Archives for category: For-Profit

Wow! How cool is this? You, me, and all of us are invited to join today’s thought leaders of education “reform” (aka, privatization and segregation) at a philophers” retreat.

I wish I were a thought leader in education, but apparently my thoughts don’t lead in the right direction (e.g., handing public money over to privately managed schools with no transparency or accountability, smashing unions, demoralizing teachers, eliminating pensions, making test scores the goal of education, firing teachers who can’t raise test scores higher and higher every year, stuff like that, which these days makes you a thought leader).

The meeting is billed as a three-day retreat, “a philosopher’s camp on education reform.” I wonder if the philosophers there will talk about Horace Mann or John Dewey or William James or William Torrey Harris or Sidney Hook? Somehow, I doubt they will. I kind of doubt that they ever heard of any of our eminent philosophers of education.

You too can attend for only $1,000. If you want to be a VIP, it will cost you $2,500.

Two other things: the meeting will be held at the Whiteface Lodge in Lake Placid. Is there a coded message here?

And for the benefit of the assembled philosophers, they might want to be reminded that they have a spelling error on the invitation. It is James Russell Lowell that once attended a meeting at that lodge, not James Russell Lowes. Do they know the difference? But when you are a thought leader in education, why bother with details?

Bill Moyers is one of my heroes. He is one of the few people in the media who is as concerned about the privatization and monetization of the public sector as I am. He has a long memory, and he has not forgotten that a good society needs both a strong public sector and a strong private sector. Nor has he forgotten that the real civil rights movement was about tearing down the walls of a segregated society and creating equal opportunity for all, not the current effort on the part of billionaires to promote school choice and decimate public education.

I enjoyed talking to him. Here is the full interview as it aired on PBS.

A teacher writes in response to an earlier post about the vendors making lots of money these days, but not schools or classrooms:

hahaha… I can laugh now, but, until I retired, I taught in a portable classroom, where termites would fly from the walls and I had to get rid of the smell of cat urine when I moved in.Yet, I had a smartboard, responders, laptop along with desk computer (T1 line plus wifi), and other electronic devices. However, once a device had problems (or needed batteries), well, things might not get fixed (I never did get a replacement hub for the one device I actually found extremely useful).

I was better off than my colleagues, one whose portable had mold, another whose portable had rotten flooring ready to cave in at the doorway, and then the ones who had no heat or cooling for much of the year (teachers complained, but it was only when a parent group complained, that the heat/cooler system was finally fixed). But, hey, we all had these electronics that were going to give us more points on tests!

At the last workshop I attended, the presenter certainly gave us some useful information, but when we asked her to help us with some specific problems, she drew a blank, not knowing how to respond. We told her, that we had 15 feeder schools, only three of which were in our district. She lowered her voice and informed us, “Oh, then I’m sorry, I cannot help you.” Then she quickly gathered up her materials and left. (I wondered why she couldn’t help us, until I discovered she was from an area with no out-of-district feeder schools.)

Yep. Lots of money out there to “fix” those poverty area schools.

Professor David Hursh of the University of Rochester visited New Zealand, where he explained so-called “education reform” in the United States. He very bluntly describes the bipartisan agenda that is proving to be harmful to students, teachers, and public education.

Hursh met with educators in Australia and New Zealand over a five-week period, encouraging them to resist the high-stakes testing movement.

In an earlier post today, I described the use of FUD (fear, uncertainty,and doubt) to destroy public confidence in public education and thus pave the way for privatization. The vendors of FUD say our education system, which made this country great, is failing; that it is obsolete; that we are losing the global race. It is a massive hoax, a fraud, a lie. They want to frighten the public and open the door to privatization and profiteering.

Robert Shepherd shows how FUD works in the marketing of Common Core, which was created to address our allegedly failing schools. Just remember: our schools are NOT failing. Our society is failing to address the real crisis of our time, which is that nearly one-quarter of our children live in poverty, and many are racially segregated as well. The Commin Core won’t change those scandalous realities.

Shepherd, an experienced curriculum developer, writes:

“And be these juggling fiends no more believed,
That palter with us in a double sense

–William Shakespeare, Macbeth

According to the amusing Wikipedia article on the subject, agnotology is the intentional cultural production of ignorance. It’s what advertisers and the leaders of oligarchical states do. They manufacture ignorance in order to further their goals. When it became clear to the cigarette companies that their product was extremely dangerous to people’s health, they started running ads that read “9 out of 10 doctors agree, there’s not a cough in a carload.” That’s agnotology.

