Archives for category: Privatization

A group called the “Hedge Clippers” organized a protest in front of the building where hedge fund manager Dan Loeb lives, to protest his funding of Republican control of the state senate, as well as charter schools. This is the kind of political activism that was common in the late 1960s to protest the war in Vietnam, but has seldom been seen in this country since then.


A story on WBAI reported the protest rally:


Shame the hedge fund billionaires, go where they live and demonstrate. This is a technique used in Latin America called escrache, but it’s also being used in New York City.
“Hedge Clippers, I guess you can kind of consider everything we do as part of Occupy Wall Street.” Activist Nick McMurray says Hedge Clippers keep the movement going.


“You can call us radicals, but at the end of the day we’re just people putting our foot down and we’re trying to stand up for what’s right and for what we really need in the world and in New York State.”


Zachary Lerner with NY Communities for Change ‪@nychange led Hedge Clippers in a mic check: “Dan Loeb’s politics demonize the immigrants. Dan Loeb’s politics are hostile. Dan Loeb’s politics are powerful. Dan Loeb’s money is massive, so We the People are fighting back.”


Over the weekend, the Hedge Clippers chose the Central Park West residence of hedge fund billionaire Dan Loeb as their target. The hedge fund mogul gave over a million dollars to a super pac, New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany. According to a Nation Magazine expose, it poured $4.3 million into six senate races. This helped tip the balance in favor of Senate Republicans here in New York State, where we have six times as many registered Democrats as Republicans. And Dan Loeb sits on the board of Success Academy, Eva Moskowitz’s charter schools


“There’s a paper trail for everything.” says Nilsa Toledo, a hedge clipper with New York Communities for Change. “He has given mega money to Success Academy and all these pacs for charter schools, on top of giving mega millions to our Senate and our Governor who is supposed to be representing the people, not just the people with a lot of zeros in their bank accounts. That’s really unfair. That’s why we’re standing together against it.”


Toledo has children in public schools in Flatbush, Brooklyn. She says billionaire hedge funders like Dan Loeb, behind charter school funding and lobbying efforts, hurt public schools forced to co-locate, to share their space. “I think that they should pay their own way. They shouldn’t co-locate in public schools. It happened to my son’s school and the quality is so different. In the charter side they have flat screen tvs. Every kid has a laptop and meanwhile I’m paying for that, but in my son’s school, they are lacking. Textbooks are still from 1998. lt’s really disgusting. The teacher’s have to pay out of their own pocket, just to make sure the kid’s have basic education and it’s not right. Our public schools are already owed billions of dollars. Public schools in the city have been underfunded and our government is ignoring that, but meanwhile they are passing policies that benefit the few. All these tax breaks and all these loopholes that are being exploited by these guys are not being closed, but meanwhile our kids are suffering, our communities are suffering and we need to stand up together to make a change.


Mindy Rosier teaches Special Education at a Special Needs School in Harlem. She came out to protest the hedge fund billionaire: “For Daniel Loeb to pay his fair share, to pay his taxes. He’s a contributor to Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy which has been stealing from my school for eight years and tried to kick us out, so I’m here to stand up for my community, for my students, for public schools. If you’re not helping the public schools out, you’re not a friend to the City as far as I’m concerned.”


Protesters chant, “Pay your taxes, Dan Loeb. Pay your taxes, Dan Loeb.”

George Joseph in The Nation has written a sharply researched article about the nine billionaires who have been planning to impose their ideas on New York state since at least 2010.


They are, as you might expect, hedge fund billionaires. They have given millions of dollars to Andrew Cuomo in both his election campaigns. They have also given millions to a group called New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany that campaigned to maintain Republican control of the State Senate. Their handiwork can be seen in organizations such as Families for Excellent Schools (no, these are not families of children in the public schools, they are the families of hedge-fund billionaires), StudentsFirst, Education Reform Now, and Democrats for Education Reform. Their goal: More privately-managed charter schools.


Joseph has done a stunning job of connecting the dots, showing the collaboration among the billionaires, Joel Klein (then chancellor of the New York City public schools), and John White (then an employee of New York City public schools, now state superintendent of Louisiana).


Why do they want more charter schools? Well, you could say, as some do, that they care deeply about the poor children of New York City and want each and every one of them to be in an excellent charter school (although most charters are not willing to take certain children, like those with severe disabilities, those who don’t read and speak English, and those with behavioral problems).


