You are on page 1of 8

Lies, Laws, Copyrights and Manipulations: A Year In The Life Of Corporate Reform By Terri Michal Corporate education reform

isn’t about the color of your skin. It isn’t Republican red, and it’s not Democrat blue. The only color this reform represents is GREEN. It’s all about the money. The educational system in its entirety is a money-making opportunity that many powerful corporations want to capitalize upon. It is ripe for opportunistic exploitation from seasoned businessmen such as Bill Gates and Alabama’s own Jay Love. You remember--the Representative who quit mid-term to become chairman of the Business Education Alliance (an organization whose main purpose is to secure a place for private charters here in Alabama) , after pushing through the Accountability Act under very questionable circumstances. We, the general public, can only blame ourselves for making it such an attractive target. Through our ambivalence and our unwillingness to think for ourselves, we have unwittingly laid our teachers out on a big, shiny, silver platter, with nice, juicy red apples in their mouths and rung the dinner bell for the reformers to “Come and get it!”. And that they have. None quite as boisterously as News Corp Chairman Rupert Murdoch, who in 2010 had this to say about his $360 million dollar buyout of Wireless Generation: “When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed by big breakthroughs that extend the reach of great teaching.” Wireless Generation was the leader in tech-based learning. At the time of the buyout, Gothamschools.org stated that “The Company is likely to make a bid to build the technological pieces of the national tests that will be tied to the “common core” standards.” On Nov. 29th, 2012. Education Week ran an article entitled “Wireless Generation Wins Contract For Common Assessments.” It was just a blip on the radar screen, barely noticed by those outside the education arena. With few exceptions, the general public no longer explores and investigates. No longer do we question. We have become too apathetic, too trusting and too willing to give up responsibility and control. The corporate reformers see that, and they’ve used our ignorance and apathy to tell us that things we know to be true are false. They have paid our legislators, the Red and the Blue, the black and the white, to tell us wrong is right. We are like frogs placed in a pot of cool water and the fire has been turned up unnoticed, we are sitting still while our public schools slowly die, we are oblivious. Our country’s public education system is being hijacked right before our eyes. As evidence, I offer the following significant events from the public school reform movement from 2010.

The National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers were busy putting the final touches on their copyright for the common core standards, as is evident on their website www.corestandards.org : “Any publication or public display shall include the following notice: “© Copyright 2010. National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and

Council of Chief State School Officers. All rights reserved.” In other words, not one word of common core can be changed. Each state begins with the exact same standards. It is true, however, that a state can add less than 15% content. It’s odd that a piece of legislation holds a copyright. Our legislators accepted a document created by private businesses and did not alter a word of it. They accepted it, stamped it with their approval and bribed states to sign up with Race To The Top grant money. It’s believed to be the first time this has ever happened in the history of our country, but it didn’t even get a brief mention on the 10 o’clock news. It must not have been very important, or else we would have been told, right? Oh, and one more thing. The part about the standards being state led?- “The "nonprofit" Student Achievement Partners, founded by CCSS architect David Coleman, benefits handsomely via Gates. All Student Achievement Partners does is CCSS, and for that, in June 2012, Gates granted Coleman's company $6.5 million. In total, the four organizations primarily responsible for CCSS--NGA, CCSSO, Achieve, and Student Achievement Partners--have taken $147.9 million from Bill Gates. Common Core Gates Standards.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mercedesschneider/a-brief-audit-of-bill-gat_b_3837421.html If that weren’t enough, here is what David Coleman had to say about CC’s humble beginnings: “When I was involved in convincing governors and others around this country to adopt these standards, it was not “Obama likes them”; do you think that would have gone well with a Republican crowd?” He shopped the CC to the states, and he purposefully stayed non-partisan. You can find that clip at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76HryWYsDNc&list=PL9910x9Yk1pmlrmvbDXnNIWQ1ghqs w7Qu But, oh well--so they lied about that. I’m sure that’s all they lied about, right? The Broad Foundation - www.broadeducation.org Eli Broad was fairly busy with his art museum in LA in 2010, but I’m sure he paused long enough to find out that his “Parent Trigger” scam had been uncovered. You can read about it in the Broad Report. http://thebroadreport.blogspot.com/2010/02/connections-between-eli-broad-parent.html Surprise! This was not a grassroots organization of parents frustrated with their public schools, it was a well thought out plan by an organization called Parent Revolution. It was funded by corporations and individuals who stand to make a lot of money from closing public schools and opening charters, like Eli Broad. More lies by reformers, oh well, who’s counting?? Also in 2010 his Broad Academy was busy training 14 new recruits to be our next Superintendents. (The Broad Academy is a non-certified program that takes individuals, many that have never worked in education, and trains them in just six sessions to be education leaders in our urban communities. See more at: http://www.broadcenter.org/academy ) Broad “educated” superintendents were present in 48% of large urban communities in 2011. One wellknown graduate of the class of 2010 is Superintendent of Louisiana Schools, John White, who signed up all the students in the state (after receiving millions of dollars in grant money from the Gates Foundation) to share information with InBloom, the data collection company owned by Bill Gates and Wireless Generation. (Hmm….where have we heard that name?) We shouldn’t overlook Alabama’s own Dr. Casey Wardynski, Superintendent of Huntsville City Schools; he