One of the primary means by which the agnotologist works is equivocation. Equivocation is a kind of lying that SOUNDS as though it might be true. To see agnotological equivocation brought to the level of a high art, you need but look no further than the webpage from the Common Core State Standards Organization (the CCSSO) that describes the “myths” surrounding the Common Core. Each “myth” described on the Common Core page and in other Education Deform propaganda is, in fact, the unspun truth. In other words, the Education Deformers are highly accomplished agnotologists. A few examples will illustrate their technique:

“The Common Core State Standards were developed by teachers”

means that teachers had almost nothing to do with them, that a few teachers were selected to rubber stamp work done by amateurs from outside the profession who were hired with money from plutocrats and given the task of hacking those standards together based on the lowest-common-denominator groupthink of the state standards that preceded them.

“The standards were freely adopted by the states”

means that the USDOE gave the states no choice but to adopt them or suffer severe penalties that would come from not getting NCLB waivers. The “State” in “Common Core State Standards” is, quite simply, a lie. The standards were not developed by states but by a PRIVATELY HELD pair of organizations that hold a copyright on them.

“The new standards will unleash powerful market forces to encourage innovation”

means that the national standards will create markets at a scale at which only monopolistic providers of unimaginative educational materials can compete. It means the Walmartization, the Microsofting of U.S. education. It also means that in due time the CCSSO and the National Governor’s Association, or NGA, will start using the legal system to control the market for educational materials by deciding what materials will and will not receive its OK to claim alignment with its PRIVATELY HELD standards.

“The states are free to adapt the standards as they see fit”

means that the states can’t change them at all, that the most states can do is to add a few, but very few, standards to the CC$$ bullet list. The number of standards added can be no more than 15 percent of the total, and otherwise, the standards must be adopted without change (and without any mechanisms for change in the future other than the whim of the private organization that created the standards to begin with).

“The plutocrats have no seat at the table where educational policy is made” (Arne Duncan)

means that a small group of plutocrats paid for and directed the creation of the standards, the revised FERPA regulations, the new VAM systems, and the USDE technology blueprint. It also means that those same plutocrats are providing a lot of the money that is going into the development and marketing of the new national online bubble tests. It means that education policy is being made based on what serves the financial interests of the plutocrats. It means that the current deforms are the plutocrats’ business plan.

“The standards are not a curriculum”

means, in math, that they are a curriculum outline and in ELA that a) they dramatically narrow the possibilities for curricula and b) contain a great many items that clearly do specify curricula

“The standards don’t tell you how to teach” or “The standards do not specify pedagogical approaches

means that some pedagogical approaches are required in order for the standards, as worded, to be met and that MOST APPROACHES that might be conceived by independent teachers, scholars, researchers, and curriculum developers are precluded.

“The new national tests introduce breakthroughs in question types in order to test high-order thinking”

means that some minor online variants of fill-in-the-blank, matching, ordering, and other stock bubble test questions types have been introduced. So, for example, instead of filling in a blank, the student clicks on and moves an item to a blank.

“US schools are falling behind on international tests, thus making the standards and new national assessments necessary,”

means that US schools appear to be performing poorly if one does not correct for the socioeconomic status of the kids taking the test. If one does correct for SES, US schools and students lead the world.

“The Secretary of Education is the chief officer of the national public school system”
means that he is the fellow whom the oligarchs have put in charge of dismantling that system and replacing it with online and brick-and-mortar charters, voucher systems, and private schools run by well-connected profiteers.

“We’ve seen great improvements due to the accountability system put in place by NCLB”

means that scores have been almost flat and that the more than a decade of standards-and-testing that was supposed to “Leave no child behind” hasn’t worked at all to change overall outcomes or to put a dent in the achievement gap.

Poverty is not destiny”

means that the powers that be are going to ignore poverty and use the whips of VAM and testing instead.

So, agnotology, and, in particular, agnotology via equivocation, has become the PRIMARY MEANS OF GOVERNANCE of our K-12 educational system. In other words, our national education policies are, cynically, being formulated and enforced via LIES and, in particular, via means of that variety of LYING known as EQUIVOCATION.

And the leaders (LIARS) doing this governance are counting on having made the public so ignorant, via such equivocation, that it will not oppose their complete circumvention of democratic processes.

They are counting on the fact that their plutocrats, the guys with the checkbooks, can buy all the PR that is needed to keep the people in ignorance.

