No matter what the conditions are, though, they effectively circumvent the democratic process and dictate policy to public institutions. While those institutions can reject a private donor’s money, they are often desperate for resources.
In this, we see a vicious cycle that undermines democratic control. Big money interests use anti-democratic campaign finance laws to fund anti-tax policies that deprive public institutions of resources. Those policies make public institutions desperate for private resources. When philanthropists offer those resources, they often make the money contingent on public officials relinquishing democratic control and acceding to ideological demands.

“Disruption theory is usually the defense of all this—the hypothesis being that billionaire cash is the only way to force public institutions to do what they supposedly need to do. But whether or not you believe that theory, Gore is correct: It isn’t democratic. In fact, it is quite the opposite.””

The Billionaire Boys Club and their allies are dumping campaign cash into races in Illinois.

Money is arriving from the hedge fund managers and other super-rich who take a keen interest in privatization and in removing any due process from teachers. Democrats for a education Reform and Stand for Children, both with strong ties to the privatization movement, are very interested in picking the winners in Illinois.

I met a Los Angeles named Geronimo at the Network for Public Education meeting in Austin. Of course, that is a pseudonym. Geronimo, who often comments here, met Joanne Barkan, who wrote a post about philanthropy here.

 

Here are Geronimo’s reflections:

 

One of the great pleasures of my NPE experience in Austin was getting to talk to Joanne Barkan at length.

In Los Angeles, we have felt the full brunt of “philanthropy”. It has been used as the cudgel to infiltrate the entire operating status of LAUSD by dictating the terms of the pedagogy our kids receive and the orders we teachers are expected to follow. The fact that Gates and Broad have placed not only “their man” John Deasy in the top position, but they have funded other positions in District Headquarters.

Worse, we have no idea how much money they give to Deasy personally nor others in Deasy because they are “private” donations.

It is easy to call yourself a “philanthropist” but often times, philanthropy is politically motivated. I guess this can be good or bad depending on whose side of the “giving” you are on and if this sort of barter is good for your cause.

In an article in THE LA TIMES by Howard Blume on September 15, 2011
(http://articles.latimes.com/2011/sep/15/local/la-me-schools-fund-20110915), we read about how the drive to “philanthropize” LAUSD became public:

“Los Angeles schools Supt. John Deasy and Hollywood philanthropist Megan Chernin have launched an effort to raise $200 million over five years to benefit local public schools.

“The collaboration, in the works for several months, was announced in a letter signed by Deasy, Chernin and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

“The letter strikingly lists failures of the Los Angeles Unified School District but also asserts that “for the first time in the District’s history, the conditions for bold change are present…. The time is now to harness this potential and it is our responsibility to do so.

“Besides Chernin, the nascent board of the Los Angeles Fund for Public Education includes education philanthropist Casey Wasserman — who has given directly to L.A. Unified in the past — as well as former educator and artist Nancy Marks and Jamie Alter Lynton, a former journalist who is married to the chief executive of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

“‘Donations could support districtwide initiatives, such as a new training program for principals, among other things. They could also bring to the district effective approaches used at charter schools,’ said spokeswoman Amanda Crumley.

And here is the unquestioned-Philanthropic-philosophy-in-a-nutshell kicker of the LA TIMES article:

“One selling point for participants is that the elected L A. Board of Education would have no direct control over the money.

“‘As you know, the innovation Los Angeles’ students need cannot start within a rule-bound bureaucracy,’” the letter states.

“Key education donors have refused to give much, if anything, to L.A. Unified because they question how well the nation’s second-largest school system would use the money.

HOW WOULD THEY USE THE MONEY? At least the decisions would have been democratic and transparent.

HOW HAS DEASY USED THE MONEY? I’ll let history judge.

During the Great Recession, LA. Unified, like other urban districts, had been hard hit by state funding shortfalls, resulting in thousands of layoffs, larger class sizes and a shorter school year. It was the perfect opportunity for “philanthropists” to come in and work their magic under the pretext of providing schools with much needed assistance.

