From the ABC’s of Privatizing Public Education: A Is for ALEC, I is for iPad…and P Is for Profits

SchoolClassroomSubmitted by Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger

According to Cashing in on Kids: 139 ALEC Bills in 2013 Promote a Private, For-Profit Education Model, a special report published by the Center for Media and Democracy, in the first half of this year, “at least 139 bills or state budget provisions reflecting American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) education bills have been introduced in 43 states and the District of Columbia.” The report states that thirty-one of those bills and provisions have already become law.

In September 2012, In the Public Interest published a report titled Profiting from Public Dollars: How ALEC and Its Members Promote Privatization of Government Services and Assets which also addresses the subject of ALEC and its agenda that promotes the privatization of public services.

Excerpt from this report:

The American Legislative Exchange Council has been a major force in pushing for the privatization of public services and assets. This organization, which boasts of having more than 2,000 members, brings together state lawmakers, corporations, and conservative think tanks in an effort to push an agenda of “free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty.”1 As ALEC succinctly laid out in its 2011 publication, State Budget Reform Toolkit, “policymakers should embrace privatization and the competitive contracting of government services…”2

This agenda directly benefits many of its corporate members, who hope to increase their revenues and profits by dismantling public services and taking over the work through lucrative government contracts.

Last August I wrote a post titled Stateside Louisiana: School Vouchers and the Privatization of Public Education. In it, I quoted 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.

Rupert Murdoch, CEO of NewsCorp, has reportedly called public education “a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed.” Brendan Fischer, author of the Center for Media and Democracy’s special report, said that the transformation “of public education — from an institution that serves the public into one that serves private for-profit interests — has been in progress for decades, thanks in large part to ALEC.”


ALEC boasts on the “history” section of its website that it first started promoting “such ‘radical’ ideas as a [educational] voucher system” in 1983 — the same year as the Reagan administration’s “Nation At Risk” report — taking up ideas first articulated decades earlier by ALEC supporter Milton Friedman.

Fischer names a number of “ALEC corporations” that could “reap” financial rewards from ALEC’s privatization agenda. One of those corporations is Amplify, “the newly-created education division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, parent company of Fox News. News Corp is on the ALEC Education Task Force. In 2010, News Corp hired former New York City chancellor Joel Klein to run its education division, which includes the for-profit education company formerly known as Wireless Generation. The firm has big plans for a specialized ‘Amplify Tablet’ that would provide lesson plans, textbooks and testing to cash-in on new ‘Common Core’ required state standards.”

David Folkenflik (NPR) said that Murdoch “views the digital tablet as part of a push to modernize the educational system.” He added that Murdoch has “another goal in mind as well.” That goal, according to Folkenflik, is the anticipated revenues from the educational arm of his corporation that could help “shore up the finances of his newspaper and publishing division as it is split off later this year from the conglomerate’s vast holdings in television and entertainment.”

In his ThinkProgress post titled In Schools Across The Country Are Considering Education Bills Crafted By Corporate Front Group, Alan Pyke said that—in addition to ALEC—for-profit companies are able to “exercise substantial political influence” via federal campaign contributions. On July 15th, the Center for Responsive Politics reported that Rep. John Kline (R-MN), chair of the House Education and Workforce Committee, had received nearly one quarter of his 2013’s second quarter substantial fundraising contributions from the for-profit education industry.

Yes, there’s corporate money to be made in the education business—even as school districts struggle to pay their bills and keep current staffing levels.

In a piece titled No, iPads do not make teachers obsolete! that David Sirota wrote for Salon earlier this month, the author asks the following question: “Why are cash-starved school districts sending public funds to Apple — while laying off teachers?” Why…indeed?! In his article, Sirota tells of school districts that are spending huge amounts of money in order to provide every student with an iPad.


Indeed, following smaller districts from across the country, the Los Angeles Unified School District — the second largest in the nation — just generated big headlines by becoming one of the 600 districts handing over public money to Apple in exchange for iPads.