That’s how things work in a banana republic. The plutocrats purchase the political muscle to carry out their plans. In time, that muscle, the leaders/liars don’t even try to hide the fact that they are lying. They do it completely shamelessly. In fact, being able to lie shamelessly without having anyone call you out on it is a sign of enormous power, and to such people, to quote Kissinger’s infamous line, “Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.”

Erin Osborne warns in this powerful article at that the profiteers are invading the classroom. They aren’t just selling pencils and textbooks. They are creating business ventures to make millions from controlling and directing the curriculum and testing, supplying the software and hardware that the new curriculum and testing requires.

Tellingly, she titles her article: “Keep Fox News Out of the Classroom! Rupert Murdoch, Common Core, and the Dangerous Rise of For-Profit Public Education.”

Arne Duncan spins a narrative that the Common Core standards mark a brilliant new direction for American education, in which achievement gaps will disappear as every child learns the exact same lessons in the same sequence in every state and school district.

But Osborne sees something else:

America’s most recent education reform, the Common Core State Standards, has divided teachers and parents across the United States. Whether or not the standards mark a step in the right direction for the education system, one thing is for sure. For the first time in American history, businesses are able to freely tap into the K-12 market on a large scale, and they aren’t waiting.

Make no mistake, she writes, the Common Core standards were designed to create a national market for goods and services (Joanne Weiss, tapped by Secretary Duncan to run Race to the Top, said that this was the purpose of national standards). Now, entrepreneurs are devising plans to get rich from taxpayer dollars:

How have the authors proposed we track the success of this reform? Testing, and lots of it. Along with the Common Core come two new major testing consortiums called SmarterBalanced and Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. Forget your No. 2 pencil; these aren’t the bubble tests you remember from school but adaptive computer testing that is required two to three times a year for every student in every grade. From the SmarterBalanced website, “The full suite of summative, interim, and formative assessments is estimated to cost $27.30 per student … These costs are estimates because a sizable portion of the cost is for test administration and scoring services that will not be provided by Smarter Balanced; states will either provide these services directly or procure them from vendors in the private sector.”

Big business in education isn’t new. Pearson and McGraw-Hill have dominated the textbook market while the College Board, makers of the SAT and Advanced Placement courses, are the veritable gatekeepers to higher education. The entire U.S. education system has been valued at nearly $1.5 trillion, second only to the healthcare industry. As media mogul Rupert Murdoch said after acquiring education company Amplify (previously known as Wireless Generations), “When it comes to K-12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed by big breakthroughs that extend the reach of great teaching.”

Until the creation of Common Core, businesses have found breaking into the K-12 market very difficult. States have historically written their own curriculums and standards, buying suitable materials and textbooks as they saw fit. Creating content that was accessible to multiple states was difficult and being able to approach the districts within their tiny budget window was nearly impossible. The nuanced field of state, local and federal funding and regulations that companies are forced to navigate takes years to master and states were the ones controlling the checkbook.

From a business point of view, why go to them when you can make them come to you? Many of the people who financially aided the creation of Common Core have investments in place in companies that would do quite well with the standards implementation. By using financial clout and political connections, billionaires, not teachers, were able to influence the landscape of our education system. If states wanted a chunk of the RttT money, they had to adopt Common Core. If they adopt Common Core, they have to pay for the assessments and proprietary materials that come with it. Products that are “Common Core Aligned” have flung the door to K-12 wide open. Still not convinced Common Core is more about money than education? Check out the American Girl back-to-school accessory set children can buy, complete with a mini Common Core-aligned Pearson textbook.

Osborne notes the number of start-ups that have jumped into the education business, seeing this lucrative market, and she also notes that most start-ups don’t survive:

Given the growing emphasis on technology in the classroom plus Silicon Valley’s affinity for gadgets, there are dozens of start-ups trying to cash in on the new market. Rupert Murdoch’s company Amplify has created its own tablet and Common Core-aligned games. According to CNBC, the amount of venture capital invested in education start-ups quadrupled, from $154 million in 2003 to $630 million in 2012.

Mick Hewitt, co-founder and CEO of education start-up MasteryConnect, said earlier this year, “I would be wrong if I said the Common Core and the dollars around it haven’t driven a lot of the activity for us.” MasteryConnect raised more than $5.2 million in investments, $1.1 million of which came from the NewSchools Venture Fund, which in turn has received more than $16 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation since 2010. Hewitt does not have an education background.

Note the investment in this particular start-up by the NewSchools Venture Fund. NSVF is the epicenter of the for-profit approach to education. Its CEO Ted Mitchell was nominated by the Obama administration to become Undersecretary of Education, the second most powerful job in the Department. NSVF is not known as a friend of public education, but as a source of funding and strategy for charter chains, charter schools, and for-profit ventures.

