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.

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.