Changing the Face of Public Schools
Money In, Money Out
Who or what’s at fault? Teachers or poverty? Unions or political will? Teaching-to-the-test or inquiry-based learning? These are some of the many debates going on inside Department of Education offices, legislators’ committees, nonprofit conference rooms, and philanthropist board rooms. With all of this maneuvering going on, wouldn’t you think taxpayers would see a narrowing of the achievement gap in America’s classrooms? Well, the gap hasn’t changed all that much in 20 years, but the financing and framework of public instruction has.
Education reform continues to churn away in the upper echelons of the movement with well-heeled funders including Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Mark Zuckerburg of Facebook, the Walton Family Foundation, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and the George Soros Open Society Institute.
The old guard of government schools like Bill Ayers, Mike Klonsky, Diane Ravitch, and teachers unions carry on with their causes as well. And while all of the above as well as hundreds of non-taxed organizations, i.e. nonprofits, and for-profit advocates for reform keep themselves employed based on the mantra of putting the students first, some students still remain more equal than others.
Even so, struggling students have become a necessary prop in the reformers’ plan to buy into the business of setting up charter schools, tapping into taxpayer money, and selling high-tech devices and software to school systems. Do insulated billionaires care about failing schools turning out students who cannot test past the third grade level or is the education reform movement simply a lucrative business opportunity too good to pass up?
Education venture philanthropists apply corporate business models to public schools, thus creating a hybrid of private/public partnerships. This has led to a dramatic increase in public charter schools which has in turn led to an increase in the number of organizations springing up to manage these new schools.
The money loop from funders to nonprofits to school systems to software companies back to the funders keeps most of the benefits among relatively few players in the ed reform game.
Teachers Have To Go
Among the non-taxed organizations, there are those like The New Teacher Project (Michelle Rhee, CEO and founder) and Teach for America (Wendy Kopp, CEO and founder) which supply in some school districts half of the teacher ranks. These groups train, recruit and place teachers in both highly rated and failing schools; and they pick the cream of the crop from the top universities in the country to go into classrooms. Ostensibly the reason for their existence has to do with helping disadvantaged school children raise test scores and achievement levels, but in reality, the same troubled, undereducated children end up taking a back seat to the bottom line.
The marketing strategy of organizations like Rhee’s New Teacher Project has been to weed out “ineffective” teachers and replace them with specially picked “teacher corps members.” The onslaught against teachers began in earnest in 2008 when then-candidate Obama declared war on “bad teachers” when he said this during a Hofstra University debate: “And we also agree on the need for making sure that if we have bad teachers that they are swiftly…if they can’t hack it, then we need to move on because our kids have to have their best future.” What an ominous signal to send to teachers across the country.
In that same debate, the Senator from Illinois praised Michelle Rhee, chancellor of DC schools at the time, calling her a “wonderful new superintendent there” but John McCain pointed out that Rhee supported vouchers; a hot button issue which Obama completely opposed. Obama replied Rhee was also for charter schools which he did support. He noted “Charter schools, I doubled the number of charter schools in Illinois despite some reservations from teachers unions.”
The Democrat Rhee has gone on to become a Republican darling because she promotes school choice, public charters, vouchers, no tenure for teachers, and limited collective bargaining for unions, and opposes “last in first out” (LIFO). The former chancellor says teachers are the most critical factor in a student’s achievement. She says it doesn’t matter if the children are dirt poor without parents and living on the streets; competent teachers, if they’re good enough, will overcome the obstacles. So, in her three years as head of the DC school system she fired hundreds of teachers whom she deemed ineffective.
After DC’s parents and unions forced her out in 2010, Rhee created her own non-taxed lobbying firm StudentsFirst. She hired two high powered Democrats to run her operation. Her second in command, Hari Sevugan, was the Democratic National Committee press secretary during Obama’s first two years in office. Rhee’s marketing agent, Anita Dunn, was the former Obama White House Communications Director and professed admirer of Mao Tse Tung.
Obama and Rhee: Two Lefts Don’t Make a Right
This mixing of the Left and the Right harkens back to the early 1990s when progressives like Bill and Hillary Clinton took up a strategy called the Third Way which would begin to blur the lines between traditional political opponents. After the Berlin wall came down, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev suggested governments could change and become a mixture between communism and capitalism.
In 2001, a paper prepared by George Soros’ Open Society Institute describes the Progressive Policy Institute’s “third way” which aims “to achieve a new synthesis of liberalism and conservatism for today’s electorate. PPI’s vision generally blends a traditional liberal politics…with more market-oriented solutions and individual choice (Medicare choice, charter schools, a limited role for unions), then adds to the mix a strong dose of the moralism usually claimed by conservatives…It holds traditional liberal constituencies such as unions and African Americans at arm’s length, while actively courting corporate leaders and the white middle class.” [emphasis mine]
The inference couldn’t be clearer. What has the latest attempt at education reform been all about? Leaders of the movement like Rhee pull in billions of dollars from private funders and the Stimulus Bill to change the face of public education. They use this money to keep unions “at arm’s length” by negotiating new contracts reducing their bargaining rights while at the same time garnering sweeping support from “the white middle class”–in other words, conservatives.
Even corrupt pols like Rahm Emanuel are on board with Rhee’s and Obama’s agenda. The Chicago mayor has been pushing for more and more charter schools and opposing teachers unions; all the while greasing his own palms in the process.
The progressives [communists] have been at this for a very long time. The Left doesn’t change; it just trades a “radical pose” for a conservative pose if that’s what it takes to gain complete government control in America.
The “fundamental transformation” of our country took place long before Obama got into the White House. Our task now is to pull our heads out of the sand and believe the facts staring us in the face.
Read more Ann Kane at Potter Williams Report