Archives for category: Corporate Reformers

Denny Taylor is Professor Emerita of Literacy Studies at Hofstra University. She has won many awards for her writing about literacy and literature. She is also the founder and CEO of Garn Press, which published the book I am reviewing (and also published Anthony Cody’s The Educator and the Oligarch).

 

Save Our Children, Save Our School, Pearson Broke the Golden Rule is a political satire about the current education “reform” movement. It takes place in an imaginary “Cafe Griensteidl” in New York City, at 72nd Street and Broadway, where the author and a friend meet for coffee. In this comedy, the leading players in the “reform” movement appear at the cafe and get into discussion or debate with the author. Nine powerful men happen to be in the cafe, including Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch, Joel Klein, and Michael Barber (of Pearson). They banter with the author and her friend. She makes clear that these nine powerful men know nothing about education yet are taking control of the American public school system.

 

The men leave, and in the last “Act” of the book, twelve eminent female scholars (living and dead) talk about what is happening and the need to resist. The chapter is headed by this statement: “In which twelve venerable women scholars with more than 500 years of teaching experience refuse to capitulate to the demands made by nine rich men who have no teaching qualifications or teaching experience.” Hannah Arendt, Virginia Woolf, Simone Weil, Adrienne Rich, Yetta Goodman, Toni Morrison, and more are there. As the wise women speak, people come into the cafe and make YouTube videos, Tweet, or just listen. Yetta begins to rap. Horns honk. Traffic jams form at the corner of 72nd Street and Broadway. The women at the table clap along with Yetta’s rapping. The women talk about how to stop the corporate takeover of U.S. education.

 

Denny Taylor, sitting at the table with the great women, says, “Children have a right to a free and public education. For the pursuit of human knowledge and understanding that is free of corporate greed.”

 

“We should not have to ask permission for teachers to teach in developmentally appropriate ways that inspire and excite, and enhance our children’s incredible capacity to learn–

 

“–for the sheer joyfulness of their lives and for their lightness of being.”

 

The great women agree: We are and always will be defenders of every child’s right to a childhood free of despots and demons, except those they imagine when playing with friends….”

 

The author says, “Dump Pearson….Barber and Pearson are taking our children in the wrong direction,” she says. “His Whole System of Global Education Revolution is a global social catastrophe, a total system failure.”

 

Others ask how to stop this recklessness. The author responds, “The madness will stop if we refuse to participate. The struggle for democracy is always ground up….Make it a crime for oligarchs to interfere with democratic social systems. It’s vote tampering on a national scale.” She adds, referring to Bill Gates, “He’s violating the rights of fifty million children, jeopardizing their future. Send him to jail.”

 

“Tell Gates we choose decency and democracy and not the indecency of his oligarchy. He does not have the power to dictate how our children are taught in public schools.

 

“Tell him we refuse to participate in his Common Core experiments. Ban the use of galvanic skin devices in affective computing trials that he’s funded.

 

“Tell him to stop wasting his money. To spend it for the Common Good. Build new public schools. Create parks in poor urban neighborhoods. Make sure there are health centers. Medical care for everyone in the community.

 

“Tell him to put his money into Earth-friendly low-income housing.

 

“Libraries. Media centers.

 

“Work with local leaders. Make sure they’re not exploited…

 

“Pearson could too. Tell Barber we take back our independence. That US public schools are no longer under Pearson’s colonial rule.”

 

The book is funny, learned, and zany. If you want to order it, go to http://www.garnpress.com.

The Network for Public Education has endorsed Bennett Kayser for re-election to the Los Angeles school board. Kayser is a retired educator. He is a strong supporter of public education. He has fought for reduced class sizes. He opposes efforts to deny due process to teachers. He opposes privatization of public education.

He is enemy number one to the California Charter Schools Association Advocates, the political action arm of the wealthy charter industry.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the charter lobby has far outspent Kayser in its effort to defeat him with a pro-charter candidate.

The charter association has distributed malicious flyers falsely implying that Kayser is a racist and anti-Latino. The flyers feature a picture of Governor Jerry Brown, falsely implying that the popular governor endorsed their candidate (he did not). Their TV ads have ridiculed Kayser’s disability (he has Parkinson’s). The anti-Kayser campaign has been scurrilous and shameful.

