Archives for category: Corporate Reformers

Jason Stanford attended a conference in Austin to mark the 50th anniversary of passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And don’t you know, the people who were responsible for No Child Left Behind think they acted in the tradition of civil rights leaders.

He writes:

“At the Civil Rights Summit celebrating the Civil Rights Act’s 50th birthday, everyone agreed that equal opportunity to education was a civil right. If that’s true, then who are today’s Freedom Riders and who is standing in the schoolhouse door? Education reformers see themselves as modern-day civil rights heroes, but the real continuation of non-violent protest can be found in the parents and students in the grassroots opt out movement that is refusing to take standardized tests.

“In this fight, the power is almost all on the side of those who assume you can make a pig heavier by weighing it a lot, to put it in terms LBJ would have liked. And without any sense of shame or embarrassment, those who created this testing culture see themselves as his descendents.

“On the issue of education, we’re dealing with the meaning of America, and the extent of its promise, and in this cause the passion and energy of Lyndon Baines Johnson still guides us forward,” said George W. Bush in his speech at the LBJ Presidential Library.

“Bush started it with No Child Left Behind, but Barack Obama’s Race to the Top is no better. Education Sec. Arne Duncan called Common Core “the single greatest thing to happen to public education in America since Brown v. Board of Education.”

“One of the problems with this policy discussion is that the pro-testing crowd can’t understand how anyone could be against using tests to measure learning.”

Stanford writes that Bush, Margaret Spellings, and Sandy Kress can’t see any problems with the current round of high-stakes testing that can’t be fixed by more and better tests. One longs to see he three of them take the eighth grade math tests and publish their scores. I am willing to bet they might be less enthusiastic if they did.

Jason Stanford thinks that the true heirs of the cilvil rights protests are not the testers but the parents and students who opt out. They do not face the physical peril of the original civil rights movement, but they have demonstrated they are willing to stand on principle for what is right, without money or power to support them, just the conviction that the standardized testing industry does not hold the key to civil rights or equity or justice or better education.

Frankly, the people who brought us NCLB should stay quiet until it disappears into the mists of history, unlamented.

One of the most absurd conceits of the “reformers” is that they are leaders of the civil rights movement of our time. They bust unions. They strip teachers of hard-won due process rights. They include in their ranks the titans of Wall Street. How long can they pretend that they have any common ground with Martin Luther King Jr., who died while helping the sanitation workers of Memphis who wanted a union ?

In this post, Julian Vasquez Heilig conducts a mock interview with labor leader and civil rights leader Cesar Chavez. Heilig seeks to show how Chavez would see today’s Status Quo billionaires and their apologists.

A sample:

“Q: How about charter and voucher approaches that help the few at the expense of the many?

A: We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community… Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.”

Anthony Cody here describes teachers as “reluctant warriors,” as men and women who chose a profession because they wanted to teach, not to engage in political battles over their basic rights as professionals.

 

The profession is under attack, as everyone now knows. Pensions are under attack. The right to due process is under attack. The policymakers want inexperienced, inexpensive teachers who won’t talk back, who won’t collect a pension, who will turn over rapidly:

 

In years past we formed unions and professional organizations to get fair pay, so women would get the same pay as men. We got due process so we could not be fired at an administrator’s whim. We got pensions so we could retire after many years of service.

But career teachers are not convenient or necessary any more. We cost too much. We expect our hard-won expertise to be recognized with respect and autonomy. We talk back at staff meetings, and object when we are told we must follow mindless scripts, and prepare for tests that have little value to our students.

No need for teachers to think for themselves, to design unique challenges to engage their students. The educational devices will be the new source of innovation. The tests will measure which devices work best, and the market will make sure they improve every year. Teachers are guides on the side, making sure the children and devices are plugged in properly to their sockets.

 

First, the privatizers came for the schools of the poor, because their parents and communities were powerless and were easy marks for privatization. Then they came for the union and the teachers:

 

Schools of the poor were the first targets. It was easy to stigmatize schools attended by African Americans and Latinos, by English learners and the children of the disempowered. Use test scores to label them failures, dropout factories, close them down, turn them over to privatizers. But this was just the beginning. And now, as Arne Duncan made clear with his dismissal of “white suburban moms,” they want all the schools, and are prepared to use poor performance on the Common Core tests to fuel the “schools are failing” narrative.

 

Teacher unions are under ruthless attack by billionaires, who conveniently own the media, and provide the very “facts” to guide public discourse. Due process is maligned and destroyed under the guise of “increasing professionalism.” Democratic control of local schools is undermined by mayoral control and the expansion of privately managed charter schools.

