Sunday, April 29, 2012

A plan to blow up the Philadelphia public school system



Philadelphia officials say that the traditional district structure, with a superintendent in charge of all public schools, has been shown not to work and that it is time for a change. Supposing that were true, a plan that entails people bidding for a chance to run an achievement network hardly seems like a way to run a civic institution, as the public school system should be viewed. Schools are not businesses, students aren’t widgets, and test scores aren’t a product. -- Valerie Strauss, Washington Post

Kenneth Cole's anti-teacher billboard

It's all in the family

A billboard advertising Kenneth Cole — the clothing company owned by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s brother-in-law — puns to southbound commuters, ”Shouldn’t Everyone Be Well Red?” In smaller lettering, the billboard says, “Teachers’ Rights Vs. Students’ Rights …”

Kenneth Cole’s three daughters attended private schools.The designer is married to Maria Cuomo, whose brother is Gov. Cuomo. -- State of Education

Time for a boycott? Of course.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Collins -- A Very Pricey Pineapple

"Pearson is just one part of the picture, albeit a part about the size of Mount Rushmore. Its lobbyists include the guy who served as the top White House liaison with Congress on drafting the No Child law. It has its own nonprofit foundation that sends state education commissioners on free trips overseas to contemplate school reform." -- Gail Collins, New York Times

Thursday, April 19, 2012

ALEC calls out for help from right-wing Breitbart bloggers




The right-wing lobbying group ALEC is in retreat mode and we bloggers and tweeters deserve some of the credit.
The American Legislative Exchange Council, the once-obscure organization that pairs corporations with state lawmakers to draft pro-business and often anti-union legislation for the state level, is in damage control mode. Corporate members such as McDonald's, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Mars, Inc. have cut ties with ALEC after taking heat from a coalition of progressive groups angry over ALEC's "discriminatory" voter ID bills and controversial "Stand Your Ground" self-defense legislation that figures into the Trayvon Martin shooting in central Florida. -- Mother Jones
The credit (or blame) for ALEC's tactical retreat goes to the army of progressive social networkers who have put pressure of the groups corporate members, including the Gates Foundation, to quit. And quit they have, especially in the wake of the Trayvon Martin killing. In the past, ALEC has operated behind closed doors, shunning media coverage in order to protect their corporate patrons.

In response to corporations abandoning ship in mass, ALEC Director of External Relations Caitlyn Korb put out a desperate call call for help to all Breitbart Bloggers at a recent Heritage Foundation "Bloggers Briefing."  According to PR Watch, Korb is a new ALEC employee who recently worked for the Cato Institute. Both ALEC and Cato have received funding from Koch family foundations. The Heritage Foundation is an ALEC member.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

This hedge-fund "school reformer" is so rich, he donates to the Koch Bros.

Griffin is the one on the right
Greg Hinz at Crain's, "Follow the money: Citadel's Ken Griffin and the Illinois GOP," reports on the Chicago hedge-fund billionaire who secretly throws millions into Republican political campaigns.

Wait, did I say Republican? There are no Republicans in Chicago so Griffin does the next best thing. He writes six-figure checks made out to the Rahm Emanuel campaign fund.

Writes Hinz:
In a fascinating series of events that just now are coming to light, it appears that every single penny the Illinois Republican Party got in the first quarter from other political groups for non-federal elections came courtesy of Ken Griffin, CEO of Chicago hedge fund Citadel LLC, and his wife, Anne Griffin, one way or another.
As I have pointed out before on these pages, Ken and Anne Griffin are also powerhouse players in corporate-style school reform and will back any politician in either party, who opposes the teachers union or who supports an expansion of privately-run charter schools. 

The Griffins were largely responsible for bringing the Portland-based group, Stand For Children into Illinois to manage the campaign around SB7. 

In the 2012 election cycle, the couple gave over $500,000 to the Republican Governors Association, $300,000 to Rove's American Crossroads, and $150,000 to the Wisconsin Club for Growth. 

