Archives for category: Corporate Reformers

Tom Pedroni and Karen Twomey write in the Detroit Free Press that it’s time to restore democratic governance to the public schools of Detroit.

Plans and proposals are flying around from every district but all of them involve state control and privatization.

This is ironic as Detroit has had its fill of failed state control.

“All three proposals place inexplicable faith in the state’s ability to rectify the very problems that it, more than any other government entity, has created. Under the state’s watch for 13 of the last 16 years, the district has lost two-thirds of its students — more than 100,000 kids. Meanwhile, long-term debt has ballooned from around $700 million in 1999 to more than $2.1 billion today. Worst of all, state-mandated assessments, including the MEAP, reveal that Detroit’s students have lost even more ground to their state peers since 2009, when the state imposed emergency management.

“The closure of nearly 200 schools since 2002 has exacerbated student flight from the district while hurting already fragile city neighborhoods. What little funding the district retains is increasingly steered by emergency management from the classroom to administrators, consultants and contractors. A district that under the elected board drove 55%-60% of its revenues to classroom instruction — a proportion similar to most suburban districts — now allots the classroom less than 47%.”

The status quo–state control–has failed. The authors propose a return to democratic governance, with state assumption of the District’s debt. They propose a series of common sense reforms that could put Detroit public schools on the path to revival instead of extinction.

Reformers have been judging student, teachers, principals, and schools by data. They have closed schools by the thousands if their data looked bad. They think that schools are like burger joints that should close if they don’t make a profit. Just like business.

This reader disagrees:

“Reformers are fond of saying that schools need business practices. They claim that a school is essentially the same operation as a business.

“If this is true, then a certain logic follows. While reformers are quick to point to school failures and business successes, even they admit that not all schools are failing and not all businesses are succeeding. So if the institutions are equivalent, successful schools should be able to help failing businesses with school principles.

“So let’s bring school principles to business!

“If reformers truly believe that schools are businesses, then they must also believe that businesses are schools. If a dollar equals one hundred cents, then one hundred cents equals a dollar.

“Let’s bring school principles to business!

“And come to think of it, American business has a lot of the failings so often ascribed to education. They say that we are not competitive with many Asian systems of education. Well, the economies of these countries are gobbling up market share in the US at horrendous speed. Wall Street: Singapore is eating your lunch! Silicone Valley: all of “your” stuff is made in China! Detroit: Japan has been leaving tread marks on your back for 40 years! OMG, we have a Nation At Risk! American businesses need school principles!”

What would business look like if operated like schools?

Anthony Cody is looking for a candidate who will support public education. He discounts Hillary Clinton, believing she is too close to Bill Gates.

The only other Democratic candidate as of this moment is Bernie Sanders. Cody wonders what his K-12 agenda will be. He offers some ideas and hopes that Sanders will become the spokesperson for the resistance to corporate reform.

Read his seven big ideas. Do you agree?

I am not ready to write off Clinton. Since she is the likely candidate, I want to get a chance to talk to her and try to educate her about the education issues. I have met her several times over the past 30 years, I supported her in 2008, and I will do my best to persuade her to oppose the ongoing demolition and privatization of public education.

Jeannie Kaplan plays the game of “Where’s Waldo?” to describe the curious absences of Denver’s Broad-trained superintendent over the past few months. Crises were handled by subordinates. It turns out that Tom Boasberg was busy lining up votes in the legislatures to reduce funding for the teachers’ pensions.

She writes:

“What was the true importance of this bill? Well, one could always dream it was about restoring the educational opportunities “education reform” has stolen from our kids but in spite of Boasberg’s declaration about two or three more teachers per building, we who have followed this Broad trained superintendent know better. The reality of his appearances at the Capitol and the reality of his lobbying efforts are not really about more teachers. After all, “reformers” don’t believe in smaller class size, so they only mention it when they think it will score points with the public, and obviously politicians. What is and is not important to the superintendent has become abundantly clear in these last months: grade changing, weapons in schools, reorganizations, not so important. Defunding a public pension, politics and winning, pretty important. The reality is if you are a businessman and privatizer masquerading as an educator you really only care about the bottom line. If you can sell paying bankers and lawyers hundreds of millions of dollars instead of putting that money into your company’s pension plan and then sell that scenario to the public and state legislators as somehow having “saved” money, you will be regarded by the business world as a success. Forget about learning, forget about the people, forget about safety, forget about data. Just show me the money. And silly me. I thought the head of a public school district should care about delivering an equitable 21st century education, care about the welfare of his constituents, not just in theory but in reality. This superintendent’s absenteeism and abdication of leadership can now be explained. Who knew that finding Waldo would be easier than finding the DPS superintendent?”

Mercedes Schneider wonders why Kira Orange-Jones was chosen by TIME as one of the nation’s most influential people. She is executive director of Teach for America in Louisiana.