 

Congress and state legislatures have been purchased wholesale through bribes legalized by the Supreme Court, which has given superhuman power to corporate “citizens.”

 

Teachers, by our nature cooperators respectful of authority, are slow to react. Can the destruction of public education truly be anyone’s goal? The people responsible for this erosion rarely state their intentions. With smiles and praise for teachers, they remove our autonomy and make our jobs depend on test scores. With calls for choice and civil rights, they re-segregate our schools, and institute zero-tolerance discipline policies in their no-excuses charter schools. They push for larger classes in public schools but send their own children to schools with no more than 16 students in a room. Corporate philanthropies anoint teacher “leaders” who are willing to echo reform themes – sometimes even endorsed by our national teacher unions.

 

Now, he says, as the truth gets out about the privatization movement and its bipartisan support, teachers are starting to fight back. They are joining the BATs, they are joining the Network for Public Education, they are speaking out, they are (as in Seattle) refusing to give the tests, they are organizing (as in New York City) to protest the low quality of the tests.

 

Join in the fight against high-stakes testing, which is a central element in the privatization movement. They use the data to target teachers, principals, and public schools. They use the data to destroy public education. Don’t cooperate. Join the reluctant warriors. One person alone will be hammered. Do it with your colleagues, stand together, and be strong.

 

 

 

 

In Dallas, billionaire John Arnold is supporting an initiative to turn the whole district into a “home rule district” or a “charter district.”

 

The organization that is collecting signatures has a typical reformer name: “Support Our Public Schools.” When today’s reformers say they want to “support our public schools,” it usually means the opposite. Buyer beware.

 

But what is a home rule district?

 

Wade Crowder, a veteran Dallas teacher, explains that the goal is to remove the elected school board and replace it with an unaccountable appointed board. As is usual with today’s corporate reforms, the prelude to a sweeping plan for deregulation is claims of failure, failure, failure.

 

Actually, the supporters of the home rule district have been vague about their goals.

 

But Julian Vasquez Heilig says that what is happening is a “hostile corporate takeover.”

 

If you open the link in Julian’s blog, you will see the names of the extremely wealthy people who are behind “Support Our Public Schools.”

 

None of them has a record for having supported public schools in the past.

 

They have contributed to school board races, but not to Carla Ranger, who is the most outspoken supporter of public schools on the Dallas school board.

 

Early indications are that voters are suspicious of the motives of the monied clan that wants to control the public schools their children attend.

 

Julian writes:

 

“Home Rule is an emerging story currently flying under the radar in the national and statewide Texas media. Millionaires and billionaire(s) are quietly funding a “Home Rule” hostile takeover attempt of all public schools in Dallas, Texas. Yes, that’s right… ALL OF THEM.”

 

And he adds:

 

Who is Support our Public Schools?
Who are the behind-the-scenes players in the Home Rule takeover proposal?
Who is John Arnold?
What are the steps to the Home Rule takeover in state code?
What “rules” will Dallas not be “free” from as a Home Rule Charter District?
What “rules” will Dallas be “free” from after a Home Rule takeover?
Is the Home Rule takeover really necessary?
Is a charter district takeover more democracy and local control or less?
Have a politically appointed school board and mayoral control been a successful approach?
Have charters outperformed traditional public schools across Texas?
How does the Texas and Dallas investment in education compared to peers?
If not Home Rule, what reforms should DISD and SOPS commit to?
Some of the questions addressed in the brief are more specific to the Dallas community. However, several have import for the state of Texas and public education nationally such as: Who is John Arnold? and… Have a politically appointed school board and mayoral control been a successful approach?

 

Keeping up with the billionaires and millionaires’ education privatization hobby is a lot of work. Maybe we could suggest to them that they get a regular hobby like N-scale model trains or do more snow skiing?”

 

 

EduShyster needs our help to go to Camp Philos to hear the great thoughts of such brilliant educational philosophers as Governor Andrew Cuomo, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson (Michelle Rhee’s husband), Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, and Whatz-is-name the mayor of Denver.

She has raised $600. She needs $400 more. I made a contribution. Will you?

EduShyster promises to share with us all she learns from the deepest educational thinkers of our time.

Please go to the link in this post and make a donation. What’s it worth to you to know what our philosophers are thinking?

EduShyster

Peter Greene has a large appetite for listening to our educational leaders. In this post, he describes speeches given by Arne Duncan and John King, defending the status quo. They want all children tested, they all teachers evaluated by test scores. They want everyone to stop making so much noise. They want everyone to listen to them. Now.

