DeVos Distractions & The Pursuit of Truth

Betsy DeVos joins the Lamar Alexander D.C. charter/voucher/privatization team. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Anticipating the Title IX speech by Secretary of Education DeVos, the media last week was abuzz .Their verbiage included words like “overturn,” “roll-back,” “scrap,” “rescind.” They stirred it up and the protests grabbed our attention. But, does that help direct us towards solutions, or create distractions? What’s the truth of the matter?

In pursuit of the truth, please consider this. DeVos is a shrewd political operative, more so than our typical political appointee. She has the means to create distractions.

POLITICO 2016 A Look at Betsy DeVos Charitable Giving (Campbell Brown needed “charity”?) The Partnership for Educational Justice joined forces with 50CAN who previously merged with StudentsFirst (Michelle Rhee’s original anti-teacher/pro-charter organization). The organization’s names are changing quickly as their power grows!

DeVos’ Title IX speech was impressively delivered. But the reporting that followed, some of her words, and the relative scarcity of facts within her speech fueled controversy.

The real controversy?

Those unfamiliar with Title IX, and the 2011 Office for Civil Rights (OCR) directives under the Obama administration, would be hard-pressed to find the time necessary to piece together the truth. Before last Friday, I felt under-informed on the issue.

So Friday morning, I spent 40 minutes before work searching for information. On Saturday, between putting up tomatoes, baking cookies, cleaning house, fixing dinner, and walking my dog, I spent hours reading a variety of news sources, listening to DeVos’ speech, and reviewing its transcript.

Can we really expect most people to have the time to dig for enough facts about public education to make a thoroughly informed decision? … Anyway…

Let me be clear at the onset: Title IX federal anti-discrimination law, which includes protection from sexual harassment and violence, is a serious matter. By insinuating that DeVos is creating distractions, using Title IX  in the process, is not to say that the issue isn’t important or deserving of the media’s attention.

But the public needs less hype and more facts. Here’s what I can now tell you.

During the Obama administration, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) sent out a letter requiring colleges and universities to use a “preponderance of the evidence” to determine innocence or guilt in sexual violence or harassment cases. As the FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) explains…

…a “preponderance of the evidence”…merely requires that it is “more likely than not” that someone is responsible for what they are accused of…it is our judiciary’s lowest standard of proof…50.01% certain that the accused person is at fault….a “more likely than not” standard…

…in a real court for any crime, no matter how minor, the more familiar “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard must be used, which means that the judge or jury must be virtually certain of your guilt.

So the question becomes, do the directives sufficiently protect the accused person’s right to due process as well as the victims’ rights?

The letter also resulted in creation of situations where  …

…a judicial process …[could result in]…a student found innocent in a hearing [being] retried, even if the charges against him or her had already been proven baseless.

At the time, this letter was also criticized for failing to clarify free speech rights as previous OCR letters had done.

Did Betsy DeVos’ speech clarify those issues?

Well, yes, but…in all honestly, if I hadn’t read the FIRE article before listening to DeVos I would have been distracted by the stories she told. They were stories gathered from DeVos’ listening sessions with people. Listening is good. But it was the number of stories she told that I found distracting from the issues.

Was this DeVos’ best attempt at informing the public?

If clarity of the issues and swift resolution were the secretary’s main objectives, her inflammatory language and anti-Obama, anti-government rhetoric sprinkled into the speech certainly didn’t help. They were added distractions.

Truth be told. The problems aren’t that difficult to explain (explain, not solve) especially if your job depends on understanding the laws. Yet, they weren’t clearly explained. Reason enough to question whether or not there is something more to this story. Betsy DeVos isn’t stupid.

So what is the bigger picture? 

As Frederick M. Hess & Grant Addison wrote,

“The balance and tenor of her remarks was just right.”

That’s EXACTLY right. DeVos did appear “just right.” She appeared “re-framed.” She was delivering her new image!

The secretary softly spoke well-chosen words. And her actions on the Title IX topic thus far —listening sessions, collecting opinions and stories—were the right way to go. She used the process just right.

But keep in mind; this is exactly what we experienced with President Obama’s secretary of education and the president himself — the promise to listen yet their actions only furthered the political agenda of the ruling elite.