How much money, you ask? In Los Angeles, many millions of dollars. If that sounds a bit vague, that’s because it is, thanks to the hard-to-estimate total costs of all the variables in technologizing schools. In L.A., for instance, school officials approved an initial $50 million in bonds (read: public debt) to finance the first stage of its iPad-for-every-student program. However, according to the Los Angeles Daily News, those officials quietly acknowledge that the plan will cost a whopping half-billion dollars when fully implemented.

One has to question why school districts are spending/planning to spend so much money in technology for their students when there is no proof that it will improve education…or that it is actually cost effective.


As respected education consultant Lee Wilson notes in a report breaking down school expenses, “It will cost a school 552% more to implement iPad textbooks than it does to deploy books.” He notes that while “Apple’s messaging is the idea that at $14.99 an iText is significantly less expensive than a $60 textbook,” the fact remains that “when a school buys a $60 textbook today they use it for an average of 5-7 years (while) an Apple iText it costs them $14.99 per student – per year.” As Lee notes, that translates into iBooks that are 34 percent more expensive than their paper counterparts — and that’s on top of the higher-than-the-retail-store price school districts are paying for iPads.

In Selling Out Schools (November 2011), Lee Fang wrote:

While most education reform advocates cloak their goals in the rhetoric of “putting children first,” the conceit was less evident at a conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, earlier this year.

Standing at the lectern of Arizona State University’s SkySong conference center in April, investment banker Michael Moe exuded confidence as he kicked off his second annual confab of education startup companies and venture capitalists. A press packet cited reports that rapid changes in education could unlock “immense potential for entrepreneurs.” “This education issue,” Moe declared, “there’s not a bigger problem or bigger opportunity in my estimation.”

Moe has worked for almost fifteen years at converting the K-12 education system into a cash cow for Wall Street. A veteran of Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch, he now leads an investment group that specializes in raising money for businesses looking to tap into more than $1 trillion in taxpayer money spent annually on primary education. His consortium of wealth management and consulting firms, called Global Silicon Valley Partners, helped K12 Inc. go public and has advised a number of other education companies in finding capital.

Moe’s conference marked a watershed moment in school privatization. His first “Education Innovation Summit,” held last year, attracted about 370 people and fifty-five presenting companies. This year, his conference hosted more than 560 people and 100 companies, and featured luminaries like former DC Mayor Adrian Fenty and former New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein, now an education executive at News Corporation, a recent high-powered entrant into the for-profit education field. Klein is just one of many former school officials to cash out. Fenty now consults for Rosetta Stone, a language company seeking to expand into the growing K-12 market.

We, the common people, are left to wonder why so many school reformers and politicians who claim there is little or no money for more classroom teachers…for raises for educators…for school libraries…for art and music programs don’t even bat an eye when school districts propose spending mega-millions of tax payer dollars on technology…or charter schools…or online learning programs.


Schools Across The Country Are Considering Education Bills Crafted By Corporate Front Group (ThinkProgress)

Cashing in on Kids: 139 ALEC Bills in 2013 Promote a Private, For-Profit Education Model (The Center for Media and Democracy’s PRWatch)

Rep. Kline Turns Chairmanship into Profitable For-Profit Haul (Open Secrets)

For-profit Education (Open Secrets)

Privatizing Public Schools: Big Firms Eyeing Profits From U.S. K-12 Market (Huffington Post)

News Corp. Education Tablet: For The Love Of Learning? (NPR)

Stateside Louisiana: School Vouchers and the Privatization of Public Education (Jonathan Turley)

A Look at Some of the Driving Forces behind the School Reform Movement and the Effort to Privatize Public Education (Jonathan Turley)

Who Is Using Political Pressure to Drive Privatization of Public Education? (UCC)

Profiting from Public Dollars: How ALEC and Its Members Promote Privatization of Government Services and Assets (In the Public Interest)

No, iPads do not make teachers obsolete!: Why are cash-starved school districts sending public funds to Apple — while laying off teachers? Follow the money (Salon)

Selling Schools Out (The Investigative Fund)

48 thoughts on “From the ABC’s of Privatizing Public Education: A Is for ALEC, I is for iPad…and P Is for Profits”

  1. Elaine, sorry for the delayed reply.

    At religious hospitals, the doctors and nurses don’t indoctrinate patients.

