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Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. reviews the long debate about how to teach Black history in an article in the New York Times. The debate began as rationales by sympathizers of the Confederacy, who changed the Civil War into “The War Between the States.” In a visit to Charleston, South Carolina, not long ago, I heard the war described in a historic home as “The War of Northern Aggression.”

Dr. Gates writes:

Lurking behind the concerns of Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, over the content of a proposed high school course in African American studies, is a long and complex series of debates about the role of slavery and race in American classrooms.

“We believe in teaching kids facts and how to think, but we don’t believe they should have an agenda imposed on them,” Governor DeSantis said. He also decried what he called “indoctrination.”

School is one of the first places where society as a whole begins to shape our sense of what it means to be an American. It is in our schools that we learn how to become citizens, that we encounter the first civics lessons that either reinforce or counter the myths and fables we gleaned at home. Each day of first grade in my elementary school in Piedmont, W.Va., in 1956 began with the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, followed by “America (My Country, ’Tis of Thee).” To this day, I cannot prevent my right hand from darting to my heart the minute I hear the words of either.

It is through such rituals, repeated over and over, that certain “truths” become second nature, “self-evident” as it were. It is how the foundations of our understanding of the history of our great nation are constructed.

Even if we give the governor the benefit of the doubt about the motivations behind his recent statements about the content of the original version of the College Board’s A.P. curriculum in African American studies, his intervention falls squarely in line with a long tradition of bitter, politically suspect battles over the interpretation of three seminal periods in the history of American racial relations: the Civil War; the 12 years following the war, known as Reconstruction; and Reconstruction’s brutal rollback, characterized by its adherents as the former Confederacy’s “Redemption,” which saw the imposition of Jim Crow segregation, the reimposition of white supremacy and their justification through a masterfully executed propaganda effort.

Undertaken by apologists for the former Confederacy with an energy and alacrity that was astonishing in its vehemence and reach, in an era defined by print culture, politicians and amateur historians joined forces to police the historical profession. The so-called Lost Cause movement was, in effect, a take-no-prisoners social media war. And no single group or person was more pivotal to “the dissemination of the truths of Confederate history, earnestly and fully and officially,” than the historian general of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Mildred Lewis Rutherford, of Athens, Ga. Rutherford was a descendant of a long line of slave owners; her maternal grandfather owned slaves as early as 1820, and her maternal uncle, Howell Cobb, secretary of the Treasury under President James Buchanan, owned some 200 enslaved women and men in 1840. Rutherford served as the principal of the Lucy Cobb Institute (a school for girls in Athens) and vice president of the Stone Mountain Memorial project, the former Confederacy’s version of Mount Rushmore.

As the historian David Blight notes, “Rutherford gave new meaning to the term ‘die-hard.’” Indeed, she “considered the Confederacy ‘acquitted as blameless’ at the bar of history, and sought its vindication with a political fervor that would rival the ministry of propaganda in any twentieth-century dictatorship.” And she felt that the crimes of Reconstruction “made the Ku Klux Klan a necessity.” As I pointed out in a PBS documentary on the rise and fall of Reconstruction, Rutherford intuitively understood the direct connection between history lessons taught in the classroom and the Lost Cause racial order being imposed outside it, and she sought to cement that relationship with zeal and efficacy. She understood that what is inscribed on the blackboard translates directly to social practices unfolding on the street.

“Realizing that the textbooks in history and literature which the children of the South are now studying, and even the ones from which many of their parents studied before them,” she wrote in “A Measuring Rod to Test Text Books, and Reference Books in Schools, Colleges and Libraries,” “are in many respects unjust to the South and her institutions, and that a far greater injustice and danger is threatening the South today from the late histories which are being published, guilty not only of misrepresentations but of gross omissions, refusing to give the South credit for what she has accomplished, … I have prepared, as it were, a testing or measuring rod.” And Rutherford used that measuring rod to wage a systematic campaign to redefine the Civil War not as our nation’s war to end the evils of slavery, but as “the War Between the States,” since as she wrote elsewhere, “the negroes of the South were never called slaves.” And they were “well-fed, well-clothed and well-housed.”

Of the more than 25 books and pamphlets that Rutherford published, none was more important than “A Measuring Rod.” Published in 1920, her user-friendly pamphlet was meant to be the index “by which every textbook on history and literature in Southern schools should be tested by those desiring the truth.” The pamphlet was designed to make it easy for “all authorities charged with the selection of textbooks for colleges, schools and all scholastic institutions to measure all books offered for adoption by this ‘Measuring Rod,’ and adopt none which do not accord full justice to the South.” What’s more, her campaign was retroactive. As the historian Donald Yacovone tells us in his recent book, “Teaching White Supremacy,” Rutherford insisted that librarians “should scrawl ‘unjust to the South’ on the title pages” of any “unacceptable” books “already in their collections.”