The unions were at their weakest point (and currently, in LA, the union is on life-support).

Deasy, who became superintendent in April, 2011, has made pursuing outside philanthropic financial support a high priority. But this financial support brought political support with all the quid pro quos that have made LAUSD more of a corporation than a democracy. The Big Money is steep inside LASUD and has definite favorites as to who gets to define what “good education” is. Just look at all the money that now gets poured into the School Board races and who “philanthropy” backs. Look at how philanthropists treat teacher unions and the quality-of-life issues they raise.

If this was the NRA who had this sort of inside influence to organizations, people would be outraged. These Philanthropists and our Superintendent uses kids as human shields. They say they will withdraw their money if their policies are not implemented. This sort of hostage taking is obscene and Deasy stays in power because of this implicit threat.

Philanthropy where these multi-billion dollar decisions truly affect the profits of the ones giving the “donations” taints the whole process. Gates and Broad put their money and their “charity” to the very areas that they profit from.

Education is political BECAUSE it is Big Business. To ignore that reality is to be willfully ignorant.

And the Philanthropists have tried very hard to turn Education into Big Business behind the scenes while maintaining their pretense of Switzerland-like neutrality in their public persona claiming to the public: “We just want to help education be better.”

Kind-hearted souls indeed as they write their pro-Reform Op-eds in The Wall Street Journal.

Meanwhile, on the micro-scale of my individual classroom, my kids have to hoe a vastly different path that the Reforms now prescribe their net worth. The billionaires say this is what you get.

Kids. Your education is NOT a Democracy.

If you don’t like it, your solution is very simple. You can always leave the public system to where Gates, Broad, Alter-Lynton, Duncan or Obama send their kids to school.

And finally you will get the education these philanthropists truly believe in.

Thanks again, Joanne for your insight and commentary and commitment to the cause. You continue to be inspiring.

 

Joanne Barkan has written several important articles for Dissent magazine on the role of big foundations in shaping education policy. She spoke at the Network for Public Education conference in Austin on March 1-2 about how to criticize the role of big philanthropies in reforming our schools. She prepared this draft of her remarks:

How to Criticize “Big Philanthropy” Effectively

by Joanne Barkan

Criticizing philanthropy of any kind is tricky. To most people, a negative appraisal sounds off-base or churlish—just another instance of “No good deed goes unpunished.” Criticizing the immense private foundations that finance and shape the market-model “reform” of public education in the United States produces the same reaction. “You’re going after Bill Gates?” I’ve been asked incredulously. “Leave him alone. He’s doing great work in Africa.”

Actually, the Gates Foundation’s work in Africa has serious critics, but suppose, for the sake of argument, that the foundation does much good there. Or suppose that Bloomberg Philanthropies announces tomorrow that it will spend $1 billion over the next five years to promote gun control in the United States. Would those of us who oppose market-model ed-reform but support mosquito nets for Africa and gun control here still criticize the mega-foundations? Would we criticize them in the same way?

There are at least three approaches to criticizing the role of big philanthropy in ed-reform. Understanding how they differ makes for a more effective analysis and stronger arguments.

The first approach focuses on the failure of specific policies pushed by the foundations and the harm they do to teaching and learning. For example, an exposé of using value added modeling to measure the effectiveness of individual teachers would deal with the inherent unreliability of the calculations, the nonsensical use of faulty formulas to measure growth in learning, and the negative consequences of rating teachers with such a flawed tool.

The second approach examines how big philanthropy’s ed-reform activity undermines the democratic control of public education, an institution that is central to a functioning democracy. The questions to ask are these: Has the public’s voice in the governance of public education been strengthened or weakened? Are politicians more or less responsive? Is the press more or less free to inform them?

