Archives for category: Teach for America TFA

 

Rachel M. Cohen tells an important and powerful story of the time when Senator Bernie Sanders stood up to Teach for America.

His efforts were ultimately defeated by Arne Duncan, Senator Michael Bennett of Colorado, and Eli Broad.

In 2011, the Obama administration and TFA’s friends in Congress were eager to call the program’s inexperienced and ill-trained recruits “highly qualified,” to meet the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Law. At that time, Sanders was the only member of Congress to question how a recent college graduate who had never taught could be considered “highly qualified.”

TFA enjoyed the vigorous support of the Obama administration, which gave the wealthy organization $50 million in 2010 (as did the ultra conservative, anti-union Walton Family Foundation). In addition, TFA placed its alums on the staff of every member of the Senate and House education committees, thanks to the generosity of a California billionaire named Arthur Rock, who are then in a position to protect TFA’s interests as well as funding for charter schools. TFA recognized that few if any members of Congress pay close attention to education, since the federal role in education is small, especially compared to issues like healthcare, Social Security, and foreign policy. Thus, most rely on junior staff to inform them, which gives extraordinary power to the TFA plants.

Cohen tells the story of TFA’s battle to ensure that its uncertified recruits were considered “highly qualified” teachers, an oxymoron.

Beginning in the mid-2000s, the group was enmeshed in a dispute over teacher credentialing under the No Child Left Behind Act that demonstrated its ability to marshal influence in D.C. Under the law, a school district was permitted to hire educators who did not meet the “highly qualified” bar if there were teacher shortages. Schools that did so, however, had to then inform parents if their child was taught by such a teacher, publicly disclose how many teachers in the entire school were not highly qualified, and develop a plan to reach 100 percent highly qualified teachers. The law also barred schools from disproportionately concentrating inexperienced and uncertified teachers in classrooms with low-income students and students of color. In other words, if noncertified teachers had to be hired, they also had to be fairly distributed across schools.

Teach for America and its allies in the education reform community lobbied the government, and in 2002, the Department of Education issued a regulation that said “highly qualified” teachers could now also include unlicensed teachers for up to three years if they were making progress toward their certification. This effectively resolved the problem for Teach For America, as most program recruits planned to leave the classroom at the end of their assignment anyway.

In 2007, the civil rights law firm Public Advocates filed a suit against the Department of Education over this regulation. In effect, the lawyers argued, it created an exemption that condoned the assignment of novice, inexperienced teachers to students in high-poverty schools, which are disproportionately nonwhite and low-income.

“It seemed pretty simple to us all along that you can’t have a law that requires ‘full state certification’ for teachers to be highly qualified and also say that people who are in the process of getting their certification meet that designation,” said John Affeldt, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs. “Those are two different states of being.”

Affeldt said there was little question as to why the 2002 regulation came about. “Teach for America applied pressure because they saw the original statute as threatening to their model and to the growth of their organization,” he said. “At some point between its founding and the mid-2000s, Teach for America had changed its belief system from ‘Every student needs fully qualified, highly effective teachers’ to ‘Every student needs us.’ TFA’s model depends on being able to concentrate their people in low-income, high-minority schools, and they thought that was a good thing. And if the law incentivized districts to hire other types of teachers ahead of TFA, well, they didn’t want that. They wanted to be seen on the same level, and some in leadership truly believe that TFA’s teachers-in-training are as good or even better qualified than certified teachers who might apply.”

TFA fought the lawsuit in court and lost, then flexed its political muscles in Congress to protect its interests. The Democrat-controlled Congress overrode the court decision, which infuriated civil rights groups, which actually wanted highly qualified teachers in the classrooms of the neediest students.

The civil rights groups turned to Senator Sanders to fight their battle against TFA. He took up their banner, insisting that “highly qualified” should actually mean “highly qualified.”

In a Senate HELP committee hearing, Sanders emphasized that his amendments would not conflict with the goal of attracting new, bright teachers to the classroom, and said he is “a strong supporter of programs like Teach for America and other efforts to attract young people into education.” But, he stressed, it is wrong to characterize someone starting in the classroom two months after college graduation as already highly prepared.

“I think most of the people around this table would agree that doesn’t make any sense,” Sanders said. “That doesn’t make that person not a good teacher, not an inspired teacher; it simply does not make that teacher ‘highly qualified.’”