Charles Koch named them as part of a list of elite donors who have pledged $1 million to his and brother David's conservative fundraising machine. Yes, the Griffins are so rich, they even donate money to help out the Koch Bros. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Duncan's failed $3 billion SIG, a windfall for consultants but...


Arne Duncan's $3 billion "turnaround" School Improvement Grant has worked well -- for consultants, that is. As for improving schools? Not so well.

Alyson Klein writes in Edweek:
The federal program providing billions of dollars to help states and districts close or remake some of their worst-performing schools remains a work in progress after two years, with more than 1,200 turnaround efforts under way but still no definitive verdict on its effectiveness.
To get their one-time hit of SIG money, schools were forced to fire their principals and at least half of their teachers arbitrarily, in violation of collective-bargaining agreements. Districts were then pushed to turn schools over to private management consultants. The net result -- after nearly a decade of SIG, first, Bush's version under NCLB, and now after 2 years of Duncan's Race To The Top "turnaround" version -- no significant gains in measurable learning outcomes.

According to Klein:
Some schools and districts spent millions of dollars on outside experts and consultants. Others went through the politically ticklish process of replacing teachers and principals, while combating community skepticism and meeting the demands of district and state overseers.
Klein's article spotlights one SIG consulting group, the New York City-based Global Partnership Schools, headed by by Rudy Crew, a former head of the New York City and Miami school systems, and Manuel Rivera, a former superintendent of the Rochester, N.Y., schools. (Crew left the company last fall.) The company operates SIG schools in Baltimore; Bridgeport, Conn.; and Pueblo, Colo.
In Pueblo, for example, where GPS has a $7.4 million contract, student performance slipped further at five of the six schools the company operates, The Denver Post reported. At the GPS-operated school in Baltimore, Garrison Middle School, nearly every indicator of quality has dropped since GPS took over in 2010, The Baltimore Sun found.
So far the SIG has been a godsend to dozens of private consulting and turnaround companies like GPS who have elbowed their way up to the Race To The Top feeding trough. But it's more an indictment of Arne Duncan's failed top-down version of reform.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easy money without govt. regs for ed start-up companies

Congress has passed a bill making it easier for ed start-up companies to raise capital while at the same time, easing government regulation. The Jump-Start Our Business Start-Ups, or JOBS Act  would allow companies to raise up to $1 million,  The bill establishes a new form of company financing called “crowd funding” and allows school entrepreneurs to raise money by selling shares over the internet.
"In K-12, it's a hard place to raise capital, and a lot of the entrepreneurs are raising less than $1 million anyways," said Adam J. Newman, a founding and managing partner of Education Growth Advisors, an education business advisory firm in Stamford, Conn. "It certainly creates a way for more dollars to come in." -- Edweek
Easy money without regulation? No wonder both parties could find common ground on this bill. Pres. Obama is expected to sign it shortly. And how misleading to call this the JOBS ACT!


CPS finally admits to serving kids pink slime

The USDA commodity beef from Don Lee Farms, a major supplier to school districts across the U.S., came through Chartwells, CPS spokeswoman Ziegler said.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Behind the push for online learning

There's a reason Gates and the power philanthropists are pushing online education so hard and it has less to do with teaching and learning as it does with super profits. The Boston Consulting Group reports that the Internet accounted for $684 billion, or 4.7% of all U.S. economic activity in 2010. By way of comparison, the federal government, contributed $625 billion, or 4.3%, to the nation's output.
If it was considered its own separate industry, the Internet would also be larger than America's education, construction or agricultural sectors. -- CNN

BOYCOTTING ALEC

Meet the Three ALEC Supporting Corporate Giants Who Dare You to Boycott Them
As the ALEC boycott continues to grow some corporations are not getting the message. Executives from Pfizer, Reynolds American, and Procter & Gamble are daring you to boycott them. Beneath the good news that Kraft and Pepsi have joined Coca-Cola in deciding to stop supporting ALEC, there are some companies who just don’t get it. According to Reuters, Pfizer, Reynolds American, and Procter & Gamble have all came out in support of ALEC. Tobacco maker Reynolds American said, “ALEC provides a valuable forum for sharing of ideas and fostering better understanding of a broad range of both legislative and business issues.” --Read the rest here.
By: Jason Easley, April 5, 2012
See more posts by Jason Easley

