Archives for category: Disruption

Peter Greene learned that Arne Duncan has accepted a position as chair of the board of an edu-biz called FullBloom. He continues to be a partner at billionaire Laurene Powell Jobs’ Emerson Collective.

He quotes the owner of the biz:

Here’s what CEO Jeffrey Cohen has to say about the momentous acquisition:

“Having a thought leader like Arne help guide our decisions through this time of unprecedented educational disruption is vital as we work to ensure both the safety and engagement of our students,” said CEO Jeffrey Cohen. “We are delighted to welcome Arne to the board. This appointment makes us better as an organization because we know he will hold us to the highest standards when it comes to producing results for the children and clients we serve.”

Arne is the right guy to lead a company during a period of “unprecedented educational disruption.” That was his specialty when he was Secretary of Education: Disruption.

Greene goes on to explain what FullBloom is and what it does. Your head will spin with mergers and acquisitions. All this money is made near and around education by entrepreneurs but it bypasses teachers.

Some charter schools are like day lilies–they open, they close. Charter advocates say that their instability is a feature, not a bug. They decry the public schools that serve families for generations. Better to have market forces at work. Then you get a situation like the one in Fort Myers, Florida.

The Lee County school board yanked the authorization from the Collegiate Charter School after district staff found serious disorder: overflowing trash bins, kids walking around unsupervised, and only two teachers running the whole operation. District staff said they didn’t know who was working in the school. When staff visited the school, they found two teachers responsible for three classrooms. How do you do that? One teacher responded that she stands between the two classes. This is apparently innovative teaching, but the school board didn’t think so.

The charter was approved last April, even though it did not yet have a facility. That’s what the law says. Just approve the charter and see what happens.

Choice advocates always said that parents know best. Why would parents put their children into a school that is understaffed and chaotic?

The Economist Magazine has a feature that calculates the likely outcome of the American presidential election. After a week of theTrump Convention, studded with lies and boasts, this was a quick picker-upper.

Thomas Ultican continues his investigation of the tentacles of billionaire reformers, this time focusing on the tumultuous career of John Deasy, who resigned as superintendent of the Stockton, California, school district.

Ultican shows how Deasy rose to become superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, how Justin tenure there was marked by controversy as he walked in lockstep with the Eli Broad-Bill Gates agenda of charter school expansion, high-stakes testing, and huge investments in technology. His controversial decision to spend $1.3 billion on iPads and tech curriculum led to the end of his tenure in L.A.

On to Stockton, where the Mayor and three school board members were closely allied with the billionaire agenda.

A sad and cautionary tale about the destructive billionaire-funded movement to gut public schools.

The Providence Journal published a scathing editorial about Governor Gina Raimondo’s dereliction of duty in demanding the full opening of schools next month while failing to provide sensible plans to do so.

It is titled “Rhode Island’s Education System Goes from Mediocre to Just Plain Chaotic.”

Raimondo is a former venture capitalist who redesigned the state’s pension system by cutting them. She is also a “reformer” who welcomes charter schools and is a favorite of DFER. And she is chair of the Democratic Governors Association.

The editorial begins:

On June 10, Governor Gina Raimondo asserted that all students would be back in the classroom on August 31.
This was after her confusing narrative that Rhode Island was “#1 in online learning,” a claim that sends chills through frustrated parents, educators, and students who knew another reality this spring.

Raimondo nearly every day proclaims Rhode Island is #1 at something, but the reality is that Rhode Island may only be #1 in ridiculous claims of being #1.

No state is #1 in this pandemic and certainly, neither this state nor any other are winning anything — it is all different degrees of losing.

Raimondo is not responsible for the disease and she has made a number of solid decisions, but also some major errors. The decision to return infected hospitalized nursing home patients to nursing homes caused the additional unnecessary spread and deaths. This helped drive Rhode Islands’s per capita death rate to be the 5th highest in the United States.

As part of her Trump-like doctrine to return to schools, she ordered all of the school districts to develop “their own” plan for returning to the classroom.

This chaotic approach of asking beaten down administrators and faculty to develop their own plans with little support has been an exercise in futility and frustration. Doesn’t the state have the expertise on the disease?

One would hope the state’s consultants – paid millions via a no-bid contract – would have more expertise on best practices than a principal in Exeter-West Greenwich does on how to design a safe school environment to protect children and faculty.