“If you had a heart condition, and you were going to go to a surgeon, you would go to a surgeon who has many surgeries successfully done,” he added. “And while another surgeon may be wonderful, a young surgeon who hasn’t yet performed his first surgery, you would probably go to the experienced [surgeon] who has already achieved a certain level of accomplishment.”

But Sanders’ efforts were countered and ultimately defeated by the persistent opposition of Senator Michael Bennett, recently appointed to the Senate after serving as superintendent of the Denver Public Schools. Bennett was and is a huge supporter of corporate reform. He is not an educator. Before his appointment to manage the Denver schools, he was a financier.

When the issue came up again a year later, members of Congress were lobbied by billionaire Eli Broad, who was then vice-president of the neoliberal Center for American Progress and an array of corporate charter chains, which needed TFA recruits. They falsely claimed that without the TFA loophole, “hundreds of thousands of tremendously gifted teachers who have a significant impact on students will not be able to continue to teach.”

Cohen points out that Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro conducted a study that determined that more than 800,000 of the nation’s neediest students had teachers who were still in training, not certified, certainly not “highly qualified.”

This is an excellent analysis of how TFA flexed its muscles and power to defend its self-interest, undermine the plain language of the law, and inflict unqualified teachers on children who actually needed—but didn’t get—highly qualified teachers.

 

 

 

Tom Ultican has been chronicling the doings of the Destroy Public Education Movement, as it tears a path through urban districts across the nation.

In this post, he tackles the DPE invention of new credentials for people who didn’t have time to get real ones.

He begins like this:

”The destroy public education movement (DPE) has given us teach for America (Fake Teachers), Relay Graduate School (Fake Schools) and the Broad Superintendents Academy (Fake administrators). None of these entities are legitimately accredited, yet they are ubiquitous in America’s major urban areas.

“There was a time in the United States of America when scoundrels perpetrating this kind of fraud were jailed and fined. Today, they are not called criminals; they are called philanthropists. As inequitable distribution of wealth increases, democratic principles and humane ideology recede.

“It is time to fight the 21st century robber-barons and cleanse our government of grifters and sycophants.

“Philanthropy in America is undermining the rule of law and democratic rights. Gates, Walton, Broad, DeVos, Bradley, Lily, Kaufman, Hall, Fisher, Arnold, Hastings, Anschutz, Bloomberg, Jobs, Zuckerberg, Dell and the list goes on. They have afflicted us with teach for America (TFA), charter Schools, vouchers, phony graduate schools, bad technology and bogus administrators implementing their agendas.

“Without these “philanthropists” and their dark money schemes none of this would exist. Public schools would be healthy and teen-age suicide rates would be going down; not up. Instead we have mindless testing, harmful technology and teaching on the cheap.

“This “philanthropy” is about profits, reducing tax burdens on the wealthy, imposing religious dogma and subjugation of non-elites. It is harmful to America’s children. The attack on public education was never primarily about benefiting children. It certainly was never based on concern for minority populations.”

Read the rest.

Nancy Bailey writes here about the public wringing of hands over the teacher shortage.

This is an excellent post. She takes no prisoners and names names.

Who created the teacher shortage?

Start with Betsy DeVos. Nancy feels sure that she would like to replace teachers with computers. She cares. Right.

Then there is Teach for America. Big corporations fell in love with the idea of sending in raw recruits to America’s toughest classroom. They chose Wendy Kopp of the nation’s queen of all teachers, even though she never taught a day in her life. They still pour millions into this “destroy-the-teaching-profession” operation.

Let’s not forget the media! In addition to the teacher bashers who get face time on TV, like Campbell Brown, Jonathan Alter, and John Stossel, never forget the covers of TIME and Newsweek that insulted every teacher in America. There was that Newsweek cover that said, again and again, “we must fire bad teachers,” as though the nation’s schools were overrun with them. And the TIME cover complaining about teachers as “Rotten Apples.” She forgot the memorable covers of Michele Rhee, who promised to sweep the human debris out of classrooms and show the world how to fix all schools.

Behind all this teacher bashing is money. Replacing teachers, who may be low paid but nonetheless cost more than a machine, with technology.

What a hoax!

