Get sick, get well
Hang around a ink well
Ring bell, hard to tell
If anything is goin' to sell
-- Bob Dylan

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Booz Allen Hamilton helped set Chicago on its path to corporate school 'reform'

If anyone doubts the power of an individual taking the high moral ground when confronting injustice, look no further than Edward Snowden.

Snowden, by all accounts an ordinary guy working for the powerhouse consulting group Booz Allen Hamilton, reached the point where he could no longer accept his role and the role of this giant corporate entity and his own government in violating the rights of his fellow citizens. At the risk of  his career and his freedom, Snowden turned working-class hero like Pfc. Bradley Manning did before him, and leaked details of the National Security Agency's secret PRISM data-mining program to the Guardian, (see this morning's great interview with Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald), helping to expose the administration's secretive and duplicitous role in depriving all of its citizens of their basis rights.


But with all the talk and debate about Snowden, I couldn't help but think back to the days in the early '90s, when the same Booz Allen Hamilton firm was brought in by the Civic Committee and the big ed foundations to help "re-engineer" Chicago Public Schools. They did a lot of the early financial analysis that led to the reorganization of the CPS central office.

Obama's Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper,  is a former Booz Allen exec.
At the time, Chicago was becoming a laboratory for corporate-style school reform, including mayoral control of the schools. There was lots of debate about where the power should lie to make decisions about the construct and conduct of public schools. Many of us favored the downsizing of the bloated and dysfunctional  public school bureaucracy, including the passage of the 1988 School Reform Act which decentralized the system and created the popularly-elected Local School Councils.

But to the corporate reformers, the financial crisis and organizational mess that was CPS, wasn't a disaster --it was an opportunity. That first wave of school reform was soon taken over by the corporate reformers and privatizers. Booz Allen Hamilton was one of the major consulting groups that helped design and engineer corporate-style reform and set Chicago Public Schools on its current path.

The company had cut its teeth on privatization work in the former Soviet Union. It would grow globally, reaping enormous profits while taking advantage of the trend towards privatization and government subcontracting (which we described in our book, Small Schools: Public School Reform Meets the Ownership Society).

Soon they would become to national security what Halliburton and Blackwater were to the war in Iraq.

As the New York Times reports:
Booz Allen Hamilton has become one of the largest and most profitable corporations in the United States almost exclusively by serving a single client: the government of the United States...Thousands of people formerly employed by the government, and still approved to deal with classified information, now do essentially the same work for private companies.
As evidence of the company’s close relationship with government, the Obama administration’s chief intelligence official, James R. Clapper Jr., is a former Booz Allen executive. The official who held that post in the Bush administration, John M. McConnell, now works for Booz Allen.
Booz Allen Hamilton is now in many ways more powerful that the governments with which it contracts. The company is now majority owned by the Carlyle Group, a giant US-based investment fund with $176 billion in assets. Edward Snowden revealed that at Booz Allen, he had the authority to spy on any U.S. citizen, including the President.

But it's worth noting that they got their real start in corporate-style school reform right here in Chicago.

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