Archives for category: Corporate Reformers

Vicki Cobb, noted author of science books for children, here reviews the powerful video “Education, Inc.”

She writes:

“The American Revolution ultimately came together with the widespread distribution of a pamphlet that spoke truth about power.

“The American Revolution ultimately came together with the widespread distribution of a pamphlet that spoke truth about power. [Now] is the start of a public awareness campaign to take a close look at the school reform movement through a modern day equivalent of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense — an hour-long documentary called Education, Inc. It is not something that the billionaires behind the so-called reform movement want you to see.

“The brilliant award-winning film-makers, Brian and Cindy Malone, navigate their way through a complex and seemingly diabolical scheme to “reinvent” education where school reform is sold through a sophisticated advertising smoke screen touting “choice” for children. How do they expose what’s really happening? The premise of Education, Inc. is simple: Follow the money.”

This brilliant article does not attempt to assess the success or failure of the Néw Orleans school reform. Instead, it reviews the steady drumbeat of media celebration of the disaster as a golden opportunity. Bottom line: Privatization is wonderful, a game-changer, a win-win.

“Torture the data enough, and the “New Orleans miracle” can be teased out if one wants it enough. Despite studies and reporting showing otherwise, for the sake of this piece it doesn’t actually matter if radical post-Katrina New Orleans school reform was a “success,” a failure or somewhere in between. What is important is that so many corporatists think this “miracle” was not just an incidental positive but was, all things considered, worth it. Worth the 1,800 people killed and the 100,000 African-Americans permanently ejected from the city.

“The most popular examination of this pathology is, of course, from Naomi Klein, who coined the idea of the ”shock doctrine” in her 2007 book of the same name. In it, she explores how Katrina and other manmade and non-manmade disasters are exploited to rush through a radical right wing corporate agenda.

“Those who find this a useful model are accused by critics like Malcolm Gladwell of “cynicism”; tragedies happen, they say, and we would be stupid not to exploit them. Here’s a list of those who championed this model, both immediately after the storm and since. One can decide for themselves if this ideology-mongering was exploitation or good-faith public servants simply responding to crisis.”

Then follows a litany of comments by champions of corporate takeover. It starts with David Brooks in the New York Times only days after the hurricane. His ideas were to displace the poor and make the city just right for gentrification.

A week later came a proposal for vouchers, offered by a group sponsored by the Koch brothers.

This is a most valuable collection of prescriptions for and celebrations of privatization.

Andrea Gabor wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times questioning the “New Orleans Miracle,” and she was immediately pummeled and vilified by defenders of charters. She responded to the critics in a piece on this blog. She has now posted a longer response on her own blog, which appears here.

Be sure to read the long and moving statement by Howard Fuller, one of the most prominent African American voices in favor of corporate reforms (charters and vouchers). Here is part of it:


“I do believe things are better for a large number of kids than before Katrina. But I don’t want to be put in the position of saying: pre-Katrina was all bad, post-Katrina is all good. When we set it up that way, we’re negating anything that was positive before Katrina. What that tends to negate is the capacity of black people to do anything of excellence.

“The firing of those teachers is a wound that will never be closed, never be righted. I understand the issue of urgency. But a part of this quite frankly has to do with the fact that I do not believe that black people are respected. I don’t believe that our institutions are respected. And I don’t believe that our capacity to help our own people is respected…

“Its hard for me, because I do support the reforms and think there are some great things that have happened. I do have to ask the same question as Randi (Weingarten)—at what cost?

“Even if you talk to black people who drank the Kool-aide: The issue still is– this was done to us not with us. That feeling is deep. It can’t be ignored. It speaks to any type of long-term sustainability of what’s happening in New Orleans.

“When black people came out of slavery, we came out with a clear understanding of the connection between education and liberation. Two groups of white people descended upon us—the missionaries and the industrialists. They both had their view of what type of education we needed to make our new-born freedom realized. During this period there’s an analogy—I’ve said this to all my friends in Kipp And TFA. During this period two groups of white people descended on us the industrialists and the missionaries. And each one of them have their own view of what kind of education we need.

Mitchell Robinson, a professor of music at Michigan State University, has figured out how the reform/privatization agenda works.