She is also on the state board of education, where Schneider finds no evidence of her influence.

Schneider concludes that TIME wanted to salute both TFA (its former executive editor was president of the TFA board) and to bolster Néw Orleans’ inflated reputation as a successful experiment in reform by eliminating public education.

As early returns indicated, Bennett Kayer lost his seat on the Los Angeles school board to charter founder Ref Rodriguez and charter supporter Tamar Galatzan lost her seat to retired public school educator Scott Schmerelson. It was a very low turnout election, as usual (sadly). The president of the school board, Dr. Richard Vladovic, was re-elected. The board will remain divided over the continued privatization of the public schools. Los Angeles already has more students in charter schools than any other city. The charter industry had hoped to gain decisive control of the board to continue its expansion.


The battle continues. The billionaires dropped a few million into the L.A. race, principally to defeat Kayser. They succeeded. They probably didn’t count on losing Galatzan, or they would have spent a few million more to shore up that seat.

Apparently Nashville has been far too slow to privatize its public schools. Community pushback has annoyed the power structure, which wants more charters faster, even though the celebrated Achievement School District (mainly in Memphis) has yet to reach its goal of converting the lowest 5% of schools in the state into the top 25% within five years (by turning them into charter schools, of course). Naturally, reformers in other states want to copy the ASD even though it has not yet been successful and may never be, just as they want to copy the New Orleans’ strategy of turning every school into a privately managed charter, even though most of the charters in NOLA are graded D or F by a charter-friendly State Education Department.


And so the establishment in Nashville has called for a RESET. Reform isn’t moving fast enough for them. They are impatient for more privatization. That means everyone should pay attention to the data. Who will assemble the data? Who else but the Parthenon Group, a consulting group of MBAs and TFAs who know how to fix school systems (they say). They will tell Nashville that their test scores are not high enough, their graduation rates are not high enough, and you can guess their remedies. Read Nashville parent blogger Dad Gone Wild on the Parthenon Group here. As Jersey Jazzman wrote recently, there is a difference between “facts,” even when they are real, and “truth,” which is how the facts are used to advance an agenda.


Dad Gone Wild refers to some of the recent work by Parthenon in Tennessee (read his piece to see the links):


To see more local evidence of the Parthenon Group’s work, we don’t even have to get on the internet. We just need to talk to the folks in Knoxville. That’s Rob Taylor of Knoxville talking about the Parthenon Group in the video above. In Knoxville, the school board commissioned the Parthenon Group to study their system and share their recommendations for improvement. Those recommendations included increasing class size and eliminating around 300 positions that included guidance counselors, psychologists, and librarians. It also produced the stunning comment that not all students are the same; some are more profitable than others. Knoxville paid over a million dollars for this brilliant advice.


In case you don’t want to look to the eastern part of the state, we can also look to the west in Memphis. Where a school district already $142 million in the red paid roughly $350k a month for the Parthenon Group’s expertise. The recommendation in Memphis? Merit pay for teachers with no added compensation for higher levels of education. A plan that has been proven ineffective countless times and that Memphis rejected as well. Starting to notice a pattern? Momma Bears, a Tennessee parent group, certainly did. So did another parent group Tennessee Parents.


The Parthenon Group’s missteps are not relegated to just K-12 education though. Some of you may be familiar with the Corinthian Colleges scandal. The Santa Ana company, one of the world’s largest for-profit college businesses, allegedly targeted low-income Californians through “aggressive marketing campaigns” that inaccurately represented job placement rates and school programs. Who touts Corinthian Colleges as one of their success stories and strongly recommended them to their investors? Why, none other than the Parthenon Group. Still not noticing a pattern? The pattern seems to be one of presenting ill conceived plans to clients.


Peter Greene read Dad Gone Wild and added his astute commentary on the RESET game in Nashville.


Green reminds us that Tennessee has long been way out front on the reformster wave. It was one of the first winners of Race to the Top funding and is often celebrated by Arne Duncan. It was the first state to hire a TFA alum, Kevin Huffman, as state commissioner (he has since left).


Greene writes:


Huffman, however, has moved on, gracefully jumping ship before he could be pushed off the plank. Late in 2014, his general incompetence and gracelessness had finally turned him into a large enough political liability to end his happy time as Tennessee Educhieftain.


Can’t We Just Start Over?


Lots of folks in power had loved Huffman and thought he had the right ideas. But the whole Common Core discussion had exploded in a welter of hard-right anti-gummint much dislike, and Huffman’s attempt to make every Tennessee teacher just a little poorer had not exactly won a lot of backing from that community, either.


So here comes the Nashville Public Education Foundation, a coalition of civic-minded folks that would really like to make a mark on public education as long as they don’t have to A) actually talk to or deal with people who work in public education or B) work through any of those democratically-elected institutions. We’ve seen this kind of foundation before (I ran across it most recently in York, PA, when local businessmen decided that they really wanted to dismantle public schools without actually having to run for office or convince the general public to go along.)


