"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Mr. Staples: Here's What Happened to Black Teachers

As the chief education spokesman for the New York Times editorial board, Brent Staples' support for corporate education polices most often goes unsigned in his editorials.  This week, however, Mr. Staples has an editorial piece in the Times that asks, "where did all the black teachers go?"

For almost three decades, Brent Staples has refined the New York Times' editorial policy on education to support, unfailingly, the corporate education reform agenda that began in Charlottesville, VA almost 30 years ago.  It was in 1989 that GHW Bush called together the nation's governors to meet with the nation's leading CEOs to set a national education agenda designed to put corporations in charge of making education policy based on Reagan market ideology, and to put governors in charge of implementation of that policy. 

The year after in 1990, Brent Staples joined the Times editorial board.  It was the same year that one of the governors leading the Charlottesville Conference, Lamar Alexander, was named Secretary of Education and charged with promoting education privatization policies to end the "public school monopoly." The other governor in charge at the Charlottesville Conference, Bill Clinton, was elected President in 1992, which began the school privatization effort in earnest. 

Clinton used the bully pulpit to advance charter growth, and by the time Clinton left office the nation was seven schools short (1,993) of meeting Clinton's goal of 2,000 charter schools in the U. S. by the year 2000.

As a black man embracing white racist policies, Staples voiced support for the white elite corporate education policies and policy talk that has for centuries blamed the shiftless poor for their impoverished and oppressed conditions and their lazy and ignorant black teachers for falling short of expectations on standardized tests designed to humiliate anyone outside the white middle class for which the tests were normed.

With Clinton, accountability demands began to be ratcheted up with more testing, so that by the time GW Bush was appointed President in 2000 by the Supreme Court, Brent Staples, as the voice of the Times on education, was ready to embrace a multi-prong frontal assault on the disenfranchised and the public school teachers that serve them. 

Thinly veiled as a social justice initiative that would "leave no child behind," the NCLB Act put the Business Roundtable and the oligarchs with tax-sheltered corporate foundations in charge of making education policy to test, label, demonize, and shut down thousands of public community schools in favor of corporate charter schools. 

In New Orleans, hundreds of black teachers lost their jobs almost overnight when disaster capitalists took over NOLA public schools after Katrina.  Tens of thousands of others around the country lost their jobs as well, just as they continue today to lose them wherever charter school operators replace credentialed teachers with pedagogically-ignorant, culturally-irrelevant, and empathy-free Ivy Leaguers devoted to turning impoverished black and brown children into robotic versions of middle class white kids. 

Staples and the Editorial Board applauded the creation of a new category of white male overseers and white female missionary teachers to staff the corporate charters, which were charged by their paternalist philanthrocapitalist bosses with dehumanizing and culturally sterilizing the children of the poor, while grinding out, from the surviving high scoring charter children the test results that would be used to justify charter expansion. 

Today there are almost 7,000 charter schools, and thousands more KIPP Model schools planned and funded by nearly $400 million in federal funds each year and the tens of billions of dollars annually from starving state education funds.

Now Brent Staples, near retirement age, asks in his most recent signed editorial piece for the Times, "what happened to black teachers?"  What happened, indeed!

Having gone to segregated schools, himself, up through grade 4, Staples was handpicked in 5th grade to attend the all-white William Penn School in Chester, Pennsylvania.  There at the William Penn Elementary, in a school with the social capital and educational resources to allow his talent to shine, his voice to develop, his aspirations to open up, he flourished.  In fact, he won scholarships that allowed him to advance his education, so that today he holds a PhD in Psychology from the University of Chicago.

If Mr. Staples were growing up today in a poor urban environment, such an intellectually precocious 5th grade child from a poor family would most likely end up in another segregated school like the punishing KIPP Model charter schools, where children in educationally-minimalist environments are beaten down until they become compliant and malleable enough to be molded by corporate happiness training into aspiring robots.