also graduated from the non-accredited academy in 2010. Still we wander along--ignorance is bliss, and we seem to be more than willing to pay the price for it. Let’s look at some other Broad “graduates”: Jean-Claude Brizard (class of 2007) was CEO of Chicago Public Schools from 2011-2012. Brizard previously served in Rochester, New York. His tenure there was mired in controversy. Shael Polakow-Suransky (class of 2008) is the Chief Academic Officer and Senior Deputy Chancellor in New York City Public Schools. Joel Klein (at one time on the Broad Foundation’s Board of Directors) was the former Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education and now is a Vice President of Rupert Murdoch’s New Corps. Education Division which includes--you guessed it--Wireless Generation. John Deasy (class of 2006) is the superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District. That’s the school district that was fooled by Broad and his ‘Parent Trigger’ lies (or was it?). Eli Broad was a major contributor to Students First, which was founded in 2010 by former Washington D.C. Chancellor, Michelle Rhee. Rhee also serves on the Broad Foundation’s Board of Directors along with Wendy Kopp of Teach for America. (http://sumtereducationtaskforce.wordpress.com/2012/12/07/teacher-morale-related-toleadership-of-graduates/ ) The Gates Foundation.- www.gatesfoundation.org - In a speech Bill Gates gave in 2010 to the Council of Chief State School Officers (see foundation website) he gives Alabama a good old fashioned shout out! “I especially want to recognize your work in establishing Common Core State Standards. Let me extend special congratulations to Alabama, which just became the fortyfirst state to adopt the Common Core. The Common Core builds a foundation for defining and measuring excellence – and that will give traction to many reforms that follow.” The only thing missing was a ROLL TIDE! Later in his speech, when referring to teachers he states: “The pay increases that teachers get for years of service account for 10 percent of total school expenditures. On a budget of $500 billion, that means $50 billion is paid out every year for something that has little correlation with student achievement.” <It’s too bad you can’t find your data on the value of teacher retention and stability in the classroom, oh well, just ignore it, it’s not important> Later he states: “A Master’s degree has almost no impact on achievement. <of course it doesn’t--neither does teacher certification apparently, as you will see in the TFA paragraph below.> Nevertheless, my own state of Washington has an average salary bump of nearly $11,000 for a Master’s degree” <so a Master’s degree is worth nothing, but a Teach For America non-certified ‘teacher’ that may or may not have a teaching degree can be worth $50,000 PLUS?!> Remember Gate’s company, InBloom, we mentioned earlier? It seems federal legislation was amended in 2008 and 2011 to accommodate InBloom in the data collection that is required by Common Core. According to Sheila Kaplan of Education New York, “FERPA gave third parties, including private companies, increased access to student data. It is significant that in 2008, the amendments to FERPA expanded the definitions of “school officials” who have access to student data to include "contractors, consultants, volunteers, and other parties to whom an educational agency or institution has out sourced institutional services or functions it would otherwise use employees to perform.” This change has the effect of increasing the market for student data. CCSSO initiated the creation of a $100 million database with funds from the Gates Foundation to track public school students ‘information and academic records from kindergarten

