Archives for category: Corporate Reformers

An Ohio teacher sent this YouTube video made by a student, John Prusak, who started an anti-Common Core club, with tee-shirts and this video. You will be amazed.

Millions on millions have been spent by billionaires to push through their agenda of privatization and to disrupt entire school districts, on the assumption that disruption is “creative.” No doubt, they are getting ready for the next elections, opening their wallets to anyone who promises to open more nonunion charters and to attack due process for teachers. In this statement, Steve Zimmer–who overcame a billionaire-funded candidate in his last election for the Los Angeles school board–calls for a truce. He asks the billionaires to work together with school leaders to make schools better for children, instead of squandering more millions to “win.” Win or lose, the problems for the kids remains the same. Why not collaborate and do what is best for them, which is not political but consists of meeting their needs for smaller class size, medical care, the arts, librarians, social workers, and the same kind of education that the millionaires want for their own children.


He writes:


The results of yesterday’s election once again confirm that public education is
not for sale. Against a gale storm of unprecedented funding, Tom Torlakson,
State Superintendent of Instruction narrowly won re-election. This was the most
expensive State Superintendent race in U. S. History. I congratulate
Superintendent Torlakson and urge him to continue his collaborative approach to
transforming outcomes for all students in California. I look forward to
continuing our close working relationship so that the Department of Education
expands the resources available to classrooms in support of student learning
throughout our District.

I also offer my best wishes to Marshall Tuck whom I have known well for many
years. I know that Marshall will continue to be a passionate advocate for
schools serving students in the most peril.

While it is tempting to feel exhilarated in the wake of this important victory,
I mostly feel exhausted. I am sick and tired of dodging bullets from corporate
education reform billionaires who have an endless magazine of resources to shoot
at folks trying to solve the problems facing our schools.

There must be another way we can have this important conversation. Instead of
reflecting on how the millions we spend distorting truths, attacking and
bullying one another could help real kids in real classrooms today, the
California Charter Schools Association is simply reloading their guns for the
Spring School Board elections. I am sure CTA and our other labor partners will
gear up their defense systems again in response. I have a long list of programs
we could fund in LAUSD with the close to $20 million dollars that went into this
latest battle. More and more it seems like a zero sum game in which kids lose
every time.

The solutions to the problems facing our kids are never simple. They require us
to roll up our sleeves and work together to find the difficult answers in
policy, in pedagogy and in practice. Finding solutions starts with listening.
Teachers listening to parents, parents listening to teachers, school leaders
listening to the community and everyone listening to our students. The last half
dozen election cycles have had a ton of screaming. Close to $50 million dollars
worth. And barely an ounce of listening.

I still believe that collaboration trumps conflict and that we can find common
ground. I still have hope that we can transcend the power struggles in the name
of the promise that public education still holds for families who dream of a
better life for their children. If we remember that we hold those dreams in our
hands, maybe we can do more than dust ourselves off and prepare for the next

One must search to find brights spots in last night’s election, like the victory of Tom Torlakson in California and the defeat of the anti-teacher constitutional amendment in Missouri.

Bruce Rauner, the charter-smitten billionaire, was elected Governor in Illinois. Early in his campaign, he proposed lowering the minimum wage. Scott Walker was re-elected Governor of Wisconsin. Rick Scott was re-elected in Florida. There were many more such victories for people who hold the public sector in contempt and believe in Social Darwinism. It was a bad night for those who hope for a larger vision of the common good, some vision grander than each one on his own.

American history and politics are cyclical. It may require the excesses of this time to bring a turn of the wheel. It’s always darkest just before dawn.

Steve Zimmer is a member of the Los Angeles Unified School Board. He began his career in education with Teach for America, then stayed as a classroom teacher in Los Angeles for 17 years. When he ran for re-election, corporate reformers amassed a huge campaign chest to defeat him. He was outspent 4-1, but he won.

Zimmer is known as a thoughtful board member who cares about children, class size, and the quality of education for all children.

He posted the following on his Facebook page:


It is less than 24 hours until Election Day.

