Archives for category: Education Industry

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!

Matthew Pulver, writing at, describes Jeb Bush’s dangerous belief in privatization and free markets in education.

It is not so much a belief as an ideology, one that is impervious to evidence. The many studies showing thAt privately managed charters do not get higher test scores than public schools do not register with Jeb. The numbers of charters that open with grand promises and soon lose their doors with big debts does not affect his belief system. He is a zealot for school choice, period.

Not even the failure of the charter school he founded in Liberty City, a poor black neighborhood, dampens his passion for charters and vouchers.

Writes Pulver:

“There’s nothing else as large in all of society. Not the military—nothing—is bigger.”

“That’s how Randy Best, Jeb Bush’s business partner, sees public education, as an untapped market where untold billions are to be made when kids and their families become educational customers. Touting his impressive assault on public education while Florida governor in yesterday’s announcement of his 2016 candidacy, Bush may become the loudest proponent yet of turning public education into a for-profit enterprise.

“Before getting into Bush’s record and financial interests in for-profit education, a full understanding of the dystopian horrors of for-profit, privatized education is necessary. Bush offers it with a handful of Milton Friedman-esque catchwords and focus-grouped slogans, and it may be that the proposals sound innocuous and vaguely innovative until the slightest scrutiny is applied to the ideas — at which point, it’s difficult to imagine much worse than public education turned into a for-profit market. Because the most basic and collectively understood truisms about markets, when applied to children, take on a horrifying character.”

It should be noted that Bush’s partner, Randy Best, was one of the biggest beneficiaries of Reading First, the ill-fated program enacted as part of NCLB but eventually discontinued because of sweetheart deals and conflicts of interest. Best, an entrepreneur, not an educator, created a commercial reading company (Voyager Learning), which he later sold for $360 million. Best admits that he can’t read, that he is acutely dyslexic. But he knows how to make money.

Adam Hubbard Johnson was trying to verify the claims of a miraculous transformation in Néw Orleans, and he went in search of the pre-Katrina data. Reformers said the graduation rate had grown from 54.4% before Katrina to 77% in 2012. That’s huge. But was it accurate?

He corresponded with a reporter. She used those numbers but didn’t know the source. He kept digging. Eventually he realized that the source was not city or state or federal data, but a charter advocacy group.

He writes:

“A thought experiment:

Imagine, for a moment, that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had said five years after 9/11:

“I think the best thing that happened to the defense system in New York and Washington was 9/11. That defense system was a disaster, and it took 9/11 to wake up the community to say that ‘we have to do better’.”

We would rightfully find this crude and opportunistic. But in 2010 when Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said

“I think the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina. That education system was a disaster, and it took Hurricane Katrina to wake up the community to say that ‘we have to do better’.”

the media either shrugged it off or embraced its thesis. The political and moral rot of the New Orleans education system pre-Katrina wasn’t just taken for granted – our political classes saw it as so manifestly depraved and corrupt that it validated the deaths of 1,833 people. Such is the hysteria with which conventional wisdom cements itself.

Like a tale out of an Ayn Rand variation of Genesis, the story of Katrina wasn’t one of nature’s caprice or racism’s legacy, it was instead the fortunate and righteous correction of liberal excess. And though graduation rates are not the only point of comparison used to prop up this perception (I will explore others later), they are the most accessible and finite.”

Why the missing pre-Katrina grad rate?

“The answer to this question illuminates, in a limited but potent way, what a corporate coup looks like up close. When education becomes charity rather than a right, an investment instrument rather than a civic good, the ability to distinguish between substance and marketing becomes by design, overwhelming. Like a refund department with a six hour wait time, the frustration in attempting to navigate this neoliberal maze of “private/public” responsibilities is precisely the point. Even the most basic of acts – hosting a website – turns out to be one of the primary reasons finding data is so difficult. The LDOE has had, inexplicably, five differnt primary domains in the past decade – from to to to to its current, full-flown corporate iteration”

He writes about the framing of the reform narrative:

“The story of Katrina and how it justified charter schools can best be summed up by Arthur Miller’s observation that “the structure of a play is always the story of how the birds came home to roost.”

“So went the Katrina reform school narrative in all its moral clarity. Circa 2005 charter school leaders, largely funded by the Walton, Gates, Koch families and given cover by neoliberal corporatists whose primary purpose appeared to be the act of looking busy, sought a PR coup. Though they were making incremental headway, there was little urgency to their cause. Two weeks after Katrina however, while 96% of corpses still remained unidentified and the Superdome had been reduced to a “toxic biosphere”, the story of how the birds had come home to roost was too good to pass up. Koch-funded and proto-Tea Party outfit FreedomWorks was the first to float this narrative on September 15th, both in the pages of the National Review and on their website, in an op-ed by Chris Kinnan.

