Archives for category: Corporate Reformers

The latest poll shows that most Hoosiers want a new governor. 54% want a new governor. Less than a third say they want to re-elect Pence.

Two issues loom over Pence. One was his early support (and then retraction) for a bill that would have allowed people to discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation (it was only when major corporations threatened to leave Indiana that Pence changed his views on the bill). The other is education, where Pence has continued hhis predecessor Mitch Daniels’ agenda of privatizing public education.

Go, Hoosiers! Get a new governor who cares about children, public schools, and the future of Indiana and the nation!

This teacher blogger says that the worst line invented by the reformers‘ PR team is “It’s all about the kids,” which seems to imply that teachers don’t care about their students. Right up there among toxic and accusatory lines are “Students First” and “Students Matter.” I would add “Children First” as another insulting trope. Also “Stand for Children,” which critics call “Stand on Children.” All imply that teachers have been putting their own interests first, or they don’t think children matter.



Who really, truly cares about the kids? Not their teachers, not their parents, but billionaires, hedge-fund managers, entrepreneurs, politicians.



This insulting rhetoric trips lightly off the tongues of reformers, along with assertions of wanting “to save poor kids from failing schools” by closing their school and handing the kids over to privatizers.



“Raging Horse” saw this teacher-bashing reach the height of absurdity or the depths of slime in a statement made by Carmen Arroyo, a member of the New York State Assembly, defending Cuomo’s test-based teacher evaluation plan.



She said:



“Those teachers that [sic] are responsible and are doing their job, those teachers that [sic] sacrifice their families and themselves for the children they serve are going to be protected. Those that are not good, better get a job at McDonalds…..”



Raging Horse blogger writes:



“Any system that demands the sacrifice of a person’s family is deranged and any public official who demands such is unfit for public office. Any people who stand for such deserve what they get.”

Our frequent commentator Laura H. Chapman, whose wise analyses so frequently inform all of us, has done some research on the billionaire class. I would add that her second category of schools, public in name only (PINO), includes for-profit charters.



Many of the billionaires in Forbes 2015 list claim to be self-made and to come from a low to moderate income family. Those are self-reports with no backup data worthy of mention by Forbes.



According to the Forbes 2015 list of the wealthiest people in the world, The United States has 536 billionaires worth $2.6 trillion.



In 2014 Warren Buffet made $14.5 billion.



Among the wealthiest in the US, 23 % of the billionaires claim to have been raised in a household that was “poor,” 17% in a “working class” family. Here are some of the top billionaires and major source of wealth.



Bill Gates, Microsoft, $ 79.2 billion…
Warren Buffet, Berkshire Hathaway, $72.7 billion…
Larry Ellis, Oracle, 54.3 billion…
Charles Koch, Diversified, $42.9 billion…G. Davis Koch, Diversified, $42.9 billion… Christy Walton, Walmart $41.7 billion…Jim Walton, Walmart $40.6 billion…Alice Walton, Walmart $39.4 billion… S. Robert Walton, Walmart $39.1 billion…
Michael Bloomberg, Bloomberg, $35.5 billion…Jeff Bezos, Amazon, $34.8 billion…Mark Zuckenberg, Facebook, $33.4 million….Sheldon Adelson, Casinos, $31.4 billion…Larry Page, Google, $29.7 billion…Sergey Brin, Google, $29.2 billion…
Forrest Mars, Jr., Candy, $26.6 billion….Jacquelin Mars Candy, $26.6 billion….John Mars, Candy, $26.6 billion….
George Soros, Hedge funds, $24.2 billion…Carl Icahn, Investments, $23.5 billion…Steve Ballmer, Microsoft, $21.5 billion… Phil Knight, Nike, $21.5 billion… Len Blavatnik, Diversified, $20.2 billion…Charles Ergen, Dish Network, $20.1 billion…Lauren Powell Jobs, Apple & Disney, $19.5 billion…Michael Dell, Dell, $19.2 billion…



So far as I know, only a few analytical studies have been done on the interconnections among grants flowing into K-12 education and the major foundations, many set up by billionaires. Here are some recent findings.



In 2010, the top 15 grant makers for K-12 education (based on IRS filings) were: the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Walton Family Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, Silicon Valley Community Foundation, Robertson Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Broad Foundation, GE Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation, Doris and Donald Fisher Fund, Communities Foundation of Texas, and Ford Foundation.