On a page headed ominously by the word “Warning,” Rutherford provides a handy list of what a teacher or a librarian should “reject” or “not reject.”

“Reject a book that speaks of the Constitution other than a compact between Sovereign States.”

“Reject a textbook that does not give the principles for which the South fought in 1861, and does not clearly outline the interferences with the rights guaranteed to the South by the Constitution, and which caused secession.”

“Reject a book that calls the Confederate soldier a traitor or rebel, and the war a rebellion.”

“Reject a book that says the South fought to hold her slaves.”

“Reject a book that speaks of the slaveholder of the South as cruel and unjust to his slaves.”

And my absolute favorite, “Reject a textbook that glorified Abraham Lincoln and vilifies Jefferson Davis, unless,” she adds graciously, “a truthful cause can be found for such glorification and vilification before 1865.”

And what of slavery? “This was an education that taught the negro self-control, obedience and perseverance — yes, taught him to realize his weaknesses and how to grow stronger for the battle of life,” Rutherford writes in 1923 in “The South Must Have Her Rightful Place.” “The institution of slavery as it was in the South, far from degrading the negro, was fast elevating him above his nature and race.” For Rutherford, who lectured wearing antebellum hoop gowns, the war over the interpretation of the meaning of the recent past was all about establishing the racial order of the present: “The truth must be told, and you must read it, and be ready to answer it.” Unless this is done, “in a few years there will be no South about which to write history.”

In other words, Rutherford’s common core was the Lost Cause. And it will come as no surprise that this vigorous propaganda effort was accompanied by the construction of many of the Confederate monuments that have dotted the Southern landscape since.

While it’s safe to assume that most contemporary historians of the Civil War and Reconstruction are of similar minds about Rutherford and the Lost Cause, it’s also true that one of the most fascinating aspects of African American studies is the rich history of debate over issues like this, and especially over what it has meant — and continues to mean — to be “Black” in a nation with such a long and troubled history of human slavery at the core of its economic system for two-and-a-half centuries.

Heated debates within the Black community, beginning as early as the first decades of the 19th century, have ranged from what names “the race” should publicly call itself (William Whipper vs. James McCune Smith) and whether or not enslaved men and women should rise in arms against their masters (Henry Highland Garnet vs. Frederick Douglass). Economic development vs. political rights? (Booker T. Washington vs. W.E.B. Du Bois). Should Black people return to Africa? (Marcus Garvey vs. W.E.B. Du Bois). Should we admit publicly the pivotal role of African elites in enslaving our ancestors? (Ali Mazrui vs. Wole Soyinka).

Add to these repeated arguments over sexism, socialism and capitalism, reparations, antisemitism and homophobia. It is often surprising to students to learn that there has never been one way to “be Black” among Black Americans, nor have Black politicians, activists and scholars ever spoken with one voice or embraced one ideological or theoretical framework. Black America, that “nation in a nation,” as the Black abolitionist Martin R. Delany put it, has always been as varied and diverse as the complexions of the people who have identified, or been identified, as its members.

I found these debates so fascinating, so fundamental to a fuller understanding of Black history, that I coedited a textbook that features them, and designed Harvard’s Introduction to African American Studies course, which I teach with the historian Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, to acquaint students with a wide range of them in colorful and sometimes riotous detail. More recent debates over academic subjects like Kimberlé Crenshaw’s insightful theory of “intersectionality,” reparations, Black antisemitism, critical race theory and the 1619 Project — several of which made Mr. DeSantis’s hit list — will be included in the next edition of our textbook and will no doubt make it onto the syllabus of our introductory course.

As a consultant to the College Board as it developed its A.P. course in African American studies, I suggested the inclusion of a “pro and con” debate unit at the end of its curriculum because of the inherent scholarly importance of many of the contemporary hot-button issues that conservative politicians have been seeking to censor, but also as a way to help students understand the relation between the information they find in their textbooks and efforts by politicians to say what should and what should not be taught in the classroom.

Why shouldn’t students be introduced to these debates? Any good class in Black studies seeks to explore the widest range of thought voiced by Black and white thinkers on race and racism over the long course of our ancestors’ fight for their rights in this country. In fact, in my experience, teaching our field through these debates is a rich and nuanced pedagogical strategy, affording our students ways to create empathy across differences of opinion, to understand “diversity within difference,” and to reflect on complex topics from more than one angle. It forces them to critique stereotypes and canards about who “we are” as a people and what it means to be “authentically Black.” I am not sure which of these ideas has landed one of my own essays on the list of pieces the state of Florida found objectionable, but there it is.