[Kinnan wrote:] “There is a second rescue urgently needed in the terrible aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and one that is long overdue: saving New Orleans school kids from their broken public-school system. The tragedy of the storm provides America with a golden opportunity”

This idea of a “golden opportunity” to perform a dramatic experiment in New Orleans became conventional wisdom.

Johnson writes:

“All of this is to say nothing of the core fallacy at the heart of the “choice movement”: the presumption of dichotomy. Schools going bad? Poverty’s not the problem, abject racism’s not at fault, underfunding is irrelevant (Louisiana spent $1,636 more in real dollars per pupil in 2012 than it did pre-Katrina). No, it has to be teachers’ unions and local school boards. Get rid of those and let slick PR firms, Ivy League idealists, and hedge fund real estate interest come in and do it right. A third option, or a fourth option or any cost-benefit was never discussed. Within 10 weeks of Katrina, while the state’s largely poor and African American diaspora were scattered throughout the Gulf states simply trying to stay alive – the Louisiana State Legislature called an emergency session, passing ACT 35 which, as even Tulane’s pro-school reform Cowen Institute acknowledged, radically changed the defintion of “failing school” from the flawed but objective criteria of having a state score of less than 60 to include any school that was below the state score median, which, at the time was 86.2. Put another way: the state assured itself that their own Recovery School Board would control, by definition, at least 50% of the state’s schools no matter what.

“Overnight, 102 of the 119 locally control New Orleans schools, all primarily poor, all primarily black, were put under the pro-charter, primarily white state control. Not because they were “failing” – a school cannot “fail” to meet retroactive standards – but rather because they were vulnerable. No study issued. No ballot measure campaigned for. No discussion had.

“The corporate forces were too overwhelming, the liberal class too monied and distracted. The official history of a broken school system that was simply washed to sea, too convenient. And the truth – like the shiny new charter school system that emerged at its expense – was simply torn down and built again from scratch.”

There is no end of charter school scandals in Ohio. Blogger Plunderbund follows these stories and reports the details. Here is the latest:

“Columbus Dispatch readers were shocked, shocked to learn last week that members of Imagine Columbus Primary School’s charter board, protesting that they had no say in negotiating the terms of an operational contract, resigned “en masse” over a lease imposed by the management company that had the school paying $58,000 per month in rent for space to house 150 students, as well as other issues related to the viability of the school.

“The board’s action, which did get some attention from the usually somnolent “Ohio’s Greatest Home Newspaper,” was so dramatic that the Casablanca Prefect of Police might have exclaimed it was time to “round up the usual suspects.”

“But Captain Renault and the rest of us don’t have to look too far. In this case, the usual suspect is Imagine Schools, a national for-profit charter school chain founded by Dennis Bakke, a well-known Christian evangelical, and his wife, Eileen.

“The Bakkes have found great success with Imagine and its subsidiary, SchoolHouse Finance. But as is the case with many charter school enterprises, success is one thing, and ethics is quite another.”

But is Imagine a charter chain or a real estate empire? A breathless world awaits the answer.

“Conflict of interest? When the friend of a governor is appointed to a commission to study the feasibility of charter schools and, using his insider knowledge, forms a charter school management company to coincide with the enactment of the legislation, when one of the sponsors of the original charter school legislation works to have it designed so that a political friend and a family member profit from its enactment, and when a private foundation affiliated with a school management company offers free international travel to members of the legislature as a vehicle for influencing favorable charter school legislation, could these be examples of possible conflicts of interest?”

Plunderbund adds:

“Unfortunately, the terms charter school and conflict of interest are becoming synonymous. And redundant. ”

Who owns the charter schools in Ohio? Like many states, Tthe charters are called “public.” But the owners of the for-profit Imagine chain believe they “own” the charters. The boards are a necessary encumbrance. The public has no role, other than to supply money to the corporation.

Jeannie Kaplan, a retired member of the Denver school board, can’t stop watching and documenting the follies of corporate reform in her city. Here she tells about the curious alliance between Denver Public Schools and a local health-care provider.