Allie Gross is a journalist in Detroit. She came to the city as a member of Teach for America and taught in a charter school. She thought she would change her students’ lives. But then she learned things about the charter school  and its leadership staff that disillusioned her. I posted her account of her transformation two years ago. Since then, I have posted other articles she wrote. The previous post is her latest. I was very taken with it, because Ali showed deep understanding of the damage that school choice does to communities. I wondered how someone who came through TFA had this perspective. Ali suggested I re-read the piece she had written in 2014.

 

Here it is. 

 

It is called “The Charter School Profiteers.”

 

I know what it means to become disillusioned and to change your mind. It’s not easy.

June Atkinson, the incumbent Superintendent of Instruction for the state of North Carolina, was beaten by 33-year-old Mark Johnson on November 8. She was surprised by the outcome. Johnson won 50.8% of the vote; of 4.4 million votes cast, Johnson’s margin of victory was 58,000 votes. 

 

Atkinson had worked for the Department of  Public Instruction for 40 years, the last 11 as state chief.

 

Atkinson is the longest-serving state superintendent in the nation and the first woman in North Carolina to hold the job. She lost to Republican Mark Johnson, the second-youngest statewide elected official in the country. Johnson is a lawyer and school board member in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools. He received 50.6 percent of the vote in the Nov. 8 election.

 

During an interview at her office last week, Atkinson shifted between moments of sadness, sometimes crying as she spoke about leaving the job she loves, and moments of frustration as she recalled comments Johnson made during the election, some of which she thought were unfair.

 

“I have two pet peeves. One is it bothers me when people swim in the swamp of ignorance or swim in the swamp of dishonesty,” Atkinson said. “It bothers me that my opponent would say disparaging things about people here in the department, that they are incompetent, that there are a bunch of bureaucrats here who don’t work well. I don’t take that personally because I know what it’s like to run for office. It’s the first time, however, I’ve run for office when I felt as if my opponent was dishonest in what he said.”

 

The two have not spoken about the election outcome, Atkinson said, and she doesn’t know what she’ll say when the time comes. She promises a smooth transition when Johnson takes over in January, but it’s clear the transition will be tough.

 

“It’s really hard for me to figure out what I want to say to him, because I don’t know where to start. I mean, he has taught two years. He’s never run an organization that has almost 900 people. He has never traveled to the 100 counties. He doesn’t have a background,” she said. “So, it’s like, how do I teach or how do I help a person who is an infant in public education to become an adult overnight to be able to help public education in this state?”

 

When asked about Atkinson’s remarks, Johnson responded:

 

“I acknowledge that (Atkinson) has been at the Department of Public Instruction for 40 years, and she has a lot of institutional knowledge,” he said. “I look forward to talking to her and hearing what she has to say about running the department and taking that into consideration as I go forward.”

 

Still, he said, Atkinson should not discount his experience as a teacher, local school board member and lawyer.

 

Johnson was a TFA teacher for two years, and a local school board member for less than two years, which should position him well to take charge of the schools of the state of North Carolina.
Read more at http://www.wral.com/ousted-nc-superintendent-on-successor-how-do-i-help-an-infant-in-public-education-/16236296/#2E8eABKf7wCRS4sO.99

 

 

As the North Carolina General Assembly passes legislation to limit the powers of the newly-elected Governor of the state, who is a Democrat, protestors gather at the State Capitol, speak out and are arrested.

 

The General Assembly has been controlled by Tea Party extremists since 2010, when they had the chance to redistrict and guarantee themselves a super-majority. The federal court has ruled that the redistricting was unconstitutional and ordered the legislature to redistrict again. Note to fox: Please stay away from the hens.

 

One of the new laws transfers power over the schools from the State Board of Education to the newly elected Republican superintendent of schools. Mark Johnson is a 32-year-old former Teach for America teacher, who taught for two years, then was elected to a local school board. A year after he was elected to the local school board, he announced his candidacy for state superintendent. Based on his scant experience, the Tea Party wants him to take charge of public education in the state. Michael Bloomberg and TFA’s political advocacy group LEE (Leaders for Educational Excellence) funded his campaign. Count this as another victory for TFA’s ambition to take over public education.

I wrote an article for the online version of the Chronicle of Philanthropy about how the big foundations paved the way for Betsy DeVos’ nihilistic campaign to privatize public education. I wanted it to be in a journal that foundations across the nation read. It is available only to subscribers.