    But you’re not seriously suggesting that kids aren’t indoctrinated at public schools, are you? Like I said, the Pledge of Allegiance is no less a prayer than Matthew 6:9. I also believe in a strong separation of church and state. But we shouldn’t pretend that allowing parents to choose a religious based school would make the problem of religion in government worse than it already is. That said, I wouldn’t oppose a voucher system that excluded schools which forced prayers or refused to teach facts like education.

    As far as vouchers not covering fees, that’s a detail that can be easily fixed. The main value of the vouchers concept is that it’s the only thing that gives poor kids more of the kinds of education choices that the non-poor have.

    For every story about charter schools doing something unethical, there’s a story about public schools doing the same. Look at New Jersey if you want to see (though, who would, really?) the same kind of graft, greed, and selfishness one usually associates with private companies. There’s plenty of money to be made working for the government. But it’s not about the type of school that’s problematic, it’s the people and the willingness to call them to account.

    Kids and families deserve choices in education. Charters don’t offer the kind of choices I’d like to see, but they do offer choices, and there are lots and lots of families who are very grateful for their local charter school.

    When it comes to education, I’m pro-choice. I believe that’s the liberal position.

  2. Elaine,

    Thank you for finding the time to write on this important issue.

    The owners of this nation, the people, are under attack from every direction from these insane billionaires.

    One problem I have with JT’s & other blogs is that JT has assembled some very decent guest bloggers like yourself & I have trouble finding time to read all of their great works.

    I did find time to read yours & most of the comments.

    When I seen awhile back Jeb Bush & the Bush family, Bill Gates, Walton’s Walmart,Koch brothers, etc…, was involved in privatizing education I knew everyone’s red flags should be raised.

    A few of the concerns I’ve noticed over the years regarding US schools:

    Most all the schools I’ve looked at, especially around here, are running a sports academy, a training camps for NFL, NBA, ……

    Our education tax dollars are being used to subsidize major league sports, ESPN, FOX, NBC, etc….

    … All the buildings, facilities, buses & staff, if people want their kids to participate in sports fine, but it isn’t the gen pop’s obligation to pay for it.

    Let them take it off site & pay for it themselves.

    ie: We didn’t use taxpayer funds to subsidize Willie Nelson or bass fisherman, etc…

    So what is the publics responsibility in educating/Brainwashing the kids?

    There’s that question.

    Now, we should all be mad as He’ll over this issue, the govt using schools/CDC to poison the kids with vaccines.

    I guess you seen recently were the CDC admitted they gave vaccines to 100 million of our generation vaccines with cancer viruses in them & 10-30 million of us have died/injured from them so far.

    I’ve had plenty of friends/family that have suffered by their criminality.

    I know one guy right now that show me 4 tumors on him. Look around, ask people, you’ll see also.

    Yet others have had the state/CPS kidnap their kids for refusing to take the CDC’s toxin vaccines.

    Schools falsely tell young parents their kids can’t go to school until they are shot up with the CDC’s toxins.

    Moving along, you/others wish to improve US education go have your blood tested.

    I know from past studies if you do the test will most likely show you, like everyone else, have over 280 toxic chemicals in your body.

    The point being that we are all similar to functioning drug addicts in that we’re all being poisoned by our industrial society with toxins.

    That if we can remove as many of those toxins from the environment/food those kids won’t be born as brain damaged as the are now.

    As you are well aware there’s been a long running war between public educate & religion in the US.

    Religion has done everything they could, inside/outside of the public schools, (PS) to destroy PS reputation.

    Like with the sports training camp issue I don’t feel PS have any biz in teaching religion. If parents want religious ED the should pay for it themselves.

    Even though I support many of Ron & Rand Paul’s policy positions I’m concerned on their PS policies & I’m watching.

    I understand why people should only be homeschooling their kids at this time.

    I’d go further that parents/expecting parents should flee the US as it is completely unsafe to raise a kid here states at this time.

    I think you’ll find some important info on public education/brainwashing system/Charter Schools from the film infowars has been promoting: State Of Mind: The Psychology Of Control

    (I hope you don’t discount that documentary, maybe on youtube?)