But Joseph thinks there is another reason for Wall Street’s passion for charter schools. They claim that charter schools are the best way to end poverty. It is certainly cheaper to open more charter schools with state money than to pay the billions that the state owes to New York City as a result of a court decision in a case called the Campaign for Fiscal Equity.


Cuomo has said that he is tired of spending more money on the schools. We tried that, he says, and it didn’t work. But a parent advocate does not agree: “Zakiyah Ansari, a parent and public schools advocate with the labor-backed Alliance for Quality Education, called such reasoning shameful, “Why do Cuomo and these hedge funders say money doesn’t matter? I’m sure it matters in Scarsdale. I’m sure it matters where the Waltons send their kids. They don’t send their kids to schools with overcrowded classrooms, over-testing, no art, no music, no sports programs, etc. Does money only ‘not matter’ when it comes to black and brown kids?”


Joseph explores the question of why the New York hedge fund leaders are passionate about charter schools, test-based teacher evaluation, and ending teacher tenure.


He writes:


Their policy prescriptions—basing 50 percent of teacher evaluations on student test scores, for instance—are not in any way grounded in mainstream education research.


“The problem is that Cuomo’s backers aren’t paying much attention to the people who actually understand how Value-Added Modeling works,” explains Professor Julian Vasquez Heilig, an education policy researcher at California State University. “Education statisticians have come out many times saying these models are being used inappropriately and are unstable because other things happen in students’ lives outside of the teachers they encounter. When a kids’ parents in a high needs district are deported, and their achievement plummets, this actually has nothing to do with the teacher.”


Vasquez Heilig added that the reform proposals seem founded on a desire to destroy the development of long-term professional educators, rather than any empirical analysis: “We know 70 percent of teachers will bounce between high performing and low performing from year to year. So this is creating an impossible high stakes testing gauntlet between a young excited teacher and their path to quality, veteran expertise. If you’re looking for a cheap churn-and-burn teaching force, this is your policy, but if you want experienced, qualified teachers, committed to a schools’ long-term success, this is a disaster.”


From a purely business standpoint, however, such cost-effective education reform proposals do make sense for the hedge-fund community, especially given the alternative education reform option: the legally required equitable funding of New York public schools, as mandated by the state’s highest court in 2007. Low-income New York school districts haven’t received their legally mandated funding since 2009 and the state owes its schools a whopping $5.9 billion, according to a recent study by the labor-backed group Alliance for Quality Education. Yet somehow in this prolonged period of economic necessity, billionaire hedge-fund managers continue to enjoy lower tax rates than the bottom 20 percent of taxpayers.


As a recent Hedge Clippers report pointed out, the hedge-fund community has achieved these gains over the last decade and a half by buying political influence and carving out absurd breaks and loopholes in the New York state tax code. Since 2000, 570 hedge fund managers and top executives have poured $39.6 million into the campaign coffers of New York state politicians. Thus, despite New York’s progressive reputation, its school-district funding-distribution system is actually one of the most regressive nationwide, similar to that of states like Texas, North Carolina and Missouri.


According to Michael Kink, an advocate of fair share taxes with the labor-backed Strong Economy For All Coalition, “We could fund the court order completely with fair share taxes.” This would include closing the carried interest loophole that allows hedge funds to pay a smaller share of their income in taxes than, according to Hedge Clippers, “their limousine drivers, dry cleaners, servants, helicopter pilots, and doormen.” Taxing hedge fund fees and profits fairly would bring New York hundreds of millions of dollars that could go straight to local schools. A recent Hedge Clippers analysis found that fair-share taxes and fees targeting hedge funds, billionaires, high-income LLCs and major corporations could raise between $3.1 and $4.2 billion dollars per year—well over the annual minimum required by state law’s school funding formula. But Cuomo’s hedge fund–backed proposals fail to even approach these standards, instead parroting the convenient logic of corporate education reformers that the problem is not the lack of school funding, but the way in which it is spent.


“It was outrageous when the governor said the lack of school funding was not an issue,” explains New York State Senator Liz Krueger (D). “And it’s consistent with his attempts to fail to make good on the CFE lawsuit commitment, somehow ignoring the fact that the poorest-achieving schools are also the most underfunded.” Commenting on the hedge fund forces backing such proposals, Krueger continued, “I can never know what people’s actual intentions are. But it does seem that there is a pattern of spending enormous lobbying money in lobbying and attempting to influence campaigns…. Hedge funds seem in particular to have made a fine art of not paying their taxes, allowing fundamental public services to be inadequately funded.”


