Sunday, July 12, 2015

Who Will Run Public Education?

Some older articles I had on the back burner for far too long.  Compiled, they are a good picture of what is happening in our country today.  It's a two-fold problem.

1) Billionaires who decide they (and their foundations know best) and throw money for public education towards their focus and their beliefs.

2) Corporations trying to make money from public education.  Now before anyone takes me to task, I know that companies have been making money from education for decades.  There are a ton of services and products sold to schools.  What I am referencing is making money from the management of public education, from testing to charter schools.

One of the best articles comes from Ruth Conniff at the great Bill Moyers website: As the School Year Ends, the Future of Public Education Is in Jeopardy.   (She mentions teacher activist, Jesse Hagopian.)  Conniff asks a fundamental question:

Where will public schools be in a year?
The real question on Common Core is not whether national educational standards are a socialist plot, as the Republican base seems to think, or whether they 
are doing wonders for kids, as the Democrats claim, with little real evidence. 
The real question is whether public education for all kids, especially poor kids,
 is adequately supported.
New reports show that most states continue to put less money into public schools than they did before the recession, and about half put less money into schools that serve low-income students than schools that serve the wealthy.

“We can point to countless success stories of districts that adopted community schools models or established practices that help meet the needs of the whole child (with wrap-around services, peer tutoring, family-focused resources, etc.) Bourenane adds.

“Many of the schools labeled as ‘failing,’ in fact, can produce evidence of enormously successful programming and gains in student growth, but might not rank highly when standardized test scores are the primary criteria for success of their vulnerable student populations.”

From Hagopian:

Jesse Hagopian articulates a different view:
“The idea that our school system implements standardized testing in the early grades to make students ‘career and college ready’ (in the language of the Common Core standards) is an utter absurdity — especially when you consider that one of the most popular career choices for a 5-year-old is being Spider Man.”

As Slekar puts it: “We are not an anti-testing movement, we are a revolutionary movement against the corporate takeover of education.”

What's coming?

In 2016, one of the biggest national political questions in the Presidential election will be what to do about public schools?

Will the rightwing assault on education succeeed, based on decades of propaganda funded by the Bradley foundation to spread the message that “public schools have failed”?

Or will Democrats and Republicans alike take a stand for public education?

This article from The Investigative Fund from back in September 2014 -  Are Venture Capitalists Poised to 'Disrupt' Education?- is a great overview. 

More than thirty years later, (Michael) Moe wrote, healthcare companies are among the largest in the world, and represent more than 16 percent of US capital markets. "We see the education industry today as the healthcare industry of 30 years ago," Moe predicted.

Unlike in healthcare, energy and other areas of the economy that have moved from public to private hands, K-through-12 education has stubbornly remained largely out of the control of investors.

Next year, the market size of K-12 education is projected to be $788.7 billion. And currently, much of that money is spent in the public sector. "It's really the last honeypot for Wall Street," says Donald Cohen, the executive director of In the Public Interest, a think tank that tracks the privatization of roads, prisons, schools and other parts of the economy.

The explosion of investor interest in education raises a number of questions, among them: What kind of influence will the for-profit education sector attempt to exert over education policy? And if school reform is crafted to maximize the potential for investor profit, will students benefit, as boosters claim — or will they suffer?

There's also the question of the effect of privatization on costs. And there, the healthcare example gives reason for concern. 

Another great article comes from the International Business Times, Senate Passes Bill Letting Schools Give Education Money To Financial Consulting Firms.  Because we all know - just from SPS - that a lot of money is flowing out of the district to various consultants.

"...the Windy City took a big hit: The school system has lost more than $100 million on the transactions and has paid millions in fees to its financial consultants.

School districts across the country have been increasingly relying on high-priced consultants and Wall Street firms for financial and management advice. While proponents say many of the ensuing consultant-driven initiatives have resulted in cost savings, critics note that other initiatives have resulted in investment losses, layoffs and school closures. What is clear is that school districts’ reliance on outside advisers has created business opportunities for the financial industry. 

And now, thanks to an amendment to federal education legislation moving through Congress, that lucrative market for financial and consulting could become even more flush with cash -- specifically, with federal money meant for impoverished school districts. 

The legislation was tucked into the Senate version of a massive K-12 education funding bill currently up for congressional reauthorization. The amendment from Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, would allow local officials to divert money from the federal government’s multibillion-dollar fund for low-income school districts and use the cash to hire financial consulting firms, according to a press release from Cornyn's office. Both lawmakers are among the U.S. Senate’s top 10 recipients of campaign money from the financial industry, and Warner is a former venture capital executive.