This approach pinpoints certain types of foundation activity: paying the salaries of high-level personnel to do ed reform work within government departments; making grants to education departments dependent on specific politicians remaining in office; promoting mayoral control and state control of school districts instead of control by elected school boards; financing scores of ed reform nonprofits to implement and advocate for the foundations’ pet policies—activity that has undermined the autonomy and creativity of the nonprofit sector in education; funding (thus influencing) the national professional associations of government officials, including the National Conference of State Legislatures, the United states Conference of Mayors, and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices; and funding media coverage of education.

The third approach examines large private foundations as peculiar and problematic institutions in a democracy. This approach considers big philanthropy in general and uses ed reform as one example of how mega-foundations undermine democratic governance  and civil society. The objections to wealthy private corporations dedicated to doing good (as they see it) have remained the same since the early twentieth-century when the first mega-foundations were created: they intervene in public life but aren’t accountable to the public; they are privately governed but publicly subsidized by being tax exempt; and in a country where money translates into political power, they reinforce the problem of plutocracy—the exercise of power derived from wealth.

Of course, all three approaches to criticizing big philanthropy can be part of the same discussion, but the distinctions help to create a more coherent point of view. They make answering the inevitable challenges easier. Here are some of those challenges and possible responses. Not everyone will agree with the responses. Consider them feasible options.

Challenge: You seem to believe that ed-reform philanthropy is some sort of nefarious conspiracy. Here we go again with conspiracy theories.

Response: By definition conspiracies are secret and illegal. The ed-reform movement isn’t a conspiracy. When people or organizations work together politically in a democracy, it’s a coalition or movement. This is true even when—as is the case with the ed-reform movement—huge amounts of money are being spent by mega-foundations and private meetings take place.

 

Challenge: You wrongly depict the ed-reform movement and the foundations involved as homogeneous with everyone marching in lockstep. The movement is actually very heterogeneous and rife with disagreements.

Response: Coalitions and movements are rarely, if ever, completely homogeneous. Yet their members agree generally on basic principles and goals. That’s how they make progress. The ed-reform movement is no different. The most significant policy difference among ed-reform foundations is on vouchers—the per-pupil funding that parents can move from a district public school to a private school, often including religious schools. Some foundations, for example, Walton, support vouchers; others, for example, Gates and Broad, do not.

Challenge: You constantly impugn the motives of the mega-foundations. Do you really think Melinda Gates or Eli Broad wants to hurt children?

Response: Of course, the philanthropists aim to do good, but they define “good.” It makes no sense to question their motives. The directors of the Walton Foundation believe that school vouchers will improve education. By supporting vouchers, they believe they are doing good. But when philanthropists enter the public policy fray, they—like everyone else—legitimately become fair game for criticism of their positions and activity. Tax-exemptions shouldn’t create sacred cows.

Challenge: Private foundations spend perhaps $1.5 or $2 billion annually on K-12 education in the United States. That’s minuscule compared to the more than $525 billion http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d12/tables/dt12_205.asp that government spends every year. You exaggerate the influence that private foundations exert with their drop-in-the-bucket donations.

Response: Government spending on public education goes to basic and fixed expenses. Most states and urban school districts can’t cover their costs—they run deficits and/or cut outlays. Sociologists have shown that discretionary spending—spending beyond what covers ordinary running costs—is where policy is shaped and changed. The mega-foundations use their grants as leverage: they give money to grantees who agree to adopt the foundations’ pet policies. Resource-starved states and school districts feel compelled to say yes to millions of dollars even when many strings are attached or they consider the policies unwise.

Challenge: Private foundations don’t weaken democracy. They add another voice to the democratic debate. This increases pluralism and actually strengthens democracy.

Response: Money translates too easily into political power in the United States, and the country is becoming increasingly plutocratic. Mega-foundations exacerbate this tendency. In the realm of public education policy, they have too much influence, and this undermines democracy.

Joanne Barkan’s writing on philanthropy, private foundations, and public education reform has appeared in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Nonprofit Quarterly, the Washington Post, Dissent magazine, and other publications. Many of her articles can be found at http://www.dissentmagazine.org/author/joannebarkan.