Putting it more explicitly, Jonathan Westin of the labor-backed New York Communities for Change, argues the main point of the hedge fund–backed education reform push is thus “about shaping and controlling the public school system so that they will continue to get away with not paying hundreds of millions in taxes.”


In this light, the hedge-fund community’s fervent advocacy of the charter-school movement reflects its neoliberal social vision for the state and society. Charter schools are imagined as institutions where students can be reshaped to prevail against structural barriers like racism and poverty. As hedge-fund billionaire Paul Tudor Jones II claimed, contrary to decades of empirical evidence, “We proved with the charter school that the achievement gap was a myth, that with the right schools, kids from the poorest neighborhoods could do every bit as well as kids from the richest ones.”


To “make up for” pervasive inequality, in lieu of correcting it, hedge-fund billionaires like Daniel Loeb of Success Academy and Larry Robbins of KIPP have promoted charter schools that envelop students in hyper-disciplined and surveilled school environments in which their every decision, down to their most minute physical movement, can be measured, assessed and addressed. This “no excuses” pedagogical approach signals to students that the only barrier to their success is their character. In other words, as Cuomo put in his the State of the State address, students under the charter school paradigm should understand their educational opportunity as “the great equalizer.”


Read the article to see the links. Everything is carefully researched and sourced. It confirms what many of us have long known about the role of Wall Street in financing privatization and other policies that hurt teachers and public schools. And it is still scary. And anti-democratic.


This is what happens when citizens stand together to oppose corporate takeovers of public institutions. Allies of the Walton family proposed a state takeover of the Little Rock School District, because 6 of 48 schools were low-performing. Advocates for the takeover wanted to turn the district into an all-charter district, like Néw Orleans. But community resistance was strong and the proposed legislation was withdrawn:

Education Advocates Applaud the Halt of School Privatization Bill

Little Rock, AR — The Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS), a national community/labor table that fights for the public school system, has responded to the success of an Arkansas coalition in stopping a proposed bill there that would have privatized whole school districts across the state.

Statement issued by Karran Harper Royal, an advocate and New Orleans parent:

“Public education activists beat the Waltons in their own backyard. The Waltons were touting so-called ‘success’ in New Orleans, so AROS asked me to weigh in with the facts.”

Karran Harper Royal helped the Arkansas coalition with information about the New Orleans School Recover District, a long-term privatization failure. A letter from Ms. Harper Royal and a parent in Chicago were published in the Arkansas Times this week.

Statement issued by Mark Robertson, co-chair of the Citizens First Congress and a Little Rock parent:

“We are proud that Arkansans recognized that privatizing public schools is a failed strategy across the country and we rejected it here. We need to keep our focus on research proven reforms that we know will boost the learning of every student in Arkansas.”

Citizens First Congress and eight other organizations across Arkansas mounted a campaign to stop the late-session bill, HB 1733, which proposed to turn over whole school districts in Arkansas to private entities if one school within them was deemed “distressed.”

Walton Family Foundation staff members were personally lobbying for the bill.

Statement issued by Jitu Brown, Executive Director of the National Journey for Justice and a leader of AROS:

“We think we can learn a lot from the Arkansas fight. And we were proud to be able to connect parents in New Orleans and Chicago with parents in Arkansas. From now on, we want the great organizations and coalitions who are fighting to save public education to have connections with their brothers and sisters across the country who have learned from the battles.”

The Alliance announced that it would be inviting partner coalitions across the south to come to Arkansas in May to hear from the groups who fought the legislation and to share their own strategies.


The Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS) is a national community/labor table of organizations of parents, students, teachers and community members who are fighting for the public schools our children deserve.

Great  news! Max Brantley reports that the bill to privatize the Little Rock School District was withdrawn and will not be introduced again in this session of the Arkansas legislature.  The lobbyists pushing the bill were all connected to the powerful multi-billionaire Walton family, and many people thought their victory was a foregone conclusion. (See this post and this post for details.)


Brantley writes:


The rally in opposition to the bill at the Capitol tonight turned into a victory party.


