FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Public Schools Under Attack

by

Want names of and motives for public school reformers? Read A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Education by Mercedes K. Schneider (Information Age Publishing, Inc., 2014).

The author has skin in this game. She is a public school teacher against the corporate conquest of community-based public education. Schneider opens with a chapter on Joel Klein, former head of New York City’s Department of Education, now on the payroll of Rupert Murdoch, a billionaire media owner. In an era of growing income inequality, such corporatists and reformers are two sides of the same coin, according to Schneider.

Her evidence for this assertion is compelling. The implications are chilling.

Klein is not a former teacher. On his watch, the Big Apple’s public schools fell prey to reforms that benefit private interests, a trend that runs a red line throughout Schneider’s whistleblowing book.

She follows the pattern of reformers’ high-minded words and profit-driven deeds doggedly. Not trained as an investigative journalist, Schneider shines bright lights on the acquisitive structure of the deception and misrepresentation that is today’s reform of public education.

What accounts for the reformers’ success is not actual facts but copious greenbacks from wealthy interests. Schneider tracks these dollars that buy political influence, with 88 pages of Endnotes.

Call this class war. And according to billionaire investor Warren Buffet, his class is winning. Funding this conflict are venture philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates, Eli and Edythe Broad, and the Walton Family foundation. They fund Democratic and GOP lawmakers, think tanks (Fordham Institute) and advocacy groups (National Council on Teacher Quality), a partial list of recipients.

These three billionaire funders are powerful interests. In a capitalist society, they have the dollars to get what they want and want what they get.

In NYC, Eva Moskowitz, vacuums up cash from Wall Street financiers and taxpayers to expand her privately-operated charter school franchise. School privatizing and financializing of the economy dovetail, while Moskowitz, a former professor, demands and gets government help. Wendy Kopp founded Teach for America, a contract agency that provides teachers with five-weeks of training for a two-year classroom commitment. Like Mr. Klein, Kopp has no classroom teaching experience, but advances her business-brand of school reform, while lapping up tens of millions in greenbacks from taxpayers and the Walton Family Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the owners of union-free Walmart Inc., the global retail giant whose workers rely on public assistance to survive.

Schneider flays economist Erik Hanushek, who supports a reform policy of financial incentives for school principals and teachers to raise pupils’ scores on achievement tests. He assumes such professionals are self-maximizers who measure their labor services on a cost-benefit basis.

Defining “high standards” for students and teachers on the sole basis of scores on students’ achievement tests is the Holy Grail of education reformers such as Michelle Rhee, who Schneider slices and dices for her role in undermining public education, first in Washington, D.C., then nationwide as the head of StudentsFirst, an advocacy group that depends on corporate donors. As a classroom teacher who blogs regularly on education reform issues, Schneider’s moral outrage against private firms’ profit-driven motives to alter public schools is on display in chapters on what took place in Chicago under Paul Vallas, Arne Duncan and Rahm Emanuel. The trio lack teacher credentials and classroom experience. In the biased practice and theory of public school reform, Chicago reformers’ twin deficits become qualifications to disrupt communities with the magic wand of education privatization via standardized tests and charter schools.

Vallas helps to worsen public schools in Philadelphia and New Orleans. Meanwhile, he collects mind-numbing compensation.

David Coleman, architect of the Common Core State Standards, is a non-teacher. His company, Student Achievement Partners, composed and promoted the CCSS in conjunction with the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, Schneider writes. She details this favored pattern of reformers with no classroom teaching experience, their profit motive and, federal government intervention. In Coleman’s case, states that adopt the CCSS receive funding from Race To The Top (successor to the No Child Left Behind Act of high-stakes standardized tests and harsh penalties).

The CCSS is not piloted, or tested. Classroom teachers are uninvolved in pushing the CCSS, and its “evidence” for improving students’ learning is a mirage, unlike the Gates Foundation’s dollars distributed to both political parties, think tanks and the American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association. This is influence-peddling the old-fashioned way: buying it. A lapdog mainstream media has with some exceptions missed this story that Schneider narrates concisely. In her last chapter, she unpacks education reform from the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC is proof of corporate America’s lifeline via elected lawmakers, the opposite of the so-called “free-market.”

Here, I have a minor quibble with Schneider. ALEC self-defines as conservative for “avoiding government regulation of corporate activity so that what is public money might become corporate profits,” she writes.

