Stateside Louisiana: School Vouchers and the Privatization of Public Education

Submitted by Elaine Magliaro Guest Blogger

In May, David Sirota penned an article for Salon titled Selling out Public Schools. In it, he said that Mitt Romney, President Obama, and both of our major political parties were “assaulting public education.”

Sirota wrote:

On the Republican side, the Washington Post reports Mitt Romney just unveiled “a pro-choice, pro-voucher, pro-states-rights education program that seems certain to hasten the privatization of the public education system” completely. On the other side, Wall Street titans in the Democratic Party with zero experience in education policy are marshaling tens of millions of dollars to do much of what Romney aims to do as president – and they often have a willing partner in President Barack “Race to the Top” Obama and various Democratic governors.

Funded by corporate interests who naturally despise organized labor, both sides have demonized teachers’ unions as the primary problem in education — somehow ignoring the fact that most of the best-performing public school systems in America and in the rest of the world are, in fact, unionized. (Are we never supposed to ask how, if unions are the primary problem, so many unionized schools in America and abroad do so well?) Not surprisingly, these politicians and activists insist they are driven solely by their regard for the nation’s children — and they expect us to ignore the massive amount of money their benefactors (and even the activists personally) stand to make by transforming public education into yet another private profit center. Worse, they ask us also to forget that in the last few years of aggressive “reform” (read: evisceration) of public education, the education gap has actually gotten far worse, with the most highly touted policies put in place now turning the schoolhouse into yet another catalyst of crushing inequality.

Sirota says that charter schools and vouchers are one of the five most “prominent” of these policies. I would agree. There has been an education movement afoot for a many years whose aim is less about reforming public schools and more about the privatization of public education. One of the first steps in the “reform” process is funneling public money away from traditional public schools to “privately administered” charter schools and to private schools via tuition vouchers.

A Look at the New Student Voucher Program in Louisiana

Stephanie Simon (Reuters) has reported that Louisiana is “embarking on the nation’s boldest experiment in privatizing public education.” She wrote, “Starting this fall, thousands of poor and middle-class kids will get vouchers covering the full cost of tuition at more than 120 private schools across Louisiana, including small, Bible-based church schools.” Louisiana’s voucher program, which is said to be the most sweeping in the country, will “shift tens of millions of dollars from public schools to pay not only private schools but also private businesses and private tutors to educate children across the state.”

Governor Bobby Jindal and State Superintendent of Education John White, both of whom pushed for the voucher program, “promised to hold the private schools accountable for student achievement.” Yet, it has been reported that “money will continue to flow to scores of private and religious schools participating in Louisiana’s new voucher program even if their students fail basic reading and math tests…”

Casey Michel (TPMMuckraker) reported in July that students in every public school in Louisiana are subjected to standardized testing, but “voucher students — who will bring an average of $8,000 in tuition from ‘failing’ public schools to many that are affiliated with religious denominations — will only need to face testing if their new school has taken an average of 10 students per grade, or if the schools have accepted at least 40 voucher students into the grades testing.”

Simon said that according to new rules, “schools will not be penalized for poor scores on state standardized tests if they have fewer than 40 voucher students enrolled in the upper elementary or secondary grades.” Even if their voucher students fail to “demonstrate basic competency in math, reading, science and social studies,” the private schools will continue to receive state funds. Superintendent White estimated that 75 percent of the 120 private schools participating in the voucher program would “fall into this protected category.”

Participating schools that have more than 40 voucher students will be given a “numerical grade from the state based on their voucher students’ test scores.” Schools that score less than 50 on a 150-point scale will not be allowed to enroll more voucher students. Those schools will, however, still “continue to receive public money indefinitely to serve students already enrolled.”

Opponents of the voucher program say that their biggest concern is “the fact that the students may be transferring, on the taxpayers’ dime, to a school that will score worse than the one from which they left. That is, a student can leave a public school if it scores a ‘C’ or below on state standardized testing — but if the new private school scores the minimum of 50, the equivalent of a D-minus, it could still recruit new voucher students.”

Some of those who are critical of the new voucher program have voiced concerns about accountability procedures. Donald Songy, a representative of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents, questioned the provision “that a private school wouldn’t be in trouble unless it scored less than 50, whereas a public school is labeled a failure if it scores less than 65.”

Now millions of tax dollars originally earmarked for Louisiana’s public schools will go to pay for private school tuitions—even if the voucher students in those schools are not achieving academically. Does this voucher program look like it could be the solution to the problem of failing schools in Louisiana?

Regarding Education in Private and Religious Schools Participating in Louisiana’s Voucher Program

It has been reported that most of the 120 educational facilities that will participate in the voucher program are Christian schools. Should citizens of Louisiana be concerned about what is being taught in private and religious schools that their tax dollars are helping to subsidize?

In her article Louisiana’s Bold Bid to Privatize Schools, Simon told of New Living Word—a school in Ruston that is willing to accept the most voucher students—more than 300. The school has a top-ranked basketball team—but no library. Simon explained how the students spend most of their school days “watching TVs in bare-bones classrooms.” She said, “Each lesson consists of an instructional DVD that intersperses Biblical verses with subjects such chemistry or composition.”

Simon also wrote of another school that is planning to make room for potential voucher students: “At Eternity Christian Academy in Westlake, pastor-turned-principal Marie Carrier hopes to secure extra space to enroll 135 voucher students, though she now has room for just a few dozen. Her first- through eighth-grade students sit in cubicles for much of the day and move at their own pace through Christian workbooks, such as a beginning science text that explains ‘what God made’ on each of the six days of creation. They are not exposed to the theory of evolution.”

According to Simon, there are private schools in Louisiana that have been approved to receive state funds that “use social studies texts warning that liberals threaten global prosperity; Bible-based math books that don’t cover modern concepts such as set theory; and biology texts built around refuting evolution.” Many of the schools “rely on Pensacola-based A Beka Book curriculum or Bob Jones University Press textbooks to teach their pupils Bible-based ‘facts,’ such as the existence of Nessie the Loch Ness Monster and all sorts of pseudoscience…” (14 Wacky “Facts” Kids Will Learn in Louisiana’s Voucher Schools)

Here are some examples of the “historical facts” that children may learn in these religious schools in Louisiana–courtesy of The Society Pages:

• Humans and dinosaurs co-existed.
• God designed “checks and balances” to prevent environmental crises, so chill! After all, “Roses are red, violets are blue; they both grow better with more CO2.”
• “Rumors” of foreclosures, high unemployment, homelessness, and general misery during the Great Depression are just socialist propaganda.
• Unions just want to destroy the accomplishments of “hardworking Americans.”
• Mormons, Unitarians, and Catholics = bad.
• And then there’s the history of racial/ethnic relations: “God used the ‘Trail of Tears’ to bring many Indians to Christ” and “Through the Negro spiritual, slaves developed patience to wait on the Lord and discovered that the truest freedom is freedom from the bondage of sin.” No, seriously — I didn’t make those up.

Opinions on the School Voucher Program

Education expert Diane Ravitch wrote the following about the school voucher program in Louisiana:

Bear in mind that public education is level-funded, so all these millions for vouchers and charters and online schooling and tutoring will come right out of the public school budget, making classes more overcrowded, closing libraries, shutting down services for students that need them.

Ravitch also wrote about the American Legislative Exchange Council’s links to the movement to privatize public schools in the The Washington Post:

A recent article in the Newark Star-Ledger showed how closely New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s “reform” legislation is modeled on ALEC’s work in education. Wherever you see states expanding vouchers, charters, and other forms of privatization, wherever you see states lowering standards for entry into the teaching profession, wherever you see states opening up new opportunities for profit-making entities, wherever you see the expansion of for-profit online charter schools, you are likely to find legislation that echoes the ALEC model.

ALEC has been leading the privatization movement for nearly 40 years, but the only thing new is the attention it is getting, and the fact that many of its ideas are now being enacted…

Charles P. Pierce wrote the following on his Esquire blog in July:

One wave of education “reform” demands almost continual high-stakes testing. Another wave of education “reform” demands that public money go to private for-profit “schools.” Now, the new wave of education “reform” demands that the high-stakes testing not count in the new for-profit “schools.” But this never has been about education. It’s been about destroying the public schools and protecting the right of people to marinate in superstition and nonsense.

What is your opinion about the movement to privatize public education? What is your opinion about public money being spent to pay student tuitions at religious schools? Do you think that some school “reformers” are out to destroy public schools in this country?


Both Obama and Romney are assaulting public education. Five threats, in particular, stand out (Salon)

Louisiana’s bold bid to privatize schools (Reuters)

Louisiana sets rules for landmark school voucher program (MSNBC/Reuters)

Vouching for Failure in Louisiana Schools (Esquire)

Louisiana sets rules for landmark school voucher program (Chicago Tribune)

Louisiana’s Voucher Standards Called Into Question (TPMMuckraker)

Louisiana vouchers going mainly to church-affiliated schools (The Town Talk)

Despite criticism, Louisiana OKs accountability plan for school vouchers (The Town Talk)

Vouchers and the future of public education (Washington Post)

Ravitch: A primer on the group driving school reform (Washington Post)

14 Wacky “Facts” Kids Will Learn in Louisiana’s Voucher Schools (Mother Jones)

Some of Christie’s biggest bills match model legislation from D.C. group called ALEC (New Jersey On-Line)

A Close Look at Some Evangelical Textbooks (The Society Pages)

195 thoughts on “Stateside Louisiana: School Vouchers and the Privatization of Public Education

  1. Well done Elaine. It is truly amazing how backwards these private schools are and how the State of Louisiana will be paying private, religious schools to teach this crap!

  2. rafflaw,

    I saw what happened in my state when school reform was enacted. I think one of its aims was to destroy teacher unions. School reform also brought us high stakes testing–and prepping students for the tests has become a major part of the educational process. I don’t think I would enjoy being a teacher these days.

  3. Elaine,
    you are right that an aim or a by-product of the so-called school reform is to kill unions. I see it at my wife’s school when they negotiate terms and then after both parties agree to the new contract terms, the superintendant denies that the terms mean what they plainly mean.

  4. You have to realize that one of the points of privatizing schools is to NOT allow the kids to meet different people with different points of view. My neighbors are Christian fundamentalists and they have NO TV in their home. I served as an election judge and found that my GOP counterparts had NO TVs either. Their whole life and what they knew of the world came from their ministers and fellow believers. It is this kind of thing that the school vouchers are designed to foster.

  5. Raff, give it a while, it’ll be a dozen states- or more. I don’t understand how this can allowed, this reduces education to a travesty. That (test) standards have been lowered for these private schools is adding insult to injury.

  6. I agree lotta. The lowering of test score benchmarks for the private schools is preposterous and plain evidence of the intentions behind this “voucherization” of the public school system.

  7. ARE,

    This is a point on which we have total agreement. Information control is a subject very often neglected when discussing the hazards of privatizing schools. It is, however, just as potentially damaging to to society if not more so than the attacks on unions.

    Great job, Elaine.

  8. Odds are no process existed for Louisiana school voucher program: James Gill
    By James Gill
    The Times-Picayune

    Such problems in the early days are only to be expected, but the state is inviting trouble on its own head by transferring plenty of kids to schools with an overtly religious agenda. Come September, Louisiana taxpayers will even be footing the bill for kids in many schools to be taught by creationist crackpots. Clearly, the criteria applied by White did not include adherence to the U.S. Constitution. This cannot conceivably survive court challenge.
    The question may not be what criteria the state applied, but whether it applied any criteria at all. Public record requests for documentation that might throw some light on that have been stonewalled. An education department flack told the Associated Press that “providing outdated information may cause confusion to parents who are trying to make decisions around their participation the program.” Evidently the Louisiana education department hasn’t heard that “Don’t confuse them with the facts” is supposed to be a joke.

    A second flack explained that the department was entitled to withhold records related to the choice of voucher schools under a “deliberative process privilege” identified by state courts in litigation unrelated to education. She allowed that the courts ruled such a privilege is necessary so that “people in government agencies” can “offer uninhibited opinions or recommendations without fear of later being subject to public ridicule or criticism.”

    That was, perhaps, a plausible pretext for keeping the documents confidential in perpetuity. But White made nonsense of it when the AP pressed and he partially relented, agreeing to come clean after schools starts in September.

    A delay of a few weeks is hardly likely to diminish any public ridicule or criticism the records might inspire. The suspicion will remain that the department cannot explain its criteria yet because it needs time to whip some up.

    The education department’s solicitude for parents who might be discombobulated by the facts is also hard to square with the views of Gov. Bobby Jindal, progenitor of the voucher scheme. Asked why private schools receiving voucher money should not receive the same scrutiny as public schools, he declared that “parents are the best accountability system we have.” If they are so smart that they can keep the private schools up to snuff, maybe White could risk not keeping them in the dark about how the state chose them. Except, of course, that it is preposterous to suggest that parents are always the best judges of where their children will get the best schooling.

    This coming year the state has allocated about 80 slots to a small New Orleans school run by Leonard Lucas, a former one-term state legislator who now styles himself “prophet” and “apostle.” When Lucas ran for City Council a few years back, he issued press releases bespeaking an indifference to grammar that ill becomes an educator. The parents who send kids to school such as his may wish they had left them where they were.

  9. Jindal’s voucher program called ‘bad for religious freedom’ by Interfaith Alliance
    By Valerie Strauss

    Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is getting new pushback on his school voucher program, which is now the biggest in the country.

    Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (Scott Olson — Getty Images) Opposition is coming from the Interfaith Alliance, a national, nonpartisan grassroots and educational organization based in Washington that has 185,000 members nationwide made up of 75 faith traditions as well as those of no faith tradition.

    A letter sent to Jindal on Tuesday signed by the alliance’s president, the Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, says in part: “Your school voucher scheme is bad for religious freedom and bad for public education as well as a blatant attack on the religious freedom clauses in the United States Constitution.”

    The program is a result of a new law that allows the state to offer vouchers to more than half of Louisiana’s public school students, and dozens of religious schools have been given permission to accept voucher students even though they have not shown that they have the resources to handle the influx.

    Many of these schools use curriculum that promotes Young Earth Creationism, which holds the belief that the universe is no older than 10,000 years old despite definitive scientific evidence that it is billions of years old. And Jindal is supporting an “accountability” plan that says private schools in the program with fewer than 40 voucher students don’t have to show that those students have achieved basic competency in reading, math, social studies and science in order to keep receiving state funds. Some accountability, huh?

  10. Serious question…..Why/how is it legal to give vouchers to religious schools? Are we simply waiting for someone to bring suit?

  11. I believe the ENTIRE reason for the vouchers is to get rid of the unions. Next up: the post office. And the end result is the same – privitization. I expect Michelle Rhee will wind up a very wealthy woman.

  12. Curious,

    Speaking of Michelle Rhee: Drops Michelle Rhee Group Under Pressure From Progressives (UPDATE)
    By Ryan Grim


    WASHINGTON — In a surprising reversal,, the progressive online powerhouse that channels grassroots energy into petition-based activism, has dropped** two anti-union clients, including Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst, according to multiple sources familiar with the decision.

    The move comes after intense pressure from the labor movement and other progressive allies, who accused the for-profit company of betraying its liberal roots by partnering with Rhee, the former head of Washington, D.C., public schools, and the similarly aligned group Stand for Children headed by education advocate Jonah Edelman. The ouster of StudentsFirst and Stand for Children was confirmed by a spokesman.

    Leaders of Rhee’s group were outraged. “We’re surprised at their decision,” Nancy Zuckerbrod, spokeswoman for StudentsFirst, told HuffPost. “When we spoke to them this afternoon, they couldn’t point to a single one of our petitions on their site that violated either the terms of use or spirit of their organization. Not a single one. In fact, they said they agreed that much of the work of our members were in line with the progressive values of the organization. And it’s clear that the community does as well, as tens of thousands of them signed our petitions fighting for the civil rights of all children to receive a high-quality education. For instance, more than 47,000 people signed our petition in support of the Dream Act, compared to fewer than 4,000 who signed the heavily organized protest petition on a different site against Stand for Children.”’s meteoric rise has included a host of glowing profiles and the Time magazine stamp of approval when it named CEO and founder Ben Rattray one of the 100 most influential people in the world. It is staffed by some of the most talented progressive organizers in the country — many of whom are well known and liked in the tight-knit liberal community, making the feud that much more bitter. And Edelman is the son of liberal champions Marian Wright Edelman and Peter Edelman.

    StudentsFirst and Stand for Children oppose teachers unions as obstacles to education reform, and advocate on behalf of tying teacher pay to test scores and other student metrics. started working with Rhee’s Students First in March 2011, five months after her resignation as Washington’s public schools chancellor, and with Jonah Edelman’s Stand for Children in October 2011.

    Rhee’s group, aware of its reputation as an enemy of organized labor, has consistently avoided activism around union issues on’s platform, focusing instead on immigration reform, anti-bullying, and other issues that resonate with progressives and don’t alienate labor. Labor officials and other Washington-based liberal activists have, over the course of the last year, been publicly and privately pressing to draw a line that refuses business from anti-union groups, just as it currently rejects business from organizations with an anti-immigrant or anti-gay bias. They made little progress until Stand for Children launched an anti-union petition.

  13. Elaine,

    According to what is said here this movement is not new on Alec’s agenda. But the push is rapidly expanding.

    The role of the players is confusing as are their names.
    The conservative forces seem always to seize the best “white hat” ones.

