Monday, February 27, 2012

U.K.'s version of Duncan in bed with Murdoch, Klein

Brit Ed Sec. Michael Gove 
"I'd expect in the next [few] months we'd be making some acquisitions," Klein told the Financial Times. "There's the willingness to put in significant capital."
The most corrupt and the most powerful media man in the world is Rupert Murdoch. His criminal acts -- bribing cops, spying on innocent victims, tapping phones-- have cause great harm and have threatened his empire which is now under scrutiny both in Britain and in the U.S.

Murdoch's strategy has been to reinvent himself as an education/technology organization. He hired former N.Y. schools chancellor, Joel Klein as his fixer-in-chief, and continues to make millions in new contracts with schools systems worldwide.

At the end of summer 2010, Murdoch formally hired Klein for $2m (£1.3m) a year, plus a $1m signing bonus, to launch what he called a "revolutionary, and profitable, education division". Murdoch bought Wireless Generation, a US educational technology firm, for $360m, and gave it to Klein to run. Murdoch's vision was that he would digitise the world's so far unexploited classrooms. He told investors: "We see a $500bn sector in the US alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed by big breakthroughs." He envisaged some of News Corporation's large library of media content being beamed to pupils' terminals.

The Guardian reports that Britain's education secretary, Michael Gove (the U.K. equivalent to Arne Duncan), a former Times reporter, is now snuggling up to Murdoch and will play a key role in Murdoch's attempt to penetrate (no pun intended) the U.K. education market.

In a speech to the National College for School Leadership, Gove singled Joel Klein out for praise. Klein was a US lawyer then running the New York school system. But Klein was also Murdoch's own favorite US educator. His clashes with the teachers' unions and his enthusiasm for academy-style "charter schools" had caught the tycoon's interest. Murdoch planned to hire Klein himself.
Gove told his British audience on 16 June that US reformers such as Klein were insisting on "more great charter schools … free from government bureaucracy" because they were "amazing engines of social mobility".

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The "Big Enchilada"

"Trying to make a killing in the charter school business"?! Yeah, that's right, the charter school business is so profitable that I'm telling all my friends in the hedge fund business that they're in the wrong business. My message: "If you really want to make a lot of money, start a charter school!" LOL! -- Whitney Tilson
LOL! indeed. In 2007, hedgefunder and charter school maven, Whitney Tilson chided me for implying that there was a profit to be made in the charter school market and that he and his group DFER were pursuing exactly that course, under the banner of school reform. It was Tilson himself, a couple of years later however, who let the cat out of the bag in a New York Times article by Joe Nocera:
Charter schools, explained Whitney Tilson, the founder of T2 Partners and one of their most ardent supporters, are the perfect philanthropy for results-oriented business executives. For one thing, they can change lives permanently, not just help people get by from day to day. For another, he said, “hedge funds are always looking for ways to turn a small amount of capital into a large amount of capital.”
A wealthy hedge fund manager can spend more than $1 million financing a charter school start-up. But once it is up and running, it qualifies for state funding, just like a public school. 
The profitability of school reform, was also pointed to by Jonathan Kozol back in 2007, when he cited a NationsBanc Montgomery Securities prospectus in his column published byHarpers, writing:
“The education industry represents, in our opinion, the final frontier of a number of sectors once under public control that have either voluntarily opened” or “been forced” to open up to private enterprise.
The education industry, the bank concludes, represents the largest market opportunity since health care services were privatized during the 1970s. While college education can offer “attractive investment returns, the larger developing opportunity is in the K-12 EMO [Education Management Organization] market,” it observed. “The K-12 market is the Big Enchilada.”
Tilson would later refer to the ed reform business as a diamond in the rough, a business the market has left for dead, "but a savvy investor could turn for a profit." A big inner-city school system, said Tilson, "is kind of like that — the General Motors of the education world. "

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Even Gates doesn't like shaming teachers in public