As Greene puts it, Arne’s new message is: “Shut up.”

I am late posting this article because it appeared about the time I started dealing with health issues (a bad fall that took out the ACL in my left knee).

It deserves wide reading because it is an accurate portrait of the money and power behind the charter school movement. I commend the writers, Javier C. Hernandez and Susanne Craig for getting the story that took place behind closed doors in Albany and executive suites in Manhattan. It is the best investigative report that I have seen in the “New York Times” on the money fueling the charter movement.

it answers a few basic questions? Why did Governor Cuomo take the lead in fighting to “save” charter schools after Mayor Bill de Blasio approved 14 out of 17 new charters? How did it happen that Eva Moskowitz bused thousands of students and parents to Albany on the very same day that Mayor de Blasio had scheduled a rally to support pre-kindergarten funding? Which billionaires and millionaires put up more than $5 million to create and air attack ads on television against de Blasio? Who masterminded the deal that gave charter schools preferred status over public schools in New York City? Who arranged that they could not be charged rent, that they could expand and push public school kids out of their buildings, and that the city had to pay their rent if they opened in private space?

Spoiler alert:

The deal in the legislature “gave New York City charter schools some of the most sweeping protections in the nation, including a right to space inside public buildings. And interviews with state and city officials as well as education leaders make it clear that far from being a mere cheerleader, the governor was a potent force at every turn, seizing on missteps by the mayor, a fellow Democrat, and driving legislation from start to finish.”

Money was always a potent factor in the backroom dealings:

“A lot was riding on the debate for Mr. Cuomo. A number of his largest financial backers, some of the biggest names on Wall Street, also happened to be staunch supporters of charter schools. According to campaign finance records, Mr. Cuomo’s re-election campaign has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from charter school supporters, including William A. Ackman, Carl C. Icahn, Bruce Kovner and Daniel Nir.

Kenneth G. Langone, a founder of Home Depot who sits on a prominent charter school board, gave $50,000 to Mr. Cuomo’s campaign last year. He said that when the governor asked him to lead a group of Republicans supporting his re-election, he agreed because of Mr. Cuomo’s support for charter schools.

“Every time I am with the governor, I talk to him about charter schools,” Mr. Langone said in an interview. “He gets it.”

And more is on the way, not only for Cuomo, who not only delivered for the billionaires who love charters, but for Eva Moskowitz, who will not only get a 8 new charters–not just the 5 that de Blasio originally approved–but lots of extra money, which will not be used to pay rent:

“Daniel S. Loeb, the founder of the hedge fund Third Point and the chairman of Success Academy’s board, began leaning on Wall Street executives for donations. Later this month, he will host a fund-raiser for Success Academy at Cipriani in Midtown Manhattan; tickets run as high as $100,000 a table.”

Moskowitz claims that her schools don’t spend any more than real public schools, so it remains to be seen how she pans to spend the millions that Dan Loeb will raise for her schools in a single night.

And the sweetest part of the deal for Moskowitz’s Success Academy 4 in Harlem is that her elementary school can now expand to a middle school and take more space away from PS 149, which was once considered the host school. First, she can evict the kids with severe disabilities (her own charter has none), then, thanks to Governor Cuomo, she can evict all the other students and take the entire school away, if she wishes. Sort of like a parasite that grows and grows.

Peter Dreier, a professor at Occidental College and fervent advocate for public education, asks why public education continues to lavish so much favorable attention in the leaders of the privatization movement while disregarding dissenting voices or–worse–treating our nation’s public schools shabbily.

He suggests that the Republican attack of public funding of PBS may have made the network dependent on the billionaires who favor privatization and view public schools with contempt.

With the sole exception of Bill Moyers, who has run programs about ALEC’s efforts to destroy every public service, and who recently interviewed me about the profit motive in the privatization movement, PBS has made no effort to investigate the assault on public education across the nation.

Dreier contrasts the lavish attention devoted to the privatization propaganda film “Waiting for ‘Superman,’” with the absence of attention to a remarkable new film celebrating the daily struggles of public schools in Pasadena, California. This film, “Go Public,” tells the true story of life in a public school. Will it appear on public television? That’s up to you.

The same might be said of “Rise Above the Mark,” another well-produced film that tells the story of real life in schools today and the insidious efforts to destroy public education by the powerful and complicit politicians.