It should not be surprising, really, that Secretary Duncan picked the head of NSVF to become #2 at the Department of Education. In 2009, he asked Joanne Weiss, who was then the CEO of NSVF to run Race to the Top. Once the Race to the Top competition was completed, Weiss then became Duncan’s chief of staff. Weiss memorably described the rationale for the Common Core this way in a blog for the Harvard Business Review:

The development of common standards and shared assessments radically alters the market for innovation in curriculum development, professional development, and formative assessments. Previously, these markets operated on a state-by-state basis, and often on a district-by-district basis. But the adoption of common standards and shared assessments means that education entrepreneurs will enjoy national markets where the best products can be taken to scale.

This was certainly the first time in history that the U.S. Department of Education created a program whose purpose was to stimulate new markets for entrepreneurs and investment.

Erin Osborne is an active member of the Education Bloggers Network, a group of bloggers who support public education. These were her first reflections on the recent conference of the Network for Public Education.

The Tampa Bay Times wrote an editorial urging the state to reject a for-profit charter school at an Air Base.

The base already has an on-base public school that was A-rated by the state for 12 of the past 13 years.

But Governor Rick Scott encouraged the creation of a charter on the base. As the editorial says, the local school board rejected the application:

“But organizers now are appealing to the state Board of Education, and why not? Gov. Rick Scott directed the proposal’s organizers early on, records show — and he appointed all six members of the Board of Education that will hear the case. The board should put politics aside and deny this appeal. That would be best for military families, local control and the integrity of the charter school process.”

Dale Hansen in the Detroit News explains in this blog post how Governor Rick Snyder has underfunded the public schools while claiming (falsely) to have increased funding.

By the way, the title of his article is: “Governor Rick Snyder Is Working to Destroy Public Education.”

He shows how the Governor is pushing teachers out of the pension system, contributing to its woes as there are fewer teachers to pay into it.

He shows how the Governor favors charter schools, and will continue to convert public schools into charter schools wherever and whenever possible.

More than 80% of the charters in Michigan are operated for-profit, meaning that taxpayers’ dollars are going to pay off investors and stockholders, not into the classroom where they belong.

Hansen writes:

Regardless of all of these potential problem areas, Rick Snyder and Michigan Republicans know that every school they deem failing will simply be converted to a charter school, which pulls more students out of traditional public schools. This means less teachers contributing to the public retirement fund and with fewer teachers contributing it requires the state to kick in more. The perception then becomes that greedy teachers are taking money out of the classroom and that public schools are expensive and inefficient.

This is the self-fulfilling prophecy Republicans hope will be the undoing of public schools. The Republican solution to inefficient and expensive public schools makes public schools more inefficient and expensive. It’s a win-win for Republicans. They make public schools look bad while simultaneously putting more kids on the charter school gravy train.

The question of money in education is important but when it comes to the Michigan governor’s race the better question should be, what do we want our education system to look like in the future? Do we want schools that are subject to local checks and balances or a couple massive corporations that make their money based on quantity, not quality? Because regardless of how much either candidate pledges to spend, their goals are profoundly different.

A reader forwarded the following story.

Microsoft and Pearson will join forces to build “the first curriculum…for a digital personalized learning environment that is 100 percent aligned to the new standards for college and career readiness.”

Now we see the pattern on the rug.

It begins like this:

New York, NY (PRWEB) February 20, 2014

Today Pearson announced a collaboration with Microsoft Corp. that brings together the world’s leading learning company and the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions to create new applications and advance a digital education model that prepares students to thrive in an increasingly personalized learning environment. The first collaboration between the two global companies will combine Pearson’s Common Core System of Courses with the groundbreaking capabilities of the Windows 8 touchscreen environment. The Common Core System of Courses is the first curriculum built for a digital personalized learning environment that is 100 percent aligned to the new standards for college and career readiness.

“Pearson has accelerated the development of personalized digital learning environments to improve educational outcomes as well as increase student engagement,” said Larry Singer, Managing Director for Pearson’s North American School group. “Through this collaboration with Microsoft, the global leader in infrastructure and productivity tools for schools, we are creating a powerful force for helping schools leverage this educational model to accelerate student achievement and, ultimately, ensure that U.S. students are more competitive on the global stage.”

