How to Identify an Enemy of Public Education

How the Democratic Party Became an Enemy of Public Education” explained how both Republicans and Democrats are selling the idea that private-sector education reforms have the best interests of all our children at heart. They don’t.

Advocates for private entities controlling the public schools have completely ignored facts, research, and us. The consequences their policies have on our schools, communities, and children are harmful. The leaders of this private-sector education revolution know what they are doing. And they don’t care about the harm being done. They aren’t accountable to any of us.

And never forget, both Republican and Democratic leadership have no faith in the idea that We, the People, have enough brainpower and manpower to fix our own problems, in our own schools. Those in power trust Washington D.C.’s think tanks and education industry corporations to come up with “innovative” education reforms to sell to us.

Bull roar. These influential people pushing the levers of power are destroying our public education system. Their latest innovation? The claim to be proposing “progressive” or “centrist” education reforms for the Democratic Party. The truth; their agenda is neither. And they are paying the “grassroots” to advocate for them. It’s being done through confusion, propaganda, and indoctrination.

Progressivism supports making progress towards solving social problems.

Progressives advocate for the best solutions based on the latest information.

Progressives expect the political system to respect the scientific method of problem solving.

Progressivism is hard to define because progressive principles change based on evidence.

Important to discussing this further are the following points from “How the Democratic Party Became an Enemy of Public Education”:

  • President Clinton focused on “education and the economy,” and put standardized testing and federal money for charter schools into federal law.
  • Billionaire Eli Broad supported the Clinton’s agenda.
  • Bruce Reed, co-founder of the (“centrist”) Democratic Leadership Council, was advisor on education policy for Presidents Clinton and Obama before becoming the head of the Broad Foundation education efforts.

 

Here’s where the story really picks up steam.

After George W.’s election, the Democratic Party felt the need to seek a stronger focus and more money. At that time, the view of Democrats was…

“They don’t put big corporate America first.” LINDA NECOCHEA

And…

“the Republicans, on the other hand, seem to favor big business.” JUNE BRINES

Meanwhile, key Democrats complained.

”We don’t have the money [to compete with the Republican Party].”

Al From and Bruce Reed of the Democratic Leadership Council stepped in to redefine the Democratic Party. They had help.

An ally of Mr. From and Mr. Reed, Will Marshall, leader of the Progressive Policy Institute (think tank), said the party must…

”show that we can make progressive government work.”

The Democratic Party leaders went with the Clinton mantra to — ”develop a strong economic message.” Message. Not strong policy for the middle-class. Message. We got messaged.

Democratic Party leadership went after the money. In the process, they played politics with our lives, just like the other party. The people have been wronged— from both sides of the aisle.

Democratic leadership sold their souls….or more accurately, they sold our children’s neighborhood public schools. The policy pushers?

The Progressive Policy Institute …

“a Democratic Party-aligned policy shop that promotes…“market-friendly” economic policies. It claims to advocate “a philosophy that adapts the progressive tradition in American politics to the realities of the information age.”

Progressive tradition? The realities of The Information Age? What? The age when we no longer trust any information without first following the money? And, the money flows to both “sides.” In a money-driven system, R or D doesn’t matter.

Every organization on this list is an enemy of public education. Their actions speak of standardization, privatization, and they are dismantling the public education system under the guise of “reform.”

What is important is knowing the main players in private-sector education reforms.

That’s how you know the enemy, by the company they keep.

Unfortunately what started with single individual enemies of public education became multiple well-funded armies of advocates.

“We outline the many overlapping connections in this echo chamber of advocacy groups, think tanks, and media outlets that are increasingly funded by a handful of conservative [and neo-liberal] billionaires and for-profit education companies — often without proper disclosure. These groups are driving the education privatization movement forward by co-opting the education reform mantle.

Time Magazine, 2010.

And no story about the battle over education reform would be complete without this out-sized, outspoken enemy of public education — former D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee.

Knowledge of the funding for her organization, StudentsFirst, was under wraps for a long time. Why is $he important?

“At long last, Michelle Rhee’s funders revealed.” Rhee “received $500,000 [half a mil!] in startup funding from philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad’s Broad Foundation….”

Oh, the Billionaires Boy’s Club. Broad is connected to Rhee. And the replacement for Rhee at StudentsFirst, Jim Blew, previously  (still?) worked for the Walton (Walmart) Family Foundation. Now, StudentsFirst has merged with 50CAN. Blew explains the arrangement,…

“50Can is stronger in advocacy.”

The plan is set. 50CAN is hiring. And just to clarify how this all works…

Blew said, “We need to always assure our donors that we’re using their money as effectively as possible. We’re completely dependent on these donors.”

So the man in charge of 50CAN is Marc Porter Magee. He’s connected every which way. It’s an all-in-the-family deal with his wife, Common Core proponent, Kathleen Porter Magee, and brother Michael Magee, CEO of the non-profit Chiefs for Change.

Photo of Marc Porter Magee provided by the Walton Family Foundation (an enemy of public education).

Brother Michael Magee sees

“turnover in education leadership is a problem” [he] hopes to address in his new role.”

That should be easy enough with Eli Broad (through Bruce Reed) already in the leadership building business.

Win, win —for them. What about us — the public?

Marc Magee’s 50CAN organization will be training advocates to push their agenda for education reform throughout our nation. How important is this? That’s for you to decide.

This is what the education gadfly reported.

Marc Magee “cut his teeth doing D.C.-based think-tank work.” The think-tank?

“Progressive Policy Institute, the think tank that tried to create policies for the ‘new’ Democratic Party.”

And Magee had plenty to say for himself. He spoke of…

the real problem we need to solve. It’s not that our urban schools and traditional districts are ‘failing.’ It’s that our traditional approach to education plateaued around the 1970s, and we’ve struggled to make meaningful progress since then.”

——–THAT IS A LIE. A distortion of facts. Our public education system was on a steady trend of improvement with a significant narrowing of the achievement gap that extended well into the 1980’s. THEN political leaders became the drivers of education “reforms.” THAT is when dissatisfaction with public schools began trending up (along with the cost$). They used us!

The truth? None of the private-sector education reforms —not standards, assessments, accountability, technology, charters, or vouchers —were ever based on facts. It was all about the information age, the knowledge economy; it was all about the money. It was never about all “our” children.

The enemies of the public education system aren’t reforming schools; they are dividing and destroying. They aren’t looking for a centrist position. They aren’t making progress on education reform. They don’t even accurately define the problem.

Real reformers understand that the battle for the soul of our education system is the battle for the belief —the promise— that we will constantly fight to overcome “separate but inherently unequal.” Only an effective continuous school improvement process can do that —within a responsive and responsible PUBLIC system.

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.