Black teachers, Mr. Staples?  Black and brown teachers who have not absorbed the white racism that imbues the KIPP Model schools want no part of this brave new world of total compliance training and child cruelty that you continue to support, as you hide behind the anonymity that your editorial board position affords you, except on the days that you put your name on a piece that pretends to care.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Karl Dean Sits on Left Aisle of Corporate Party Jet

Former Nashville mayor, Karl Dean, is running to be TN's next governor.  He is running as a Democrat, but he is no less a Wall Street corporatist than Michael Bloomberg, Rahm Emanuel, or the Clintons.  As mayor, Dean's most visible accomplishments, aside from killing a mass transit effort that was opposed by the auto lobby and Gov. "Pilot Oil" Bill Haslam, were 1) providing incentives and other tax breaks for big business to locate or expand in Nashville and, 2) leading a muscular advocacy for school privatization via corporate charter school expansion.

Take Hospital Corporation of America, for instance.  Even though HCA was already headquartered in Nashville, Dean was able to wrangle a deal that gives HCA a $3 million annual tax abatement for 20 years, plus moving expenses to relocate into a new headquarters in West Nashville.  The year that Dean provided his corporate welfare deal to HCA, the company brought in over $30 billion and had a net profit of $2.45 billion.

And then there is the Omni Hotel deal, which provided Omni $103 million in tax breaks over 20 years, plus another $25 million to acquire the building site near downtown.  And, of course, there are other sweet deals of less impressive proportions.

Dean's generosity with public funds for corporate welfare projects was just as striking when it came the white elites' final solution for schooling the children of the disenfranchised.  In 2011, as public school buildings were crumbling and teachers were running around with garbage cans to catch the rain from leaky roofs, Dean ponied up 10 percent of Nashville's four-year school building budget, $10 million, for one KIPP, Inc. school in Nashville. 

When Dean left his mayoral post, he joined the board of a national charter school privatization venture bent on spreading the paternalistic gospel of "no excuses" charter schools as replacements for urban public schools. He still serves in that post.

In spite of the fact that the appetite for charters in Tennessee has waned as Tennessee taxpayers now realize that the only people getting fat from this deal are the charter operators and corporate foundations, Dean has doubled down on his charter zealotry:
Dean is unapologetic about his pro-charter position, which he said is in line with other big city mayors and with President Barack Obama.

“The important message for me is that charter schools are public schools,” he said. “It’s a different way of management, it’s a way that gives parents more choices and has produced very positive results in Nashville.”

“I don’t regret my support for charter schools and I think it’s consistent with being a good Democrat, and in line with some very, very good Democrats,” he said.
Will a real Democrat emerge in the gubernatorial race to support public schools?  Only time will tell. 

One thing is for sure: there is no appetite among progressives for the Republican Lite candidates that the DNC has supported in the past.  On education issues, the difference between Dean and the Republicans is that the Republicans love vouchers with their charters for school privatization, whereas Dean is strictly a charter man.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Indianapolis (and a few other places), Meet John Arnold

By Doug Martin 

With the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Walton Foundation, and others, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation is pumping millions of dollars into Indianapolis, and former Mind Trust executive vice president Ken Bubp now is the Arnold Foundation’s director of education.  For the 2016-2019 years, the Arnold Foundation plans to hand the Mind Trust $11,075,000 and the Indianapolis Public Schools Education Foundation, Inc. $1,256,250 for the “expansion and replication of high-quality schools.” 

As Lindsey Erdody and Hayleigh Colombo noted a few days ago, Arnold, the Texan and former Enron millionaire turned hedge fund billionaire, in a YouTube video says “If Indianapolis is successful in doubling the number of kids that are attending high-quality schools, it will be one of the best investments that the Arnold Foundation has made.” Arnold continues “Indianapolis has this great chance and opportunity to show the nation what can be done.”

It’s no surprise that Arnold is terming up with the Dell Foundation in Indianapolis, for promoting edtech is one of his many favorite pastimes.  In 2012, the Arnold Foundation handed $10,000 to Innosight Institute, Inc. to promote digital learning, almost $600,000 to the North American Council for Online Learning Ltd. in 2011 and 2012, $6 million in 2012 to the PowerMyLearning, Inc. (Computers for Youth Foundation, Inc.) to support blended learning, $3.5 million to the American Institutes for Research in the Behavioral Sciences to “advance evidence-based policymaking and promote the use of longitudinal data in education research,” $60,000 in 2016-2017 to the Data Quality Campaign, Inc. to “support the development and distribution of materials that capture the growth of the current data systems in education and share lessons for other sectors,” and over $8 million to the edtech charter school investors NewSchools Venture Fund, whose CEO Ted Mitchell later went on to become Obama’s undersecretary of education, just to name a few.  The Arnold Foundation stresses so-called personalized learning, recently giving a $2.7 million grant to the personalized learning OpenStax College project that Rice University researchers are working on.  The Arnold Foundation is helping develop digital textbooks for college students, investing in EdX, an online platform for high school and college courses, and Arnold’s foundation has given $6 million to the Silicon Schools Fund, Inc over the last few years, “which is supporting the development of schools where face-to-face instruction is combined with online, self-guided activities, collaborative projects, and innovative classroom models.”  This is just a small fraction of the money the Arnold Foundation is pouring into corporate school reform.

