There are few investigative writers in education journalism these days. It is disturbingly rare to find writers who look behind the press releases, the hype and spin.
One place that cries out for investigative journalism is Louisiana, the locus for the most extreme privatization schemes. The governor is now imposing the New Orleans model on the entire state, and many hold up New Orleans as a national model. That means wiping out public education.
So here is an excellent article that does what journalists are supposed to do: Matthew Cunningham follows the money. He looks closely at the money flowing into the state school board races. In 2007, the total spent was about a quarter million dollars. In 2011, it was multiplied by ten times, to $2.6 million. Read the article to see where the money came from.
Because I was traveling in Texas over the weekend, I didn’t see Bill Moyers’ report on ALEC. I watched it last night, and I hope you will too.
If you want to understand how we are losing our democracy, watch this program.
If you want to know why so many states are passing copycat legislation to suppress voters’ rights, to eliminate collective bargaining, to encourage online schooling, to privatize public education, watch this program.
ALEC brings together lobbyists for major corporations and elected state officials in luxurious resorts. In its seminars, the legislators learn how to advance corporate-sponsored, free-market ideas in their state. Its model legislation is introduced in state after state, often with minimal or no changes in the wording.
Watch Moyers show how Tennessee adopted ALEC’s online school bill and how Arizona is almost a wholly owned ALEC state. Watch how Scott Walker followed the ALEC template.
Moyers could do an entire special on ALEC’s education bills. ALEC promotes the parent trigger, so that parents can be tricked into handing their public schools over to charter chains. ALEC promotes gubernatorial commissions with the power to over-ride the decisions of local school boards to open more charters. ALEC promotes vouchers. ALEC, as he noted, promotes virtual charter schools (Pearson’s Connections Academy and K12 wrote the ALEC model law). ALEC has model legislations for vouchers for students with special needs. ALEC has a model law to allow people to teach without credentials. ALEC has legislation to eliminate tenure protection. ALEC has model legislation for educator evaluation.
It is all so familiar, isn’t it?
ALEC wants nothing less than to privatize public education, to eliminate unions, and to dismantle the education profession.
Stephen Dyer raises the question about whether Ohio will follow in Florida’s path and open an investigation of the K12 for-profit school. In Ohio, K12 has classes of 51 students to a single teacher even though it is paid to have a ratio of 20:1.
That is way profitable for K12, though not for the students.
Dyer’s article includes a link to a story about the sharp drop in K12′s stock price that occurred after news of the Florida investigation broke. That story points out that K12 is under investigation in Georgia as well as Florida.
You do have to wonder at what point Secretary of Education Arne Duncan might speak out against the poor quality of online for-profit charter schools and other for-profit entrepreneurs that raid school budgets and produce terrible results. Will he?
The Tennessee Virtual Academy is one of those online for-profit charter schools that are supposed to “save” American education. Bad news for its champions: The scores at the school were in the state’s bottom 11 percent. The sponsors say forget the scores and wait until next year. Right.
Jeb Bush promotes virtual schools from one end of the country to the other. His Foundation for Excellence in Education is funded by numerous tech corporations. He and Bob Wise of the Alliance for Excellent Education published guidelines called the “Ten Elements of Digital Education” urging states to take the plunge and authorize online schools with little or no regulation. Preferably no regulation at all, since regulations are seen as a hindrance to innovation. Teachers need not be certified, and the corporation need not even have an office in the state where it does business. Just hoops and hurdles that hobble true reform.
The push for virtual education takes two forms, both promoted heavily by the corporations that stand to profit: one, virtual charter schools; two, requiring that every high school student take at least one course online.
So far, there is not a scintilla of evidence that virtual instruction is good education, at least not in the way it is being sold by its advocates. Test scores are low; graduation rates are low; attrition is high. And why in the world should children in grades K-8 be isolated from any peer interactions during their formative years?
More and more evidence is emerging about the importance of non-cognitive skills, such as the ability to communicate with others and work with others. Can that be learned in isolation?
A reader asks: did Deval Patrick sell out?
I feel ashamed for Deval. I am one of his many, many progressive supporters, and we’re all baffled by how he got into this situation. I worked harder for his election than I did even for Obama, and I never doubted his integrity or strength.
Through all the vicious attacks on him during that first campaign, he stayed steady and clear. Remember the white-woman-in-dark-parking-lot ad? I left work every day and went straight to unlock the little campaign office in my own town, as more and more volunteers came forward and signed on. It got very ugly; there were smear attacks on his family members. Even in Massachusetts, after Romney and Celluci, he seemed like a long shot. But Deval brought out the best in my community, and turned it blue again.
On the morning after the election, I came in to my classroom and told my diverse and hopeful students, “The American Dream is For You.” They cheered. A couple of them even cried. Remember, this was before Obama ever ran for president.
Later, after I had chaired a citizens online task force on ethics and lobbying reform, I sat next to him at our summary report meeting so he could answer our recommendations (for the cameras) by saying he’d veto the state budget if the legislators didn’t send him his groundbreaking (we thought at the time) ethics and lobbying reform with it.
After the meeting, I confronted him with his failure to get the state version of the Dream Act implemented (he’d actually tried the executive order route, but had to withdraw it). I told him about my students, and he really did tear up. His determination and frustration were real.
State Speaker DiMasi had been indicted for kickbacks on state contracts for the insurance and education data warehouses. He was convicted, but the investigation went no further. Edubuisiness had a lock on the state DOE, until Deval stood up to the Boston Globe and appointed a progressive PTA leader (Ruth Kaplan) to the board.
