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President Surges Ahead With Teacher Union Busting Neoliberal Agenda

The president’s plan to move ahead with charter schools and other neoliberal union busting measures in the nation’s public schools is getting a big push this week with mucho publicity and great fanfare.

The recent defeat of DC mayor Adrian Fenty spells the end to the damaging career of dilettante school reformer, Michele Rhee, originally recommended to Fenty by Joel Klein, a close friend of Bill Gates and Eli Broad and described by people experienced in the teaching profession as edubusiness entrepreneurs’ attack dog.

Lacking any discernible qualifications, her shocking appointment, can be understood only when you realize that Rhee was brought in to inflict maximum damage on the district’s public schools. And as a cultist (Teach For America, New Teacher Project) and true believer she came at a bargain basement salary. Real superintendents were courted (Fenty visited Miami with several members of the D.C. commission to interview Dr. Rudolph Crew) but those candidates could not be counted on to mindlessly take a club to D.C.’s public schools. The havoc and disruption that Rhee has caused was no accident. It was the plan!

Rhee, famously, sacked a slew of D.C. school teachers. Teach for America is among a group of "reformers" dedicated to corporatizing education and destroying unions:

They are working in key positions in school districts and charter-school networks, legislating in state capitals, staffing city halls and statehouses for reform-minded mayors and governors, writing papers for policy groups and dispensing grants from billion-dollar philanthropies like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Bill Gates, along with Education Secretary Arne Duncan; Teach for America’s founder, Wendy Kopp; and the New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein could be considered the patron saints of the network.

Moron Teach for America which popped out Rhee and other tools of the "reformer" cult:  . . .

Kopp broached the idea of a privately-funded “domestic Peace Corps” for recent college grads in her senior thesis at Princeton in 1989. She founded the organization the next year with $2.5 million of foundation backing. More than 24,000 college graduates have done a stint of teaching in low-income communities since then.

Our neoliberal president of couse is among them (as can be plainly seen of late). After all, he appointed Arne Duncan as his secretary of education who naturally is a close buddy of Eli Broad and Joel Klein. (Of course, Obama’s contribution is the use of the White House as a dedicated public relations shop.) Broad is almost as high-profile as Duncan:

The education philanthropist Eli Broad is based in Los Angeles, but at an event this week in Manhattan he painted a vivid picture of the unique influence he’s exerted in the New York City schools.

Broad said that his foundation has given money to the two charter schools the union president here, Randi Weingarten, opened; has trained seven or eight of the top officials in Chancellor Joel Klein’s Department of Education; and was a player in Klein and Weingarten’s merit-based pay deal.

[…]

In Washington, D.C., the Broad Foundation has met repeatedly with superintendent Michelle Rhee and is believed to be one of the groups that would fund Rhee’s plan to give teachers more money in exchange for giving up tenure rights. Broad said on Monday that several of his staff members are taking jobs in Arne Duncan’s U.S. Department of Education.

The relationships are part of the Broad Foundation’s aggressive education agenda, which includes opening many charter schools, adopting corporate models for school leadership, and changing the way teachers are compensated. Because they are not beholden to public opinion, philanthropies can be “far more aggressive” in their goals than most politicians, Broad said. “We don’t mind taking risks. We don’t mind being criticized, at times even being hung in effigy,” he said.

The following are poignant and astute observations from a school teacher about Broad and Duncan from the same article:

Although Broad admits he doesn’t know anything about how to teach, the business model he imposes on public schools demands that his “trained” administrators come into our classrooms and force us to follow “standards-driven” teaching practices, supposedly to raise test scores. My district can’t provide working heat, light, or running water for my under-equipped lab, but we pay hundreds of thousands to the consulting businesses he promotes. The real drive behind his manipulations is the marketing plan for the useless “services” and products provided (at public expense) by his for-profit entrepreneurial “partners.”