    Wrapping this up, PS are rotten to the core just as they planned.

    Administrators, Teachers,DOE, Billionaires, Bush family/Dems/Repubs parties, the people are responsible.

    To combat & over come many of these problems I think there has to be a viable alternative to the current billionaires privatization plans & the teachers unions solutions.

    If you or others wish to make a video on the subject the people that produced the video New World Order, United We Stand have done online tutorial.

    You may/may not like the video, but they can show you how to make your own.

    I’m sure I’ll see the typos as soon as I post, sorry in advance for any.

  3. Decision in White Hat Case Could Force Charter School Companies to Open Books
    July 26, 2013
    By Molly Bloom

    A decision from the state Supreme Court this week could clear the way for the public to see how the for-profit companies that operate many charter schools spend their money.

    The Supreme Court declined Wednesday to hear an appeal from White Hat Management, Ohio’s largest charter school management company. The company is being sued by 10 Ohio charter schools.

    Ohio charter schools are funded with state money and overseen by public boards. The charter school boards who filed suit hired White Hat to operate their schools. The boards paid White Hat 96 percent of the schools’ state funding. In return, White Hat ran the schools: recruiting students, hiring teachers, renting space, buying supplies and so on.

    In the suit filed in 2010, the school boards claimed White Hat violated its contracts with the boards by failing to use the money to run the schools properly. As part of the lawsuit, the schools wanted to see White Hat’s financial records.

    “The schools were floundering,” said Karen Hockstad, a lawyer for the schools. “We needed to see why all this money was being given to White Hat to manage the schools but the schools were failing.”

    White Hat and other for-profit charter school companies have to include general information about their spending in annual audits. That information includes total spending by category such as personnel or supplies. But unlike traditional public schools, for-profit charter school operators aren’t required to disclose details about what public money was spent on or to whom it was paid–and most do not.

    White Hat has maintained that since it is a private company, it does not need to disclose how that money is spent – not even to members of the schools’ boards.

    But a Franklin County judge ruled in December 2012 that the company had to release financial records showing how the schools were run.

    White Hat appealed that decision to the state Court of Appeals. The appeals court agreed with the Franklin County judge on the records issue.

    Then White Hat asked the state Supreme Court to reconsider the Appeals Court’s decision. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

    So what happens now?

    Lawyers for the charter school boards say that White Hat now must release the requested financial records. That would allow the charter schools to pursue their suit against White Hat and could eventually set a precedent forcing other for-profit charter school operators to open their books.

    “They’re out of excuses for not producing the records,” said James Colner, a lawyer for the schools. “Their appellate avenues have run out and they have to produce their financial records to show the school boards exactly how every penny of public money has been spent.”

  4. Indiana: “It’s the Money, Stupid”
    By Diane Ravitch
    July 12, 2013

    Karen Francisco, editorial page editor of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, writes that she is often asked to explain what a charter school is. She used to say that it was a publicly- funded school that is exempt from many state regulations in exchange for higher accountability.

    But now she sees failing charter schools turn into voucher schools or go shopping for an authorizer with low or no standards.

    She writes:

    “If I’m feeling less charitable, I explain that charter schools are an effort to weaken and destroy teacher unions. Charter operators hire primarily young, inexperienced teachers; work them to death and then decline to renew their contracts when they should be giving them raises.”

    But when she read about the bond investors’ conference this week, she realized that the driving force behind charters is not accountability, it’s not just union-busting, it’s profit.


    Karen Francisco: How Failed Charter Schools Survive and Turn a Profit
    By Diane Ravitch
    July 12, 2013

    In an earlier post, Karen Francisco (editorial page editor of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette) lamented that failing charters escape accountability by turning into voucher schools or shopping for an authorizer with low standards. When challenged by a reader, Francisco explained what happened in Fort Wayne.

    She wrote:

    “In fact, the two failed Imagine Inc. charter schools in Fort Wayne are being converted to voucher schools. The local charter board has been dismissed, loans forgiven and Indiana taxpayers will continue to pay Bakke’s company to operate two underperforming schools. In addition, an out-of-state real estate investment trust — EPT Properties — will continue to collect about $1 million a year for the charter school lease. Instead of through the charter board, the tax dollars now will be funneled through low- and middle-income families to a religious organization and, in turn, to the REIT.”