    Specific question:
    ” Labor officials and other Washington-based liberal activists have, over the course of the last year, been publicly and privately pressing to draw a line that refuses business from anti-union groups, just as it currently rejects business from organizations with an anti-immigrant or anti-gay bias. They made little progress until Stand for Children launched an anti-union petition.”

    What business?


    Although I don’t know how it is formulated, any ties between studend grades/scores and teacher pay increases seem directly dangerous to integrity and correctness of the grading system.

    There is so much to discuss here in terms of what kind of society does this lead to. Many here have pointed to those obvious ones (no TV homes, no true science, social science, history is taught). We have not even touched on future effects.

    This is a 3-day subject. Will it be one?

    Frankly, why did we allow relgion expression or forms in public schooling, and now PS replacement on a parity basis. Or rather non-parity if we see to the school rating scales with different grades of “passing” for public vs private ones.

    Liberty has many hydraheads, some fatal when they bite.

  14. All in the name of union busting…….the private insurance companies want those insurance dollars…… Vouchers a bad ideal…..

  15. This is my scope of LA’s voucher knowledge fwiw.

    It seems not that the school has to be or should be accredited but rather that the child’s parent have the ability to decide. The parents may and WILL make very poor choices at times (creationism etc). But overall the competition for the money will be the driving force for better schools. Putting additional pressures on the school via testing will waste resources and is govt just ensuring itself a seat at the table of indoctrination.

    Both science and the classics didn’t survive because govt so decided. They survived all sorts of hogwash such as the earth as the center of the universe on their merits. So too will schools with the proper curriculum succeed as those with hogwash will fail.

    Btw, which govt set’s Harvard’s agenda for them? And how do kids and parents decide which college is right – why aren’t they forced into specific colleges?

  16. Odds are no process existed for Louisiana school voucher program: James Gill
    August 12, 2012

    How the state decided which private and parochial schools were qualified to receive public money is not for us to know.

    Luckily, it isn’t too difficult. We know they couldn’t have been all that stringent. Two rinky dink schools had their applications rejected, but the other 119 were approved to take in about 5,600 kids at up to $8,500 a pop yearly. The influx will cause many of the schools to double in size.

    It won’t take much to improve the lot of kids whose parents have jumped at the chance to rescue them from Louisiana’s lousiest public schools. Many will doubtless blossom in their new surroundings. But it won’t be all roses; not all the selected schools will have adequate capacity or faculty, for instance.

    Such problems in the early days are only to be expected, but the state is inviting trouble on its own head by transferring plenty of kids to schools with an overtly religious agenda. Come September, Louisiana taxpayers will even be footing the bill for kids in many schools to be taught by creationist crackpots. Clearly, the criteria applied by White did not include adherence to the U.S. Constitution. This cannot conceivably survive court challenge.

    The question may not be what criteria the state applied, but whether it applied any criteria at all. Public record requests for documentation that might throw some light on that have been stonewalled. An education department flack told the Associated Press that “providing outdated information may cause confusion to parents who are trying to make decisions around their participation the program.” Evidently the Louisiana education department hasn’t heard that “Don’t confuse them with the facts” is supposed to be a joke.

  17. Louisiana’s Worthless Accountability Plan for Voucher Schools
    Education Talk New Orleans

    After all that fanfare about accountability, John White has crafted a completely worthless accountability plan for the voucher schools. It’s a shame that so many people on the BESE can’t read. All but 2 Board members voted to support the plan. Only members Lottie Beebe and Carolyn Hill voted to reject this plan and send White back to the drawing board to correct some of the concerns presented by various members of the public.

    Worthless parts of the plan:

    If a school has less than 10 students per grade, the students results will not be reported publicly
    Unless the school has 10 participating students per grade level taking tests AND 40 students total voucher students in the school, the test results will not be reported
    Schools will only be required to score above 50 on the Scholarship Cohort Index
    John White can waive any provisions of the policy without seeking approval from BESE (Board of Elementary and Secondary Education) or the Legislature
    This plan is problematic because it promotes gaming the system. The plan clearly says the schools will determine how many seats they will accept. All a school has to do is enroll 9 students per grade or less than 40 students total. John White said that this plan ensures that all schools are accountable. However, based on the criteria released, 75% of the eligible voucher schools will not fall under the guidelines of the accountability plan crafted by John White.

    Over the past 4 years the Combined results for the voucher schools in the pilot program have had between 52-72% of it’s students fail to reach basic on the iLEAP and LEAP tests. What’s the purpose of a pilot if you ignore the results and expand the program even though it’s proven to be a failure?

    The first stated purpose in the plan is “a common standard for student performance across the system of traditional public, charter public, and non public schools.” However, the plan as adopted completely ignores that purpose. Students in voucher schools will NOT be retained as public school students in 4th and 8th grades if they fail the LEAP test. Public schools are given a letter grade of A, B, C, D, or F, but voucher schools will NOT receive a letter grade. The State Superintendent can’t waive any part of the accountability system for public school, but he can waive any provision in the accountability plan for voucher schools. Another purpose of the adopted plan is to uphold the public trust when public funds are involved. Clearly the accountability plan presented makes a mockery of the public trust.

  18. How the GOP’s New Education Policy Embraces the Market and Abandons Objective Standards
    Ed Kilgore
    July 9, 2012

    We all got a good laugh at the recent befuddlement (reported at TNR by Amy Sullivan) of a conservative Republican legislator from Louisiana who withdrew her support from Gov. Bobby Jindal’s school voucher program when she realized that its open door to public support for religious schools was not limited to those catering to Christians.

    But the underlying principle of Jindal’s initiative—and arguably of Mitt Romney’s little-discussed proposal to convert the bulk of federal K-12 education dollars into vouchers—is no laughing matter. No-strings vouchers based on the idea that “the market” or the wishes of parents are an adequate or even ideal form of “educational accountability” could reflect a sharp U-turn in the standards-and-accountability trend in U.S. education that Republicans and conservatives until recently championed. Indeed, Jindal’s (and Romney’s?) agnosticism about the quality of schools receiving public funds represents an abandonment of the very idea of “public education” other than as a mechanism for subsidizing private choices.

    What’s drawing attention in Louisiana is the realization that a lot of the schools benefitting from vouchers were poorly staffed and equipped, and offered not only sectarian instruction but questionable handling of educational basics…

  19. rafflaw,

    I wanted to include more information in my post–but I thought it would be too long. Here’s an excerpt from and a link to an article about Michelle Rhee that you might find interesting:

    Activist targeting schools, backed by big bucks
    By Stephanie Simon
    May 16, 2012

    (Reuters) – During her tumultuous three years at the head of the Washington D.C. public schools, Michelle Rhee set off a lot of fireworks.

    She’s still doing it – on a national stage.

    Rhee has emerged as the leader of an unlikely coalition of politicians, philanthropists, financiers and entrepreneurs who believe the nation’s $500 billion-a-year public education system needs a massive overhaul. She has vowed to raise $1 billion for her national advocacy group, StudentsFirst, and forever break the hold of teachers unions on education policy.

    StudentsFirst has its own political action committee (PAC), its own SuperPAC, and a staff of 75, including a cadre of seasoned lobbyists Rhee sends from state to state as political battles heat up. She has flooded the airwaves with TV and radio ads in a half dozen states weighing new policies on charter schools, teacher assessment and other hot-button issues.

    To her supporters, Rhee is a once-in-a-generation leader who has the smarts and the star power to make a difference on one of the nation’s most intractable public policy issues.

    But critics say Rhee risks destroying the very public schools she aims to save by forging alliances with political conservatives, evangelical groups and business interests that favor turning a large chunk of public education over to the private sector. She won’t disclose her donors, but public records indicate that they include billionaire financiers and wealthy foundations.

    Rhee says she has only one goal: to make sure all children get a great education.

    “We are about fighting for kids,” Rhee said. “And whoever is standing in the way … we are willing to go up against those folks because we can’t maintain the status quo.”

    Few would argue that the status quo is working. In urban school districts nationwide, on average just one in four 10-year-olds is proficient in reading, and one in four 13-year-olds is at grade level in math. Many big-city districts have dropout rates of 50 percent.

    Rhee argues the problem isn’t a lack of funding: Average spending per student has more than doubled since the early 1970s, even after accounting for inflation, to about $10,500 a year. Yet test scores have improved only modestly.

    Schools don’t need more money, Rhee says; they need to be held accountable for how they spend it.

    Rhee wants all teachers to be evaluated in large measure by how much they can boost their students’ scores on standardized tests. Scores are fed into a formula that rates how much “value” a teacher has added to each student over the year. Rhee says teachers who consistently don’t add value should be fired; those who do well should be rewarded with six-figure salaries.

    She has also successfully pushed legislation in several states, including Florida, Michigan, Nevada and Tennessee, to abolish seniority systems that protect veteran teachers and put rookies first in line for layoffs without regard to job performance.

    Also high on Rhee’s agenda: giving parents more choices. She calls for expanding charter schools, which are publicly funded but often run by private companies. She wants to let parents seize control of failing public schools and push out most of the staff. She also supports tax-funded vouchers, which can be used to pay private and parochial school tuition, for families living in neighborhoods with poor public schools.

  20. Thanks Elaine. I am familiar with Michelle Rhee and her StudentsFirst group. She is dangerous, especially because there is so much money behind her privatization ideas.

  21. Indiana School Voucher Law Upheld, Ruled Constitutional
    By CHARLES WILSON 01/13/12

    INDIANAPOLIS — A judge upheld Indiana’s school voucher law on Friday, rejecting opponents’ arguments that the largest such program in the nation unconstitutionally uses public money to support religion.

    Marion Superior Court Judge Michael Keele said the School Choice Scholarship program doesn’t violate the state constitution because the state isn’t directly funding parochial schools. Instead, it gives scholarship vouchers to parents, who can choose where to use them. That was essentially the argument made by the program’s supporters.

    About 4,000 children are enrolled in Indiana’s school voucher program, making it the nation’s biggest.

    Indiana State Teachers Association President Nate Schnellenberger said opponents would keep fighting the law. The union had backed the lawsuit brought by teachers and religious leaders.

    “The ruling from the judge does not shake our confidence and it will be appealed,” he told The Associated Press.

    But officials with the Institute for Justice, which represented two parents who wanted to use the vouchers, said they believed the ruling would stand. Attorney Bert Gall said similar laws in Wisconsin and Ohio had been upheld, and the U.S. Supreme Court had also affirmed the constitutionality of vouchers.

    “Today’s ruling is a resounding win for Indiana parents and students, and it is a major defeat for school choice opponents,” Gall said in a news release.

    The ruling also dismissed arguments that the program unconstitutionally took funds from public schools and sent the money to private schools. Keele wrote that the Indiana Constitution clearly authorized “educational options outside of the public school system.”

  22. What You Need To Know About ALEC
    By Diane Ravitch on May 1, 2012

    Dear Deborah,

    Since the 2010 elections, when Republicans took control of many states, there has been an explosion of legislation advancing privatization of public schools and stripping teachers of job protections and collective bargaining rights. Even some Democratic governors, seeing the strong rightward drift of our politics, have jumped on the right-wing bandwagon, seeking to remove any protection for academic freedom from public school teachers.

    This outburst of anti-public school, anti-teacher legislation is no accident. It is the work of a shadowy group called the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. Founded in 1973, ALEC is an organization of nearly 2,000 conservative state legislators. Its hallmark is promotion of privatization and corporate interests in every sphere, not only education, but healthcare, the environment, the economy, voting laws, public safety, etc. It drafts model legislation that conservative legislators take back to their states and introduce as their own “reform” ideas. ALEC is the guiding force behind state-level efforts to privatize public education and to turn teachers into at-will employees who may be fired for any reason. The ALEC agenda is today the “reform” agenda for education.

    ALEC operated largely in the dark for years, but gained notoriety because of the Trayvon Martin case in Florida. It turns out that ALEC crafted the “Stand Your Ground” legislation that empowered George Zimmerman to kill an unarmed teenager with the defense that he (the shooter) felt threatened. When the bright light of publicity was shone on ALEC, a number of corporate sponsors dropped out, including McDonald’s, Kraft, Coca-Cola, Mars, Wendy’s, Intuit, Kaplan, and PepsiCo. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said that it would not halt its current grant to ALEC, but pledged not to provide new funding. ALEC has some 300 corporate sponsors, including Walmart, the Koch Brothers, and AT&T, so there’s still quite a lot of corporate support for its free-market policies. ALEC claimed that it is the victim of a campaign of intimidation.

    Groups like Common Cause and have been putting ALEC’s model legislation online and printing the names of its sponsors. They have also published sharp criticism of ALEC’s ideas. This is hardly intimidation. It’s the democratic process at work. A website called has published ALEC’s policy agenda. Common Cause posted the agenda for the meeting of ALEC on May 11 in Charlotte, N.C. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards has dropped out of ALEC and also withdrawn from the May 11 conference, where it was originally going to be a presenter.

    A recent article in the Newark Star-Ledger showed how closely New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s “reform” legislation is modeled on ALEC’s work in education. Wherever you see states expanding vouchers, charters, and other forms of privatization, wherever you see states lowering standards for entry into the teaching profession, wherever you see states opening up new opportunities for profit-making entities, wherever you see the expansion of for-profit online charter schools, you are likely to find legislation that echoes the ALEC model.

    ALEC has been leading the privatization movement for nearly 40 years, but the only thing new is the attention it is getting, and the fact that many of its ideas are now being enacted. Just last week, the Michigan House of Representatives expanded the number of cyber charters that may operate in the state, even though the academic results for such online schools are dismal.

    Who is on the education task force of ALEC? The members of the task force as of July 2011 are here. Several members represent for-profit online companies, including the co-chair from Connections Academy; many members come from for-profit higher education corporations. There is someone from Jeb Bush’s foundation, as well as right-wing think tank people. There are charter school representatives, as well as Scantron. And the task force includes a long list of state legislators, from Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

    Quite a lineup. Common Cause has asked why ALEC is considered a “charity” by the Internal Revenue Service and holds tax-exempt status, when it devotes so much time to lobbying for changes in state laws. Common Cause has filed a “whistleblower” complaint with the IRS about ALEC’s status.

    The campaign to privatize the schools and to dismantle the teaching profession is in full swing. Where is the leadership to oppose it?


  23. The Wall Street Journal Covers Up ALEC Link To Anti-Union School Privatization Law
    Media Matters
    July 24, 2012

    The Wall Street Journal this morning failed to report ties between the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and controversial “parent-trigger” legislation that would allow parents to take over and convert public schools to charter schools. They also failed to report that the Journal’s parent company, News Corp, is a member of ALEC. The Journal’s treatment of the legislation also cited no criticism of the proposal, which has been described as an effort “to manipulate parents into letting [the charter school lobby] privatize more public schools.

    In the July 23 article, the Wall Street Journal reported on legislation that, according to the article, “empowers parents to take control of a school if enough of them sign petitions” and convert it into a charter school. But the article failed to mention that the proposal is based heavily on model legislation developed by ALEC, a controversial right-wing group that was recently exposed as a significant influence in the pro-charter movement in Georgia.

  24. ALEC & Battle Over Public vs. Private Education
    by Bob Sloan
    June 13, 2012

    Over the past few years an ongoing discussion has developed over public education in the United States. Certain factions in America believe public education is foundering and unable to deliver quality academia. This belief has been advanced by others who understand there are huge profits that can be had through privatizing education – from elementary to college levels. Differing opinions and beliefs have led to a major ongoing battle over whether or not to privatize our schools.

    For more than 200 years our society prospered and flourished due to public education systems – basic education from early life through college. Many of the evolving technologies that helped the U.S. prevail in the Second World War were developed by students who attended public schools and universities. Our space exploration program was advanced in part by those who learned through public education and used that knowledge in this program. More recently the computer software and hardware development industries were born out of public education and technologies crafted by graduates of our public school system.

    Since the early 90’s there has been a relatively unknown network of foundations, think tanks, politicians and organizations (tax exempt) actively pursuing what can only be described as a take-over of public education. The purpose behind this endeavor is access to and control of over half a trillion dollars spent annually on education. In order for the public to endorse a switch from public to privately operated education it has been necessary to convince that public that there is a need for such a transfer. This private education “network” I describe has used political connections to reduce funding for public education in every state in the U.S. Subtly this changed the landscape of public education; by keeping it from evolving. Freezing salaries to teachers, larger classes, less personal or one-on-one tutoring of students, reductions in transportation upgrades, charter schools, vouchers and fewer books are some of the initiatives used to attack public education.

    The national spokes-organization for this attempt at privatization is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) with funding from Charles and David Koch and their family foundations. Koch’s money is combined with funding from other foundations representing the interests and agenda pursued by conservatives – including privatization of public education; DeVos, Scaife, JM Olin, Bradley, Coors – and of late, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. ALEC’s members include companies who will profit off of the software they manufacture for “long distance learning.” A study by the liberal group ProgressVA, found that ALEC had been involved in writing bills that would:

    “Encourage school districts to contract with private virtual-education companies.”

  25. ALEC Exposed: Starving Public Schools
    Julie Underwood, The Nation, August 1-8, 2011 (CommonDreams)

    Public schools,” ALEC wrote in its 1985 Education Source Book, “meet all of the needs of all of the people without pleasing anyone.” A better system, the organization argued, would “foster educational freedom and quality” through various forms of privatization: vouchers, tax incentives for sending children to private schools and unregulated private charter schools. Today ALEC calls this “choice”—and vouchers “scholarships”—but it amounts to an ideological mission to defund and redesign public schools.