In 2010, the top “convergent grantees”–beneficiaries of multiple funders were:

Charter School Growth Fund $46 million, 6 funders;
Teach for America, $44.5 million, 13 funders;
KIPP, $24 million, 9 funders;
D.C. Public Education Fund, $22 million, 5 funders (set up for merit pay) ;
New Schools Venture Fund, $18 million, 10 funders.



The researchers noted a dramatic increase in convergent grant making between the first year they studied, 2000, and the last, 2010. The increase was not only in dollars but also in the proportion groups that received funds from two or more foundations. As one example, funding for traditional public schools dropped from 16% of grant dollars in 2000 to 8% in 2010 while charter school funding rose from about 3% in 2000 to 16% in 2010.



Source: Reckhow, S & Snyder, J. W. (2014, May). The expanding role of philanthropy in education politics. Education researcher, 43, 4, pp.186-195. Or see Sarah Reckhow, (2013). Follow the money, How foundations dollars change public school politics. NNY: Harvard Education Press.



Plenty of money is around, and it is increasingly used to create a tripartate system of education.

One is truly public, tax-supported with governance by democratically elected school boards.

One is public in name only, tax subsidized, but with governance that is not fully public or democratically determined.

The third is private education, including for-profit-by-design education.

A reader asked in the comments: Why does EduShyster (Jennifer Berkshire) interview reformsters, the people who want to dismantle public education and replace it with a private choice system? I asked her. The question was, “Why does Edushyster interview these folks? What am I missing?”

This is her answer:

“Hi – I’m happy to answer that. Can I share my answer with you? I’m out and about having a ladies day and can’t remember my password to log into WordPress (which is somehow different from my blog password – this is what happens when one gets older!)

The easy answer is that I love interviewing people and always have. Way back in the day (OK–many days), I had an, ahem, underappreciated radio show where I would do live interviews. And when I edited a newspaper for AFT, I made my q and a’s (including one with Diane), a staple.

In my latest incarnation, I’ve taken these up again, and I’m still amazed by the fact that virtually every single person I’ve approached has agreed to to talk to me. Well, there was one person who turned me down but I am too discrete to say who. (Email me!) So in the last few months I’ve been making a regular feature of these conversations with people across what I think of as the education reform divide. Here’s why I do them:

1) I think we’re in a war over really big, important questions–not just about education but about democracy, inequality, race, and who gets to decide what kind of country we’re going to have. And yet the education reform debate has started to feel really small to me. I think talking to people about what they believe is a way to get at the big issues that are at stake.

2) The education reform movement isn’t nearly as monolithic as it can seem from a distance. There are key differences between the different constituencies, and doing these interviews helps me gain a better sense of where the divisions are.

3) I’m fascinated by how it is that two people can look at the same set of circumstances and see the world completely differently. Interviewing people like Andy Smarick forces me to try to see the world through his eyes AND makes me think about how I see the world.

In the fall I’m going to be launching a podcast series so that you can hear what these conversations actually sound like. And you don’t have to listen if you don’t want to!


The most hypocritical claim of “reformers” is that they are advancing “the civil rights issue of our time” by defunding and undermining public education and attacking the teaching profession.


Reader Michael Fiorillo comments on this deceptive rhetoric:


“So-called education reformers have successfully convinced many naifs that undermining public education, via charter schools, high stakes exams, punitive teacher evaluation schemes, etc., is somehow connected to social justice.


“Nothing could be further from the truth: destroying a public good for private venal and power-seeking ends, and busting unions, is inherently reactionary.”


Say I:


“Reform,” as currently defined, is a project of ALEC and every reactionary governor and free-market fundamentalist. Democrats have been conned. Civil rights is the civil rights issue of our time.

Richard Ham, a third grade teacher in Poulsbo, Washington, wrote the following dystopian science fiction (education fiction?) about the aftermath of the Presidential election of 2028. It is frightening and hilarious.