The LA Times says:

“Through Wednesday’s campaign filings, the charter group had spent $699,688 to support [its candidate] Rodriguez. UTLA had spent $384,109 for Kayser. Those totals far surpass donations directly to the candidates as well as the spending totals for the other contested board races.

“Since September, the donors to the charter PAC include Netflix Chief Executive Reed Hastings ($1.5 million), former New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg ($450,000), Jim Walton of the Wal-Mart founding family ($250,000) and local philanthropist Eli Broad ($155,000). All are longtime charter school backers with a broad interest in education.”

These billionaires have a specific interest in education: they want to replace public schools with charter schools, and in the case of Walton, with vouchers. They also believe in disruption as a strategy for change. Disruption is not good for children or education.

Billionaire Reed Hastings told the charter association that he looks forward to the day when local school boards are gone and almost all schools are charters.

Bennett Kayser wants to improve the public schools, not replace or destroy them. Every high-performing nation in the world has a public school system, not a system of privately managed schools.

That is why the Network for Public Education endorses Bennett Kayser for re-election to the Los Angeles school board.

Jeannie Kaplan, who was elected to two terms on the Denver school board, explains here that reform has not worked despite a lavish PR campaign to boast of “results.”

She begins:

“I have been suffering from DPS and “reform” fatigue, hence my recent silence. But several things have occurred that have catapulted me back to my computer: multiple emails from Superintendent Tom Boasberg touting DPS’ success; newspaper stories telling the truth about public education; conversations with real “boots on the ground” DPS educators and parents; and former DPS superintendent, current U.S. Senator Michael Bennet’s somewhat over the top introduction of his childhood friend and current DPS superintendent Tom Boasberg’s appearance at a No Child Left Behind re-authorization panel where the Senator reiterated the DPS success myth. When Senator Bennet finished, committee chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said, “I think that boils down to ‘he [Boasberg] cleaned up after you left.’” To which Senator Bennet responded, “You can’t even know half of the truth.”

Kaplan proceeds to tell the whole truth, not less than half the truth. After ten years of high-stakes testing and charters, achievement gains have been meager. Denver schools are increasingly segregated. The achievement gap has increased. Pension costs have grown, along with debt. Teacher turnover has increased. And local control has been sacrificed as out-of-state money pours in from wealthy individuals and national groups like Stand for Children and Democrats for Education Reform to elect reformers to the school board.

Read her post to learn the truth that neither Senator Bennett nor Superintendent Boasberg mentioned at the NCLB hearings.

In a surprise result, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel failed to receive 50% plus one of the vote and was forced into a runoff with Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.

Emanuel will go down in history as the mayor who closed 50 public schools in a single day, most enrolling children of color. This action is without precedent in U.S. history.

“With 95.7% of precincts reporting, Emanuel had 45.3% of the vote and Garcia had 33.9%.

“Emanuel, who raised more than his four rivals combined, buried his challengers in $7 million in campaign advertising in his unsuccessful attempt to avoid the runoff.

“He even turned to President Obama, who Emanuel served as White House chief of staff from 2009 to 2010, as his chief surrogate….

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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel speaks to the press after leaving a restaurant where more
CHICAGO — Rahm Emanuel was dealt a tough political blow on Tuesday, after he was forced into a runoff election to hold onto his seat as mayor of the Windy City.

Emanuel, who raised about $15 million for the campaign, finished first in the five candidate field, but fell far short of garnering the 50% plus one vote he needed to win outright and avoid a runoff election. He will now face the second place finisher, Cook County Commissioner, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, on April 7.
With 95.7% of precincts reporting, Emanuel had 45.3% of the vote and Garcia had 33.9%.
“We came a long way, and we have a little bit further to go,” Emanuel said.
Chicago ceased holding partisan primaries in 1995, when it switched to the current election format. It marks the first time that the city will hold a runoff mayoral election.
Emanuel, who raised more than his four rivals combined, buried his challengers in $7 million in campaign advertising in his unsuccessful attempt to avoid the runoff.
.
He even turned to President Obama, who Emanuel served as White House chief of staff from 2009 to 2010, as his chief surrogate….

