Archives for category: Education Industry

On Anthony Cody’s new independent blog site, “Living in Dialogue,” Chicago teacher Michelle Gunderson offers her views on the ethical use of student data. 

 

In her many years as an elementary school teacher, she has seen standardized tests evolve from a sorting instrument to a means of punishing children to an excuse for privatizing public schools.

 

She will not be complicit in any of these uses of student test scores. She would abolish the standardized tests if she could, but that is not within her power.

 

So she pledges, first, that they will always be on of multiple measures; that she will remain strict confidentiality about student test scores and never publish them on a data wall or release them to the public; and that she will communicate with families about the frequency and amount of time spent on testing.

 

Tests, like all tools, may be used wisely or wrongly. Tests should be used to help children and teachers, not to punish or label them or close their school.

In a two-part article called “Florida’s Charter Schools: Unsupervised,” Karen Yi and Amy Shipley of the Sun-Sentinel describe how the state’s weak laws allows charter school operators in South Florida to profit while wasting taxpayers’ money and children’s lives.

South Florida has more than 260 charter schools. Local districts are supposed to oversee them. The laws about who may open a charter school are lax. Charters open and close, and millions of dollars disappear. Is every charter a fraud? No. But members of the charter sector hold key positions in the state legislature, and the charters are the pride of former Governor Jeb Bush, so there is little effort to rein in the miscreants.

The article begins:

“Unchecked charter-school operators are exploiting South Florida’s public school system, collecting taxpayer dollars for schools that quickly shut down.

“A recent spate of charter-school closings illustrates weaknesses in state law: virtually anyone can open or run a charter school and spend public education money with near impunity, a Sun Sentinel investigation found.

“Florida requires local school districts to oversee charter schools but gives them limited power to intervene when cash is mismanaged or students are deprived of basic supplies — even classrooms.

Once schools close, the newspaper found, districts struggle to retrieve public money not spent on students.

Among the cases the newspaper reviewed:

“• An Oakland Park man received $450,000 in tax dollars to open two new charter schools just months after his first collapsed. The schools shuttled students among more than four locations in Broward County, including a park, an event hall and two churches. The schools closed in seven weeks.

“• A Boca Raton woman convicted of taking kickbacks when she ran a federal meal program was hired to manage a start-up charter school in Lauderdale Lakes.

“• A Coral Springs man with a history of foreclosures, court-ordered payments, and bankruptcy received $100,000 to start a charter school in Margate. It closed in two months.

“• A Hollywood company that founded three short-lived charters in Palm Beach and Collier counties will open a new school this fall. The two Palm Beach County schools did not return nearly $200,000 they owe the district.”

The laws were written to make it easy for anyone to open a charter school.

“State law requires local school districts to approve or deny new charters based solely on applications that outline their plans in areas including instruction, mission and budget. The statutes don’t address background checks on charter applicants. Because of the lack of guidelines, school officials in South Florida say, they do not conduct criminal screenings or examine candidates’ financial or educational pasts.

“That means individuals with a history of failed schools, shaky personal finances or no experience running schools can open or operate charters.”

“The law doesn’t limit who can open a charter school. If they can write a good application … it’s supposed to stand alone,” said Jim Pegg, director of the charter schools department for the Palm Beach County school district. “You’re approving an idea.”

“Charter-school advocates say the complexity of the application, which can run more than 400 pages, weeds out frivolous candidates. But school officials in Broward and Palm Beach counties told the Sun Sentinel some applicants simply cut and paste from previously approved applications available online.”

Charter operators can receive approval and funding before they know where their school will be located. Two iGeneration charters in West Palm Beach opened 11 days after school started.

“As students showed up for class, parts of the building remained under construction. Classrooms had not undergone required fire inspections and sometimes lacked air conditioning, district documents show. The iGeneration charters bused their high schoolers on unauthorized daily field trips because they didn’t have enough seats at the school, records show.

“On one trip, they lost a student. Though she was found four hours later, district officials immediately shut down the schools.

“Because of the quick shut-down, the iGeneration charter schools were overpaid nearly $200,000, according to the Palm Beach County school district. The schools have not returned the money.”