So-called conservative politics actively shapes government regulation to boost the bottom line. In ALEC’s case, its policy disapproval of the CCSS ended when Rupert Murdoch stood to profit from the national standards’ requirements for assessment and data collection. Follow the money. Watch capital accumulation undermine public education. This is not rocket science, folks. This is the wealthiest Americans conquering our education system to line their pockets. In all, Schneider hits her target of expanding a national discussion on public school reformers. Hers is a fact-based counter-narrative for Americans upset over the corporatist assault on public education.

Seth Sandronsky is a Sacramento journalist and member of the freelancers unit of the Pacific Media Workers Guild.

Seth Sandronsky is a Sacramento journalist and member of the freelancers unit of the Pacific Media Workers Guild. Emailsethsandronsky@gmail.com

More articles by:
June 29, 2016
Diana Johnstone
European Unification Divides Europeans: How Forcing People Together Tears Them Apart
Andrew Smolski
To My Less-Evilism Haters: A Rejoinder to Halle and Chomsky
Jeffrey St. Clair
Noam Chomsky, John Halle and a Confederacy of Lampreys: a Note on Lesser Evil Voting
David Rosen
Birth-Control Wars: Two Centuries of Struggle
Sheldon Richman
Brexit: What Kind of Dependence Now?
Yves Engler
“Canadian” Corporate Capitalism
Lawrence Davidson
Return to the Gilded Age: Paul Ryan’s Deregulated Dystopia
Priti Gulati Cox
All That Glitters is Feardom: Whatever Happens, Don’t Blame Jill Stein
Franklin Lamb
About the Accusation that Syrian and Russian Troops are Looting Palmyra
Binoy Kampmark
Texas, Abortion and the US Supreme Court
Anhvinh Doanvo
Justice Thomas’s Abortion Dissent Tolerates Discrimination
Victor Grossman
Brexit Pro and Con: the View From Germany
Manuel E. Yepe
Brazil: the Southern Giant Will Have to Fight
Rivera Sun
The Nonviolent History of American Independence
Adjoa Agyeiwaa
Is Western Aid Destroying Nigeria’s Future?
Jesse Jackson
What Clinton Should Learn From Brexit
Mel Gurtov
Is Brexit the End of the World?
June 28, 2016
Jonathan Cook
The Neoliberal Prison: Brexit Hysteria and the Liberal Mind
Paul Street
Bernie, Bakken, and Electoral Delusion: Letting Rich Guys Ruin Iowa and the World
Anthony DiMaggio
Fatally Flawed: the Bi-Partisan Travesty of American Health Care Reform
Mike King
The “Free State of Jones” in Trump’s America: Freedom Beyond White Imagination
Antonis Vradis
Stop Shedding Tears for the EU Monster: Brexit, the View From the Peloponnese
Omar Kassem
The End of the Atlantic Project: Slamming the Brakes on the Neoliberal Order
Binoy Kampmark
Brexit and the Neoliberal Revolt Against Jeremy Corbyn
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Alabama Democratic Primary Proves New York Times’ Nate Cohn Wrong about Exit Polling
Ruth Hopkins
Save Bear Butte: Mecca of the Lakota
Celestino Gusmao
Time to End Impunity for Suharto’’s Crimes in Indonesia and Timor-Leste
Thomas Knapp
SCOTUS: Amply Serving Law Enforcement’s Interests versus Society’s
Manuel E. Yepe
Capitalism is the Opposite of Democracy
Winslow Myers
Up Against the Wall
Chris Ernesto
Bernie’s “Political Revolution” = Vote for Clinton and the Neocons
Stephanie Van Hook
The Time for Silence is Over
Ajamu Nangwaya
Toronto’s Bathhouse Raids: Racialized, Queer Solidarity and Police Violence
June 27, 2016
Robin Hahnel
Brexit: Establishment Freak Out
James Bradley
Omar’s Motive
Gregory Wilpert – Michael Hudson
How Western Military Interventions Shaped the Brexit Vote
Leonard Peltier
41 Years Since Jumping Bull (But 500 Years of Trauma)
Rev. William Alberts
Orlando: the Latest Victim of Radicalizing American Imperialism
Patrick Cockburn
Brexiteers Have Much in Common With Arab Spring Protesters
Franklin Lamb
How 100 Syrians, 200 Russians and 11 Dogs Out-Witted ISIS and Saved Palmyra
John Grant
Omar Mateen: The Answers are All Around Us
Dean Baker
In the Wake of Brexit Will the EU Finally Turn Away From Austerity?
Ralph Nader
The IRS and the Self-Minimization of Congressman Jason Chaffetz
Johan Galtung
Goodbye UK, Goodbye Great Britain: What Next?
Martha Pskowski
Detained in Dilley: Deportation and Asylum in Texas
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail