How the Democratic Party Became an Enemy of Public Education

Perhaps the title “WHO influenced the Democratic Party into becoming an enemy of public education?” would more accurately represent the subject here.

But the reason for the title came from an article in my “To Read” file. “How to Destroy a Public-School System,” a 2014 article, describes a scenario we should all be familiar with by now. Perhaps that is why I had set it aside, thinking I knew it all. I don’t; we don’t.

We know all about —

“the designation of neighborhood schools as ‘failing’ under the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)…” followed by the “turnaround” or take-over by charter schools.

But do we know the depth of the intentional under-funding of public schools in order to create a market for private-sector education reforms?

Private sector — for-profit (like Edison) charter schools or non-profit (like Mastery) charters — it doesn’t matter. They are private entities. And privatization is crushing the chance for more effective public-sector education reform to be utilized.

The private-sector reforms are politically and financially driven. The public has little input or recourse when those reforms are harmful to our schools.

So here’s how it went in Philadelphia as described in 2014.

December 21, 2001, Philadelphia, State takeover of Philly’s schools went into effect … “at the time, the largest experiment in privatization—in the history of US public education. The message was clear: public management, not underfunding and segregation, was the problem.

Never mind that school financing was

“rigged to benefit privately managed companies” including a loophole that provided charters with an extra “double-dip” pension payment.

Or that

Mastery [charter school] is “not doing more with less,” says Michael Masch, the school district’s former chief financial officer and a progressive fan of Mastery’s work, “They’re doing more with more.

How did that largest privatization experiment of its time turn out?

By 2007,… “despite additional per-pupil resources,” privately managed schools like Edison’s “did not produce average increases in student achievement that were any larger than those seen in the rest of the district,” while “district-managed restructured schools outpaced the gains of the rest of the district in math.”

What say the supporters of private-sector education reforms? Same thing we still hear said today…

“We just don’t have enough of them yet,” said Edison CEO Chris Whittle, according to PBS’s Frontline.

The problem is not enough charters? You think.

The problem was that Philadelphia was under Republican rule? It was, but remember there has been plenty of bipartisan agreement. The Democratic Party approved of all of this.

The problem is THEY (and it’s a big “they”) don’t work for US. Enough Republicans and Democrats alike have fallen for the idea that private-sector advocates for education reform have all of our children’s best interests at heart.

Look, many in the country see and understand the connection between conservative organizations like ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) and Republican privatization policies. Many object. But there is another side. Look again.

It’s time for the country to see and understand the New Democrats and their “progressive” “neoliberal” agenda that we know to be a “bipartisan” agreement on education reform. It is now the Democratic Party reform philosophy based on and driven by advocates for private-sector reforms.

In the words of Helen Gym, a leader of Parents United for Public Education, the reform movement

“has been singular in its focus in dismantling previously stable, strong institutions like public education….”

In other parts of the world, some clearly see what has happened. Those fighting against private-sector education reform are Battling for the Soul of Education.

“George W. Bush bought in the “No Child Left Behind” strategy with its emphasis on high-stakes testing, data-driven decision making, choice, Charter Schools, privatisation, regulation, merit pay and competition amongst schools. Incredible as it might seem, by 2008 this had been taken up by the Democrats.”

Incredible? I guess.

But is this author right in that by 2008 the private sector reform movement had been taken up by the Democrats?

Fully engulfed” the Democratic Party by 2008 might be a better way to state it. But much earlier than that key “Democrats” not only took up this private-sector reform strategy, they helped create and perpetuate it.

1989 -President George H.W. Bush, U.S. Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos, center, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, right, and Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, behind right, arrive for ceremonies concluding Mr. Bush’s 1989 education summit with state governors in Charlottesville, Va.
—Doug Mills/AP-File

As president, Bill Clinton essentially used an “education and the economy” theme to drive education policy. His reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA/IASA/ Improving America’s Schools Act) brought Standards-Based education and school choice (charters) into federal law. Education costs have risen dramatically ever since.

But to quickly march this story forward, I’ve taken some facts from Ken Derstine of Defend Public Education! I encourage readers to explore the wealth of information he has provided on his website. Look into the power and control created by the corporate and political elites. Here’s a glimpse.

Billionaire Democrat and philanthropic venture capitalist, Eli Broad is invited by President Bill Clinton to spend the night at the White House. [What do these men have in common?] They work under the “guise of a progressive agenda” while advancing “a neoliberal agenda.” The agenda continuing to be advanced today.

“Playing a central role in promoting Clinton’s neoliberal agenda was the Democratic Leadership Council.” … It became the think tank for many of the rightwing neoliberal policies promoted by Clinton. …A key player shepherding the neoliberal agenda during the Clinton Presidency and after was Bruce Reed who became head of the Democratic Leadership Council in 2001.

The Clintons & Broads

All their plans are on display. They have to be. They are using our government to put their agenda in place. 

With an agenda that echoes our decade of investments—charter schools, performance pay for teachers, accountability, expanded learning time and national standards—the Obama administration is poised to cultivate and bring to fruition the seeds we and other reformers have planted.” Eli Broad Foundation, 2009/2010 Annual Report of the Broad Foundation (page 6)

Bruce Reed (second to left) spent eight years at the White House under Bill Clinton. | REUTERS Politico story Bruce Reed to Head Biden Staff

Bruce Reed is the common education reform denominator between the Clinton and Obama administrations.

“Reed boasts of helping shape education policy on the national stage for three decades.”

Teaming up with Eli Broad may just be the creation of the perfect storm that finally destroys the institution of “public” education.

Lauren Cioffi/KPCC | Eli Broad, left, has appointed Bruce Reed, former CEO of the influential Democratic Leadership Council, to lead his foundation.

 

“Broad is somewhat happy with the progress of education reform. He takes credit for influencing the signature changes nationwide in the past 20 years.”

‘Between No Child Left Behind, which wasn’t perfect, between Race to the Top, we’ve changed a lot of laws in a lot of states, allowing teachers to do a better job in the classroom,’ he said.”

Have the laws helped teachers do a better job? This man’s organization wrote the book on school closures — really! Literally! And his group directed the spending of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act dollars. We invested in their agenda while our schools struggled!!!! Nice, huh? They titled it Smart Options. They are smart.

“Broad has known all along he needs allies in public office to carry out his vision. He’s generously donated to elections — from school boards to the U.S. presidency. He leans Democrat in Washington but anti-union on school boards.”

That’s what they wrote in ELI BROAD APPOINTS BRUCE REED AS HEAD OF BROAD FOUNDATION EDUCATION EFFORT.

And the story doesn’t end there. There’s more to come.

The “how” is a familiar story of money and political corruption. The “who” is a web of deception still being fully untangled….if we must.

The Slippery Slope of Standards-Based Education

The Standoff in Idaho Over Science Standards Reveals The Slippery Slope of Standards-Based Education

Co-authored by Idahoans Mary Ollie, Mila Woods, and Victoria M. Young

The uproar over Idaho’s proposed science standards is a grand demonstration of ideology blinding us to our reality. And the push for headlines and sound bites trumped technical aspects of standards design. The process became an exercise in frustration that could easily have been avoided by making a distinction between a standard – what students should know and do— and content— what is taught.

The art and science behind writing standards matters also.

Why is the difference important? At the beginning of the standards-based education craze, Idahoans were sold on the idea of “Standards of Excellence” (then known as “exiting” standards).

The promise was that state standards would not infringe on local control of curriculum (subject content and how it is taught). State standards were to serve as minimum educational requirements, not an all-encompassing system of control.

Due to lack of legislative and administrative oversight and accountability, the outcome-based (standards) movement spawned a series of word changes that has gradually closed the door on local control.

“Exiting” standards became “achievement” standards (corresponding to the foundation of No Child Left Behind (NCLB)) and were eventually labeled in Idaho Code as Idaho “Content” Standards. With our focus on federal NCLB overreach, we couldn’t see our own State overstepping their bounds through a flawed administrative rule approval process.