The Harvard-trained historian Carter G. Woodson, who in 1926 invented what has become Black History Month, was keenly aware of the role of politics in the classroom, especially Lost Cause interventions. “Starting after the Civil War,” he wrote, “the opponents of freedom and social Justice decided to work out a program which would enslave the Negroes’ mind inasmuch as the freedom of the body has to be conceded.”

“It was well understood,” Woodson continued, “that if by the teaching of history the white man could be further assured of his superiority and the Negro could be made to feel that he had always been a failure and that the subjection of his will to some other race is necessary the freedman, then, would still be a slave.”

“If you can control a man’s thinking,” Woodson concluded, “you do not have to worry about his action.”

Is it fair to see Governor DeSantis’s attempts to police the contents of the College Board’s A.P. curriculum in African American studies in classrooms in Florida solely as little more than a contemporary version of Mildred Rutherford’s Lost Cause textbook campaign? No. But the governor would do well to consider the company that he is keeping. And let’s just say that he, no expert in African American history, seems to be gleefully embarked on an effort to censor scholarship about the complexities of the Black past with a determination reminiscent of Rutherford’s. While most certainly not embracing her cause, Mr. DeSantis is complicitous in perpetuating her agenda.

As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so aptly put it, “No society can fully repress an ugly past when the ravages persist into the present.” Addressing these “ravages,” and finding solutions to them — a process that can and should begin in the classroom — can only proceed with open discussions and debate across the ideological spectrum, a process in which Black thinkers themselves have been engaged since the earliest years of our Republic.

Throughout Black history, there has been a long, sad and often nasty tradition of attempts to censor popular art forms, from the characterization of the blues, ragtime and jazz as “the devil’s music” by guardians of “the politics of respectability,” to efforts to censor hip-hop by C. Delores Tucker, who led a campaign to ban gangsta rap music in the 1990s. Hip-hop has been an equal opportunity offender for potential censors: Mark Wichner, the deputy sheriff of Florida’s Broward County, brought 2 Live Crew up on obscenity charges in 1990. But there is a crucial difference between Ms. Tucker, best known as a civil rights activist, and Mr. Wichner, an administrator of justice on behalf of the state, a difference similar to that between Rutherford and Mr. DeSantis.

While the urge to censor art — a symbolic form of vigilante policing — is colorblind, there is no equivalence between governmental censorship and the would-be censorship of moral crusaders. Many states are following Florida’s lead in seeking to bar discussions of race and history in classrooms. The distinction between Mildred Lewis Rutherford and Governor DeSantis? The power differential.

Rutherford wished for nothing less than the power to summon the apparatus of the state to impose her strictures on our country’s narrative about the history of race and racism. Mr. DeSantis has that power and has shown his willingness to use it. And it is against this misguided display of power that those of us who cherish the freedom of inquiry at the heart of our country’s educational ideal must take a stand.

Dr. Gates is the director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard. He is the host of the PBS television series “Finding Your Roots.”

Peter Greene wrote in Forbes about the bizarre decision by the Gates Foundation to give nearly $1 million to the Reason Foundation, a libertarian foundation that doesn’t believe in public schools and seldom believes in anything the government does on behalf of its citizens. They believe, I suppose, in a feral society where there is minimal government, minimal taxes, and everyone fends for him or herself. I remembered that the Gates Foundation once gave a grant of nearly $400,000 to the far-right American Legislative Executive Council (ALEC), which opposes public schools, unions, environmental regulations, gun control, and most every other government activity.

Greene writes:

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded a grant of $900,117 to the Reason Foundation. The award’s stated purpose is “to ensure that State funding adequately and equitably supports the pursuit of improved educational outcomes for low income, Black and Latinx Students.”

The Reason Foundation is a think tank whose stated purpose is to advance “a free society by developing, applying, and promoting libertarian principles, including individual liberty, free markets, and the rule of law.” They use “journalism and public policy research to influence the framework and actions of policymakers, journalists and opinion leaders.” They favor limited government and market-friendly policies.

The Gates Foundation has long pushed policies in education, including the financing of the ultimately-unsuccessful small schools initiative and widespread influence in the creation and implementation of the controversial Common Core State Standards.