  5. Florida Education Commissioner To Resign Over Charter School Grade Change Allegations
    August 1, 2013

    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A Florida education official says the state’s education commissioner will resign because of allegations he changed a charter school’s grade during his previous job as Indiana’s school chief.

    The official told The Associated Press of Tony Bennett’s resignation on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to disclose the information before a formal announcement. The official says Bennett will resign because of the scandal surrounding Christel House Academy, an Indiana charter school run by a major Republican donor.

  6. Forgive me if this is a repeat but I didn’t read all the responses.

    According to the Department of Labor and Statistics the 10 yr. projected job market lists Retail Sales person as the most demanding, followed by Nurse, Cashier, Gen Office Clerk, Truck Driver, Manager, Janitor, Nurse Aid, Food Counter, and Services.

    Our current education system of Outcome Based Education teaches behavior outcome, not knowledge; How to obey, collectivism. They train our children. They decide what morals are suitable for our children, thus undermining what parents deem moral and ethical. They are teaching our children about alternative life styles guised as something else – in kindergarten. Neither the Government nor Corporations make my list of examples I want my children follow, quite the opposite. I see where this is going and it’s not good.

    State to Federal to Corporations. Schools run by corporations, for corporations. Parents will have NO RECOURSE since the people that will operate the schools will be appointed by corporations, not elected by the community. I see them training our children for future jobs in their corporations.

    Many people see Computer based education. I see “Mind Control” using frequency and digital pulse. I see radiation. The education will go from bad to worse. No fear, I see them adding a voluntary pre-school program for 3 – 4 yr. olds. Then is becomes mandatory. I’m just saying…

    (Source: The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America, Charlotte Iserbyt; The Underground history of American Education, John Taylor Gatto; Who Controls Our Children, YouTube Video)

    Iserbyt and Gatto videos also available on YouTube. Sometimes, I just get tired of reading.

  7. LJM,

    At religious hospitals, the doctors and nurses don’t indoctrinate patients. That isn’t true of religious schools. I believe strongly in the separation of church and state. (Note: I attended parochial school for twelve years. My parents—who were not well off—paid my tuition. )

    Regarding vouchers for poor children: Private school vouchers rarely cover full tuition or other mandatory fees. That means many poor families can’t avail themselves of the vouchers. In fact, vouchers can actually hurt low-income children by siphoning off money from the public schools.

  8. Elaine,

    I only asked about political interests, because that’s a major part of public schools, as corporate interests are in charter schools. And we agree that the two are too often irreparably tied together.

    Whether or not it’s a good idea to spend money on ipads while cutting teachers depends entirely on the situation, and I say this as an ex-teacher. I don’t believe one way of learning is inherently superior to another, because different kids respond differently to different methods at different ages. That fact flies in the face of how most schools treat their kids.

    I think every citizen has the right to choose what kind of education they want for themselves. I believe in vouchers for middle and lower class students to spend on education however they see fit. If we can give money to religious hospitals to fund poor people getting healthcare, we can give it to religious schools to fund poor people getting the education they choose for themselves.

    That doesn’t mean there can’t be adjustments made to schools that teach fallacious things like creation-science or Christopher Columbus proving the world was round, in which cases schools could conceivably receive less money for every unsound subject they promote. But I don’t believe there’s any intellectual or educational difference between a school prayer and the pledge of allegiance.

    Public education should be viewed in the many different ways people are willing to view it. Some people pay lots of money for education and some people can’t. As long as people have choices as to where they can send their kids to school, schools will have to satisfy them. Some people will be very satisfied by a corporate school and others by a public school. There should never be a single model.

    It all boils down to the fact that the way we want to educate our kids, and the way adolescents want to educate themselves is profoundly personal. To look at a person who is very happy with their education path and tell them that their path is not only incorrect (because it’s religious or profit-based), but is prohibited, is to deny lower class people the same choices that upper class people have.