Why is this discrepancy between standards and content just now surfacing? Only the proposed science standards contain language that clearly describes content. Idaho “Content” Standards for other disciplines do not include supporting content. They are a set of performance targets — true standards.

Our 2017 proposed administrative rules for the science standards included supporting content. That inclusion is problematic. That’s where the discussion went south.

Think before you step on the slippery slope.

Supporting content does not belong in a legislated standards document. Legislative overreach occurred. And lacking an understanding of the nuances of standards and content, state and local control, and a proper process for standards development, the public couldn’t adequately sort out and debate the topic—or see the truth.

The reality? The Idaho Legislature did not reject five science “standards.” Only one performance standard was rejected. Four of the items were supporting content. They went beyond being just a standard. Content was at the heart of the controversy.

Scientific knowledge is ever-changing. What we know today may change tomorrow.

Education content should not be subjected to our politicized lawmaking process.
A state entity defining supporting content is micromanaging education. The Legislature needs to step back and look at what has been done. In a country where liberty is a founding principle, legislating education content puts us on the slippery slope sliding away from local control — towards State control.

If school districts and teachers need supporting content for resources or inspiration; sources are easy to find. Content should conform, locally, to meeting the needs of students, not to complying with a too-often politically motivated mandate.

Limit the role of the State to defining performance standards and leave successful achievement of and beyond standards to the local districts.

Until the light goes on and the public sees that standards-based (aka outcome-based) education has not definitively reform a single school, we will continue to waste time and resources on arguing over and implementing new standards rather than investing fully in our schools and their students.

Being able to see the slippery slope is the first step to doing no further harm, to the public education system of Idaho and the nation, due to the deceptive nature of standards-based education.

Pay for Success: Main Streets’ Payout to Wall Street

“Pay for Success” sounds good. And the argument for Pay for Success is made more inviting because federal, state, and local governments are cash-strapped. The public will only have to pay for programs that are successful — as determined by metrics and independent reviewers. Pay for Success appears viable and inviting.

These financial transactions are basically “Social Impact Bonds.” Those with large sums of money invest in “social innovation.”

But with BIG MONEY betting on making money from “innovative” education reforms, with early childhood education being the flavor of the year, what impact can we anticipate?

What unintended negative consequences are foreseeable?

HERE’S THE PROBLEM INVESTORS INTEND TO SOLVE: Head Start programs can’t accommodate demand for their services. Funding was cut in 2013, restored (?) in 2015, but damage was done. (I know my state still has a waiting list — demand is high, good market.)

HERE’S THE PROBLEM TAXPAYERS SHOULD CONSIDER: The same “investors” both created the problem and plan to solve it. Instead of lawmakers expanding, strengthening, and improving Head Start as the economy improved, private investors are taking the lead on early childhood education —eventually using our money.

Click to enlarge and TAKE NOTE: The First Five Years Fund ( FFYF ) focuses on increasing FEDERAL investments in early childhood education through “messaging”(????) etc.

Still sound like a good deal? Read on.

As explained in “Wall Street’s Latest Public Sector Rip-Off: Five Myths About Pay for Success by Kenneth J. Saltman,

“…investment banks pay for public services to be contracted out to private providers and stand to earn much more money than the cost of the service…The Every Student Succeeds Act [ESSA] of 2016, the latest iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, directs federal dollars to incentivize these for-profit educational endeavors significantly legitimizing and institutionalizing them.

Hum. Make the scheme legal and cement profiting, for Wall Street banks and other investors, into the inner workings of the institution of public education.

Legitimize. Institutionalize. Privatize.

Who got incentivized?

Doesn’t it seem like this combination of millionaires and billionaires could outright provide preschool services if they wanted to? Make no mistake; this is about investments. Will this group be pocketing Pay for Success money? We have to wait and see. But by the time the deal is done, it is done. Chances are we won’t know much about the full deal — until it’s too late.

But we do know the messages being spread. Pay for Success functions as an “accountability” mechanism. Accountability? Just like under No Child Left Behind?

“In theory,… the government only pays the funder if the program meets the metrics. If the program exceeds the metrics, then the investor can receive bonus money making the program much more expensive for the public and highly lucrative for the banks.”

Who sets the metrics?

Recall the cheating scandals over test scores — the “metric” central to No Child Left Behind (NCLB now ESSA)?

We learned a lesson. Didn’t we?

But supposedly, Pay for Success is a better way for us to go forward because…

“it creates a ‘market incentive’ for a bank or investor to fund a social program when allegedly there is not the political will to support the expansion of public services.”

What? When? We don’t want to pay for public services?

Now their marketing says we do support investing in early childhood education. What a difference three years makes! Survey says….We have a unifying issue! Invest now!Legitimate surveys have always shown we support a PUBLIC school system.

People pay their taxes (and expect corporations to do so as well) in part because they want the government to deliver good services to the people who need them.”

This really is another example of Us versus Them — Main Street versus Wall Street. And Wall Street is running a new game. We pay; they play.

“[Pay for Success] Contracts are so convoluted and complicated that what normally would take a month to do takes two years and with financial arrangements so complicated that a university professor in financial management ‘still needed help understanding the financing.’”

Shades of “credit default swaps” — those Wall Street “innovative financial instruments” of Main Street destruction.

If you read Saltman’s whole article, be forewarned. The facts about their propaganda centered on early childhood education services is enough to make a person gag … Suddenly Wall Street cares about Main Street? Right. They are for Us.

Is Pay for Success promising better education at a lower price than what we now pay? Sounds too good to be true?

 

Their game is going to be tough to follow. Please try.

ESSA gives authority to Pay for Success through the Secretary of Education (Betsy DeVos). It also gives her a funding stream for start-up costs for new charter preschools. In addition, there is a focus on rural schools. And ESSA provides transportation costs for the first year of those charters. After that, you will pay out of your state and local pockets of public cash for increasing transportation costs. That in-turn will create a market for more online rural schools. The quality of education?

Remember, this portion of their game started back during the recession.

So let’s go back to that Wall Street induced Great Recession. It was tighten-your-belt time. Crisis. Definitely. Budgets had to be cut? Absolutely. What’s the first to go? The big-ticket state item — education. But every time this happens, local people step up. Most of us willingly fund education. In most states preschools are funded for at least the most needy. Only six states don’t support Head Start or other early childhood education.

Do we need more access to quality preschools? Probably. But is Pay for Success the best investment for taxpayers?

In Why “Pay for Success” Financing Could Cost Taxpayers More Than They Bargained For by Rachel M. Cohen, she writes…

“New Profit—a ‘venture philanthropy fund’ with a board that boasts Bain Capital executives and other investment leaders—launched an advocacy arm in 2007, innocuously named America Forward. When Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, the group recommended that his transition team establish a ‘social innovation fund.'”

President Obama went for it. He even established “the first-ever White House Office of Social Innovation.” Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, now leads that office. Kushner’s plans? To remodel our workforce training programs….OUR public programs.

President Obama’s Social Innovation Fund is administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service. Who knew?

“…three foundations have played particularly significant roles: the Rockefeller Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation…. all three foundations have funded the Government Performance Lab at Harvard, established in 2011, that helps implement and expand Pay for Success initiatives. Jeffrey Liebman, who served in the Obama administration as the deputy director for policy at the OMB, runs the Harvard center.”

To be clear, we have a privately-funded private school performance lab reviewing the metrics for Pay for Success. Remember, it is private investors who will be paid for “success.” How independent will the reviews be?

And in case you didn’t catch this fact, the law began under Obama’s administration and the person heading the lab worked for the Obama administration. …. My head is spinning faster than a revolving door!

Disruptive “innovation”? A cycle in need of stopping.

The people coming up with these schemes have so much money they don’t know what to do with it. What these people know is that they don’t want to pay their fair share of taxes. So through OUR lawmakers, they set-up tax credits, loopholes, and under-the-radar innovative financial instruments to be legal tax-dodgers ….. The result: we can’t fund quality social services, our way. That’s how they create problems — for us.

And Ms. Cohen goes on to point out…

“…at its worst, Pay for Success can leave taxpayers paying substantially more than if their governments had just funded programs directly….”