This is one of the most important posts you will read today, this week, this month. If you want to understand the hoax of so-called “education reform,” read this post. Share it with your friends. Tweet it. Put it in Facebook. It rips the veil away from the wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Thomas Ultican has found the beating heart of the Disruption movement, the organization where plans are hatched and funded to destroy public schools. He tells the story of the NewSchools Venture Fund, where very wealthy people collaborate to undermine and privatize one of our most essential democratic institutions: our public schools.

He begins this important post:


The New Schools Venture Fund (NSVF) is the Swiss army knife of public school privatization. It promotes education technology development, bankrolls charter school creation, develops charter management organizations and sponsors school leadership training groups. Since its founding in 1998, a small group of people with extraordinary wealth have been munificent in their support. NSVF is a significant asset in the billionaire funded drive to end democratically run public schools and replace them with privatized corporate structures.

Read this remarkable account that ties together the masters of the universe, who have decided to rearrange the lives of lesser mortals, that is, people who lack their vast wealth and political connections.

Amy Frogge is one of the heroes of my book SLAYING GOLIATH. A lawyer, she ran for the Metro Nashville school board with no foreknowledge of the privatization movement. She ran as a concerned citizen and a mother of children in the public schools of Nashville. The privatizers outspent her 5-1, but she won. When she got on the board, she realized that there was a sustained and well-funded campaign to replace public schools with charters. She became a truth-teller, motivated by her deep concern for the common good.

When she ran for re-election, she again faced a well-financed opponent, backed by Gates-funded Stand for Children and DFER. Frogge scored an overwhelming victory.

Amy Frogge is still fighting the fake reformers.

Every school board needs an Amy Frogge, who sees clearly and is not afraid to speak truth to power.

She recently wrote an open letter denouncing Eli Broad and his Broadies.

She wrote:

Dear Nashville (and others),

Please pay attention to those with whom you choose to align yourself on education issues. If you are supporting anyone funded or trained by California billionaire Eli Broad, you can bet you’ll end up on the wrong side of history.

Eli Broad created and funds a blog called Education Post. The folks who run it would like for you to believe they are just activists for low-income families and minority children- but in reality, they are dripping with dirty money. Education Post’s first CEO, Peter Cunningham, was paid $1 million for 2 1/2 years of blogging. Board member Chris Stewart, known online as “Citizen Stewart,” was paid $422,925 for 40 hours a week across 30 months as “outreach and external affairs director.” As author/blogger Mercedes Schneider concludes, “In ed reform, blogging pays juicy salaries.” (For the record, I have never earned a penny for any of my social media posts, of course.)

Paid Education Post leaders regularly try to infiltrate online Nashville education discussions (Nashville is a national target for charter expansion), and Education Post also pays local bloggers to write posts. Local bloggers Zack Barnes and Vesia Hawkins are both listed as network members on the Education Post blog.

Many of the big players in Tennessee were “trained” by Eli Broad through his Broad Superintendents Academy, which recruits business leaders with no background in education to be superintendents- with the purpose of privatizing schools (closing existing schools and opening more charter schools). The current Tennessee Commissioner of Education, Penny Schwinn, is a “Broadie.” Two former heads of Tennessee’s failed Achievement School District (a ploy to expand charter schools without local approval) were Broadies: Chris Barbic and Malika Anderson. Former superintendents Jim McIntyre (of Knoxville) and Shawn Joseph (of Nashville) were also affiliated with the Broad network. Shawn Joseph claimed both McIntyre and former Baltimore superintendent Dallas Dance, a member of Education Post’s network, as his mentors.

The school “reforms” pushed by Broadies all center around profit-making through public education: standardized testing (money for private test companies), computer learning (money for IT companies and cost-savings on hiring teachers), charter schools, vouchers, scripted curriculum that can be monetized, etc. Broadies typically see teachers as expendable and believe teaching can be mechanized.

Since charters and vouchers have become an increasingly unpopular cause, the latest angle is for Broadies to increase the number of (sometimes rigged) vendor contracts for programs and services, as well as consultants, with school districts. Former Baltimore superintendent Dallas Dance went to federal prison for rigging no-bid contracts in a kick-back scheme. In a similar scheme, his mentee (Nashville superintendent) Shawn Joseph was caught inflating no-bid contract prices (in violation of state law) for vendors connected with the recruiter and Broadies who placed him in Nashville through a rigged superintendent search. (See comments for further information.)