    I’m a liberal secular humanist, but I came to that position of my own accord. All philosophies must be made available to students, but none forced on them. The same goes for methods and styles of education.

  9. LJM,

    “Why do you think ‘corporate interests’ are worse for education than political interests? What does it mean to ‘pervert the public education system?'”

    I never said that political interests couldn’t be/aren’t bad for education. Today, we see too many politicians who are bought by corporate money. It’s often hard to separate political interests from corporate interests.

    Do you think it’s a good idea to spend millions of dollars on iPads while cutting teachers? Do you think public money should fund vouchers for religious and private schools? Do you think public education should be viewed as a market where billions in profits can be made for corporations?

  10. Elaine,

    What makes a school “successful?” Test scores? Or happy, thriving students? I agree that poverty is a huge problem with education, along with family stability, crime, nutrition, etc. What’s the solution to poverty? I honestly have no idea. Maybe it depends on the community? Everyone has ideas but we keep questioning everyone’s motives.

    Why do you think “corporate interests” are worse for education than political interests? What does it mean to “pervert the public education system?”

    There are lots of corporations that make money doing very good things very well. And obviously there are lots that make money doing bad things very poorly! But the exact same thing can be said about the government. It’s not about the big ideological concepts about government and corporations. It’s about small things. A teacher. A student. The student’s parents.

    That’s why every school, private or public or charter or magnet or whatever, should be judged on its own merits. In 30 seconds we can each find stories of public and charter schools doing bad things. What does that say about public education? About charter education? Nothing, except that there are bad people in every system.

    There are people who will take the stories about bad people in bad public schools as evidence that the government should get out of education. But that’s silly, isn’t it? There are public schools which make their students and their parents very, very happy. There are also charter schools which make their students and their parents very, very happy.

    What’s the problem with education? That’s relatively simple. Politicians and bureaucrats designed our system and maintain it and have made it worse. Until education is designed only by students, teachers, and parents working together, there will be failed students.

    Every school – no matter what the test scores or the arts funding – which has intelligent, curious kids who hate being there and want nothing more than to leave, is failing students.

    The kind of reform those schools need isn’t the kind that is popular with politicians, but is more like the one in the video below, and it wouldn’t be possible without brave and trusting teachers and administrators, students and parents. Politicians and bureaucrats had absolutely nothing to do with it.

  11. LCM,

    I’m writing from the perspective of a former public school educator who spent more than three decades teaching in an elementary school. My focus hasn’t been just on charter schools. This post is about the attempt by some people/groups to privatize public education and to reap corporate profits from our public schools. My argument is not an ideological one.

  12. LJM,

    Yes, some public schools are failing our children. But why reform the schools that ARE successful? Why not look at the reasons why the failing schools ARE failing? Why not address the problem issues? Poverty is one of the main problems. Yet, so few politicians and school reformers want to talk about poverty…the plight of many of our big cities. They’d rather spend billions of dollars on high stakes tests, vouchers to private and religious schools, and charter schools. Doing that will not solve the problem of so many of our children growing up in poverty…in cities with high crime rates.

    I don’t think corporate interests should pervert the public education system in order to make money.

  13. Let me add, because I don’t think I made it clear, that we are in agreement that resisting the kind of “reform” seen in NCLB and RTTT is essential.

    I bet that the reason we agree on this is because those programs make it harder for teachers to do what they do so well, taking each student’s personality into account.

    But I think this focus on charter schools (which I think embrace the NCLB mindset way too much) makes the argument ideological instead of practical.

  14. Disgusting story Elaine, but more of the same. Indiana is as crazy as some of the Southern states.

  15. rafflaw,

    My husband just sent me a link to this charter school story:

    GOP Donor’s Charter School Got Its Grade Changed
    July 29, 2013

    INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Former Indiana and current Florida schools chief Tony Bennett built his national star by promising to hold “failing” schools accountable. But when it appeared an Indianapolis charter school run by a prominent Republican donor might receive a poor grade, Bennett’s education team frantically overhauled his signature “A-F” school grading system to improve the school’s marks.