 

 

https://www.philanthropy.com/article/Opinion-Blame-Big-Foundations/238662

 

Opinion: Blame Big Foundations for Assault on Public Education
By Diane Ravitch
President-elect Donald Trump has promised to reallocate $20 billion in federal funds to promote charter schools and private-school vouchers. He has selected Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos — who has long devoted her philanthropic efforts to advocating for charters and vouchers — as the next secretary of education. After the election, her American Federation for Children boasted of spending nearly $5 million on candidates that support school choice, not public schools.
Currently, 80 percent of charter schools in Michigan are run by for-profit corporations, due in no small part to Ms. DeVos and her husband, Amway heir Dick DeVos. These schools represent a $1 billion industry that produces results no better than do public schools, according to a yearlong Detroit Free Press investigation. The DeVoses recently made $1.45 million in campaign contributions to Michigan lawmakers who blocked measures to hold charters accountable for performance or financial stability.
With Ms. DeVos in charge of federal education policy, the very future of public education in the United States is at risk. How did we reach this sorry state? Why should a keystone democratic institution be in jeopardy?
I hold foundations responsible.
Extremist Attacks
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Edythe and Eli Broad Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation have promoted charter schools and school choice for the past decade. They laid the groundwork for extremist attacks on public schools. They legitimized taxpayer subsidies for privately managed charters and for “school choice,” which paved the way for vouchers. (Indeed, as foundations spawned thousands of charter schools in the past decade, nearly half of the states endorsed voucher programs.)
At least a dozen more foundations have joined the Big Three, including the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, and the Doris & Donald Fisher Fund.
For years these groups have argued that, one, public schools are “failing”; two, we must save poor children from these failing schools; three, they are failing because of bad teachers; four, anyone with a few weeks of training can teach as well, or better. It’s a simple, easily digestible narrative, and it’s wrong.
To begin with, our public schools are not failing. Where test scores are low, there is high poverty and concentrated racial segregation. Test scores in affluent and middle-income communities are high. The U.S. rank on international standardized tests has been consistent (and consistently average) since those tests began being offered in the 1960s, but the countries with higher scores never surpassed us economically.
The big foundations refused to recognize the limitations of standardized testing and its correlation with family income. Look at SAT scores: Students whose families have high incomes do best; those from impoverished families have the lowest scores. The foundations choose to ignore the root causes of low test scores and instead blame the teachers at schools in high-poverty areas.
Follow the Money
Major foundations put their philanthropic millions into three strategies:
They funded independently run charter schools, which are a form of privatization.
Some, notably the Gates Foundation, invested in evaluating teachers based on their students’ test scores.
They gave many millions to Teach for America, which undermines the profession by leading young college graduates to think they can be good teachers with only five weeks of training.
Many of the philanthropists behind the foundations have also used their own money to underwrite political candidates and state referenda aimed at advancing charters and school choice. Bill Gates and his allies spent millions to pass a referendum in Washington State authorizing charter schools; it failed three times before winning in 2012 by 1 percent of the vote. After the state Supreme Court denied taxpayer funding to charters, on the grounds that they are not public schools because they are not overseen by elected school boards, three justices who joined the majority ruling faced electoral challengers bankrolled by Mr. Gates and his friends. (The incumbents easily won re-election.)
The Walton Family Foundation claims to have launched one-quarter of the charter schools in the District of Columbia. It has pledged to spend $200 million annually for at least the next five years on opening new charters. Individual family members have spent millions on pro-school choice candidates and ballot questions. This year they joined other out-of-state billionaires like Michael Bloomberg in contributing $26 million to support a Massachusetts referendum that would authorize a dozen new charters a year, indefinitely. It lost, 62 percent to 38 percent. Only 16 of the state’s 351 school districts voted “yes”; the “no vote” was strongest in districts that already had charters, which parents knew were draining resources from their public schools.
Advocates for charter schools insist they are public schools — except when charters are brought into court or before the National Labor Relations Board, in which case they claim to be private corporations, not state actors. They do share in public funding for education, a pie that has not gotten bigger for a decade. So every new charter school takes money away from traditional public schools, requiring them to increase class sizes, lay off teachers, and cut programs.
Charters have a mixed performance record. Those with the highest test scores are known for cherry-picking their students, excluding those with severe disabilities and English-language learners, and pushing out students who are difficult to teach or who have low test scores.
Many other charters have abysmal academic records. The worst are the virtual charters, which have high attrition rates, low test scores, and low graduation rates. As The New York Times recently reported, citing federal data, the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow in Ohio has “more students drop out … or fail to finish high school within four years than at any other school in the country.”
Why do state leaders allow such “schools” to exist?

