Archives for category: Corporate Reformers

The Wall Street Journal editorial board has three core beliefs about education.

1. Public schools are horrible.

2. Teachers’ unions are evil.

3. Non-unionized charters and vouchers are the remedy to all that ails American education.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

The three highest performing states in the nation—Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Jersey—have strong teachers’ unions. None of the non-union states are at the top of the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Unions fight for adequate resources and decent salaries for teachers, in addition to fighting for teachers’ right to fair treatment on the job. The resources help their students, and the job rights help retain career teachers.

Most recently the WSJ wrote a glowing editorial about the alleged success of vouchers in Florida, one of its favorite states because its governor and legislature have diverted $3 billion from public schools to non-union charters and vouchers. The editorialists are thrilled because Florida just recently expanded its voucher program.

Most vouchers in Florida are used in religious schools, most of which are evangelical Christian schools. The voucher schools are not required to take state tests. They are not required to be accountable in any way. They are not required to hire certified teachers or principals. The voucher schools are allowed to discriminate against gay students, staff, and families. They do not have to adopt the state standards and may use the Bible as their science textbook if they wish. The Orlando Sentinel wrote a revealing series about Florida’s voucher program, called “Schools Without Rules.”

Bear in mind that the size of a voucher—less than $8,000–guarantees that it will be accepted only by low-tuition schools, not by the schools of elite families, where tuition may be as high as $35,000-40,000 a year.

Here is the text of the WSJ editorial:

The headline is “Florida’s School Choice Blowout.”

The subtitle is: “The State Expands Its Successful K-12 Scholarship Program.”

Good news from Florida. Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday signed the biggest private school voucher expansion in U.S. history—giving families in Democratic, union-controlled states another reason to move to the Sunshine State.

Florida established the Family Empowerment Scholarship last year for low and middle-income families. The private school vouchers run between $6,775 and $7,250 per student depending on the grade level, and 87% of recipients come from households below 185% of the federal poverty level (about $48,470 for a family of four). Most are black or Hispanic.

Vouchers had been limited to 18,000 students this year with annual growth capped at about 7,000. This wasn’t enough to meet parental demand, and there are 35,000 eligible students on scholarship waiting lists. Republicans have now quadrupled the cap on annual growth so that 28,000 more students can benefit each year. If the voucher program’s capacity exceeds demand from eligible families, the new law will increase the household-income limit (currently 300% of the poverty line) by 25% so more middle-income families can apply. In short, supply of vouchers will now automatically expand to meet demand.

As a political trade, Mr. DeSantis gave public schools $500 million for salary increases—not that this appeased the teachers unions that oppose all school choice because it forces unionized public schools to compete for students. While voucher studies have shown mixed effects on academic performance, one reason is probably that giving parents more choice forces improvements at public schools. A National Bureau of Economic Research study this year found higher standardized test scores and lower absenteeism among students, especially low-income ones, who attended Florida public schools in areas where more students had access to private-school choice.

Notably, fourth-graders in Washington, D.C., and Miami-Dade in Florida showed the most improvement on the National Assessment of Educational Progress test scores among large urban school districts since 2011. Both Florida and Washington, D.C., offer robust private-school choice and have eliminated teacher tenure. By contrast, student scores in most districts including Houston, Philadelphia and Baltimore have been flat or declined.

Jeb Bush kicked off Florida’s school choice movement two decades ago, and Rick Scott (now Senator) and Mr. DeSantis have built on his success. More than 130,000 students in Florida now receive scholarships. Florida is helping to increase social mobility and future incomes by expanding educational opportunity for all.

Here are the facts:

Florida’s scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a sample test of reading and mathematics in grades 4 and 8 for the nation, states, and some urban districts, have been mostly flat over the past decade. The NAEP scores don’t include voucher schools, because they are not held accountable in any way. The WSJ asserts that Florida is a great “success” story, that its fourth graders showed dramatic improvement from 2011-2019, but that is false. Why leave out the eighth graders? Could it be because the eighth grade scores in both Florida and Miami were flat?

Here are the NAEP results for 2019 in reading.

Here are the NAEP results in mathematics for 2019.

You can look at average scores over time for every state and for urban districts that asked to be tested, including Miami-Dade.

You can compare 2019 to previous years. The WSJ chose to compare 2019 to 2011, but I chose to compare 2019 to 2009. It’s not impressive for Florida or Miami no matter which year you choose.