Robinson writes:

The typical reform agenda goes something like this:

*demoralize the teachers

*defund the unions

*dismantle the schools

*privatize public education

We see evidence of this approach in places like New Orleans with its “Recovery School District,” and Detroit, where Gov. Snyder’s Frankenstein-like “Education Achievement Authority” continues to deprive the students and citizens of local control of their schools. The reformers’ tactics are brutal and unforgiving: create a public perception that the schools are failing, the teachers are lazy, the unions are greedy, and the only solutions are to close schools, expand choice, provide vouchers and valorize charters.

However, one of the more subtle, yet damaging, weapons in the reformers’ playbook is simultaneously less visible to the uninformed eye and more insidious in its ability to accomplish the reformers’ ultimate goal: the destabilization of public education by an intentional, purposeful strategy of near-constant turnover and turmoil in the leadership and teaching force in the schools…..

Detroit is a textbook case of the reform strategy for destroying public education.

An especially egregious example of this sort of intentional destabilization can be seen in the Detroit Public Schools, which has been under state control for most of the previous 15 years (1999-2005, 2009-2016). Under the Snyder administration, Detroit’s schools have suffered from a systematic defunding of facilities and equipment, sub-standard working conditions, safety concerns, drastic curriculum narrowing, and poor teacher morale as a result of the state’s takeover. Recent estimates are that fewer than 30% of Detroit’s children have access to school music classes, and only 40% have an art teacher. In 2014, Renaissance High School, long considered a bastion of high quality arts programming in the city, suffered devastating cuts to its music program, signaling a troubling trend in priorities from Detroit’s educational leaders.

Detroit Public Schools has had four leaders in the past four years.

It’s hard to understand how a school system can make any sort of sustained progress with a veritable revolving door of administrative transition occurring in the central offices–and this is certainly the case in Detroit: “Under emergency managers Robert Bobb, Roy Roberts and Martin, DPS has shed tens of thousands of students, closed dozens of schools and struggled with persistent deficits…Last fall’s (2014) preliminary enrollment was 47,238, less than half of the 96,000 students attending DPS when Bobb was appointed.”

It’s beyond time to declare Gov. Snyder’s approach to education reform in Detroit a resounding failure. The state has had 15 years to “fix” the problems they created through a massive disinvestment of public education in Michigan, and Detroit’s children and teachers have paid the price as a seemingly endless parade of highly paid “experts” have failed to turn the ship around.

State control is not only NOT a panacea; it is a manifest failure.

Robinson says it is past time to turn the public schools back to the people of Detroit. They might make mistakes but they are more trustworthy with their children than Governor Snyder and his appointees.

I can’t think of anyone better qualified to cover Campbell Brown’s GOP debate than the gifted humorists Peter Greene and EduShyster (aka Jennifer Berkshire).

EduShyster posted a post with video of teacher Penny Culliton being turned away, even though she registered and had a ticket. This reminded EduShyster of school choice in general, where the school chooses whom to admit.

Penny is a regular commenter on this blog.thanks, Penny!

Peter Greene watched the event from home. He found much to laugh at. The candidates’ talking points were self-contradictory and incoherent.

Carly Fiorina seems to know nothing about education. They are all for local control except when they are for state takeovers. They all want tough accountability but they oppose the red tape that tough accountability imposes. They are sure that the evil demon is those wicked teachers’ unions.

Here is a sample of a column that would be hilarious if it weren’t so frightening to think that one of these people could become President of the United States:

“I had no intention of watching, but it’s like netflixing a bad comedy series– you just keep sticking around a little bit longer.. But there are several things that jump out.

“God-given”

“That’s the preferred modifier for the talents and abilities of students. This not only lets candidates name-check God, but it also sidesteps any discussion about what effects poverty and environment might have on the talents and abilities that a student brings to school.

“Local control is union control

“Yeah, this is a new but already-beloved talking point. If you let people have local control, those damn unions will just buy the elections, just like they did in…well, somewhere. The problem with this talking point will be coming up with an actual example of a local school board that is run by the bought-and-paid-for tools of the teachers union.

