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

Friday, October 17, 2014

North Carolina's star charter hustler, Baker Mitchell

His model for success embraces decreased government regulation, increased privatization and, if all goes well, healthy corporate profits.
ProPublica reporter Marian Wang, lays it all out there on Moyers' blog ("Charter School Power Broker Turns Public Education Into Private Profits"). She turns over a rock in N.C. and finds another big charter school hustler, a businessman named Baker Mitchell making millions by operating his chain of schools.

Baker Mitchell
People still ask me, how is it possible to make lots of money operating charters? I keep telling them, it's all about vertical integration. Take Mitchell's operation as a case in point.

Wang writes:
The schools buy or lease nearly everything from companies owned by Mitchell. Their desks. Their computers. The training they provide to teachers. Most of the land and buildings. Unlike with traditional school districts, at Mitchell’s charter schools there’s no competitive bidding. No evidence of haggling over rent or contracts.
The schools have all hired the same for-profit management company to run their day-to-day operations. The company, Roger Bacon Academy, is owned by Mitchell. It functions as the schools’ administrative arm, taking the lead in hiring and firing school staff. It handles most of the bookkeeping. The treasurer of the nonprofit that controls the four schools is also the chief financial officer of Mitchell’s management company. The two organizations even share a bank account.
 Did I mention that Mitchell is part of Koch Bros. and ALEC networks? He also hangs out with conservative kingmaker Art Pope with whom he sits on the board of the John Locke Foundation. It's where he gets his political juice to operate regulation-free.

In Mitchell's defense, he claims his schools produce higher test scores. But they have comparatively low percentages of needy students and focus totally on test prep and rote learning.

Writes Wong:
Mitchell’s schools are also distinguished from public schools by their different tone. Staff and students pledge to avoid errors that arise from “the comfort of popular opinion and custom,” “compromise” and “over-reliance on rational argument.” Students must vow “to be obedient and loyal to those in authority, in my family, in my school, and in my community and country, So long as I shall live.”
The schools also use a rigid instructional approach in which teachers stick to a script and drill students repeatedly through call and response

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