She writes:

“Get this. Over the past four years a Denver-based health care provider settled (without admitting any wrongdoing) three whistle blower lawsuits with the federal government for $961 million. The cases involved defrauding the federal Medicare program ($495 million), double billing the government ($55 million), and engaging in a kick-back scheme for patient referrals. ($411 million). This same company underwrote a Denver Public Schools “pep rally” of sorts in 2012 where, using some of the company’s cultural training techniques, the six core DPS values were determined. Not surprisingly the DPS’ core values look remarkably similar to this company’s core values . And since relocating its headquarters to Denver, the CEO of said company and his wife have contributed $33,000 to four “reform” school board candidates in 2013 (10K to Barbara O’Brien, Mike Johnson, Landri Taylor, 3K to Rosemary Rodriguez) and $61,000 to three “reform” candidates in 2011 ($25K to Happy Haynes and Anne Rowe, 11K to Jennifer Draper Carson). I try not to be overly cynical, which given the state of public education in the United States is often challenging, but when I saw the invitation below, I could no longer contain my cynicism regarding this alliance. It turns out this corporation with core values such as INTEGRITY and ACCOUNTABILITY is COLLABORATING once again with the Denver Public Schools for some FUN, this time to honor those who have a shared value and vision. The company and CEO having such access to Denver Public Schools? DaVita HealthCare Partners Inc. and its CEO Kent Thiry.”

This corporation helped DPS frame its core values. It recently gave a party to celebrate and honor those who share its values.

Kaplan asks:

“How much influence does this corporation actually have within Denver Public Schools? Why is a public institution allowing a private corporation to determine its values? Isn’t this an example of taking privatization within “education reform” too far? Just askin’”

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.

Peter Greene patiently dissects a paper by Michael McShane of the conservative American Enterprise Institute advocating a free market of competition in education. It is all Bout supply and demand, McShane believes, but Greene says that it is “an exercise in unicorn farming.”

To choose wisely among many schools, parents need full and deep information, the theory goes, but Greene says what they get instead is marketing. How did big corporations succeed? By advertising and marketing.

He writes:

“McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Standard Oil, Bank of America– none of these corporations have dominated their marketplace by spreading information about their products and services. There is no market sector in which customers are moved primarily by information. Succeeding in the marketplace often involves carefully controlling and withholding the information that customers receive. In fact (and this should trouble the boys at AEI), often the real information that is available is available only because government regulation and intervention require it (think nutritional info at fast food places).

“No charter school will ever say, “Let’s get a complete, thorough informational package out there so that families can make the best decision from with the umpteen schools in this market.” What the charter will always say, like any good business, is, “How can we best present ourselves to convince the greatest number of families to choose us?”

Greene takes issue with the supply-side of McShane’s equation:

“McShane frames this as the problem of turning a monopoly into a free market, so he’s wrong right out of the gate– public education is not now, nor has it ever been, a monopoly. And even if we agree that public schools are a taxpayer-operated monopoly, no monopoly break-up has ever involved making the old monopoly operator provide all the financing of the new “competition.” When Microsoft was being threatened with a spanking for being a monopoly, nobody ever suggested that a fitting punishment would be for Microsoft to pay the bills for Apple, Corel, and every other software maker in the marketplace. But somehow the “breakup” of the taxpayer-funded “monopoly” of public schools involves having the taxpayers pay the bills for every school that wants to “compete” with public education.”

Reformers use international test scores as the reason to demolish public education by introducing a free market. Why does it never occur to them that every one of the high-performing nations has a high-quality, equitable public school system. Not one has a free market of privately managed schools. Not one has annual tests as we do. We could learn from them if we tried.

The Leona Group, a for-profit charter corporation that runs the schools of Highland Park, Michigan, will not offer high school classes next year. It will also end its contract one year early. And enrollment in the schools has dropped by 40% since the for-profit takeover. It is just not that profitable to offer high school.


Leona is closing the only high school in the district, and students were stunned.


Hannah, a rising junior, said the students were shocked and upset. “A lot of us couldn’t believe that they’d close the only high school in Highland Park,” she told the World Socialist Web Site. “We thought they couldn’t do that, because where would we go? But the superintendent called us all down to a meeting in the lunchroom and said she had done everything humanly possible to try to keep the school open.

“It’s really crazy. I am going to miss this school.”

A community meeting has been scheduled for Monday, June 8, for parents and students scrambling to find new schools. They will be assigned to the Detroit Public Schools (DPS) system and reportedly will be offered enrollment at DPS schools, a range of other charter operations, as well as slots in the so-called “failing school district” run by the state’s Education Achievement Authority.

Displaced students, facing the hardship of much longer commutes, will be given bus passes. This hardly compensates for the potentially drastic increase in commute times. For a student to take a bus from the current high school, Highland Park Renaissance, to the closest DPS high school, Pershing, would require three buses. Wait times in the city are beyond onerous in the former “Motor City” where buses can be hours late. A single bus ride could take students to Cass Tech High School; however, that school has a very selective application process.