Arnold is steeped in the school privatization movement.  In 2011, the Arnold Foundation gave (PFD) $100,000 to the hedge fund-operated Education Reform Now, $2.1 million to Stand for Children (who used hedge fund money that same year to buy Illinois Democrats, as I detail in Hoosier School Heist), $5 million to Teach for America, and $52,500 to the Thomas Fordham Institute, the rightwing organization whose quest with the fake liberal Center for American Progress is to entirely eliminate elected school boards across the country. 

Arnold, like all billionaires and edtech titans, hate publicly elected school boards.  Alongside Lauren Powell Jobs, Apple’s Steve Jobs’ wife, and billionaire corporate school reformer Eli Broad, and others, John Arnold in 2014 attempted to buy the California State Superintendent of Public Instruction race, supporting Democrat Marshall Tuck of Los Angeles, who was up against another Democrat.  Tuck, in favor of using test scores to evaluate teachers, had started L.A. charter schools and was the CEO of “the Partnership for L.A. Schools, a nonprofit he ran (created by [once-mayor] Villaraigosa) that is working to fix 17 failing schools.” The “Enron commodities trader and hedge fund manager John Arnold gave $300,000 to a pro-Tuck PAC” and “has jumped into California union battles before, donating $200,000 through his PAC to help place on the state ballot a government employee pension reform plan by San Jose's Democratic mayor, Chuck Reed,”  as L.A. Weekly’s Matt Fleming points out.  

Arnold has thrown money across the U.S. to influence the so-called pension reform of public workers, and a whole book could be written about that alone.  


The new and international corporate gimmick to wipe out public education and every other public investment that aids or monitors minorities and people from low-income households is known as “social impact investing,” and the Arnold Foundation is on the forefront.  One version of “social impact investing,” a scheme to invest private money in social programs for a profit, is known as Pay for Success, now written into the Every Student Succeeds Act.  

As researcher Alison McDowell writes:

The John and Laura Arnold Foundation has worked steadily to advance Pay for Success. A 2015 article from Inside Philanthropy notes, “The Arnolds and Bloomberg Philanthropies both recently received props from the Obama administration for being “essential partners” in government’s quest to surface the tools, programs and approaches that will help the country adapt to a changing educational and economic landscape.” Both are high-profile figures in the movement to privatize public education, and the Arnolds have also been at the forefront of pension “reform” efforts. Since 2013, the foundation has poured tens of millions of dollars into an “Evidence Based Policy and Innovation” initiative. In 2015, the Coalition for Evidence Based Policy wound down its operations after 14 years and merged with the Arnold Foundation. Among the coalition’s accomplishments were successfully lobbying for the creation of the Social Spending Innovation Research program in K12 education as well as Paul Ryan and Patty Murray’s Commission on Evidence Based Policy Making.

McDowell has posted a map of Arnold’s Pay for Success plan, noting the Arnold Foundation’s “strategic investments” for the national “adoption of Pay for Success and Social Impact Finance,” which includes “investments in funders, think tanks, lobbyists, data brokers, evaluators, as well as reform groups like KIPP and Teach for America suited to working within the constraints of data-driven educational environments.”

On the Arnold Foundation website, you can find many of these Social Impact/Pay for Success grants, which include:

New Profit, Inc.
2013 - 2014

To help advance Pay for Success Financing.

Nonprofit Finance Fund
2014 - 2015

To help advance Pay for Success Financing.
Nonprofit Finance Fund
2014 - 2018

To help advance Pay for Success Financing.
Nonprofit Finance Fund
2016 - 2017

To support the Pay for Success Learning Hub.