Follow the campaign contributions to key legislators.
Failing the Test
The Gates Foundation’s crusade to evaluate teachers by the test scores of their students has been a colossal failure, one from which the organization has yet to back off. (Unlike its $2 billion campaign to encourage smaller high schools, which the foundation admitted in 2008 had not succeeded.)
This has had devastating consequences. President Obama’s Education Department, which had close ties to the Gates Foundation, required states to adopt this untested way of evaluating teachers to be eligible for $4.35 billion in Race to the Top funding.

Since the standardized tests covered only mathematics and reading, some states, like Florida, began rating teachers based on the scores of students they didn’t teach in subjects they didn’t teach.
In New York State, a highly regarded fourth-grade teacher in an affluent suburb sued over her low rating and won a judgment that the state’s method, based on the Gates precept, was “arbitrary and capricious.” When newspapers in Los Angeles and New York City published invalid ratings of thousands of teachers, classroom morale plummeted and veteran educators resigned in protest. One in Los Angeles committed suicide.
The American Statistical Association issued a strong critique of the use of student scores to rate teachers, since scores vary depending on which students are assigned to teachers. The American Educational Research Association also spoke out against the Gates Foundation’s method, saying that those who teach English-language learners and students with disabilities would be unfairly penalized.
Still, big donors were so sure teachers were responsible for low test scores that they fell in love with Teach for America and showered hundreds of millions of dollars on it.
The nonprofit began as a good idea: Invite young college graduates to teach for two years where no teachers were readily available, sort of like the Peace Corps. But then the organization began making absurd claims that its young recruits could “transform” the lives of poor students and even close the achievement gap between children who are rich and poor, white and black. School districts, looking to save money, began replacing experienced teachers with Teach for America recruits, who became the hard-working, high-turnover staff at thousands of new charter schools.
Due in part to that supply of cheap labor, 93 percent of charters are nonunion, which the retail billionaires of the DeVos and Walton families no doubt see as a boon. Unfortunately, Teach for America undermines the teaching profession by asserting that five weeks of training is equivalent to a year or two of professional education. Would doctors or lawyers ever permit untrained recruits to become Heal for America or Litigate for America? It is only the low prestige of the teaching profession that enables it to be so easily infiltrated by amateurs, who mean well but are usually gone in two or three years.
Now that the Trump administration means to use the power and purse of the federal government to replace public schools with private alternatives, it is important to remember that universal public education under democratic control has long been one of the hallmarks of our democracy. No high-performing nation in the world has turned its public schools over to the free market.
Let us remember that public schools were established to prepare young people to become responsible citizens. In addition to teaching knowledge and skills, they are expected to teach character and ethical behavior. Gates, Broad, and other big foundations have forgotten that public education is a public responsibility, not a consumer good. Their grant-making strategies have endangered public education.
This is a time to hope that they will recognize their errors, take a stand against privatization of our public services, and commit themselves to rebuilding public education and civil society.
Diane Ravitch is a historian of education and a research professor at New York University. She writes about education policy at Diane Ravitch’s Blog.

 

 

 

When most people hear about Teach for America, they think of an organization that recruits bright young college students, gives them five weeks of training, then collects big bucks from school districts that hire the kids for a two-year gig.

What is not well known is that TFA has a political operation that trains its loyal recruits to get involved in elections, to run for local and state school boards or legislative seats or even higher office.

With its free-market orientation, TFA has become a major political player on the right, especially on education issues, where they advance school choice and undermine teacher professionalism and unions. Their goal is to capture political power for the privatization agenda.

Laura Chapman here presents her review of TFA’s political action arm, Leadership for Educational Excellence:

“Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE) was founded in 2007 as a 501(c)4 spin-off of Teach for America. It offers coaching for Teach for America alumni or staff, and networking for TFA alumni who are interested in elected office and other leadership positions. Candidates for elected office receive support up to the legal limits for in-kind contributions, at no charge to the candidate. LEE offers political and policy fellowships for current and former TFA alums.

“LEE Foundation provides grants to conduct LEE educational events, sponsor internships and fellowships. It also commissions white papers and toolkits to guide dialogue with the general public and others in the education and policy arenas.