April 17, 2028
The Associated Press
The American public education reform wars are finally over. President Arne Duncan took the oath of office in January as this nation’s 49th president and in his inauguration speech he praised the efforts over the past 30 years of big business, corporate testing corporations, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and all the others responsible for what, in his words, amounted to a “cleansing of wishy-washy liberal teaching practices, unionism as an obstructive force in public schools and of incompetent, overpaid public school teachers doing great and terrible damage to this fine Nation’s school children.” He pledged that his newly appointed Secretary of Education, Michelle Rhee, will finish the job started so long ago and fine-tune and perfect the few rough spots that remain in bringing “rational public and pedagogical policy-making” into American classrooms.
In this spirit Secretary Rhee held a major press conference to herald the completion of the reform movement’s final masterpiece of high-stakes testing and accountability. The Secretary proudly presented the Pearson Corporation’s new third grade test as an example of this brave new world that American education has entered. Below is the third grade test, titled the SimBA, in its entirety.
The SimBA
*Common Core Corporate Standards
MATHEMATICS: The Reimann Hypothesis dealing with prime numbers is one of the unsolved Millennium Prize problems, first posited over 150 years ago and as yet unsolved despite the best efforts of some of this past century’s finest mathematical minds. You are not expected to prove or disprove this hypothesis per se, but nevertheless do establish the initial parameters of the structure of such a proof (or disproof). Construct such parameters with enough mathematical sufficiency so that the next three steps in such an analysis can be logically and empirically demonstrated. Then do both of your multiplication and division facts in a 2-minute timing for each.
Time: 25 minutes
MUSIC: Write a concerto for a 4-piece chamber string quartet. Provide a final, clean copy of the sheet music for your composition, free from any stray notational errors. Finally, perform your composition in real time in front of a live audience.
Time: 40 minutes for composition; 10 minutes for performance
ART: Develop a new school of art, melding both traditional and modern elements using multi-media in such a design paradigm. Create at least three examples from your new art school, and host a gallery showing of your creations.
Time: 20 minutes for creation of new art form; 15 minutes for creation of examples; 10 minutes for gallery showing
[Break: 23 minutes total; 3 minutes for potty visit, 5 minutes for snack, 15 minutes for recess]
HISTORY: The Spanish-American philosopher George Santayana is famously credited with saying that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” In a 20-25 page essay argue either pro or con for this thesis, citing at least three eras in both ancient and modern history where this proposition can be proven to be either true or false. Note: The essay is to contain appropriate cites in standard citation form.
Time: 20 minutes
READING: Read Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace and the complete works of William Shakespeare. Then write a report comparing and contrasting how the authors handle the structural themes of tragedy and comedy in their respective works.
Time: 40 minutes
WRITING: Write a novella of no more than 80 pages from any of the following genres: mystery, general fiction, Western, historical, romance or fairy tale. Extra credit will be given if you also write a play in the dramatic tragedy tradition of ancient Greece (see the works of Aeschylus or Euripides for guidance in how this might be done).
Time: 25 minutes
SCIENCE: Sketch a timeline of the history of the quantum dynamic elements of the universe from the inception of the Big Bang until the present day era. Extra credit will be given if you can provide correlational elements of such a quantum history with Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, especially noting how gravity unites both the quantum and relativistic worlds. Further extra credit will be given if you build a table-sized cyclotron to test your hypothesis using yellowcake uranium. Such yellowcake uranium is available from the Atomic Energy Commission for a small fee; please allow 2-3 weeks for delivery before the testing date.
Time: 20 minutes

Congratulations! Your testing for this year is over. Please go to lunch. And have a great day!

This is a terrific interview with Helen Gym, a public school activist who just won a seat on the Philadelphia City Council.

The state took control Philadelphia public schools in 2001, and the Governor appoints a majority of the members of the School Reform Commission. A majority of voters endorsed a non-binding resolution to restore democratic control to the district. In addition, a pro-public schools candidate was elected Mayor, defeating a heavily funded corporate reformster candidate.

Helen Gym has been a tireless and fearless advocate for public schools. In this interview, she offers sound advice about fighting for your community’s schools.

She said:

“Philadelphia is a place where corporate education reform has done so much damage. No one is a bigger symbol of that damage than the hedge fund billionaires behind the Susquehanna Group. They poured nearly $7 million into a municipal election, dwarfing any amount of money coming from elsewhere. As I said in a press conference, these were three billionaires looking to destroy public education in a city they would never live in and hurting children they would never know. That about sums it up, and it’s why the public resoundingly rejected them and their narrow abusive agenda that had done so much harm not just to children but to entire neighborhoods and communities…..

