Joshua Leibner is a National Board Certified Teacher in Los Angeles. He wrote this post.
The elephant in the room of School Reform, is, the Elephant.
When Republican Donald Trump announced his choice of Betsy DeVos to serve as his Education Secretary, The California Charter Schools Association wrote: [We] congratulate Betsy DeVos, a longtime supporter of charter schools, on her appointment as Secretary of Education. Mrs. DeVos has long demonstrated a commitment to providing families with improved public school options and we look forward to working with the administration on proposals allowing all students in California to access their right to a high quality public education.
If you have one ounce of Progressivism in your blood, that mealy-mouthed congratulations would create a lethal dose of moral leukemia. This disgusting endorsement of DeVos, a person who is one of the most hateful, gay demolishing, anti-child, free market embracing, Big Business darling, reveals clearly to Californians who CCSA is and who they put their faith in.
I’ll leave it to other columns to specifically go through all her contemptible sins in the world of education. Those yucky particulars are not the concern of this column: Betsy DeVos as emblematic of the entire Reform Education movement is my focus.
DeVos is the rich and ignorant School Reform Education Secretary that the entire School Reform movement and CCSA have pined for. Yes, they also got the President they implicitly yearned for–but more importantly, they now have the education ideology that is their entire raison d’etre and central to their cause.
In President-Elect Donald Trump (and especially in Vice President Mike Pence), they see the opportunity to have their public policy way on the federal level and translate it to local jurisdictions nationwide.
The bottom line here in California? Our Democrat candidates can no longer accept CCSA money pretending that this organization doesn’t represent America’s most heinous politics.
To be clear, there is zero degrees of separation between CCSA and the Koch Brothers.
The one great truth that Donald Trump did reveal was in the first GOP debate. There he honestly said that he “bought” politicians because he was a businessman and that’s what he is supposed to do.
CCSA is a business. A huge multi-billion dollar business.
CCSA plays both sides of the fence. It has bought the Democrats for Education Reform as well as a veritable Who’s Who of the most evil Republicans in the game today.
CCSA knows full well the disgusting, hateful, chauvinistic, anti-women, anti-immigrant, pro-life, pro-unregulated firearms, pro-rich corporate giveaways platforms of MANY of the people who support their and give it its lifeblood. They have endorsed some terrible Republicans who make life miserable for so many Californians in other economic, judicial and quality-of-life portions of their lives.
CCSA and its dark money allies give to Reform candidates across our state.
If the Democrats insist that Trump repudiate the Neo-Nazi’s and White Supremacist groups who have embraced his cause, the Democrats of California need to strongly repudiate the vile money, support and influence of CCSA. They are not fascists, but their ties to the Right and those who seek to fundamentally reshape America to regressive ends, should give concerned liberals pause.
Mike Pence is a hero to School Reformers. Pence’s home state of Indiana, is not only fraught with the dark perils of School Reform in hyper-drive, but a place where women, gays and minorities fear for their safety and liberties.
CCSA’s mouth piece in California, Campbell Brown’s The 74, is where many in the Republican Party have found a happy home. The LA School Report is owned by them and its former owner “liberal” multi-millionaire Jamie Alter-Lynton has happily partnered with Republicans who are anathema to Civil Rights, gay rights and economic justice proponents. Worse, they are proud of their associations with these politicians as long as they vote on the one issue they care about most: Education Reform. They cozy up to some of the most loathsome politicians in America.
Thus we get Betsy DeVos.
Betsy DeVos is seen as a messiah that will push through their agenda nationwide.
What does the Charter School and Ed Reform Movement share much in common with the current President Elect and many Republicans? Forgive my bluntness, but they love the Jerk Autocrat.
Look at the type of preening, aggressive narcissists whom the GOP admires: Chris Christie, Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich, Scott Walker and Ted Cruz. These are men who take particular delight in their tough, bad-ass, in-you-face bravado.