    The first large-scale voucher program, the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, was enacted in 1990 following the rubric ALEC provided in 1985. It was championed by then-Governor Tommy Thompson, an early ALEC member, who once said he “loved” ALEC meetings, “because I always found new ideas, and then I’d take them back to Wisconsin, disguise them a little bit, and declare [they were] mine.”

    ALEC’s most ambitious and strategic push toward privatizing education came in 2007, through a publication called School Choice and State Constitutions, which proposed a list of programs tailored to each state. That year Georgia passed a version of ALEC’s Special Needs Scholarship Program Act. Most disability organizations strongly oppose special education vouchers—and decades of evidence suggest that such students are better off receiving additional support in public schools. Nonetheless, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Florida, Utah and Indiana have passed versions of their own. Louisiana also passed a version of ALEC’s Parental Choice Scholarship Program Act (renaming it Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence), along with ALEC’s Family Education Tax Credit Program (renamed Tax Deductions for Tuition), which has also been passed by Arizona and Indiana. ALEC’s so-called Great Schools Tax Credit Program Act has been passed by Arizona, Indiana and Oklahoma.

    ALEC’s 2010 Report Card on American Education called on members and allies to “Transform the system, don’t tweak it,” likening the group’s current legislative strategy to a game of whack-a-mole: introduce so many pieces of model legislation that there is “no way the person with the mallet [teachers’ unions] can get them all.” ALEC’s agenda includes:

    § Introducing market factors into teaching, through bills like the National Teacher Certification Fairness Act.

    § Privatizing education through vouchers, charters and tax incentives, especially through the Parental Choice Scholarship Program Act and Special Needs Scholarship Program Act, whose many spinoffs encourage the creation of private schools for specific populations: children with autism, children in military families, etc.

    § Increasing student testing and reporting, through more “accountability,” as seen in the Education Accountability Act, Longitudinal Student Growth Act, One-to-One Reading Improvement Act and the Resolution Supporting the Principles of No Child Left Behind.

    § Chipping away at local school districts and school boards, through its 2009 Innovation Schools and School Districts Act and more. Proposals like the Public School Financial Transparency Act and School Board Freedom to Contract Act would allow school districts to outsource auxiliary services.

  26. Forces behind the privatization of education
    May 12, 2012

    The basic formula behind the drive for for-profit education varies little from state to state: Close public schools, open privately managed schools, cut the budget. It is usually coupled with the negation of union contracts and lower wages and benefits for school workers. While charter schools are paid out of public tax funds, they are exempt from many state and local regulations, especially those protecting work conditions and employee rights.

    According to a January report from the National Education Policy Center and Western Michigan University, 35 percent of all U.S. charter schools are operated by private education management organizations (EMOs), accounting for about 42 percent of all school enrollment. By 2010, there were around 5,000 charter schools in the U.S., with around 1.5 million students.

    The name EMOs was coined by Wall Street after its name for Health Maintenance Organizations. HMOs were the health insurance industry’s business model for increasing profits by denying services. The first EMO was legalized in Minnesota in 1991, but financial deregulation in the 1990s provided Wall Street with the incentive to get into the education business. Recently, the Obama administration has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars of federal “education” money to facilitate the privatization drive.

    Charter schools drain money away from local public school districts. Unlike public schools, EMOs can dismiss students who have “disciplinary problems” or even refuse to admit them.

    Charter schools are not obliged to provide instruction in English as a second language. National studies have shown that EMOs are more likely to increase school segregation and isolate students by race and class than public schools.

    A 2010 Western Michigan University-sponsored study found charter schools spent proportionately more on administrative costs than traditional public schools and less on instruction. It found that student support services averaged $858 per year for public schools compared to $517 for charters.

  27. Elaine,

    Are you surprised that the WSJ is covering up its affiliation with ALEC? But then again in comparison this is the least of the Murdock News Empires troubles……

  28. ALEC Education “Academy” Launches on Island Resort
    by Dustin Beilke — February 2, 2012

    Today, hundreds of state legislators from across the nation will head out to an “island” resort on the coast of Florida to a unique “education academy” sponsored by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). There will be no students or teachers. Instead, legislators, representatives from right-wing think tanks and for-profit education corporations will meet behind closed doors to channel their inner Milton Friedman and promote the radical transformation of the American education system into a private, for-profit enterprise. (ALEC has claimed no corporate reps will be there but it has refused to let the press attend to see this claim for itself.)

    What is ALEC Scoring on Its Education “Report Card?”

    Little is known about the agenda of the ALEC education meeting taking place at the Ritz Carlton on Amelia Island. The meeting is not open to the public and recently even the press has been kicked out of meetings and barred from attendance. So to understand the ALEC agenda with regard to education, it is important to examine ALEC’s education “scorecard.”

    Imagine getting a report card from your teacher and finding out that you were graded not on how well you understood the course material or scored on the tests and assignments, but rather on to what extent you agreed with your teacher’s strange public policy positions. That is the best way to understand the American Legislative Exchange Council’s 17th Report Card on American Education released last week.

    The report card’s authors are Matthew Lardner, formerly of the Goldwater Institute, and Dan Lips, currently of the Goldwater Institute and formerly of the Heritage Foundation. They give every state’s public schools an overall grade based on how they rate in 14 categories. Homeschooling, alternative teacher certification, charter schools, private school choice, and virtual learning make up 7 of the 14 categories. Of the other seven categories, two rate the states’ academic standards and the other five have mostly to do with the way states retain “effective” teachers and fire “ineffective” ones.

    ALEC’s education bills encompass more than 20 years of effort to privatize public education through an ever-expanding network of school voucher systems, which divert taxpayer dollars away from public schools to private schools, or the creation of new private charter schools with public funds, and even with private online schools (who needs actual teachers when you can have a virtual one?). The bills also allow schools to loosen standards for teachers and administrators, exclude students with physical disabilities and special educational needs, escape the requirements of collective bargaining agreements and experiment with other pet causes like merit pay, single-sex education, school uniforms, and political and religious indoctrination of students.

    States where students score well on tests but where ALEC’s legislative agenda around school choice, charters, merit pay, de-unionization and alternative certification have not yet taken hold get low grades. States where elected officials are gung-ho for ALEC’s agenda but the students are not faring so well are still graded generously.

    Ranking Policy, Not Performance

    While ALEC’s report card and its many appendices weigh in at hefty 130+ pages, it is markedly slight on evidence that school choice, charters, or firing more teachers improve student performance. Indeed, the report card itself even makes this case by also ranking each state’s students’ performance on the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) exam, the largest and most accepted national, standardized assessment of student knowledge in several subject areas.

    Massachusetts, Vermont, New Jersey, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, North Carolina, Kansas, New Hampshire and New York comprise the top 10 states in NAEP performance. Among them, only Colorado is among the 13 states ALEC gives a B or better on its report card. Vermont, even though it scored number two on the NAEP, is tied for dead last for policy with a D+. Missouri, ALEC’s star pupil with an A-, scored 47th on NAEP.

  29. AY,

    “Are you surprised that the WSJ is covering up its affiliation with ALEC?”

    That must have been a rhetorical question. Surely, you know what my answer would be.

  30. Oh yes..Michelle Rhee should be on the FBI Most Wanted List. While all the upper middle class folks here pontificate, their children in well funded schools, Rhee has the temerity to want to give poor kids that same opportunity. OFF W/ HER HEAD!!

  31. Nick,

    Siphoning money away from public schools to private schools is not going to solve the problem of failing schools. Our schools are a reflection of our society. We should address the many societal problems that are the causes of failing schools. I believe that early childhood educational programs for children who live in poverty and/or crime-infested neighborhoods would be one attempt at addressing those problems.

    P.S. I’m not upper middle class folk. I never reached that stratum of society. I was a public school teacher for many years.

  32. Ravitch: I don’t understand Michelle Rhee
    By Valerie Strauss

    This was written by education historian Diane Ravitch for her Bridging Differences blog, which she co-authors with Deborah Meier on the Education Week website. The item was first published on April 17. In their blog, Ravitch and Meier exchange letters about what matters most in education. Ravitch, a research professor at New York University, is author of “The Death and Life of the Great American School System,” a critique of the flaws in the modern school reform movement that she just updated.

    Dear Deborah,

    I am trying to understand Michelle Rhee. She has allied herself with the most right-wing governors in the nation, yet she claims to be a Democrat. She has worked with Republican Rick Scott in Florida, Republican John Kasich in Ohio, Republican Chris Christie in New Jersey, Republican Rick Snyder in Michigan, among others. Any governor who wants to cut teachers’ rights and benefits can call on her to stand with him. Wherever there is a governor eager to dismantle and privatize public education, she is there at his side.

    In Indiana, she stood with Republican governor Mitch Daniels as he successfully pushed through voucher legislation. In almost every state where charter legislation is under consideration, she is there to promote the glories of privatization. She is active in Georgia and Alabama and many other states, where the charter movement is likely to do serious harm to rural, exurban, suburban, and fragile urban communities, where the public schools are central to the local community.

    A friend in Alabama went to an event sponsored by Rhee’s organization, StudentsFirst. Rhee’s representative told the 20 or so people at the meeting: “Alabama’s charter legislation will not allow for-profit operators to manage charter schools. Period.” Except that her statement is not true. The Alabama legislation says that after the charter is awarded to a nonprofit, it may turn full management and instructional responsibility over to a for-profit operator. It cannot be a spirit of civic generosity that motivates for-profit corporations to lobby the Alabama legislature to pass the bill. Why would Rhee’s representative be so misinformed, or why would she seek to mislead?

    I am troubled that Rhee thinks that teachers are the biggest problem facing American education. Attacking teachers seems to be her hallmark. I was at an event on Martha’s Vineyard last August when Rhee repeated a story she has often told: three “great teachers in a row” closes the achievement gap. I was waiting for her to say it, and I quickly chimed in to say that it is an urban myth. While writing my last book, I tried to discover if there was any district or any school that had actually closed the achievement gap by providing “three great teachers in a row.” Certainly teachers make a difference, and no one would dispute that it is wonderful to have three great teachers in a row. But no one has ever figured out how to achieve this feat in an entire district. Certainly Rhee didn’t when she was chancellor in the District of Columbia.

    Rhee has turned this urban myth into a national crusade against teachers. If scores are low, she suggests, it is because the students have lazy, incompetent teachers who should be fired. She achieved national notoriety in Washington, D.C., for her readiness to fire teachers and principals whom she judged to be unworthy. You may recall the infamous cover of Time magazine, where she posed sternly with a broom, ready to sweep clean the District of Columbia’s public schools. She did clear out a large proportion of the professional staff in the D.C. schools, and she did impose a new teacher evaluation system called IMPACT.

    However, the benefits of her innovations are questionable. For one thing, the federal NAEP tests in 2011 showed that the D.C. public schools have the largest achievement gap of any city tested by that program; the D.C. black-white achievement gap is fully double the gap in the typical urban district. For another, USA Today documented a major cheating scandal in the D.C. public schools during her tenure. At the center of the scandal was a principal Rhee had repeatedly singled out, honored, given bonuses, and promoted. He resigned.

    Of all the images of Rhee, the one that sticks in my head is when she invited a PBS film crew to watch her fire a principal. She said to the crew: “I’m going to fire somebody in a little while. Do you want to see that?” Of course they did, and they filmed it.

    In another infamous incident, Rhee told an audience of young teachers that when she was a teacher, she controlled her restless class by putting duct tape on their mouths; when the tape came off, their lips were bleeding. Apparently, the audience found that act of child abuse very funny.

    Today Rhee is a national figure. Her organization claims to have a million members, though it has been suggested that anyone who goes to her website is automatically registered as a member. StudentsFirst sends out deceptive email solicitations — I received one myself — asking the recipient if you want to see a great teacher in every classroom. Rhee’s name does not appear anywhere on the email. If you answer yes, you are registered as a “member” of StudentsFirst. I don’t understand this kind of deceptive marketing on behalf of someone who claims to be concerned about education.

  33. ElaineM, I understand your disdain for Rhee. I completely disgree but also know there’s no way I could change your mind. Reasobable folks can disagree. I believe doing the same things over and over again that fail, but expecting different results, is insanity.

  34. Eager for Spotlight, but Not if It Is on a Testing Scandal
    August 21, 2011

    WASHINGTON — Why won’t Michelle Rhee talk to USA Today?

    Ms. Rhee, the chancellor of the Washington public schools from 2007 to 2010, is the national symbol of the data-driven, take-no-prisoners education reform movement.

    It’s hard to find a media outlet, big or small, that she hasn’t talked to. She’s been interviewed by Katie Couric, Tom Brokaw and Oprah Winfrey. She’s been featured on a Time magazine cover holding a broom (to sweep away bad teachers). She was one of the stars of the documentary “Waiting for Superman.”

    These days, as director of an advocacy group she founded, StudentsFirst, she crisscrosses the country pushing her education politics: she’s for vouchers and charter schools, against tenure, for teachers, but against their unions.

    Always, she preens for the cameras. Early in her chancellorship, she was trailed for a story by the education correspondent of “PBS NewsHour,” John Merrow.

    At one point, Ms. Rhee asked if his crew wanted to watch her fire a principal. “We were totally stunned,” Mr. Merrow said.

    She let them set up the camera behind the principal and videotape the entire firing. “The principal seemed dazed,” said Mr. Merrow. “I’ve been reporting 35 years and never seen anything like it.”

    And yet, as voracious as she is for the media spotlight, Ms. Rhee will not talk to USA Today.

    At the end of March, three of the paper’s reporters — Marisol Bello, Jack Gillum and Greg Toppo — broke a story about the high rate of erasures and suspiciously high test-score gains at 41 Washington schools while Ms. Rhee was chancellor.

    At some schools, they found the odds that so many answers had been changed from wrong to right randomly were 1 in 100 billion. In a fourth-grade class at Stanton Elementary, 97 percent of the erasures were from wrong to right. Districtwide, the average number of erasures for seventh graders was fewer than one per child, but for a seventh-grade class at Noyes Elementary, it was 12.7 per student. At Noyes Elementary in 2008, 84 percent of fourth graders were proficient in math, up from 22 percent in 2007.

    Ms. Rhee’s reputation has rested on her schools’ test scores. Suddenly, a USA Today headline was asking, “were the gains real?” In this era of high-pressure testing, Washington has become another in a growing list of cheating scandals that has included Atlanta, Indiana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas.

    It took the USA Today reporters a year to finish their three-part series. So many people were afraid to speak that Ms. Bello had to interview dozens to find one willing to be quoted. She knocked on teachers’ doors at 9:30 at night and hunted parents at PTA meetings. She met people in coffee shops where they would not be recognized, and never called or e-mailed sources at their schools.

    Hari Sevugan, a spokesman for Ms. Rhee, said the reporters were “provided unprecedented time and access to report out their story,” including many meetings with senior staff members and the chief of data accountability. By last fall, Mr. Sevugan said, district officials’ patience was wearing thin. The deputy press secretary, Safiya Simmons, complained in an e-mail to a colleague, “Jack Gillum isn’t going away quietly, Uggh.”

    “Just stop answering his e-mails,” advised Anita Dunn, a consultant who had been the communications director for President Obama.

    The reporters made a dozen attempts to interview Ms. Rhee, directly and through her public relations representatives. Ms. Bello called Ms. Rhee’s cellphone daily, and finally got her on a Sunday.

    “She said she wasn’t going to talk with us,” Ms. Bello recalled. “Her understanding was we were writing about” district schools “and she is no longer chancellor.”

  35. nick,

    Do you think that taking public money away from public schools to pay students’ tuition to religious/private schools that aren’t required to meet the same educational standards as the public schools is a way to solve the problem of failing schools in Louisiana?

    Don’t you think we should address the societal problems that are the causes of failing schools? Do you think that public school teachers are the main problem?

  36. I think the union is part of the problem, as does our President and Secretary of Education. Whether you want to believe it or not, to varying degrees most folks also think that. The biggest problem is the breakdown of the family.

    In 1999 I was burned out as a PI. I had experienced a shooting trauma a few years prior and decided to cut back on my business, return to school, and become a teacher. That was my intent when I first went to college in 1970, but changed my major to criminal justice.I took day and evening classes, continued my business, and did substitute teaching for practical experience. It was 80 hour weeks, something I was used to running my own business. I was certified as a secondary history teacher in 2002. I taught some in public school but couldn’t stand the union mentality. I could go on a rant here but will simply say that mentality is stifling. I taught some in a Catholic school and found a better work ethic, but the money was just to little to justify continuing. So, I returned to my business as a PI. I could expand on my thoughts but it would be a waste of my time and yours.

  37. Elaine,

    The problem is spending other people’s money. That never works. When I go on a business trip I could care less that my employer pays $3 for a $1 bottle of water because of my convenience. The same is true but worse with bureaucrats not only spending other peoples money but in addition have the benefits of that spending divorced from themselves. Basically you have a legislators telling an administrator how much to spend and what goals to achieve. The administrator can easily ask for or blame lack of money and/or can blame “societal” issues for their failure. What the administrator does not have is the incentive or any incentive to overcome the obstacles. The bottom line is that the incentives/rewards are completely and totally off.

    Returning the money to child and their parents at least aligns the incentives somewhat better – though not perfectly. Obviously some will make horrific choices but not necessarily any more so or less so than those legislators and administrators. However overall there is a better incentive and reward system in place.

    I do not claim to be an expert in education but I do know a few things. One is that incentive/rewards matter. And second is that more layers of complexity when a simple solution is available generally has very bad results. Simplicty>Complexity

  38. Nick,

    “I think the union is part of the problem, as does our President and Secretary of Education. Whether you want to believe it or not, to varying degrees most folks also think that. The biggest problem is the breakdown of the family.”