Academic chaos is not unusual:

“A former teacher at the Ivy Academies stored her classroom supplies in the trunk of her car. Every morning, she’d wait for a phone call to find out where classes would be held that day.

“I would never know where we [were] going,” said teacher and former middle school dean Kimberly Kyle-Jones. “It was chaotic.”

“The two Ivy Academies lasted only seven weeks.”

District officials didn’t know where the “nomad campuses” were.

“The biggest tragedy is what happened to those students during the course of time they were in that charter,” Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said. “When you get a lot of private actors coming into the marketplace, folks are in it to make money … Public education is not a place for you to come to make money.”

Some of the charters don’t know how to run a school or to provide basic supplies. In one, the lights were turned off because the school didn’t pay its elecrtticity bill. Children are the losers.

“Every time a charter school closes, dozens of children are displaced — in some instances, mid-month. Many return to their neighborhood schools where some struggle to catch up because their charters did not provide required testing, instruction in basic subjects or adequate services for those with special needs.

“This isn’t just a regular business. This isn’t a restaurant that you just open up, you serve your food, people don’t like it, you close it and move on,” said Krystal Castellano, a former teacher at the now-closed Next Generation charter school. “This is education; this is students getting left in the middle of the year without a school to go to.”

When charters close, district officials are often unable to collect money that the charter didn’t spend:

“State law requires that furniture, computers and unspent money be returned to the districts, but when officials attempt to collect, charter operators sometimes cannot be found.

“We do know there have been a few [charter schools] … where hundreds of thousands of dollars were never spent on kids, and we don’t know where that money went,” said Pegg, who oversees charters in Palm Beach County. “As soon as we close the door on those schools, those people scatter … We can’t find them.”

“When a Broward school district auditor and school detective went searching for Mitchell at the Ivy Academies in September 2013, he left through a back door, records show. District officials said they have yet to find him, or to collect the $240,000 in public money the schools received for students they never had…..

“When the Miami-Dade school district demanded the return of more than $100,000 it overpaid the Tree of Knowledge Learning Academy in 2009, the year-old charter school ceased operations. The district did not recoup the money.

“It’s almost mind-blowing what’s going on,” said Rosalind Osgood, a Broward School Board member. “They just get away with it.”

Two-thirds of South Flotida’s charters are run by management companies, which further complicates the money trail. These companies collect between 10 and 97% of all revenues.

“They’re public schools in the front door; they’re for-profit closed entities in the back door,” said Kathleen Oropeza, who co-founded FundEducationNow.org, an education advocacy group based in Orlando. “There’s no transparency; the public has no ability to see where the profits are, how the money is spent.”

Given the low bar for opening charter schools in Florida, the number is expected to increase dramatically over the next five years. There are more than 600 charters in the state now. And there will be no more supervision than there is now.

Part 2 of the series tells the story of Steve Gallon, who was banned from working in Néw Jersey because of fiscal improprieties but welcomed as a charter leader in Florida.

In a truly wonderful article in Sunday’s New York Times, David Kirp of the University of California at Berkeley lays waste the underpinnings of the current “education reform” movement. Kirp not only shows what doesn’t work, he gives numerous examples of what does work to help students.

Kirp explains in plain language why teaching can never be replaced by a machine. Although the article just appeared, I have already heard about angry grumbling from reformers, because their ultimate goal (which they prefer to hide) is to replace teachers with low-cost machines. Imagine a “classroom” with 100 students sitting in front of a monitor, overseen by a low-wage aide. Think of the savings. Think of the advantages that a machine has over a human being: they can be easily programmed; they don’t get a salary or a pension; they don’t complain when they are abused; and when a better, cheaper model comes along, the old one can be tossed into the garbage.

David Kirp dashes cold water on the reformy dream. Today’s reformers devoutly believe that schools can be transformed by market mechanisms, either by competition or technology. Kirp, author of “Improbable Scholars: The Rebirth of a Great American School System and a Strategy for America’s Schools,” says that the tools for the improvement are not out of reach and do not depend on either the market or technology. His common-sense formulation of what is needed is within our reach, does not require mass firings or mass school closings, privatization, or a multi-billion dollar investment in technology.