“For years, we’ve been subjected to relentless rhetoric that people don’t want to invest in public institutions anymore, that their schools have failed and their teachers have failed, and that school choice was the only option people had – and they ought to be grateful to those who provided it. But as I campaigned around the city, I was amazed at how many communities had really soured on that idea. Especially in the neighborhoods that suffered from the most disinvestment, people really understand just how important their public institutions and their public spaces are. I mean, you can’t be electing officials who want to shut down our schools, take away services from communities and cut taxes on the wealthy and call that working in the public interest. We had gone so far to that extreme that none of this corporate education reform message was resonating any more. It felt hollow, empty and defeatist. I also think that a lot of people now really understand that the problem isn’t so much that our public institutions have failed, but that we’re competing with other interests that are sucking away our ability to invest in them….

“Gym: The biggest lesson is that this was work that was built up over years. There’s no short cut. It wasn’t like some amazing superstar suddenly burst onto the scene. We’re all just pretty ordinary people who’ve learned to work together, and figured out how to build a bigger, broader movement over time. I think that’s the lesson that other communities can learn from. That when your work has integrity over time, and you work collaboratively, the broader community can see it come to fruition. I think the other lesson here is about the difference between political power and a grassroots movement. Political power was not the first thing we sought. Instead, we were really trying to build a stronger base to highlight the voices of different communities across the city. That’s how you change things, when a collective movement builds and earns political power rather than just grasps for it…..

“This election sent a loud and clear message: the place to start is investment in public institutions, and real partnerships with community organizations and parents and educators. Reforming our institutions takes collaboration and solutions rooted in vision and possibility, not narratives of failure. It’s a lesson that hope always wins the day.”

Patrick Walsh, a teacher and blogger in New York City, reviewed Mercedes Schneider’s “Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education.” I missed the review when it first appeared last fall, so am reporting it to you now because it remains timely. Walsh says it is one of the three most important books to read about “reform” today.


He writes that if the “reformers” succeed,


“…the U.S. public school system, the backbone of American public life, could well be but a memory in another 10 years. The noble art of teaching, which has sustained civilization since the days of Socrates, could well be reduced to a temp job or, at best, a micromanaged performance both scripted and judged by an international corporation like Pearson—which has, over the past decade, evolved from publishing textbooks to producing curriculum, making and grading tests, and in some states is involved in teacher certification—or worse.


Who are these people? How did they amass such power over a “public” institution of such magnitude?


In “A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education,” Mercedes K. Schneider sets out to answer those questions. She does so with fierce intelligence, wit, an ocean of unearthed facts, and a vengeance. Schneider, who in very short order has established herself as one of the nation’s most profound and prolific education bloggers, has taught for 19 years in many grades in four states and is currently teaching high school English in St. Tammany Parish, La.


You can sense her pride in her profession in every word she writes, as well as her righteous rage toward those who would defile it. Schneider is also a Ph.D. in applied statistics and research methods, which, for people who like to bury information and obscure reality with numbers, makes her a force to be reckoned with….


The book is as much a modern day bestiary as a chronicle. With the exception of former TV anchorwoman Campbell Brown, recently catapulted to privatization super-stardom, Schneider misses no person and no organization of note. They are all there, all the names conscientious teachers have heard of but whose stories were rendered as hagiographies or remained hidden as a hedge fund. Until now. Here are the stories of economists like Eric Hanushek; the entrepreneurs David Coleman and Eva Moskowitz; the professional think tank thinkers like Chester Finn and Hess; the hedge fund manager messiahs Whitney Tilson and his Democrats for Education Reform (DFER); the “radicals” like Rhee and Wendy Kopp; and, above and beneath all, the limitless coffers of the Gates, Broad and Walton foundations. And, of course, the American Legislative Exchange Council. Schneider shows again and again how they are all linked. Brilliant at uncovering the incestuous forces fueling the entire privatization campaign, she discovers the same few names popping up all over the terrain.


Walsh says that “A Chronicle of Echoes” is “an extraordinary achievement.” Dream this: Imagine if every education reporter in the mainstream media read this book.