Hannah said she would be spending her senior year at the Detroit Public Service Academy. DPSA is another Leona Group-run charter school, whose students are called “cadets” and specialize in police, military and emergency responder skills.

“It’s not that I want to do that kind of work,” she explained, “I want to do culinary arts, but they’ll have other subjects too. The DPSA will provide buses right at the CVS to get you to the school. If your parents can’t take you to a further school, you need to do what you have to, to get an education.”


It’s all about the kids. The state of Michigan has washed its hands of responsibility or accountability for public education.

Gene V. Glass, emeritus professor at Arizona State University and an associate of the National Education Policy Center, ponders the ubiquity of the “Shoe Button Complex” among leading “reformers” of education.

In this essay, he recalls a story of a man who became the nation’s leading vendor of “shoe buttons” a century ago. He cornered the market on shoe buttons. He knew everything there was to know about shoe buttons, and he became a very rich man. His great success persuaded him that he was an expert on everything. The essay then refers to the “reformers” who think that their fabulous wealth entitles them to opine on how to re-engineer schools. They don’t listen to people who work in schools or people who are researchers and scholars of education, because those people are not fabulously wealthy; in the eyes of those who have cornered the market on shoe buttons or computers, the opinion of mere educators counts for nothing. Educators, in the eyes of “reformers,” are the status quo because they are educators. Better to trust someone who has never taught or studied the subject in depth.

Glass suggests that Bill Gates and his wife Melinda may be prime examples of the Shoe Button Complex. And then there is Arizona, where he finds this scenario:

Jan Brewer, Republican governor of Arizona and famous for issuing a tongue wagging to President Obama, appointed Intel ex-CEO Craig Barrett to chair a council—Ready Arizona–to study and recommend public education reform for the state. It is unclear what Barrett knows about education. One suspects that we are encountering another case of the Shoe Button Complex. Barrett is urging businesses to push school reform. His public utterances strike familiar chords: the future of the entire state rests on the test scores of little kids; more science and math majors will attract businesses to the state; it’s a global economy. After all, the public schools are “suppliers” of labor for businesses. And at Intel, “if a supplier didn’t meet our specifications, we would call the supplier and say, ‘Meet our specifications or we will fire you.’” Apparently, Barrett shares his fellow Republican Mitt Romney’s pleasure in firing people.

Of course, what Barrett is actually and unknowingly talking about is crony capitalism: Linking government and business in relationships that favor the economy. Whether the intellectual, moral, physical, and aesthetic well-being of young people is benefited by their education probably never occurs to Barrett and his ilk. Or perhaps “well-being” to Barrett means having acquired a taste for consumerism and a job to support it. In fact, most industry leaders would like to see specialized training pushed down as early in the curriculum as possible so that high school graduates appear in their HR departments job-ready, trained at public expense. And if training kids for Intel just happens to involve piping a bunch of online courses into Arizona public schools, well so much the better since Barrett also serves on the board of K-12 Inc., the nation’s #1 supplier of cyber-courses. Whether the former CEO of Intel knows everything there is to know about selling microprocessors AND education, or whether this is merely another manifestation of the Shoe Button Complex remains to be seen.

The Albany Times-Union reports that Albany’s biggest charter chain is burdened with crushing debt after the closure of two of its schools with poor academic results.



“The closure of the Brighter Choice middle schools will eventually leave the foundation on the hook for a $15.1 million construction debt it guaranteed that Wall Street doubts it can pay for more than three years. The 30-year bonds were issued in 2012 through the Industrial Development Authority of the City of Phoenix; in March, Fitch Ratings called the schools’ default “inevitable. The foundation has also guaranteed another $1.35 million in related loans for the schools. A default by the schools would force the foundation to find a way to pay the bondholders — Chicago-based Nuveen Asset Management — without the $14,072 per-student revenue that is the core of the Brighter Choice business model, or face having the building sold out from under it.”



The founder of the Brighter Choice Foundation is Tom Carroll. Carroll is a leading advocate for charter schools in New York state. He is also president of the “Coalition for Opportunity in Education” and the “Foundation for Education Opportunity,” which is advertising and promoting Governor Cuomo’s Education Tax Credit. The ETC would funnel at least $150 million to nonpublic (religious and private) schools.


This financial disaster is happening in Albany. Surely Governor Cuomo knows about it. Yet he continues to promote charter schools as a panacea for children in schools with low test scores. He doesn’t seem to realize that schools don’t have low test scores; children do. They need help: smaller classes, guidance counselors, social workers, a full curriculum, not charter schools of unknown quality.


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