    I have no doubt that most folks think unions are a major problem. Why is that? Maybe it’s because that’s what most of the talking heads on television tell them.

    I think that one of the major problems is children growing up in poverty and/or unsafe surroundings. It is hard for them to focus in school when they are dealing with so many issues at home and in their neighborhoods. Both my daughter and son-in-law are social workers for our state’s Department of Children and Families. They know all about young children who lead traumatic lives. Many of them have problems in school. For some of these children–school is the best and safest part of their lives.

  39. mark1,

    What educational incentives/rewards are you talking about? Being able to use public money to pay tuition to a private religious school where your child’s mind will be taught science based on their parents’ religious beliefs?

    I’d say the voucher program provides an incentive for for-profit schools to make money from the privatization of public schools. I wouldn’t want my tax dollars to pay students’ tuition to religious or for-profit schools.

  40. Elaine,

    Of course not….by the way….. You have not posted anything I disagree with yet…. I used to work for nea and the investigations that went on were pitiful…… They in my opinion were used to obtain private employee information….. So that the information was kept by the government and therefore disclosable…….today, ssn are not kept on payroll Stubbs… Only employee identification……

  41. ElaineM, Most people have personal contact w/ public education, and it is that personal experience on which they base their opinion. What I told you was my personal experience, not influenced by “talking heads”. And, if you read my comment, I agree the biggest problem is the break up of the family and all that entails. Being a PI, I can read people incredibly well. Elaine, when I walked into a classroom about which I knew nothing, I could tell the kids who didn’t have fathers in the home, both male and female students. The boys were easier to spot, but the girls who craved a male figure would laser in on me. So we agree on this point.

    At about the same time divorce became common and the family unit disjointed, teachers became unionized and mostly female. It was a perfect storm for failure. At that time that creative, non union mentality was crucial, it was lost. At a time when more men were needed to be teachers because men were abandoning their families, they left the teaching profession. Elaine, beside my aforementioned personal experience teaching in public and private schools, I also had a diverse educaation. K-8 I attended both Catholic and public school. I went to a Catholic high school and Catholic college. When I went to obtain my teaching certification, I attended a public university. My personal experience is private education is much better than private. No talking head told me that.

    As stated previously, I truly understand your position, I just disagree. I appreciate your honest debate, some here just dig in their heels and are sanctimonious. I’ve been told “I’m out of my league” here. My query as to “what league” she spoke about went unanswered. Elaine, my take is you were a very good, hard working teacher. My old man was very wise. He was a jet engine mechanic for Pratt&Whitney. They were a union shop. As he got older he detested the union for one very simple reason. He said to me once, “Unions eventually just become a crutch for the most lazy and incompetent workers to keep their jobs. It hurts morale and productivity.” You have to admit, you saw what my old man talked about vis a vis unions.

  42. Elaine,
    Yes – That is exactly what I am talking about. The child’s parents have the incentive and reward to pick the school of their liking. It will not take long before some nutty religious school is weeded out by the market. And the school has every incentive not to be weeded and to respond to the needs of the children. And new even whackier schools may start (say some Scientology school or whatever your nightmare is). Their success will be determined ultimately by their product.

    You do not want your tax dollars going to religious schools? Fine neither do i. I do not want it to go to schools with unions. Or schools that stink. I do not control that though. Nor should I nor you have that ability to control it. Because you do not know what it right for me/my children or anyone elses. Many religious affiliated schools (Christian/Catholic, Jewish, etc) often provide better education than public, especially in urban areas with the worst schools. I still would not send my child to religious school in that particular case. But it is my choice.

    Why is profit so bad? You don’t think the union is “profit” motivated. Maybe not the same profit as a public company but let’s not kid ourselves – its about the senior management. And govt officials/politicians are not “profit” motivated? Politicians do what is best for them. I want children and their parents to have that same ability to do what is best for them.

  43. I don’t support charter schools and their role in the privatization of education. However, the charter school in Angel Fire NM, yes, that same bear in the resort Angel Fire, might be an exception. Based on a discussion with a (the?) primary driver for the establishment of the school, the parents at Angel Fire were concerned about the dangerous condition of the roads between Angel Fire and the public school. The school board agreed it was a problem but it would be years before they could open a school there. The Angel Fire community raised the funds and jumped through the hoops to open their own charter school. I had no opportunity to discuss the school with others so don’t know if, or how strong, any opposition might be.

    According to Wikipedia,

    “Moreno Valley High School is a charter high school located in the Angel Fire, New Mexico. Founded by Michael Strong in 2001, Moreno Valley High School is based on the Paideia method. The school’s charter was unanimously renewed by the Cimarron School Board in 2007.

    “Moreno Valley High School is nationally ranked as the 41st high school in America by the 2008 Newsweek/Washington Post Challenge Index [1] In addition to this, the school’s five year average ACT scores are higher in every reporting category for the reporting period than the state’s scores in the same categories. Students at the school made Adequate Yearly Progress under No Child Left Behind in every category, for the past three years.

    “Six Advanced Placement classes are offered on a regular basis and two on an as-needed basis. All Advanced Placement classes are sanctioned by the College Board. One specific Advanced Placement syllabus used by Moreno Valley High School was recognized by the College Board of New Mexico. They are:

    AP Art (as needed)
    AP Calculus (as needed)
    AP Biology
    AP World History
    AP Government

    “Graduating seniors have gone on to pursue advanced degrees at colleges and universities that include Middlebury College in Vermont, University of Oregon, Bayers College in Ohio, Texas Christian University, Virginia Military Institute, Brigham Young University, Universitiet College Utrecht in Utrecht, The Netherlands, and a World College campus in Florence, Italy.”

    1. Is the school free for all or is there tuition? Avg income is $45,000+
    2. If the roads are dangerous for the older kids, why do the elementary kids still go to Cimarron?

    Hint: the kids of the prime mover are/were in high school. I think they are working to open an elementary/middle school.

  44. Everyones taxes goes to public schools and has for generations. The VA, Pell Grants, etc. do not limit the money to go to public colleges and I have NEVER heard a complaint about that. Let’s be intellectually honest here.

  45. I meant govt. money goes to PRIVATE and RELIGIOUS colleges via Pell, VA, and the myriad of other Federal and State grants.

  46. OK, but there is no guarantee of a public college education for anyone. There IS a guarantee of public school education before college.

  47. Malisha, So, if a family is in a depraved school district[pick one, there are many] and they can’t afford a private school, they are SOS. Malisha, yours is an old arguement and the cavalier way alleged progressives, who can afford private schools, condemn poor kids to these dysfunctional; schools is the height of hypocrisy. The public sees it, Obama and his great Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan sees it, and hopefully you will also some day. And my hope is not so much for you but for some kids who aren’t as fortunate as yours and mine.

  48. Nick,

    I was interested learning that you quit teaching when employed by a private school. The pay was insufficent. It’s a good lesson. What do you suppose will happen when most of our schools are private and for profit? Do you suppose they will be attracting and keeping good teachers – people much like yourself?

    Your favorable view of Catholic schooling is also interesting. Were most of your really great teachers lay teachers or religious men or women? Compensation for religious workers will be much lower, of course. If you had great lay teachers, did they make the Catholic schools their career or did they also leave in order to better support their families?

    Free public schools were the bedrock of this nation. I am not ready to turn that over to corporations (whose primary concern is their bonus and the stockholders) nor to religious institutions.

  49. Curious, Great questions. Let me say I agree public education WAS “the bedrock of this nation” and w/ fundamental changes can be once again. I am, like yourself, not ready to turn education over to large corporations. I often rant about large corporations.

    In general, the best teachers I had were nuns. There are hardly any nuns left. The next best were Jesuits and Holy Cross Fathers. That is not to say that I did not have any good lay teachers. Probably the best teacher I ever had was a lay philosophy professor and a grade school math teacher. I do not want to bury public education, although it needs to stop digging its own grave before it can be saved. My experience is many good teachers accept the low pay in parochial schools for the same reason I taught there, more dedication and less bureaucracy. I had a family to support and simply couldn’t justify staying. But, the loss of teaching nuns has definitely hurt Catholic schools.

  50. Privatizing Public Schools: Big Firms Eyeing Profits From U.S. K-12 Market
    By Stephanie Simon

    NEW YORK, Aug 1 (Reuters) – The investors gathered in a tony private club in Manhattan were eager to hear about the next big thing, and education consultant Rob Lytle was happy to oblige.

    Think about the upcoming rollout of new national academic standards for public schools, he urged the crowd. If they’re as rigorous as advertised, a huge number of schools will suddenly look really bad, their students testing way behind in reading and math. They’ll want help, quick. And private, for-profit vendors selling lesson plans, educational software and student assessments will be right there to provide it.

    “You start to see entire ecosystems of investment opportunity lining up,” said Lytle, a partner at The Parthenon Group, a Boston consulting firm. “It could get really, really big.”

    Indeed, investors of all stripes are beginning to sense big profit potential in public education.

    The K-12 market is tantalizingly huge: The U.S. spends more than $500 billion a year to educate kids from ages five through 18. The entire education sector, including college and mid-career training, represents nearly 9 percent of U.S. gross domestic product, more than the energy or technology sectors.

    Traditionally, public education has been a tough market for private firms to break into — fraught with politics, tangled in bureaucracy and fragmented into tens of thousands of individual schools and school districts from coast to coast.

    Now investors are signaling optimism that a golden moment has arrived. They’re pouring private equity and venture capital into scores of companies that aim to profit by taking over broad swaths of public education.

    The conference last week at the University Club, billed as a how-to on “private equity investing in for-profit education companies,” drew a full house of about 100.


    In the venture capital world, transactions in the K-12 education sector soared to a record $389 million last year, up from $13 million in 2005. That includes major investments from some of the most respected venture capitalists in Silicon Valley, according to GSV Advisors, an investment firm in Chicago that specializes in education.

    The goal: an education revolution in which public schools outsource to private vendors such critical tasks as teaching math, educating disabled students, even writing report cards, said Michael Moe, the founder of GSV.

    “It’s time,” Moe said. “Everybody’s excited about it.”

    Not quite everyone.

    The push to privatize has alarmed some parents and teachers, as well as union leaders who fear their members will lose their jobs or their autonomy in the classroom.

    Many of these protesters have rallied behind education historian Diane Ravitch, a professor at New York University, who blogs and tweets a steady stream of alarms about corporate profiteers invading public schools.

    Ravitch argues that schools have, in effect, been set up by a bipartisan education reform movement that places an enormous emphasis on standardized test scores, labels poor performers as “failing” schools and relentlessly pushes local districts to transform low-ranked schools by firing the staff and turning the building over to private management.

    President Barack Obama and both Democratic and Republican policymakers in the states have embraced those principles. Local school districts from Memphis to Philadelphia to Dallas, meanwhile, have hired private consultants to advise them on improving education; the strategists typically call for a broader role for private companies in public schools.

    “This is a new frontier,” Ravitch said. “The private equity guys and the hedge fund guys are circling public education.”

    Some of the products and services offered by private vendors may well be good for kids and schools, Ravitch said. But she has no confidence in their overall quality because “the bottom line is that they’re seeking profit first.”

    Vendors looking for a toehold in public schools often donate generously to local politicians and spend big on marketing, so even companies with dismal academic results can rack up contracts and rake in tax dollars, Ravitch said.

    “They’re taking education, which ought to be in a different sphere where we’re constantly concerned about raising quality, and they’re applying a business metric: How do we cut costs?” Ravitch said.

  51. A Smart ALEC Threatens Public Education
    Coordinated efforts to introduce model legislation aimed at defunding and dismantling public schools is the signature work of this conservative organization.
    By Julie Underwood and Julie F. Mead, Phi Delta Kappan
    February 29,2012

    A legislative contagion seemed to sweep across the Midwest during the early months of 2011. First, Wisconsin legislators wanted to strip public employees of the right to bargain. Then, Indiana legislators got into the act. Then, it was Ohio. In each case, Republican governors and Republican-controlled state legislatures had introduced substantially similar bills that sought sweeping changes to each state’s collective bargaining statutes and various school funding provisions.

    What was going on? How could elected officials in multiple states suddenly introduce essentially the same legislation?

    The answer: The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Its self-described legislative approach to education reads:

    Across the country for the past two decades, education reform efforts have popped up in legislatures at different times in different places. As a result, teachers’ unions have been playing something akin to “whack-a-mole”—you know the game—striking down as many education reform efforts as possible. Many times, the unions successfully “whack” the “mole,” i.e., the reform legislation. Sometimes, however, they miss. If all the moles pop up at once, there is no way the person with the mallet can get them all. Introduce comprehensive reform packages. (Ladner, LeFevre, & Lips, 2010, p. 108)

    ALEC’s own “whack-a-mole” strategy also reveals the group’s ultimate goal. Every gardener who has ever had to deal with a mole knows that the animals undermine and ultimately destroy a garden. ALEC’s positions on various education issues make it clear that the organization seeks to undermine public education by systematically defunding and ultimately destroying public education as we know it.

  52. Nick,

    Thanks for your response. I was expecting that your best teachers were religious men and women. I suppose that would be the response of many here that also went to Catholic schools.

    Last I heard, most skilled and talented people, in whatever field, want to be fairly compensated so they can support their families and send their kids to college. You were dedicated. You did not stay. Neither will they.

    You don’t like corporations and you don’t like unions and the nuns are all gone. So who is going to teach our kids? The man or woman who isn’t paid well, doesn’t have a pension, doesn’t have healthcare but who must have at least a college degree and the debt that goes along with it? Sounds like a great plan to recuit some really wonderful teachers to teach a roomful of maniac 15 year olds AND to deal with their parents who don’t want their children exposed to evolution or “librul” (sic) books.

    Yep. The answer is obvious. Let’s hire the very “dedicated” and pay them as little as possible – it’s our taxes, after all – and I’m sure we’ll be turning out lots of wonderful critical thinkers ready to lead the next generation of Exceptional Americans.

  53. Curious,

    “I was expecting that your best teachers were religious men and women. I suppose that would be the response of many here that also went to Catholic schools.”

    I attended Catholic Schools for twelve years. I can’t say that it was an uplifting educational experience for me. It was something that I endured. Since I attended parochial schools from first through 12th grade, I can’t compare my grammar and high school education to those of my friends who attended public schools. I know those friends had much smaller classes than I did. My elementary and high school classes averaged between forty and fifty students. I can tell you that I got an excellent education at the public college that I attended.

  54. Curious, You equate unions w/ “fairly compensated” because @ this point, it’s parochial, public and higher end private schools. The union teachers and higher end private school teachers are fairly compensated. What about a new paradigm in public schools, merit pay. Taxpayers are willing to pay more than they already pay if there is a merit system, not a seniority system in place. When the great Bill Veeck was asked about rising baseball salaries due to the reserve clause in baseball being invalidated and free agency becoming the the new norm. The wise, down to earth, man of the people owner of the Chisox said, “It’s not the high price of talent that kills a ballclub, great players are worth every penny. It’s the high cost for mediocrity that’s the killer.”

  55. Nick,

    How is one to determine merit pay? By student test scores?

    I have never been in favor of merit pay for teachers. I saw some excellent teachers who were treated as pariahs because they were outspoken. I saw other teachers who got preferential treatment because they “cozied up” to administrators. Most importantly, I think it best for teachers to work in a collaborative rather than a competitive environment.

  56. I’ve been thinking about this matter for some time. This is a great posting Elaine and you add an enormous amount of information to my inner dialog but it’s info on the ‘how’ with the ‘why’ being presumed to be profit. I just keep coming back to ‘why’? What generally applicable reason is there to destroy the school system?

    There may be regional or special interest reasons; ARE touched on one that is relevant. (I too knew some very conservative, religious folks with no TVs, just a radio that was always tuned to radio preachers.) [An interesting take on that below]

    I’m tending toward the knowledge in our national circles that education is becoming superfluous to our country. Education is most useful if a new generation needs to be prepared to enter the world as a minimally qualified citizen and make their way to an adulthood that reflects their culture’s ideal. It used to be a good job, a home, a family, some material comfort, stability and security (in their jobs and expectations), and enough influence as an aggregate population to pass on greater aspirations to their children/next generation.

    I don’t see that model as valid anymore and I don’t think that that the men behind the forces that run the country or world see that as a valid model. This dismantling of the schools is part and parcel of a managed national decline and that decline isn’t specific to only the US. The austerity movement in Europe will, IMO, accomplish the same things we see happening here in the US.

    Maybe today is just a ‘cynical Monday’ for me but I do occasionally wonder what those folks talk about in those “quiet rooms” (TM Mitt Romney) at the Bilderberg Group (and similar) meetings.:-)

  57. Ms Rhee and merit pay? I saw what that kind of system in the hands of a high-functioning sociopath like Ms. Rhee did to a government agency I worked for. It was a terrible thing that completely remade the agency to conform to a template that was imported from the government’s security agencies which sounds like what Ms. Rhee and her ilk are pushing. It was an enlightening experience for me, so much so that I retired early. Ms. Rhee and her ilk are not friends to education.

  58. Apart from moving to privatize the schools for those wanting to make a profit, I see us moving more and more to a feudal society. A few super rich will endow a slightly larger beholden group who will serve them in order to keep their position and a dumbed down populace that will end up working as serfs for barely sustainable wages, if they can get a job. If not, they can starve. A well-educated populace expects more than to work as serfs for barely sustainable wages. The next generations are being prepared to be the serfs.