The agenda is privatization of pre-K-12 public schools.

The truth: If you follow today’s Orwellian nature of the media and politics, you can feel the school choice movement advocates drooling over DeVos’ speech. People like Frederick M. Hess want the Trump/DeVos school choice agenda to appear dead. All distractions are welcomed.

They want the media talking about anything other than vouchers, charters, and the federal funding of them through ESSA (the Every Student Succeeds Act) and tax laws.

After all, creating distractions is standard operating procedure in American politics.

And all too often, what the country is hearing about education reform is scripted talking points, not the truth.

Now, that leaves the long-standing reform agenda in the hands of Trump, DeVos, and Congress. And America seems willing to follow these leaders.

As stated in Americans Have Given Up on Public Schools. That’s a Mistake…

Our secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, has repeatedly signaled her support for school choice and privatization, as well as her scorn for public schools, describing them as a “dead end”…

and claiming that unionized teachers …“care more about a system, one that was created in the 1800s, than they care about individual students.”

The agenda hasn’t changed. The following is one of the most succinct and accurate description of the agenda that I’ve ever read.

New Directions, Federal Education Policy in the 21st Century, 1999.

Note the reference to funding portability, vouchers, charters, testing, and the lack of respect for preserving the system. And there is always the promise “to educate children.” But what is the truth here? Do we think we can deliver on the promise of education as a public service — absent a public system? That IS privatization. Is that what we want?

1986 to today, the agenda remains the same.

Clearly we have not taken a better way forward.

In total, we’ve had 30 years of propaganda behind this never wavering political agenda.

There is a better way. It starts with refusing to blindly follow the leaders. It begins when we quit taking a wait-and-see attitude about ESSA — the law DeVos will execute.

ESSA was pushed through congress by Lamar Alexander without open public debate. This is the same man who proposed the first federal voucher legislation in 1992 as then Secretary of Education. He’s leading us full circle. It’s time to stop the spin.And thanks to the same media I am lambasting in broad strokes, I can connect some dots. My apologies to honest hard-working reporters who I am dumping into the same barrel as a bunch of bad apples (astroturf).

But our general lack of trustworthy media coverage of education issues is leaving America inadequately informed on KEY ISSUES. It has left us ill-equipped in the propaganda war being waged on public schools.

The truth: Betsy DeVos came into this politically appointed position with no intention of strengthening and improving the system.

Her history is one of disrupting already struggling public schools, dismantling them —and the system (community) surrounding them— and supporting privately run charters instead. That’s what she did in Michigan. Are we going to wait and see if she does the same to the country?

Many “school choice” proponents, who themselves write for the media, want you to believe that the Trump/DeVos/Alexander funding for school choice initiatives are going nowhere this year. Well, guess what is already in ESSA? Betsy knows. Alexander knows.

HERE’S THE KICKER!

If Congress fully funds ESSA —without restrictions on charter expansions—they fund the way forward for the Trump/DeVos/Alexander school choice/privatization plan.

If Congress includes tax credits —under any variety of names – opportunity, scholarship, tuition, etc. —as part of tax “reforms,” they fund the Trump/DeVos/Alexander de facto voucher/privatization plan.

What say you, Betsy DeVos?

“…we live in a country where an open debate of ideas is welcomed and encouraged.

But good intentions alone are not enough. Justice demands humility, wisdom and prudence.

[Justice] requires a serious pursuit of truth.”

Hear, hear; let’s do THAT!

Orwellian Education Reform: Postmark 1985

George Orwell, author of “Nineteen-Eighty-Four,” was only off by a month when it comes to the rise of Orwellian education reform. As to the method that brought on this madness, he was right on.

“It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words,” says a character in 1984.

Gayle Greene chose that quote for “In the public schools, it’s been 1984 for quite awhile. It describes the intentional, well-financed war of words used to discredit, undermine, and destroy the U.S. institution of public education.

“In Orwell’s dystopia,…

The Ministry of Truth spawns lies and propaganda, the Ministry of Love supervises torture and brainwashing, and the Ministry of Peace promulgates war and atrocity.