N.Y. Times graphic
Publicly shaming teachers in N.Y. and L.A. is too much even for Bill Gates. In a NYT opinion piece, ("Shame is Not the Solution") he continues to defend the use of inaccurate, misleading, and now widely discredited, value-added formulas, as "one important piece" of ranking individual teachers. But the most powerful of the power philanthropists wants these evaluations kept out of the press. He's at least got that right.
Unfortunately, some education advocates in New York, Los Angeles and other cities are claiming that a good personnel system can be based on ranking teachers according to their “value-added rating” — a measurement of their impact on students’ test scores — and publicizing the names and rankings online and in the media. But shaming poorly performing teachers doesn’t fix the problem because it doesn’t give them specific feedback.        
Of course that's not the only problem with value-added.

Gates says he and wife Melinda were "blown away" by the system of evaluation used in Hillsborough County, Florida  public schools where, he says, teachers "receive in-depth feedback from their principal and from a peer evaluator, both of whom have been trained to analyze classroom teaching."

******

Wait! Gates takes a poke at L.A. here. But isn't Deasy his boy? The man from Gates?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Town says, "frack you" to Anschutz


Phillip Anschutz
, bankrolled the anti-public school  propaganda film, Waiting for Superman. Now he's financing another film glorifying the so called, "parent trigger", a law which gives a group of parents the power to fire all their school's teachers and hand it over to a private management company. 20th Century Fox is preparing a September release for “Won’t Back Down” starring Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal. 

Anschutz is a far right-wing, evangelical billionaire who inherited his fortune from his father's oil business. He is also media mogul, publisher of the Weekly Standard, the S.F. Examiner, and owner of L.A.'s Staples Center. He was also the force behind California's anti-gay initiative. 

But his biggest profits come from his energy interests. He's the owner of Anschutz Exploration Corporation, a Colorado driller with 22,200 acres under lease in the town of Dryden, N.Y. where Anschutz intends to do hydrofracking for natural gas, a process that poses a threat to the town's drinking water. 

But in a victory for opponents of fracking, a New York State judge ruled on Tuesday that Dryden can ban natural gas drilling within its boundaries. Responding to a suit by Anschutz, State Supreme Court Justice Phillip R. Rumsey ruled that state law does not preclude a municipality from using its power to regulate land use to ban oil and natural gas production. The ruling is the first in New York to affirm local powers in the controversy over drilling in the Marcellus Shale, a gas deposit under a large area of New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
“The communities targeted for drilling need the power to determine for themselves when, where and if fracking is permitted,” Katherine Nadeau, the water and natural resources program director for Environmental Advocates of New York, said in a statement. She said the ruling would energize “the dozens, if not hundreds, of cities and towns concerned with industrial gas drilling.” -- N.Y. Times





Thursday, February 16, 2012

Koch Bros., Gates back Heartland Inst. attack on science teaching

Leaked documents, from a nonprofit organization in Chicago called the Heartland Institute, outline plans to promote a curriculum that would undermine the teaching of science and in particular, the well-established scientific determination that fossil fuel emissions endanger the long-term welfare of the planet. The papers were published earlier this week on the DeSmogBlog website.

That's not all. The leaks reveal that Heartland, which benefits from its tax-exempt status as a non-political organization, is also involved in anti-union activities as well as defending of right-wing Wisconsin Gov. Walker who is facing a recall election. According to a New York Times report:
The documents raise questions about whether the group has undertaken partisan political activities, a potential violation of federal tax law governing nonprofit groups. For instance, the documents outline “Operation Angry Badger,” a plan to spend $612,000 to influence the outcome of recall elections and related fights this year in Wisconsin over the role of public-sector unions.
Heartland's $1.6 million campaign is being discretely bankrolled by the Koch Bros. and other major companies like Bill Gates' Microsoft.Corp. About $100,000 from an anonymous donor was set aside for an alternate school curriculum painting established climate science as "controversial and uncertain" with the aim of "dissuading teachers from teaching science". The Institute was forced to apologize to the corporate donors whose names were revealed in the leaked documents.