What are the chances they can demonstrate real success? Well, investors are hedging their bets. By choosing to invest in already successful programs (the ones we already know work), their risk becomes minimal. And there is nothing innovative about their “new products” other than the funding mechanism and a new name for some old programs we previously had to cut.

So let’s remember, this plan unfolding before us is about the public service of educating young, very impressionable children. It isn’t just money at risk. Childhood is.

With Pay for Success funding early childhood education programs, we are putting our trust in a financial scheme headed by the same investors who caused the Great Recession — Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, J.P. Morgan, da, da-da, da. Think they have changed their ways? They would like you to think so.

What I don’t understand is the country discarding a successful education system that was the envy of the world for almost 200 years— until the education oligarchy took over.

We need to stop this lopsided deal for expanding public-private partnerships. It is taking total control over educating all our youngest citizens and placing them into a workforce/military development system. And with funders now teaming up with the charter alliance, this has gone too far! It’s a double whammy!

With only 17% of charters shown to outperform public schools, coupling of the First Five Years group with the Charter Alliance is risky….for children and taxpayers alike.

The game is rigged. The cards are stacked against us. We know that.

There may be some circumstances where Pay for Success is a viable idea. Preschool in particular and public education in general is NOT one of those circumstances.

“…the model is appropriate only for a narrow cohort of nonprofits that meet two related criteria: they must be able to effectively deliver and measure their social impact; and they must be able to translate that impact into financial benefits or cost savings that are traceable to the budgets of one or more institutions or government departments.

Although the potential social benefits of PFS [Pay for Success] appear to be real, one cannot ignore the likelihood of unintended negative consequences….

Haven’t we subjected our country’s children to enough “unintended negative consequences”?

It is time to knockdown the house of cards.

Pay for Success is only one item that is wrong with The Every Student Succeeds Act. Demand congress repeal ESSA before the trump card is played. 

 

Think Tanks, Fake News, Astroturfing, and Lies in the Era of Trump and DeVos

The powerful influence of think tanks, fake news, astroturfing, and lies in our policymaking process is nothing new to us. In the past, the influence of lobbying was frequently discussed in the news. But until recently, we didn’t hear much about how think tanks, fake news, astroturfing, and lies impact politics. Yet, their dominance over policies runs deeper than the D.C. swamp where most reside.

Think tanks got their name during the WWII era. They are non-governmental policy research organizations — or they are supposed to be.

“Think tanks conduct and recycle research that aims to solve policy problems and not solely to advance the theoretical debate.”

Maybe there has been a bit too much “recycling” of research.

Whether or not think tanks work as originally suggested, for “the common good,” comes into question particularly when money enters the equation. Remember, these are the groups in D.C. giving policy advice…during the lawmaking process. Where their money comes from does matter. Foreign powers buy influence at think tanks.

“Some scholars say they have been pressured to reach conclusions friendly to the government financing the research.”

Remember the old saying about computers? Garbage in, garbage out? By definition,

“poor quality input will always produce faulty output.”

Poor policy advice results in laws that do harm. Plus, many of the non-profit organizations that house think tanks do have outright political agendas. And too many people are not aware of the pre-determined plans of these organizations. As NPR wrote in What to Think About Think Tanks?,

“This has nothing to do with right-wing or left-wing politics. It has to do with giving the audience more – not less – information to help them evaluate the speaker.”

If think tanks are swayed by money and political ideology, are they producing “fake news”?

Where did fake news come from?

Bending the truth for political gain is certainly nothing new – it’s propaganda, and the record of its uses stretch back to ancient times.”

“Propaganda and Internet fake news do, however, hold similarities: both are methods of distorting the truth for emotional persuasion, seeking to drive action.”

Some claim that the term has now been co-opted by politicians and commentators to mean anything they disagree with – making the term essentially meaningless and more of a stick to beat the mainstream press with than a phenomenon in itself.”

I don’t see the term “fake news” as being meaningless. I see the danger of it —confusion in the public mind!

And when fake news is fortified by astroturfing, we shouldn’t be surprised that our country is failing to address problems with real solutions. The country can’t see the truth through all the lies.

The corporate-elites controlling education policies in this country have been “buying and selling school reform” for decades (Hired Guns on Astroturf). How is a citizen supposed to know whom to believe? Even well-meaning activists are being deceived into working for policies they actually should be against. It isn’t the first time we People have been used, our tax-dollars used against us, or we have been lied to. … And there is no reason to believe we have seen the last of it.

So that brings me to the main topic of Think Tanks, Fake News, Astroturfing, and Lies in the Era of Trump and DeVos.

I’ll use the charter school/voucher debate to demonstrate how the game is being played. This isn’t a new topic; it’s just finally on the national stage. The Trump White House is simply following in the footsteps of the previous three administrations when it comes to federal funding of charter schools….and expanding school choice HUGELY.

President Trump openly supports this expansion and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos supports not only the Charter School (School Choice) Movement but is also pushing for public funds flowing to private schools through vouchers.OR….by using the ALEC “scholarship” and “tax credit” laws already in place in several states.This is a school-choice tax credit plan that didn’t fly in 2013. But the plan is to get it done. The choice network thinks they can —with the help of 50CAN. Thankfully some parents across America are watching!

To grow astroturf, you add more money and hire more people.

Credit: POLITICO

What’s the harm? These billionaire-sponsored organizations have the capacity to control the news cycle. They can make things happen, or not, before most of us are even aware of what is happening. That level of domination of information doesn’t allow the real grassroots activists to prevail in blocking the corrupted lawmaking process at every turn. Too many twists and turns are an obstacle to citizen participation.

A disinformation campaign can quickly and easily be launched using both fake and legitimate, but naive, news outlets. In this example, here’s how things lined up then unraveled for the federal “opportunity” school-choice tax credits (thus far):

  • End of April-First part of May —- Speaker of the House Paul Ryan pitched “Tax Reform.”
  • Mid-May – a snag – A report was released by the American Association of School Administrators containing an analysis of tax credits.
  • Then came the poor reception for the Trump budget.

Things got messy for the think tanks. They should respect good research, solid evidence; right? Instead, the network went into control mode.

Between social media, the web of news outlets using think-tank experts for article and quotes, and the charter school networks, the disinformation campaign took off.

“School choice” laws facilitate the flow of funds to charter and private schools. The dollars follow the students, leaving existing schools without those dollars, even when chances are (based on research) the school of choice will be inferior.  This tax credit IS a school choice law.

The public loses part of its tax base. The “charitable donor” (those with money to invest) makes money. Research says: public schools do lose money in this deal. Experts, what do they say? School Choice think tank experts like Rick (Frederick) Hess aren’t stupid. They want to cool down the chatter.They don’t want TrumpChoice to become a political battle anything like ObamaCare. Their propaganda campaign spread from D.C. to Idaho faster than a western wildfire. Sincere concern or propaganda? You decide. The choice network stands on the principle of “competition.” Consider this: Maybe it’s better to show the country how competition really “works” —right now, on the national stage—instead of waiting until no one is looking and let the Scholarship Tax Credits slip quietly into law.

Photo credit: Washington Times

That is how The Quiet Revolution in American education reform has been waged and won —to date.

A general rule that has been followed is DO NOT ENGAGE. And for heaven’s sake, not on the main stage! Education reform was not supposed to be a major topic at the presidential level. Not really. The passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act just prior to the presidential campaign season helped ensure that what was wrong with No Child Left Behind would not be discussed. It still needs to be. The problems weren’t fixed.

This is how the rulers approached putting data collection systems in every state during the Great Recession. Where was the outrage? From a Best Practices Brief
http://nces.ed.gov/programs/slds/pdf/best_practices.pdf

So, IF the era of Trump and DeVos brings national conversations and debates about real problems, real solutions, and the news reports include perspectives from the real grassroots activists in the trenches of education reform, we might just drain the swamp ourselves.

Fight fire with fire. Engage.

