Archives for category: Luna, Tom

Enron may have gone bankrupt, and its employees may have lost their life savings, but it left some people very rich.

Here EduShyster tells the story of Texas billionaire John Arnold. He is one of the lucky few who managed to walk away from the Enron debacle with more than $3 billion. Some former Enron execs are doing time. Not Arnold. You know he must be smart because he got out before the roof fell in, and the bottom fell out.

And how does he spend his vast wealth?

He does what canny investors do: he pours millions into the struggle to privatize American public education. He has given millions to KIPP, StudentsFirst, and TFA. And he has a special interest in making sure that teachers don’t have pensions.

Billionaires have a hard time understanding why anyone needs a pension. They don’t need pensions. Why should teachers get them?

Robert Valiant has launched a website to gather information about who funded campaigns for charters and vouchers and against teachers, unions and public education.

If you have links to newspaper articles or other reliable sources, please post them to this website.

I hope that a law firm or investigative journalist will find out where Rhee collected money and which races she supported. She certainly influenced the legislature in Tennessee, where she helped Republucans gain a super-majority, enabling her ex-husband TFA State Commissioner Kevin Huffman to impose the full rightwing reform agenda.

I keep seeing articles about elections influenced by out-of-state and out-of-district contributions.

Sometimes, as in Los Altos, California, and in New Orleans, the elections are for local school board.

Sometimes, as in Louisiana, the election is for state school board.

Sometimes, as in Indiana and Idaho, the election is for state superintendent.

Sometimes, the election is a ballot initiative, as in Georgia, which is voting on whether to give the Governor the authority to create a commission to authorize charter schools even if the local school board objects; and in Washington State, where a referendum would create one of the nation’s most expansive charter laws; or in Michigan, where money is pouring in to oppose an initiative to make collective bargaining a right.

In school district after school district, state after state, PAC money is being bundled to promote candidates and issues with the same agenda: anti-union, anti-teacher, anti-public education, pro-privatization.

Some of the names are familiar: Bill Gates (in Washington), Michael Bloomberg (in Louisiana), Alice Walton (in Georgia and Washington), Joel Klein (in New Orleans), the DeVos family (American Federation for Children) in Michigan, Eli Broad (in Louisiana), Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst (in Michigan and in many districts). Much of the spending is targeted by Democrats for EducationReform (DFER), the Wall Street hedge fund managers group.

This cannot be sheer coincidence. In most places, the amount of money coming from outside is unprecedented. In Louisiana, the spending on a state board race was a multiple of 12 times what was previously spent.

To the naked eye, this seems to be a concerted effort to orchestrate a privatization of public education.

Big money undermining local control, democracy, and public education.

A group called Education Voters of Idaho refused to disclose its donors until required to do so by a court order.

The biggest donor is a businessman who is an investor in K12, the online charter corporation ($250,000); the second biggest donor is Mayor Michael Bloomberg ($200,000).

EVI promotes the anti-union, anti-teacher, privatizing policies of state superintendent Tom Luna. Supporters of public education are seeking to repeal the Luna laws, which are deceptively called “Students Come First.” The phrase echoes Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst and Joel Klein’s Children’s First.

Luna has received heavy funding from technology corporations, and his laws mandate the purchase of a laptop computer for every student, and every student must take two online courses for graduation. They eliminate tenure and seniority. They require that student test scores count for 50% of every educator’s evaluation, including district superintendents, principals and teachers. All educators will have a one or two year contract. They initiate bonus pay based on test scores for all educators. Teachers will not get a written explanation if the principal decides to fire them.

A sample of one of the laws:

School districts no longer have to prove a financial emergency before reducing teacher numbers. School boards can reduce teacher numbers at their discretion but cannot consider seniority when deciding who to eliminate.

Education Week has an article by the always well-informed Alyson Klein that speculates about Romney’s possible choice for Secretary of Education.

