Archives for category: Walton Foundation

Jeff Bryant notices an interesting new phenomenon: Corporate reformers have dropped their triumphalist tone, and now they want to have a “conversation.” But the curious aspect to their concept is that the conversation they want begins with their assumptions about the value of charters, vouchers, collective bargaining, and tenure. As he shows, their “conversation” doesn’t involve actual classroom teachers or parent activists working to improve their public school. It typically means a “bipartisan” agreement between people who work in DC think tanks or veterans of the Bush and Obama administrations or grantees of the billionaire foundations promoting privatization.

In short, the “new” conversation isn’t new at all. It is a shiny new echo chamber where the voices of working teachers (not counting TFA and AstroTurf groups like Educators4Excellence and TeachPlus and others created and funded by Gates, Broad, and Walton) will not be heard.

A real conversation includes the voices of those who know the most about schools and teaching and learning: real working classroom teachers, as well as those who know the most about children, their parents. If the reformers listened to these voices, they would quickly learn that those who are most closely involved in education are not part of the Beltway consensus.

I recently saw photographs of John F. Kennedy giving a Labor Day speech in New York City during his Presidential campaign in 1960. He spoke in the center of the Garment District, on the west side of Manhattan. He spoke to tens of thousands of garment workers. Today, the Garment District has been replaced by luxury high-rise residences. Following NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement), the garment industry went to low-wage, non-union countries. The garment industry has few workers and no political power. The number of union members across the nation has dropped precipitously. The largest unions are public sector workers–especially, teachers–and they are under attack, as rightwing foundations, billionaires, and their favorite think tanks hammer away at their very existence.

What hope is there? Anthony Cody says there is plenty. He foresees the rise of “the teacher class.”

Here are a few quotes from a powerful statement. Read it all.

“The teaching class consists of educators from pre-school through college. This group is facing the brute force of a class-based assault on their professional and economic status. The assault is being led by the wealthiest people in the world – Bill and Melinda Gates, via their vast foundation, the Walton family, and their foundation, and Eli Broad, and his foundation. And a host of second tier billionaires and entrepreneurs have joined in the drive. These individuals have poured billions of dollars into advancing a “reform” movement that is resulting in the rapid expansion of semi-private and private alternatives to public education, and the destruction of unions and due process rights for educators.”

“As the latest report from Yong Zhao and ASCD illustrates, there is absolutely zero connection between the productivity of our economy and test scores. There may be some minimum level of academic achievement below which our nation’s economy might suffer, but our students are far, far above that threshold. So the entire economic rationale for our obsession with test scores and “higher standards” has been obliterated…”

Even liberal rationales for education reform are falling away. We have heard for the past decade that employers need students who can think critically and creatively, that everyone must be prepared for college. These arguments have been used to promote progressive models of education, along with the Common Core. The economic assumption here is that the middle class will grow as more students are prepared for middle class jobs. But the number of such jobs are shrinking, not growing. The supposed shortage of people prepared for STEM careers is a hoax, as we see with the layoff of 18,000 such workers by Microsoft. In fact, one economic projection suggests that in the next 20 years, 47% of the jobs of today will be gone as a result of technological advances and what Bill Gates terms “software substitution.” (see the full report here.)….”

“Teachers are paying attention. Study after study provides evidence that the central planks of corporate education reform not only fail to work, but are undermining the education of our students. This project that was supposed to be driven by data is collapsing, and would be long gone if our politicians were not being legally bribed to look the other way. Corporate education reform is a fraud, a hoax perpetrated on the public, with the active complicity of media outlets like NBC, which allows the Gates Foundation to dictate the very “facts” that guide their coverage of education issues….”

“Corporate reformers have diabolically targeted teachers where we were most vulnerable, by accusing us of placing our own interests above those of our students. Every element of corporate reform has been leveraged on this point. No Child Left Behind accused teachers of holding students back through our “soft bigotry of low expectations.” Due process has been undermined or destroyed because it supposedly provides shelter for the “bad teachers” responsible for low test scores.