According to the Gates database, they have never before given a grant to the Reason Foundation. The two are not an obvious match; in fact, Reason was highly critical of the Common Core initiative that Gates spent millions to promote.

Reason’s approach to education has emphasized choice, particularly school vouchers. Over the years they have cranked out papers to support these market-based policies, though these papers have not met with enthusiasm from education policy analysts, who have used phrases like “carefully selected examples intended to support a particular perspective,” “off the rails,” “not a credible policy document,” “little more than a polemic,” and “reckless and irresponsible.”

It is not clear what the actual project behind this grant might be. Search the Reason website for “low-income students” and it turns up many articles about how school choice and voucher programs would improve school for these students. The same for a search for “Black students.” (”Latinx students” does not appear on the website at all.)

The grant language is also interesting in that it suggests that Reason’s program is not about establishing a program, but about finding ways to influence the path of state funding. The end result of this may not simply be about spending Gates money, but about spending taxpayer dollars as well.

This is a strange grant because Reason has never showed any interest in education other than to promote vouchers.

Steven Singer asks a reasonable question: Why is a Gates-Funded, anti-union, pro-charter advocacy group part of Pennsylvania’s effort to end the teacher shortage?

That would be TeachPlus.

Singer begins:

So Pennsylvania has unveiled a new plan to stop the exodus with the help of an organization pushing the same policies that made teaching undesirable in the first place.

The state’s Department of Education (PDE) announced its plan to stop the state’s teacher exodus today.

One of the four people introducing the plan at the Harrisburg press conference was Laura Boyce, Pennsylvania executive director of Teach Plus.

Why is this surprising?

Teach Plus is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that works to select and train teachers to push its political agenda.

What is that agenda?

Teach Plus has embraced the practice of widespread staff firings as a strategy for school improvement.

Teach Plus mandates that test scores be a significant part of teacher evaluation.

Teach Plus advocates against seniority and claims that unions stifle innovation.

Teach Plus has received more than $27 million from the Gates Foundation and substantial donations from the Walton Family Foundation.

How can an organization dedicated to the same ideas that prompted the exodus turn around and stop the evacuation!?

That’s like hiring a pyromaniac as a fire fighter!

Read on.

This is the third in the series of investigative articles about Washington State’s largest charter chain, written by Ann Dornfeld for Station KUOW in Seattle.

As we have seen over the dozen years, Bill Gates is an accountability hawk. He wants everything measured. He wants teachers and principals to be held accountable, usually by the test scores of their students. He has invested heavily in charter schools. But as Dornfeld shows, the charter schools that Bill Gates created in Washington are accountable to no one.

Will anyone hold Bill Gates accountable? Of course not. To paraphrase Leona Helmsley (the billionaire who famously said that “only the little people pay taxes”), accountability is only for working stiffs, not for billionaires.

She writes:

Over seven months, KUOW interviewed 50 current and former Impact staff and parents, and reviewed thousands of pages of documents from Impact and state agencies, including enrollment records, staff resignation letters, court records, charter contracts, nondisclosure agreements, and internal emails.

KUOW’s investigation revealed a charter school chain that state officials have allowed to grow rapidly even as, staff allege, it failed to identify and serve students with disabilities, offered little to English language learners, and where crowded classrooms are largely led by inexperienced teachers without the usual credentials. Many students were recommended to repeat a grade based on test scores.

Records show that staff members and parents have, for years, taken their complaints about how Impact serves students to the many agencies assigned to oversee charter schools. They emailed the Impact board of directors, testified to the Washington State Charter School Commission, and reported concerns to the State Auditor’s Office. Little, if anything, came of their efforts, they said.

After Impact’s first school, in Tukwila, opened in 2018, the state approved new branches in Seattle, Tacoma, and a Renton location set to open next year.

As the state’s charter school law requires, Impact promised to focus its mission on marginalized students, and its demographics reflect the communities around its schools.

The charter chain’s students are mostly children of color from low-income families. Black students make up the largest percentage, including many from East African immigrant and refugee families. Twenty-one percent of students are learning English, state records show.

Jen Davis Wickens, Impact Public Schools co-founder and CEO, declined multiple interview requests for this story and agreed only to respond to emailed questions via a spokesperson.

Impact spokesperson Rowena Yow said by e-mail that the state’s primary K-12 education agency, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, “conducts a thorough annual audit of our [special education] program and services, and we have received approval since our inception in 2018.”

“Our special education program meets the highest standards,” Yow said, adding that the same is true for its English language learner program for the schools’ large number of students from immigrant and refugee families. Twenty percent of its students are learning English, state records show.