Let’s check the progress of Florida and Miami on NAEP (public schools only):

Fourth grade reading: Scores unchanged since 2009.

Eighth grade reading: Scores unchanged since 2009.

Fourth grade mathematics: Scores unchanged since 2011 (Remember that Florida retains low-scoring third graders, which tends to inflate fourth -grade scores).

Eighth grade math: Scores unchanged from 2009-2019.

Since the WSJ refers to NAEP as evidence of Florida’s amazing performance, it’s worth noting that Florida has flat-lined for the last decade on NAEP.

We don’t know anything about the “success” of vouchers in Florida, since their students don’t take state tests or NAEP.

But we do know that rigorous voucher studies in other states—Louisiana, Ohio, Indiana, the District of Columbia—have shown that voucher students lose ground compared to their peers in public schools. (See here and here and here.)

Far from “expanding opportunity,” vouchers enable children to attend low-cost schools where they abandon their civil rights protections at the door, are instructed by uncertified teachers, and are likely to fall behind academically or return to their public school. One of the unexplored issues associated with voucher schools is their high attrition rates. When voucher boosters boast about their high school graduation rate, they fail to mention the number of kids who didn’t make it to senior year. Only the elitist Wall Street Journal would think of this as a boon for children and families.

The Relay “Graduate School of Education” was created by charter schools to train charter school teachers on test-score-raising and no-excuses discipline, while using Doug Lemov’s Bible “Teach Like a Champion.” It’s teachers mostly taught in charters.

Relay is called a graduate school, but it has no research faculty, no campus, no library, and at last review, no scholars or anyone with a doctorate.

Nonetheless, Relay has landed some contracts for professional development in districts run by corporate reformers and Broadies. The chancellor in D.C. is Lewis Ferebee, who previously led privatization efforts in Indianapolis.

In D.C., it does professional development for principals.

One principal in D.C. didn’t like Relay’s philosophy.

She was fired.

Parents were not happy.

Ceaira Richardson recited the challenges that make life in her Southeast D.C. neighborhood difficult.

Grocery options are sparse, making it tough to find fresh produce. Crime rates are higher than in other parts of the city. Keeping children safe is not always easy.

But she feels at ease at Lawrence E. Boone Elementary School, a recently modernized, light-filled campus not far from Richardson’s home. There, her three-year-old daughter is already reading. She senses teachers truly care about her child, so much so that she persuaded family members to send their children to the school.

“I told everybody, ‘Enroll in Boone. Enroll in Boone,’” Richardson said.

In recent months, Richardson and other members of the Boone community have rallied around the school’s principal, Carolyn Jackson-King, after they learned the veteran educator was fired and will not return to the position for the 2020-2021 academic year.

Teachers, parents and some D.C. lawmakers have demanded D.C. Public Schools reverse its decision. Jackson-King and her supporters say she was dismissed by the school system because she resisted teaching practices that educators at Boone felt were militaristic and racist.

“I just feel they attempted to control Black bodies,” Jackson-King said.

Ferebee had no comment.

This is an interview with Russ Roberts of the Hoover Institution about SLAYING GOLIATH.

The Hoover Institution has a huge endowment, and it is committed to free markets. Its funders do not like public schools. They disparage them as “government schools.” They like vouchers and charters.

Russ is a nice guy, and he believes in choice and charter schools. We disagreed. You might enjoy this podcast.

I was a Senior Fellow at Hoover from 1999-2009. Then when I realized that testing and choice were failing and were doing damage to schools and students, I left and began a campaign to stop what I once supported. At Hoover, testing and choice are dogma, and I no longer was a true believer. Hoover is situated on the Stanford University campus but has touchy relations with the university. While I was attached to Hoover, I donated my papers to the Hoover archives, which has a fabulous collection of personal papers of all sorts of people, including educators.

Over 600 educators of color and education scholars of color have signed a statement opposing failed billionaire-backed “reforms” intended to privatize public schools and deprofessionalize teaching.

The statement was drafted by Kevin Kumashiro and can be found on his website, along with the list of those who signed it. People continue to sign on to demonstrate to the public that their rightwing campaign is not fooling educators and scholars of color.