David Sirota recently compelled PBS to return $3.5 million to billionaire John Arnold, who had underwritten a series on the “pension crisis,” an issue dear to him as a critic of defined benefit pensions.

Maybe Dreier’s critique will encourage PBS to give equal time to our nation’s public schools, not just their critics.

PS: I mistakenly attributed the article to another wonderful Paul–Paul Horton. Wrong! My bad!

Paul Rosenberg writes on Salon about the well-honed Fox-News style tactic of “crying wolf,” “the sky is falling,” we are in an “unprecedented crisis” to achieve political ends, in the present case, the privatization and monetization of public education. In urban districts, the privatization is gobbling up public schools and turning them over to private corporations–both for-profit and non-profit. In suburban districts, which are not prepared to relinquish their community public schools to charter chains, the gold rush is on to panic these districts into buying edu-schlock and paying consultants to train teachers to meet the federal government’s latest mandate.

What Rosenberg describes is what I earlier called the deliberate use of FUD–fear, uncertainty, and doubt–by the well-paid PR machine of the Status Quo privatizers.

Here is a small sample of Rosenberg’s comprehensive review of scare tactics and whom they benefit:

“In September 2012, for example, economist Jeff Faux, principal founder of the Economic Policy Institute, wrote an article, “Education Profiteering; Wall Street’s Next Big Thing?” which first noted, “It is well known, although rarely acknowledged in the press, that the [education] reform movement has been financed and led by the corporate class,” but then went on to note a crucial change:

In recent years, hedge fund operators, leverage-buy-out artists and investment bankers have joined the crusade. They finance schools, sit on the boards of their associations and the management companies that run them, and — most important — have made support of charter schools one of the criteria for campaign giving in the post-Citizens United era. Since most Republicans are already on board for privatization, the political pressure has been mostly directed at Democrats….

“What’s more, Faux noted, there was less money for Wall Street to play with from the sources they had burned, but the money-making opportunities in education were proliferating like never before:

“You start to see entire ecosystems of investment opportunity lining up,” Rob Lytle, a business consultant, earlier this year told a meeting of private equity investors interested in for-profit education companies….

“This is the context in which Andrew Cuomo hooked up with Wall Street, as the New York Times reported in May 2010. Cuomo’s ticket to Wall Street came courtesy of Joe Williams, executive director of Democrats for Education Reform, a PAC that “advances what has become a favorite cause of many of the wealthy founders of New York hedge funds: charter schools.” Members who met with Cuomo included “the founders of funds like Anchorage Capital Partners, with $8 billion under management; Greenlight Capital, with $6.8 billion; and Pershing Square Capital Management, with $5.5 billion.” But in retrospect, 2010 was nothing. As already noted, Cuomo has raised $800,000 from Wall Street charter school supporters — roughly half that total from Moskowitz supporters alone.

“The Philanthropic Dimension

“Money may be all the motivation Wall Street needs, but there’s more. Philanthropy has always been a means for the wealthy to extend their influence over society beyond the marketplace, to serve a multitude of functions. Northern philanthropists spent an enormous amount of money bringing education to Southern blacks after the Civil War, for example. This brought them into prolonged and complex conflicts with both Southern elites, who resisted virtually all education efforts, and with blacks who resisted the Northern philanthropists’ focus on industrial education (epitomized by the Tuskegee model), as well as their broader pattern of trying to appease Southern white racism. (See, for example,”The Education of Blacks in the South, 1860-1935.”) Although highly conflicted and complicated, these efforts eventually synergized with blacks’ own broader civil rights struggles to bring about the integration of public education in the South — at which time, Southerners’ first response was the policy of massive resistance, including the creation of private academies, and the closing of public schools.

“Amazingly, three decades later, the education panic reform movement began the process of recycling the racist Southern resistance strategies as general solutions for the purported failure of public education. Another three decades further on, those very same anti-civil rights strategies are now being touted as the key to civil rights. The reasons are at least partly psychological. After the financial crises decimated the economy, Wall Street elites and their 1 percenter allies were profoundly defensive, as seen most shockingly in remarks comparing their critics to Nazi Germany. But the “productive” manifestation of this same acute status anxiety was arguably much more destructive — that is, the intense desire to re-create themselves as moral leaders, not lepers, by recasting public education as a locus of evil, and portraying its destruction as “the civil rights struggle of our time” — which they, of course, would be only too happy to lead.”

The corporate style reformers–the cheerleaders for charters, vouchers-and high-stakes testing–like to claim that they are leading the civil rights movement of their day. They imagine themselves locked arm-in-arm with Martin Luther King, Jr., in their efforts to end collective bargaining rights, to eliminate teacher due process rights, and to privatize public education.