“Personalized learning for every student is a worthy and aspirational goal. By combining the power of touch, type, digital inking, multitasking and split-screen capabilities that Windows 8 with Office 365 provides with these new Pearson applications, we’re one step closer to enabling an interactive and personalized learning environment,” said Margo Day, vice president, U.S. Education, Microsoft Corp. “We’re in the middle of an exciting transformation in education, with technology fueling the movement and allowing schools to achieve this goal of personalized learning for each student.”

In addition, iLit, Pearson’s core reading program aimed at closing the adolescent literacy gap, will be optimized for the Windows 8 platform. Designed based on the proven instructional model found in the Ramp Up Literacy program, which demonstrated students gaining two years of growth in a single year, iLit offers students personalized learning support based on their own instructional needs, engaging interactivities, and built-in reward systems that motivate students and track their progress.

Read more:

From Angie Sullivan in Nevada, where the rich play, kep taxes low, and are privatizing the public schools:

“Some of the most wealthy people in the world live in Nevada.

What do billionaires and business people do for fun in Nevada?

Reform public education of course!

What do Casino Tycoon Elaine Wynn, Jeff Bezos, and Zappos Tony Hsieh have in common? Teach for America and ALEC inspired education reform. The return on investment model should be applied everywhere!

All this experimentation with public education – without research or time tested results , wouldn’t bother me so much if the situation were not so financially dire in the State of Nevada. Last in the nation in funding, huge at-risk populations, and limited funds to siphon for billionaire fly-by-night ideas.

Did you know that Nevada will vote on a 2% tax on businesses earning $1 million or more in November 2014? This has our education reforming billionaires really twisted. Nevada is one of the few states that does not tax corporations. This attracts billionaires who are adverse to paying . . . anything.

Did you know that Jeff Bezos the founder and CEO of has a warehouse outside of Fernley, Nevada in the desert?

Did you know that this ecommerce company pays taxes based on location of warehouse?

Did you know that has a history of union-busting and treating labor poorly to maximize income?

Did you know that is a known tax evader and does all it can to not pay its fair share?

Did you know Jeff Bezos belonged to ALEC and ALEC aided him with his loopholes?

Did you know that Jeff Bezos is really excited by charter schools, privatization and union-busting? Bad news for public schools.

Did you know that bought Zappos?

Did you know that Tony Hsieh is the founder and still works at Zappos – which is now located in downtown Las Vegas – revitalizing the area?

Did you know that Tony Hsieh is involved with Teach for America and plans to continue to bring at least 1,000 TFA to Vegas?

Teach for America are young and excited but they aren’t trained to be teachers – unless you think a few weeks is enough. 150 Teach for America were hired in Vegas at the same time 1400 fully licensed Teachers were pink slipped resulting in union-busting.

Did you know TFA mingle with Zappos employees, even going on spring break trips and retreats together?

Did you know that Victor Wakefield, Executive Director of Teach for America, is married to Nevada State School board member (former TFA) Alexis Gonsalez-Black, Zappos?

Did you know that Elaine Wynn, Casino Tycoon, and Tony Hsieh, Zappos donated heavily to the Nevada State Election Campaigns of Alexis Gonsalez-Black and Allison Serafin? President Elaine Wynn, Alexis Gonsalez-Black and Allison Serafin who all have connections to big money and Teach for America sit on the Nevada State Education Board. Hundreds of thousands of campaign dollars spent on unpaid board seats — one has to ask . . . why?

Did you know that during the last legislative session the NV assembly prevented TFA from receiving additional tax payer funds for its non-profit. And TFA then went to CCSD and asked for additional funds – this was rejected. And then TFA went to the City of Las Vegas – and received money from the city . . . unprecedented “education funding” to a cash flushed non-profit? Public Schools recently endured one billion in budget cuts but there is money for this?

Did you know that Teach for America is becoming a major political player and national campaign contributor – as a non-profit?

Did you know that Governors in other states refused to give TFA money because they had so much? $350 million in net assets.

Did you know that education philantrophy makes a nice non-profit tax shelter.

Did you know that Elaine Wynn is President of the National Non-Profit Communities in Schools- which declares an unbelievable and most likely unprovable – drop out prevention (return on business investment) success story?

Wynn donates hundreds of thousands across the nation to Communities in Schools – she is so kind!

And her international $135 million giving to Macau was even cause for investigation! The SEC called the gift suspicious; More suspicious is Wynn’s appointment by the Governor of Reno to the Nevada State School Board while being investigated?

Does anyone see a pattern with these business oriented billionaires and their plans for public schools? When public education is a large portion of the state budget and you are a billionaire partially because of sketchy business practices and tax dodging . . . it makes sense that you want to distract everyone by reforming public schools instead of paying your fair share and funding schools adequately.