through high school. This is called the Shared Learning Infrastructure, and it is now being run by an organization called inBloom, specifically created to operate the system.” http://educationnewyork.com/files/FERPA-ccsss.pdf Lies, copyrights and amendments, OH WELL!! Nothing to see here folks….keep on moving. Teach For America - www.teachforamerica.org -Wendy Kopp, Founder. In 2010, they fielded their largest year yet with 4,500 new teachers. In a report put out that same year from the Education and the Public Interest Center along with the Education Policy Research Unit, the TFA program was cited for its shortcomings. “The evidence suggests that districts may benefit from using TFA personnel to fill teacher shortages when the available labor pool consists of temporary or substitute teachers or other novice alternatively and provisionally certified teachers likely to leave in a few years. Nevertheless, if educational leaders plan to use TFA teachers as a solution to the problem of shortages, they should be prepared for constant attrition and the associated costs of ongoing recruitment and training. A district whose primary goal is to improve achievement should explore and fund other educational reform that may have more promise such as universal preschool, mentoring programs pairing novice and expert teachers, elimination of tracking, and reduction in early grade class size.” (http://nepc.colorado.edu/files/PBTeachAmerica-Heilig.pdf) TFA workers do not necessarily have an education degree. As a matter of fact, teaching standards have been lowered to accommodate the TFA programs. Congress amended NCLB in 2010 to state: “the term 'highly qualified teacher' in NCLB includes a teacher who meets the requirements of [the Department of Education regulation]. Section 163 thus provides that an alternative-route teacher who merely 'demonstrates satisfactory progress toward full certification' is 'highly qualified' within the meaning of NCLB”. Also note, Teach for America is NOT free. Cleveland, OH received a 2 million dollar grant in 2011 to cover the 30-40 TFA teachers it wanted. That didn’t count salary. That’s 2 million plus some, for less than 40 teachers who may not have a teaching degree, or certification when they could get teachers that are better prepared and certified FOR FREE! http://blog.cleveland.com/metro/2011/12/teach_for_america_coming_to_oh.html School systems pay $5,000 a year on training for EACH TFA worker they employ. You have to ask yourself, would these oh-so-smart reformers hire someone with a four year degree on a two year contract, and then pay $5,000 a year to train them? I highly doubt it (silly me, there I go again applying common sense to this argument!) The Chicago Sun Times reports: “In a Los Angeles Times article published Saturday, reporter Howard Blume notes the high correlation between the number of TFA hires in states such as California, Alabama, North Carolina, and Louisiana, and the dominance of efforts to embrace charter school expansion, limiting the protections on veteran teachers and teachers' unions. In Chicago—where the school board recently voted to shutter 49 of the city's public schools eliminating jobs for over a thousand teachers—the Board of Education voted to increase its payment to TFA from $600,000 to nearly $1.6 million, and to add up to 325 new TFA recruits to Chicago Public School classrooms, in addition to 270 second year “teacher interns,” (https://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/08/05-6) Something is rotten in the state of Denmark--and Illinois and Alabama for that matter. (Forgive me, Shakespeare!) Here’s another multimillion dollar question: WHY is this program targeting the poor and minority communities only? The corporate reformers would have you believe it’s because of a teacher shortage. Superintendent Wardynski, the Huntsville City Schools Broad Graduate we

mentioned earlier, must have forgotten the party line this past August. Here’s what the Las Vegas Sun reported: “One example is Huntsville, Ala., where the school district last year hired 30 instructors from Teach for America and has committed to at least 30 more this year, Superintendent Casey Wardynski said.that this was not because of a lack of available teachers: The district had 19,000 applicants this year for 200 openings. Wardynski said he chose the Teach for America instructors over other qualified candidates to use as “special forces” capable of turning a school’s dysfunctional culture around.” (Don’t think about that sentence too hard, because in actuality it doesn’t mean anything. What I’m sure he meant to say was that they prefer the TFAs because they have been trained to teach to the test, they are cheaper than life long educators and they will be gone after a couple of years so there’s much less concern about ‘static’ those dreaded tenured educators cause.) http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2013/aug/14/teach-america-criticized-nationally-overpolitical/ Oh, what tangled webs we weave when we know the taxpayers won’t believe. Yes, that’s right; this is a conspiracy theory. The Walton Foundation - http://www.waltonfamilyfoundation.org/ - Their mission (according to their website): “The Walton Family Foundation is committed to improving K-12 education in the United States at every level – in traditional public schools, charter public schools and private schools. Our core strategy is to infuse competitive pressure into America’s K-12 education system by increasing the quantity and quality of school choices available to parents, especially in low-income communities.” What does their funding in 2010 show us? $52,487,447 to shape public policy. $63,846,907 to create quality schools (although the biggest grant in this category was $12,000,000 to Charter Fund, Inc.). $38,810,815 to improve existing schools (although almost $17,000,000 went to Teach For America). Finally, $2,075,114 on research and evaluation. Funds given to the Black Alliance for Educational Options went from a little over $675,000 in 2010 to $1,114,200 in 2012. The Chicago Teachers Union had this to say about the Walton’s role in the recent school closings: “The way the Walton family has interfered in Chicago, working to shutter public schools while simultaneously opening unproven, under-regulated alternatives, makes it clear that their primary interest is not better education for kids, but rather undermining public schools in order to promote an alternative, private-style school system. It’s even worse that they are interfering in a community they are not part of, where they can use their wealth to push their beliefs on other people’s children, avoid any of the impact or risks, and escape accountability. Corporate reformers insist that students and teachers have to be accountable, but apparently will give a pass to the nation’s wealthiest family.” Gary Cohn of the Frying Pan News echoes those sentiments: “But the Walton Family Foundation is by far Parent Revolution’s largest benefactor, contributing 43 percent of the $14.9 million total.” “Why is all this money coming in?” asks John Rogers, director of UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education and Access, who has studied the parent-trigger movement. “It doesn’t seem to be about educational improvements . . . It seems to be about creating greater pressure to challenge teachers’ unions rather than an authentic way to improve education opportunities.” The parenttrigger law diminishes the influence of teachers’ unions and it allows public schools to be turned into nonunion charters.” http://fryingpannews.org/2013/04/02/public-schools-private-agendas-