All Educators of Color and Educational Scholars of Color in the U.S. are invited to sign on (please scroll down to sign)

THIS MUST END NOW:

Educators & Scholars of Color Against Failed Educational “Reforms”

The public is being misled. Billionaire philanthropists are increasingly foisting so-called “reform” initiatives upon the schools that serve predominantly students of color and low-income students, and are using black and brown voices to echo claims of improving schools or advancing civil rights in order to rally community support. However, the evidence to the contrary is clear: these initiatives have not systematically improved student success, are faulty by design, and have already proven to widen racial and economic disparities. Therefore, we must heed the growing body of research and support communities and civil-rights organizations in their calls for a more accurate and nuanced understanding of the problems facing our schools, for a retreat from failed “reforms,” and for better solutions:

• Our school systems need more public investment, not philanthropic experimentation; more democratic governance, not disenfranchisement; more guidance from the profession, the community, and researchers, not from those looking to privatize and profiteer; and more attention to legacies of systemic injustice, racism, and poverty, not neoliberal, market-based initiatives that function merely to incentivize, blame, and punish.

• Our teachers and leaders need more, better, and ongoing preparation and support, more professional experience and community connections, and more involvement in shared governance and collective bargaining for the common good, not less.

• Our vision should be that every student receives the very best that our country has to offer as a fundamental right and a public good; not be forced to compete in a marketplace where some have and some have not, and where some win and many others lose.

The offer for “help” is alluring, and is reinforced by Hollywood’s long history of deficit-oriented films about white teachers saving poorer black and brown students from suffering, as if the solution consisted merely of uplifting and inspiring individuals, rather than of tackling the broader system of stratification that functions to fail them in the first place. Today, more than ever before, the “help” comes in the form of contingent financing for education, and the pressure to accept is intense: shrinking public resources, resounding claims of scarcity, and urgent calls for austerity make it seem negligent to turn down sizable financial incentives, even when such aid is tied to problematic reforms.

The growing number of funders includes high-profile foundations and obscure new funders (including but not limited to the Arnold Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Bradley Foundation, Broad Foundation, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, City Fund, DeVos family foundations, Gates Foundation, Koch family foundations, and Walton Family Foundation), and for the most part, have converged on what counts as worthwhile and fundable, whether leaning conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat (see, for example, the platform of Democrats for Education Reform). Such funders may be supporting some grassroots initiatives, but overall, mega-philanthropy in public education exemplifies the 21st-century shift from traditional donating that supported others’ initiatives with relatively smaller grants, to venture financing that offers funding pools of unprecedented size and scale but only to those who agree to implement the funders’ experiments. Belying the rhetoric of improving schools is the reality that such experiments are making struggling schools look less and less like the top performing schools for the elite, and do so by design, as with the following:

• The Portfolio Model. 



Exemplified in the early 2000s by the turnaround-school reforms in Chicago Public Schools and Race to the Top, and increasingly shaping urban districts across the country today, the “portfolio model” decentralizes decision making, expands school choice, holds schools accountable through performance measures like student testing, and sanctions failing schools with restructuring or closure, incentivizing their replacements in the form of charter schools. This model purports that marketizing school systems will lead to system improvement, and that student testing carries both validity and reliability for high-stakes decisions, neither of which is true.



Instead of improving struggling schools, what results are growing racial disparities that fuel gentrification for the richer alongside disinvestment from the poorer. The racially disparate outcomes should not be surprising, given the historical ties between mass standardized testing and eugenics, and even today, given the ways that “norm referencing” in test construction guarantees the perpetuation of a racialized achievement curve. Yet, the hallmarks of the portfolio model are taught in the Broad Superintendents Academy that prepares an increasingly steady flow of new leaders for urban districts, and not surprisingly, that has produced the leaders that have been ousted in some of the highest profile protests by parents and teachers in recent years. This is the model that propels the funding and incubation of school-choice expansion, particularly via charter schools, through such organizations as the NewSchools Venture Fund and various charter networks whose leaders are among the trainers in the Broad Academy. Imposing this model on poorer communities of color is nefarious, disingenuous, and must end.


• Choice, Vouchers, Charters. 