But Kirp writes:

“It’s impossible to improve education by doing an end run around inherently complicated and messy human relationships. All youngsters need to believe that they have a stake in the future, a goal worth striving for, if they’re going to make it in school. They need a champion, someone who believes in them, and that’s where teachers enter the picture. The most effective approaches foster bonds of caring between teachers and their students.”

Reformers have made test scores “the single metric of success, the counterpart to the business bottom line.” The teacher whose students get high scores get a bonus, while those whose students get low scores get fired, just like business, where low-performers are laid-off. And, just like business, where low-profit stores are closed, and new ones are opened “in more promising territory, failing schools are closed and so-called turnaround model schools, with new teachers and administrators, take their place.”

Kirp says bluntly:

“This approach might sound plausible in a think tank, but in practice it has been a flop. Firing teachers, rather than giving them the coaching they need, undermines morale. In some cases it may well discourage undergraduates from pursuing careers in teaching, and with a looming teacher shortage as baby boomers retire, that’s a recipe for disaster. Merit pay invites rivalries among teachers, when what’s needed is collaboration. Closing schools treats everyone there as guilty of causing low test scores, ignoring the difficult lives of the children in these schools — “no excuses,” say the reformers, as if poverty were an excuse.”

Kirp throws cold water on the reformers’ favorite remedy: “Charter schools,” he writes, “have been promoted as improving education by creating competition. But charter students do about the same, over all, as their public school counterparts, and the worst charters, like the online K-12 schools that have proliferated in several states, don’t deserve to be called schools. Vouchers are also supposed to increase competition by giving parents direct say over the schools their children attend, but the students haven’t benefited.”

As we have frequently noted, Milwaukee should be the poster child for both voucher schools and charter schools, which have operated there for nearly 25 years. Yet Milwaukee is one of the nation’s lowest performing cities in the nation on the federal NAEP tests. Milwaukee has had plenty of competition but no success.

What’s the alternative? It is obvious: “talented teachers, engaged students and a challenging curriculum.”

Kirp points to the management ideas of W. Edwards Deming, who believed in the importance of creating successful systems in which workers were chosen carefully, supported, encouraged, and enabled to succeed by the organization’s culture. The best organizations flourish by supporting their employees, not by threatening them.

Kirp identifies a number of models in education that have succeeded by “strengthening personal bonds by building strong systems of support in the schools.” He refers to preschools, to a reading and math program called Success for All model, to another called Diplomas Now, which “love-bombs middle school students who are prime candidates for dropping out. They receive one-on-one mentoring, while those who have deeper problems are matched with professionals.”

Kirp cites “An extensive study of Chicago’s public schools, Organizing Schools for Improvement, identified 100 elementary schools that had substantially improved and 100 that had not. The presence or absence of social trust among students, teachers, parents and school leaders was a key explanation.”

Similarly, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, “has had a substantial impact on millions of adolescents. The explanation isn’t what adolescents and their “big sibling” mentors do together, whether it’s mountaineering or museum-going. What counts, the research shows, is the forging of a relationship based on mutual respect and caring.

Despite the success of programs cited by Kirp, which are built on personal relationships, “public schools have been spending billions of dollars on technology which they envision as the wave of the future. Despite the hyped claims, the results have been disappointing.”

Kirp concludes that “technology can be put to good use by talented teachers,” but it is the teachers who “must take the lead. The process of teaching and learning is an intimate act that neither computers nor markets can hope to replicate. Small wonder, then, that the business model hasn’t worked in reforming the schools — there is simply no substitute for the personal element.”

David L. Kirp is a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of “Improbable Scholars: The Rebirth of a Great American School System and a Strategy for America’s Schools.”

There is a secret society that was created by a couple of dads who are teachers on Long Island. They were worried about all the testing and the way that schools were misusing the test results to label kids.

These dads wanted to protect their children–their own and the ones they teach and even the ones they don’t teach–from practices that they knew were harmful.

But what to do?

First they dressed up in funny costumes, but that didn’t get them far.

Eventually they settled on the idea of green laces, either shoelaces or wristbands.