 

I am not sure if they actually believe this or if they think they can pull the wool over the eyes of the media and the public.

 

In this fascinating interview, Josh Eidelson of Salon puts the question to Linda Darling-Hammond: Would you agree or disagree that the Vergara case–which would end teachers’ job protections–is an extension of the civll rights movement, as its proponents claim?

 

My guess is that Linda either fell off her chair laughing, or was momentarily dumbstruck by the absurdity of the idea.

 

She responded:

 

“I can’t understand why anyone would agree. To me, it’s completely unrelated to the agenda from Brown, which was about getting equal access to educational opportunities for students — you know, initially through desegregation, but the heritage of Brown is also a large number of school finance reform lawsuits that have been trying to advocate for equitable resource distribution between districts and schools. And Vergara has nothing to do with that …

 

“Even if you got rid of teachers’ due process rights for evaluation, you would do nothing to remedy the inequalities in funding and access that students have. And in fact you might exacerbate the problem.”

 

See, Linda remembers that the Brown decision was about equity, equitable resources for schools, and desegregation, and today’s self-proclaimed reformers avoid discussing things like that. They say that poverty is an excuse for bad teachers. Martin Luther King Jr. would never have said that. They certainly don’t care about desegregation. As the UCLA Civil Rights Project and as researcher Iris Rotberg have documented, charter schools exacerbate segregation. Indeed. the so-called reformers like to boast about all-black schools that get high test scores; segregation just is not an issue for them. They don’t see any reason to reduce class size–Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg think it should be increased. If pressed, they say that we are spending too much on education already. Things like desegregation, equitable resources, and class size are not on their agenda.

 

Eidelson asks whether the plaintiffs are right in saying that it should be easier to fire bad teachers, and Linda responds:

 

First of all, just to be clear: It is extremely easy to get rid of teachers. You can dismiss a teacher for no reason at all in the first two years of their employment. And so there is no reason for a district ever to tenure a “grossly ineffective” teacher — as the language of the lawsuit goes — because you know if a teacher is grossly ineffective pretty quickly, and it’s negligence on the part of the school district if they continue to employ somebody who falls into that classification when they have no barriers to [firing them]. And districts that are well-run, and have good teacher evaluation systems in place, can get rid of veteran teachers that don’t meet a standard and [don’t] improve after that point.

 

But in fact, the ability to keep teachers and develop them into excellent teachers is the more important goal and strategy for getting a high-quality teaching force. Because if what you’re really running is a churn factory, where you’re just bringing people in and, you know, firing them, good people don’t want to work in a place like that. So it’s going to be hard for you to recruit. Second of all, you’re likely not paying enough attention to developing good teachers into great teachers, and reasonable teachers into good teachers.

 

That’s not to say you shouldn’t get rid of a bad teacher if you get one. But you ought to be very careful about hiring and development – that makes that a rare occurrence.

 

When Eidelson asks Linda what should be done to fulfill the promise of the Brown decision, she responds:

 

First of all, we have a dramatically unequal allocation of wealth in the society, which is getting much worse … We need another War on Poverty … Because we have a quarter of our kids in the country, and more than half in the public schools of California, living in poverty.

 

And so that’s No. 1: We need to do what other developed nations do, which is ensure that kids have healthcare, housing and a context in which they can grow up healthy – in communities which still have the kinds of recreation facilities, public libraries and other supports, [including] early childhood education, that would continue to allow children to come to school ready to learn.

 

Then we need schools that are equitably funded, with more money going to the students who have the greatest needs. I’m proud to say that in California, we’ve just passed a school funding law that is probably the most progressive in the nation, and that will actually, over the next years, allocate more money to each child that is living in poverty, is an English learner, or is in foster care than to other children. And we will begin to redress some of the profound inequalities that exist today … Cities in California typically are spending much less right now – before this kicks in — than affluent districts. That’s the real thing — if we were litigating the successes of Brown — that’s the real thing that would be first on the agenda to correct.

 

And then beyond that, I think we have to be sure that the state builds a high-quality teaching force, well-prepared for all candidates. If we were a highly developed nation that is high-achieving, we would be offering free teacher education to everyone that wants to teach, in high-quality [preparatory programs] … and getting rid of the [programs] that can’t meet the bar, so that everyone comes in ready and competent.

 

Wait a minute, that’s not what Bill Gates, Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, and other leaders of the Status Quo want!

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