From a reader in Arizona. Being a reformster means never being accountable when your promises don’t pan out:

“What does private/public partnership really mean?

“Well, in Arizona it means alliances that enable seamless, chameleon–like, transitions from one high profile, high-paying, private or public policy position, to the other.

“Here are a few examples:

“THEN: Rebecca Gau, Director of the Office of Education Innovation for Governor Jan Brewer was responsible for implementing the Education Reform Agenda, after work at the Morrison Institute of Public Policy and AZ Charter Schools Association.

“NOW: Rebecca Gau is the Executive Director of Arizona’s Stand For Children, and organization that advocates for school leaders, quality teachers and excellent schools for every child and high academic standards. Stand For Children is currently involving itself in a local public school board matter in the title one, Alhambra Unified School District. Curious? Indeed, because Stand For Children featured a former Alhambra superintendent, Dr. Karen Williams, on their website two years ago.

“The organization offers a Stand University for Parents, advocates for children and features blog pieces on why OPTING-IN for testing, is the way to go. But, whose children is Stand For Children, standing for?

“THEN: Pearl Chang Esau served as the Executive Director of Teach For America, Phoenix and was responsible for growing the number of corps member leaders who teach for two years in hard-to-staff public and charter schools before launching their own careers.

“NOW: Pearl Esau is the Executive Director of Expect More Arizona, “The movement (Where did I hear that word? Ah, yes,TFA promos) dedicated to building the collective public will needed to achieve a world-class education for all Arizona students.”

“THEN: Greg Miller founder of Challenge Schools (charter group) was appointed to the Arizona Board of Education and served on the Charter School Board.

“NOW: Greg Miller is the President of the Arizona State Board of Education, and a charter millionaire (see Glass:
challenging an elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

“THEN: Eileen Klein, formerly with state government in Florida, was paid to serve as Chief of Staff for Governor Brewer, and Director of Policy for the Arizona House of Representatives and chief advisor to the majority leadership. During her tenure in the administration of the governor, the Arizona Commerce Authority, the state’s leading public/private economic development organization and launching Arizona Ready, an education reform plan to align statewide education goals across the P-20 spectrum, began. She worked with the Arizona Board of Regents to develop a performance-based funding model for the university system. She is a former Arizona Board of Education member.

“NOW: Eileen Klein is finishing out a three year contract (2013-2016) as President of the Arizona Board of Regents and the Arizona Higher Education Enterprise (AHEE) at a time when state funding cuts to the three public universities amounts to $99 million dollars and several community college funding is eliminated entirely.”

Peter Greene has noticed that reformsters send contradictory messages about testing. First, they make it all-important, tying teachers’ careers to the scores. Then, they chide schools and teachers for putting so much importance in testing, e.g., teaching to the test, test prep, etc.

Peter Greene knows who is to blame. in this post, he reviews the remarks of Andrew Rotherham, a leader in the corporate reformster world. (Readers may note that I have been using Green’s word “reformster,” which has the virtue of rehabilitating the once admirable words “reform” and “reformer.” I expect to hear the Koch brothers lauded as reformers soon, along with Scott Walker, Jeb Bush, and other hard-right free-marketeers.)

Greene writes:

“Reformsters seem to want the following message to come from somewhere:

“Hey, public schools and public school teachers– your entire professional future and career rests on the results of these BS Tests. But please don’t put a lot of emphasis on the tests. Your entire future is riding on these results, but whatever you do– don’t do everything you can possibly think of to get test scores up.”

“I have no way of knowing whether Rotherman, Duncan, et al are disingenuous, clueless, or big fat fibbers trying to paper over the bullet wound of BS Testing with the bandaid of PR. But the answer to the question “Who caused this testing circus” is as easy to figure out as it ever was.

“Reformy policymakers and politicians and bureaucrats declared that test scores would be hugely important, and ever since, educators have weighed self-preservation against educational malpractice and tried to make choices they could both live with and which would allow them to have a career. And reformsters, who knew all along that the test would be their instrument to drive instruction, have pretended to be surprised testing has driven instruction and pep rallies and shirts. They said, “Get high test scores, or else,” and a huge number of schools said, “Yessir!” and pitched some tents and hired some acrobats and lion tamers. Oddly enough, the clowns were already in place.”


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