I never imagined the right wing billionaires that tried to take me out of my school board seat in 2013 could donate more and distort the truth greater than they did against me. But that time has come. In tomorrow’s election for California State Superintendent of Public Instruction, the billionaires have outdone themselves, pouring over 11 million dollars into Charter School Operator Marshall Tuck’s campaign to unseat former teacher Tom Torlakson. This incredible cast of characters represents a who’s who of the corporate school privatization movement. Just take a look at who is on Marshall Tuck’s 500,000+ donor list. Each and every one of these donors has supported Republican campaigns, efforts to deregulate almost every major industry, gut workers rights and fight every sensible Obama initiative. And now several of the​m​ are among the largest donors to the Republican effort to take the U.S. Senate. Here are just a few:

Julian Robertson 1,000,000
Eli Broad $1,000,000
Michael Bloomberg $1,000,000
Bill Bloomfield $1,000,000
AliceWalton $1,000,000
Carrie Penner Walton $500,000
John Douglas Arnold $500,000

The billionaires have distorted Tom Torlakson’s moderate, successful record during his first term. They ignore the substantial improvements in all measurable areas throughout the state that have culminated in our first ever 80% statewide graduation rate. Because they mostly opposed Proposition 30, they want us forget that Tom Torlakson led they way towards rescuing our and fighting for all forms of local control. And in Marshall Tuck they have found the perfect private sector candidate. I’ve worked directly with Marshall. He is not a bad person and he is not trying to ruin our schools. But he fundamentally believes schools should be run as a business. He slashed classified jobs and promoted cut throat competition between schools as a charter school leader. As a candidate he has raised the ugly flag of demonizing teachers and has promised to drop t​he appeal of the Vergara lawsuit. He has also promised to force all California districts to have teacher evaluation systems directly linked to student’s standardized test scores.

We can’t let this happen. Tomorrow we have to show that public education in California is not for sale. Tomorrow we have to show that we can transform outcomes for students by working together not blaming those who have dedicated their lives to our schools. We can’t let these modern day​ robber​ barons steal this crucial election.

I ask you to do everything you can in the next 24 hours to turn out every progressive, every democrat, every person who care​s​ about our schools and every person who cares about democracy to vote for Tom Torlakson. The ultra rich controlling our democracy is not a new story. But the consequences if they are successful tomorrow will be unprecedented. I still believe we are more powerful than money. Let us all​,​ in California and throughout our nation, show the power of the people. Thank you for doing all you can.


This article, written by a staff member of the Albany Times-Union, is a devastating critique of Andrew Cuomo.

The bottom line: He is the governor who serves the rich and powerful, not the people of Néw York. Four years ago, we had high hopes.

“Now, four years later on the cusp of the next election, upstate New York can’t wait to see him go. It turns out that our hero, our champion, is a fraud.

“He has misled us again and again on a host of issues, and disappointed us at nearly every turn.

“Corruption remains rampant. If you define corruption as the outsized influence of money in setting state policy, or at least giving that appearance, then the governor himself has become the embodiment of pay-to-play. He is the champion of Wall Street, a hero to downstate real estate magnates and billionaire hedge fund managers. Despite fervent promises, public financing of elections bit the dust. Why is no mystery. No one in state politics has benefited more in terms of campaign contributions from the wealthy — of maintaining the status quo — than Andrew Cuomo. That didn’t happen by accident….”

And he adds:

“The price for efficiency has been the ruthless co-opting of government in New York by one man, a closed loop. The Legislature is superfluous except for rubber stamping, and so is the electorate, for that matter. Cuomo is content — no, he demands — to make all the decisions for us, and will tell us what’s good for us, see that it’s passed, and no discussion, thank you. In the process, he has pitted blocks of New Yorkers against each other, and as a continual strategy has vilified those he wants to trample for whatever reason. Even when there are good reasons for tough love, such as the need to reduce the state workforce due to the Great Recession, his derisive strategy is awful. Treating those about to lose their jobs disrespectfully is reprehensible governance…..

“So the big question hanging out there now is why, days before the election, he declares war on public education and teachers, again. You would be hard pressed to find a historical precedent for a gubernatorial candidate, even a cocky one, antagonizing a large block of voters days before ballots are cast.

“Yet, this has all the earmarks of a calculated ploy on his part. My guess is that he is less concerned with how his comment equating public education with a public monopoly would play with educators, school boards and teachers unions — they weren’t going to vote for him anyway — than how pleased the hedge fund billionaires and Wall Streeters promoting the privatization of public education and charter schools would be to hear it.

“He has the election in the bag anyway, so why waste a good opportunity to shake the money tree? Pure Cuomo.”

FYI: this scathing article was tweeted by Randi Weingarten.

See why I’m voting for Howie Hawkins and Brian Jones in the Green Party line? Cuomo does not deserve re-election.

In Indianapolis, there will be a crucial school board election tomorrow. Money is coming into the district from corporate reformers who see a chance to turn Indianapolis into another all-charter district, like New Orleans. They apparently don’t realize that most of the charter schools in New Orleans have been rated D or F by the charter-friendly State Education Department. Or that of 68 school districts in Louisiana, the Recovery School District in New Orleans is ranked #65. This is no model for Indianapolis or any other city.