Half a century ago, as the civil rights movement grew in strength and intensity, “school choice” was understood to e a synonym for segregation. Leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., fought for a democratic and equitable public school system. But, oh, how times have changed. Now there are organizations led by African Americans who want vouchers and charters to escape the public schools. No matter that such schools promote segregation. These 21st century leaders want school choice.

Why?

Julian Vasquez Heilig explains here how billionaires have co-opted minority groups to join their campaign to fight unions, fight teachers, and demand privatization.

The answer will not surprise you.

“Under the mantra of civil rights, billionaires such as Eli Broad, Bill Gates and the Koch Brothers and the powerful corporate-funded lobby group the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are using venture philanthropy and the political process to press for school reforms in the United States.

“The ongoing Vergara law case in California in which nine students are suing the state over teacher tenure laws, is backed by Student Matters, a non-profit that has received donations from the Broad Foundation and the Walton Foundation, run by the Walton family that founded supermarket chain Wal-Mart.

“The driver behind the case is a campaign to loosen labour rules in order to make it easier to fire “bad” teachers, under the argument that their presence discriminates against disadvantaged children. Opponents of the case argue that it is a blatant attempt to change the conversation from the realities of California’s divestment in education — the state is 46th in the nation in spending per student in 2010-11, and 50th in the number of students per teacher.

“What these organisations and other others such as the the Koch brothers, Bradley Foundation, Heritage Foundation, Students First and Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education – all supposedly supporters of school reform – have as a common denominator is a vision of a profit-based market approach to education.

“School vouchers are one of the primary education reform policy approaches pressed by the billionaires and the business lobby. Voucher programs, which provide public funding for students to attend private schools, have become more popular in the US in the past several decades.”

He adds:

“….these special interests are supporting vouchers and other neoliberal reforms contrary to the interests of students of colour. In doing so they will shift the US education system to maximise corporate profits, while limiting democratic control of public schools.

“These same billionaire “reformers” have co-opted the equity discourse by offering a carrot to minority groups. This can sometimes be in the form of millions of dollars as in the case of the Black Alliance for Educational Options and Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina. But all this hides the inequity that profit-based approaches to education foment.”

The Los Angeles school district is making short-term and long-term decisions that are fiscally and educationally irresponsible. Having committed to spend $1 billion to give an iPad for Common Core testing to every student and staff member, the district is short changing or eliminating essential programs.

The money for the iPads is mostly from a bond issue intended for construction and facilities. Consequently, there is not enough money for necessary repairs.

As the previous post showed, the libraries in half the district’s elementary and middle schools are closed due to budget cuts.

A reader comments about the failure to plan ahead:

“The closure of libraries comes on the heels of the “Repairs not iPads” facebook page detailing the fiscal priorities of LAUSD.

“There are 55,000 outstanding repair orders at present, school libraries are shut down all over the city, and the district’s proposed arts plan suggests increasing “arts integration” as a cost savings measure instead of bringing back the hundreds of arts specialists let go over the last few years.

“All this while, Deasy still maintains that all students will receive their own device.

“While we now know that superintendents like Deasy believe in the “corporate-style” of education, the one gaping hole in this plan is that corporations want to stay solvent and make decisions that will ensure present and future financial viability. This is the one missing element in Deasy’s iPad project……no plan to pay for it beyond the first few years.

“When asked, district officials provide answers like “we just can’t not do this”(Bernadette Lucas), “this is the cost of doing business in the 21st century” (Board member Tamar Galatzan) and “I can’t speak to that”(project leader Ron Chandler).

“Any business considers what it will take to stay in business, but not LAUSD. The bond funds will be gone, so the only other source of income is the general fund.

“Is the State of California going to bail out LAUSD? They have already demonstrated that they can’t or won’t even provide the basic needed services, like nurses, counselors, libraries, working bathrooms and water fountains, siesmic safety, etc., etc.????