Sorry Bill.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Times editorial reveals legislative power of ALEC

An editorial in Sunday's New York Times exposes the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) founded in 1973 by the right-wing activist Paul Weyrich; its big funders include Exxon Mobil, the Olin and Scaife families and foundations tied to Koch Industries. Many of the largest corporations are represented on its board.

Lawmakers who eagerly do ALEC’s bidding have much to answer for. Voters have a right to know whether the representatives they elect are actually writing the laws, or whether the job has been outsourced to big corporate interests.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The privatization of war parallels education trends

I don't think so
The erosion and selling off of public space isn't limited to public education. This loss of public decision making and government transparency and accountability is the biggest threat to any democratic system of government. The latest news from the Afghan killing fields should do the privatizers proud. This from today's New York Times:
Many American generals and diplomats have private contractors for their personal bodyguards. And along with the risks have come the consequences: More civilian contractors working for American companies than American soldiers died in Afghanistan last year for the first time during the war.
That trend has been growing for the past several years in Afghanistan, and it parallels a similar trend in Iraq, where contractor deaths exceeded military deaths as long ago as 2009, not to mention the thousands of contractors seriously wounded. The biggest contractor in terms of war zone deaths is apparently the defense giant L-3 Communications. If L-3 were a country, it would have the third highest loss of life in Afghanistan as well as in Iraq; only the United States and Britain would exceed it in fatalities.

Monday, February 6, 2012

AUSL's clout-heavy "turnaround" schools among city's worst


Clout-heavy banker David Vitale,  former AUSL board chairman, now runs the Board of Education
Founded and run by Chicago venture capitalist, Martin Koldyke, the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUS) has used its connections and political clout to become a powerhouse in the school turnaround business. Despite its schools ranking at or near the bottom of the system, AUSL has benefited from backing from former mayor Daley, current mayor Rahm Emanuel and Sec. of Ed Arne Duncan. Emanuel even selected a former AUSL top executive to oversee CPS' finances and named AUSL's previous board chairman, David Vitale, as president of CPS' Board of Education.

Koldyke, has donated heavily to political candidates, including $25,000 to Daley's re-election campaign in 2006 and $25,000 to Emanuel's mayoral fund in 2010. In total, Koldyke and AUSL board members have contributed more than $100,000 to various political campaigns since 2003, according to state election records.

Now running 19 schools, six of which are now designated "among the worst in the city", AUSL is now locked in a public battle to add six more. The group has become a force inside CPS, a virtually autonomous "district within the district" supported by millions in public and private funding, diverted away from cash-strapped neighborhood schools, according to a report today in the Chicago Tribune. 

"Yet for all the public attention, AUSL's results have been mixed; many students have made considerable progress, but as a group they still lag well behind district averages ... with many ending up on par or even below comparable neighborhood schools."
According to the Tribune report, all of AUSL's turnarounds remain on academic probation and few if any of AUSL strategies have found their way into other CPS schools.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

K-12 ed market exploding, says Edweek


The flow of venture capital into the K-12 education market has exploded over the past year, reaching its highest transaction values in a decade in 2011, industry observers say. This according to Katie Ash, writing in the Jan. 31st online edition of EdWeek.
"[The common core] is breaking down some of those state-level barriers that made it challenging for folks [to achieve scale]," said Adam J. Newman, a founding and managing partner of Education Growth Advisors, an education business advisory firm in Stamford, Conn. Newman. (His firm's other founding and managing partner, Christopher L. Curran, is a trustee of Editorial Projects in Education, the nonprofit publisher of Education Week.)
Ash's piece offers little in the way of critical analysis of venture capital's surge into public ed. She relies mainly on the usual members of the edu-corporate complex as sources for this piece, including, former Gates ed chief Tom VanderArk who is now a managing partner of Learn-Capital; Kim Smith, the co-founder (with Andrew Rotherham) and chief executive officer of Bellwether Education Partners as well as  the NewSchools Venture Fund; and Robert Lytle, a head of the Boston-based Parthenon Group's Education Center of Excellence, which focuses on for-profit global markets. 