P.S. I have always stood upon the principle of providing quality learning opportunities for all children through a publicly funded, publicly controlled public education system free from the corrupted forces of politics. If a hired gun wishes to have a civil conversation with me, wording questions in a way that sounds accusatory is not the way to do it. Putting words in my mouth? Wrong! That is a smear tactic.   I’ll represent my own views, thank you.

Corporate-Elite Totalitarianism: Creeping or Leaping Toward a Totalitarian State?

Some people believe the United States is already a totalitarian state. If that is our reality, it doesn’t mean we can’t regain our status as a republic.

Corporate totalitarianism means total control by corporate interests…. What’s happening in the United States today is a corporate coup of the U.S. government, and anyone who isn’t grieving that must not be looking.”  Corporate Totalitarianism, or Not, Opinion by Marianne Williamson

We must look, and look deeper.

We can’t beat back what we don’t understand.

Totalitarian power by definition is considered to be…

“…of or relating to a political regime based on subordination of the individual to the state and strict control of all aspects of the life and productive capacity of the nation…”

I’m sure that during the Kennedy presidency, foreign totalitarian regimes were the concern. But what JFK stated then can be used in the fight we must take-on today. To win this battle, our citizenry …

“[It] requires skilled manpower and brainpower to match the power of totalitarian discipline.”

He was discussing education. We must educate people to recognize and resist conformity for the sake of conformity. We need brainpower? Not a problem.

But, whom are we matching wits against? And how powerful is their discipline, their control over us?

That is where my passionate support for public education keeps me digging for answers. I don’t like what I have found.

When the public education system is completely controlled and directed to focus on the “productive capacity of the nation,” then we are concentrating our manpower and money on one of the corporate-elites’ endpoints — the production of their manpower supply. This is where we must focus our brainpower. This is where the corporate-elite coup must be stopped.

Children do need to be employable. The public education system helps fulfill that goal. I get that.

What I don’t get is the public’s seeming willingness to let that education be narrowed and controlled to the point that a test-and-sort system can be used to fill corporate workforce needs. What don’t people understand about the importance of control of the public education system?

But back to the question of who.

We know that currently under the rule of law corporations are considered people (people who never die?). However, corporations alone can’t pull off this coup.

Organizations of all kinds with a variety of political ideologies have jumped on the “education reform” bandwagon. They are the ruling elite — ultra-rich individuals and foundations of all structures, sizes, and attractively deceptive names. And they are hiring people just like you to work on promoting and selling their agenda. (Recognize astroturf?)

Are we sure we want these groups — under the guise of philanthropic efforts and state control — in control of our productive capacity?

In The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, Eric Hoffer explains that—

“… propaganda articulates and justifies opinions already present in the minds of the recipients.”

Now, think about this: How many parents have been frustrated at one time or another with something that happened in their public schools?

How many business owners have been frustrated at one time or another by hires who didn’t seem adequately prepared for work?

Same question, professors and college students, etc. etc. … I’m NOT saying there is a HUGE problem; I’m saying there are some underlying unaddressed social tensions associated with public education. There has always been a constant desire to improve schools — as there should be. But that fact has been used against us.

Hoffer illuminates how leaders play on our emotions —

“…leadership articulates and justifies the resentment damned up in the souls of the frustrated.”

Because of frustration, we are vulnerable to massive changes not always of our choosing. With education reform as we have called it for the last 30 years, the massive changes aren’t fixing the real problems. The pseudo-reforms are only feeding the corporate State. (And, yes, that is state with an authoritatively capital “S.”)

America was given a choice long ago, but it was an “either/or” choice. (America’s Choice: High Skills or Low Wages) That’s a propaganda technique that creates a false dilemma. You have only two choices and you MUST pick one. It looks like we did. And these same education elite-D.C.-think tankers moving us to make that choice also took control of our system. We are implementing their plan.

The State — Big Money running what we used to call Big Brother (our government) — is no longer a republic. As Chris Hedges explains in Our Invisible Revolution,…

“Our shift to corporate totalitarianism, like the shift to all forms of totalitarianism, is incremental. … The ‘consent of the governed’ is a cruel joke. Barack Obama cannot defy corporate power any more than George W. Bush or Bill Clinton could.”

WE can defy them. You see, I believe this because of what I see. I see a corrupted federal education law that must be stopped. It can be stopped.

The “new” education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), is a perfect example of persisting totalitarian creep into the education of the next generation. ESSA continues the marketable propaganda of No Child Left Behind — accountability, flexibility, and choice — while moving the corporate-elite agenda of privatization forward by leaps and bounds. The law, and those executing it, further corporate-elite control over what is becoming their workforce development system.

Between the Koch Brothers outright contributions, the ALEC (American Legislative Council) laws they push, and their funding of astroturf groups, these brothers will be hard to contain.

And now, it is obvious that the public education system is being used for other purposes. Here’s how.

We bought the plan to focus education on a narrow set of skills (standards). Once the State dictated a couple sets of standards it didn’t take long before others followed. Now, we are poised to lose control of civics (social studies) education. (The Koch Brothers Sneak into School. It’s real. It’s legal….and you are paying for it.)

The ESSA law establishes a Presidential Academy for civics instructors. Innocent enough? Perhaps. BUT when accountability for education is being left up to “the State,” who’s to say? How narrow will the civics instruction be? Who will be controlling the content? And who is training “our” educational leadership?

Convinced that this is some serious stuff?

Well, let’s look further at totalitarianism. It can be defined as…

“…tending toward monopoly.”

Big Money has monopolized education policy — from State to Federal and Federal to State — including local policies through the training of parents and school board members. This is the problem many of us have with Common Core National Standards. They aren’t just standards. They are based on a vision for a totalitarian workforce development system paid for by the public but privately controlled. The corporate-elite created the Common Core System. (America’s Choice?)

So, who is in control of the education of the next generation?

“Controlling information and controlling dissent are part of what goes into maintaining a totalitarian state,” said Jerrold Post, director of the political psychology program at George Washington University.

See why the public education system is such a big piece in the game?

The anti-Common Core groups are fighting hard. The anti-high stakes testing groups are still battling after over two decades. Anti-charter/voucher groups are on the rise. Their individual efforts deserve our respect and admiration, but it hasn’t been enough to stop the coup.

To date, federal education law continues under the control of the corporate-elites. We are still only minor players.

“Through their control of politicians, political parties and corporate media, they do everything necessary to make sure that political candidates who resist them get nowhere near the levers of power.” Marianne Williamson

We, the populace, are rising. But,…

“An uprising that is devoid of ideas and vision is never a threat to ruling elites.” Chris Hedges

That is where the ideas and visions of JFK can still serve us well.

The fight for equal educational opportunity has been brought to the schoolhouse steps before.

Totalitarian discipline did creep into education law. But we don’t have to comply with it. Civil disobedience is needed at every opportunity.

Reinforcements are a must. All the groups out there saying they are fighting against corporate-elite rule need to recognize where their strength and numbers are needed most. We know the corporate-elite takeover is real. We have the brainpower to match theirs. What we lack is the collective manpower focused where we can make a huge difference right now…. and in the future.

Join forces. Help stop the escalating takeover of our public schools.

Education Lessons JFK Left Behind

100 years after the birth of John Fitzgerald Kennedy and with his birthday falling on Memorial Day, it seems fitting to look back in tribute at the education lessons JFK left behind.

President Kennedy recognized that our country

“requires a citizenry that understands our principles and problems. It requires skilled manpower and brainpower to match the power of totalitarian discipline. It requires a scientific effort which demonstrates the superiority of freedom. And it requires an electorate in every state with sufficiently broad horizons and sufficient maturity of judgment to guide this nation safely through whatever lies ahead.”

Final Special Message to the Congress on Education, January 29, 1963

Today, are this nation’s needs any different than when JFK made his proposals to congress?

In 1961, Kennedy’s first appeal to Congress on behalf of public schools was for support of his “twin goals”:

“a new standard of excellence in education and the availability of such excellence to all who are willing and able to pursue it.”

By April 11, 1965, over two years after JFK’s assassination, his “twin goals” became the aim of national education policy when President Johnson signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA),

An Act

“To strengthen and improve educational quality and educational opportunities in the Nation’s elementary and secondary schools.” 

