I’m becoming quite the scholar on the money side of the school reform industry. It’s a defensive move and it’s personal. We have a democratically-run public school district here and I’d like to hang onto it. I have not yet had to ask the ACLU to sue for access to correspondence between my local elected leaders and school reform industry funders, and I intend to keep it that way.
The school reformers and their elected backers like to use the phrase “the civil rights issue of our time.” But the more I read on the money side, the more I think reformers must be attending the publicly-funded private religious schools in the school reform industry “demo state” formerly known as Louisiana because this is unlike any civil rights effort I am familiar with.
Maybe like this?
Never doubt that a small group of hedge fund managers, media moguls and billionaires can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
This civil rights movement comes with products. Here’s Murdoch employee Klein. pushing his school reform industry gadget. Notice the careful placement of President Obama’s signature education reform, Race To The Top, within the sales pitch:
Klein said the educational market was worth about $700 billion total, and outlined a $17 billion K-12 market targeted by Amplify. He said due to upfront costs of developing technology Amplify has invested about $180 million and expected to generate about $100 million in revenue this year—mostly contracts with about 200 school systems around the country. Klein said technology is “saving money,” and that “school systems want this.” He said Amplify’s business was growing at about 22% a year and he expected revenues to catchup and surpass current losses. He hailed the Obama’s administration’s Race to the Top program which offers grants to imaginative state-designed education programs and said that a subscription model was likely to win out in the educational sector.
I’ll give you a moment to collect yourself after that inspiring profit forecast and we can ponder whether Rupert Murdoch and children are a natural fit.
This civil rights uprising is vehemently anti-labor. Here’s reform industry spokesperson Michelle Rhee responding to the fact that parents and teachers are sick to death of the endless (and profitable) standardized tests she promotes. No-excuses Rhee blames teachers unions for this rebellion to her directives. She doesn’t mention that the backlash is biggest in the state of Texas, because that information would tend to contradict her blame-the-unions claim:
The nation’s biggest backlash against standardized testing is taking place in Texas, where most students are required to pass 15 exams to graduate. More than 10,000 people recently rallied in Austin, the state capital, to demand fewer tests and more school funding. And nearly 900 school districts representing more than 90% of Texas public school students have passed a resolution to reduce testing and mandate no fixed role for test scores in teacher evaluations.
This civil rights effort sometimes replaces local career employees with temps:
No longer are TFA corps members only filling spots that would otherwise go to long-term subs. In some districts TFAers are replacing veteran teachers who have been let go. Other districts, like the one I used to teach in, appear to cycle through corps members every two years, with high turnover among TFA teachers who are in turn replaced by a fresh slate of bushy-tailed, ill-trained corps members.
This civil rights movement tries not to engage in messy and sometimes…negative public interaction.The Mayor of Chicago plans to displace tens of thousands of children by closing their neighborhood public schools. The Mayor and CEO of School Reform wasn’t actually on the front lines the day plans came out, but that’s probably because it’s hard to march in support of closing public schools when you’re wearing skis. And in Utah.
I don’t have any problem with “public school reform.” I just think it a load of bullshit to sell “public school reform” when so many of the reformers are actually bent on replacing a universal public school system with a publicly funded, private school system. Those two things are not the same. How do I know public and publicly funded aren’t the same? Because we have a publicly funded private health care system, and it’s a disaster. I’m not supporting trading an existing universal public system for a publicly funded private system, and no, I won’t take an Amplify! tablet or Gates-bucks in exchange. We’ll regret this transaction. I know we will.
I’ll leave you with this great Kevin Drum piece on myths regarding student test scores:
There are a lot of stories you can tell with this data depending on how you cherry-pick it. But the one thing you cannot say, unless you torture the numbers beyond recognition, is that kids today are more poorly educated than kids of the past two generations. Contrary to the tired annual horror stories about how Johnny can’t read, the truth is that at worst, our kids don’t know any less than we do, and at best they may know quite a bit more.