Here’s Ross’ take on the decision:”We hear there was pressure from the Walton family who are tired of the bad press.”


Indeed. And it will be complicated when plaintiffs in the lawsuit over the state’s takeover of the district — which would provided a speedway to privatization under the proposed law — begin questioning subpoenaed witnesses about their ties to the Waltons and others that have invested big money in wanting to see the district heavily charterized.


The public outcry was vital in this defeat, if Cozart can be trusted. I suspect even more vital was the entry of the PTA, the School Boards Association and, particularly, the school superintendents, in the fight. What was about to happen to Little Rock could happen to anyone — a loss of school boards, an expropriation of local property tax millage, the required surrender of facilities for no charge.


There are important lessons to be learned here. The Waltons apparently got “tired of the bad press.” Public outcry was vital. The supporters of public education rallied. The public interest beat the Waltons. Don’t forget those lessons!

Max Brantley, regular columnist for the Arkansas Times, tells the sorry tale of the likely Walton takeover of the Little Rock school district. Read here and here.


Six of Little Rock’s 48 public schools have low test scores. Instead of bringing help to those needy schools, Walton-funded lobbyists are promoting a state takeover of the entire district. That way, all the schools can be turned into charters with private managers. This eliminates the elected school board; reformers don’t like school boards. They like state control and mayoral control.


In the second link, Brantley writes:


“Following the money on the Walton-Hutchinson takeover of Little Rock schools


“It’s not yet clear when the final House Education Committee battle will be fought on HB 1733 to allow the state to privatize any or all of a public school district judged to be in academic distress.


“It’s monumental legislation that would make all school teachers and administrators fire-at-will employees without due process rights. It would destroy the last remaining teacher union contract in Arkansas. It allows for the permanent end of democratic control of a school district or those portions of it privatized. It would capture property tax millage voted by taxpayers for specific purposes, including buildings, and give them to private operators. It would allow seizure of buildings for private operators at no cost. CORRECTION: Fort Smith classroom teachers still negotiate with the Fort Smith School District. An anti-union organization they fund, the Arkansas State Teachers Association, has spent a great deal of money trying to solicit members in Fort Smith, a teacher there reports.


“This bill is the work of the Walton Family Foundation. People the Walton money supports — lobbyists Gary Newton of Arkansas Learns, Scott Smith of the Arkansas Public School Research Foundation, Kathy Smith of the Walton Family Foundation and Laurie Lee of Arkansas Parents for School Choice — are the leading lobbyists. Smith has been quoted by others as saying he’s the primary author (his organization gets $3 million a year from the Waltons), but it follows similar legislation introduced in other states, with poor to disastrous results (New Orleans).


(Concurrently and coincidentally, the Walton Foundation and Rockefeller Foundation are sponsoring a school study in Little Rock by the Boston Consulting Group, an outfit that has studied and recommended mass privatization in other cities.)


The goal is to make the Little Rock School District a laboratory for the pet education aims of the Waltons, who own the University of Arkansas, particularly the department ginning out propaganda in behalf of this bill. Gov. Asa Hutchinson is fully on board. He’s been resisting a solid plan to put competent people in charge in Little Rock and moving on fixing the six schools on which the entire district of 48 schools was placed in academic distress. His plan is to pass a law to overcome Johnny Key’s lack of a teacher certificate, master’s degree and 10 years education experience and become state Education Commissioner. Key would then find a Walton-favored outfit to run the six schools at issue and be poised to take over as many others as the Waltons deem necessary.


It’s been a long battle, but money does tend to win out.




Many tentacles. Lots of money….


If you think Johnny Key, who used Nick Wilson-style special language chicanery to increase the virtual charter school enrollment from 500 to 3,000 will stop at six Little Rock schools in the privatization scheme, I’ve got a Little Rock school to sell you for $1, subject to Walton approval.


The simmering pot full of Little Rock School District frogs (otherwise knowns as voters, taxpayers, parents, students and teachers) will soon be fully cooked, with no life left to jump out.

I love Texas. I love it because it’s my home state but I also love it because so many people there are wonderful, sometimes wacky, often fascinating, and downright real. (I don’t love the politicians who think that greed is good and that no one has any obligation to help anyone else.) But my first thought when I recently skyped in to the dinner of the Friends of Texas Public Schools was that I miss the sound of Texas voices. Twangy, like me.


I love the Moms Against Drunk Testing (aka Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment). I love Community Voices for Education in Houston. I love the courage and persistence of the Texans fighting to save their public schools.


Another great Texas organization is Texas Kids Can’t Wait. Their goals are mine. They truly put children first. Lots of times people on our side can’t explain their goals clearly. This is what Texas Kids advises friends to do as they reach out to their legislators:


1. Adequate and equitable funding for public schools, according to Judge Dietz’s ruling. They are not required to wait for the Supreme Court ruling.

2. An end to the draconian testing and assessment programs, which have taken the joy out of both teaching and learning and which are doing far more harm than good. Texas has been testing since the late 1970’s. If testing were the “cure” for low achievement or “gaps,” then the problems would have been solved long ago. It is truly insane to keep on doing something that so clearly does not work!

3. Let them know that charters are the gateway drugs for the end to public schools, and we need to stop them now. Evidence is piling up that charters do not perform better than public schools and, in fact, in many cases perform worse than the worse. Also let them know that we in Texas do not support vouchers for private schools or home schools. Those funds need to be allocated to the 5 million Texas children in public schools. Schools that focus on profit and not the needs of kids are not what we want.

Three points. Understandable goals. Thank you, Texas Kids Can’t Wait!

Here is their current issue: Stopping an ALEC-style corporate takeover of low-performing schools:

Texas Kids Can’t Wait

Dear Friends,

Another bill to facilitate the corporate take-over of public schools has been filled by Democratic Senator Royce West of Dallas.

Senate Bill 520, authored by Sen. Royce West, was filed, and it is one we must do everything we can to defeat.

It establishes the Texas Opportunity School District, which is exactly the same thing as last session’s proposed Texas Achievement School District and New Orleans’s Recovery School District. There is ZERO credible research that such a strategy works for any kid anywhere.

SB 520 would take out of school district local control all low-performing schools (that is, schools with high rates of poverty, as we all know) and turn them over to a charter school management company under the “supervision” of the Commissioner.

Local taxpayers have to continue paying for this great gift to charter companies; the buildings are turned over to the Charter companies; and the local taxpayers must maintain them. What a deal, huh? Yeah, for the charter companies. But a terrible thing to do for kids, families, neighborhoods, and communities.

High schools in urban areas will be the biggest losers of this proposed scheme since disproportionate numbers of high schools are on the low-performing list. But there would also be many middle schools and many elementary schools in the scheme as well.

See why we call the charter schools the gateway drug for school privatization? There will never be enough charter schools for the privatizers. And they want taxpayers to foot the bill for this nonsense at increasing rates since they are determined to cut and eliminate business taxes.

You can read the bill here:…/84R/bill…/pdf/SB00520I.pdf…

Please contact Sen. West, plus your own representative and senator asap and let them know that we expect them to base policy on solid research and on what is best for kids.

We thank you for your continued support and activism on behalf of Texas children. We have come a long way in the past two and one-half years in making people more aware of the issues and providing them information about how they can make a difference. Stay involved. Share information with your friends and family. Stay in touch with your elected representatives, beginning with local school board members, but including state legislators, statewide office holders, and congressional representatives. Be prepared to vote in every election. Keep the kids at the center of the discussion.


Bonnie and Linda

Texas Kids Can’t Wait
Twitter: @TxKidsCantWait
Call us at either 254-855-0594 or 254-709-2912

Texas Kids Can’t Wait | Texas Kids Can’t Wait | Waco | TX | 76712

Ed Berger lives in Arizona, where the forces of privatization are strong even though 85% of the state’s children attend public schools. Berger is active in his own home town with parents dedicated to saving their community schools from privatization. He has developed some simple guidelines to help others who want to support their community schools.

Jersey Jazzman, aka Mark Weber (public school teacher, public school parent, and doctoral student at Rutgers University) testified before the Joint Committee on the Public Schools of the New Jersey Legislature about “One Newark,” the plan devised by Cami Anderson, state-appointed superintendent of the Newark school district.


Weber says:


Our research a year ago led us to conclude that there was little reason to believe One Newark would lead to better educational outcomes for students. There was little empirical evidence to support the contention that closing or reconstituting schools under One Newark’s “Renew School” plan would improve student performance. There was little reason to believe converting district schools into charter schools would help students enrolled in the Newark Public Schools (NPS). And we were concerned that the plan would have a racially disparate impact on both staff and students.