Edubusiness entrepreneurs hide under a layer of fake non-profits set up by “philanthropists” like Broad and Gates. Broad brags he’s “not beholden to public opinion”, meaning that, because of his wealth and the political power it buys, he is not accountable to the public. Believe me, Broad won’t increase my pay at all. I get up at 5:30 every morning to dedicate my life, a day at a time, to teaching real chemistry. My students go to nursing schools, universities, state colleges and community colleges. When they enter the military, they do well enough on the ASVAB to qualify for specialist training. None of that is due to Broad’s business model, though, and I won’t promote his agenda. So my administrators have to decide that I’m not a leader.

It breaks my heart to see Duncan playing along. You should have seen my students when Obama won the presidency. Their eyes were shining. I tell them they will be the ones to walk across the stage, go on to the life they are supposed to live, and bring prosperity, health, security and life itself to their struggling immigrant families. Instead, it turns out Duncan owns his own stock in the Emperors NewSchools Venture Fund.

Indeed, Arne was deemed yet another bad appointment. But that was about as far as that went. The Broad Effect played out in D.C. under his watch. The following hallmarks were quite evident in D.C. news:

The Broad Foundation’s goal is a "transformation" of public education.* One of the primary methods used is the installation of certain elements into public school districts. If the one of these elements is planted, it is highly likely that another will be planted along with it in order to maximize the effect.

For instance, an element might be:

  • The presence of a Broad-trained superintendentThe presence of Broad Residents in important central office positions
  • An "invitation" to participate in a program spawned by the Foundation (such as CRSS’s Reform Governance in Action program)
  • An offer to provide the district with a FREE Performance Management and Diagnostic and Planning experience (the same technique used by unscrupulous auto mechanics to drum up business)

The Broad Foundation infiltrates its targets on multiple levels so it can manipulate a wider field and cause maximum disruption. Venture/vulture edu-philanthropists (or "malanthropists," as Michael Fiorillo calls them) proudly call this invasive and destabilizing strategy "investing in a distruptive force." To these billionaires and their henchmen, putting low-income communities in turmoil is no big deal.

Clearly, to educators, it’s a whole heap of bullshit — an unnecessary distraction from issues that need to be addressed in education, the purpose being to create more profit centers the easy way by power and influence of the filthy rich to suit their narrow-minded agendas.

Arne brought something to the table from his experience in Chicago in the form of a competition for education funding based on neoliberal terms:

That’s the brainchild of Jon Schnur, Kopp’s college classmate, who had education policy jobs in the Clinton administration before going to work on Obama’s presidential campaign. Some $4.3 billion of new federal aid to education was tucked away in last year’s stimulus bill, to be awarded states based on their promise to implement various measures, including increased testing, opening more charter schools and eliminating “last-in/first-out” provisions in teachers’ union contracts.

Education secretary Arne Duncan devised the 500-point scale by which various “peer reviewers,” none of them directly involved in K-12 education, will evaluate the states’ competing bids. Duncan, a charter school entrepreneur (his 1987 Harvard College senior thesis dealt with education reform), served for eight years as chief executive officer of Chicago’s public schools before joining Obama’s cabinet.

Brill enthuses that by turning a grant program into a contest, “thousands of local news stories across the country speculated about how particular states were faring, some of them breathlessly referring to ‘March madness’ as governors, state legislators and bureaucrats rushed to consider reforms that might improve their chances.”

The competition comes to a head on June 1, when states must submit a second round of proposals. Last week, for instance, New York City officials and the State Assembly in Albany agreed to double the number of charter schools in the city to 200, and license another 260 around the state as part of its bid for some $700 million in federal money. Brill wrote, “Before Duncan had dispensed a nickel, the country had seen more school reform than it had in decades.”

Well, lo and behold, didn’t New York win the largest grant in the country:

New York State has won about $700 million as part of a competitive federal education grant known as Race to the Top, federal officials said on Tuesday. The money comes after months of wrangling in the State Legislature and fights with the state and city teachers’ unions.

Earlier this year, state lawmakers passed legislation to double the number of charter schools in the state to 460 to improve the state’s chances at securing the money. The funds are meant to reward states that have embraced education reforms that federal officials believe will improve schools.

Regardless, it doesn’t appear this will be sustainable as the economy continues to tank and public schools become more attractive again. Now, if only those rich parents would support the public schools in a truly meaningful way that would actually benefit students and teachers and not some stock fund on Wall Street.

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