Archives for category: Idaho

A reader in Boise sends the following comment about the trial of Khan Academy videos, funded by the Albertson Foundation:

From the article linked in Diane’s post:

“The statewide pilot received $1.5 million for training, technology, technical assistance and assessment from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation.”

The Albertson Foundation has given over $500 million to Idaho schools over the years, but for the past few years its efforts have been devoted to promoting some of the worst initiatives and legislation ever to don the mantle of “education reform,” most notably in the run-up to the November 2012 elections. Throughout 2012 the Foundation published monthly full-color, multipage supplements in all the major print media in Idaho, touting the benefits of reform efforts, documenting the so-called “failure” of Idaho schools, and casting a suspicious eye upon the teachers union, the Idaho Education Association. (Idaho is a right-to-work state.) Joe Scott, an early investor in K12, Inc., heir to the Albertson fortune, and the current chair of the Foundation’s board of directors donated $200,000 to Idaho Voters for Education in an attempt to save the Luna Laws from repeal. Idaho Voters for Education presented itself as the “voice of Idaho parents,” but after a lawsuit filed by the Idaho Secretary of State forced it to reveal its donors, turned out to be a group of fewer than two dozen hedge-fund manager, venture capitalists, and billionaire social engineers, including NYC Mayor Bloomberg, who donated $250,000.

They threw their money away; the Luna Laws were repealed by large margins at the polls. Diane has written about them here before:

“The Luna Laws imposed a mandate for online courses for high school graduates (a favorite of candidates funded by technology companies), made test scores the measure of teacher quality, provided bonuses for teachers whose students got higher scores, removed all teacher rights, eliminated anything resembling tenure or seniority, turned teachers into at-will employees, and squashed the teachers’ unions.”

To get out the reformers’ message, the Albertson Foundation created the ED SESSIONS, monthly talks by “national thought leaders on education reform,” now in its second year. The Foundation isn’t particularly interested in thought leader opposed to market-driven, for-profit education reform; past speakers include Salman Khan, Sir Ken Robinson, Marguerite Roza, Joe Williams of Democrats for Education Reform, and Andy Smarick of Bellwether Education Partners. Coming up, Kristoffer Haines, VP at Rocketship Education and Rick Ogston, founder of Arizona charter school Carpe Diem, to talk about “no-excuse schools.” In addition, the foundation recently launched a web site and radio/tv ads to promote its initiative “Don’t Fail Idaho,” the latest of the Foundation’s many efforts to dominate the conversation about school reform under the guise of fostering and promoting discussion. In short, the Albertson Foundation is anti-union, pro-charter, and apparently determined to spend a metric boatload of money to get its way.

Idaho will introduce Khan Academy videos to 10,000 students in 47 schools, a mix of public, private, and charter.

The videos will teach math, science, history, and art. The project is underwritten by a local Idaho foundation.

I would like to hear from teachers who have reviewed the Khan Academy videos. What do you think of them?

What do you say about a billionaire in Idaho who sees unions as the biggest threat to the American way of life?

As most people know, the number of people who belong to unions has declined dramatically in recent decades. As manufacturing jobs were outsourced to low-wage non-union countries, private sector unions shrank. Today, the majority of American workers are hourly workers with little or no job security and no pension.

And yet, here is a man who poured $1 million into a campaign to support Idaho’s so-called Luna laws (for rightwing state superintendent Tom Luna), which would have crushed the unions, which are already weak, initiated bonus pay, and made it easy to fire teachers at any time for any reason.

The good news is that voters across Idaho repealed the Luna laws, while voting Republican for state offices and the presidency.

To see the depth of his obsession, open the link in this comment by a reader.

“Eastern Idaho billionaire Frank VanderSloot, CEO of the direct-marketing company Melaleuca, contributed well over $1 million to the efforts to support State Superintendent Tom Luna’s Propositions 1, 2, and 3. Prop 1 would have eliminated much of the due-process provisions from teacher firings, limited contract negotiations to salary and benefits only, eliminated renewable contracts (so-called “tenure”), eliminated collective bargaining, among other things. Prop 2 would have instituted a pay-for-performance/merit-pay scheme based, in part, on student scores on standardized testing and on parent evaluations of teachers. Prop 3 (defeated by a 2 to 1 margin) would have spent $180 million over 8 years to purchase a laptop computer for every high school student while require each student to take two online courses in order to graduate.