Turn the words on their heads, and you get a glimmer of the truth.

And the Ministry of Education? There is no Ministry of Education. So now we have a Secretary of Education who’s a dedicated enemy of public education…. Betsy DeVos…”

No Ministry of Education? … Truth be told.

On February 6, 1985, President Reagan swore in Bill (William) J. Bennett as the United States’ third Secretary of Education. Then, the saga of Orwellian education reform began in earnest.

Bill Bennett is the first Secretary to understand the ideological and political possibilities of the office that were there from the beginning. In Bill Bennett we’re getting our first Minister of Education.” Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Bennett used his appointment to accelerate the political agenda of standards, assessments, accountability, flexibility, and choice. All those words, all those concepts, were turned on their heads. Orwellian education reform hatched and grew.

The Minister brought in his Three C’s —content, character, and “choice.” But we weren’t asking for “choice.” Almost 80% of parents were satisfied with their schools. And notably, we were saying smaller classes would make a difference to each and every one of our children.No! The Minister says we need “accountability.”

AND, we need “higher standards.”

Only 17% of us thought “higher standards” would improve public education. Then WHY? Why push the theory of outcome-based (standards/testing) reforms on the nation? WHY transform our whole system?

BOTTOM LINE: Do “higher standards” increase student performance? …  In time that question is answered.

Because the public didn’t know the truth, the public didn’t fight the changes. Plus, Bennett said he cared about our students.

But at the time not everyone believed the Minister was sincere about his concerns for ALL our children.

“‘I think he [Bennett] still might be the subject of hearings if we had known during the [confirmation] hearing of his insensitivity toward the needs of students, particularly low- and low-middle income students who can only go to college because of federal aid,’ [Senator Robert] Stafford [R] said in a telephone interview from Burlington, Vt.

While time marched on so did the Orwellian education reform movement. As Ms. Greene explained,

“A handful of billionaires and their foundations bankrolled and orchestrated a multibillion-dollar PR campaign to convince people that public education is broken and private interests can do it better….

A billionaire snatch and grab passed off as a push for racial equality, the destruction of public education… passed off as a civil rights issue.

The confounding of language at its most basic level reduces us to a state of civic catatonia: we can’t think about these issues, let alone discuss them or act against them, when they’ve been so obfuscated, when words have been so twisted.”

Thus, the “information age” hatched the “knowledge economy” which multiplied technology profits at every turn. And the first Minister of Education took full advantage of being in on fronting technology and choice as “reforms.”

Co-founder Bennett & The Truth About K-12, Inc.

“K-12’s spread across the U.S. is due in large part to its lobbying prowess and its political connections. Enabling legislation, written by the American Legislation Exchange Council (ALEC), has been introduced in nearly every state. “ALEC, … coordinates a fifty-state strategy for right-wing policy. How Online Learning Companies Bought America’s Schools, The Nation, December 5, 2011″

Ohhhhh…., too bad the D.C. revolving door of Orwellian education reform didn’t hit Mr. Bennett in the rear and knock him out of the circle of influence. The country was making real progress prior to being told we weren’t. ALL our children would have benefited from true education reform. But that isn’t how the story goes…Oh, so much truth to be told!

It is no secret that William Bennett and Lamar Alexander (Chairman of the Federal School Board) are buddies. They brought the Orwellian education agenda to exactly where it is today.

“Jack F. Kemp, William J. Bennett, and Lamar Alexander — All have been waiting in the wings as co-directors of Empower America [now called Freedom Works], the Washington think tank that promotes ‘progressive conservative policies….

After the [Bob Dole] campaign, Empower America plans to continue promoting school choice, and Mr. Alexander is expected to take a lead role.

‘We’re planning on [Mr. Alexander] coming back and being a part of a big school-choice initiative,’ said spokeswoman Nicole Fluet.”

And Alexander landed where he sits today —chairing the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension (HELP) Committee…..Yes, HELP. … Talk about Orwellian. But alas, the plot thickens as the characters multiply.