“Emanuel’s latest television advertisement featured a clip of Obama wrapping Emanuel in a hug at the Pullman event and a sound bite of the president touting the mayor as “making sure that every Chicagoan in every neighborhood gets the fair shot at success that they deserve.”

“But the president’s influence wasn’t able to help Emanuel close the deal.
“We need to upgrade our communities by building more and better schools,” said Tracy McGrady, a college student and part-time construction worker. “Instead, Rahm is closing them.”

“In Chicago’s Bronzville neighborhood, a predominantly African-American neighborhood, Emanuel supporters appeared to be a rare breed.”

Every so often, I run into someone who says that he or she cannot take seriously the claim that there is such a thing as a “privatization” movement. They think that charter schools are public schools (I do not) and they scoff at any concern about for-profit schools. They say things like, “There have always been for-profit businesses in education, selling tests, textbooks, supplies, etc., why does it matter if some corporations run schools for profit?” In their eyes, corporate reform is innovative and risky, and no one—not even the for-profit corporations—is trying to privatize public education.

 

To anyone who questions the existence of the privatization movement, I recommend Doug Martin’s “Hoosier School Heist.” Martin is a blogger who holds a Ph.D. in nineteenth century American literature. He is a native of Indiana who is deeply versed in that state’s school politics and its major (and minor) players. His book is eye-opening; actually, his book is eye-popping. It is a no-holds-barred critique of Indiana’s politically and financially powerful privatization movement.

 

Martin’s critique shows the linkages among the free-marketeers, the Religious Right, and the greedy.

 

A few examples of his snappy style:

 

“Academic progress is irrelevant to voucher supporters, for the goal is not to improve schools through competition, as they claim, but to completely dismantle traditional public schools altogether. In fact, those calling for school privatization don’t want to hold anyone with profit motives accountable, as Florida has proven.”

 

He recognizes that vouchers and charters drain funding from public schools, leaving the latter with fewer teachers, fewer aides, fewer programs—“so for-profit education management companies can take them over with temporary teachers or justify starting charter schools by deeming the neighborhood schools as ‘failing.’”

 

He sees why Wall Street is involved in the charter industry. “Making money from disasters is a Wall Street specialty, and investors have jumped on the opportunity for school privatization. Besides generating tax-exempt bonds, stocks, and other shady financial gimmicks, school privatization allows big bank CEOs, private equity firm honchos, and hedge fund managers to collect interest on loans to non-unionized charter schools which employ a temporary teacher workforce….Unlike traditional public school boards, charter school boards are unelected, undemocratic, and cloaked in mystery. Their conflicts of interest enable schemes like high rent to waste public education money.”

 

Martin challenges the corporate-sponsored claims that the public schools are failing to produce a good workforce. He says that Indiana’s newspapers and TV stations “advertise corporate school talking points, portray front group spokespeople as ‘experts,’ and seldom, if ever, question that profit motives and rigged research behind the corporate-sponsored statements that our schools are failing.”

 

The Republican-dominated legislature has taken steps to cripple the funding of public schools. “To sneak more politically connected for-profit charter schools into Indiana, in 2010 legislators cut $300 million annually from the public school budget and mandated tax caps to purposely ensure the destruction of public schools….Since the state controls the purse strings, Republican lawmakers have purposely bolted in place everything needed to start closing down Indiana schools and expanding for-profit charter schools.”

 

Martin shows how the overuse of standardized testing has benefited corporate politicians like Mitch Daniels. Not only do they stifle the critical thinking skills needed in a democratic society, not only do they send millions to testing corporations, but they demoralize and drive out good teachers. This too sets public schools up for failure.

 

One of the valuable aspects of Doug Martin’s book is his careful dissection of the sponsors of corporate reform in Indiana. A key player is called the Mind Trust, which Martin cites as an exemplar of “crony capitalism.” Martin writes:

 

“The Mind Trust typifies America’s counterfeit political Left. Mouthing the rhetoric of class warfare, civil rights, and female empowerment, the mock liberals at Education Sector, the Center for American Progress, and the New America Foundation, all supportive of the Mind Trust specifically or school privatization in general (and most bringing home six-figure salaries), attack teachers unions and public schools and connive to mount in place a school system based on corporate profit, one which disenfranchises the female teachers and minority and poor students they claim to be helping.”

 

Martin calls out the enablers of the school privatization movement, such as Eli Lilly and the Lilly Endowment, reliable funders of privatization activities, and of Teach for America and the New Teacher Project, which will recruit the temporary teachers needed for the charters. He cites the power of ALEC in the Indiana legislature, whose members pushed to evaluate teachers by their students’ test scores and to judge colleges of education by the test scores of students taught by their graduates. He provides overviews of the anti-teacher, anti-union, privatization agenda of Stand for Children, DFER (Democrats for Education Reform), the Christian right, the Bradley Foundation, the DeVos family of Michigan, and the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), which promotes charters and vouchers.

 

Martin doesn’t offer any suggestions about how to combat the well-funded, interconnected organizations that are advancing the privatization agenda. His book contains valuable information about the privatization movement, its goals, its major players, and its strategies. He leaves it to voters to figure out how to save public education in Indiana.

 

Whether or not you live in Indiana, you should read this book. The major players like DFER and BAEO operate nationally. The activities in Indiana follow a script that is being enacted in many states, probably including yours.

 

Hoosier School Heist is listed on amazon.com, or you can obtain a copy by going to the website http://www.hoosierschoolheist.com.

Gary Rubinstein deconstructed the claim made by the NYC charter industry that 143,000 students are “trapped in failing schools.”

As Rubinstein shows, a billionaire-backed group called “Families for Excellent Schools” decided arbitrarily that any school where less than 10% passed the new Common Core test was a “failing school.” He points out that only 30% “passed” the Common Core tests (including charter schools, which had the same pass rate as public schools). If Families for Excellent Schools had used a 20% pass rate instead of 10%, he notes, then FES could have bemoaned the “Forgotten Three-Quarters.”

Rubinstein discovered that 90% of the parents in the 371 schools arbitrarily labeled “failing” would recommend their school to other parents. Obviously, the parents don’t believe their children are “trapped.”

The claim about “children trapped in failung schools” comes from a “report” by the Walton Family-funded “Families for Excellent Schools.” This is the same group that hastily raised and spent $5-6 million last year to stop Mayor Bill de Blasio’s effort to charge rent to charter schools using public space. With money spent so freely on the airwaves and in Albany, Governor Cuomo adopted charter schools as his cause (only 3% of the state’s students attend charter schools). With his support, the Legislature passed a bill requiring NYC to provide free space in public schools to charters and to pay their rent if they located in private space.

http://www.brettdickerson.net/blogs-are-critical-to-re-establishing-public-schools/

I am writing today from another country. I am allegedly on vacation. I have a tech glitch. I upgraded my iPad to the latest software, and now it won’t insert links into posts. Instead it pastes old links. So I am posting the link upfront.

This is a terrific post from Oklahoma that contrasts the agenda of the two major media outlets, owned by billionaires, with the agenda of bloggers, who are not billionaires.

It is very informative. I hope you will read it. One of those billionaires is Phillip Anschutz, who lives in Colorado, not Oklahoma. One of his many corporations produced “Waiting for Superman” and “Won’t Back Down.” Another owns Regal Cinemas, the nation’s largest theater chain (2500 screens). Another is a major fracking operation. Among his political activities: fighting gay rights in Colorado and California. That only skims the surface of Anschutz’s commercial and political activism.

Paul Thomas of Furman University writes that he has a new perspective about social media. He used to get into heated debates on Twitter with “reformers,” arguing about their ideas and practices. But now he says he won’t do it anymore. He believes that when you debate a proposition, you legitimate the other side. If someone says “poverty doesn’t matter,” why debate such a silly statement?

 

Peter Greene disagrees with Thomas; he says we must engage because the public needs to be informed. He is unwilling to let error and misguided opinion shape public policy about public education.