To be fair, the movement also loves tough-talkin’ Reform Democratic Jerks like Rahm Emanuel who qualifies as a Republican on the Arrogance Scale. School Reform, like the GOP, adore these personalities. Flexi-Democrat and uber-autocrat, Michelle Rhee, interviewed for the Ed Secretary position with Trump, and offered her support and enthusiastic endorsement of DeVos as well. The very first person’s name floated was New York’s Success Academy’s Eva Moskowitz, the Big Stick swinging Charter operator, who also has sung DeVos’s virtues.
The fealty to the wealthy, entrepreneur class is a hallmark of Education Reform. Billionaire DeVos contributed almost $10 million to Trump and is rewarded with her dream assignment. THIS is precisely business as usual and anyone who believes that Trump is going to combat the system that has rewarded him so handsomely is waiting for Godot. The billionaires used a rigged Republican/Wall Street tax system they fueled to reap untold fortunes exploiting a system that exploits the rest of society—and after a lifetime of plundering that system, live long enough to receive the holy civic term “philanthropist” from the impoverished public sector.
Here in LA, we have these autocratic personalities like Eli Broad (and in fact, his whole Broad Academy Superintendent philosophy is basically how to be a CEO Asses in the schools). Eli Broad and Donald Trump, knew how to game a system for themselves and pay off people of both parties to further their personal fortunes. In both cases, “Moral Politics” and “Ethics” were not high priorities in each of their wealth gathering operations.
Broad’s star pupil here was former LAUSD Superintendent, John Deasy, who never missed a chance to assert his authority, relishing despicable delight in exercising his bullying personality.
In contrast, these rich people have no fear of speaking their truth to labor, to unions and the teaching profession. These rich American titans claim the moral authority to speak on the behalf of the working class and the communities of color. Their grand designs for re-working education continues to favor a certain class and color of people, while never displaying a modicum of humility in their engineering.
Betsy DeVos is the epitome of the wealthy’s hubris and their oligarchic approach to education.
Trump’s selection of DeVos was as if Hollywood contacted Central Casting to provide CCSA with a person who would accurately mirror their Portrait of Dorian Gray. Her portrait is indeed reprehensible. DeVos’s beliefs of white privilege, class entitlement, stomach-churning religious imperative, grand American Exceptionalism/racist “manifest destiny” imperatives are the backbone of the charter school industrial complex.
Michelle Rhee who actually interviewed for the Ed Secretary position with Trump, offered her support and endorsement of DeVos as well.
Most Democratic candidates are quick to protect undocumented Latino children or claim that gay rights is sacrosanct here–not particularly tough positions for a Democrat in California. There are many CCSA Democrat candidates who espouse education policies that are cooked in the putrid stew of Right Wing economic and pedagogical philosophy. Predictably, they would not be happy about GOP’s barbaric social agenda, but CCSA would have any problem if any assortment of nightmarish GOP politicians controlled American education: Scott Walker? Jeb Bush? Sam Brownback? Rick Scott? Bobby Jindal? Mike Pence (they got their wish here).
In matters of education, CCSA and the Right are simpatico.
The CCSA throws enormous amount of money backing candidates across our state. Look who gratefully and self-righteously takes their money “in the name of the kids”. Think about what other positions the Ed Reform Money is supporting through their chosen candidates across the nation. Many of these politicians have a view of America and justice that is the antithesis to what Progressives demand.
It is disingenuous to believe yourself “liberal” and embrace the ideology of CCSA. There is no separation between them and who else supports them.
Again, this debate among Democrats is a long time coming. In California, where we are basically a One Party state, corporate money and influence goes to a certain sort of centrist Democrat who will back their policies. These are the Democrats who don’t care about what other policies their proponents support-or refuse to see the connection between their Education cause and the other rest of the Right’s Agenda for America.
Follow that money.
Follow that money.
Follow that money.
CCSA contributions to the Corporate Democrats in California (on the state and local level)…but elsewhere, out of the confines of our Blue World, it’s CCSA’s sister organizations that are supporting whatever Right Wing monster runs the unfortunates in other states.
If you think Donald Trump and Mike Pence are wrong about everything else in America, but got it dead right on what America’s students require, then you really can compartmentalize as delusionally as the folks who take CCSA money.
People who think of themselves as Progressives don’t have that luxury.