parent-revolution/ There’s that name again--Parent Revolution, the ‘parent trigger’ people. In the real world it’s pretty easy to see that the Walton’s intentions are to privatize our public schools. Many of us, however, believe in the world that the media portrays, because we don’t want to take the time to do our own homework. Black Alliance for Educational Options – www.baeo.org – Here is an Oct. 2010 headline from PRWeb.com: “Leader of Black Alliance Blasts President Obama on School Choice in Full Page New York Times Ad. Kevin P. Chavous, Chairman of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, today released an open letter to President Barack Obama in a full page ad in The New York Times, calling on the president to “throw off the shackles of the educational establishment” and extend real opportunities to low-income children." He also launched his "Revolution in Education" campaign” The BAEO was upset because Pres. Obama spoke against publicly funded school vouchers. In particular they were asking him to support full reauthorization of the (first ever federally funded) D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. In June of 2010 a study done by the US State Dept. of Education’s National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/pubs/20104018/) found that “No conclusive evidence that the OSP affected student achievement overall, or for the high-priority group of students who applied from "schools in need of improvement." <A voucher program that didn’t work? That can’t be true, I didn’t see it on TV!> It was reauthorized under the SOAR Act of 2011. <Throwing good money after bad, but hey, if the lobbyists, I mean ‘experts’ say it’ll work than who are we, as mere taxpayers, to question that? Lobbyists know best! > Now, let’s look at the BAEO itself. This is their Mission Statement: “The mission of the Black Alliance for Educational Options is to increase access to high quality education options for Black children by actively supporting transformational education reform initiatives and parental choice policies that empower low-income and working-class Black families.” They are heavily funded by the Walton Foundation, The Bradley Foundation, and other corporations which have proven they are more interested in their bottom line than in education. They’ve received at least 4 million dollars in grant money from the Gates Foundation for the Small Schools Initiative that proved to be a big disappointment. The NAACP, the Southern Poverty Law Center and UCLA’s Civil Rights Project have all spoken out against charter schools. The Civil Rights Project states: “The charter effort, which has largely ignored the segregation issue, has been justified by claims about superior educational performance, which simply are not sustained by the research. Though there are some remarkable and diverse charter schools, most are neither. The lessons of what is needed to make choice work have usually been ignored in charter school policy.” http://civilrightsproject.ucla.edu/research/k-12-education/integration-anddiversity/choice-without-equity-2009-report The important thing about these nonprofits is not that they FIX anything, but they give the appearance that they have, or that they could. Perception is what matters to them and they create it by spending millions of dollars on PR, manipulating data and hiding behind words like ‘choice,’ ‘accountability,” and “civil rights.” StudentsFirst - www.studentsfirst.org - Eli Broad gave Michelle Rhee $500,000 to get this venture off the ground in 2010. You may also find it interesting that David Coleman, the common core architect, is her treasurer. She sums the year up on her StudentsFirst website: “…in 2010 President Obama and Arne Duncan brought competition back to the way states are funded in education through the Race to the Top initiative. To be eligible to receive a piece of the $4