“The problem is that Deasy won’t be around to be held accountable.

“But, we, the citizens of Los Angeles will be left with a totally bankrupt school system and no way to put the pieces back together.”

The Vergara trial in Los Angeles prompted this National Board Certified Teacher to reflect on the power dynamics in LAUSD. And how it affects the students. The trial is funded by a very wealthy tech entrepreneur whose legal team claims that due process rights for teachers denies the civil rights of minority students because it is harder to fire teachers if they get a hearing. Superintendent John Deasy testified for the plaintiffs who are suing his districts because he says he can’t fire ineffective teachers.

The classroom teacher wrote this commentary on the trial and the issues:

“The Vergara case is truly the epicenter of everything wrong with the direction of American public education.

“Sorry in advance for this long post, but this case connects a lot of dots…from my classroom in Los Angeles…to Wall Street…to The White House.

“The words in this case are twisted in Orwellian ways, where a term like “Civil Rights” gets to be used by the oppressors instead of those trying to liberate kids from their dictums.

“Teaching in the Los Angeles Unified School District is an exercise in futility these days. Watching this court case unfold with its Trojan Horse arguments about the best education for students is like hearing the 1% argue that what the financial system needs is less regulation so that the poor people of the country can be free to achieve their American Dream.

“Their words are all about “liberty” and “justice” and “equality”, but it is obvious who reaps the benefits of those terms.

“It is no coincidence that our District Superintendent John Deasy, was the first witness called to testify against the teachers of his own district.

“He knew that he had the backing of the very rich benefactors who have paved his life in education. He keeps winning because there is no realistic way to challenge his authority.

“The Editorial Board of the LA TIMES, like the Editorial Boards of papers like The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Chicago Tribune are enamored by this sort of superintendent–a man who is brought in to kick teachers’ whining butts and bring up test scores. The cosmetic nature of HOW they do it is apparent to anyone who looks at it.

“They have lowered graduation requirements and (as in our school) have brought in empty BS “Advisory” classes that the kids can get full credit for attending (that’s 40 additional credits after four years!!!) so that graduation rates can be boosted. No one is going to do an in depth analysis of this because the public wants results! Arne Duncan can give a big hooray for Deasy and company because the graduation figures are going up! Numbers don’t lie!

“Are our kids “smarter” because John Deasy is our superintendent? No. The pedagogy that Deasy believes in is small-minded and literal. If a teacher in LA is doing great things in his or her classroom, the chances are it’s IN SPITE of the District, not because of it. The only true education emphasis that Deasy champions is the same one that most of the 1% from Bill Gates to Barack Obama to Arne Duncan adhere to: Get the most kids through the education factory they oversee (and often profit from) towards the goal of making them somewhat competent in the world to not go out and steal. It is a very low bar. Very few schools and administrations treat education as a mind-blowing, explosive and subversive experience. That would be about the last thing on John Deasy’s agenda.

“For Deasy and those who back him, Education is defined by them alone, using their own, limited metrics about what they think constitutes “education”.

“For Deasy’s system, creative teaching is seen only as an added bonus–not a primary function. If it happens, great, but it is not the most important aspect of education. Creativity and the emphasis on a critical understanding of the world is not the thing the system values most. Deasy, Duncan, Gates and Pearson value kids responding to its metrics. Actually, if those metrics are achieved, then the Education System says the “product” is successfully educated.

“The truth is that the System will NEVER get the results from this urban population of kids (or for most others either) because they neglect to deal with a variety of factors: Poverty, environment, lack of parental wherewithal, economic forces that dictate a certain path for the working class that Deasy oversees.

“But Deasy’s route to “success” was vastly different from that likely of the students he oversees. In fact, ironically, his path was much more “American” in its orchestration of how the country actually works: Inheritance, privilege and obsequiousness. Although most people are tired of hearing about Deasy’s PhD “controversy” (http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/education/blog/2008/10/prince_georges_says_goodbye_to.html) it is always worth remembering because it is a perfect metaphor for how Deasy has always gotten his way throughout his entire education life. With the tremendous support of a financial power structure that has bolstered his career from Day One, Deasy has been the beneficiary of those whose interests he promotes. First it was the financial interests of billionaires Bill Gates and later Eli Broad which morph conveniently into the political interests of the neo-liberal Democrat agenda.

“Brought in and imposed upon the city by former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Deasy consolidated his support by having Eli Broad pony up millions into LAUSD to “buy” support for him. Deasy has enjoyed the unfaltering support of The United Way, the Chamber of Commerce, multi-millionaire Jamie Alter-Lynton’s LA SCHOOL REPORT and The LA Times…behind these entities are all men and women of great wealth who have thrown their considerable influence backing Deasy’s “Reform” Agenda but do not send their own kids to LAUSD. Our current Mayor Eric Garcetti is a product of the UCLA Lab School and the tony Harvard Westlake Prep (as Mayor Emmanuel sends his kids to University of Chicago Lab where the Obama kids also attended).

“No matter.

“Like many other inner cities with very separate education agendas for other people’s children, these socially-liberal Titans of LA Power pull the strings for a school system that is both racist and classist. The type of education that Deasy prescribes for the kids of LAUSD would never go over in his former school district of Santa Monica. Educated, mostly white and financially secure parents would not tolerate the low bar for their own kids. They would not tolerate the class size that our students endure and are supposed to “buck up” and learn in, nor the pitiful lack of electives, art, drama or field trip opportunities.

“As for LAUSD teachers? Most suffer in silence. Our system’s teachers are cowed and intimidated. Where do they look for support? How did they become the enemy? Hundreds of teachers in “jail” in LA. Deasy gets a 91% disapproval rating from the very people he leads and it doesn’t garner a shrug. Imagine if the Secretary of Defense got that rating from the troops or any municipal Police Chief from the officers on the street? There would be calls for firing immediately, but teachers are demonized and can be ignored. Everyone from Obama to Bill Gates to Arne Duncan gives lip service to “WE LOVE TEACHERS!” but it is in much the same way as Colonel Sanders LOVES his chickens.

“Only a neo-liberal, corporatist agenda could get a piece of agitprop like the anti-union teacher film WON’T BACK DOWN at the last Democratic Convention. Wall Street loves people like Arne Duncan and John Deasy and Barack Obama. No matter that these people never had any experience in public urban education before they rose to power, they have sought to undermine teachers and student opportunities at every level.

“They have no shame of putting my students in a real-life movie that actually SUBVERTS their interests. They will back law suits like Vergara v. California stating its “for the kids”. Deasy will claim that his teachers are the problem, instead of the social issues that hold students’ lives in their sway. Ghastly, Deasy then claims that its HIS OWN self-serving, self-aggrandizing, self-benefiting educational policies (and those of Gates, Broad, Pearson, et. al) that are the life preservers for the kids.

“Our kids are afloat in a desperate sea and the “rescue” ship they send is manned by cannibals.

“The LAUSD School Board is a feckless lot. It is too much inside baseball to go into the individual psychologies of the seven members. Suffice to say they read the newspapers and are always VERY concerned how they appear to the editorial boards who keep them in line. Education is political and its big business. To say otherwise is ignorant at best and downright disingenuous at worst. I do not hold out much hope for this sorry lot because they are all in over their heads.

“Without rehashing the iPad story, LA’s citizens got upset because they saw it as a ridiculous waste of their money–while teachers saw it as horrifying waste of resources and priorities. We were told by our leader, Deasy, that iPads were a Civil Rights issue which was met with universal derision. We are now forced to figure out some way of threading the needle of asking the public to actually give MORE to public education which actually IS a Civil Rights issue, but it has been polluted by Deasy’s “version” of Civil Rights. When our own district stabs us in the back, undercutting our desire to make the public understand what the system truly needs, then what hope do we have to actually do right by our kids?