Then, when he ran for re-election, Deval let K12 and other for-profit education companies run a fundraiser for him at the Children’s Museum. K12 now has a thriving online charter business operating out of Greenfield, and Deval is supporting Mosaica Boston’s forced takover-turnarounds of Boston Public Schools. A memo leaked from his Secretary of Education once argued they had to bow to an illegal charter school placement, against the will of the community, or the Globe would attack them.
I swear I don’t understand how he could sell out public education for their measly political support. Like Obama, he got his chance by being admitted to a luxurious prep academy, so maybe he just can’t untangle his own conflicts about private schools, and it clouds his understanding. I know he isn’t a coward. I know he has a fine mind, and I still believe his life is dedicated to the same mission as my own. I just can’t believe his is a calculated betrayal of the public trust we placed in him, in the face of this dangerous hour for the future of democratic governance.
A reader discovered the agenda for a big conference of equity investors, technology corporations, and supportive foundations.
A high-level official of the U.S. Department of Education will be there too.
Folks, read the agenda.
Public education is up for grabs.
Lots of corporations are licking their chops.
This is scary.
Remember reading about “the Great Barbecue,” in the late nineteenth century?
That’s when greedy men plundered the public treasury. .
Are the public schools now on the spit?
So much money, all guaranteed by the government.
Now we will see how entrepreneurs reform our schools and get rich too.
The reader writes:
This is a stunning article. A real journalistic achievement.
It shows in remarkable detail how certain politicians and investors and entrepreneurs are working together to privatize public education and to generate huge profits for certain companies.
As I was doing some research about virtual charter schools, I came across an article that caused me to laugh out loud.
It appeared in the Star-Ledger, the main newspaper in New Jersey. It was titled “State Has Virtually No Reason to Not Give Online Charter Schools a Shot.”
It said the state should stop “dithering” and should promptly approve an online charter school. No delay, no moratorium, approve the online school now.
It was published on July 11, 2012, as the state’s Acting Commissioner of Education Chris Cerf and the state board of education were mulling a decision to authorize the megacorporation K12 to open an online charter school in New Jersey.
The reason I laughed out loud was that the article appeared on the same day that the FBI raided the offices of the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter. See here too.
And it appeared several months after the New York Times published a withering expose of the terrible academic record of K12.
And it appeared fourteen months after the CREDO study of virtual charters in Pennsylvania, which showed they get awful results.
The invaluable New Jersey blogger Jersey Jazzman showed the fallaciousness of the claim that the state should not wait for more research but should promptly approve a virtual charter school.
Truly, this is one of those laugh out loud moments. They are so few these days that we should enjoy them.
Jersey Jazzman reports that New Jersey will not approve the state’s first online for-profit virtual charter school. K12 has been told to come back next year, perhaps on the hope that citizen outrage will have died down by then. Jersey Jazzman, you may recall, memorably referred to New Jersey as “the cesspool of school reform.”
This is a big win. The most important message here is that citizens make a difference when they organize and speak up against politically powerful forces who are trying to grab taxpayer money and call it “reform.”
This is two wins in a row against the K12 giant, first in North Carolina, where the school boards banded together to stop the raid on their own strained budgets, and now in New Jersey, where concerned parents and educators blew the whistle.
It’s important to remind everyone that the reformers are vulnerable. They are vulnerable to public exposure because the fact is that their harmful ideas have no public support once the public understands what they are up to. There is no public support for handing taxpayer dollars over to corporate interests and calling it “reform.”
The public loves its community schools and doesn’t want to see them impoverished by corporate raiders.
So, yes, learn from New Jersey. Learn from the parents of Florida, who stopped the fake “parent trigger” legislation. Learn from the school boards of North Carolina.
You are not alone. Work in coalition with others to understand the theft of public education that is underway. You can make a difference.
When John White was appointed to run the Recovery School District in New Orleans, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called him a “visionary school leader.”
Now John White is doing the bidding of a Tea Party governor and leading the most reactionary drive in the nation to dismantle public education; to take money away from the minimum foundation budget for public schools and give it to voucher schools and charter schools; to give public money to small religious schools that don’t teach evolution; to strip teachers of all protection of their academic freedom; to allow anyone to teach, without any credentials, in charter schools; to welcome for-profit vendors of education to take their slice out of the funding for public schools.
I wonder if Arne Duncan still considers him a “visionary leader”?
I wonder what Arne Duncan thinks of the Louisiana legislation. I wonder why he has not spoken out against any part of it. I wonder why he is silent when Tea Party governors like Chris Christie attack the teachers of their state and try to take away whatever rights they may have won over the years. I wonder if he agreed or disagreed with the Chiefs for Change–the rightwing state superintendents–when they saluted Louisiana’s regressive legislation to take money from public schools and hand it over to private sector interests.
I wonder why he never went to Madison, Wisconsin, to speak out for public sector workers there when it mattered. I wonder what he thinks of the emergency manager legislation in Michigan, where state-appointed emergency managers have closed down public education in two districts and handed it off to charter operators. I wonder what he thinks about the Boston Consulting Group’s plan in Memphis to increase the proportion of students in privately managed charters from 4% to 19%. I wonder what he thinks about the Boston Consulting Group’s plan to privatize up to 40% of Philadelphia’s schools. I wonder what he thinks about the rollback of collective bargaining rights in various states or the removal of job protections for teachers. I wonder what he thinks about ALEC’s coordinated plan to destroy public education. I wonder what he thinks of the emerging for-profit industry that is moving into K-12 education.
He has many opportunities to express his views about the escalation of the war against public education and the ongoing attacks on teachers and their unions.
Why is he silent?