Also see this story in today's L.A. Times: 

Coca-Cola, Kraft leave conservative ALEC after boycott launched

Coca-Cola Co. and Kraft Foods Inc. bowed to consumer pressure this week and cut ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative lobbying group that has recently backed controversial voter ID and so-called “stand your ground” laws.
Brother Fred would boycott ALEC companies if he could, but he first would have to start using their products. 

More on Canada's "war" on unions

Geoffrey Canada's "war " on teachers union with Rhee, Klein, Home Depot, hedge-funders, and Robin Hood Fund, gets a WSJ (Murdoch) pat on the head.
"We are very worried that the teachers unions are really pushing that this time period, the Bloomberg time period, be thought of as over, and now we…get back to business as usual," said Mr. Canada, head of the Harlem Children's Zone, which won fame in the 2010 documentary "Waiting for 'Superman.'"
All the usual suspects are bellying up to the anti-union feeding trough, including DFER's Joe Williams.
"They're going to be running this like a full-time political campaign that doesn't end," said Joe Williams, executive director of Democrats for Education Reform, which works toward similar goals.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Geoffrey Canada declares war on teacher unions

Rhee & Canada lead the war on teacher unions.

“Folks are genuinely looking for opportunities to make peace and not war,” Mr. Canada said. “And I think that’s terrific. But someone has to make war.” -- Geoffrey Canada        
Canada's war declaration comes at the end of a Times story announcing the formation of a well-financed and politically connected alliance aimed at nothing less than smashing teacher unions. The new Officers in the anti-teacher army include (as you might expect) Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee. Klein left his post as NYC schools chancellor to pimp for international criminal and tabloid publishing giant Rupert Murdoch. Rhee is building her own billion-dollar lobbying company, Children First, and advising Tea Party Gov. Rick Scott on his own union-busting initiatives. The new group, called StudentsFirstNY, is an arm of Rhee's lobbying group, Children First. Others include, Micah Lasher, who is leaving his job next week as the director of state legislative affairs for Mayor Bloomberg, Eva Moskowitz, the former councilwoman who now runs a chain of  charter schools, former Mayor Koch; and Canada.

The group's strategy is to pour money in pour money into the upcoming political campaigns of anti-union politicians and particularly the next N.Y. mayoral election. It follows the lead of Gates Foundation-backed Stand For Children who used a similar campaign strategy to elect Illinois pols favorable to the passage of the anti-union Senate Bill 7. Also recall that the same tactic was used in D.C. when corporate reformers and muscle foundations backed Fenty (and Rhee) in a losing mayoral campaign which resulted in Rhee getting the boot. 

******

The war on unions and progressive organizations also uses dirty tricks right out of the Nixon Watergate playbook. This disciple of the late Andrew Breitbart, and staffer for Republican Congressman Thad McCotter of Michigan, thought he was being clever when he tried unsuccessfully to fake it as a union organizer.
For several years, young conservatives have made a cottage industry of going undercover and trying to goad people working at perceived liberal institutions — like Acorn, NPR and Planned Parenthood — into saying something stupid. Trained by well-financed foundations, these dirty tricksters pose as pimps, sex traffickers and Muslim activists and record conversations surreptitiously. Then they release videos that have often been heavily edited.
But all it took was for him to open his mouth for listeners to see he was just another right-wing douchebag. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Edelman: It's all about $$$

Joanne Barkan has this great quote in her excellent piece in Dissent Magazine:
Jonah Edelman, CEO of Stand for Children ($5.2 million from Gates, 2003-2011), sums up the thinking: “We’ve learned the hard way that if you want to have the clout needed to change policies for kids, you have to help politicians get elected. It’s about money, money, money” (Wall Street Journal, November 3, 2010).