 

Thomas writes that public policy in education has been dominated in recent years by non-educators:

 

Historically and significantly during the last three decades, U.S. public education policy and public discourse have been dominated by politicians, political appointees, billionaire hobbyists, pundits, and self-appointed entrepreneurs—most of whom having no or little experience or expertise in the field of education or education scholarship….

 

Over about two years of blogging at my own site and engaging regularly on Twitter and other social media platforms, I have gradually adopted a stance that I do not truck with those who are disproportionately dominating the field of and public discourse about education.

 

Yes, I have done my share of calling out, discrediting, and arguing with, but except on rare occasions, I am done with that. Those who have tried to include me in the “@” wars on Twitter may have noticed my silence when the other side is added.

 

Each time we invoke their names, their flawed ideas, or their policies, we are joining the tables they have set….

 

Peter Greene says, this is our house, and we should not let the entrepreneurs set the table or own it.

 

I agree with Peter. We cannot allow public education policy to be shaped without regard to facts, evidence, or experience. Peter gives the example of Common Core: for a long time, reformers claimed that CC was written by teachers. That claim was so thoroughly and frequently debunked that one seldom hears it anymore (now we hear that it was written by the narion’s governors…as if).

Like Paul, I have argued with “reformers” on Twitter. Almost always, it is a fruitless exercise. I can’t convince them, they can’t convince me, not with 140 characters, not with essays or even books. Yes, we must build solidarity.

But I am still a believer in the value of marshaling facts and evidence to prove that the test-based accountability, the teacher-bashing, and privatization schemes now promoted by leading foundations and the U.S. Department of Education are harmful to our children and our society.

 

What do you think?

 

 

 

The Néw York Post, owned by billionaire Rupert Murdoch (who has contributed millions to charters), ridicules the idea that Wall Street hedge fund managers have motives other than kind-hearted philanthropy for pouring millions of dollars into pro-charter lobbying. The chief editorial writer attributes these suspicions to the teachers’ union and Zephyr Teachout.

Let’s see. Readers of this blog know that hedge fund money is pouring into state and local elections to support candidates who favor privatization, who want to eliminate unions, who love the Néw Orleans model of wiping out public schools and replacing experienced teachers with Teach for America recruits (who won’t stay around long enough to qualify for a pension).

You never hear them complain about budget cuts or segregation. They think that charters will counter poverty even though charters perform no better than public schools when they enroll the same students. They don’t care that high-performing charters do not “backfill,” meaning that they don’t replace kids who leave and they end up with a small graduating class.

They pour millions into lobbying for charters (and in some states, vouchers) because they are kind.

Toni Jackson, a teacher in Memphis, wrote a powerful article about what “reform” is doing to her city, and especially what it is doing to black and brown children.

 

She writes:

 

There is a stench in the air in Memphis and it’s a smell that is permeating throughout black school districts. One can get a whiff of it in Newark, N.J., Philadelphia, New Orleans and most urban areas that received Race To The Top federal dollars for education. This awful stench derived from education reform and it’s been perpetrated on minorities with lower incomes and those who live under a lower socio economic status.

 

This stench has led corporations and politicians to the belief that they can control the education of African American and minority children (black and brown students) simply because they were granted millions of dollars by the government. They want to buy our children and they believe the federal government has given them the power to do so with the money allotted to improve student achievement.

 

So these Nashville politicians have neatly packaged the Shelby County School District, which is 85 percent African American, in a box where students are behind, teachers are ineffective, teaching jobs are tied to test scores, and student scores are tied to whether a school is slated for takeover or is closed altogether.

 

These politicians have aligned themselves with rich corporate types and they have passed laws that will give themselves total and complete power over urban schools, urban teachers, urban children, and young black and brown minds from K-12 grades in Memphis, which will lead to generational control. We have seen this before, Memphis. We have fought this fight before and now 50 years later, we are facing the same thing our grandparents faced when they went against a power structure designed to have access and control over the minds of our children. It was called the civil rights era and the legal case was Brown vs. Board of Education. That is where the state would like to take us, but we’re not going back there.

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