“On January 12, 2016, Marketwired reported that Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE), has a new program and “the first cohort of nine “Venture Fellows” who will push for expanded school choice, described as an effort by entrepreneurs to “end educational inequity.” Here are some briefs on the winners.

“Milagros Barsallo, and Veronica Palmer, RISE Colorado. The RISE website is a case study in non-disclosure of any activities other than fundraising and organizing “families” to lobby for choice in schools.

“Nicole Baker Fulgham, The Expectations Project, Nicole is also an Aspen Institute Education Fellow and Mind Trust Education Entrepreneur Fellow who regularly speaks at faith-based and education conferences. Christianity Today Magazine named her one of the 50 Women Leaders Influencing the Church and Culture (2012. The New Schools Venture Fund named her the Entrepreneur to Watch (2014).

“The Expectations Project website is under construction but it says: “There are more than 300,000 places of worship across America compared with roughly 50,000 high-poverty public schools, struggling to meet student needs — a ratio of 6 to 1. “Imagine what might be possible if just a handful of people in each of these congregations took it on themselves to ensure the students in these schools had faithful advocates looking out for their best interests. We believe that the academic achievement gap in U.S. public education can be closed in our lifetimes, but only if people of faith open their hearts, roll up their sleeves, and get to work on behalf of students.”

“The Expectations Project website has a whisper link to WeWork Wonder Bread Factory, a co-working space in Washington DC. That link took me directly to a report titled: ”DR. JEFFRY WOODS ON THE RECENT INDY TEP CLERGY ROUNDTABLE” (June 2016). Dr. Jeffry Woods is described as “the Indianapolis Regional Director for The Expectations Project” a faith based organization that addresses inequities in public schools. Participants in the roundtable included: Mr. Jay Geshay – The Vice President of the United Way, Dr. David Hampton – Senior Pastor of Light of the World Christian Church (who also serves as the Deputy Mayor of Indianapolis), Pastor Richard A. Reynolds – Senior Pastor of New Revelation, and Mr. Earl Martin Phalen – Founder of Summer Advantage and Phalen Leadership Academies in Indianapolis. Mind Trust is major promoter of Teach for America and charter schools. http://www.expectations.org/interviews/dr-jeffry-woods-on-the-recent-indy-tep-clergy-roundtable/

“Claire Blumenson, School Justice Project. Based in Washington DC provides legal counsel to and serves as an advocate for students ages 17-22 with special education needs who are involved in the DC justice system.

“Eric Leslie, Union Capital Boston. 
A mobile-based loyalty program for low-income families that provides social and financial service rewards (money, access to services) in exchange for their community involvement in schools, health centers, and civic programs.

“Frank McMillan, Lead organizer of New Jersey Together, a multi-faith coalition in northern New Jersey and an affiliate of The Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF). IAF is the nation’s oldest and largest multi-faith organizing network dealing with issues in urban centers, including education, http://metro-iaf.org/issuesvictories/74

“Richard Pelayo, and Jessica Stewart GO Public Schools. Based in Oakland but recruiting other districts in California to support private governance of schools—policy, practice, and culture—claiming to “promote excellence and equity for our students and families.”

“Amber Welsh, for Austin Kids First Action, a PAC that receives funds to position preferred charter-friendly candidates on the local school board.

“The challenges we face in education are as complex and diverse as our communities,” said LEE Executive Director Michael Buman. “The idea isn’t to find a single solution, but rather to assist LEE members in forging alliances and identifying community-driven solutions.”

“LEE fellows participate in an eleven-month boot camp suitable for executive directors, with intensive coaching, site visits, peer-to-peer networking, and other supports. The boot camp ends with an event where fellows seek capital by presenting their ventures to potential investors and partners.

http://www.marketwired.com/press-release/education-entrepreneurs-selected-for-inaugural-venture-fund-fellowship-2087500.htm

“Here are excerpts about the board members of LEE from the website https://educationalequity.org

“Mike Buman is the executive director of Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE). He was a partner in the New York office of the global management consulting firm McKinsey & Co.

“Elisa Villanueva Beard became the sole chief executive officer of Teach For America in 2015, after serving as the co-CEO alongside Matthew Kramer for two years. Prior to her role as CEO, she led Teach For America’s field operations as the chief operating officer.

“Steuart Walton is one of the heirs to the Walton family fortune from Walmart. He is CEO of Game Composites, Ltd. He has worked for Walmart’s international division in the mergers and acquisitions group and serves on the board of the Walton Family Foundation.