They called their group “Lace to the Top,” to symbolize kindness and concern for children, as opposed to the aggressive competition encouraged by Race to the Top.

If you watch their video, you might catch a glimpse on me being interviewed by Jon Stewart on the Daily Show. I was wearing a green bracelet; I gave the laces to Jon Stewart. I hope he wears them.

This is a gentle kind of resistance, but it is resistance nonetheless.

Its message: Our children are more than a test score. We care about all kids, even those who don’t get the top test scores. After all, only a few kids get the top test scores, and what kind of society throws away the majority of its children because they are not at “the top?” Every child is precious and deserves the best education we can give them and many opportunities to develop into good people.

 

Is the message of “Lace to the Top” too gentle to overcome the “survival of the fittest” mentality that is implied by Race to the Top? Funny how history repeats itself. In school, we learned about social Darwinism, and we thought it was an obsolete ideology. We were taught that our society had long ago outgrown the philosophy that the strong win and the weak die off. We thought that our society had learned some lessons about social responsibility. And yet, here we are, more than a century later, with a federal policy that explicitly encourages survival of the fittest.

 

The dads who created Lace to the Top want us to think of all children as if they were our own. No winners or losers. Children. Each of them deserves the best education that we can provide and that they need. If you agree, get your green shoelaces and Lace to the Top.

Reader Art Seagal comments on the latest, most destructive fads in American education–destructive because they are mandatory and do not permit teacher judgment or professionalism.

Seagal writes:

I just read a telling article in an alumni magazine all about one man’s (Clayton Christensen) business concept – “disruptive innovation”. Sadly, our nation’s children and teachers have become pawns in a corporate-centric world being constantly moved over the chessboard so that opponent’s kings can be check-mated. “Edupreneurs” .. you pick from a string of them – the latest being David Coleman – are trying to play Christensen’s concept (which really is a statement of the obvious put through marketing and given a “brand”) to become the KING – the last man standing – the American Idol – the Survivor – the Bachelorette – you name it and the corporate world is going to find that “ONE PROFIT MAKING IDEAL that is going to be ON TOP (henceforth profitable) rendering everything before it useless. This may work for products??? Think cell phone and landline. But it certainly is not working for the basics of humanity – our quest to learn. Just the mere attempt to try to be the “disruptive innovator” is destroying public education (well there is a lot more contributing to this destruction too like poverty and a failing democratic process on a national level).

I mentioned before.. this era of “guru-ization”. Ravitch totally nails it in this recent article with the revolving door of “next best” and “this way or the highway” style public education that has taken professional control from teachers totally away and put it into the hands of what I will say are wanna be “disruptive innovators”. I am thankful for her existence on a daily basis!!!

We need to bring back teacher control. Yes, teachers who constantly keep updated and read about various education ideas and actually pick and choose those components they professionally feel will merit use in their particular classrooms. When you get a program like Balanced Literacy developed by someone with a lot of ed experience but it suddenly becomes THE ONE PROGRAM in NYC… it serves not to benefit but to disenfranchise because it is expected (no demanded by authorities) to be implemented in a one-size-fits all kind of way. The business model has perpetuated “guruization” by dangling the potential for enormous profit off of “that one idea” that goes forcefully viral. Let’s keep these ideas but not let the corporate world co-opt them!

Coleman’s theories need a good looking at by people who actually have education (not testing experience). Teachers are perfectly capable of looking at his ideas and tossing out everything that does not work. But this is not how it works. They must follow ALL OF IT despite their experience telling them otherwise. Dare I say this but if teachers were allowed to choose from their readings what and how to implement various components of various education ideas… success might be a lot more prevalent. And yes, most teachers I work with WANT TO GO TO PD’s that are not PR brainwashing events but one’s of their choosing that actually help them in the classroom. One fabulous teacher I know, paid on her own dime (as we usually do when we want REAL PD’s) and could not talk enough about a “brain and the young child” conference she attended (led by a neurologist). Instead we are forced to attend conferences where non educators are trained specifically to teach educators and their bosses are getting heaps of money to inflict nonsense on these teachers. These trainers never can answer the nitty gritty real questions that teachers ask because they have not had the requisite classroom experience. And quite often they are charged with selling their company’s “brand”. The superintendents meanwhile get to “check off” that their county’s teachers have been provided “essential training” from their superintendent’s “check-list” that satisfies likely a govt entity that provides funding to their county! Junk food PD’s.