“But this point of vulnerability is also our greatest latent strength going forward. Because teachers are deeply motivated by concern for their students, they are attuned to the devastating effects reform is having on them. Teachers are seeing what happens in communities when schools are closed – usually in poor African American and Latino neighborhoods. Teachers are seeing how technologically based “innovations” funnel both scarce funds along with student data to profit-seeking corporations. We have had more than a decade of test-driven reform, and teachers know better than anyone what a sham approach this has been. Teachers have seen and responded to the Michael Brown shooting, and though there are still difficult conversations ahead about race, teachers have a head start, because of our work with young people who are, like Michael Brown, vulnerable to racial profiling and the school to prison pipeline.

“Teachers have some important pieces of the puzzle, but we have not built the whole picture yet. There is a growing awareness of the discriminatory way laws are enforced, leading to huge numbers of African Americans and Latinos behind bars. But there is still a weak understanding of how this fits into a system that keeps communities of color economically and politically disempowered. School closures are a part of this disenfranchisement, as they rob communities of stable centers of learning. The disproportionate layoffs and terminations of African American teachers are a part of this pattern as well. We need a new civil rights coalition that brings these interests into sharp focus, and establishes alliances between teachers, students, parents and community members.

“When teachers bring a deep understanding of how our work has been hijacked and disrupted to bear on broader social issues, we find similar patterns elsewhere. We can see how profiteers are trying to sideline the US Postal Service, even though the level of service for the public will suffer. We see how the prison industry has turned into an enormous machine that sustains itself through vigorous lobbying, to the great disservice of many Americans. We see how laws governing debt are written to give tremendous advantage to financiers, while binding our students into a new form of indentured servitude. We see how leading Democratic Party politicians have taken campaign contributions in the millions from the sworn enemies of public education, and have become their servants….”

“The term “teacher leadership” has been used to describe a narrow range of activities often related to “getting a seat at the table,” or taking charge of professional development or Common Core implementation. But the real potential for teacher leadership arises when we take the lessons we have learned from a decade of being the targets of phony corporate reforms, and recognize our kinship with others who have been disenfranchised. The number of wealthy individuals who have sponsored this decade of fraudulent reform could fit in a small movie theater. Teachers number in the millions — our students and allies are in the hundreds of millions. The only thing that can beat the power of money is the power of people. But the people must be informed and organized. That sounds like work teachers ought to be able to handle.”

Sarah Reckhow and Jeffrey W. Snyder explain the new educational philanthropy–and how it intersects with federal priorities–in this valuable article.

They spot three significant trends:

“Our analysis proceeds in three parts. First, we examine phil- anthropic grant-making for political activities and demonstrate that funding for national policy advocacy grew from 2000 to 2010. Second, we analyze the shifting policy orientation among top education philanthropies. We find that most major education foundations increasingly support jurisdictional challengers— organizations that compete with or offer alternatives to public sector institutions. Meanwhile, funding for traditional public education institutions has declined. Third, we examine the range of actors and perspectives supported by philanthropic grants, applying social network analysis to identify overlapping patterns of grant-making. We find that top donors are increasingly supporting a shared set of organizations—predominantly jurisdictional challengers. We argue that the combination of these trends has played a role in strengthening the voice and influence of philanthropists in education policy.”

What are jurisdictional challengers? These are organizations that challenge the traditional governance of education, such as charter schools. More philanthropic money goes to these challengers, less money goes to traditional public schools, and more money goes to networks of jurisdictional challengers, like the NewSchools Venture Fund and Stand for Children.

This is a fine scholarly work that confirms what many of us saw with our own eyes. The philanthropic sector–led by Gates, Walton, and Broad and their allies like Dell–prefer disruptive organizations of charters to public schools. Indeed, they are using their vast fortunes to undercut public education and impose a free market competition among competing schools. As they go merrily about the task of disrupting an important democratic institution, they work in tandem with the U.S. Department of Education, which has assumed the task of destabilizing public education.