“Cognitive dissonance

“Holy smokes but the candidates disagree with themselves. Kasich thinks local control is awesome, but the state takeover of Cleveland and Youngstown is also awesome. This is a sticking point for all three candidates, who love them some local control and decry the evils of top-down federal over-reachy policy– but you can’t privatize and get charters and choice unless you open up the market by shutting down local voters.

“Also teachers unions are terrible and awful and a barrier to great things in education, but teachers themselves are wonderful and deserve our support and good pay except for the bad ones who should be driven from the classroom. We’re really torn here.

“Expectations are important and magical, so we can get students to do better just by expecting it, but not by supporting those expectations. Just expect.”

So that’s what Republican candidates promise: High expectations! That’s free. What a platform.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, you read a story like this.

It is a letter from the publisher of the Los Angeles Times informing readers that a group of wealthy foundations are underwriting expanded coverage of education. Not surprising to see the Eli Broad Foundation in the mix. Former Mayor Richard Riordan is not listed but you can be sure he is involved.

These control freaks–er, philanthropists–worry that the LAT has not provided enough space to cover this vital topic.

Publisher Austin Beutner writes:

“We are calling our initiative Education Matters, and I encourage you to join us as we explore the issues that matter most to you and your child. If you want to understand the latest debate on curriculum or testing, find out about the role of student health in learning, study how charter schools are changing public education or experience a classroom from the perspective of a teacher, then Education Matters will be an essential destination.

“With an expanded team of reporters, we will take a fresh approach to our news and analysis starting with today’s stories about the unique challenges facing LAUSD and the last year-round school in Los Angeles. Our editorial pages feature a guest column by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan on the need for more investment in math and science education. You will find our reports at latimes.com/schools in English and Spanish.

“In the coming months, we will convene public forums to address topics such as educational education policy, saving for college and talking to your child’s teacher. We intend these conversations to be both thoughtful and practical.”

A guest column by Arne Duncan! Now there’s a fresh perspective!

I wonder if I will ever be invited to write for the LA Times again?

Steve Cohen, educator from Long Island, writes:

“One of our favorite quotes: Einstein: Not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts.

“That which counts that cannot be counted is the historical process by which young human beings act to shape their own potential. Genuine teaching is the task of guiding these young people to complete this fundamental task of becoming an adult with the most care, grace, intelligence and wisdom.

“I would bet that everyone of us who learned from a great teacher knows exactly what I’m talking about. Count what you will, but this uncountable experience is essential in real education of the young.

“Do we really want hedge fund overlords in charge of this basic part of childhood and adolescence?

“I’ll also bet that these hedge funds folks send their kids to schools that embrace what I’m saying to the fullest. Their kids’ education shall not be subjected to foolish accountability–which wastes kids’ precious time growing up.”

Adam Benitez is a parent in Los Angeles who writes a blog about the “folly of errors” that accompany charter school co-location.

I confess that I had not seen his blog before, but now I know about it.

It seems that one of our readers (Allie Wall) wrote a comment on the post called “Stupid in Florida” and linked to one of the posts on Adam’s blog.

Adam suddenly saw a surge in readers and checked to see why.

They were readers of this blog checking out his blog.

I went skimming through his previous posts and found them to be a valuable parents’ view of co-location and the damage that co-locations do to authentic communities.

Go and look for yourself.

Karen Wolfe is an activist for public education in Los Angeles. Here she responds to the news that Eli Broad and the Walton family plan to pour millions into increasing charter school enrollments in Los Angeles; their hope is to capture 50% of the children for the privately managed schools. Despite the fact that studies show that charters on average do not outperform as compared to public schools, despite the fact that twenty-five years of charters have produced no innovations (other than to go back to the 19th century way of doing things in the strictest manner possible), despite the numerous frauds and financial scandals associated with charters, Broad, Walton, and a few more billionaires want to destroy the public school system of Los Angeles to have their way. Public education belongs to the entire community; it is undemocratic to allow a handful of billionaires to take possession of half the children enrolled in the public schools and turn them over to franchise operators.