I feel sorry for our “down under” friends… their govt.’s willingness to follow the US public education model truly will put their nation’s most valuable (their young) “down and under”.

Paul Thomas says that events are moving swiftly, and we must move with them.

When the corporate reform movement started, educators were taken by surprise and treated like children. When did it start? Was it the accountability movement that began after “A Nation at Risk” in 1983? Was it the passage of No Child Left Behind in 2001? Or the election of Michael Bloomberg in 2001 and years of pointing to the New York City “miracle”? Or the appointment in 2007 of Michelle Rhee in 2007, who was the darling of the media? Or the arrival of Race to the Top, which was no better than NCLB? Or the firing of the staff in Central Falls, Rhode Island, and the release of “Waiting for Superman” in 2010?

Thomas writes:

“Most of those accountability years, I would classify as Phase 1, a period characterized by a political monopoly on both public discourse and policy addressing primarily public K-12 education.

“We are now in Phase 2, a time in which (in many ways aided by the rise in social media—Twitter, blogging, Facebook—and the alternative press—AlterNet and Truthout) teachers, professors, and educational scholars have begun to create a resistance to the political, media, and public commitments to recycling false charges of educational failure in order to continue the same failed approaches to education reform again and again.

“In Phase 1, educators were subjected to the role of the child; we were asked to be seen but not heard.

“In Phase 2, adolescence kicked in, and we quite frankly began to experiment with our rebellious selves. In many instances, we have been pitching a fit—a completely warranted tantrum, I believe, but a tantrum nonetheless.”

Now we are in Phase 3, says Thomas. In Phase 3, we shift to substance, not just putting out fires. We are the adults. The reformers may hold the reins of power but they are in retreat as it turns out that none of their ideas actually works.

He says: “In short, as I have argued about the Common Core debate, the resistance has reached a point when we must forefront rational and evidence-based alternatives to a crumbling education reform disaster.

“We must be the adults in the room, the calm in the storm. It won’t be easy, but it is time for the resistance to grow up and take our next step.”

I am all for Phase 3, but I am not sure who will be convinced by rational and evidence-based alternatives. We have always had the evidence. We have known–even the reformers have known–that their reforms are causing a disaster. They believe in disruption as a matter of principle. How do we persuade them to consider reason and evidence? I think that Phase 3 commences when parents and educators wake up and throw the rascals out of office. In state after state, they are attacking public education, teachers , and the principle of equality of educational opportunity. The best way to stop them is to vote them out.

Our wise friend Edward Berger took some time off from blogging, did some serious reflection, and has returned with some blockbuster posts.

This one is called “Never Again! Now the Evidence is Irrefutable.” He describes three groups of reformers.

http://edwardfberger.com/

He begins thus::

“While America was asleep at least three groups have moved to control American Education:

“Group one, the most damaging, is motivated by gaining access to the tax dollars citizens pay for public education. They hide behind a pretense of serving children and building America’s future. They are ruthless pirates who have no allegiance to anything but their own wealth and power. They are often hedge fund managers. Many are successful entrepreneurs who believe that because they created or inherited wealth, they are experts in every field…..

“Group two, a large mixed group made up of those who call themselves “education reformers.” Typically, these “reformers” do not have an education background, any legitimate certification, and any, or very little teaching experience. They have grand visions of themselves which manifest in a drive to change and profit from a system they are unable to accurately define and do not understand. None of these self-appointed change agents are focused on what our children need.
Those with this narrow, self-serving mindset accept that something is true without checking or affirming it. (i.e., Bad teachers are the problem). They claim to have hunches or insights that will correct problems. A woman who typifies this limited thinking is Michelle Rhee. She demonstrates a myopic way of thinking that is not productive. That is, if you threaten and hurt people they will get in line behind your assumptions or get out of your way. Bill and Melinda Gates are part of this way of thinking. If you devise tests that are designed to fail children and their teachers, you will motivate them and purge the profession – or so this tragic way of thinking plays out…..