Big money–accountable to no one—and big government have embarked on an experiment in mass privatization. Do they ever ask themselves whether they might be wrong?

In recent days, there has been an extended discussion online about an article by California whistle blower Kathleen Carroll, in which she blasts Randi Weingarten and the Teachers Union Reform Network for taking money from Gates, Broad, and other corporate reform groups, in some cases, more than a dozen years ago. Carroll also suggests that I am complicit in this “corruption” because I spoke to the 2013 national meeting of TURN and was probably paid with corporate reform money; she notes that Karen Lewis, Deborah Meier, and Linda Darling-Hammond also spoke to the TURN annual meeting in 2012 or 2013. I told Carroll that I was not paid to speak to TURN, also that I have spoken to rightwing think tanks, and that no matter where I speak and whether I am paid, my message is the same as what I write in my books and blogs. In the discussion, I mentioned that I spoke to the National Association of School Psychologists at its annual convention in 2012, one of whose sponsors was Pearson, and I thought it was funny that Pearson might have paid me to blast testing, my point being that I say what I want regardless of who puts up the money. At that point, Jim Horn used the discussion to lacerate me for various sins.

Mercedes Schneider decided to disentangle this mess of charges and countercharges. In the following post, Schneider uses her considerable research skills to dissect the issues, claims and counterclaims. All the links are included in this piece by Schneider. Schneider asked me for my speech to the National Association of School Psychologists as well as my remarks to the TURN meeting, which are included.

I will make two points here. First, Randi has been my friend for 20 years, and I don’t criticize my friends; we disagree on many points, for example, the Common Core, which I oppose and she supports. I don’t hide our disagreements but I won’t call her names or question her motives. Friends can disagree and remain friends.

Second, I recall learning how the left made itself impotent in American politics by fighting among themselves instead of uniting against the common adversary. I recall my first job at the New Leader magazine in 1960, where I learned about the enmity among the Cannonites, the Lovestonites, the Trotskyites, the Mensheviks, the Schactmanites, and other passionate groups in the 1930s. That’s when I became convinced that any successful movement must minimize infighting and strive for unity and common goals.

Even earlier, Benjamin Franklin was supposed to have said at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

David Sirota explains in the journal “In These Times” that there is a conflict between big-time philanthropy and democracy. He describes recent conference where the tech industry wrung its collective hands about inequality without acknowledging that it is a source of frowing inequality.

“Indeed, there seems to be a trend of billionaires and tech firms making private donations to public institutions ostensibly with the goal of improving public services. Yet, many of these billionaires are absent from efforts to raise public resources for those same institutions. Zuckerberg is only one example.

“For instance, hedge funders make big donations to charter schools. Yet, the hedge fund industry lobbies against higher taxes that would generate new revenue for education.

“Meanwhile, Microsoft boasts about making donations to schools, while the company has opposed proposals to increase taxes to fund those schools.

“To understand the conflict between democracy and this kind of philanthropy, remember that private donations typically come with conditions about how the money must be allocated. In education, those conditions can be about anything from curriculum to testing standards to school structure. No matter what the conditions are, though, they effectively circumvent the democratic process and dictate policy to public institutions. While those institutions can reject a private donor’s money, they are often desperate for resources.
In this, we see a vicious cycle that undermines democratic control. Big money interests use anti-democratic campaign finance laws to fund anti-tax policies that deprive public institutions of resources. Those policies make public institutions desperate for private resources. When philanthropists offer those resources, they often make the money contingent on public officials relinquishing democratic control and acceding to ideological demands.

“Disruption theory is usually the defense of all this—the hypothesis being that billionaire cash is the only way to force public institutions to do what they supposedly need to do. But whether or not you believe that theory, Gore is correct: It isn’t democratic. In fact, it is quite the opposite.””