    Emails obtained by The Associated Press show Bennett and his staff scrambled last fall to ensure influential donor Christel DeHaan’s school received an “A,” despite poor test scores in algebra that initially earned it a “C.”

    “They need to understand that anything less than an A for Christel House compromises all of our accountability work,” Bennett wrote in a Sept. 12 email to then-chief of staff Heather Neal, who is now Gov. Mike Pence’s chief lobbyist.

    The emails, which also show Bennett discussed with staff the legality of changing just DeHaan’s grade, raise unsettling questions about the validity of a grading system that has broad implications. Indiana uses the A-F grades to determine which schools get taken over by the state and whether students seeking state-funded vouchers to attend private school need to first spend a year in public school. They also help determine how much state funding schools receive.

    A low grade also can detract from a neighborhood and drive homebuyers elsewhere.

    Bennett, who now is reworking Florida’s grading system as that state’s education commissioner, reviewed the emails Monday morning and denied that DeHaan’s school received special treatment. He said discovering that the charter would receive a low grade raised broader concerns with grades for other “combined” schools — those that included multiple grade levels — across the state.

    “There was not a secret about this,” he said. “This wasn’t just to give Christel House an A. It was to make sure the system was right to make sure the system was face valid.”

    However, the emails clearly show Bennett’s staff was intensely focused on Christel House, whose founder has given more than $2.8 million to Republicans since 1998, including $130,000 to Bennett and thousands more to state legislative leaders.

  16. We are in complete agreement regarding high stakes testing and its uselessness.

    The reason there are liberals and Democrats who support charter schools is because there are liberals and Democrats who live in communities with public schools which don’t meet their needs and desires. They are grateful that they have something that everyone, not just the upper classes, deserves in education: options.

    For decades, many public schools have been telling parents to be patient, that once they get the funding they need, they’ll be the kinds of schools the parents and students will be happy with. (Note that I didn’t say “public schools,” but rather “many public schools,” so as not to give the impression that all public schools are dysfunctional and dishonest about it.)

    But since tripling per-pupil spending and being in the top three industrialized nations for per-pupil spending for many years, some public schools remain terrible places.

    So, thank goodness for these parents that there are charter schools which satisfy them and their students in ways their local public schools can’t.

    Why would anyone want to take that option away from those parents? How do we look them in the eyes and tell them, “We know you’re happy with your school, but it’s “for profit.” So, you need to go to your local public school and work with them to make it better.” (Nevermind that parents have been doing that for generations to no avail.)

    I know the idea is that it’s wrong to use money that could be used to improve these schools in order to fund “for profit” schools. But there’s no evidence that a lack of money is the problem. Not when student enrollment has increased by about 10% in the last 40 years, while school employment has increased by about 90%.

    Condemning all charter schools because they’re “for profit” is no different than condemning all public schools because of the people who enrich themselves in that system. There are good and bad people involved in public schools and there are good and bad people involved in charter schools. There are people who are selfishly enriching themselves in public and charter schools. There are people who have been mislead by charter school advocates and people who have been mislead by public school advocates.

    Condemning all of one kind of school doesn’t help solve the problem of mismanaged schools (public and charter) and the students who are being neglected by them.

    Oh, and none of this really matters so long as we continue to maintain the 150 year old education paradigm that causes so many intelligent, curious kids to hate school and long for it to be over.

  17. rafflaw,

    Unfortunately, our so-called reformers are getting all the positive press. The MSM has fallen down on the job. And shame on Arne Duncan for steering the Education Department in the wrong direction.


    Reasoning with and Resisting Arne Duncan’s Education Reform Agenda: Scribbling Lines in the Sand
    Wednesday, 22 May 2013
    By Tobey Steeves, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

    AERA is the largest education research organization in the world, and in 2013 its annual conference was held in San Francisco. AERA’s annual conferences span 5 days, and typically draws 15-30,000 – a dizzying array of education researchers, administrators, policy makers, and even a few school teachers. This year Arne Duncan – President Barack Obama’s Secretary of Education – was among the “distinguished invited speakers.”