Watch their scrolling bank of happy quotes and you’ll see supportive words from Teach for America, the Chamber of Commerce, the mayor, a former governor, a parent, a CEO, the school director, the country music association foundation, and — wait? what! really??– Ben Folds.


The Foundation has had its fingers all over Nashville education, and that foundation has decided that what the city needs is to RESET. What the heck is that?


The mission of Project RESET (Reimagining Education Starts with Everyone at the Table) is to elevate the conversation on education as we approach a vital time in Nashville’s history. Led by the Nashville Public Education Foundation, with the support of Nashville’s Agenda and media assistance from The Tennessean, Project RESET will set the table for a larger, communitywide conversation about improving Nashville’s public schools.


The event, lauded by charter operators around Nashville, is coming up at the end of the month. How much fun will that be?


You know the old Will Rogers quote: “Diplomacy is the art of saying ‘nice doggie’ while you look for a rock.” Remember this any time somebody is acting diplomatically toward you. Don’t listen to what they say; watch to see if they’re looking for a rock.


The rock in this case is the Parthenon Consulting Group.


Greene goes on to look closely at the record of the Parthenon Consulting Group. The quote above has links aplenty.


He adds:


What is blindingly clear is that when it comes to education, Parthenon is only interested in one topic– how to make money at it.


If your landlord says he’s called an outfit to come work on the problems in your building, and what you see pull up in front is a Demolition Specialists truck, you are the doggie. If you are a public school system and the Parthenon Group shows up to “help” you, you are the doggie. The Parthenon Group does not specialize in helping schools systems do a better job of educating students. The Parthenon Groups helps school systems turn into pieces that can be more easily replaced with profitable charter schools.


The long and short of it: powerful forces are on the move to replace public education with privatization.















Daniel Katz pulls together the events of the recent past and concludes that this has been a wasted era of school policy.

Both No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top are based on economic ideologies about incentives and sanctions that don’t apply to education. Both have interacted to distort the goals of schooling and both ignore individual differences and needs. We now know–and should always have known– that children are not molten pieces of lead waiting to be shaped or widgets waiting for commands.

Only one sector has thrived: the charter school industry.

Will we continue on this failed path or change direction?

The organization that has done the most to undermine public education is the Walton Family Foundation. It has given hundreds of millions of dollars to charter schools, voucher programs, Teach for America, and rightwing think tanks to advocate for privatization. The Néw York Times reported that the Walton foundation had underwritten one of every four charter start-ups in the nation. In addition, it has given more than $50 million to Teach for America to assure that the charters have a non-union teaching staff.


And lest we forget, the Walton family as individuals has given large sums to charter referenda in Georgia and Washington state, as well as to pro-privatization candidates.


A reader suggests:


“How about a national teachers’ boycott of Walmart re school supplies and asking parents/kids to do the same? Perhaps we can enlist Target or Office Depot, Staples, other nation wide alternatives. . .”


I generally don’t advocate boycotts, but on the other hand, I never never never shop at Walmart. That’s just me.

Andrew Cuomo is proposing tax credit legislation that is generally considered a backdoor voucher. Corporations and wealthy people will get tax credits for supporting private and religious schools. The Legislature killed this proposal less than two months ago, but Cuomo is back with it on behalf of religious hroips that supported his election. (This is also ALEC legislation.)

No surprise that the Wall Street billionaire-funded group which is deceptively named”Families for Excellent Schools” is supporting Cuomo’s tax credit proposal and advocating lifting or eliminating the cap on charter schools. These families are not your average New York City families, though they pretend to be. this group spent $5 million in TV advertising last year to secure free rent for charters and to block Mayor De Blasio’s effort to regulate charters. These families have names like Walton and Paul Tudor Jones. It is doubtful that any of them ever attended a public school or sent their children to one. They are mad about charter schools because they are free-market fundamentalists.

This is their press release:



Contact:, 347 596 6389


#DontStealPossible DontStealPossible.Org

New York, NY – Families for Excellent Schools released this statement Tuesday afternoon following the introduction of the Governor Cuomo’s bill on education tax credits:

“Every parent should be able to choose a great school for their child. Passing the education tax credit and lifting the cap on charters expands choice immediately for families that need it most.

Today’s announcement is a bold step by Governor Cuomo to protect choice and ensure access to good schools in New York,” said Families for ExcellentSchools’ CEO Jeremiah Kittredge.

Families for Excellent Schools harnesses the power of families to advance policy and political changes that create and sustain excellent schools.
On Twitter at: @Fam4ExcSchools


Khan Shoieb
Communications Strategist
Stu Loeser & Co.
54 West 40th St #1131
New York, NY 10018
(347) 596-6389 (Mobile)


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