“We should remember that it was George Bush, Lamar Alexander, Chester Finn, Diane Ravitch, Bill Bennett, the Hudson Institute, and the Committee for Economic Development that got the America 2000 ‘reforms’ rolling. And it was George Shultz in the Reagan Administration who signed the Carnegie-drafted U.S.-Soviet education agreements with Gorbachev. That was in 1985, the same year Carnegie brought Marc Tucker on board.”

“If we are to succeed in radically transforming schools, we must alter attitudes outside the schoolhouse door. …

The system we are about to describe is one interwoven fabric.  Each part is necessary for all the others to function properly.  But if there is a centerpiece, it is, without question, standards and assessment.” Marc Tucker

WHY? Why did we need higher standards, fewer-better tests, outcome-based accountability, (the undefined) flexibility, and “choice”?

Doublespeak? Absolutely. Marc Tucker doesn’t believe in fewer tests (as he now writes). He believes in “national” mastery tests in every subject and certification tests for everything. He believes in a tracking system that creates the perfect workforce-development system all under the guise of education and economic needs.

We were told our businesses asked for these reforms.

Sandia Report, 1993

NO! Employers asked that we improve the work ethic and social skills of our students —back then. Now, we also need to repair the damage done through standardization of curriculum and instruction….Oh, and the damage technology has done.

We asked for one thing; we got another.

Parents didn’t ask for this transformation towards a computerized, standardized, non-personal (but “choice”) education system. There was never any proof that any of it “worked.”

“Trust a billionaire to have the public’s interest at heart [?] …

Put kids in front of computers, increase screen time, increase class size – and call it personalized.” Gayla Green

Now “personalized” has a whole new meaning. And politicizing everyday language continues confusing the public.

But the BOTTOM LINE: This was to increase student achievement, right?

Truth. “Higher” standards don’t matter when it comes to increasing student achievement. As much as the truth is hard to believe, it’s harder to swallow. But after over 18 years of standards, testing, and data collection, the only good that has come out of this is the statistical proof of the truth.

Reading Achievement – States are listed on the bottom. Red represents how “high”/ rigorous the standards. Blue is the outcome for each state.


Reading – Grade 4 or 8, it doesn’t matter. The standards don’t predict the outcome. No direct correlation.

This is the outcome after well over a generation of students in a standards-based education system.

 

Look.

 

 

 

See the Relationship between the Rigor of a State’s Performance Standard and Student Achievement in your state and our nation…..There isn’t one.

 

The statistician/author is a retired NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) expert.

 

Math – same findings. There is no evidence that the standards make the difference.

 

The title of the researchers’ site indicates this is Idaho research (his location) but this is national data, nationally relevant.

Reading or math, 4th or 8th grade, it doesn’t matter. Standards don’t correlate to student achievement. They never deserved the attention NOR THE MONEY we focused on them.

Theory has been proven wrong.

Math 8th grade? The patterns are all over the place because the truth is in the numbers that the education oligarchy wanted collected.

 

So — now given the truth — to continue mandating an irrational political concept is government sponsored educational malpractice.

With the truth proven by the very measures we were forced to use, test scores, our duty to stop the Orwellian education reform movement should be clear.

.

Flipping the words of the new Minister of Education, they spell education tax credits and vouchers. They spell the destruction of our public education system.

And clearer yet is the fact that this has been “their” education revolution and they don’t care about ALL our children. Look at the push for excessive technology in schools. The pushers have no regard for what technology is doing to children, or even their test scores!!!!!….

…The public and lawmakers in my state of Idaho put technology ahead of teachers at a huge cost to taxpayers with an unknown cost to children and families.“[Albertson’s supermarket heir Joseph B.] Scott’s investment company, Alscott Inc., has brought in more than $15 million by selling part of its stake in Virginia-based K12 Inc., which was founded in 1999 by former U.S. Education Secretary William Bennett.

But it isn’t just luck on Scott’s side. His family’s tax-exempt foundation has helped develop customers for K12. And Idaho’s taxpayers have been paying for it.”

….It is a familiar story across our great nation…. Those fooling the nation are calling themselves “philanthropic venture capitalists.” Do you know who they are in your state?Please join the struggle.

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.

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.

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.

If the federal tax credits don’t appear in federal law, LOOK OUT for them to show up in your state! (Update: it went in federal law AND in 18 states.)

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.