Thomas Ultican has written a series of posts about attacks on public schools and their federal, state, and local funding streams. During this awful pandemic, most parents, teachers, and students have recognized that depersonalized remote learning is no substitute for real teachers. Nonetheless, the edtech industry continues to promote its products, which in most cases are intended to substitute for live teachers.

Especially concerning to Ultican is that the edtech industry has gained a strong foothold within the inner circle of the Biden campaign. A committee appointed by the campaign to advise the incoming administration was packed with edtech privateers and profiteers. The last thing that educators, parents and students want or need right now is a re-emphasis on digital learning.

Ultican is especially concerned about a corporation called digiLEARN, launched by former North Carolina Governor Bev Purdue, which was funded by…who else?…the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

To do the heavy lifting at digiLEARN, Purdue brought in her advisor on e-learning and innovation, Myra Best. Prior to joining the Governor’s office, Best served as Director of the Business Education Technology Alliance (BETA) which established North Carolina’s first statewide Virtual Public School. BETA was a committee of 27 business, political and education leaders established by the North Carolina General Assembly in 2002. The chair of the committee was Lieutenant Governor Bev Perdue...

digiLEARN lined up heavy hitters in the edtech industry:

In 1997, the vice chair, Jim Geringer, was one of the governors who established the non-profit Western Governors University in Salt Lake City. It was an early adopter of cyber education and competency based education. In a lengthy interview for the Wyoming State archives, Geringer spoke glowingly about the school and its methods.

The membership of the first digiLEARN board of governors made it clear that it was politically connected and aligned with the goals of the edtech industry. In addition to Geringer and Perdue former West Virginia Governor Bob Wise became a founding director on the board.

In 2010, Jeb Bush and Bob Wise launched the Digital Learning Council which promoted cyber schooling and “personalized learning.” In 2015, North Carolina State University honored Wise at the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation’s Friday Medal presentation. The institute notes, “The Friday Medal is awarded annually in honor of William C. Friday to recognize significant, distinguished and enduring contributions to education and beyond through advocating innovation, advancing education and imparting inspiration.”

Besides the three ex-governors, two North Carolina State Representatives – Craig Horn and Joe Tolson – were on the original board. Also on the board was one of edtech industries most widely published advocates, Tom Vander Ark…

Billionaires like Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg and Laurene Jobs Powell have spent lavishly to create an education publishing group to get out their message of school choice and edtech. Both Perdue and Vander Ark are regular contributors to The 74 Million and Perdue is featured at The Education Post. One of her early posts for Education Post was “A Nation At Risk 2.0.” In it Perdue echoed the calamity rhetoric of 1983’s “A Nation At Risk” declaring, “Right now, alarm bells should be clanging all over America louder than they were for President Reagan and business leaders more than 30 years ago.” She was decrying the slow implementation of edtech in schools...

Prompted by an article I had written about North Carolina being ravaged with edtech spending, a profoundly shaken person contacted me to share their experience on Biden’s Education Policy Commission. As the new administration prepares to take charge, many groups are meeting to develop an agenda to move America forward.  

In the Education Policy Commission, there was a tech sub-committee chaired by Bev Perdue. Reportedly the sub-committee had a large North Carolina contingent including Myra Best. There were twenty members on the committee and at least seventeen of them were edtech supporters. Many members were people with backgrounds like former Amazon web-services director.

The committees attitude toward student privacy was unacceptable especially their positions on sharing data. My source described the sub-committee as the proverbial “foxes in the hen house.”

Edtech can be a wonderful thing for students and educators, but if the point is to make large profits off data and replace teachers with digital screens, edtech becomes a great evil. Unfortunately, Bev Perdue and digiLEARN are promoting the evil brand of edtech. Let’s hope the incoming administration can successfully filter out this tainted input.

Given what America’s parents, teachers, and students have learned about edtech during the pandemic, the Biden team should be wary about taking the advice of its leading lobbyists.