The one thing we know for sure about the Walton Family Foundation is that it loves school privatization, I.e., charters and voucher. The other thing we know for sure is that WFF does not like public schools.

So, no surprise that the Walton Family Foundation funded a study claiming that charter schools are underfunded.

This is actually very funny, because when the idea of charters was first float in the late 1980s and early 1990s, we were assured that charters would save money because they would cost less. After all, they do not have bureaucracy, and they can buy their supplies at the lowest price, and they would be lean and efficient.

Except now they complain that they don’t get as much money as public schools!

Gee whiz, the friends of Eva Moskowitz held a dinner party a few days ago and raised over $7 million in one night for her charters.

It is hard to feel sorry for this island of privatization, to which Walton contributes about $160 million yearly, and which has the support of Arne Duncan, the NewSchools Venture Fund, the hedge fund managers, the Broad Foundation, the Gates Foundation, the Arnold Foundation, the Dell Foundation, etc. as well as the legislatures of many states.

Cry me a river.

Chalkbeat is a news organization that covers New York City and recently expanded to Memphis. It was previously called Gotham Schools.

Daniel Katz of Seton Hall University recently complained that Chalkbeat is biased in favor of charter schools. He notes that it is funded by the Gates Foundation and the Walton Foundation, both of which are strong supporters of charter schools.

Katz quotes a letter written by Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters and other community leaders, pointing out Chalkbeat’s unfair coverage of pro-charter and anti-charter activities. Chalkboard failed to send a reporter to cover a citywide rally organized by Community Education Councils.

Chalkboard published the letter of protest in full, with the signatories.

Haimson wrote:

“Rather than sending one of your reporters to cover this event, you only posted a short blurb clearly taken from the press release after the fact. Chalkbeat’s failure to assign a reporter to the event glaringly contrasts with your close and detailed coverage of every move made by the charter operators and their backers. Indeed, you published two different stories on the charter march across the Brooklyn Bridge, three different stories on the Albany rally for charters (though you failed to disclose that Gov. Cuomo was actually behind it) , and on March 29 you ran two stories on reactions to the budget bills, BOTH from the point of view of the charter operators.

“Even more importantly, you have failed to cover any of the substantive issues and reasons behind our anger, including how unprecedented these charter provisions are, how they apply only to NYC, how they will detract from the city’s already underfunded capital plan and cost the taxpayers millions of dollars, while thousands of public school students will continue sit in trailers or in overcrowded classrooms, without art, music, science or therapy and counseling rooms, or on waiting lists for Kindergarten.” (Full disclosure: I am an unpaid member of the board of directors of Class Size Matters, but had no role in writing this letter.)

Chalkbeat responded that they wished they had attended the event in question.

This exchange reveals the serious problem that journalistic outlets face today. Can they survive without outside funding when so much information is available for free on the Internet? Can they be independent when their survival depends on funding from foundations or funders with a strong point of view?

To my knowledge, Gates does not support any organization–journalistic or think tank or advocacy–that is critical of charter schools or high-stakes testing. I would love to be proven wrong. To my knowledge, Walton does not support any organization or think tank or academic program unless it is a strong supporter of charter schools and, in many cases, vouchers. Both foundations are supporters of privatization of public education. There are good reporters at Chalkbeat, but like Katz, I worry about the publication’s capacity to be independent when funded by the billionaire boys’ club.

Jersey Jazzman heard NPR describe the reason that Washington State refused to bow to Arne Duncan’s demand that the sate use test scores to evaluate teacher quality.

It wasn’t because the methodology has no evidence behind it.

It wasn’t because the method has been questioned by theNational Academy of Education, the American Educational Research Association, the American Statistical Association, and leading scholars.

No, Washington State said no to our omnipotent, omniscient Secretary of Education because of those terrible unions who are afraid of being evaluated.