Chris Reykdal, the superintendent of public instruction, said his agency has relied entirely on what Impact claimed that it provides to special education and English language students.

“Most of what we do is ask districts to make attestations about their use of funds,” Reykdal said.

“Periodically, the state auditor will do a deep dive on a performance audit. But that’s very, very rare, especially for a new school.”

Reykdal said his agency oversees so many school districts that it often takes a complaint from the community to trigger the agency to take a closer look at school practices. As of March, when Reykdal was interviewed for this story, he said his agency had not received complaints about Impact’s special education and English language services.

Reykdal said that if Impact is not meeting its obligations, as parents and staff allege, “that’s alarming.”

The State Auditor’s Office has a significant lag time in completing school district audits — often two or more years — which means issues are often caught only in hindsight.

To date, the agency has issued one audit report for an Impact school, the Tukwila location: it reviewed the 2018-19 school year, its first in operation. That accountability audit looked at a handful of standard items, including whether the school had accurately classified students as needing special state-funded services, like English language lessons. The audit did not look into whether those services were actually provided.

With so many layers of oversight, the roles and responsibilities for each of the many agencies tasked with overseeing charters can be murky — both to the public, and to the agencies themselves.

Few of the 29 Impact parents KUOW interviewed pursued formal complaints regarding their concerns about how Impact schools run. More often, after raising issues at the school level, they gave up — or withdrew their children and enrolled them in their neighborhood schools.

Several Impact parents told KUOW there was no clear way to file a complaint about their concerns with the school — the website gave no clear path. Two said their emails to Impact’s public records address bounced back.

An extra layer of state oversight

The eight appointed members of the Washington State Charter School Commission authorize new charter schools, renew or revoke schools’ charter contracts, and are meant to ensure schools follow the law and their contracts.

The agency has a staff of six and a $1.8 million annual budget — money that comes almost entirely from fees paid by the charter schools it oversees. Because each school pays 3% of its state funding to the commission, the agency’s budget is directly tied to charter school enrollment.

Each additional school the commission approves — and each student who enrolls at that school — grows the commission budget. Conversely, if the commission limits a school’s growth, or revokes a school’s charter contract, the commission’s budget takes a hit.

Impact Public Schools paid the commission approximately $485,000 in fees this year, more than any other charter school or network, and about one-quarter of the agency’s budget.

The commission is supposed to produce annual reports on each charter school, as voters were promised: their academic success compared to traditional public schools, as well as the schools’ financial and organizational stability. The commission has not completed a charter school performance report since the 2018-19 school year, three school years ago...

In May 2020, former Impact teacher Claire Leong wrote to the Charter School Commission, imploring the agency to deny Impact’s efforts to add another two schools to its network.

Leong said the disciplinary system at Impact’s Tukwila school had been “abhorrent,” and that teachers were required to send students to another classroom after several minor infractions.

“This could be not looking at the speaker, not sitting up straight, not walking silently,” Leong wrote. “My students often missed learning time because of these marks, and were instead in a buddy class or with the admin team,” Leong said, adding that Black boys missed the most instruction.

“Impact Public Schools should not be allowed to open any more schools, and should have their current school audited to highlight the discrepancies between the values that they tout and the malpractice that is occurring when no one is there from a foundation or commission to see everyone on their best behavior,” Leong told the commission.

Several Impact staff and parents also testified in support of the school expansion.

Several weeks later, the Charter School Commission gave Impact the green light to open new schools in Tacoma and Renton.

When asked why the commission allowed Impact to open more schools despite serious concerns voiced by parents and staff, Commissioner Christine Varela, who serves as the agency spokesperson, said that the commission is required by state law to base its decisions for new schools “on documented evidence collected through the application review process…”

Impact parents said when they have complained to the commission, the commission often directed them to instead raise their issues with Impact’s board of directors.

A different kind of school board

Unlike traditional public school boards, which are elected by local voters, Impact’s board members are appointed.

When parents wrote to the board, they said board members often told them to complain instead to Impact co-founder and CEO Jen Davis Wickens, to voice their concerns during public comment at a board meeting, or to file a formal complaint with Impact.

Speaking during public comment at a board meeting can be difficult, because the meetings occur during work hours. It can also be intimidating for parents at Impact schools, said Jimmy, a parent at its Tukwila school — especially for its many immigrant and refugee families. He asked to use only his first name to protect his child’s privacy.

“Our voice is small,” Jimmy said. “English is our second language. If we want to say something, it’s hard, you know?”

At six Impact board meetings KUOW attended over the past seven months, unanimous approval of all agenda items was the norm, with little, if any, discussion. Meetings are typically over in 30 minutes.