The possibilities include:

Jeb Bush, former Florida governor, who shaped the Romney agenda for privatization of the nation’s schools;

Tom Luna, the state superintendent in Idaho who is known for his allegiance to online corporations and his efforts to increase class size;

Joel Klein, the former chancellor of NYC, now selling technology for Rupert Murdoch, another supporter of privatization and opponent of unions, seniority and tenure;

Michelle Rhee, leader of a national campaign to remove all tenure, seniority and collective bargaining fromt teachers;

Chris Cerf, acting commission in New Jersey, who is leading Chris Christie’s push to privatize public schools in that state;

Here is the big surprise:

Arne Duncan, who is seen by Republicans as compatible with Romney’s agenda and, as the article, says, eager to stay on.

There are other names, but it is interesting to realize that at least four of the six listed here are allegedly, nominally Democrats.

This is a stunning article. A real journalistic achievement.

It shows in remarkable detail how certain politicians and investors and entrepreneurs are working together to privatize public education and to generate huge profits for certain companies.

Read this.

A reader sent me a wonderful editorial from a newspaper in Idaho. I liked it because it called out State Superintendent Tom Luna for his self-promoting campaign to replace teachers with online instruction. Idaho is a red state where there is not a lot of diversity of opinion, but whether you are red or blue, you should have common sense when it comes to education. The crucial ingredients in education are always the same: the student, the family, the teacher, the school, the curriculum, and the community. When all those factors work together, students tend to get a good solid education. When they don’t, education suffers and students don’t learn much.

Technology can’t take the place of any of the essential ingredients. It is certainly a delightful thing to have computers and smart boards in the classroom. Teachers do amazing things with computers, and students can use them for research and individual projects. But no computer can motivate a student who is unmotivated. Or take the place of a family who makes sure that the student is well fed and healthy. Or replace a teacher who knows how to teach and loves her subject. Or take the place of a community that puts a high value on education. Or compensate for a school that lacks adequate resources and a strong curriculum and good leadership.

All these elements make a difference.

Tom Luna is now on the Romney education team. He has a long history of collaboration with software corporations. The children of Idaho would be better served if he built collaboration with teachers and parents and communities, not the online corporations that helped to put him in office.

Idaho is ga-ga for computers and online learning. State Superintendent Tom Luna has made online learning the centerpiece of his “reform” agenda. Tom Luna has close ties to the for-profit online industry.

Teachers welcome computers and technology in the classroom, but Luna takes it to an extreme. He views technology as a cost-saving device, so he is (paradoxically) investing heavily in hardware and software, on the assumption that in time there will be need for fewer teachers. Teachers are an old-fashioned, expensive, near obsolete technology. Teachers need health care and pensions; computers don’t. Teachers are ornery and they often have thoughts that don’t coincide with the state’s agenda; computers don’t.

A veteran teacher decided that enough is enough. She did something she never dreamed she would do. She wrote an opinion piece for the local Idaho newspaper. She disagreed with the order to devote 49% of instruction in world history to computer time. Education is not simply imbibing facts:

Successful students must learn certain values such as patience, hard work, self-discipline, honesty, respect for others, etc. Teachers instill those values, not computers. Teachers serve as positive role models and successful learning requires positive human interaction. In training we were informed by a district official that “with the incorporation of this program you will not even have to interact with your students.” For those who do not understand how such an approach to teaching can damage a student’s education, there is no reason to explain further. You will never understand.

She realizes that the changes now being imposed from the top come from people who know little about students or teaching or education:

I now see individuals taking over decision-making positions in education who have no classroom experience, implementing programs that have made the classroom critically vulnerable to their destructive impact and counterintuitive to education. There is too much noise regarding the state of education that is distracting and destroying the true nature of education, which should center on the student. Students learn best when they have caring and reputable teachers. And we have them in the Coeur d’Alene School District. However, this is changing and if left unopposed will destroy our quality of education leaving our students, our community and our state to pay for these mistakes.

This teacher put her own job at risk by speaking out. With hundreds, nay, thousands of voices like hers, the public will begin to understand what is being done to their children and to our nation’s schools.