Kennedy emphasized the need to address “depressed areas” and “slum neighborhoods” where children are known to have: poor diets, unaddressed speech, dental and visual disorders, and where older students are in need of job guidance and proper recreational activities.

The first titles of ESEA addressed Kennedy’s concerns for a spectrum of disadvantages:

Title IEducation of Children of Low Income Families to provide financial assistance to support educationally-deprived children.

Title IISchool Library Resources, Textbooks, and Other Instructional Materials to provide for access to educational materials for all students in the State.

Title IIISupplementary Educational Centers and Services to provide services not currently offered but deemed vital to educational improvement made available to the entire community.

Kennedy stressed that unlike in the health and agricultural fields where they “have established the worth of systematic research and development,”

the education profession “lags behind in utilizing the results of research.”

To remedy the problem;

Title IVEducational Research and Training; Cooperative Research Act to provide research, training, and dissemination of information aimed at improving the quality of teaching.

With variability in quality and access between the states recognized as a problem, ESEA’s last title clarified the intent of federal education law.

Title VState Departments of Education aimed to stimulate and assist in strengthening the leadership resources of State educational agencies.

In each education-focused special message to Congress, JFK expounded further and further on how he saw the proper federal role. He declared,

“Let us put to rest the unfounded fears that ‘Federal money means Federal control.’” And he held up the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, the Morrill Act of 1862 (establishing the Land-Grant College system), and the National Defense Education Act of 1958 as examples where “the Congress has repeatedly recognized its responsibility to strengthen our educational system without weakening local responsibility.”

And the 35-page law, the 1965 ESEA, was completed with a statement limiting the boundaries of federal power:

“Federal Control of Education Prohibited

Nothing contained in this Act shall be construed to authorize any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution or school system, or over the selection of library resources, textbooks, or other print or published instructional materials by any educational institution or school system.”

With the passage of ESEA, the major ideas that Kennedy and his advisers believed would strengthen and improve public schools were preserved — temporarily.

Today, both our federal boundaries and guiding principles are unclear.

So in memorial of President Kennedy’s birthday, May 29, 1917, let us recall how he wished to succeed in improving and strengthening educational opportunities for all the nation’s children.

Acknowledging that the quality of the students depends on…

“both the quality and the relative quantity of teachers and facilities,”

he emphasized class size, teachers’ salaries, and adequate classrooms as common problems particularly in need of assistance in states with limited financial resources.

Focusing on teachers, JFK felt…

our immediate concern should be to afford them every possible opportunity to improve their professional skills and their command of the subjects they teach.”

He believed “teachers would profit from a full year of full-time study in their subject-matter fields. Very few can afford to do so.” The funding then proposed was to “begin to make such opportunities available to the elementary and secondary school teachers of this country and thereby accord to this profession the support, prestige and recognition it deserves.”

And quoting Thomas Jefferson,

Let us keep our eye steadily on the whole system,

Kennedy asked that his final education proposal “be considered as a whole, as a combination of elements designed to solve problems that have no single solution.”

The nations’ goals were to be met “on the basis of three fundamental guidelines:

  1. An appraisal of the entire range of educational problems…;
  2. A selective application of Federal aid – aimed at strengthening, not weakening, the independence of existing school systems and aimed at meeting our most urgent education problems and objectives…; and
  3. More effective implementation of existing laws…”

To honor limited federal involvement in education, the “appraisal” is a necessary first step because,…

federal “participation should be selective, stimulative and, where possible, transitional” and “the proper Federal role is to identify national education goals and to help local, state and private authorities build the necessary roads to reach those goals.”

Today, we will only be able to finish building the necessary roads by first removing the roadblocks.

We must look back and recognize that our country

“requires a citizenry that understands our principles and problems.”

Do citizens clearly understand the problems?

Are we standing on the right education reform principles?

Did “we” change our goals?

Improving schools requires we understand the problems, understand the principles, and set the right goals. That is the lesson left behind.

Consider this. President Kennedy’s twin goals were a force that led our nation well for decades. But the changes to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) over many more decades has taken us further from meeting those twin goals of quality and equality.

Congress lost its footing. They overstepped. And they landed on a very slippery slope.

In 1965, it was JFK’s twin goals that LBJ ushered into this law.

Title I funds clearly were part of the War on Poverty.

The 1994 Clinton administration introduced “other purposes” — unchecked.

Those “other purposes” included basing the “quality” of education and access to it firmly upon standards and the tests associated with those standards. School Choice Programs were put in under Title I. Transportation costs were not included.

By the 2001 Bush administration, the whole law (NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND) was clearly Outcome-Based with accountability for all schools under federal control, flexibility with spending our federal dollars out of control, and school choice included in a variety of places. It was in sections under parental involvement, accountability, and supplemental services. The funding to assess transportation costs as well as picking up that cost in certain cases were included.

This is what NCLB Title I said ( “disadvantaged” ) but NCLB clearly had all public schools march to the same drummer – standards and testing – one-size-fits-all.

In a last-minute rush, the 2015 Obama administration signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act. The law was renamed so many times in the year preceding the push that the public couldn’t keep up and the writers wrote “achieves” instead of “succeeds” in the final version. ESSA is not what the public was told it would be.

Title I officially has the federal government involved in the basic programs of all schools still based on the principles of NCLB with a ramping up of school choice at every turn, including pre-K charters, with the Secretary of Education given more power to start-up charters as well as providing the first year of transportation costs.

Don’t you think its time we all took a step back, stopped the federal overreach, and corrected the mistakes that have been made?

The education lessons JFK left behind for this nation provides us solid ground upon which to stand. That platform was built where practical knowledge of improvement practices met the need for equal access under the law.

I hope more of you will make the time to read and contemplate President Kennedy’s three messages to Congress on education (the only links in this blog). All real reformers should stand on the solid principles they provide before continuing to fight in the American education reform wars. That war is currently dividing the nation along ideological and political lines while allowing the dismantling of a longstanding system that served us well.

Let us read, understand, remember, and use the education lessons JFK left behind.

Why Comply With A Bad Education Law?

And just because lawmakers say they are giving “autonomy” to states and local schools doesn’t make it so.

Why comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) when it is as bad as the law it replaced — No Child Left Behind (NCLB) ? Worse really.

Most teachers feel they must comply. Most parents don’t know what the law does. The general taxpaying public? They should care. Billions have been wasted in the false promises of reforms.

I’m part of the general public. The “why comply” question began to plague me because I saw with my own eyes and heard with my own ears how compliance with the ESSA requirement for “meaningful” consultation with parents was not at all meaningful.

This teacher clarifies what happened when we complied with NCLB. We knew it had “unintended consequences” by year five of its existence. It did harm without doing what it promised. But we kept on complying for another decade. Why?

Here’s the problem: ESSA still contains everything that made NCLB a law detrimental to the education of disadvantaged children. Plus it is a federal law designed to defund existing public schools.

Is the promise of ESSA to “restore local control, and empower parents” really what it does?

This is how the House of Representatives presented this law to the public. Truth?

Well? We hear more about state control, don’t we? And as many know, state lawmakers have been a cheap date for organizations like ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council).

I would love to avoid being critical of my state, but I’m watching the same scenario unfold as I did with NCLB.

Why comply with NCLB’s “replacement” when it is based on the same failed theory? Lessons learned?

“What NCLB has demonstrated, 15 years in, is something policymakers already knew—that standardized test scores are strongly correlated with a student’s family income.”

Photo by Bradley

Well, here’s how the NCLB replacement law, ESSA, rolled out in my state.

At an early November (2016) meeting here in Idaho, the first draft of our ESSA State Plan was presented. With “meaningful consultation” with stakeholders about the state plan being part of ESSA, the compliance recommendation was met — in theory.

The word “meaningful” is used abundantly in the law. Among other things, ESSA promises “meaningful choice” to parents, “meaningful parent and family involvement,” “meaningful communication between family members and school staff,” and “meaningful teacher leadership.” You get the idea.