In the year since my testimony, we have seen a great public outcry against One Newark. We’ve also heard repeated claims made by State Superintendent Cami Anderson and her staff that Newark’s schools have improved under her leadership, and that One Newark will improve that city’s system of schools.


To be clear: it is far too early to make any claims, pro or con, about the effect of One Newark on academic outcomes; the plan was only implemented this past fall. Nevertheless, after an additional year of research and analysis, it remains my conclusion that there is no evidence One Newark will improve student outcomes.


Further, after having studied the effects of “renewal” on the eight schools selected by State Superintendent Anderson for interventions in 2012, it is my conclusion that the evidence suggests the reforms she and her staff have implemented have not only failed to improve student achievement in Newark; they have had a racially disparate impact on the NPS certificated teaching and support staff.

Weber asks at the outset why the New Jersey Department of Education is not doing the kind of independent research that he presents. Could it be that the Department answers  to Governor Christie, as does Cami Anderson. It may be wishful thinking to expect nonpartisan research when education agencies are politicized.


The four components of “One Newark” are charter schools, “renewal” schools, consumer choice, and continuing state control. Without the last component, the others would surely be eliminated, based on the negative reaction of parents and students to the plan.


Weber demonstrates that Newark’s charter schools are not serving the same demographics as the public schools, and that the charters had few advantages over the public schools. Furthermore, the charters spend more on administration and less on support services for students.


As for the “Renew” schools, Weber says there is no evidence that terminating the entire staff of a school leads to improvement of the school. My review of the research shows that there is no evidence that reconstitution is a consistently successful strategy for improving schools. In fact, reconstitution can often be risky, leading to students enrolling in schools that underperform compared to where they were previously enrolled.


He ends his testimony by calling again for the state education department to exercise oversight and to provide the impartial data analysis that will help policymakers. He and the state’s education scholars stand ready to help.




I am on the email list for an organization called “In the Public Interest.” It follows privatization in every sector, including education. The current newsletter is eye-opening. If you want to know how private interests have finagled their way into making a killing off public sector dollars, read this e-newsletter and subscribe (free).


Here is my favorite privatization story of the week:


National: Top executives of the Blackstone Group, owner of the janitorial services company GCA Services Group, pull down massive annual compensation. Stephen Schwarzman, Blackstone’s CEO, received $656 million in dividends and pay; and its real estate chief Jon Gray took in $205 million, for a combined total of $861 million. GCA has faced repeated accusations of low pay. The New Haven Register reported in 2011 that “a proposed GCA contract for custodial services would plunge 200 New Haven, Connecticut, Public Schools custodians into poverty, according to a research report by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts.”


I have trouble understanding why some billionaires refuse to pay workers a living wage. Why was it so hard for the Walton family, each of whom is a billionaire, to agree to pay their workers $9 an hour? Why are so many of their workers part-time, even when they are eager to have full-time jobs? The billionaires pay great compensation to their executives, apparently, but think that the people who do the daily work of the corporation can get by on 20 hours a week at $9 an hour.


Open the link about GCA. It isn’t just accusations of low pay that have been a problem:


GCA Services placed two custodians with drug and sex offense criminal records in schools. One of the custodians, in Tennessee, was charged with the rape of a 16-year-old student in a closet on school property during school hours. It was later discovered the employee had a criminal record for aggravated battery, assault and theft of property. Another, in Texas, was a registered sex offender who was found in a school locker room dead, with his pants down and a bag over his head. A GCA official said about the incidents, “You have to understand, we hire a lot of people. I think a couple of incidents with 20,000 employees is a pretty good batting record” (“Ky. district hiring service, despite problems,” Associated Press, June 6, 2010; “Teamsters: Outsourcing custodians is a bad idea,” Naples Daily News, May 30, 2008).

A GCA Services custodian stole $900 from a day care center at Pasco-Hernando Community College in Florida that he was hired to clean after-hours. The GCA employee was arrested (“Police: Janitor Cleaned Day Care Out of $900,” St. Petersburg Times, November 26, 2008).