Karen Wolfe writes that the outcome depends on Steve Zimmer, the recently elected school board president, who has walked a fine line between supporting public schools and placating the privatizers (who spent $4 million trying to defeat him when he last ran for re-election):

The timing of this plan is no surprise at all. The powerful California charter lobby seems to be at their wits end after recent losses. Let’s assess.

The first big loss was Steve Zimmer’s election two years ago, despite their spending more than any previous school board race in US history, according to published reports at the time. Subsequently, the corporate privatizers have lost almost every time a vote has been put to the people.

Last year’s election of Tom Torlakson for California’s State Superintendent was seen as a referendum on corporate privatization–and we public school advocates won. California is one of the few states that resisted Race to the Top reforms.

The LA teacher’s union election also brought in leaders with a broader understanding of the fight for public schools. They still need to prove their mettle at building support among parents and student groups who seek an ally in improving our schools without selling them off. But the potential looks better than before. CTA, the state teachers union, remains a strong force in the state capitol, despite the charter lobby’s increasing presence.

The L.A. Mayor’s office is no longer carrying the water of the corporate privatizers either. New Mayor Eric Garcetti has resisted the repeated taunts of Broad and the other plutocrats to push their agenda. Garcetti is a distinct departure to his predecessor, the self-proclaimed “Education Mayor” Villaraigosa, who was trying to share the national charter stage with Bloomberg and Emanuel.

A notable exception is the election of disgraced PUC charter founder Ref Rodriguez to the school board, joining his charter cheerleader Monica Garcia. But now Steve Zimmer is board president and, if that position carries any weight, it might be making the charter lobby nervous. Often the swing vote in a split-down-the-middle board, Zimmer is now presiding over a new board that should give him more courage than he has previously displayed. His unwavering support of John Deasy and his support of almost every single charter school petition that came before the board have alienated many of Zimmer’s backers. We are anxious to see him prove himself to be the champion of our neighborhood schools that he recently proclaimed he was (in an AFT video posted on this blog).

This revelation that the charter groups have lost their patience and are announcing a public attack should be met with redoubled resistance. We have done the work to elect officials who will champion our public schools, even against wealthy special interests like the groups in this article. But the board needs to listen to community members and truly consider the supports that are necessary to enable our neighborhood schools to stand up to the threat of charters. We advocates need to know our school board is behind us as we fight for the very survival of our schools. I wrote this article for our local newspaper about what we need in Zimmer’s district, where I live, and have never heard from the school board about it.
http://argonautnews.com/power-to-speak-school-choice-whose-choice/.

There are advocates in other neighborhoods that have come up with similar plans and the board should solicit them. The point is that the board needs its public constituency or eventually no one will care who wins this policy debate.

Stanley Kurtz has a very interesting article at the conservative National Review, calling out Jeb Bush for pretending that he does not really support the Common Core standards and that he is in favor of local control. At the Republican debate last week, Jeb was questioned about his strong support for Common Core, and he equivocated, trying to leave the impression that he had no particular allegiance to Common Core. He said, “I don’t believe the federal government should be involved in the creation of standards, directly or indirectly, the creation of curriculum content. That is clearly a state responsibility.”

As Kurtz documents, Jeb has been one of the loudest cheerleaders for Common Core, even though federal involvement in its creation (requiring its adoption as a condition of eligibility for Race to the Top funding) and in directly subsidizing Common Core testing (PARCC and Smarter Balanced Assessment) arguably violates federal law. Federal law explicitly bans any federal interference in curriculum and instruction, and no one can say with a straight face that CCSS has no connection to or influence on curriculum and instruction.

Kurtz is particularly good in describing the Orwellian language of “education reform,” in which reformers say the opposite of what they mean. Readers of this blog have long seen the way that “reformers” twist words to pretend that their corporate-model names and policies are “for the children” (like Students First, Students Matter, Children First, Democrats for Education Reform, Education Reform Now, Stand for Children, and other poll-tested obfuscations of reality).

Kurtz writes:

The story of the profoundly undemocratic process by which Common Core was adopted by the states doesn’t end there. A devastating account by The Washington Post’s Lyndsey Layton (hardly a Geroge Will-style conservative) lays it out. Federal carrots and sticks, along with massive infusions of Gates Foundation money, at a moment when state budgets were stressed to the breaking point by the financial crisis, stampeded more than forty states into adopting a completely untested reform, often sight unseen or before the standards themselves had been finalized.