Nevada needs the community to vote for the TEI in November 2014.

The high rolling billionaires need to pay their fair share this time around instead of coming up with “great education ideas” that don’t work.


Notes and Links:

Jeff Bezos

Amazon is required to collect the tax only in states where it maintains a physical presence, such as a warehouse. But Amazon now is supporting the bill, which has passed the Senate and is pending in the House. State sales taxes no longer pose a real threat to Amazon; with an emphasis on same-day shipping, the company is building distribution warehouses across the country and would have to pay the tax anyway.

The Bezos Family Foundation — whose board includes Bezos, his parents and other family members — gave more than $11 million in 2011 to an array of national organizations such as Teach for America, Stand for Children and the KIPP Foundation, according to tax filings. The foundation also gave grants to scores of individual schools around the country as well as several charter school chains, including Uncommon Schools, which operates schools in New York and Massachusetts. Inc
1600 Newlands Dr E
Fernley, NV 89408

(775) 575-8000

Fulfillment and Warehouse Centers

We receive, pack, and ship tens of millions of items from our global network of fulfillment centers.
North America
* New Castle, Delaware
* Coffeyville, Kansas
* Campbellsville, Kentucky
* Hebron, Kentucky
* Lexington, Kentucky
* Fernley, Nevada
* Red Rock, Nevada
* Chambersburg, Pennsylvania
* Carlisle, Pennsylvania
* Lewisberry, Pennsylvania
* Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas

Close of facility in Red Rock, Nevada – Fernley still opened

Amazon are Union Busters
Amazon have a little-reported, but undeniable record of preventing their work force from unionising. In 2001, hired a US management consultancy organisation, The Burke Group, to assist in defeating a campaign by the Graphical, Paper and Media Union (GPMU, now part of Unite the Union) to achieve recognition in the Milton Keynes distribution depot. It was alleged that the company sacked four union members during the 2001 recognition drive and held a series of captive meetings with employees.

Tax dodging and union busting

Amazon’s workplace practices have come under fire in recent years. News outlets have detailed everything from the exhausting nature of warehouse work (employees can walk as much as 15 miles daily) to ambulances waiting outside a facility to collect workers who overheated because of a lack of air conditioning. Warehouse workers in Germany have walked out several times over wage issues. Some later traveled to Seattle to picket in front of Amazon’s headquarters.

Read more: How Amazon Crushed the Union Movement |

Purchase of Wasington Post

Bezo’s Politics called into questions

Donations to keep from being taxed
Family big support’s of charter schools
Donations on both sides of the aisle.

Donation to gay marriage equality
Donations to various candidates
Donations to defeat taxes

But what has not made news is Bezos’ careful activism on behalf of big business and some of the richest Americans. In 2010, a coalition of Washington state public interest groups, teachers and socially minded wealthy Americans like Hanauer and Bill Gates Sr. supported Initiative 1098, which would have established the first-ever income tax in the state. If passed, the initiative would’ve established a tax on adjusted gross income for individuals earning more than $200,000 a year and $400,000 on married couples or domestic partners. By taxing high-income Washingtonians, the initiative would also have allowed for a reduction in property taxes and the expansion of certain business tax credits.

Amazon has also taken heat for its membership in ALEC—the American Legislative Executive Council—a corporate-funded group that backs right-wing politicians. ALEC also drafts and promotes laws like those that effectively disenfranchised large numbers of minority voters, the “Stand Your Ground” legislation that has resulted in the death of Trayvon Martin and a number of other people, and the anti-union laws brought to national attention by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

And Amazon was behind the curve in withdrawing from ALEC, lagging well behind companies such as KFC, Taco Bell, Coca-Cola, Proctor & Gamble, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Intuit, McDonald’s, PepsiCo and Kraft Foods. Most of these companies left ALEC more than a month ago, when revelations about its role in “Stand Your Ground” gave renewed momentum to demands that corporations leave it.

But then, ALEC has treated Amazon very well. It has defended the “Amazon loophole” that allows online sellers to avoid charging sales taxes the way other businesses do. This unfair advantage has given Amazon a lot more clout against neighborhood bookstores and retail book chains—clout it has used to drive many of them out of business.

Bezos is a libertarian who reportedly exults in the fact that Amazon’s loophole prevents the government from collecting taxes. He appears to exemplify a certain kind of Internet or computer entrepreneur—call them “digital libertarians”—who can be visionaries in technological and cultural ways and yet blind to social and economic realities.