“The following serve on both the Board of Directors of LEE and the LEE Foundation.

“Emma Bloomberg. The oldest daughter of New York City’s billionaire ex-mayor Michael Bloomberg. Emma was most recently chief of staff at the Robin Hood Foundation, a nonprofit that funds programs in the five boroughs of New York City.

“Arthur Rock. Principal of Arthur Rock & Co. a venture capital firm. He is also on the board of Teach For America and Children’s Scholarship Fund and an active funder of KIPP.

“Michael Park. A partner in McKinsey & Company’s New York office and leads the firm’s Strategy and Corporate Finance Practice for the U.S. Northeast. He helps lead McKinsey’s pro-bono work with Teach For America.

“LEE is the source of well-funded and sophisticated faux “grassroots” movements led by carefully trained entrepeneurs who intend to make public education into a private enterprise.”

Mercedes Schneider reviews Teach for America’s finances, and the organization is awash in cash. It’s latest tax form shows that it has $445 million in assets. It spent $1 million lobbying federal and state officials to protect its interests. It created a political action arm called Leadership for Educational Excellence, to train its recruits for leadership positions in which they can push for privatization and undercut unions and real teacher education.

But what all that money can’t stop is the continuing and precipitous drop in recruits. What happens to TFA if no one wants to join and be a temp teacher? What will they do with all that money?

Stuart Egan, an NBCT high school teacher in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, wrote an open letter to the Republican candidate for State Superintendent, Mark Johnson. Johnson is 32 years old. He worked for two years as a Teach for America teacher. He was elected to the Winston-Salem school board and is only halfway through his first term.

Egan writes:

Dear Mr. Johnson,

I read with great interest your essay posted on EdNC.org entitled “Our American Dream” on September 7th. Because you are a member of the school board from my own district and the republican nominee for State Superintendent, I was eager to read/see/hear what might distinguish you from Dr. Atkinson.

I agree that there is a lot to be done to help cure what ails our public education system, and I agree that we should not be reliant on so many tests in order that teachers can do what they are trained to do – teach. I also positively reacted to your stance on allowing local school boards to have more say in how assessment portfolios are conducted and focusing more resources on reading instruction in elementary grades.

However, I did not read much else that gives me as a voter the immediate impetus to rely on you to lead our public schools, specifically your words on student preparedness, the role of poverty, and school funding. In fact, many of the things you say about the current state of education in this op-ed make you seem more like a politician trying to win a race rather than becoming a statewide instructional leader.

You opening paragraph seems to set a tone of blame. You stated,

“Politicians, bureaucrats, and activists are quick to proffer that public education is under assault in North Carolina. They angrily allege attacks on the teaching profession; furiously fight against school choice; and petulantly push back against real reform for our education system. But why is there no comparable outrage that last June, thousands of high school seniors received diplomas despite being woefully unprepared for college or the workforce?”

In truth, many politicians and bureaucrats have engaged in attacks on the public school system and its teachers. Just look at the unregulated growth of charter schools, the rise of Opportunity Grants, and the creation of an ASD district. Look at the removal of due-process rights and graduate pay for new teachers.

Not only am I a teacher, but I am a parent of two children in public schools, a voter in local school board elections, and an activist. I have fought against school choice as it has been defined on West Jones Street with Opportunity Grants and charter schools because it has come at the expense of traditional public schools that still teach a vast majority of our kids.

And I would like to hear what you think real reforms are. Your op-ed would have been a great place to outline (not just mention) some of those reforms.

Johnson claimed in his statement:

“The education establishment and its political allies have one answer that they have pushed for the past 40 years – more money for more of the same.”

Egan asks:

First, I need for you to define “same.” In the years I have been in NC, I have been through many curriculum standards, evaluation systems, pay scales, NCLB, Race to the Top, etc. Secondly, who is the educational establishment? The people I see dictate policy in schools on West Jones Street certainly are not the same people who were crafting policy ten years ago. And less than fifteen years ago, North Carolina was considered the best, most progressive public school system in the Southeast. Is that part of the “same” you are referring to?

It is a brilliant dissection of the usual rightwing claims about our public schools. It is sad that many TFA alums have aligned themselves with Tea Party Republicans, as Johnson has.

Stuart Egan demonstrates once again why tenure matters. It protects his freedom to speak.