But eleven months after the passage of the new law, the draft of our state plan did not have even ONE INDICATOR of school quality decided. So, how meaningful could the meeting be? Isn’t input about school quality what most parents would like to voice?

But does it matter what the state presented “to stakeholders”? Other than teachers and administrators who happen to also be parents, how many parents attend these meetings? This particular meeting was in a school in my district that was designated under NCLB as “Needs Improvement,” and under the NCLB Waivers and now ESSA as a “Focus” or “Priority” school.

If there was to be meaningful involvement concerning school improvement issues, this should have been the place.

But meaningful parental involvement in a “reform” planning process doesn’t happen when you don’t give notice of the meeting, don’t have anything relevant for parents to comment on, and don’t give a presentation that is substantive. And when you schedule more meetings to occur over the holidays, a meaningful contribution by regular-ole parents is highly unlikely.

Truth is, parental input in my state has historically been selective.

How Compliance Eats Up Time and Money

Those of us attending this meeting were told that the Idaho State Department of Education took the first three months to read and translate the law.

We were told that from the time we adopted Idaho Core Standards (Common Core Standards) to the development of the assessments that correspond to those standards was 18 months.

Can’t we see how much time and money has been wasted on new standards and tests to give us a correlation to family income?

Meaningful Input?

Then, to add salt to my open wounds, a young state department of education employee stated,

“Children learn while taking assessments.”

Hello! THAT’s right! And that is one problem with computer-adaptive standardized tests. Remember, the promise was local control. Testing corporations are not “local” for most of us.

The local curriculum —what and how things are taught in the classroom— is not under local control. There is no meaningful consultation with parents. Parents have no clue what their children are being taught through the tests…..no matter what the “high” standards say.

So in Idaho’s plan, our assessments stay the same as they were under No Child Left Behind… with the addition of computer adaptive tests. Like them or not, parents comply regardless of how those tests are affecting their children. Or are parents not aware of the problems?

One thing is certain: When policy makers and school administrators
are basing more and more high stakes decisions on the results from assessments, we are obligated to explore and find a solution to the growing problem of test anxiety for all modes of testing administration.”

 

Plus, we were told at this local ESSA meeting that assessment scores for math, reading, and language arts would be heavily weighted in our new accountability plan. The new plan is just like the joke that was NCLB “accountability.”

Can it get worse?

The night of this meeting I didn’t get all my questions answered. But I heard enough to know ESSA is No Child Left Behind all over again — with some extremely damaging additions. CHARTER FUNDING, CHARTER FUNDING, CHARTER FUNDING is written in all over this law.

The danger? Federally funded, state “controlled” corruption. (So much for accountability.)

And this law continues to pretend to be a “reform” law. It’s standards-based (not standards guided) — revolving around “challenging” State academic standards. It still requires annual standardized testing based on those “challenging” standards. Therefore, this continues to be an outcome-based system exactly like NCLB but using different language.

ESSA puts test scores ahead of children’s learning needs. This is the opposite of the anti-poverty law it used to be.

So, the bulk of our federal education money is going towards standards, assessments, data-collecting technology, accountability systems, and “choice.” ESSA stands upon the principles of NCLB and the direction set by the National Governors Association back in 1988 (credit Lamar Alexander, Bill Clinton, and many others).

1988 – Restructuring schools (dismantling) was really the first step in restructuring public schools for use in the “knowledge economy.”

And all over the country, good people are trying to make a bad law “work” just like they did under NCLB. They comply.

Never mind that the 15-year experiment called No Child Left Behind produced overwhelming evident that how “high”, “challenging”, or “rigorous” the standards are has little correlation to student achievement. Yet we comply.

How can we even say with a straight face that we require “evidence-based” programs for education reform? The law itself isn’t based on evidence. It goes against the evidence.

Why comply?

Why not #Resist bad law? Why not take over the Quiet Revolution with our own #PublicEdRevolution ?

Our schools; our rules?

Stuck in the Muck: Trapped in Outcome-Based Reforms that Don’t Work

If President Trump drained the swamp, we would still be stuck in the muck.

Cartoon provided by Ben Garrison. Visit his site at GrrrGraphics!

Still waiting on leaders to fix health care? And how many decades have we listened to talk about fixing the education system? But, did you know that both these systems are suffering from the same problem?

“Make America great again”? We can’t do that without understanding what changed America. Until then, we spin our wheels, dig ourselves in deeper, and allow the expanding swamp to be refilled.

The problem? We switched drivers — from leaders believing in progress to those driven by outcome-based data, money, and their own arrogance. Our drivers own the world and dictate the rules.

We the People? We don’t know which way to turn. But even if we did, we can’t move forward because we’re stuck in the muck.

Health care, social security, the justice system, the environment, education, on and on — all the major social problems are being kicked down the road. And we are stuck in debt up to our eyeballs while our social safety net develops ever-widening holes.

Most of the holes were created by us and what we don’t know.

In the health care debate, what aren’t we hearing?

“The physicians say the increased use of quality metrics to assess provider performance is having a negative impact on quality of care. Far fewer (22 percent) see quality metrics as having a positive impact on quality.

Nearly half (47 percent) of physicians and just over a quarter (27 percent) of nurse practitioners and physician assistants say the recent trends in healthcare are leading them to consider an earlier retirement.”

Source: NPR Suicides are up. Tracking outcomes isn’t what these people needed us to do.

Physicians and teachers are facing the same problems.

Where we once had community hospitals (schools), we now have health care (charter) management organizations. They control a data-driven system with an eye towards cost-cutting through technology. The technology industry and health treatment (education market) industries are flourishing.

People? We aren’t doing so well. Not only are teens and middle-aged men killing themselves at alarming rates, Americans in general are not as happy as we once were.

We know we need to address heath care. But we seem unaware of how desperately we need to consider real education reform as a national priority.

If we can’t gain control of our own local school systems, what hope do we have of solving our other more complex problems?

When leaders put Standards Based Reforms (SBR) in federal education law, we were trapped in the education metrics of outcome-based reforms.

Once we drop the fallacy that Standards-Based Reforms are a silver bullet, true education reform will be possible.

Statistics now prove what many believe. Standards don’t ensure student achievement. The focus on monitoring outcomes ignores the problems created by separate and unequal schools.

The misconception is that setting “higher, better” standards improves schools. It doesn’t.

Do you know why No Child Left Behind (NCLB) didn’t improve schools? SBR. And the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) perpetuates the same problem. SBR.

“Now we risk setting national curriculum standards instead of recognizing that children need us to identify their individual strengths and weaknesses and work with them to attain a level of mastery of the classroom curriculum as outlined in a locally agreed upon instructional framework.

This isn’t a philosophy that gets away from being held accountable to a standard; it’s one that is responsible for meeting the needs of the individual student along with educational standards.” The Crucial Voice of the People

That is a description of standards-referenced education, not standards-based (NOT the Outcome-Based Theory).

But the country is stuck because our tax dollars for education continue to be spent on SBR, not invested in us.

“We’re stuck because our focus, our funding priorities, and our personal beliefs and attitudes are failing to serve our country.

We are stuck in the standardization of children ditch because we set test scores as our goal—in law and in the minds of Americans.” The Crucial Voice of the People

Metrics rule. Plus, we have not listened to people with a passion for teaching and compassion for children.

“In the last several years, with the continuing emphasis on using data to drive instruction, I find myself increasingly skeptical about what we do to ‘benefit’ students. …

Data seems to be the driver of much educational policy today, even when it means we force students into increased time with their weakest subjects, and excluding content that might intrigue them.  We marvel at the lack of engagement while we simultaneously impose rigid interventions…

I’m very concerned that our fixation on data has become more important than the engagement of students in topics that might lead them to important self-realizations of competency…  It often feels like teachers are working in a system designed for disengagement, while at the same time being evaluated on their skill at maintaining engagement!

