Archives for category: Idaho

Idaho has a problem, and it may not be unique to Idaho.

One of the most powerful families in the state is the Albertson family, which runs the Albertson Foundation.

It seems that one of the family heirs has made millions of dollars by investing in the online charter company K12, and now the Albertson Foundation thinks the whole state should get behind the for-profit corporation and put their kids online. Follow the money.

The foundation has been running “public service ads” with the slogan “Don’t Fail, Idaho,” insisting that the kids in Idaho are doing horribly on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the federal tests. What’s the cure? One guess.

The ads claim that 60% of children in Idaho are “not proficient” on the NAEP tests, but they don’t explain that “proficient” on NAEP is a very high level of performance, what I consider a very strong A or B. The NAEP state coordinator from 2002-2012 tried to explain what the NAEP labels mean, but he probably did not persuade the Albertson Foundation.

Here are the facts:

In fourth grade reading: 31% of children in Idaho are below basic, just below the national average of 34%.

In eigth grade reading, 19% are below basic, well below the national average of 25%.

In fourth grade math, 17% are below basic, about the same as the national average.

In eighth grade math, 23% of the kids are below basic, well below the national average of 28%.

Idaho is not failing.

What would really fail Idaho would be to put large numbers of students into K12 virtual academies, which have high attrition rates, low test scores, and low graduation rates.

Idaho, don’t fall for a bill of goods.

This reader explains how the Legislature had taken steps to circumvent the will of the electorate. Last November, voters decisively repealed the three laws that were promoted by State Superintendent Tom Luna.

The reader writes:

“I live in Idaho. The legislature has had public hearings since 2011s introduction of Students Come First. Tom Luna is our Superintendent of Public Instruction. He was an advisor to U.S Secretary of Education Rod Paige from 2003-2005, the “magic bullet” from Houston that pushed high stakes testing, and worked on legislation to pass No Child Left Behind. Tom Luna has no education in instruction, but has an online degree in “weights and measures.” Idaho repealed the Students Come First laws this last November, after a long battle between the people, and a supposed “grassroots” organization called Education Voters of Idaho. The donors for the Students Come First campaign were revealed.

http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2012/oct/31/ny-mayor-among-secret-donors-idaho-school-campaign/

Unfortunately, the Idaho legislature reinstated parts of the Students Come First laws, against the people, often stacking the hearings with people who were for these laws, which include:

“Limit the life of salary and benefit portions of master agreements to one year. Require negotiations between teachers’ unions and school boards be held in public. Require teachers unions to prove – if asked by a board – that they represent a majority of educators. Provide money for grants for schools seeking to expand technology, such as laptops or mobile devices, in the classroom. Set aside merit pay funding for educators, based on district standards.” http://www.idahoednews.org/news/lawmakers-revive-elements-of-defeated-props

The reinstatement of some of the Students Come First laws have deflated teachers’ and parents’ hope for change. Governor Otter, formed an Education Task Force, stacked with his previous committee he formed back in 2007, called the Education Alliance of Idaho. This includes business stakeholders and JA & Kathryn Albertson’s Foundation, who also formed a committee called the Idaho Leads Project, and the new ad running “Don’t Fail Idaho.” Joe Scott, the grandson of Joe Albertson, of the Albertsons grocery chain, has been found to make millions off of the online schooling company K12 inc.

http://www.spokesman.com/blogs/boise/2011/feb/19/albertsons-heir-made-millions-k12-inc-promotes-it-idaho-schools/

We have known ALEC members on ALECs education task force Senator Bob Nonini, and Representative Pete Nielsen, who are also on the Education Committee in Idaho.

My 7th grade twins that attend “traditional” public schools, hear me discuss Idaho’s education problems, and our nations. They had some interesting insight. They said it sounds very similar to the Roman Empire, and the corruption of the Senate. They said that the coliseum was built to distract the people from how horrible things truly were for the people. They said it did work for a while, and then the people began to revolt again. In Idaho’s situation, I feel these public hearings are the legislatures form of the coliseum. My only hope is to educate those that are unaware of the depths of our education deception, and eventually the people will win!!

Jen Leuck

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?

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