“I have observed that almost every attempt to reform schools is accompanied by threats, punishments, bribes, and fear-generating ideologies. High Stakes Testing, Common Core, PARCC, the SAT, are all threat-based approaches. Most State testing programs are threat-reward based. (Teach what we tell you to teach and your school will get an “A” rating).
Fifty years ago many teachers used tests as threats and punishment. Today, teachers are aware of brain-based studies and no professional educators believe that fear, pressure, and student abuse are acceptable in a learning environment.
Why then does the USDOE (Arne Duncan), Pearson – a foreign company extracting billions of dollars from American schools – continue measurement systems that are not educationally viable, and in fact block learning? The answer is simple. They actually believe that people are motivated, learn, and work harder when they are threatened and under pressure. There is no evidence to support this, but of course, they are fact-adverse.

“Group three, is a collection of individuals and groups who cling to radical ideologies. At one end of the spectrum we find fundamentalists who advocate many types of non-scientific belief. We observe End Times preaching, and morality and sexual access based on the will of old white men. These sects or cults do not want public education. They reject equality between the sexes. They want to control what is taught. They want to control what the rest of us learn.”

These are the tried-and-true tenets of education in a democratic society:

“• We do not experiment on children.
• We honor and get to know each child, even those who are hurt and will not score well on summative tests. Unless the system is overloaded – not enough resources and too many children assigned to a teacher – no child is left behind.
• We honor a long history of One Nation united by our education system through common values, comprehensive curriculum, one overall language, and free K-12 education for every child.
• We reject the false assumption that schools can be run for profit. Profits take money away from children/schools. These are dollars that must go to services for children.
• School governance must follow democratic principles, starting with elected officials and elected school boards, and not mayoral control, politically appointed czars, or would-be oligarchs from the Billionaire Boys Club (think Eli Broad).
• We have a proven system of certification and competence. Educators are constantly evaluated by parents, administrators, peers, and students. This is the reason there are very few “bad” teachers.”

Allie Gross arrived to teach in Detroit as a Teach for America recruit. Her three years in a charter school opened her eyes. She saw classrooms without supplies, children promoted who were not ready and did not get the intervention they needed, she saw feckless leadership promoted to larger roles. And she saw the growth of an industry. In this article, she describes what she learned about “the charter school profiteers.”

Here is a sample of a fascinating and disturbing portrait of what is happening in Detroit:

“In charter-heavy Detroit, permissive regulations have created an environment ripe for mismanagement.

“According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, Detroit ranks number two nationally for charter enrollment. The city is right behind New Orleans, with over half of its school-aged students attending a charter school in the 2012-2013 school year. That number will no doubt rise now that Michigan has lifted its cap on charter schools. Even more pernicious, the majority of them are run by for-profit education management organizations (EMOs). According to a report by the National Education Policy Center, Michigan has the highest proportion of for-profit EMOS running their charter schools — 79 percent of the total.

“Privatization and limited oversight have conspired to produce a new figure: the education entrepreneur. In the chaos of the Detroit school system, education entrepreneurs see an opportunity for experimentation, innovation, and venture capital. And the decentralized nature of charter schools works to their advantage. With little coherence across schools, the issue of serial education entrepreneurs emerges. Those with limited track records of success are able to wedge their ways into school after school, with nobody checking up on past performance.”

Lisa Graves was one of the creators of the website ALECExposed. She has followed the money, and she here describes a dangerous threat to American democracy by the billionaire Koch brothers, ALEC, and others who seek control by the super-rich. They want to bust unions and privatize schools. Graves says that progressives must stand together. I agree. That’s why I grow frustrated when union members attack their unions. Of course, they should fight to win democratic control of their unions. But when they begin hurling insults and invective at their allies, they do the work of their common foe.

Graves writes:

“Two of the richest men in the entire world are plotting to dominate our elections this fall, from congressional races to school board seats.

“Their scheming to shove America further to the far right should be a serious wake-up call for anyone who cares about our nation’s soul.