Regardless of my knowledge or enthusiasm, I’m still expected to march as a good soldier with what I see as an archaic system…

Our current models mean we–teachers, administrators, and students–fixate more on ‘grades’ than learning.  I can no longer grow as an educator when I feel confined by parameters that fail to prioritize self-discovery and lifelong learning–for all of us.” — Cindy McDonald (A Now Retired Teacher)

We are losing compassionate and passionate public servants. Our public services are trapped in the metrics of Outcome-Based Reforms because we aren’t controlling how our money is spent.

The more automated our human services become, the less service we are providing to humans. People are getting frustrated and blaming the government.

But consider this. The government is not run by people representative of us. Our government is run by the rich, ultra-rich, and the greedy who are willing to look the other way when it comes to using our lawmaking process for their own benefit. Palms are being greased. The “grease” keeps the swamp slimy.

And it is the arrogance of these ultra-rich people, telling us what is best for us, that we should no longer tolerate.

We’re the ones that need to roll up our sleeves and drain the swamp.

To clean House, we need an election revolution every two years until we’re no longer stuck but rather making real progress again.

Start in The House.

In writing about the House of Representatives, James Madison said, “They in a word hold the purse” (Federalist No. 58).

The Constitution: Article I SECTION. 7 “All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives…”

“The greater the power is, the shorter ought to be its duration” (Federalist No. 52: Madison). Thus, Article I SECTION. 2 “The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People…”

One solution offered in Restoring American Happiness is greater public financing of health and education. And we must invest wisely.

We need to control the purse…

“As the people are the only legitimate fountain of power” (Federalist No. 49: Madison), we are central to our own progress as a nation. And to restrain the House requires “above all the vigilant and manly spirit which actuates the people of America, a spirit which nourishes freedom, and in return is nourished by it (Federalist No. 57: Madison).”

Call it an electoral revolt or call it an election revolution. Call it what you will. It is what our nation’s fathers directed us to do. It will nourish progress.

We filled the swamp; we can drain it. And we can refill it with representatives that will invest in the human side of both health care and education….or we drain it again…in two years time.

Rural America in the Crosshairs: A New Frontier for Profiteers

This is my plea to rural America and to all the people who carried Mr. Trump into the White House. Please remember your power and use it well. Don’t let corporate interests ruin our American small-town way of life.

Preserving our public education system is at the heart of this battle. And the public can both preserve and improve our schools…Why close them or leave them behind?education-reform-quotes-1

This past election season should give us hope. In Massachusetts (the state that has proven that true education reform is possible), voters said “NO” to lifting the cap on charter schools. Why?

“…almost all of the fiercest Question 2 opponents were cities and towns whose public schools are losing money to charter schools.”

And as one principal expressed…

“Community members and parents I talk to want to fight for the resources to improve the public schools we already have rather than opening more schools.” He [Peter Bachli] added, “It’s as if the refrigerator light went out and instead of fixing it you bought a new refrigerator.”

Many people are considering the consequences of “school choice” as we now know it. Charters, school vouchers, and technology are the main products being sold to fill the gaps in education decisively created through our laws. Yes, the market was created.

To make a buck (or billions), the education industry under the guise of education reform has put a price on the heads of children — again and still. Urban markets were tapped first. Now, schools in rural America are in the crosshairs.

But rural America doesn’t have to go the way of America’s urban districts. Not if we learn from their experiences.charter_charterfigure1

And here in Idaho, we can learn from other small towns that have all but been destroyed by our modern-day version of “school choice.”

My hometown of Albion, Michigan is a perfect example. Crippled economically by unfair competition leading to de-industrialization, families paid the price for “globalization” (a nice code word for the development of multinational corporate monopolies).

At the same time, the farce of test-based reforms in K-12 education fueled the development of school choice laws.

So with 80 percent of charter schools in Michigan being for-profit schools, the education industry profited at the expense of American small-town traditions. Gone were the Friday night football games. Gone were the Christmas programs. Gone were the opportunities to gather in local businesses after school events — because — gone were the schools. They were closed. Kids are bused elsewhere.

The fabric of the community was shredded.

Rural America, I’m not crying wolf. Rural schools ARE in the crosshairs of the education industry. The plan is well underway.

Step 1: Direct funding

a-new-frontier-pg-4-2014-08-29-at-10-34-39-pm

FROM A New Frontier: Utilizing Charter Schools to Strengthen Rural Education  by Andy Smarick http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED553987.pdf

Step 2: Get state law in line

AND open the door for philanthropic venture capitalists. Those with an interest in "success" of these charters will use their money to ensure "effectiveness" can be demonstrated. (Idaho State Law)

AND this opens the door for philanthropic venture capitalists. Those with an interest in “success” of these charters will use their money to ensure “effectiveness” can be demonstrated.

idaho-state-charter-law-2016-11-29-at-3-41-54-pm

An application needs an “estimate” for the first year. What happens after the first year?

idaho-state-charter-law-2016-11-29-at-4-00-01-pm

Remember, these are federal grants of taxpayer dollars.

Step 3: Coordinate federal law …(while claiming more state and local control)…

essacharterfacilitiesstate-2016-11-29-at-9-42-09-am

This is the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA Public LAW 114-95). Why does the federal government feel the need to tell states how to fund charter schools?

essatransportation4charters-2016-11-29-at-11-35-53-am

Eyes will be on the start-ups in the beginning. But how long will the watchdogs keep watching?

Step 4: “Grow-your-own” market even when that means you direct funds AWAY FROM IMPROVING SCHOOLS….really.

YES, this does say to FOREGO improvements. No Child Left Behind created a market in the same way. It limited curriculum while charters popped up offering more of what regular public schools used to offer.

YES, this does say to FOREGO improvements. THIS IS ESSA. No Child Left Behind created a market in the same way. It limited curriculum while charters popped up offering more of what was removed from regular public schools.

The decades-long standards, assessment, accountability, and technology movement continues making “choice” a moneymaking instrument easily sold to freedom-loving people.

For Idaho this began in the 1990’s with the Albertson Foundation sponsoring the development of “new” standards. Then came the assessments and accountability mechanisms to spawn competition between schools thus creating a market for “choice.” They focused their money and our laws (and money) on standards and testing for math and reading at the expense of better quality education. Their vision. Their plan. Their lobbyists that created “our” laws that in turn foot the bill for education products to fix what they helped ruin.

Now, they have much of Idaho believing we don’t understand “what policies and practices are likeliest to help” improve our rural schools. That simply is not true.

In January of 2013, one conclusion of state research was that our rural schools wanted their teachers to have the opportunity to obtain multiple certifications. Administrators wanted to improve the quality of their teaching workforce.

Instead, in August of 2013, the Albertson Foundation brought in out-of-state experts to examine OUR rural schools.

They found a new frontier — for rural charter schools — based on “the fantastic work done by charter management organizations” and “human capital organizations” like The New Teacher Project…..Wait? Who?

screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-2-09-16-pmLet’s be clear. We are talking about philanthropic venture capitalists. These are the same people who put their money (and ours) on Common Core.

You think Common Core is simply going away because Mr. Trump doesn’t like it? Not when those who teach the teachers, develop the leadership, and lobby the lawmakers are in control. The Common Core System is in place. With the change of a name, in the blink of an eye, we still face the same problem of no real local control. Charter schools are not the answer to that problem.

And there seems to be a belief that charters will only come in where they are needed and wanted. Can the public just say no and have it be so? Ask congress.

Federal law - ESSA - gives the Secretary of Education POWER!

Federal law – ESSA – gives the Secretary of Education POWER!

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In Idaho, our state board has the POWER also. Idaho’s State Board is not elected; they are selected!

 

So knowing how the laws have been fixed to profit the charter industry, as I traveling across rural Idaho over the Thanksgiving weekend, I tried not to think about it. But unfortunately while passing through one small town in particular, a horrible thought struck me. How long would it be before the food chain consisted of ConAgra, Monsanto, and Walmart?

And what will the schools be like under this new world order? Well, if the purpose of education is work-force development, we know who’ll be calling the shots.

10389690_773525136032161_985265226383217614_nOn the other hand, I’m not convinced that corporate America will trump rural America.

Will America be made great again by those who control the schools?