Billionaires like Eli Broad who fund school profiteering efforts like to hire/fund people of color to act as front-men for their efforts. This provides the appearance that the push for “school choice” (i.e., charters and vouchers) is grassroots. When these folks are questioned or caught in the midst of wrong-doing, they are able to cry racism. Meanwhile, everyone has their hands in the cookie jar of funding meant to serve children.

The ploys used in school profiteering are particularly nasty- the worst of dirty politics. The goal is usually to smear, humiliate, shame and discredit anyone who is an effective critic of the school privatization agenda. Lots of money is spent on PR for this purpose. (I’ve even been attacked on this Facebook page by a paid “social media specialist” for my opposition to charter schools.)

You’ll notice that the atmosphere tends to become particularly dysfunctional and circus-like when Broadies are in charge or involved. You’ll also notice that Broadies like to push the narrative that locally-elected school boards are too dysfunctional to lead (even when the Broadie in charge is causing all the dysfunction!). This is because Eli Broad and those affiliated with him want no public oversight of public education spending.

So- when you witness education conversations on social media, be sure to figure out who is funding those claiming to promote “school choice” or to advocate for children in poverty. Follow the money, y’all. Always!

Peter Greene taught high school students in Pennsylvania for 39 years. Now he blogs and writes about education for Forbes, where people in the business world get schooled about education realities.

In this article, he makes clear that a Bill Gates has a horrible record in education policy and should butt out of New York.

Greene points out:

Nobody has expended more money and influence on US education, and yet even by his own standards for success—raising reading and math test scores—Gates has no clear successes. Nor are there signs that he is learning anything from his failures. Reading through years of the annual Bill and Melinda letter, and you find acknowledgement that their latest idea didn’t quite pan out, but the problems are never located within the programs themselves. Teachers didn’t have the right resources or training. The Foundation’s PR work didn’t properly anticipate resistance. After years of failed initiatives, the latest Gates newsletter concludes not that they should examine some of their own assumptions, change their approach, or invite a different set of eyeballs to look over their programs—instead, they should just do what they’re doing, but do it harder. “Swing for the fences.”

Currently the Foundation is focused on factors like curriculum and in particular computer-delivered education. This may seem like just the ticket for a governor who also questioned why his state is still bothering with brick-and-mortar school buildings. But regardless of what you think of the policies and programs that Gates is pushing, it’s important to remember that while he may be great at disruption, he has yet to build anything in the education world that is either lasting or which works the way it was meant to. And he can always walk away, having barely dented his fortune.

It is perfectly obvious that Cuomo’s invited Gates to “reimagine” education in New York because Cuomo’s wants to make distance learning permanent. Parents hate the idea. Students long to be back in school with their friends and teachers. Teachers want to see their students really, not virtually.

Cuomo should back off. He hasn’t talked to parents, students, or teachers, only to Bill Gates and Eric Schmidt of Google.

It’s also important to remember that the Constitution of the State of New York gives the governor zero authority over education. That power belongs to the Board of Regents.

Cuomo should take care of reimagining the economy, getting people back to work, and leave education to the appropriate state and local officials.

Naomi Klein coined the iconic book Shock Doctrine, about the way that the powerful elites use emergencies to expand their power because of the crisis. New Orleans was one of her prime examples of “disaster capitalism,” where the devastation of a giant hurricane created an opportunity to break the teachers union and privatize the public school system.

In this brilliant essay, published in The Intercept, Klein describes the many ways in which the plutocrats of the tech industry are turning the pandemic into a gold mine for themselves and planning a dystopian future for the rest of us.

Please read this provocative and frightening essay, which has numerous links to support her argument.

What she details is not just a threat to our privacy and our institutions but to our democracy and our freedom.

It is no coincidence, she writes, that Governor Andrew Cuomo is enlisting a team of tech billionaires to reimagine the future of the Empire State. They know exactly what they want, and it’s up to us to stop them.

She writes:

It has taken some time to gel, but something resembling a coherent Pandemic Shock Doctrine is beginning to emerge. Call it the “Screen New Deal.” Far more high-tech than anything we have seen during previous disasters, the future that is being rushed into being as the bodies still pile up treats our past weeks of physical isolation not as a painful necessity to save lives, but as a living laboratory for a permanent — and highly profitable — no-touch future.

Anuja Sonalker, CEO of Steer Tech, a Maryland-based company selling self-parking technology, recently summed up the new virus-personalized pitch. “There has been a distinct warming up to human-less, contactless technology,” she said. “Humans are biohazards, machines are not.”