“Mr. VanderSloot’s $1 million investment was in addition to the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent over the last two years placing full-page ads in numerous newspapers throughout Idaho. One such ad in Idaho’s largest newspaper, the Idaho Statesman, has been estimated to cost $20,000 per insertion. These ads are archived in a web site maintained by Mr. VanderSloot at http://www.communitypagenews.com/ . Without exception, they are anti-union, casting the opposition to the Luna legislation as out-of-state “union bosses” financed by union interests. In fact, they rarely address any issues related to education, other than the pernicious influence of unions.

“A few headlines give the flavor of these lurid ads, but they really have to be seen in full to be believed.

“Unions Declare War On Idaho”
“It’s Time To Put Our Kids First!(Ahead of Union Bosses)”
“Union Against Putting Students First”
“Unions Try To Block Teachers From $38 Million in Bonuses”
“Washington, D.C. Union Tries To Buy Control Of Idaho School”

Stephanie Simon of Reuters continues to be the most industrious investigative education journalist in the nation.

Here she reveals the outline of the free-market model of school, where students learn what they want, where they want, when they want, and pay for it with taxpayer dollars.

She calls it “a la carte” schooling.

It eliminates public schools as we have known them. It opens the door to private, for-profit vendors and anyone who hangs out a shingle.

Remember the old Hollywood movies where Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland said, “Hey, kids, let’s put on a show?”

Now, it’s “Hey, kids, let’s open a school and make money.”

Joanne Barkan has written an excellent summary of how public education fared in the recent elections.

Barkan knows how to follow the money. Her article “Got Dough?” showed the influence of the billionaires on education policy.

She begins her analysis of the 2012 elections with this overview of Barack Obama’s embrace of GOP education dogma:

“Barack Obama’s K-12 “reform” policies have brought misery to public schools across the country: more standardized testing, faulty evaluations for teachers based on student test scores, more public schools shut down rather than improved, more privately managed and for-profit charter schools soaking up tax dollars but providing little improvement, more money wasted on unproven computer-based instruction, and more opportunities for private foundations to steer public policy. Obama’s agenda has also fortified a crazy-quilt political coalition on education that stretches from centrist ed-reform functionaries to conservatives aiming to undermine unions and privatize public schools to right-wingers seeking tax dollars for religious charters. Mitt Romney’s education program was worse in only one significant way: Romney also supported vouchers that allow parents to take their per-child public-education funding to private schools, including religious schools.”

Barkan’s analysis shows significant wins for supporters of public education–the upset of uber-reformer Tony Bennett in Indiana, the repeal of the Luna laws in Idaho, and the passage of a tax increase in California–and some significant losses–the passage of charter initiatives in Georgia and Washington State.

The interesting common thread in many of the key elections was the deluge of big money to advance the anti-public education agenda.

Even more interesting is how few people put up the big money. If Barkan were to collate a list of those who contributed $10,000 or more to these campaigns, the number of people on the list would be very small, maybe a few hundred. If the list were restricted to $20,000 or more, it would very likely be fewer than 50 people, maybe less.

This tiny number of moguls is buying education policy in state after state. How many have their own children in the schools they seek to control? Probably none.

The good news is that they don’t win every time. The bad news is that their money is sometimes sufficient to overwhelm democratic control of public education.

I should have reported this sooner, but other election returns distracted me.

Jeb Bush’s latest privatization scheme suffered a major setback at the hands of Florida voters.

He and his allies pushed Amendment 8 to allow public funds to flow to religious schools. As usual with “reform” measures, this one had a misleading name. It was about “religious freedom,” but voters recognized it was a voucher scheme and they rejected it overwhelmingly.

Other bad news for the Bush machine: Tony Bennett, the head of Bush’s Chiefs for Change, was whipped.

Tony Luna pushed Bush’s expensive but profitable (for tech companies) ideas about mandatory laptops for every student and mandatory online courses, as well as merit pay and union-demolition. Happily, the Luna laws were crushed and repealed by Idaho voters.

David Sirota, an author and talk-show host, here analyzes the election results and says they exposed the Big Lie of the corporate reform movement.

The public is not hankering to privatize their public schools.

The corporate leaders and rightwing establishment dropped millions of dollars to push their agenda of privatization, teacher-bashing and anti-unionism. They lost some major contests.