Will rural America choose to give control to the same people who manipulate our laws to benefit their industry?

Or will rural Americans reclaim the “new frontier” as their own?

How will we see success?

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Crosshairs added with the help of a friend. Photo from Harvesting Success: Charter Schools in Rural America brought to us by the “National” Charter School Resource Center and SAFAL partners (a consulting firm with “deep domain knowledge in the charter section, human capital management systems, and next generation learning.”….Rural America, are these the people you want managing your children and grandchildren?

“Let’s have faith that right makes might; and in that faith let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.” — Abraham Lincoln

P.S. Special thanks to the undistinguished Americans that go unacknowledged for the extraordinary research they selflessly do everyday (without pay) in an attempt to enlighten all of us. I for one appreciate their contributions to this blog.

Neoliberalism: To Know It Is To Recognize It

noam-chomsky-quote-2The term “neoliberalism” is not in my old college dictionary. And most people I’ve asked don’t know what it is. For that reason, the public is not been able to recognize the ideology behind many of our public policies…

We have become victims of sabotage —of our own doing.

An economic approach is one component of neoliberalism.

An economic approach is only one component of neoliberalism.

We are political pawns in the neoliberal game.

The situation looks daunting. But don’t despair. Shedding light on the neoliberal agenda will enable you to better understand the concept and determine for yourself if you have unknowingly adopted this ideology as your own.

As explained in “Our Neoliberal Nightmare,”

“Everything that promotes the market, i.e., privatization, deregulation, mobility of finance and capital, abandonment of government-provided social welfare, and the reconception of human beings as human capital, [is] encouraged.

It should be said that neoliberalism thrives on prompting crisis after crisis…so that each succeeding crisis only erodes the power of the working class and makes the wealthy wealthier.

[Our] politics succumbs to neoliberal economic theory…[so]… In this revolution of the law, persons have no status compared to corporations…

[And the author writes] I am merely outlining the strength of an opponent that has refused to be named for forty-five years, although it has been the ruling ideology that long!”

Neoliberal beliefs have permeated our social and political structures with bipartisan appeal.

And indoctrination into the neoliberal philosophy runs the gambit — from political propaganda to training within the public education system. That’s right! We’ve been infiltrated.

John Perella’s dissertation on the National Institute for School Leadership (NISL) enlightened me. I hope it does the same for you.

  • Neoliberalism is pro-business and does not view powerful corporate influence as problematic (p15)…
  • Neoliberalism is acutely conservative in its economic approach. In fact, neoliberals share many of the same educational goals of neo-conservatives. (See The Politics of Reform for definitions.)
  • Neoliberalism is about restructuring society to allow for, and facilitate the growth of, free-markets (p16). [See “free-market” discussion in the comments below.]
  • Simply put, neoliberalism is a belief system and an economic approach. Privatization is just one strategy of this larger movement and globalization is the background for this entire story (p17).
  • Some have argued that privatization (and consequently the end of public education), driven by neoliberal education policies is the objective of [the] landmark legislation [No Child Left Behind] (p17).

Don’t be led to believe NCLB is gone.

The newest version of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), continues to harbor the neoliberal education reform agenda.

What’s wrong with the neoliberal philosophy guiding our public education system?

Children. It’s creating problems for children, which in turn creates problems for families. And in dysfunctional families, the problems are magnified.

We know children need a supportive social structure.

Proponents and critics alike of privatization have identified social cohesion as a possible victim of market driven education.

One cannot expect a competitive approach to promote social cohesion (p51).

That concept is what people like New York Times writer David Brooks haven’t figured out. As explained in The Common Good & Education, he understands that children need a strong social fabric. But he doesn’t see how neoliberal / neoconservative education reform laws damage the social fabric he claims is essential.

Here’s how. Different —more or less— and “higher” standards led to the perceived need for more standardized assessments. More standardized assessments fed the theory of competition. Test scores stirred the public to call for accountability.

When no accountability was forthcoming, “choice” was offered. Choice nourished the market. And the technology to run this whole ruse brought the neoliberal agenda full circle.

Money is being made at every step of the way. Reform? Not so much.

The neoliberal philosophy has us believing that there is nothing wrong with private industry taking over work traditionally done by public institutions…You know the sell… cutting through the bureaucracy, ending the government monopoly on education, and all that jazz… But, answer this…

What is the problem with NISL — Marc Tucker’s for-profit, non-collegiate, privately controlled organization — training/educating/indoctrinating (your choice) OUR public education leadership?

  • NISL is not understood by its participants and has not been sufficiently examined by the public (p136).
  • Schools are not neutral conveyors of knowledge but are instruments of ideology (p28).
  • Since public education is an instrument of ideology, then leaders trained by NISL will predictably influence their respective schools or districts (p29).
  • NISL will inevitably apply increased sway on public education as more school leaders are trained (p22).
  • Pragmatically, NISL seems to always have one eye on state and federal policies. When it was created, there was a clear alignment in NISL with the spirit of NCLB (pg94).
  • The NISL leadership in Washington envisioned the future of the program to include many new initiatives that would “drive NISL deep” (RH). These included cohort coaching and mentoring, new leadership curriculum in early child learning, special education, ELL and disability, as well as pipelining (p99).

And please keep in mind, neoliberal thinking takes the social justice ideal and uses the platform to justify the market-based theory. It draws in liberal thinkers and civil rights groups trying to do what is right for society — unknowingly putting children at the mercy of the almighty dollar.

And never mind how you and I define social justice. Neoliberal leadership proceeds to act by whatever means they desire —pocketing public dollars in the process—and always producing more human capital to do their work.

As Dr. Perella explained NISL’s program, the leadership “education” combines military and business training practices. Pipelining is how the military routinely picks and develops their leadership. And Marc Tucker’s NISL (with his parent organization National Center on Education and the Economy – NCEE) isn’t  the only show in town.

“The Broad Academy is a subsidiary of the same Broad Foundation that has [financially] supported NISL. Broad has two distinct flagship initiatives, a residency program for placing “participants into full-time high-level managerial positions in school districts, CMOs (Charter Management Organizations), and federal/state departments of education” (http://broadresidency.org/about/overview.html)

… at the risk of interrupting your reading, let me stop you right here…. Did that last point wake you up? Placement in federal and state “departments of education.” Targeted, strategic placement in our governing structure…just checking that this bombshell hit you…. Okay, so, there is the Broad residency program…

and their Superintendent Academy. The primary goal of the Academy is to train and place non-educator executives into superintendent positions.

In 2009, 43 percent of all large urban superintendent openings were filled by Broad Academy graduates (p58).

So between just these two neoliberal buddies, they have covered the training of urban district superintendents, U.S. Department of Education employees, many State Department of Education hires, and principal training in at least 15 states — all indoctrinated (my choice of words) into the neoliberal doctrine.

I’ll ask again, what is the problem?

Well, I agree with Dr. Perella…

Tucker truly is the man behind the curtain. [And] NISL is but one component of Tucker’s influence on public education reform (p138).

…there is very little ‘public’ in NISL’s design for the training of public school leaders (p137).

And we must always remember,

Central to the neoliberal doctrine is a simple, yet powerful objective: profit (p40).

So with much appreciation for Dr. Perella’s diligent work in answering some very important questions, let me end with some words from the man behind the curtain…from page 50 of Tucker’s publication Governing American Education: Why This Dry Subject Might Hold the Key to Advances in American Education”screen-shot-2016-10-26-at-8-53-41-am

Stoppable? Well, we do have a choice. But the question is, do people want to hear it?

And will people consider answering a few questions, like these:

Who should be holding the key to our future?

Are we going to let our public education system go the way of neoliberalism?

If we do nothing, we know how this story goes. History tells us.

Our move.polyp_cartoon_rich_poor_neoliberal

 

 

 

 

 

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Note: The pdf provided here for Dr. Perrella’s dissertation concerning NISL is my personal copy. I provided my highlighted and underlined copy not to influence readers with what I found important or interesting but as a courtesy to those who might need to skim, rather than read, the 172 pages.

A clean copy can be found here.