Bilderberg Group

Privatization and Union-Busting

There’s one area where Bezos has been hyper-active, but it is largely unknown to the general public: education reform. A look at the Bezos Family Foundation, which was founded by Jackie and Mike Bezos but is financed primarily by Jeff Bezos, reveals a fairly aggressive effort in recent years to press forward with a neoliberal education agenda:

• The Bezos Foundation has donated to Education Reform Now, a nonprofit organization that funds attack advertisements against teachers’ unions and other advocacy efforts to promote test-based evaluations of teachers. Education Reform Now also sponsors Democrats for Education Reform.

• The Bezos Foundation provided $500,000 to NBC Universal to sponsor the Education Nation, a media series devoted to debating high-stakes testing, charter schools and other education reforms.

• The Bezos Foundation provided over $100,000 worth of Amazon stock to the League of Education Voters Foundation to help pass the education reform in Washington State. Last year, the group helped pass I-1240, a ballot measure that created a charter school system in Washington State. In many states, charter schools open the door for privatization by inviting for-profit charter management companies to take over public schools that are ostensibly run by nonprofits.

Other education philanthropy supported by the Bezos Foundation include KIPP, Teach for America and many individual charter schools, including privately funded math and science programs across the country.

But will Bezos’ interest in changing education policy affect his control of the Post? Only time will tell.

The most troubling part of Amazon’s record, as it might relate to Bezos’ ownership of thePost, is Amazon’s December 2010 decision to shut down WikiLeaks’s server access after the group published a trove of State Department cables. Robert McChesney, citing Amazon’s move to pull the plug on WikiLeaks, released a statement today condemning the sale.

Tony Hsieh – Zappos
acquisition closed on November 1, at a valuation of $1.2 billion (based on Amazon’s stock price on the day of closing). Our investors at Sequoia made $248 million. Our board was replaced by a management committee that includes me, Jeff, two Amazon executives, and two Zappos executives. As CEO, I report to the committee every quarter, and Zappos is responsible for hitting revenue and profitability numbers. But unlike our former board of directors, our new management committee seems to understand the importance of our culture — the “social experiments” — to our long-term success. In fact, one Amazon distribution center recently began experimenting with its own version of Zappos’s policy of paying new employees $2,000 to quit if they’re unhappy with their jobs.
The acquisition closed on November 1, at a valuation of $1.2 billion (based on Amazon’s stock price on the day of closing). Our investors at Sequoia made $248 million. Our board was replaced by a management committee that includes me, Jeff, two Amazon executives, and two Zappos executives. As CEO, I report to the committee every quarter, and Zappos is responsible for hitting revenue and profitability numbers. But unlike our former board of directors, our new management committee seems to understand the importance of our culture — the “social experiments” — to our long-term success. In fact, one Amazon distribution center recently began experimenting with its own version of Zappos’s policy of paying new employees $2,000 to quit if they’re unhappy with their jobs.

Four years ago today on July 22, 2009, finalized an agreement to acquire for $807 million. Since both of these internet-based retail companies have a global reputation for their customer-centric missions and associated fanatic customer loyalty, the union of Amazon and Zappos was logical, expected, and controversy-free. By all reports today is an anniversary of AmaZappian bliss for leaders Jeff Bezos and Tony Hsieh, who have both been busy leveraging their success over the past four years.

As Zappos prepares to relocate to downtown Las Vegas, its growing list of investments in the area now includes more than $1 million to lure dedicated teachers to the area’s schools.

Teach For America, which trains teachers to work in schools that serve children from households in poverty, will receive a donation of $300,000 from the company and $1.2 million from CEO Tony Hsieh.

Allison Serafin, a special consultant to Clark County Schools Superintendent Dwight Jones, also went through Teach For America’s program after graduating from Texas Christian University in political science and social work.

“It completely changed my life,” Serafin said. “I was able to see firsthand through the experience of teaching my sixth-graders that the students were brilliant and capable.”

Serafin, who works by contract with the School District, called Teach For America one of “many excellent partners who share the same commitment to students … and a commitment that all children can achieve.”