“John Deasy, Bill Gates, Arne Duncan and Barack Obama have miserably failed all urban kids. Their education is a disaster for my students. But the people who have the influence and power to change it don’t realize it (charitably?) or they simply BELIEVE the “philanthropists” when they say something is true and necessary because they also NEED those people for their political survival. And they get their backing because they back them. And so on and so on and so on….

“To connect the dots even further in this depressing spirit, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) has announced that Bill Gates will be a keynote speaker at their 2014 Teaching and Learning conference next month. As a National Board teacher, I am horrified by this entity that is supposed to recognize the excellence in teaching is becoming just a shill front. Education is political and the National Board steadfastly refuses to acknowledge the destruction of public education. In fact, Gates has given so much money to this organization that it has created a toxic influence in the organization, reducing the “reliability” of what National Board constitutes great teaching.

“My disenfranchised classroom loses out simply because we can’t buy our way into a seat at the table.

“My kids can’t “buy” their way into a PhD.

“My kids have to accept what Deasy and The LA Times tells them is necessary for them.

“Who is our court of appeal in this system?

“Vergara v. California is the rich’s power grab. American public education is on trial not by “the people” but by the oligarchs who use it as a punching board to misdirect the culpability of many of these elites in creating the societal pathologies these kids navigate everyday.

“The true enemy of the nine students whose names are cynically being used in the suit are not their teachers–but those who exploit their desire for a true education–and will replace their trust with fat bank accounts in someone else’s name at a desk very far away (and with a much better window view) than theirs at the school’s they originally came from.”

This was written by Kipp Dawson, an experienced teacher of English and social studies in middle school in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh won a large grant from the Gates Foundation to apply its ideas about evaluating teachers by the test scores of their students. Things have not gone well, as Dawson reporters here, especially since the city schools have a Broad superintendent who is a true believer in test scores as the measure of one’s worth.

Before becoming a teacher, Kipp Dawson spent ten years as a coal miner. She knows the importance of collaboration with colleagues. In the mines, her life depended on it every day.

She writes:

Education “reformers” are pointing their “effective teaching” arrows in precisely the wrong direction. In real life, anyone who wants to see really bad teaching can walk into any “highly effective” teacher’s classroom in public school in any Broad-trained-superintendent’s district infested by any Gates-type teacher “evaluation” system and see what fear has turned “effective teaching” into.

The day begins with an administrator’s announcement over the PA system of how many days are left until the BIG test.

Children, our precious children, then go from room to room (or the little ones stay in one room) led by a teacher who fears every moment for her/his job, and “knows” the way to keep it is to get those high test scores from those actual real children from the real world who are going to make or break her/his employment by which circles they fill in on those answer sheets during all of those days. So fear guides her/him as lessons are planned, as letters are sent home to parents, and as children’s time in school is more and more frenziedly taken up with frenzied, fear-inspired “teaching” of how to fill in those bubbles, by golly, we’re gonna make this happen, aren’t we, kids. And if any parent of a “high achieving” child dares mention opting out of these tests, fear guides the teacher’s response — fear based on real possibilities that in and of themselves make this whole scene draconian.

This is what classrooms across this country are becoming/have become for our beautiful kids — kids who come to us to get away from the growing poverty and violence which in too many cases controls their lives outside of school.

Fear.

Fear is coloring the days of children and teachers alike. THIS is what “education reform” ala Broad and Gates hath wrought. This is what we teachers and our organizations need to recognize, stand up against, and fight. Alongside our real allies. Along with parents who are telling the truth about what is going on even as they do all they can to stop the attacks on us teachers, too many of whom have been pushed into being agents of this horror.

Let us raise high again, out of the dust this mess is creating, the images of what real teaching and learning can be like (for a quick refresher, go back to chapter 9 of Diane Ravitch’s “Death and Life of the Great American Schopl System” — “What Would Mrs. Ratliff Do?”). We have to stop this madness.

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