I will be posting more about some important local races they lost.

We have to do two things to beat them: get the word out to the public about who they are and what they want (read Sirota).

Two: never lose hope.

Those who fight to defend the commons against corporate raiders are on the right side of history.

Nothing they demand is right for children, nor does it improve education.

Andy Rotherham writes a regular column on education for TIME.

This is his take on the election.

He supports the testing, accountability, charter agenda that Beltway insiders refer to as “the bipartisan consensus.”

I think of it as the Democratic embrace of the Republican agenda. Andy worked in the Clinton White House during the time of “triangulation” and the “third way,” when Democrats learned to love high-stakes testing and charters.

This path, I believe, now converges with the privatization movement, ALEC, the Waltons and the Koch brothers.

Are there Democrats who still remember the traditional Democratic agenda of equity and professionalism?

Voters in Idaho gave Mitt Romney a landslide  but simultaneously voted overwhelmingly to repeal the “Luna Laws,” the brainchild of state superintendent Tom Luna.

This stunning victory for public education demonstrates that not even red-state Republicans are prepared to privatize public education and dismantle the teaching profession.

The Luna Laws imposed a mandate for online courses for high school graduates (a favorite of candidates funded by technology companies), made test scores the measure of teacher quality, provided bonuses for teachers whose students got higher scores, removed all teacher rights, eliminated anything resembling tenure or seniority, turned teachers into at-will employees, and squashed the teachers’ unions.

The campaign to support the Luna laws was heavily funded by technology entrepreneurs and out-of-state supporters of high-stakes testing and restrictions on the teaching profession, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The voters in this reddest of red states overturned all three of the Luna laws (which he called “Students Come First”; anything in which children or students or kids come “first” is a clear tip-off to the divisive intent of the program).

As the story in the Idaho Statesman reported:

In a stunning rebuke to Gov. Butch Otter and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, Idahoans on Tuesday repealed the laws that dominated the pair’s agenda the past two years.

Idahoans agreed with teachers unions — which spent more than $3 million to defeat Propositions 1, 2 and 3 — that the reforms Luna called “Students Come First” and detractors called “The Luna Laws” went too far.

As GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney won a 65 percent Idaho landslide, Otter and Luna — both touted as possible Cabinet secretaries in a Romney administration — lost their signature issue by large margins.

With 99 percent of all Idaho precincts reporting:

– 57 percent opposed to restrictions on teachers unions in Prop 1.

– 58 percent voted no on Prop 2, which paid teacher bonuses based on student test scores and other measures.

– 67 percent rejected a mandate for laptops and online credits for every Idaho high school student.

The scale of the defeat reached across Idaho.

Voters in 37 of 44 counties rejected all three measures. The seven outliers — Adams, Boise, Fremont, Jefferson, Lemhi, Madison and Owyhee — are largely rural. Not one of Idaho’s most populous counties voted for even one of the laws.

I keep seeing articles about elections influenced by out-of-state and out-of-district contributions.

Sometimes, as in Los Altos, California, and in New Orleans, the elections are for local school board.

Sometimes, as in Louisiana, the election is for state school board.

Sometimes, as in Indiana and Idaho, the election is for state superintendent.

Sometimes, the election is a ballot initiative, as in Georgia, which is voting on whether to give the Governor the authority to create a commission to authorize charter schools even if the local school board objects; and in Washington State, where a referendum would create one of the nation’s most expansive charter laws; or in Michigan, where money is pouring in to oppose an initiative to make collective bargaining a right.

In school district after school district, state after state, PAC money is being bundled to promote candidates and issues with the same agenda: anti-union, anti-teacher, anti-public education, pro-privatization.

Some of the names are familiar: Bill Gates (in Washington), Michael Bloomberg (in Louisiana), Alice Walton (in Georgia and Washington), Joel Klein (in New Orleans), the DeVos family (American Federation for Children) in Michigan, Eli Broad (in Louisiana), Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst (in Michigan and in many districts). Much of the spending is targeted by Democrats for EducationReform (DFER), the Wall Street hedge fund managers group.

This cannot be sheer coincidence. In most places, the amount of money coming from outside is unprecedented. In Louisiana, the spending on a state board race was a multiple of 12 times what was previously spent.

To the naked eye, this seems to be a concerted effort to orchestrate a privatization of public education.

Big money undermining local control, democracy, and public education.

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