Zappos Spring Break – Teach for America
What is it?
The Teach For America – Las Vegas Valley & the Zappos Family of Companies Alternative Spring Break is intended to spark bold, new innovations that expand opportunities and close the achievement gap in the Las Vegas Valley community. Applicants will submit a response to one of three challenges being posed via video by three Las Vegas Valley corps members. Twenty five students from across the country will be selected and will be invited to join Teach For America- Las Vegas Valley, the Zappos Family of Companies, and Las Vegas Valley community leaders for an all expenses paid alternative spring break trip to the Las Vegas Valley in March. Programming will be Monday to Friday (with travel on Sunday, the 18th and Saturday, the 24th) and will include travel, all meals, activities, and housing, which will be with current Las Vegas Valley corps members. Participants will continue the spirit of social innovation and tackle community, school, and business challenges in Las Vegas with the Zappos Family of Companies, Teach For America corps members and staff, and other Las Vegas Valley community leaders.

According to a 2009 USA Today article, Teach For America has been criticized by opponents who claim that the program replaces experienced teachers with brand-new employees who have had only five weeks of training during the summer and are brought in at beginners’ salary levels. John Wilson, executive director of the National Education Association, sent a memo in May 2009 stating that union leaders were “beginning to see school systems lay off teachers and then hire Teach For America college grads due to a contract they signed.” Wilson went on to say that Teach For America brings in “the least-prepared and the least-experienced teachers” into low-income schools and makes them “the teacher of record.”[16]

Fixing Cities: Fixing the world

For Hsieh, though, this was part of the appeal. Transforming downtown Vegas would “ultimately help us attract and retain more employees for Zappos.” For the city itself, it would “help revitalize the economy.” More important, it would “inspire,” a word Hsieh uses often. Hsieh closed his presentation at the faux log cabin high above the desert with the sort of fact he seems to always have on hand: up to 75 percent of the world’s population will call cities home in our lifetime. “So,” he concluded, “if you fix cities, you kind of fix the world.”

1,000 Teach for America Core Members
But now, he has to build the neighborhood. Much of the plans are already in the works. Plans are being finalized for 21,000 square feet of “co-working” space along the lines of General Assembly in New York. The small business development team is exploring building a back-office technology platform that the mom and pop shops can share to handle accounting, inventory, payroll and the like. Hsieh has made a $1.5 million deal with Teach for America to bring 1,000 core members and alumni to live and teach in the area. He is talking to the creators of the Burning Man festival about supplying art to the neighborhood. Party buses? He and his team are in the process of acquiring and revamping a dozen. Oh, and Hsieh is also part of a group trying to buy the Las Vegas 51s, the farm team; cue the new stadium plans.

There remains but one question for us to answer, dear reader: is there a way for the tax payers of Nevada to increase their stake in the excellence project that is Teach for America? Good news again. In his state-of-the-union address, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval announced that the state is ponying up $2 million to bring still more TFA recruits to the Sagebrush State. Of course not everyone here is rolling out the welcome mat for the excellence express. Take the residents of Towne Terrace, a down-at-the-heels apartment complex in downtown Las Vegas, purchased by Zappos magnate (and Alexis Gonzales-Black employer) Tony Hseih who dreams of repopulating the entire area with more than 1,000 TFA corps members and alum. Except that the residents of the Towne Terrace made it exceedingly clear that they had no interest in being evicted to make way for excellence. Oh well, next time…

In addition to this week’s activities and the recruiters’ conference in May, our local TFA team has more excitement to look forward to in the very near future. They’ll be welcoming their new corps members for induction week during June and will be relocating their offices to Downtown in July.

Alexis Gonzales-Black
Holacracy Implementation Team
Las Vegas, Nevada (Las Vegas, Nevada Area) Human Resources

$50million in education initiatives? Downtown Projects

Victor Wakefield ( married to Alexis Gonzales-Blavk) TFA Leadership Nevada
Attracting and retaining high-quality teachers to Las Vegas is an important aspect of Downtown Project’s education initiatives as it partners with Teach for America. “The largest ingredient in school quality, just like in urban success, is human capital—the talents of the teachers,” writes Glaeser. It’s a sentiment echoed by Victor Wakefield, executive director of Teach for America-Las Vegas Valley.

Victor Wakefield

Nevada funding for cash flush TFA

Elaine Wynn Chair National Communities in Schools

Mrs. Wynn has been a member of the Communities In Schools’ board of directors since 2000, assuming the Chair position in 2007. Under Mrs. Wynn’s leadership, the organization has focused on data-driven results, including the release of a five-year, third-party evaluation, a return on investment report, and annual program results demonstrating that the organization’s cost-effective model is effective in urban, suburban, and rural communities.

Kazuo Okada, a co-founder of Wynn Resorts Ltd. (WYNN) who is locked in a legal battle with his former partner Steve Wynn, accused the company of making a “suspicious” $135 million donation to a Macau university.


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