Impact board members declined or did not respond to interview requests for this story, or to address any of the issues raised by parents and staff that KUOW shared with the board.

Although few people know more about the charter network than its staff, many former Impact educators told KUOW they were afraid to speak up with their serious concerns about the schools because they had signed non-disclosure agreements.

Impact has most departing staff sign an agreement barring them from sharing any information that “may cause harm to the employer.”

Some staff sign more stringent agreements that ban them from making “disparaging” remarks about Impact or divulging the reason for their resignation.

“Employee will simply state ‘I decided to pursue other opportunities,’ or something similar, and will make no further comment,” an Impact severance agreement reads.

Asmeret Habte, whose children, nieces, and nephews attended Impact’s Tukwila location this year, contacted the school, the board, and the state Charter School Commission about concerns about overcrowded classrooms at the school last fall.

As many as 38 students per class were eating at shared desks in one of the most Covid-affected areas in the region, and Habte and other parents worried the school was not doing enough to mitigate risk.

Krystal Starwich, then the commission’s interim executive director, told Habte that while the commission would ask Impact some questions, parents should go through their school’s established complaint and appeal processes.

Habte eventually gave up, and unenrolled her children from Impact. “Where is the accountability?” she asked. “There is no accountability, even though it’s public dollars” that fund Impact Public Schools, she said...

Reach Ann Dornfeld at or 206-486-6505.

The Tennessee voucher bill passed by only one vote. There was a delay in getting that last vote. Charges flew that the vote was swayed by more than reason. The FBI started an investigation, and the legislator was just called to appear before a grand jury.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A Republican lawmaker who cast the decisive vote for Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s school voucher plan has been subpoenaed to appear before a federal grand jury next week, NewsChannel 5 has learned.

Two independent sources with knowledge of the investigation tell NewsChannel 5 Investigates that Rep. Jason Zachary, R-Knoxville, is among a group of House Republicans who were served with federal grand jury subpoenas this week. That group includes House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville.

Zachary refused to comment as he entered the House session Thursday morning.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates was first to reveal the latest round of subpoenas delivered Tuesday…

The investigation of corruption on Tennessee’s Capitol Hill comes against the backdrop of apparently ongoing interest by the FBI in how then-Speaker Casada managed to pass Lee’s plan to create a school voucher program, known as Educational Savings Accounts, to pay for private school tuition in Davidson and Shelby counties.

In April 2019, a House vote on Lee’s voucher bill failed on a 49-49 tie vote.

Casada held the vote open for some 45 minutes while he sought the decisive 50th vote.

Zachary eventually switched his vote after Lee’s team agreed to exempt Knox County from the legislation. Zachary later denied that he was offered anything improper for his vote.

Still, in May 2019, NewsChannel 5 Investigates revealed that FBI agents had shown an interest in that vote, showing up unannounced at the home of one GOP House member.

That lawmaker, who asked not to be identified, said agents wanted to know about campaign contributions offered to support the reelection efforts of those willing to vote for the bill.

In July 2019, Rep. John Mark Windle, D-Livingston, confirmed information obtained by NewsChannel 5 Investigates that another lawmaker had overheard Casada suggesting that — in exchange for his vote — Windle could be promoted to the rank of general in the Tennessee National Guard.

Windle, an Iraq war veteran who was a colonel in the Guard, refused to switch his vote, saying in a statement that his vote was “not for sale.”

Other lawmakers told NewsChannel 5 Investigates about talk of incentives and even threats.

Following Tim Schwab’s investigation of financial conflicts of interest at the New York Times, Leonie Haimson describes her efforts to persuade editors at the Newspaper of Record to address a serious ethics issue at the New York Times.

Timothy Schwab has written a series of must-read pieces about the overriding influence of the Gates Foundation on public policy, and how the Foundation influences the reporting of the issues they are involved in, in part by helping to bankroll the media .

His latest analysis, published in Columbia Journalism Review, recounts how in 2016, I emailed the NY Times twice to ask why several “Fixes” columns written by their reporters Tina Rosenberg and David Bornstein hyping various Gates Foundation education projects and investments had no acknowledgements that they themselves received salaries from the non-profit they co-founded called Solutions Journalism Network, which is heavily subsidized by the Foundation.

My second email to the Times, quoted by Schwab, pointed out how “Having a NYT columnist who is funded by Gates who regularly hypes controversial Gates-funded projects without any disclosure of conflict of interest could be compared to running columns on the environment by someone who runs an organization funded by Exxon/Mobil.”