  59. bettykath,

    “A well-educated populace expects more than to work as serfs for barely sustainable wages. The next generations are being prepared to be the serfs.”

    I think you got something there!

  60. Nick,

    Funny you mentioned Bill Veeck. I knew Bill Veeck and was bounced on his wooden leg (whoa people! there was nothing funny going on. He was a great guy.) We never discussed merit pay. I was about seven years old.

    But, dear god! Tennessee model?!? I have no idea of what that is but they are the ones who just passed some damn fool law about some damn fool social issue. Was it about the loch ness monster and Noah’s Ark? Was it about shriah law? Help me out people. Nick has caused me to completely flip out with his Tennessee model!

  61. nick,
    Merit pay is just another version of NCLB because the teachers will only teach for the test or to whatever benchmark is utilized in order to get their bonuses.

  62. This is another way of making everyone an employee of the big corporates. One way or another, directly or indirectly.

  63. Malisha, right, a related but tangential post below. I had occasion last night to look up a book I was interested in buying. It’s a lovely book and is a textbook- Jung’s Redbook. New $127,00 and to ‘lease’ as an e-book something like $69.00. A leased e-book book is one you don’t get to keep. It expires.

    There’s money to be made in them there for-profit schools if you throw in vertical integration and reciprocal arrangements.

    (linked from BoingNoing)
    “Animation Teacher Faces Termination For Refusing To Sell His Students Unnecessary Books”

  64. Curious,

    I think you should ask Nick to explain the “Tennessee model” and to provide information that shows how effective it has been in improving education in that state.

  65. Paul Ryan on education policy: vouchers, for-profit colleges, local control
    By Valerie Strauss

    Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)talks a lot about scaling back the reach of the federal government, but back in 2001, he voted in favor of No Child Left Behind, the signature education program of the George W. Bush administration that gave unprecedented power to the U.S. Education Department to tell states and districts what they had to do to get federal funds.

    Ryan, who presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney just tapped to be his vice presidential running mate, has obviously changed his mind. Today his Web site says: Rather than relying on the federal government to ensure that students are given the capability to fulfill their potential, education ought to be governed by state and local boards more ably qualified to determine student need.

    Ryan, as chairman of the House Budget Committee, has authored a budget proposal that calls for deep cuts in federal spending, including in public education.

    The Wisconsin representative has also cast votes during his seven terms in the House that show, among other things, support for school vouchers and for-profit colleges, positions that his critics say are part of an overall campaign to privatize public education. Romney has called for a more expansive policy of school vouchers, which give public money to families to attend private and religious schools.

  66. REPORT: Meet The Billionaires Who Are Trying To Privatize Our Schools And Kill Public Education
    By Zaid Jilani on May 21, 2011

    Two weeks ago, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) marked “a new era for education in Indiana” when he signed into law one of the most expansive school voucher laws in the country, opening up a huge fund of tax dollars for private schools. A few days later, the Wisconsin state Assembly vastly expanded school vouchers, freeing up tax dollars even for private religious schools. GOP legislators in the Pennsylvania Senate say they have the votes to pass a sweeping voucher bill of their own. And on Capitol Hill, House Republicans successfully revived Washington, D.C.’s voucher system after it was killed off two years ago.

    This rapid expansion of voucher programs — which undermine and undercut public education by funnelling taxpayer money to private schools — is remarkable. After all, vouchers have been unpopular with the American public. Between 1966 and 2000, vouchers were put up for a vote in states 25 times, and voters rejected the program 24 of those times.

    Yet if one looks behind the curtain — at the foundations, non-profits, Political Action Committees (PAC) — into the workings of the voucher movement, it’s apparent why it has gained strength in recent years. A tight-knit group of right-wing millionaires and billionaires, bankers, industrialists, lobby shops, and hardcore ideologues has been plotting this war on public education, quietly setting up front group after front group to promote the idea that the only way to save public education is to destroy it — disguising their movement with the innocent-sounding moniker of “school choice.”

    ThinkProgress has prepared this report to expose this network and give Americans the knowledge they need to fight back against this assault on the nation’s public schools. Here are some of the top millionaires and their organizations waging war on our education system:
    – Dick DeVos: The DeVos family has been active on education issues since the 1990′s. The son of billionaire Amway co-founder Richard DeVos, Sr., DeVos unsuccessfully ran for governor of the state of Michigan, spending $40 million, the most ever spent in a gubernatorial race in the state. In 2002, Dick DeVos sketched out a plan to undermine public education before the Heritage Foundation, explaining that education advocates should stop using the term “public schools” and instead call them “government schools.” He has poured millions of dollars into right-wing causes, including providing hundreds of thousands of dollars into seed money for numerous “school choice” groups, including Utah’s Parents for Choice in Education, which used its PAC money to elect pro-voucher politicians.

    – Betsy DeVos: The wife of Dick DeVos, she also coincidentally happens to be the sister of Erik Prince, the leader of Xe, the mercenary outfit formerly known as Blackwater and is a former chair of the Republican Party of Michigan. Mrs. DeVos has been much more aggressive than her husband, pouring her millions into numerous voucher front groups across the country. She launched the pro-voucher group All Children Matter in 2003, which spent $7.6 million in its first year alone to impact state races related vouchers, winning 121 out of 181 races in which it intervened. All Children Matter was found breaking campaign finance laws in 2008, yet has still not paid its $5.2 million fine. She has founded and/or funded a vast network of voucher front groups, including Children First America, the Alliance for School Choice, Kids Hope USA, and the American Federation for Children.

    – American Federation for Children (AFC): AFC made headlines recently when it brought together Govs. Scott Walker (R-WI) and Tom Corbett (R-PA) and former D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee at a major school choice event in Washington, D.C. AFC is perhaps the most prominent of all the current voucher groups, having been founded in January 2010 by Betsy DeVos. Working together with its PAC of the same name and the 501c(3) organization also lead by DeVos, the Alliance for School Choice, it has served as a launching pad for school choice legislation across the country. AFC made its mark in Wisconsin by pouring thousands of dollars into the state legislative races, donating $40,000 in the service of successfully electing voucher advocate Rep. Kathy Bernier (R) and donating similar amounts to elect Reps. Andre Jacque (R), John Klenke (R), Tom Larson (R), Howard Marklein (R), Erik Severson (R), and Travis Tranel (R). DeVos front group All Children Matter also donated thousands to many of these same voucher advocates. Altogether, AFC spent $820,000 in Wisconsin during the last election, making it the 7th-largest single PAC spender during the election (behind several other mostly right-wing groups with similar agendas).

    – Alliance for School Choice (ASC): The Alliance for School Choice is another DeVos front group founded to promote vouchers and serves as the education arm of AFC. In 2008, the last date available for its financial disclosures, its total assets amounted to $5,467,064. DeVos used the organization not only for direct spending into propaganda campaigns, but to give grants to organizations with benign-sounding names so that they could push the radical school choice agenda. For example, in 2008 the organization gave $530,000 grant to the “Black Alliance for Educational Options” in Washington, D.C. and a $433,736 grant to the “Florida School Choice Fund.” This allowed DeVos to promote her causes without necessarily revealing her role. But it isn’t just the DeVos family that’s siphoning money into the Alliance for School Choice and its many front group patrons. Among its other wealthy funders include the Jaquelin Hume Foundation (which gave $75,000 in 2008 and $100,000 in 2006), the brainchild of one of an ultra-wealthy California businessman who brought Ronald Reagan to power, the powerful Wal Mart Foundation (which gave $100,000 in 2005, the Chase Foundation of Virginia (which gave $9,000 in 2007, 2008, and the same amount in 2009), which funds over “supports fifty nonprofit libertarian/conservative public policy research organizations,” and hosts investment banker Derwood Chase, Jr. as a trustee, the infamous oil billionaire-driven Charles Koch Foundation ($10,000 in 2005), and the powerful Wal Mart family’s Walton Family Foundation (more than $3 million over 2004-2005).

    – Bill and Susan Oberndorf: This Oberndorfs use their fortune, gained from Bill’s position as the managing director of the investment firm SPO Partners, to funnel money to a wide variety of school choice and corporate education reform groups. In 2009, their Bill and Susan Oberndorf Foundation gave $376,793 to AFC, $5,000 to the Center for Education Reform, and $50,000 to the Brighter Choice Foundation. Additionally, Bill Oberndorf gave half a million dollars to the school choice front group All Children Matter between 2005 and 2007. At a recent education panel, Bill Oberndorf was credited with giving “tens of millions” of dollars of his personal wealth to the school choice movement, and said that the passage of the Indiana voucher law was the “gold standard” for what should be done across America.

    – The Walton Family Foundation (WFF):The Wal Mart-backed WFF is one of the most powerful foundations in the country, having made investments in 2009 totaling over $378 million. In addition to financing a number of privately-managed charter schools itself, the foundation showered ASC with millions of dollars in 2009. It also gave over a million dollars to the New York-based Brighter Choice Foundation, half a million dollars to the Florida School Choice Fund, $105,000 to the Foundation for Educational Choice, $774,512 to the Friends of Educational Choice, $400,000 to School Choice Ohio, and gave $50,000 to the Piton Foundation to promote a media campaign around the Colorado School Choice website — all in 2009 alone. WFF’s push for expanding private school education and undermining traditional public schools was best summed up by John Walton’s words in an interview in 2000. An interviewer asked him, “Do you think there’s money to be made in education?” Walton replied, “Absolutely. I think it will offer a reasonable return for investors.” (He also did vigorously argue in the same interview that he does not want to abolish public education).

    The wealthy families and powerful corporate-backed foundations presented here are just a sampling of some of the forces currently taking aim at public education. By demonizing traditional public schools and the teachers that staff them, this corporate education movement is undermining a very basic aspect of our democracy: a public commons that provides true opportunity for all, no matter what their background or socioeconomic status.

    While the goals of the figures in this movement are varied, their assault on our public education system is one and the same. Joseph Bast, the president and CEO of the Heartland Institute, explained his own thinking about vouchers once, saying, “The complete privatization of schooling might be desirable, but this objective is politically impossible for the time being. Vouchers are a type of reform that is possible now, and would put us on the path to further privatization.” It’s up to Americans to protect their schools, teachers, kids, and communities from that fate.

  67. Behind Grass-Roots School Advocacy, Bill Gates
    Published: May 21, 2011

    INDIANAPOLIS — A handful of outspoken teachers helped persuade state lawmakers this spring to eliminate seniority-based layoff policies. They testified before the legislature, wrote briefing papers and published an op-ed article in The Indianapolis Star.

    They described themselves simply as local teachers who favored school reform — one sympathetic state representative, Mary Ann Sullivan, said, “They seemed like genuine, real people versus the teachers’ union lobbyists.” They were, but they were also recruits in a national organization, Teach Plus, financed significantly by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

    For years, Bill Gates focused his education philanthropy on overhauling large schools and opening small ones. His new strategy is more ambitious: overhauling the nation’s education policies. To that end, the foundation is financing educators to pose alternatives to union orthodoxies on issues like the seniority system and the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers.

    In some cases, Mr. Gates is creating entirely new advocacy groups. The foundation is also paying Harvard-trained data specialists to work inside school districts, not only to crunch numbers but also to change practices. It is bankrolling many of the Washington analysts who interpret education issues for journalists and giving grants to some media organizations.

    “We’ve learned that school-level investments aren’t enough to drive systemic changes,” said Allan C. Golston, the president of the foundation’s United States program. “The importance of advocacy has gotten clearer and clearer.”

    The foundation spent $373 million on education in 2009, the latest year for which its tax returns are available, and devoted $78 million to advocacy — quadruple the amount spent on advocacy in 2005. Over the next five or six years, Mr. Golston said, the foundation expects to pour $3.5 billion more into education, up to 15 percent of it on advocacy.

    Given the scale and scope of the largess, some worry that the foundation’s assertive philanthropy is squelching independent thought, while others express concerns about transparency. Few policy makers, reporters or members of the public who encounter advocates like Teach Plus or pundits like Frederick M. Hess of the American Enterprise Institute realize they are underwritten by the foundation.

    “It’s Orwellian in the sense that through this vast funding they start to control even how we tacitly think about the problems facing public education,” said Bruce Fuller, an education professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who said he received no financing from the foundation.

    Mr. Hess, a frequent blogger on education whose institute received $500,000 from the Gates foundation in 2009 “to influence the national education debates,” acknowledged that he and others sometimes felt constrained. “As researchers, we have a reasonable self-preservation instinct,” he said. “There can be an exquisite carefulness about how we’re going to say anything that could reflect badly on a foundation.”

    “Everybody’s implicated,” he added.

    Indeed, the foundation’s 2009 tax filing runs to 263 pages and includes about 360 education grants. There are the more traditional and publicly celebrated programmatic initiatives, like financing charter school operators and early-college high schools. Then there are the less well-known advocacy grants to civil rights groups like the Education Equality Project and Education Trust that try to influence policy, to research institutes that study the policies’ effectiveness, and to Education Week and public radio and television stations that cover education policies.

    The foundation paid a New York philanthropic advisory firm $3.5 million “to mount and support public education and advocacy campaigns.” It also paid a string of universities to support pieces of the Gates agenda. Harvard, for instance, got $3.5 million to place “strategic data fellows” who could act as “entrepreneurial change agents” in school districts in Boston, Los Angeles and elsewhere. The foundation has given to the two national teachers’ unions — as well to groups whose mission seems to be to criticize them.

  68. Blackwater In-Law DeVos outlines “stealth” plot against Public Education
    May 4, 2011

    “The DeVos family crusade to eradicate public education… [is] being marketed as a solution to save public schools, but the big donors are tied to right-wing think tanks that openly advocate, and strategize, the end of public education. How can vouchers improve public schools if the people mobilizing the movement intend to eradicate public education? Regardless of your personal stance on “school choice,” it’s important to know who is behind the voucher movement and the agenda they don’t share with the public or advertise in their media campaigns.” – from Rachel Tabachnick’s report, Voucher Advocate Betsy DeVos, Right-Wing Think Tanks Behind Koch-Style Attack on PA Public Schools

    Last weekend, while revisiting a 2007 Alternet story I did covering the war on public education, The link between Private Armies & Private Schools?, I discovered an astonishing video of a speech Amway fortune heir Richard DeVos gave on December 3, 2002, at the Heritage Foundation (which DeVos money funds.) Dick DeVos is brother-in-law to private mercenary army Blackwater’s founder Eric Prince (hence my Alternet title.)

    In the speech, DeVos laid out the next decade’s plan for the continuing right-wing assault on public education but warned his Heritage audience that “We need to be cautious about talking too much about these activities.”

    From here, I’ll let Rachel Tabachnick, who has been covering the ongoing war on Public Education in depth, provide context for Richard DeVos’ Heritage speech. If you have not yet read the two reports Tabachnick links to in her introductory paragraph, I urge you to do so:

    Strategy for Privatizing Public Schools Spelled out by Dick DeVos in 2002 Heritage Foundation Speech
    Right-wing think tanks have determined that school vouchers are key to eradicating public education and Dick and Betsy DeVos lead the way in execution of the well-funded plan. The money is tracked in two extensive reports on Talk2action [1 and 2].

    “We need to be cautious about talking too much about these activities,” Dick DeVos warned in a December 2002 speech at the Heritage Foundation. DeVos was introduced by former Secretary of Education William Bennett and then proposed a stealth strategy for promoting school vouchers in state legislatures. DeVos and his wife Betsy had already spent millions promoting voucher initiatives that were soundly rejected by voters. Pro-privatization think tanks had concluded that vouchers were the most politically viable way to “dismantle” public schools; the DeVoses persevered. Dick DeVos introduced his 2002 Heritage Foundation audience to a covert strategy to provide “rewards or consequences” to state legislators, learning from the activities of the Great Lake Education Project (GLEP) initiated by Betsy DeVos. Vouchers should be promoted by local “grass roots” entities and could not be “viewed as only a conservative idea.” DeVos added, “This has got to be the battle. It will not be as visible.”

    Ten years later, the DeVos stealth strategy has been implemented and is winning the voucher war in several states. As recommended to the Heritage Foundation in 2002, the public face of the movement is bipartisan and grass roots, and millions of dollars are poured into media firms to reinforce that image. However, behind the scenes the movement continues to be led by the DeVoses, and the funding used to provide “rewards or consequences” for state legislators continues to be raised from a small group of mega-donors.

  69. Voucher Advocate Betsy DeVos, Right-Wing Think Tanks Behind Koch-Style Attack on PA Public Schools
    Rachel Tabachnick
    Wed Apr 20, 2011

    A new wave of school voucher bills is sweeping the nation, which would allow public education funds to be used in private or parochial schools. As with past waves of voucher initiatives, these new bills are largely promoted and funded by the billionaire DeVos family and a core group of wealthy pro-privatization supporters. They include Pennsylvania SB-1, soon coming to a vote in the PA Senate, and the “Vouchers-for-All” bill approved by the Florida Senate Education Committee on April 14. Betsy DeVos is at the helm of organizations that have set the stage for both bills, but you would never know it based on the propaganda being marketed to Pennsylvanians. Even if you are from another state, keep reading. Chances are a Betsy DeVos-led campaign is already at work in your state or will be there soon.

    The DeVos family is recognized as one of the top national contributors to the Republican Party, free market policy institutes, and Religious Right organizations. Many of their previous attempts at using voucher initiatives to privatize the nation’s public schools have been transparent. Recent campaigns have been more covert and are camouflaged behind local efforts described as grass roots and bipartisan.