According to Ash, the hottest area for venture capitalists probling the public ed sector is "impact investing." That's where capital doesn't just buy a profitable return on investment, but also reshapes the structure and culture of public education to make it more receptive to their goals. 
"There's a small, emerging niche of 'impact' investors," says Smith, "who typically made their money in the corporate sector and now want to reinvest in a good company that will provide profitable returns, but will also have a positive social impact."
Not surprisingly, this Edweek piece is underwritten by the the biggest "impact investor" of them all, the Gates Foundation. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

ALEC Education "Academy" Launches on Island Resort

Ritz-Carlton in Amelia Island, Florida.
Yesterday, hundreds of state legislators from across the nation gathered at an "island" resort on the coast of Florida for a so-called "education academy" sponsored by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). There were no students or teachers invited to the Ritz resort. Instead, legislators, representatives from right-wing think tanks and for-profit education corporations met behind closed doors, in the words of PR Watch's' Dustin Beilke , "to channel their inner Milton Friedman and promote the radical transformation of the American education system into a private, for-profit enterprise."

You can learn more about ALEC, an extreme right-wing policy group which received funding from the Gates Foundation, at the Center for Media and Democracy's ALEC Exposed website.

Red flag flying at Davos?

Funny -- Occupiers at Camp Igloo have Davos billionaires quoting Marx. Andy Robinson, in The Nation, reports:

CEOs and private-equity fund managers—even some of the seventy Forbes billionaires attending—interrupted their search for distressed assets in the eurozone this year to attend lectures by grim-faced New York University economist and Davos regular Nouriel Roubini or Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz. More than half the 1,200 investors, analysts and traders consulted in a Bloomberg poll published on the eve of the summit agreed that inequality damages economic growth.
“Marx was right; capitalism creates obstacles to its own advancement,” said Roubini. The audience nodded in agreement and then headed off for sessions on new investment opportunities in “frontier markets” like Mongolia and Azerbaijan.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Scott Walker and ALEC plotted attack on AZ unions

Nichols
There's a good piece in the Nation this week by John Nichols, "How Scott Walker and ALEC Plotted the Attack on Arizona's Unions. Nichols writes:

After meeting with former Vice President Dan Quayle, Walker was whisked over to the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, where he briefed a thousand Arizona conservatives on how they could attack “the big-government union bosses.” 
“We need to make big, fundamental, permanent structural changes. It’s why we did what we did in Wisconsin,” declared Walker, who told the annual dinner of the right-wing Goldwater Institute that compromising with unions was “bogus.”

The turnaround business is booming

Reading WSJ's Market Watch, one can only conclude that the turnaround business is booming.

 In L.A. Revolution K12, a rapidly growing web-based adaptive software division of Revolution Prep, has joined with the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools to help sixteen of its middle and high schools improve student outcomes in math and English Language Arts. The Partnership is the first school system to implement Revolution K12's full product line, a $1 million investment over two years. 

In D.C. they're even turning around charter schools that were supposed to replace the "failed" public schools. What's next? I suppose there's even a market for new turnaround companies that can turn-around the turnarounds. You listening, Chris Whittle?

According to a study authorized by Mayor Gray,  more than 40 percent of the city’s 78,000 public students attend publicly funded, privately operated charter schools, the largest concentration in the nation outside of New Orleans. At current rates of growth, a majority of the city’s public enrollment could be in charters within three to four years. Gray contracted with Chicago charter school lobbyists, the Illinois Facilities Fund, to do the study, showing that despite all his anti-Rhee election rhetoric, the mayor is basically a corporate reform guy in the mold of his predecessor, Adrian Fenty.
The Washington Post describes the Chicago group as, "a nonprofit organization based in Chicago" that "will conduct what amounts to a supply-and-demand analysis....  The study’s genesis could make it controversial in a city where public school advocates say that heavy private and corporate support for charter schools threatens to marginalize the 123-school public system."