Rockford, Illinois, School District parents, teachers, principals and other staff were unhappy with GCA Services’ custodial work there. Reports complained that “trash wasn’t removed from classrooms, carpets weren’t cleaned and tile floors weren’t swept. The reports also indicate chemicals had been mixed improperly, resulting in health issues with students and teachers. There also were allegations of thefts from the schools, with custodians suspected,” reported the Naples, Florida, Daily News (“Documents: Custodial group gets poor marks,” June 19, 2008).

A GCA custodian had been working for four months at a Tennessee middle school before she was arrested in January 2011 as a fugitive from Texas. The employee had violated her probation on a felony drug conviction. A GCA official said the company had conducted two background checks including a fingerprint check before hiring the woman (“Company to review workers after fugitive found,” Associated Press, January 16, 2011).

The University of Tennessee in April 2012 decided to end its contract with GCA and move all cleaning work in-house. The university said that although the base cost was $500,000 higher than what it paid to GCA, it would break even after accounting for extra services like carpet care or hard-floor maintenance (“UT to use in-house custodial services,” Knoxville News-Sentinel, April 18, 2012).

I recall reading Robert Putnam’s previous book, Bowling Alone, about the decline of civic life in America. It caused quite a stir. I am looking forward to reading his new book, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis. It seems certain to upset the “reformers,” as it blows away their assumptions that the schools are failing our children. As I read this review in Education Week, our society is failing our children, and we are not funding our schools in ways that help the neediest kids.


Sarah D. Sparks writes that Putnam “gathers a flood of research on the unraveling web of formal and informal supports that help students in poverty succeed academically and in life.


“If it takes a village to raise a child, the prognosis for America’s children isn’t good: In recent years, villages all over America, rich and poor, have deteriorated as we’ve shirked collective responsibility for our kids,” Mr. Putnam wrote. “And most Americans don’t have the resources … to replace collective provision with private provision.”


The attack on public education by the elites funding privatization is part of the shirking of collective responsibility. The drumbeating for “choice” is a way to replace collective responsibility with individual preferences, which are sure to intensify racial and economic segregation.


Sparks writes:


Mr. Putnam directly ties education to economic and social class; he speaks interchangeably of poverty and earning a high school degree or less, and of wealth and earning at least a four-year college degree.


Schools are not to blame for the academic gap between rich and poor students that starts before kindergarten, but, Mr. Putnam said, “the American public school today is as a kind of echo chamber in which the advantages or disadvantages that children bring with them to school have effects on other kids.”


He pointed to an analysis by the School Funding Law Center which found that as of 2009, 16 states had funding systems that provided less money per pupil to high-poverty school districts, while only 17 provided more per-pupil spending for districts with greater poverty. (An update of the study suggests those trends have worsened, with only 14 states providing significantly more money to high-poverty schools, and 19 states providing significantly less.)


Schools with 75 percent poverty or more offered one-third the number of Advanced Placement courses in 2009-10 than did wealthier schools—four each year on average compared to nearly a dozen each year at schools with 25 percent poverty or less.


Even where high-poverty schools get compensatory funding, Mr. Putnam told me: “Equalizing inputs is not equalizing outputs. Just because you have the same student-teacher ratio, just because you are investing the same dollars per kid, does not mean you are closing those gaps.”


For example, he noted in the book that high-poverty schools have more than twice as many disciplinary problems as low-poverty schools, and “equal numbers of guidance counselors cannot produce equal college readiness if the counselors in poor schools are tied up all day in disciplinary hearings.”


As a result, nearly 15 years after the federal education law was revised to “leave no child behind,” an analysis of the National Education Longitudinal Study data finds that even the brightest students in poverty can’t get ahead. Students in the poorest quarter of families who performed in the top third on national mathematics achievement were slightly less likely to graduate college than the worst math performers in the wealthiest quarter of families, 29 percent versus 30 percent.


The graph reproduced in this article starkly shows how poverty affects academic achievement and college graduation rates. This is not a problem that can be solved one student at a time. It requires a rearrangement of school funding so that schools enrolling poor students get the resources they need, not equal funding but more funding. It requires that the federal government invest in infrastructure programs that rebuild our crumbling highways and bridges and tunnels and sewers while creating meaningful work for men and women who can’t find jobs. That’s a tall order, but sooner or later our society must make decisions to do something significant to reduce poverty and inequality or to continue with the illusion that more high-stakes testing and more privatization of public education will solve those problems.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 127,451 other followers