    Pennsylvanians should not be deceived. Regardless of where one stands on the issue of school choice, behind the curtain of this effort is an interconnected network of right wing think tanks and billionaire donors, funded by foundations including those of the DeVos and Koch families and the Scaife, Allegheny, and Carthage Foundations of Pennsylvania’s own Richard Mellon Scaife. The leaders of many of these DeVos/Koch/Scaife-funded institutes openly voice their ideological objections to all forms of public education. Some even proudly display their support for a proclamation posted at the Alliance for Separation of School and State, which reads,

    “I proclaim publicly that I favor ending government involvement in education.”

    Years have been spent developing and promoting schemes to privatize public education. The report “Voucher Veneer: the Deeper Agenda to Privatize Public Education” by People For the American Way (PFAW), quotes Joseph Bast, President and CEO of the Koch/Scaife/Walton-funded Heartland Institute,

    “The complete privatization of schooling might be desirable, but this objective is politically impossible for the time being. Vouchers are a type of reform that is possible now, and would put us on the path to further privatization.”

  70. Why Should We Reform Education Using Microsoft’s Failed Ranking Policies?
    By Nicole Belle
    July 5, 2012

    Few people have been as visible as Bill and Melinda Gates on the subject of education reform. Certainly, in our society, where having a large portfolio trumps any possible personal failings, Bill Gates is held up by the mainstream media as someone leading the charge for innovation in education reform.

    But is he?

    Gates has been advocating for the adoption of a ranking policy for teachers and schools that has been in use at Microsoft for years. Essentially, it assumes that in any team of ten, there would be two that would get great reviews, seven would get mediocre reviews and one would get a poor/terrible review. Are you sensing the inherent issue with these preconceived rankings? The employees at Microsoft can tell you:

    Eichenwald’s conversations reveal that a management system known as “stack ranking”—a program that forces every unit to declare a certain percentage of employees as top performers, good performers, average, and poor—effectively crippled Microsoft’s ability to innovate. “Every current and former Microsoft employee I interviewed—every one—cited stack ranking as the most destructive process inside of Microsoft, something that drove out untold numbers of employees,” Eichenwald writes. “If you were on a team of 10 people, you walked in the first day knowing that, no matter how good everyone was, 2 people were going to get a great review, 7 were going to get mediocre reviews, and 1 was going to get a terrible review,” says a former software developer. “It leads to employees focusing on competing with each other rather than competing with other companies.”

    That’s right. The very policy being pushed to “fix” education is the exact same one that has damaged Microsoft’s ability to innovate and lead.

    And it’s the same policy that Andrew Cuomo has adopted for New York schools. Diane Ravitch, who has been trying to stem this tide of using business principles to reform education, has some questions as well:

    I am puzzled by what I read in the column cited here. I am also puzzled by the Gates Foundation’s persistent funding of groups that want to privatize public education. I am puzzled by their funding of “astroturf” groups of young teachers who insist that they don’t want any job protections, don’t want to be rewarded for their experience (of which they have little) or for any additional degrees, and certainly don’t want to be represented by a collective bargaining unit.

    I am puzzled by their funding of groups that are promoting an anti-teacher, anti-public education agenda in state after state. And I am puzzled by the hundreds of millions they have poured into the quixotic search to guarantee that every single classroom has a teacher that knows how to raise test scores.

    Sometimes I wonder if anyone at the Gates Foundation has any vision of what good education is, or whether they think that getting higher test scores is the same as getting a good education. I wonder if they ever think about their role in demoralizing and destabilizing the education profession.

    I don’t think there is anyone who will deny that we do need education reform. We are matriculating young people who are functionally illiterate and unable to think critically. And that is the generation charged with caring for us as we age. But rather than work in a way that demoralizes and demonizes teachers, we ought to be focusing on ways to raise and inspire every student.

  71. Elaine,

    There is another player in Michigan and the heritage academys’… I forget the name, but he along with DeVos, Betsy specifically invested great resources in getting charter schools…….guided under the tutelage of one of the state universities……… One of my daughters wanted to work there…… Thank goodness she was offered employment in a very good public school system….. And not to bad of pay with benefits……

  72. DeVos team: Race-baiters, Women-haters
    Right wing hopes Detroit joins effort
    By Bankole Thompson
    The Michigan Citizen

    DETROIT — Republican billionaire candidate Dick DeVos does not say he is Republican in his TV ads, appearing as a successful businessman who is poised to turn around Michigan’s ailing economy if elected governor.

    But a look at DeVos’ background, and the makeup of his campaign inner circle reveals a candidate that has bankrolled ultraconservative causes, worked to privatize public education and pursued ideological goals aligned with the religious right.

    With a ‘money is might’ philosophy, and poll numbers in his favor, the GOP gubernatorial flag bearer is defining himself as a political novice with business acumen to solve the state’s economic woes.

    “Dick DeVos is not a political novice. He and his family have spent more money on politics than on any other form of philanthropy,” said Rich Robinson executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. “Whatever it is that he has done, he has not supported public education. I think it is important for people to know that.”

    DeVos and anti-public education

    Betsy DeVos, wife of candidate DeVos and former head of the Michigan Republican Party, now heads one of the biggest PACs in the country, All Children Matter. The PAC, which prides itself as an educational reform group, is based in Virginia but operates from Grand Rapids. It spends thousands of dollars in political campaigns around the country to promote vouchers and charter schools.

    In 2004, All Children Matter, according to MCFN data, spent more than $8.2 million in at least 10 states including Florida, South Carolina, Washington and Virginia in its “education choice” campaigns against public education.

    On its website, an All Children Matter report reads: “Works in some states to communicate with citizens about issues that are important to them, encouraging them to contact their candidates and legislators about these important issues.”

    Education choice has been the signature issue for the DeVos family for years now. They promote tax credits for private and parochial school tuition and charter schools, Robinson said.

    In 2000, the DeVos family spent more than $5 million on the failed voucher campaign in Michigan.

    “Given that education is a complicated issue I think voters should be aware of what his [DeVos] track record is,” Robinson said. “This is an important preview of what will happen if he is elected governor.”

    Presently an education bill in South Carolina called “Put Parents in Charge” is languishing in the General Assembly where Democrats and some Republicans have opposed the legislation. The bill would create tax cuts for middle and upper class parents of children attending private schools.

    According to Metro Beat, an online news site in South Carolina, All Children Matter spent $150,000 in the campaigns of GOP political candidates Steve Parker in Spartanburg and Ken Wingate in Columbia for their endorsement of this school choice legislation.

    “Donors include such six-figure contributors as Richard DeVos, Jr. [Dick DeVos] of Michigan who has used his Amway fortune to promote school choice, and John Walton of Arkansas, son of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton and one of five billionaires,” Metro Beat reported. “The tenor of the campaign revealed the sharp ideological bent of All Children Matter. For many years, ultraconservative groups and free-market economists have pursued an agenda to privatize public education in the United States to pursue their ideological goals. This necessarily requires a broad-based campaign to discredit public schools, a strategy that has been present in the current struggle in South Carolina.”

  73. School For Scandal: The Louisiana Voucher Plan Just Gets Worse And Worse – And Your State May Be Next
    Aug 13, 2012 by Rob Boston in Wall of Separation

    Meanwhile, the Monroe News Star has reported that state officials are hard at work to make the playing field as tilted as possible toward private schools. Starting this year, Louisiana public schools will use a “Common Core Curriculum” that is widely acknowledged to be more challenging. Private schools are free to ignore it.

    The newspaper reported that private schools applying to the program must complete a form requesting “name, email and physical address and phone number of the school, whether the principal is certified, an estimated number of students, a mission statement, goals and objectives, daily schedules for pre-kindergarten through high school and a school calendar and projected student enrollment for each grade.”

    That’s it. They aren’t required to provide information about what they plan to teach. As a result, schools like this one run by a man who heads up several dubious non-profit groups and calls himself a “prophet” are raking in taxpayer money.

    Perhaps the most striking difference between the core curriculum and what many private schools teach will occur in science classes. Under the core curriculum, students will start leaning about evolution in the fourth grade, and it will be especially stressed in high school classes.

    Religious schools that receive vouchers are under no obligation to teach evolution. In fact, many of the fundamentalist academies plan to teach creationism instead. Louisiana was subjected to international ridicule when word got out that some schools taking part in the voucher plan are using a biology textbook produced by a fundamentalist Christian publisher arguing that the legendary Loch Ness Monster in Scotland might be a living dinosaur, whose existence disproves evolution.

    Some of you might be tempted to shake your heads and say, “That’s Louisiana!” I’d urge you not be complacent. The same big-bucks voucher advocates who brought Louisiana to this point are eyeing other states as well.

    A voucher front group run by multi-millionaire Betsy DeVos is currently on the move in Wisconsin, looking to expand that state’s voucher plan – even though numerous studies have shown that it does not boost the academic performance of children taking part.

    Voucher plans nearly passed this year in Pennsylvania and New Jersey; both states expect to see a re-match next year. Other states are also being targeted.

    If you don’t want your state’s educational system to look like Louisiana’s, you’d better sit up and take notice. The public schools are under assault from the well-funded forces of sectarian zeal and privatization. They need your help.

  74. Nick,

    Elaine, one terrific blogger, has offered me some very good advice – much better than me just flipping out* at the mention of a Tennessee merit pay program about which I know nothing.

    So Nick, will you please explain the Tennessee merit plan and offer support for how it is improving education for Tennessee kids?

    *Tennessee: The state that just recently passed the “Gateway to Sexual Activity Bill”.

  75. Elaine, You don’t need to limit your polemics to just Bill And Melinda Gates. Go after the deceased Steve Jobs. He was even more adamant on the need for a new paradigm. When The Gates, Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, and Arne Duncan as well as other intelligent, caring people are saying your system must change fundamentally, does it not mean anything to you? I do love your passion, Elaine. That’s not bu%ls&it. However, it saddens me that it is focused on a losing system that is changing, righteously so, whether you can abide it or not. This was a big part of the “change” Obama spoke about in his2008 campaign. And, unlike a lot of issues, he actually followed through on it. I assume you voted for him, and will again.

  76. Curious, This thread is getting tedious. But, here’s a brief synopsis. When Obama and Duncan created Race to The Top some states took it seriously as a way to change and get more $’s to improve their schools. Many states scoffed @ the Race to The Top, presumably Elaine being among them. I live in Wi. where the teachers union is very strong and they simply thumbed their noses. Tenn. set up a system wherein 35% of merit of merit pay would be tied to test scores. Principal evaluations and other criteria, determined by a 15 person panel[including teachers] would set the other criteria. There are subjects not tested and so a personalized criteria is needed.

    Curious, as I just said to Elaine, this is what Obama promised in 2008. Vote him out if you don’t like it. The teachers knew Hillary would not have rocked their boat, that’s why they went all in w/ their dollars for her during the 2008 primaries. Elections have consequences.

  77. Nick,

    You’re assuming something that is not a fact–that I don’t think our educational system needs to change. I do. One of the things that I think is destroying the educational process in our public schools is high stakes testing. Those tests were brought to us in Massachusetts as part of school reform.

    You say our current educational system much change–yet you have no problem with public money paying for tuition to private and religious schools that don’t have to meet the same educational standards as public schools. Some of these voucher schools teach creation “science.” I fail to see how schools that aren’t required to teach what is in a state’s educational framework and that often employ teachers who may not be college educated or hold a teaching certificate would be better educational institutions than public schools.

    Another thing: There are thousands of public schools in this country that provide their students with an excellent education. Those schools don’t need to be “reformed.”

    I noted the following in an earlier comment. I think it bears repeating:
    “Our schools are a reflection of our society. We should address the many societal problems that are the causes of failing schools. I believe that early childhood educational programs for children who live in poverty and/or crime-infested neighborhoods would be one attempt at addressing those problems.”

    Failing schools are a symptom of one of the maladies of our society. Address the problem/malady–don’t destroy public education in this country. Sending children to private and religious schools on the tax payers’ dime won’t cure the problems.

  78. Nick,

    Is the discussion becoming tedious for you because you can’t convince many of us that public money should not pay student tuition to private/religious schools that aren’t required to meet the same educational standards as public schools?

    Question: Do you believe that every public school in this country is failing its students and needs to be reformed?

  79. If you go back I stated @ the outset of this discussion I knew your mind would not be changed. Geez!

    As to your question, my answer is no. The rich ones do just fine. Do you have a lot of experience w/ inner city schools? Poor rural schools?

  80. Competition brings about vast improvement and innovation. Vouchers create competition, which the staus quo abhors. Were you one of those anti competition folks on an earlier thread involving sports?

    Let me give you an example of public v private competition. We all are frustrated w/ the DMV but if we want a driver’s license or a car registered, we have no option. So..we go to the DMV and spend hours being waited on by people w/ no competition. being a PI, I dealt w/ the DMV on a daily basis, getting driver’s license info, running plates, etc. So, I had the distinct pleasure of dealing w/ these slow motion people daily. Well, in the new millenium private companies started selling this info from the databases they puchased cheaply en masse. What happened Elaine? Why yes, the DMV set up a system where we PI’s could call in and get the info after setting up an account. And..they assigned good people to this who weren’t slo motion and quite competent.

    If you’re a socialist then competition is an anathema to you. But all right thinking people see clearly that the greatest change and innovation is a direct by product to competition.

    Your failure to respond to my comments about President Obama tells me I may have touched an open wound.

  81. nick,

    Getting a little testy…are we?

    You haven’t provided me with information or a good enough argument for me to change my mind. Show me how the school voucher program is going to improve the education of children in Louisiana.

    Poverty, unsafe neighborhoods, family problems, and other societal issues visit themselves upon our public schools. Children bring their problems and worries to school with them. They don’t leave them behind at home. We need to address the problems of poverty, unhealthy and unsafe living conditions, abusive/neglectful parents, etc., and not blame the schools, teachers, and unions for all of our educational woes. We must start to treat the diseases and not just their symptoms. Otherwise, we won’t solve the problem of failing schools.

  82. Nick,

    OK. Let’s say we made you king and you institute merit pay and no unions.

    Now let’s talk about how to educate our kids. Should teachers have Bachelor degrees? Should creationism be taught? Should private schools that receive vouchers meet the same academic standards as public schools?

    I have a feeling that you will answer those questions just as I would. Will you indulge me?

  83. Nick,

    You haven’t touched an open wound with regard to Obama. Did you read the beginning of my post? I’ll repost it here for you:

    “In May, David Sirota penned an article for Salon titled Selling out Public Schools. In it, he said that Mitt Romney, President Obama, and both of our major political parties were ‘assaulting public education.'”

  84. Nick,

    How is competition among schools going to solve the societal problems that I wrote about in earlier comments? I’ll say it again for you–treat the disease…not the symptoms of the disease.

    I taught in a middle class community that participated in the Metco program. We bussed in children from the inner city.

    BTW, what is your teaching experience?

  85. Nick,

    I’m trying to respect your rules but by relying on “competition” you’re making it tough. These new voucher laws destroy competition. The private schools do not have to meet the same standards as the public schools.

  86. Curious,

    “I’m trying to respect your rules but by relying on “competition” you’re making it tough. These new voucher laws destroy competition. The private schools do not have to meet the same standards as the public schools.”

    Rules is rules–except for the voucher schools.

  87. When a message is repeated often enough, a certain percentage of people will believe it is true regardless of evidence to the contrary. For example the statement, “Free market competitive models are the one and only solution for every problem, no matter what that problem might be.” This is part and parcel of the Big Lie technique of propaganda as repetition is key to both operant conditioning and reinforcement. The fetishism of economic models to where they have a nearly religious zeal in application to those who bought into such a silver bullet fantasy is merely a reflection of this phenomena and has nothing to do with real world solutions.

  88. Elaine,

    Thank you for a most informative thread. Superb job. I was already convinced that privatization was a very bad way to reform education, but you provided some terrific support for that position. Mr. and Mrs. DeVos are new players to me. They will inhabit my nightmares for many months to come.

    But while we are talking about Louisiana, perhaps you will ask Turley to discuss an additional controversy that is going on down there with the LA Supreme Court.

  89. Curious, Teachers should have bachelors degrees w/ a requirement for masters within 5-7 years. The degree must be in the field they teach. When I went back to school in 1999 to get certified it was mostly education classes. They weren’t worth a bucket of warm spit. Private schools would be required to meet the same standards. Creationism no.

    ElaineM, You don’t know me but a few others here can tell you there IS NO DOUBT when I am getting testy. This is not testy for Nick Spinelli. I am getting tired and wondering about your reading comprehension. As I have said to you 4 times now, I said @ the outset [8/13/12 @ 12:39] I “know there is no way I will change your mind.” You, dear woman, are an entrenched idealogue. That wass horribly obvious from your post.

    Now that both parties are “out to destroy public education” as you put it, where do you turn? And, to equate the self centered and self serving union w/ “public education” is both myopic and narcissistic. Soon you will be like one of those Japanese soldiers, stranded on a Pacific island in the late 1950’s, still fighting WW2.

    Finally, by your standards we need to change the world of poverty and crime before we change education. That is not even worthy of a response.

    Comrade Gene H, what took you so long, was the politburo in session?

  90. nick,

    I’d say you’re the one who is the entrenched ideologue. You have already used the terms socialist, comrade, and politburo. Anyone who doesn’t come around to “your way of thinking” is an entrenched ideologue or a socialist. Have you changed your mind about vouchers and the privatization of public schools during the course of this discussion? Do you consider yourself to be an entrenched ideologue.

    Can you show me how the school voucher program is going to improve the education of children in Louisiana?

    BTW, you never answered my question about your teaching experience. Are you a teacher? Have you ever taught? Are you certified to teach?


    You wrote: “And, to equate the self centered and self serving union w/ “public education” is both myopic and narcissistic.”

    Did I do that? Really? My, you do have a wild imagination.

    My reading comprehension is just fine. You can question my intelligence and insult me all you want. It’s a tactic used by others before you. It fails to get a rise out of me.


    P. S. Don’t get your knickers in a twist, Nicky boy. Try to stay calm, cool, and collected.


  91. ElaineM, Asked and answered. 8/13/12 @1:04pm. I’m concerned about either your reading comprehension and/or short term memory. I’m of the same mind as Obama, Duncan and the vast majority of people in this country. You can decide whether or not that makes me an idealogue. You have your own mind.

  92. Nick,

    Thanks for the answers. We are in agreement. It leaves me puzzled that you support voucher programs since they all do not meet those basic requirements but I think everybody is tired. So we’ll leave the fight for another day.

  93. Curious,

    “It leaves me puzzled that you support voucher programs since they all do not meet those basic requirements…”

    It leaves me puzzled too. Maybe Nick can explain it at some time in the future.

  94. Finally, At least hopefully anyway, regarding your PS. Elaine, I have been shot @ and had a shotgun aimed point blank @ my head. This is a piece o’ cake. I am one cool, calm customer as anyone who knows me will tell you.

    Curious, You’re welcome. I enjoyed our exchange of views.

  95. Nick,

    You wrote;
    “I was certified as a secondary history teacher in 2002. I taught some in public school but couldn’t stand the union mentality. I could go on a rant here but will simply say that mentality is stifling. I taught some in a Catholic school and found a better work ethic, but the money was just to little to justify continuing. So, I returned to my business as a PI. I could expand on my thoughts but it would be a waste of my time and yours.”

    You taught “some” in a public school and “some” in a Catholic school. What does that mean? Did you teach for a couple of days…couple of weeks…couple of months…couple of years?

    I taught in a public school system for more than three decades–a system where teachers had an excellent work ethic. I never felt stifled by a “union” mentality. I can tell you that in my school system there was no such mentality. Not all teachers share the same experiences or attitudes.

  96. Elaine,
    Thanks. I will contact comrade Gene.
    Amen to your comments about the union mentality not getting in the way of teaching the kids. My wife is on her 21st or 22nd year in her school district and the toughest part of the job is dealing with parents, not the students.

  97. My mom was a teacher in the public schools from 1954 through 1978. She was an innovator and a “diligante.” My kid had six teachers in his grade school/high school career who were absolute STARS and should have been award-winners, if there were awards to win. I have four friends who are now Montessori teachers and with whom I have collaborated at educational activities. Etc. etc. etc. Many of them have worked in both the public school ad the private school systems. (My mom not, my mom only public.)

    ALL of them believe(d) firmly that the US Public School System was the backbone of our democracy. As do I. You can have plenty of fine alternatives to public schools, but the public dollars shouldn’t be spent there.

  98. raff/Elaine,

    Politburo meetings are every other Tuesday and the last Friday of the month unless it is a day that ends in “y” in which case they are every day as mandated by the NVKD, PDQ, SOL, BBQ, COD.



    “I am flawed and one of my flaws is I don’t suffer fools or foolishness well.”

    Don’t be so hard on yourself. You aren’t the most foolish person we’ve seen here by a long shot. You never met Tootie.

  99. Gene, Lame and weak. Your quip is akin to “I know you are but what am I.” It’s 5th grade banter, comrade.

  100. Speaking of lame, Sen. McCarthy called from 1954. He wants his (unfounded) joke back. You’ll have to do better than that, simpleton.

  101. nick,

    Here’s some constructive criticism: if you don’t like when people criticize your comments for being stupid or ill-thought out, why not consider thinking for a change?

    Like thinking about how the unprecedented public investment in education was one of the foundational spurs driving the equally unprecedented economic post-WWII growth in this country because it provided (at the time) one of the best educated workforces in the world?

    But nooooooo . . . that would require that your patently silly idea that free market capitalism is the best tool for every job to be wrong.

  102. Wow, Thanks Gene. You’re now my mentor. I see Elaine called in the cavalry, unfortunately it’s F Troop. Instead of lecturing me why don’t you teach your damsel in distress how to read. I’ve had to constantly repeat things to her. This thread past tedious long ago. Why don’t all you control freaks get in your last words. I’m teeing it up for the Sanctimonious Golf Team. Say what you wish, I’ve got a life.

  103. Elaine didn’t call in anyone.

    You did by responding to my attack on an idea by attacking me personally.

    If you don’t like catching poo, you should be careful where you sling it.

    Despite what you may think of yourself, you are not a cool and collected customer and you are not good at making arguments. You uniformly respond to challenge with hissy fits instead of cogent counter-arguments. Repetition doesn’t make you right in an argument. It makes you repetitive which is either a sign of stupidity or a lack of a valid response (sometimes both). It is funny though that you as a victim of operant conditioning concerning free market capitalism would get flustered that repetition as a tactic didn’t work on an independent critical thinker like Elaine.

    Carry on.

    You don’t want to keep the Sanctimonious Golf Team waiting for their Capitan.

    Unless, of course, you have evidence that the public investment in post-WWII education had nothing to do with the economic boon that followed during the post-war period.

    Or maybe we should consider the alleged parenting skills of those who implemented those social spending programs as well as those who benefited from them.

  104. Malisha, Tootie was a far right ring crazy or she pretended to be. She could have been a sockpuppet for all I know.

  105. Gene,

    I already informed Nick that his insults and denigrating comments don’t get a rise out of me. I usually find people who have weak or “lame” arguments often revert to insulting people who disagree with them.

  106. Elaine M,

    I could not agree more…… However, there are some that cannot see the Forrest for the trees…… Or they get stuck on one tree and see nothing else….


    Tootie was okay…. Said some fairly wacko stuff…. The problem with sockpuppets is you never know who is using them or what the intent of the use …. Not all sockpuppets are necessarily bad, it’s the intended use of the sockpuppet that distinguishes them…There are some honorable folks on here that have only used the same name unless disclosed…. Such as the guest bloggers….but they also have other names that they use when posting, they are not sockpuppet.they are fully disclosed….

  107. Ah, Tootie … she faded along with the Breitbart bunch. There are times I actually miss her/him.

    I’m still reading Nick with the intent of discovering into what classification of Libertarianism he falls. So far he’s all over the place.

    As to his skills at mounting and supporting an argument, it’s mostly name calling which is hardly persuasive with this crowd. Reminds me of the old Breitbart bunch … nostalgic.

  108. Yep… Mostly sitting back watching the fireworks myself….. HenMan carries wisdom with his most recent posting…..

    Then again, I see David Stockman came out blasting Ryans proposed budget plan…. Which is a tell tell sign….of the times to come….

  109. why would people settle for a level of pay which everyone else makes with cost of living raises based on inflation? Shouldnt labor be allowed to make the best deal it can?

  110. Stockman is attacking the Ryan budget? That’s a scary when the Prince of Trickle Down Bad Ideas turns on one of his own children.

  111. Yep, he came out blasting it for various reasons…. One is that it gives tax breaks to the wealthy…… While cutting tax breaks for the ones that need it the most…. Which caused me to sink in my chair….it’s on the nytimes, business insider and yahoo news….. I had to read all three to make sure I was reading it correctly….

  112. is Stockman a Neocon?

    I just read that Ryan is in tight with the NeoCon boys and they pressured Romney to pick him.

    Scary stuff there.

    Another middle east war brewing?

  113. Bron, Ryan was the ultimate neocon Bill Kristol’s pick as was Palin. I don’t think of Stockman as a neocon.

  114. Bron,

    He’s not a signatory to PNAC, but he’s certainly buddies with a bunch of those weasels. He helped lay the groundwork in the Reagan administration that they have built upon.

  115. with all the hype over Palin being a conservative, I was really disappointed when she debated Biden. She was just another populist who believed in big government and used it to spread the wealth while giving lip service to limited government.

    I find it ironic that she is portrayed as some hardcore conservative. It appears that Ryan is only marginally better than Palin.

    We havent had a decent republican candidate for president for a long time.

  116. Bron,

    A populist? Seriously. Palin and Ryan both are oligarchs and Ryan is very proud of his foundations being built upon Rand. He wants to dismantle Social Security and Medicare a piece at a time. There isn’t a populist bone in either of them. They are for big government, sure enough, but they are for big government for the benefit of the few, not the benefit of the many (which is what a democracy is supposed to be: a government for, of and by the people, not the selected few).

  117. I’m a fool to do this ’cause I’m a bloody coward, but I think you’re being unfair to Nick.

    I was doing some small pushing back (Elaine was the much more formidable opponent) , and I don’t think he was rude to me and he answered my questions. THAT doesn’t happen here very often when someone is taking a lot of heat for his opinions. I think it is possible to have the same conversation, the same exchange of ideas, without getting everyone pissed off and throwing around loaded language. Once the “comrades” and “idealogues” start being injected, craziness reins. And so often it just isn’t a fair fight. It’s usually just one guy against a whole bunch of really smart old friends. Hardly anyone is smarter than Gene, but resorting to ridicule doesn’t earn points. Nobody here likes bullies, we’ve had that conversation already, but I feel like I’ve just walked away from a group of kids (and I was one of them) who left someone sitting on the playground with a bloody nose. Not a nice way to play.

    Elaine, I don’t intend to take away from your terrific and winning argument. But we’re the choir. I think Nick shares some of our opinions. But we sure as hell haven’t won a convert. And won’t it be awfully dull around here if we all just agree with one another?

  118. Curiious, I agree. I did not find nick to be offensive when I had discussions with him especially when one considers some of the posters we have previously had….. like the guy from California.

  119. Vouchers will be discussed a lot this election season. Ryan proposed vouchers for school and Medicare.

  120. Curious,

    I’m not the one who started throwing around terms like comrade, socialist, and politburo. I didn’t call into question Nick’s ability to comprehend what he reads…or his short term memory. I didn’t imply that he was narcissistic or myopic or a fool. I’m not in the habit of insulting the intelligence of those who disagree with me.

    If Nick had had a persuasive argument, he may have convinced me that the school voucher program in Louisiana would enhance the education of children in that state. He failed miserably. That ain’t my fault.

    I’m not sure what you’re suggesting that I did wrong. I’m not in the habit of coddling people that I disagree with. So be it.

  121. Could I have a second opinion on Palin is an oligarch? I just can’t wrap my head around the pit-bull from Wasilla being described as an oligarch.

  122. I don’t think Palin is an oligarch; I think she’s a cutesy kinda dumb “popular girl” from a Twilight-Zone High School and I think she’s probably a molligarch.

  123. Curious,

    If resorting to ridicule doesn’t win points, perhaps nick should learn to argue better rather than going straight for the ad hominem when his ideas are challenged. Fair? Ain’t got nothing to do with it. He’s had his panties in a bunch since I pointed out his introduction of character evidence against the mother allegedly strip searched was inappropriate. On this thread, I didn’t even address him initially but instead attacked an idea underpinning his statements. To wit:

    “When a message is repeated often enough, a certain percentage of people will believe it is true regardless of evidence to the contrary. For example the statement, ‘Free market competitive models are the one and only solution for every problem, no matter what that problem might be.’ This is part and parcel of the Big Lie technique of propaganda as repetition is key to both operant conditioning and reinforcement. The fetishism of economic models to where they have a nearly religious zeal in application to those who bought into such a silver bullet fantasy is merely a reflection of this phenomena and has nothing to do with real world solutions.”

    Nothing said about nick at all but rather addressing the idea that competitive free market models were the best solution to all problems.

    Contrast to how nick responded:

    “Comrade Gene H, what took you so long, was the politburo in session?”

    I respond to ridicule with ridicule and will continue to do so as is my 1st Amendment right. I make a comment about an idea and he gets to imply I’m a Communist without addressing the point and I’m not allowed to take action on that? Eh, I don’t think so. Just because he’s hopelessly out of his league doesn’t mean I’m going to cut him any slack if goes to poke me instead of my argument. If he wants to be treated like he’s making a cogent argument, he needs to learn to make one. If he doesn’t want to get ridiculed, he should not ridicule others. It’s that whole reciprocity of the Golden Rule again.

    Please notice that as I included ridicule, I also stuck to the point of the argument, namely that not all problems can be solved with a profit making model as not all dividends to society are directly monetary but rather an unquantifiable or nebulously quantifiable benefit such as that seen by having a well educated workforce.

    P.S. I haven’t noticed you being particularly cowardly.

  124. Gene H, I just reached for the cheap rhyme.
    If she were the Mayor of a town in Utah I’d have called her a polygarch.

  125. This is the type of voucher law that Republicans have been trying to pass in the state of Wisconsin.

    Wis. Republicans and ALEC Push Vouchers on Disabled Kids
    By Ruth Conniff, February 21, 2012

    It’s crunch time on school vouchers for disabled kids in Wisconsin.

    Last summer, I wrote about how Republicans and school choice groups are targeting kids in special ed.

    A particularly noxious piece of “school reform” legislation, drafted by ALEC (The American Legislative Exchange Council) and pushed by Republicans in statehouses around the country, would get unsophisticated parents to swap their kids’ federally protected right to a free, appropriate public education for school vouchers of highly dubious value to the kids.

    How dubious? An expose in the Miami New Times tracked the fly-by-night academies housed in strip malls where special ed kids with vouchers wasted hours crammed into makeshift classrooms with bored, untrained, and sometimes abusive teachers.

    But there is good news: In Wisconsin, a prime target for the privatizers who would like to dismantle our public education system, the special ed voucher law has been stalled.

    The reason: Moderate Republicans have not been willing to go along with it, among a handful of Governor Scott Walker’s other anti-public-school reforms.

    Ever since the summer recall elections, which narrowed the Republican majority in the state senate to one, some of the worst education plans have been shelved—at least temporarily.


    School Vouchers’ Empty Promise to Special Ed. Students
    By Robert McNeely and Tim Walker
    May 23, 2012

    The pro-voucher movement has found a growing target audience: special education students. At least seven states now have programs that provide public funding for special-needs populations to attend private schools and additional states have been considering similar programs.

    Lacking any proper accountability and oversight, these programs strip legal protections for parents and their children.

    “Vouchers for students with special needs may force parents to waive federally protected rights in exchange for promises that often go unfulfilled, and services provided by non-certified staff in private schools,” explains NEA Special Education Specialist John Riley.

    That means they no longer have a right to a “free, appropriate public education” or the specific services that come along with that as defined by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The basic premise of IDEA is that all children with disabilities have a federally protected civil right to a free and appropriate public education that meets their specific needs in the least restrictive environment.

    That didn’t stop lawmakers in Wisconsin recently from pushing a bill that would have taken up to $300 million away from public schools – already slammed by deep budget cuts – to pay for private school tuition. The Wisconsin Education Association Council denounced the bill, calling it a “privatization voucher scheme devoid of oversight and accountability [that would] result in a loss of protection under the law for parents and their children.”

    Rep. Sony Pope-Roberts called the bill “the worst piece of legislation I have ever seen.”

    Testifying before the Wisconsin state senate, special education teacher Paul Zajichek pointed out that the bill contained no mandates that would ensure that each child be taught by a certified special education teacher.

    “If there is any group of kids that need certified teachers educating them, it is this group of kids,” Zajichek said. “Unfortunately, many teachers in private schools will not have to undergo the same type of rigorous academic training that I had to. It is not only unfair to me, but it is also completely unfair to the students.”

    The voucher bill passed the state Assembly but stalled in the Senate in March.

  126. “Yeah. Let’s use improperly trained babysitters instead of special needs certified instructors! Those ‘tards are as Gawd made them and if they were truly special Jesus would have told them to get their act together and run for office! Like me.” – Some Wisconsin Randian Neocon Clown

    What could possibly go wrong with that plan.

  127. 8 Reasons The Ryan-Romney Combo Is Bad For Our Children’s Future
    by Judy Molland
    August 11, 2012

    By now you know that Mitt Romney has selected Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as his vice presidential pick.

    That’s the same Paul Ryan who has proposed a budget that would end Medicare as we know it by turning it into a voucher system costing seniors thousands in out-of-pocket expenses, while at the same time awarding huge tax cuts to billionaires.

    Democrats wasted little time in responding:

    “Like Mitt Romney, Ryan’s severely conservative positions are out of touch with most Americans’ values,” the Obama campaign said. “He would take us backward on women’s health and equal rights.”

    Unsurprisingly, Ryan’s vision and his unflagging commitment to catering to the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans at the expense of the remaining 98 percent also extends to education and children’s rights.

    Here are eight of Ryan’s approaches to education:

    * Early Childhood Education: As chair of the House Budget Committee, Ryan was the architect of a budget proposing to cut $1.1 billion from early childhood education, which would deny more than 2 million poor children the opportunity for high-quality early education.

    * K-12 Education: During his 13 years in Congress, Ryan has repeatedly supported cuts to education funding, including blocking support intended to help avoid educator layoffs and prevent ballooning class sizes. In fact, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said the budget could have “disastrous consequences for America’s children.”

    * Title 1 And Special Education: Back in March, Duncan told the House Appropriations panel that oversees education spending that the Ryan budget could cut Title I grants to districts, which right now total $14.5 billion, by as much as $2.7 billion, while special education could be cut by as much as $2.2 billion. Special education state grants are currently funded at $11.6 billion.