billion pie, states had to move quickly to implement aggressive reforms such as pay for performance systems, better professional development programs for teachers, and the use of real data about students’ skills to drive instruction and decision making.” She goes on to say “2010 saw education become the top priority among voters in D.C. and a higher priority for everyone. With the help of reformers, filmmakers, media organizations are beginning to tackle the tough issues, and, most important, educators and students determined to make our schools excellent, 2010 was a turning point in K-12 education in this country.” Here are some questions that beg for answers – Why did they have to move quickly to implement aggressive reforms? That sounds like the exact kind of thing you SHOULDN’T move quickly on, but, hey, there we go again using common sense. Do “pay for performance systems” work when partnered with high stakes evaluations that have no oversight from independent parties? How “real” is the data about the students skills when, once again, you are in a high stakes environment with little to no oversight? I think that Ms. Rhee is absolutely right when talking about education becoming a top priority to DC voters in 2010. They fired her and her boss, Mayor Fenty, and rejected their education policies. In this movement towards charter schools, Rhee tries her best to convince the general public that giving the students who are left behind in failing public schools fewer resources, under qualified teachers, and a barrage of high stakes testing will improve their education. Oh wait! It’s all in the carefully phrased wording! In StudentsFirst mission statement the word public is only mentioned once, and it isn’t after the word “school.” “We're working with parents, teachers, administrators, and citizens across the country to ensure great teachers, access to great schools, and effective use of public dollars.” It’s pretty obvious Rhee does not care about public education. Too bad for all the students that are left behind, an equal and high quality education applies to everyone but them! This is not choice; it is chance. It should be noted that the BAEO sponsored Rhee’s town hall event in Birmingham on Sept. 12th. What a perfect pair those two organizations make! For a complete look at Michelle Rhee and her influence in Alabama politics please read this article: http://blog.al.com/school-journal/2013/02/scandalridden_education_refor.html So as you can see from this timeline, reformers were quite busy in 2010. If you were like most of us, you had no idea, and that’s exactly the way it was supposed to be. The media covered very little of this and anyone who attempted to bring this information to the forefront was labeled as ‘difficult,” “disgruntled,” a person who “didn’t like change” and/or a “conspiracy theorist.” Since corporate education reform did not trigger a red flag warning of political partisanship it continued to weave its complicated web of nonprofits, lobbyists and incestuous corporate relationships until it was ready to pounce. Just like the Portia spider that displays more brainpower than was ever thought possible in an insect, collectively the reformers employ their own unique and vast arsenal of dastardly impersonations to trick, ensnare and consume their prey. Actually, the reformers may be even more diabolical than the Portia spider, for they do not actually have to consume their prey, they manage to turn the prey against one another: parents against teachers, admins against teachers, principals against superintendents, right against right, left against left and I think saddest of all, civil rights activist against civil rights activist. http://www.al.com/opinion/index.ssf/2013/08/alabama_accountability_acts_pa.html These corporate reformers recognize our power, so why can’t we? “The danger here is that you have two kinds of problems going on,” said Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust, a nonprofit group that works to close achievement gaps. “One is a Tea Party problem, which doesn’t have deep roots but does have lots of political muscle behind it, and then you’ve got a bit

of antitest rebellion coming from the left. The question is what’s going to happen if they both get together. That’s the more terrifying prospect.” All of these politicians, lobbyists and ‘nonprofits’ should take a long look in the mirror and see themselves for what they truly are,--puppets for the 1%. Not only are they mere mouthpieces doing the dirty work of billionaires, but they are damaging our children and our country. They are putting their egos and their greed before all other things and the only thing that can stop them is YOU.

We absolutely need to ensure that our education system reverts back to being a democratic, locally governed, process--for the people and by the people. We must return it to its roots to ensure that the best interests of our children are being served. We must bring our educators back to the table and begin working with them instead of against them. We must be willing to do the work, to make a personal investment in our schools. Through lies, laws, copyrights, and manipulations the reformers had a banner year in 2010. Where were you? Better yet, where are you NOW? No longer can you say “I didn’t know.” What can we do? We can say no on Election Day to school reformers like Charlotte Meadows. We can eradicate corporate trained superintendents from our schools. We must do OUR homework and find out where politicians truly stand on educational issues, and we must march. We can attend events and hold signs for those teachers who cannot. We can join organizations like the national Badass Teacher Association on Facebook or the Badass Parent Association. Raise your voice for those students and teachers who cannot. We must educate the public to save our public education. We must advocate for our public schools NOW! “This will be the best security for maintaining our liberties. A nation of well-informed men who have been taught to know and prize the rights which God has given them cannot be enslaved. It is in the religion of ignorance that tyranny begins.” - Ben Franklin Terri Michal is an activist, founder of SOS – Support Our Students and an administrator for both the national BATA (Badass Teacher Association) and the Alabama BATs. She has called Alabama her home for over 27 years. She has four children and lives in Huntsville. If you would like more information on how you can get involved please contact her at somewhere_itn@hotmail.com