Or could this explain NPR’s rationale:

“So, as I was sitting at the kitchen table this evening, my ears perked up at the 5:30 break for WNYC, the NPR outlet here in the greater New York area. The announcer let us know that All Things Considered was proudly sponsored by the Walton Family Foundation, which was supporting (I’m paraphrasing here) educational “choice” for families.”

– See more at: http://jerseyjazzman.blogspot.com/2014/04/corporate-education-reform-buys-public.html#sthash.DkIcHS3q.dpuf

After reading in the New York Times about how many gazillions the Walton family has given to create charter schools (and vouchers) so that poor children can escape from failing public schools, EduShyster was deeply moved by their charitable impulses. And then she thought about their parents, the ones who work for Walmart.

She writes:

“Tough love

“I will stop briefly for a moment, reader, to allow you to reach for a fresh hanky (or to freshen your drink), such is the heart-warming nature of this particular tale. Alas, here is where our story takes a detour into darker, less feel-good fare. You see, if the Walheart throbs with love for low-income kids, it beats somewhat less enthusiastically for their low-income parents, especially those who are low-income by virtue of working at Walmart. Take Washington, DC, for example, where nearly every aspect of the city’s choice-infused school system comes stamped with a *W.* One choice that’s not on offer in the District: living wage jobs at big-box stores including Walmart. Or consider Walmart’s response after workers at stores across the country walked off the job to protest crap wages and benefits and a work culture that might best be described as tough love. (Hint: Walmart didn’t hug the workers.)

“The Tell Tale Heart (and a quick Common Core math problem)

“That sound you hear in the background, reader, is an organ—albeit not one of the ventricular variety. I’m talking old school, Vincent Price-style organ music of the kind that plays just before some dark and dirty business is carried out. In other words, this is where we pause to contemplate a heart-wrenching paradox: how is it possible that the great big lovin’ Walheart pounds for the sake of preparing low-income kids for college and career readiness in the future even as Walmart itself presides over a transformation of the workplace into one great big, underpaid, precarious, rights-free hell? Common Core math problem: Drawing on the informational text above, construct a Venn diagram that best demonstrates the overlap between the 1.4 million, mostly low-wage Walmart employees and the 2 million students who are being made college and career ready with the aid of Walmart profits. Don’t forget to provide a written explanation of how you reached your conclusion.”

The Waltons especially love the “no excuses” charters, and EduShyster knows why:

“Known for long days, long years, strict discipline and stripped down, test-prep academics focused almost exclusively on English and math, the schools so beloved by the Waltons specialize in a particular kind of acculturation that might best be described as learning how to work for the man. Students attending these schools receive training in such invaluable 21st century skills as showing up on time, making sure one’s uniform shirt is always tucked in and learning that you can only go to the bathroom when the boss says its OK and go home when s/he unlocks the doors.”

Great training, right? Just the work ethic needed to be a sales associate at Walmart.

Readers if this blog have long known that the Billionaires Boys Club has pledged its allegiance to the privatization of American public education. Among the Billionaires Boys Club, we include the Gates Foundation, the Broad Foubdation, the Walton Family Foundatioon, and hedge fund managers. They are allied with ALEC and other rightwing “think” tanks, all of which are in live with charters and vouchers.

Motoko Rich wrote in Saturday’s Néw York Times about the dedication of the vastly wealthy Walton Family Foundation. The Waltons do not like public education. They do not like unions. They like charters and vouchers. They spend $160 million every year to spread the gospel of privatization and to destroy the public schools that are the heart of most communities.

With their support, the US is recreating a dual school system: one that chooses its students and the other that accepts all. Further, they have got the media cheering for segregated schools, determined as the Waltons are to establish the success of all-black schools.

They use their vast wealth not to pay their workers a living wage but to destroy their communities, killing off mom and pop stores, and destroying their local public school, replacing it with a corporate chain school.

Altogether a great triumph for the cold and mean face of American capitalism, which cares not at all for family , community, tradition, or humane values.

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