    To set a stage for the Secretary’s invited speech, it’s worth noting that Duncan is no stranger to privilege and power. Before his promotion to Secretary of Education Duncan

    attended the exclusive University of Chicago Lab Schools for grades K-12 and then went to Harvard and played pro basketball in Australia. After that, he set up a charter school funded by an investment firm (Ariel Investments). This apparently qualified him to become first an executive in, and then the head of, Chicago Public Schools. -Arne Duncan’s cloudy legacy from Chicago Public Schools

    While managing Chicago’s public school system, Duncan ordered 60 public schools closed and opened more than 100 charter schools (The School Reform Showdown in the Chicago Arne Duncan Left Behind). He also implemented education reforms that insured Chicago would have

    a two-tiered education system, with a handful of these selective enrolment magnet schools, or boutique schools … in gentrifying and affluent neighborhoods, and then many disinvested neighborhood schools. So parents across the city are scrambling to try to get their kids into a few of these schools. So instead of creating quality schools in every neighborhood, what CPS has done is created this two-tier system and actually is closing down … neighborhood schools … and replacing them with charter schools and a privatized education system, firing or laying off, I should say, certified teachers, dismantling locally elected school councils, and creating a market of public education in Chicago, turning schools over to private turnaround operators. – A look at Arne Duncan’s VIP list of requests at Chicago schools and the effects of his expansion of charter schools in Chicago

    1. Duncan also took steps to exploit economic and racial inequalities by militarizing Chicago’s public schools:

    According to the CPS website, Chicago has “the largest JROTC program in the country in number of cadets and total programs.” CPS has five military high schools, more than any city in the nation, and 21 “middle school cadet corps” programs. The military high schools teach military history and have military-style discipline. Students wear military uniforms, do military drills, and participate in summer boot camps. The hierarchical authority structure mirrors the Army, Navy, and Marines, with new students (“cadets”) under the command of senior students who work their way up and require obedience from those in “lower ranks.” Like in the military itself, questioning, let alone challenging, authority is not looked upon kindly. In a city where barely 50 percent of entering high school students graduate (Swanson, 2008), and in a country involved in two wars, the option of military service tempts many, especially in a period of economic crisis. All but one of the military high schools are in African American communities, and all the middle school cadet programs are in overwhelmingly black or Latina/o schools. – Arne Duncan and the Chicago Success Story: Myth or Reality?

    In spite of this dubious record in Chicago – or, more alarmingly, because of this record – President Obama nominated Duncan as US Secretary of Education in 2009. Since then, among Duncan’s more notable “achievements” in this role has been the implementation of the $4+ billion Race to the Top (RttT) competition.

    In brief, RttT compels states into competing for funding by expanding charter schools, and links teacher evaluation and pay with standardized test scores. Professor Mark Naison (Fordham University, American Studies and History) concludes that “in strictly economic terms, Race to the Top represents a huge subsidy for test and software companies while serving as a jobs program for the upper middle class” (Why Race to the Top Has Increased, Not Reduced, Income Inequality).

    Professor Joseph Onosko (University of New Hampshire, Education) has a similarly dreary view of Duncan’s ‘crowning achievement’:

    When thinking about Race to the Top, comedian Lily Tomlin’s quip about American life from years ago seems quite appropriate: “The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.” The rats in Obama’s race are not our highest scoring students, rather the rats are myopic educational reformers focused on student competency in reading and math, and on overhauling the profession by evaluating teacher and administrator performance using standardized test results. This agenda falls far short of what it means to be an educated person and democratic citizen. Obama’s reform plan will not take us to the top precisely because it fails to “pay as much heed” to many other important, complex, and difficult-to-achieve (and measure) educational goals. It’s a plan that employs crisis rhetoric about a dire economic future and then offers up test-score surveillance as a central strategy to supposedly motivate educators to develop children in narrow ways for national purposes. In short, the opportunity cost to individual human development and our nation’s most valuable resource, human capital, will prove devastating. And, of course, lurking in the background is plan B: the privatization of our educational system should Obama’s nationalized, centralized, standardized reform effort fail. – Race to the Top Leaves Children and Future Citizens Behind

  18. Elaine,
    As your excellent article has shown, it is all about the money and not about educating our children. The dismal report card on charter schools is just one example.

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