Yet I received no response of any kind. The 2016 blog post that I linked to in my emails pointed out how the columns by Rosenberg and Bornstein on Gates grantees were biased, with few if any quotes from critics, nor any mention of readily available studies showing that the Gates-funded programs they were promoting had been shown to be ineffective or had a negative impact on educational quality.  

The Gates Foundation provides millions of dollars to many journalistic enterprises, which Schwab argued in an earlier 2020 piece helps to explain the kid glove treatment the Foundation has received over the last twenty years. The media outlets that get funding from Gates and regularly cover his education projects and investments include Chalkbeat, Hechinger Report, The 74, and Education Post, as well as K12 school reporting by NPR, Seattle Times, and others. The Foundation also helps to fund the Education Writers Association, which frequently features speakers friendly to various policies favored by Gates.

Gates’ support of Solutions Journalism Network started in 2011, when Bornstein and Rosenberg  won a $100,000 Gates Foundation “challenge” competition  “to build the first Wiki-style platform that packages solutions-journalism (specifically NYTimes Fixes columns) into mini-case-studies for educators around the world to embed in, and across, the curriculum,” in collaboration with Marquette University. 

In 2012, Tom Paulson, a former Seattle Times reporter with called Humanosphere questioned this arrangement.  As explained by a colleague, “Paulson’s fear was that Solutions Journalism was just a fancy way to disguise the desire (by donors, NGOs and others) for success stories, for promoting particular products or agendas.” 

In response, Bornstein insisted to Paulson that neither he nor Rosenberg had received any financial benefit from this grant, as “NY Times prohibits them from accepting grant money (for work done at NYTimes) and they are unpaid collaborators with Marquette, allowing them to repurpose their columns and to help them think through the process.” 

Yet whatever reservations the NY Times may have had about allowing them to receive money from Gates seems to have quickly disappeared. In 2013, Bornstein and Rosenberg incorporated Solutions Journalism Network (SJN), and the next year, the organization received $600,000 from the Gates Foundation, from which they paid themselves  salaries of $75,000 each.  At the same time, they continued their regular “Fixes” columns for the NY Times/ 

The SJN 990 for that year reports that Bornstein worked 55 hours per week for the organization as its Chair, Treasurer and CEO, and Rosenberg 40 hours a week as its Vice President, which one would think left them little time to work as  NY Times reporters, though together they published at least twelve NY Times “Fixes” columns that year. 

Since that time, the organization has raised $7.3 million in total from Gates Foundation. Their most recent Gates grant was $1.7 million in August 2020, and Bornstein and Rosenberg now receive six-figure salaries from the organization,according to its latest 990.

Haimson goes on to describe the indifference of editors at The New York Times, which has been quick, in other cases, to require its writers to disclose financial conflicts and/or terminate them.

Why do so many billionaires think that it is their responsibility to redesign education? I, personally, would prefer to see them spend their time figuring out how to reduce poverty, how to provide medical care in low-income communities, how to provide affordable housing for all. But they don’t ask me.

Chalkbeat reported recently that three of our biggest billionaires are combining forces to discover “breakthroughs” in education. As usual, the billionaires—Gates, Walton, and the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative—assume that they will discover a magic trick that solves all problems. Like the Common Core, which David Coleman and Bill Gates believed would raise test scores and close all achievement gaps. They assumed that standardization of curriculum, standards, tests, and teacher training would produce high test scores for all students. Except it didn’t.

Matt Barnum wrote:

Three of the biggest names in education philanthropy have teamed up to fund a new organization aimed at dramatically improving outcomes for Black, Latino, and low-income students.

The Advanced Education Research & Development Fund, announced Wednesday, is already funded to the eye-popping tune of $200 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and the Walton Family Foundation. (Gates and Walton are also supporters of Chalkbeat.)

AERDF (pronounced AIR-dif) says its focus will be on what it calls “inclusive R&D,” or bringing together people with different expertise, including educators, to design and test practical ideas like improving assessments and making math classes more effective. Still, the ideas will have “moonshot ambitions,” said the group’s CEO Stacey Childress. 

“One of our mottos for our program teams and the projects they fund is ‘heads in clouds and boots on the ground,’” she said. 

It’s an unusually well-funded start for a new education organization, especially as big education funders have seen their influence wane in recent years after some of their ideas showed uneven results and prompted backlash. AERDF suggests these funders still have significant ambitions for improving education in the U.S., even if those efforts are less splashy — or controversial — than they once were.