It’s a future in which our homes are never again exclusively personal spaces but are also, via high-speed digital connectivity, our schools, our doctor’s offices, our gyms, and, if determined by the state, our jails. Of course, for many of us, those same homes were already turning into our never-off workplaces and our primary entertainment venues before the pandemic, and surveillance incarceration “in the community” was already booming. But in the future under hasty construction, all of these trends are poised for a warp-speed acceleration.

This is a future in which, for the privileged, almost everything is home delivered, either virtually via streaming and cloud technology, or physically via driverless vehicle or drone, then screen “shared” on a mediated platform. It’s a future that employs far fewer teachers, doctors, and drivers. It accepts no cash or credit cards (under guise of virus control) and has skeletal mass transit and far less live art. It’s a future that claims to be run on “artificial intelligence” but is actually held together by tens of millions of anonymous workers tucked away in warehouses, data centers, content moderation mills, electronic sweatshops, lithium mines, industrial farms, meat-processing plants, and prisons, where they are left unprotected from disease and hyperexploition. It’s a future in which our every move, our every word, our every relationship is trackable, traceable, and data-mineable by unprecedented collaborations between government and tech giants.

If all of this sounds familiar it’s because, pre-Covid, this precise app-driven, gig-fueled future was being sold to us in the name of convenience, frictionlessness, and personalization. But many of us had concerns. About the security, quality, and inequity of telehealth and online classrooms. About driverless cars mowing down pedestrians and drones smashing packages (and people). About location tracking and cash-free commerce obliterating our privacy and entrenching racial and gender discrimination. About unscrupulous social media platforms poisoning our information ecology and our kids’ mental health. About “smart cities” filled with sensors supplanting local government. About the good jobs these technologies wiped out. About the bad jobs they mass produced.

And most of all, we had concerns about the democracy-threatening wealth and power accumulated by a handful of tech companies that are masters of abdication — eschewing all responsibility for the wreckage left behind in the fields they now dominate, whether media, retail, or transportation.

That was the ancient past known as February. Today, a great many of those well-founded concerns are being swept away by a tidal wave of panic, and this warmed-over dystopia is going through a rush-job rebranding. Now, against a harrowing backdrop of mass death, it is being sold to us on the dubious promise that these technologies are the only possible way to pandemic-proof our lives, the indispensable keys to keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe.

In this post, Tom Ultican takes a close look at the takeover and privatization of the Indianapolis school district, funded by billionaires and managed by a well-funded group called The Mind Trust (which, of course, claims to be deeply concerned about “civil rights,” while stripping parents of color of their right to elect a school board that represents them). By Ultican’s reckoning, nearly 64% of the students in Indianapolis now attend privately managed schools.

He writes:

With the introduction of Innovation schools in 2015, Indianapolis Public Schools quickly became the second most privatized taxpayer supported schools system in America. It has zoomed past Detroit and Washington DC in the privatization sweepstakes to only trail the poster child for disaster capitalism, New Orleans. The right wing billionaire funded organization, The Mind Trust, has played a major role in this outcome.

He provides a handy list of the major funders of this betrayal of the public trust. Leading the charge is the Lilly Endowment, with a donation of $22.7 million, followed by the City Fund (Reed Hastings and John Arnold) at $18 million. And there are other familiar names, well known in the disruption industry.

Ultican traces the history of the disruption/privatization industry in Indianapolis and finds that its origins can be traced to the far-right extremists of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Koch brothers. You will not be surprised to learn that Teach for America and TNTP (the organization founded by Michelle Rhee) are integral to the privatization of Indianapolis’s schools. And Relay “Graduate School of Education” (the one with no real faculty or campuses or professors or researchers or library) is also in the mix.

Ultican reviews the sorry situation in Indianapolis, where disrupters have pulled the wool over the eyes of the public and the media with their dazzling sums of money, and he speculates about why billionaires are so devoted to undermining public schools and the teaching profession:

Why are billionaires spending so much to undermine professionalism in public education? It is probably not altruism. More likely, they want to reduce the biggest cost associated with education; teacher’s salaries. In the antebellum south, plantation owners preached anti-tax ideology because they owned the most and paid the most. Today’s billionaires aren’t much different. Most of them won’t put their children in public schools and really don’t value high quality public education. It seems the big motivation is to reduce tax burdens and simultaneously create new education industries.