A deliberative process that ought to have taken years was telescoped into months. In nearly every case, the change was made without a single vote by an elected lawmaker, much less a statewide public debate. And all the while, the Obama administration intentionally obscured the full extent of its pressure on the states.

Common Core proponents have concocted a fiction according to which this travesty of federalism and democracy was “state led,” using the fig leaf of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association (NGA), which helped to develop the plan. CCSSO is a private group, with no known grant of authority from any state. Likewise, NGA is a private group, and seems not to include all governors (the list of dues-paying members has not been made public, at least in previous years). None of this can begin to substitute for a truly “state led” process, which would change education standards via legislatures and governors, after full consultation with the public. The Obama administration has dismissed legitimate complaints about this process as a kind of conspiracy theory, yet its own liberal supporters have praised its tactics as a clever ruse to circumvent the constitutional, legal, and political barriers to a national curriculum.

I am sorry to say that Jeb Bush has been a leading supporter and cheerleader of this process from the start, often portraying what was in fact an illegitimate federal power-grab as a sterling example of local control.

In a co-authored 2011 opinion piece making “The Case for Common Educational Standards,” Bush and New York educator Joel Klein deny federal overreach and present the states as voluntarily enrolling in Common Core. They speak of two testing consortia “of the states,” without noting federal financing of these national consortia. Bush and Klein portray a program explicitly designed to create uniform national standards as embodying “the beauty of our federal system.” Day is night.

Kurtz goes on to show how Jeb worked with Obama and Duncan to maintain the fiction that Common Core was “state-led” and was the answer to our problems:

The Washington Post recently reported on Jeb’s appearance with Obama in March of 2011 to push the president’s education agenda. Bush’s alliance with the Obama administration on education policy was in fact broad and deep. They differed on school choice, yet were aligned on much else, Common Core above all.

Consider the following 2010 video of an appearance by Obama education secretary Arne Duncan at Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education. Duncan goes on about how many states have adopted Common Core (between 7:10 and 9:50), while repeatedly denying federal responsibility for the change. The secretary doth protest too much, methinks.

After Duncan’s talk, he and Jeb jointly take questions from the audience. Here it becomes obvious that on education policy, Jeb sees himself as allied with Duncan and Obama — in opposition to local-control-loving conservatives (as well as liberal teachers’ unions). Jeb’s political solution to attacks on the Common Core is to “push the two groups who are not reform-minded further away from what I think is the mainstream.” (See video between 27:30 and 29:30.)

There are two errors in the account above. First, Jeb and Obama do not differ on school choice except for vouchers. It may be awkward for an author to admit in a conservative publication that the Obama administration has been all-in for charters and private management of schools. Duncan has been a cheerleader for privately-managed charters and Common Core. Indeed, the administration has not fought vouchers, even as they spread from state to state. Duncan has been strangely silent on the subject of vouchers. Nor has the Obama administration done anything to defend collective bargaining, other than lip service. On March 11, 2011, Jeb Bush, President Obama and Secretary Duncan were in Miami celebrating the successful turnaround of Miami Central High School, ignoring the thousands of protestors encircling the state capitol in Madison, Wisconsin, where Governor Scott Walker was enacting legislation to cripple the public sector unions (but not fire and police unions!).

The second error in Kurtz’s account is to assert that the teachers’ unions were against Common Core. Both the NEA and the AFT were early supporters of Common Core; neither has renounced the standards.

And there is another error in this claim: Bush touts his education accomplishments as Florida governor, and they were real. But Jeb raised a bottom-performing state to average, which is easier than moving from the middle of the pack to the top.

Many critics think that Jeb Bush’s education accomplishments are a sham. His A-F school grading system punishes the schools with the neediest children. His dramatic expansion of charters has created a corrupt industry of hucksters who open and close charters and take the money to the bank. He fought for vouchers, tried to amend the state constitution, but was rebuked at the polls on vouchers by a vote of 58-42. Florida has a lower graduation rate than Alabama. With “accomplishments” like this, he could destroy public education and ruin the nation.

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