The organization emerged from work that began in 2018, when CZI and Gates teamed up to invest in R&D. That resulted in a project known as EF+Math, which funds efforts to embed lessons in executive functioning — a set of cognitive skills related to self control and memory — into math classes. 

Read on.

Writing in Scientific American, Million Belay and Beatrice Mugambe complain that the Gates Foundatuon is steering African agriculture in the wrong direction.

Financed by Gates, the Cornell Alliance for Science is promoting the use of genetically-modified seeds, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, petroleum-dependent machinery and artificial irrigation. The authors defend “agroecology,” which they describe as small-scale, ecofriendly, reliant on indigenous methods. Agroecology, they say, increases the variety, nutritive value, and quantity of foods produced while sustaining millions of small-scale farmers.

Gates’ grantees dismiss critics of agribusiness as irrational, unscientific, and harmful. But critics allege that the approach endorsed by Gates’ grantees are paving the way for multinational corporations to take over farming in Africa.

Their own organization, the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), represents more than 200 million farmers, fishers, pastoralists, indigenous peoples, women, consumers and others across Africa.

Walter Isaccson, author of best-selling biographies and former editor of TIME, wrote this awestruck article about Bill Gates in 1997. At the time, Bill was the richest man in the world, his marriage to Melinda was new, and he hadn’t yet decided that he was the smartest man in the world and knew everything better than those who had worked in their profession for years. This is Bill Gates before he decided to reinvent American education. It’s also a fascinating peek into the lifestyle of zthe then richest man in the world (he’s #3 now, behind Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk). And it includes a curious detail about Bill’s personal life: once a year, he spends a weekend with a woman friend, where they commune and discuss weighty things.

Several news outlets reported that Melinda Gates began to meet with divorce lawyers in 2019 because of Bill’s relationship to Jeffrey Epstein, convicted pedophile. Melinda thought he was repulsive, Bill did not. Bill said he had neither a business relationship nor a friendship with Epstein. Whatever it was, Melinda did not like it.

Just days ago, the Wall Street Journal reported that Bill left the Microsoft board because was in an inappropriate relationship with an employee:

Microsoft Corp. board members decided that Bill Gates needed to step down from its board in 2020 as they pursued an investigation into the billionaire’s prior romantic relationship with a female Microsoft employee that was deemed inappropriate, people familiar with the matter said.

Members of the board tasked with the matter hired a law firm to conduct an investigation in late 2019 after a Microsoft engineer alleged in a letter that she had a sexual relationship over years with Mr. Gates, the people said.

Let’s just say it upfront. If you wanted to know more about “The State of Education,” and how to “rebuild a more equitable system,” the last person you would ask is a billionaire. Right? Specifically Bill Gates, who has spent billions over the past 20 years promoting high-stakes testing, charter schools, merit pay, value-added measurement of teachers, the Common Core, test-based accountability, and every failed reform I can think of. The media think he is the world’s leading expert on everything, but we know from experience with his crackpot theories and ideas that none of them has made education better, and all of them have demoralized teachers and harmed students and public schools. What hubris to have foisted one failed idea after another and then to convene a summit on how to fix the mess you made, probably by doing the same failed things you already sponsored.

So how can we build a “more equitable system”? Well, one way would be to have higher taxes for people in Bill Gates’ economic bracket. He lives in a state with no income tax. That’s not fair. He should pay his fair share–to his local community, to the state, and to the federal government. So should every other billionaire. I don’t mean to pick on Bill Gates–well, actually I do–since he is the only billionaire who thinks he knows how to redesign education without either knowledge or experience. And he is only the third richest person in the world right now (sorry, Bill). But if he and Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk paid more taxes, they wouldn’t be poor. They wouldn’t even be middle-class.

So here are some ideas for the conferees:

  1. Pay your taxes
  2. Demand an increase on taxes for people in your income bracket so that wealth is more equitably distributed
  3. Insist that class sizes be reduced, especially in schools that educate the neediest children
  4. Leave education to the educators.

Here is your invitation. Please, God, don’t tell me they want everyone to go virtual all the time.

A reminder: Our live virtual event, The State of Education: Rebuilding a More Equitable System, is this Wednesday, March 3 at 1:00 p.m. E.T. / 11:00 a.m. P.T.

While the pandemic has exacerbated existing disparities, it’s also presented a unique opportunity to dramatically overhaul the education system.

We’re excited to share with you our full program agenda for this week’s virtual event, filled with voices who will outline the innovative solutions that should be implemented to create an equitable learning environment for all students. Visit our website to learn more and register today to reserve your spot.
The State of Education: Rebuilding a More Equitable System
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