    * Pell Grants: Ryan has voted repeatedly against increasing Pell Grants, which provide need-based grants to low-income undergraduate and certain post-baccalaureate students to promote access to post-secondary education.

    * School Vouchers: The Wisconsin representative has also cast votes during his seven terms in the House that show, among other things, support for school vouchers. His running mate, Mitt Romney, has called for a more expansive policy of school vouchers, which give public money to families to attend private and religious schools.

    * For-profit Colleges: Ryan has often shown his support for for-profit colleges, and earlier this year he voted for a measure that sought to stop the Education Department from implementing regulations intended to stop deceptive marketing by for-profit colleges, the focus of a 2010 Government Accountability Office investigation.

    * Teachers: Paul Ryan voted against the conference report of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which included billions of dollars to help prevent widespread teacher layoffs and included $1 billion to support the early childhood program Head Start.

    * Class Size: Along with Governor Romney, Ryan apparently believes that class size does not matter.

    By selecting Ryan, Romney has found a natural ally in his plan to destroy the foundations of American education and turn our children’s schooling over to the private sector. Or, as Romney himself put it, “Opportunity in America means people get as much education as they can afford.”

    What do you think?

    Related Stories

  128. Vouchers get dose of religion
    by Melinda Deslatte
    The Associated Press
    August 03, 2012

    Taxpayer dollars in Louisiana’s new voucher program will be paying to send children to schools that teach creationism and reject evolution, promoting a religious doctrine that challenges the lessons central to public school science classrooms.

    Several religious schools that will be educating taxpayer-subsidized students tout their creationist views. Some schools question whether the universe is more than a few thousand years old, openly defying reams of scientific evidence to the contrary.

    Critics say it’s inappropriate to spend public money on such religious teaching, arguing such programs undercut a strong science education and threaten the adequate preparation of students for college science courses.

    “What they’re going to be getting financed with public money is phony science. They’re going to be getting religion instead of science,” said Barbara Forrest, a founder of the Louisiana Coalition for Science and a philosophy professor who has written about the clashes between religion and science.

    Superintendent of Education John White says annual science tests required of all voucher students in the third through 11th grades will determine if children are getting the appropriate science education in the private school classrooms.

    “If students are failing the test, we’re going to intervene, and the test measures evolution,” White said.

    Refusal to teach evolution or challenging it as refutable won’t get a school booted from the voucher program, which was pushed by Gov. Bobby Jindal as a way to improve educational opportunities for students in schools ranked with a C, D or F in the public school grading system.

    For example, a handbook for Ascension Christian High School, posted online, declares among the goals of “Household of Faith Schools” that “the learner will be expected to defend creationism through evidence presented by the Bible versus traditional scientific theory.”

    Ten voucher students have been assigned to Ascension Christian, along with another 41 voucher students for another Household of Faith school, Faith Academy. The schools, located in Ascension Parish, are set to receive more than $250,000 from the state.

    A biology teacher at Northlake Christian High School, a St. Tammany Parish school slated to teach 18 voucher students this school year, outlines his curriculum on a website that talks of giving students the opportunity to challenge evolution against “a creation worldview of life origins.”

    The website contradicts fossil evidence of millions of years of life on the planet, calling it incompatible with the Bible. Meanwhile, the school’s doctrinal statement says Northlake Christian, which will get $375,000 in state-funded tuition payments for its high school and elementary school, promotes “the creation of man by the direct act of God.”

  129. Ayn Rand vs. the pope
    The two contradictory philosophies warring for Paul Ryan’s soul
    By Matthew Harwood

    Much has already been made of Rep. Paul Ryan’s libertarian pretensions and his failure to live up to them from across the ideological spectrum (here, here, here). Yet there’s a more disturbing inconsistency that deserves more scrutiny regardless of where you find yourself on the ideological or theological spectrum. The newly christened vice-presidential nominee holds two deeply contradictory and inimical materialist and spiritual worldviews represented by the objectivist philosopher and novelist Ayn Rand and the Catholic Church.

    This naturally begs the question of how a devout Catholic can follow the social justice theology of the church yet also idolize an atheist that preached the “virtue of selfishness.” Somehow in Paul Ryan’s mind, Jesus Christ and Ayn Rand are complementary figures, not warring factions in defining how an individual should lead a moral life.

    This leads to a man with dual and mutually exclusive allegiances. Not only is the Catholic Church historically an authoritarian institution par excellence, it is also one intimately concerned with social justice, arguing that state intervention is necessary to blunt the sharp edges of unbridled capitalism. For instance, in his 1961 encyclical “Christianity and Social Progress,” Pope John XXIII called attention to and excoriated economic inequality in a voice very similar to Occupy Wall Street today.

    Nevertheless, in some of these lands the enormous wealth, the unbridled luxury, of the privileged few stands in violent, offensive contrast to the utter poverty of the vast majority. In some parts of the world men are being subjected to inhuman privations so that the output of the national economy can be increased at a rate of acceleration beyond what would be possible if regard were had to social justice and equity. And in other countries a notable percentage of income is absorbed in building up an ill-conceived national prestige, and vast sums are spent on armaments.

    Within the encyclical, Pope John XXIII even goes so far as to argue for a living wage, something that would make Ayn Rand’s corpse spin. Such “common good” concepts, such as the living wage, were collectivist nonsense to Rand, a ruse used to make tyranny justifiable. And Rand was nothing if not virulently anti-Catholic because of the church’s tendency to lump all humanity together in the bonds of forced altruism and fellowship. One passage from her novella “Anthem” should be especially uneasy reading for any devout Catholic such as Ryan:

    I am done with the monster of “We,” the word of serfdom, of plunder, of misery, falsehood and shame.

    And now I see the face of god, and I raise this god over the earth, this god whom men have sought since men came into being, this god who will grant them joy and peace and pride. This god, this one word: “I.”

    Rand’s militant atheism has since led Ryan to distance himself from his former intellectual idol. Speaking to the National Review last April, Ryan said, “I reject her philosophy. It’s an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview. If somebody is going to try to paste a person’s view on epistemology to me, then give me Thomas Aquinas.”

    Yet this is the same man who gives copies of “Atlas Shrugged” as Christmas presents and once told the Atlas Society in 2005:

    But if we’re going to actually win [the fight between individualism and collectivism] we need to make sure that we’re solid on premises, that our principles are well-defended, and if we want to go and articulately defend these principles and what they mean to our society, what they mean for the trends that we set internationally, we have to go back to Ayn Rand. Because there is no better place to find the moral case for capitalism and individualism than through Ayn Rand’s writings and works.

    Four years later, Ryan’s brother said, “Paul can still quote every verse out of Ayn Rand.”

    It isn’t cynical to ask whether Ryan, seeing his career trajectory in ascendancy, chose to not alienate his socially conservative Christian base by repudiating a marginal philosophy he repeatedly touted in the past. But by doing so, he calls into question his intellectual honesty, particularly since his new intellectual role model, Thomas Aquinas, had a habit of writing collectivist things too: “Man should not consider his material possession his own, but as common to all, so as to share them without hesitation when others are in need.”

  130. Bron,

    Really? Then why does his budget read like she wrote it? Just because he retracted his former espousal of her views two years ago doesn’t mean they don’t color everything he does. Ryan was a died-in-the-wool true believer and yet you’d except us to take a pol at his word that he is no longer? I’ll make that call based on his actions instead of his words, thank you.

  131. Bron,

    As to the Neocon/Objectivism question? They are both philosophies of selfishness and greed, so much so that any cognitive dissonance created between the two systems can easily be rationalized away.

  132. Gene H:

    he said a year or so ago that he prefers Thomist epistemology to Objectivist epistemology. You cannot be anymore clear than that in the rejection of a philosophy.

    His budget is just going over the cliff at a slower rate.

    Neocons are not selfish and greedy, they are big government types. They call them neocons for a reason, they used to be on the left.

  133. Bron,

    I don’t care what he said. He’s a pol. He’ll say whatever gets him elected and sucking up to an atheist philosophically was antithetical to those ends. I look at his actions. Also, if you don’t think Neocon are greedy selfish oligarchical swine? You aren’t paying attention. They are all that and war mongers and nationalists to boot. Also, they are not called Neocons because they “used to be on the left”. They are called Neocons because they adopted traditional conservatism blended with nationalism and militarist interventionist policies in response to the Cold War, their rejection of LBJ’s social programs and their rejection of the compromises required to make coalition politics work (and in this they are at the roots of the extremist political polarization you see in modern American politics). Neo = new. New Conservatives. They are their own creature that has nothing to do with the left other than they splintered off from the left to move right nearly 60 years ago.

  134. “They call them neocons for a reason, they used to be on the left.”

    Now that is really funny, Bron! Everyone knows that Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, and other neocons were once flaming liberals.

  135. Elaine:

    this is from Wikipedia:

    From what I know this seems pretty on point. I didnt know Strauss was a Platonist but that makes a good deal of sense.

    So basically the same philosophical origins of the current democratic party can be found in the neocons. Which again makes a good deal of sense since there is not much difference between the 2 parties.

    Paul Ryan has rejected Ayn Rand’s philosophy on more than one occasion, he did it just recently in his interview with Brit Hume.

    He is a Catholic so he probably only likes the economics and the individualism. His other stands on issues are decidedly not Objectivist.
    And he has stated that he is a fan of Thomas Akeeness. He of the dancing angels. Ayn Rand was not an angelologist.

  136. Bron,

    From Encyclopedia Britannica

    neoconservatism, variant of the political ideology of conservatism that combines features of traditional conservatism with political individualism and a qualified endorsement of free markets. Neoconservatism arose in the United States in the 1970s among intellectuals who shared a dislike of communism and a disdain for the counterculture of the 1960s, especially its political radicalism and its animus against authority, custom, and tradition.

    Intellectual influences

    Among their intellectual ancestors neoconservatives count the ancient Greek historian Thucydides for his unblinking realism in military matters and his skepticism toward democracy, as well as Alexis de Tocqueville, the French author of Democracy in America (1835–40), who described and analyzed both the bright and the bad sides of democracy in the United States. More recent influences include the German-born American political philosopher Leo Strauss and several of his students, such as Allan Bloom; Bloom’s student Francis Fukuyama; and a small band of intellectuals who in their youth were anti-Stalinist communists (specifically Trotskyites) before becoming liberals disillusioned with liberalism. The latter include Irving Kristol, Nathan Glazer, and Norman Podhoretz, among others.

    Culture and religion

    In its respect for established institutions and practices, neoconservatism resembles the traditional conservatism of the 18th-century Irish statesman Edmund Burke. Neoconservatives, however, tend to pay more attention than traditional conservatives to cultural matters and the mass media—to music, art, literature, theatre, film, and, more recently, television and the Internet—because they believe that a society defines itself and expresses its values through these means. Western (and particularly American) society, they charge, has become amoral, adrift, and degenerate. As evidence of the moral corruption of Western culture, they cite violent and sexually explicit films, television programs, and video games, and they point to popular music that is rife with obscenities that have lost their capacity to shock and disgust. Actions once regarded as shameful are now accepted as normal. For example, most people in the West now consider it perfectly acceptable for unmarried men and women to live together and even to have children. These phenomena amount to “defining deviancy down,” as the neoconservative sociologist and U.S. senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once charged.

    Such degenerate behaviour, say neoconservatives, indicates a broader and deeper cultural crisis afflicting Western civilization. The American political scientist James Q. Wilson, for example, traced the crisis to the 18th-century European Enlightenment, which encouraged people to question established authority, to criticize religion, and to reject traditional beliefs. Other neoconservatives blame the “adversarial” counterculture of the 1960s, which dismissed traditional values and religion as old-fashioned, irrelevant, or even reactionary. Whatever its source, neoconservatives maintain that this degeneration represents a real and present danger to Western civilization.

    Neoconservatives agree with religious conservatives that the current crisis is due in part to the declining influence of religion in people’s lives. People without a sense of something larger than themselves, something transcendent and eternal, are apt to turn to mindless entertainment—including drugs and alcohol—and to act selfishly and irresponsibly. Religion at its best is a kind of social cement, holding families, communities, and countries together. At its worst, however, religion can be fanatical, intolerant, and divisive, tearing communities apart instead of uniting them. Most neoconservatives thus believe that the principle of the separation of church and state, as enshrined in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, is a good idea. They also believe, however, that it has been pursued to extremes by adherents of modern liberalism, who are bent on banishing religion from public life, resulting in a backlash from religious-right conservatives.

    Neoconservatives also hold that the modern liberal ideal of cultural diversity, or multiculturalism—the principle of not only tolerating but also respecting different religions and cultures and encouraging them to coexist harmoniously—tends to undermine the traditional culture of any country that tries to put it into practice. It also encourages the excesses of “political correctness”—that is, an overly acute sensitivity to offending people of other backgrounds, outlooks, and cultures. These trends, they believe, are likely to produce a conservative backlash, such as those that took place in Denmark and the Netherlands, where anti-immigrant political parties became increasingly popular in the 1990s and early 2000s.

  137. What In Creation?!: Kentucky Legislators Tout Fundamentalism, Assail Modern Science
    Aug 15, 2012 by Rob Boston in Wall of Separation

    The other day I wrote about the ongoing disgrace of the Louisiana school voucher program, which – among other bad outcomes – will soon be pouring millions in taxpayer funds into the coffers of fundamentalist Christian schools, some of which teach that dinosaurs might still be alive and the Great Depression wasn’t so bad after all.

    I have sometimes opined that Louisiana may be just about the worst state in the country when it comes to public education and church-state separation. But I may have to apologize to the residents of the Pelican State: The Commonwealth of Kentucky has decided to give Louisiana a run for that dubious title.

    On Aug. 13, the Kentucky legislature’s Interim Joint Committee on Education held a hearing. It was a very sorry affair indeed.

    Four years ago, Kentucky legislators voted to tie the state’s testing program to national education standards, reported the Lexington Herald-Leader. But now some of them are having second thoughts because the national science standards stress (gasp!) evolution.

    “I would hope that creationism is presented as a theory in the classroom, in a science classroom, alongside evolution,” Sen. David Givens (R-Greensburg) told the newspaper.

    I wouldn’t hope that if I were you, senator. Any public schools in Kentucky caught doing that are going to be sued. Your friends in Louisiana tried that tactic back in the 1980s and lost at the U.S. Supreme Court.

    And, oh, senator, you might have heard of a case Americans United co-litigated against the Dover, Pa., school district when board members decided to teach “intelligent design,” a gussied-up variant of creationism. The school lost that one, too – and ended up paying hefty legal fees.

    Givens at least pretends to want “balanced treatment.” His colleague, Rep. Ben Waide (R-Madisonville), decided to go one better. He seems to want to kick out evolution all together.

    “The theory of evolution is a theory, and essentially the theory of evolution is not science – Darwin made it up,” Waide said. “My objection is they should ensure whatever scientific material is being put forth as a standard should at least stand up to scientific method. Under the most rudimentary, basic scientific examination, the theory of evolution has never stood up to scientific scrutiny.”

    (In case you’re wondering, Waide is not a biologist, an anthropologist or a scientist of any kind. He is a physical therapist with a bachelor’s degree in health science.)

    Some Kentucky residents are bravely trying to stanch the gushing torrent of ignorance pouring out of their legislature.

    Asked to comment on the matter, Vincent Cassone, chairman of the University of Kentucky’s Biology Department, told the Herald-Leader, “The theory of evolution is the fundamental backbone of all biological research. There is more evidence for evolution than there is for the theory of gravity, than the idea that things are made up of atoms, or Einstein’s theory of relativity. It is the finest scientific theory ever devised.”

    Givens and Waide might want to spend some time at Casson’s university. If they did that, they would quickly learn that top-flight public universities don’t bother to give “balanced treatment” to science and fundamentalist religion masquerading as science. They teach what the evidence shows to be factual: evolution.

    Kentucky legislators have a choice. They can instruct the state’s public schools to acknowledge this reality and retain evolution in the science standards, or they can continue down the path of constitutional disaster and scientific illiteracy. They can support sound science or continue throwing tax money at creationist “Ark Parks” and ensuring that the commonwealth’s young people are left behind in a technology-based world economy.

    What’s it going to be, Kentucky?

  138. These are funds being robbed from a failing public school system in dire need of money. As a resident of LA I am appalled that my tax dollars will be poured into these tax-exempt institutions. Am I wrong in thinking this new law should at the very least be amended to tax these sheep factories??  How is it not a violation of Separation of Church and State to funnel federal funds into religious institutions??

    It is reassuring to know other state leaders stand up for their personal religious beliefs*sarcasm*… Kenneth Harvey…”I won’t go back to home and explain to my people that I supported this [program that] will fund Islamic teaching.” this from the Republican LA State Representative who actively advocated the law before learning an Islamic school(which has since voluntarily withdrawn from participation) had been approved. It’s not just Republicans want a cookie-cutter image of which faith-based schools should be approved. Democratic Representative Sam Jones vagrantly voiced his opposition allowing a wide variety of faith-based private schools approval by saying “It’ll be the Church of Scientology next year”. These comments only prove that our state government is only willing to overlook the funding of religion if that religion is comparable to their collective own. 

    I will not remain silent when my children are being robbed of a quality education on my dime. We allegedly live in a democratic society for the people and by the people. Let’s make the system a slave to us for once!

    And sign the petition to help end government funded religious indoctrination of our children.

  139. Each e-mail should have an Unsubscribe link at the bottom.

    After you try that with this comment, post again, then I’ll post again to see if it worked.

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