“Outside consultants rarely have their clients’ best interests at heart,” said Jeannie Kaplan, a former school board member in Denver, where outside consultants helped oversee an interest-rate swap deal that ended up costing the school system more than $177 million. “Their usual driving force is the bottom line. Let’s not forget that every dollar going to outside consultants is a dollar out of the classroom."

It is high time for parents and communities to take back their schools and their districts.  


Anonymous said...

In the last presidential election the choice was Obama with Arne Duncan or Romney.
I voted for Romney. I hope to have much better choices this time but doubt I will.

Given the amount of money poured into these elections by the time the Democratic nominee and Republican nominee arrive, the big money has already won. Same as always.

Who will run public education? Big Money.

-- Dan Dempsey

Anonymous said...

Here is a nice piece contrasting Hilary and Bernie in terms of likely education action.

-- Dan Dempsey

Josh Hayes said...

Big money education "reform" wants to host presidential candidate "forums" about education, as The New York Times reports. They are sponsored by a pro-charter school "organization". (I'm using a lot of quotation marks because there's a certain Alice in Wonderland quality to words as used by those in the corporate eduspeak establishment.)

n said...

I'd like to know your rationale for voting Romney, Dan. I voted Green knowing WA State would go democratic because I wanted to increase the numbers for an alternative hoping the democrats might feel a little pain. But too few of us do that.

So please tell me why Romney over Obama? I was quite afraid of Romney. Not judging here. I'd really like to know your perspective.

Anonymous said...


my Romney vote was strictly anti-Duncan.

-- Dan Dempsey

Anonymous said...

Hey Josh your =>
"Big money education "reform" wants to host presidential candidate "forums" about education, " Reminds me of my futile run for Seattle School Board.

It was just after Maria Goodloe Johnson, Broad Academy graduate, came to town as Superintendent. I was denied the opportunity to participate in a debate because I had not raised enough money. The debate was hosted by a 501c3 organization and it could not legally deny me the right to participate but "so what" I was denied the right to participate.

So West Seattle got Steve Sunquist booster of Corporate Philanthropy, who faced off against Maria Ramirez. That was 2007 when the gang of four spent $480,000 to get elected.

Go Bernie.

-- Dan Dempsey

Anonymous said...

" The real question is whether public education for all kids, especially poor kids, is adequately supported."

Well likely NO for poor kids.

Does Money Matter After All? by Eric A. Hanushek

There is in fact great demand for results linking funding with favorable outcomes. Knowing that a strong relationship existed would mean that policy makers outside of the schools – legislatures, governors, and courts – only have to concern themselves with how much money was provided to schools and not with how money was used.

Kirabo Jackson, Rucker C. Johnson, and Claudia Persico offer a new study suggesting that a clear money-performance relationship exists if you just look in the right place. Their overarching conclusion is that “methods matter.”

We really cannot get around the necessity of focusing on how money is spent on schools.

My take away is this. Blowing big dollars on consultants, on an inordinate amount of testing (which saps instructional time as well as dollars), on buying instructional materials that are unproven, on adopting new standards (Common Core) that have been shown to produce little if any improvement along with corresponding materials will not produce improvement. Nor will increased expenditures on technology be beneficial.

Check out DISTAR Corrective Reading and DISTAR Math for programs known to work for poor children and struggling learners.
Look at current WA State graduation requirements. A one size fits all agenda with insufficient support for struggling learners.

When writing "adequately supported" it is not just money but programs and materials supported by the intelligent application of relevant data. So far the Corporate Ed Reform movement usual pushes junk.

-- Dan Dempsey

Elizabeth Harris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Maybe Scott Walker will run public education...

-- Dan Dempsey

Maureen said...

I Keep reading this title as "Who will RUIN Public Education." :(

Anonymous said...

Dan, why carp for years on end about DISTAR? That was more than 40 years ago. There are reasons it never caught on. Yes, Seattle public schools has applied DISTAR (now called Reading Mastery) and it sucks. You wouldn't want your kid in it. And neither would I. My kid WAS in it. And I have taught it. We don't need more scripted phonics education. This type of education is really the formative Ed-Reform baloney. The problems students have aren't because they don't learn phonics - it's because they don't learn thinking. Students need to learn critical thinking, or any thinking - and Distar doesn't teach that. Nothing by Englemann really does. Scripted trivia - pounded to meaninglessness. Conscription. Conformity. Submission. Perfect for TFA. Reading Mastery is a fine for phonics but doesn't address the root problems for poor and struggling readers, and students. And, the math is even worse. An impoverished curriculum is not what somebody who is already impoverished needs. They need skills AND literacy. Not just meaningless skills, perfected only at the very lowest levels.