The expansion of school choice, including vouchers (and neo-voucher initiatives, like tax credits) and charter schools, purports to give children and parents the freedom to leave a “failing” school. However, the research on decades of such programs does not give any compelling evidence that such reforms lead to system improvement, instead showing increased racial segregation, diversion of public funding from the neediest of communities, neglect of students with disabilities and English-language learners, and more racial disparities in educational opportunity. This should not be surprising: choice emerged during the Civil Rights Movement as a way to resist desegregation; vouchers also emerged during this time, when the federal government was growing its investment into public education, as a way to privatize public school systems and divert funding to private schools for the elite; and charter schools emerged in the 1990s as laboratories for communities to shape their own schools, but have become the primary tool to privatize school systems.



Yes, choice and vouchers give some students a better education, but in many areas, students of color and low-income students are in the minority of those using vouchers. Yes, some charters are high performing, but overall, the under-regulation of and disproportionate funding for charter schools has resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in waste (and even more in corporate profits) that could otherwise have gone to traditional public schools. The NAACP was right when it resolved that privatization is a threat to public education, and in particular, called for a moratorium on charter-school expansion; and the NAACP, MALDEF, ACLU, and other national civil-rights organizations have opposed voucher expansion. Diverting funds towards vouchers, neo-vouchers, and charters must end.


• Teacher Deprofessionalization. 



The deprofessionalization of teaching—including the undermining of collective bargaining and shared governance, and the preferential hiring of underprepared teachers—is foregrounded in charter schools (which often prohibit unionization and hire a disproportionate number of Teach for America teachers), but affects the teaching force in public schools, writ large. The mega-philanthropies are not only anti-union, having supported (sometimes rhetorically, sometimes resourcefully) the recent wave of anti-union bills across the states; but more broadly, are anti-shared governance, supporting the shift toward top-down management forms (including by for-profit management at the school level, and unelected, mayor-appointed boards at the district level). 



The weakening of the profession is also apparent in the philanthropies’ funding of fast-track routes to certification, not only for leaders (like with New Leaders for New Schools), but also for classroom teachers, like with the American Board for Certification of Teaching Excellence, and more notably, Teach for America (TFA). TFA accelerates the revolving door of teachers by turning teaching into a brief service obligation, justified by a redefining of quality teacher away from preparedness, experience, and community connectedness to merely being knowledgeable of subject matter (and notably, after the courts found that TFA teachers did not meet the definition of “highly qualified,” Congress would remove the requirement that every student have a “highly qualified” teacher in its 2015 reauthorization of ESEA, thus authorizing the placement of underprepared teachers in the neediest of schools). 



Parents are being lied to when told that these “reforms” of weakening unions and lessening professional preparation will raise the quality of teachers for their children. Yes, some teachers and leaders from alternative routes are effective and well-intended, but outliers should not drive policy. Students are being lied to when told that choosing such pathways is akin to joining the legacy of civil-rights struggles for poorer communities of color. Not surprisingly, the NAACP and the Movement for Black Lives have called out how initiatives like TFA appeal to our desire to serve and help, but shortchange the students who need and deserve more.

We, as a nationwide collective of educators of color and educational scholars of color, oppose the failed reforms that are being forced by wealthy philanthropists onto our communities with problematic and often devastating results. These must end now. We support reforms that better serve our students, particularly in poorer communities of color, and we will continue to work with lawmakers, leaders, school systems, and the public to make such goals a reality.

VOX reports on billionaire Reed Hastings’ grandiose plans to build a fabulous resort in Colorado for teachers, where they will learn to love charter schools, high-stakes testing, test-based accountability for teachers, and other failed reform strategies.

Hastings has $5 billion and he doesn’t seem to know what to do with it, even though California has many people who are homeless and many hotbeds of racism and injustice. So, he decided to keep spending on privatization, no doubt gladdening the heart of Betsy DeVos, and high-stakes testing.

Every one of Hastings’s favorite ideas has failed but he plans to convert teachers to follow his path by immersing them in luxurious surroundings.

If only he would read SLAYING GOLIATH, he would realize that he is wasting his money and undermining an essential democratic institution, the American public school, which nearly 90% of American families choose.

Theodore Schleifer writes in VOX:

Reed Hastings, the billionaire founder of Netflix, is quietly building a mysterious 2,100-acre luxury retreat ranch nestled in the elk-filled foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Recode has learned.

Hastings has been one of the country’s biggest donors to the education reform movement that’s trying to reshape America’s struggling school system. And now public records reveal that Hastings is personally financing a new foundation that will operate this training ground for American public school teachers, a passion project shrouded in secrecy that will expand the billionaire’s political influence.