The Indianapolis Public School Board election is one of the most hotly contested races in Indiana. A great deal of money has been injected into this election by reformers who support the further expansion of charters and vouchers in IPS. I urge my Indianapolis friends to support the following 3 candidates, who are currently members of the IPS Board.
Annie Roof is the current IPS Board President. She is an IPS graduate, a parent, and an IPS advocate. She has initiated community engagement designed to reach more constituents. She has worked diligently to make sure there is a great school for every student. She was part of a national search team to bring new leadership to IPS in the hiring of Dr. Lewis Ferebee. She has championed competitive pay and benefits for IPS teachers. Annie has ushered in a new era of transparency about the IPS budget and agenda items. She has advocated for increased autonomy at the school level where parents and community members and principals work together.


Samantha Adair White and Dr. Michale Brown are both incumbents and have both helped to bring the IPS Board and district a long way toward transparency and responsiveness to parents and community in the past 4 years (including the hiring of a new Superintendent Dr. Lewis Ferebee). Without their election, Annie Roof’s voice for public education will be lost especially since their opponents have been endorsed and funded by Stand for the Children and the Chamber of Commerce. If their opponents are elected, corporate reform candidates will control the majority of the Board and further privatizations would proceed very rapidly after the election, and Indianapolis will become another New Orleans or Chicago or Philadelphia, all cities where public education is under threat by privatizers.


Vote for your public schools tomorrow.

I blogged this article before. Having just finished Bob Herbert’s brilliant new book Losing Our Way, I decided to post it again. This is to remind you that thoughtful people outside the field of education see clearly what is happening. Understand that some very rich and uninformed people are trying to grab control of our public schools and that they use the false narrative of “failure” to justify their intervention into the world of schooling, about which they know less than nothing. Less than nothing would be a good description of the knowledge base of Bill Gates, Eli Broad, the Walton family, John Arnold, and David Welch (Vergara man). Less than nothing is when people are misinformed, have wrong-headed ideas, and do damage to children and teachers but call it “reform.”


I will write a full review of Bob Herbert’s book. Let me just say as a brief summary that it is the best book on the current state of America that I have read in many years. It is sobering, thoughtful, and gripping.



The Network for Public Education has issued a BIG MONEY ALERT about efforts to swamp state and local school board races with outsize campaign contributions.

The ALERT focuses on a handful of races where corporate reformers are using their vast financial resources to win control. Many of the biggest donors are out-of-state and have no ties to the public schools other than a desire to promote charter schools, high-stakes testing, and test-based evaluations of teachers.

The race for state school superintendent in California has attracted the most corporate reform money. Marshall Tuck is the favorite of the billionaires and hedge fund managers. State superintendent Tom Torlakson is an educator with solid support among the state’s teachers and administrators. Torlakson is supported by teachers and their unions.

Tuck is the darling of the corporate ed-reform donors, having received such contributions as:

Eli Broad’s donation of $1,375,000;
Walton daughters and heirs, Alice and Carrie with $450,000 and $500,000 respectively;
Julian Robertson of the Robertson Foundation with $1,000,000;
Doris Fisher of the Donald and Doris Fisher Fund with $950,000;
Ex NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg contributed $250,000;
Houston billionaire and DFER friend John Arnold;
San Francisco venture capitalist and TFA Board member Arthur Rock.

If you know of other races where the big corporate money people are tilting the scales, please contact Robin Hiller, executive director of the Network for Public Education, or leave a comment here.

Only days before the election, enjoying a comfortable lead in the polls, Néw York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo unleashed a tirade against teachers and the very concept of public education. He vowed to make test-based evaluations tougher, so more teachers would be found ineffective and fired. And he denounced public education as a monopoly that he is determined to break.

Daniel S. Katz of Seton Hall University reviews Cuomo’s remarks and finds that he is dangerously misinformed. He is a threat to the future of public education in Néw York state. He is clearly unaware of the failure of test-based teacher evaluation. He has obviously never read the research that shows how this method produces incoherent results and is no better than a roll of the dice.

But even more disturbing is his hostility to public education, which is one of the bedrock responsibilities of society. He sounds like a right-wing ideologue in a voucher organization.

It is sad that this angry man, who views teachers and public schools with contempt, has collected $40 million from his Wall Street allies and is coasting to re-election. Too bad he did not make his views clear earlier in the election cycle.

Matt Farmer, a Chicago public school parent, wrote a song for Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner.

It is called “Plutocrat: The Ballad of Bruce Rauner.”

Please listen. It is a hoot.


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