“As Charles and David Koch promised their billionaire buddies, they’ve assessed how the quarter billion dollars they helped raise and spread across the country failed spectacularly in the 2012 elections. And, they’ve made adjustments to their battle plans to win more this time…..

“If unions and their leaders want to stand up to the Koch machine – which has sought to gut union power for decades – I say right on. Nurses, teachers, and factory workers ought to have a chance to negotiate with power for better wages and working conditions than each could negotiate with their powerful employer alone.

“Thank goodness they’ve all stood up to the Kochs’ neo-Bircher worldview, in their own ways.

“Thank goodness they understand that civil society — indeed, our very democracy — is what’s at stake.

“I stand against the cult of greed peddled by the Kochs.

“I’m utterly opposed to the Koch-y brand of Ayn Rand’s dystopian propaganda and the updated version of this kind of every-man-for-himself economic Darwinism peddled by Rand Paul in blue jeans. I don’t want America’s great dream for our people to be shrunk into a members’ only club, letting the richest few rule with the less lucky stuck as servants struggling to survive.

“A civil society — a true democracy – recognizes that investing in our shared future makes our nation stronger.

“A healthy democracy fully funds our public institutions that serve all of the American people and helps those living on the brink, as part of our social contract in recognition of our common humanity and the fact that we all face illness and aging out of work….

“It’s about having truly public schools that provide our children with empowered teachers trained in the art and science of teaching rather than inexperienced and un-certified stand-ins trying to do it on the cheap so a corporation can pay better dividends to stock speculators.

“The right-wing alternative to truly public schools that the Koch deregulation machine has helped spawn is “charter” schools paid for with our tax dollars.

“We’ve seen too many charters run by fly-by-night operators feeding kids religious gruel or designed by corporations to enrich Wall Street speculators through cutting what’s spent on kids, teachers, and classrooms but a healthy budget for slick ads blanketing the airwaves and underwritten by taxpayers.

“Charles and David Koch have spent decades trying to get rid of “government” schools, as touted in David’s run for the White House in 1980. That’s why it’s now practically a litmus test for Republican presidential candidates to list the Department of Education among the government agencies they are in a race to eliminate.

“We need all hands on deck to stop them.

“That’s one of the reasons why attacks on the DA or union leaders like Randi Weingarten as a false equivalent to the Koch cabal are so misplaced. They are not equivalent because the goals of the Kochs matter and investing in an alternative to the Kochs’ agenda matters, a lot…..

“But, as the person who launched ALECexposed with my team in Madison, I can tell you that Weingarten has been totally stalwart in standing up to ALEC and its anti-public education agenda, which is fueled by the Koch family fortune and other rich families — along with corporations that profit from privatizing public schools, of course.

“The American Federation of Teachers has been rock solid in the fight against ALEC, consistently devoting staff time week in and week out for three years to expose ALEC, due to her personal commitment. The ongoing public campaign on ALEC would not have had the success it has had without AFT’s work and her leadership, and without the work of many devoted colleagues across the country, including the National Education Association and other organizations, bloggers, and concerned citizens nationwide…..

“I know we need a more progressive America.

“And progressives need to get better at using their power to persuade each other and to win better policies.

“But attacking genuine progressives for banding together to take on the Kochs or for not being pure enough is foolish sport. And the right loves it when progressives fight. It makes their effort to tear down the left so much easier.

“So, let’s get real.

“Because there’s a real-world war going on to kill our public schools, outsource our public institutions to private companies not accountable to us, and destroy key government constraints on corporate power…..”

The fabulously wealthy Koch brothers have developed a plan to teach their libertarian ideas to high school students. It is sort of like tobacco companies teaching students that smoking is good for you.

They have used their vast resources to identify like-minded teachers, to train them and to supply course materials. Their program, called Young Entrepreneurs, is growing in Kansas, Missouri, and other states.

What do they teach? “Lesson plans and class materials obtained by The Huffington Post make the course’s message clear: The minimum wage hurts workers and slows economic growth. Low taxes and less regulation allow people to prosper. Public assistance harms the poor. Government, in short, is the enemy of liberty.”

The course didn’t take hold at an elite private school but public schools seem eager for the support and resources.

Another way to sum it up: Greed is good. Look out only for yourself.

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