Hastings is one of many Silicon Valley billionaires who have deployed their fortunes in the education reform movement, which calls for a greater focus on testing, tougher accountability for teachers, and the expansion of alternative schools like charters to close America’s achievement gaps and better train its future workforce. Those tech leaders, though, have had uncertain results, with the very biggest of them — Microsoft founder Bill Gates — having admitted earlier this year that he was “not yet seeing the kind of bottom-line impact we expected.” Opponents, including teachers’ unions, charge that these reformers are blaming educators for factors beyond their control, such as poverty.

The new training center, called the Retreat Land at Lone Rock, seems to be a priority for the Netflix CEO, at least based on Hastings’s level of personal involvement: He and his wife have been visiting the area since at least 2017, when they went so far as to request a face-to-face meeting with a local fire chief at his Colorado firehouse to try and smooth over any looming permitting concerns.

Hastings, whose involvement hasn’t previously been reported, declined to comment on his plans through a spokesperson.

But public records filed with the government of Park County, Colorado, and reviewed by Recode offer a glimpse at the ambitious plans for the center, which local officials expect to open as early as March 2021.

“The proposed Conference and Retreat Facility will be run as a nonprofit institute serving the public education community’s development of teachers and leadership,” a Hastings aide says in one prospectus.

One group that is expected to use the “state-of-the-art” facility is the Pahara Institute, which operates a well-known networking group and training program for activists and teachers aligned with the education-reform movement. Hastings heavily funds and serves on the board of the Pahara Institute, which currently hosts its retreats at different locations around the country rather than at a single place.

It was Pahara that initially contacted local landowners to buy the acreage before Hastings personally stepped in and decided to do it himself, said Dave Crane, a real estate broker who did the deal and gave a tour of the property to Hastings before the firehouse meeting in 2017. Pahara’s founder serves on the board of Hastings’s new foundation as well.

Retreat Land at Lone Rock will effectively function as the grounds for leadership retreats like these for teachers, principals, and nonprofit heads, according to a person close to Hastings. It will be open to both educators at traditional district public schools and those at charter schools, a favorite cause of the Netflix founder, the person said.

The center will nevertheless extend Hastings’s influence in the American education system. Although it remains unknown whether the leaders that are brought to Lone Rock will be the key people to fix America’s schools, Hastings, a private citizen, will now have the ability to choose a few leaders who agree with him and support them with his bank account and his center, giving him an outsized voice in one of America’s most fraught public policy debates.

Overlapping groups of about 30 educators at a time from across the United States are expected to enjoy the 270-room retreat center at once, staying for four days each and playing team sports, using its classrooms, and enjoying its pristine hiking trails — “maybe with pack llamas,” says another document.

Yes, poverty is the essential problem that afflicts the lives of large numbers of children. Ignore it at your peril, Mr. Hastings. Keep pursuing your vanity projects while teachers and students cry out for smaller classes, bemoan the lack of resources, weep for the loss of the arts and play, and plead for social workers, psychologists, librarians and nurses.

Mr. Hastings, you have made a lot of money–billions–but you are a foolish man.

Just think what you might do instead: fund medical centers in schools across California; fund the arts in schools; fund libraries and librarians. There are so many ways you could bring joy to children and their families. Why don’t you do something to spread goodness instead of disruption?

The IDEA charter chain has ambitious plans to expand, with the help of more than $200 million from Betsy DeVos’s charter slush fund (also known as the federal Charter Schools Program, which was created to help start-ups, not to expand corporate empires).

The IDEA profile is a business model, not a public school model. It pushes into new markets aggressively and spends lavishly on executive perks, like leasing a private jet, first class travel, self-dealing, and season tickets for sports events. And paying huge salaries to leaders. Betsy DeVos loves the model, but it didn’t play well to the public.

When the news broke about its free-spending ways, public reaction was swift and negative.

The chain, which currently operates 92 charters and is set to expand in Houston and elsewhere, funded by taxpayers with a mission of “disrupting” and replacing public schools, was co-founded by Tom Torkelsen and JoAnn Gama.

The board rewarded them handsomely. In 2018-19: Torkelsen was paid $817,395, CFO Wyatt Truscheit received $507,887, Gama collected $482,930 for Gama, and six others earned at least $250,000. When Torkelsen recently stepped down as CEO, he was promised severance pay of $900,000. Not exactly the kinds of salaries paid in the public sector. IDEA gets high test scores the usual charter way: by recruiting the students it wants and setting standards high enough to push out those it doesn’t want.

The Houston Chronicle wrote:
When the leaders of IDEA Public Schools gathered last December to vote on an eight-year lease for a private jet, the charter network’s then-board chair, David Guerra, thought of the nearly $15-million deal in business terms.

As president and CEO of International Bank of Commerce, Guerra and his team had used six corporate jets to grow the multibillion-dollar company’s business beyond its Laredo-area headquarters. The same premise would hold true for IDEA, he reasoned, as the charter school network based in the Rio Grande Valley rapidly expanded across Texas, Louisiana and Florida.

“We cannot fulfill our commitment to such a large geographic area without having this type of transportation,” the retired banking chief told IDEA’s governing board in December.

IDEA board members unanimously approved the lease, but reversed the decision two weeks later after charter school opponents and some of the network’s supporters denounced the aircraft as an irresponsible extravagance.

The episode triggered a wave of headlines, oversight changes and soul-searching at the state’s largest charter school, which now is grappling with how to maintain its corporate-like culture while abiding by some more-traditional expectations about how public school districts should be run, IDEA leaders said last week…

Beyond the charter jet lease, IDEA has drawn scrutiny in the past several months for multiple financial practices: spending hundreds of thousands of dollars annually on tickets and luxury boxes at San Antonio’s AT&T Center; making business deals with members of IDEA’s leadership and their relatives; and reaching a separation agreement with co-founder and CEO Tom Torkelson that will net him $900,000 following his resignation in May.

IDEA officials do not appear to have violated any laws, and the charter’s leaders have defended each practice at various points.

Still, IDEA’s governing board announced several reforms last month. They include banning private air travel, curbing executive benefits, ending business deals with leaders and family members, and requiring additional spending approvals from the governing board and chief financial officer.

“We don’t want to have execution that’s just like a traditional school district, because we want to have innovation and take some risks and be more aggressive,” IDEA Board Chair Al Lopez said. “But after 20 years of policies and practices helped us get to the point we’re at, we felt like we were at an inflection point.”

The stakes are high not just for IDEA, but the entire charter school movement.

Advocates for traditional public schools have seized on IDEA’s spending as an example of lax oversight of charters, which largely are funded by taxpayers. Texas American Federation of Teachers leaders blasted IDEA officials for the jet lease, accusing them of “flying adults around the state” instead of directly funding classroom programs. State Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, deemed IDEA’s practices “nonsense” that “absolutely underscores the problem…”

“IDEA has operated outside the public eye with little transparency while still receiving taxpayer dollars — and it shows,” said Patti Everitt, an education policy and research consultant who monitors Texas charter school operations. “IDEA can’t have it both ways…”

The charter’s leaders credit IDEA’s success, in part, to a culture that borrows from the business, nonprofit and higher education worlds. The organization employs a regimented, highly centralized model that emphasizes student and employee performance data.

Critics, however, argue the network indirectly screens out children with greater academic and behavioral needs by emphasizing advanced-level courses, inflating the organization’s results. As an example, they note IDEA’s enrollment of students with disabilities totaled 5.4 percent in 2018-19, compared to 9.6 percent in other Texas public schools.

Still, IDEA schools remain in high demand, helping fuel the network’s ambitious approach to expansion. IDEA added more more students in the past five years than any other Texas charter operators, and it plans to hit 100,000 students across the southern United States by 2022-23.

For many years, the Walton family has owned the state of Arkansas. Their collective wealth exceeds $150 billion, yet Arkansas is one of the poorest states in the nation. All that money, and very little has trickled down. Perhaps you have seen the ads on national television about how much Walmart cares about its neighbors. The people of Little Rock know better.

Veteran journalist Cathy Frye reports on a dramatic series of events that occurred yesterday. Peaceful protestors closed down four Walmart stores in Little Rock.

Frye writes:

But why? Why close Walmarts?

To these anguished pleas, I offer this by way of explanation.

Because the Waltons need to understand that it’s time to relinquish their iron-clad grip on the state of Arkansas, on its economy, and on its public schools.

I worked for three years for a Walton-funded “nonprofit” organization called the Arkansas “Public” School Resource Center. If you scroll down this blog, you will find numerous posts about how APSRC operates. Its mission is to destabilize, deconstruct and resegregate public schools. It also is working with other Walton nonprofits to create a private-school voucher system in Arkansas.

The Waltons have put themselves, their politics, and their wealth above what is good for all Arkansans.

So here we are, in the midst of a pandemic and the Waltons are using this public-health crisis and the resulting school closures to retain and even strengthen their control over the Little Rock School District…Protesters shut down Walmarts because those stores symbolize everything that is wrong in Arkansas for those who are marginalized and oppressed.

You can’t put lipstick on a pig. The Waltons are the avaricious family that destroys communities and Main Street across America. Good on Little Rock for calling them out.

Frank Splitt is a retired electrical engineer with a distinguished resume and wide-ranging interests, including education. A friend gave him the hostile review of SLAYING GOLIATH that appeared in The New York Times. He decided to read the book and reach his own judgment. He wrote the following review for Amazon:

An Educational Whodunit with a Happy Ending

For anyone still wondering about what happened to the highly touted education reform programs, such as Common Core, Race to the Top, and Value Added Measures, wonder no more. Diane Ravitch puts on her education historian hat once again—telling a page-turning story.

It’s a whodunit that begins by naming the villains (Goliaths), the millionaires and billionaires who targeted America’s public schools—labeling these schools as poorly managed havens for bad teachers who are protected by their powerful unions.

The villains aimed to replace public schools with charter schools and/or voucher programs while ferreting out so-called bad teachers on the basis of student test scores. For some, public schools presented a rich marketing opportunity ripe for the taking. And take they did with the cooperation of federal, state, and local governments. At the federal level, the U.S. Department of Education under the administrations of President’s George W. Bush, Barack H. Obama, and Donald J. Trump have all been deeply complicit to varying degrees.

The heroes (Davids) in the story are the teachers, students, administrators, and parents who formed the ill-funded, passionate resistance to the privatization and corporatization of America’s public school system. It was this passionate resistance that slayed Goliath.

I would also count Diane Ravitch among these heroes. She sees public education as a basic public responsibility—warning Americans not to be persuaded by a false crisis narrative to privatize it while urging parents, educators, and other concerned citizens to join together to strengthen our public schools and preserve them for future generations.

In this book, Ravitch has exposed the rampant corruption involved with the villain’s takeovers, the baseless notion of evaluating teacher via student test scores, as well as the damage done to communities, schools, students and teachers that will take years to heal, especially so while dealing with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although this is not another book about education reform per se, one is left to wonder where American public education would be today if the Goliaths respected the sound principle of giving to meet needs instead of giving to impose their ideas and take control of K-12 education in America.
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My thanks go to primary teachers Holly Rothstein Balk, Katianne Rothstein Olson, Chelsea Gabzdyl, and Margaret Zamzow Wenzelman, as well as high school teachers Margaret Mangan, (the late) Joseph Hafenscher and to retired Illinois State Board of Education staff member Michael Mangan, for their insights into the Common Core State Standards, Value Added Measures, and the impact of the standards and related over-the-top testing regimes on school administrators, teachers, and their students.

This is a must read book for parents, teachers, government officials, and other concerned citizens as well.

Please join me in a zoom discussion with Julian Vasquez Heilig, dean of the College of Education at the University of Kentucky.

We are talking On June 17 at 7:30 pm.

Julian Vasquez Heilig is a brilliant researcher and champion of equity. JVH had a stellar academic career at California State University, where he also served as chair of the education committee of the state NAACP. He was recently chosen as dean of the University of Kentucky College of Education, where he promises extraordinary leadership in a state beset by battles over charters and vouchers and teachers’ pensions. Dean Heilig has researched and written extensively about Teach for America and charter schools.

He blogs at “Cloaking Inequity,” where he displays his wit, erudition, and insight.

We will talk about his work, his research, his vision for the future.

Join us!

Last night, I had a Zoom talk with Amy Frogge, who has served for eight years on the Metro Nashville school board.

We talked about charters, vouchers, the Dark Money that infiltrated school board races, and the promising things happening in Nashville.

She is soon leaving the board to become executive director of Pastors for Tennessee Children.

Amy is one of the heroes featured in my book SLAYING GOLIATH. Watch our discussion and you will understand why. She has chosen a life of service and made a difference.

You can watch here.