One Hope United
2015 - 2017

To help advance Pay for Success Financing.
Partnership for Public Service, Inc.
2015 - 2017

To help advance Pay for Success Financing.
Partnership for Public Service, Inc.
2016 - 2018

To identify measures that can help to improve operations at the Office of Management and Budget in order to drive better decision making, resource allocation, and performance at federal agencies.

President and Fellows of Harvard College
2013 - 2015

To support the Harvard Kennedy School’s Social Impact Bond Technical Assistance Lab.

President and Fellows of Harvard College

To support the Center for Public Leadership’s efforts to evaluate a series of low-cost, high-yield interventions and their impact on student outcomes.
President and Fellows of Harvard College
2016 - 2018

To develop and support a network of government chief data officers that will collectively use data analytics to solve critical policy problems.

Roca, Inc.
2016 - 2023
up to $1,666,689

To support an extension of the Massachusetts Juvenile Justice Pay for Success Project.

Social Finance CT**
2016 - 2022

To support the Connecticut Family Stability Pay for Success Project.
Social Finance NY State Workforce Re-Entry 2013 LLC**
2013 - 2019

To help advance Pay for Success Financing.
Social Finance, Inc.
2014 - 2015

To help advance Pay for Success Financing.
Social Finance, Inc.
2014 - 2017

To help advance Pay for Success Financing.

Third Sector Capital Partners, Inc.
2014 - 2015

To help advance Pay for Success Financing.
Trust for Conservation Innovation
2015 - 2017

To help advance Pay for Success Financing.

University of Utah
2015 - 2017

To help advance Pay for Success Financing.
Urban Institute
2015 - 2018

To help advance Pay for Success Financing.
Urban Institute
2016 - 2018

To support the development of an evidence-based policymaking collaborative, which will provide actionable strategies for using and building evidence in public policy.

Youth Services, Inc.
2014 - 2020
up to $3,344,350

To help advance Pay for Success Financing.

For the Pay for Success scheme to work, the billionaires need data--data, in fact, to manipulate for a profit, and edtech is ripe to create it.   In fact, we have already witnessed a scenario that will become way too common if John Arnold and the other billionaires get there way.  In a 2015 Salt Lake City preschool program with a Social Impact Bond (SIB) from Goldman Sachs and the Pritzker Family, we can glimpse where this road is heading.  Here is how education scholar Tim Scott narrates the story:

Through a $7 million investment from Goldman Sachs, J.B. & M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation and the United Way of Salt Lake, the SIB financed the expansion of an existing and highly regarded preschool program. The SIB was aligned with the program's goal of reducing the number of “at-risk” children identified to be on a path to special education services in subsequent grades. According to the Philanthropy News Digest, Goldman claimed, “that of the one hundred and ten four-year-olds who attended preschools in the program during the 2013-14 school year that were identified as likely to need special education, only one required special education services in kindergarten.” This outcome also guaranteed the first of many large payouts for the notorious investment bank. “It was, in the vernacular of corporate America, a win-win: a bond that paid for preschool for underprivileged children in Utah while also making money for investors.”

A month later, several early childhood experts interviewed for a New York Times article reported that they saw a number of substantial irregularities in how the program's success was measured, leading them to believe that Goldman Sachs and the state of Utah were able to exaggerate the outcome of the SIB:

...even well-funded preschool programs — which the Utah program was not — typically have been found to reduce the number of students needing special education later by 10 percent or 20 percent, and rarely by more than 50 percent… For example, the program screened low-income three- and four-year-olds using a picture-and-vocabulary test known as the PPVT and labeled all those who scored below 70, a very low score, as being likely to require special education. According to nine early childhood education experts who reviewed the results for the Times, however, the PPVT isn't typically used to screen for special education, especially on its own, and there was little evidence for assuming that all children who scored poorly on the test — 30 percent to 40 percent of the children in the program, many of whom did not speak English at the time of testing — would require special education after preschool.

The NY Times article went on to report how “Early-childhood education experts said that the results from Utah should have been viewed skeptically from the start, just based on the amount of money being spent on the program… the preschool that the bank had paid for cost $1,700 a year for every student, or barely enough to cover the cost of part-time day care. Some of the children Goldman paid for were sent not to preschool but to a local daycare center or Y.M.C.A.

Prior to making the investment, Goldman Sachs could see that the methodology was leading significant numbers of children to be labeled as at-risk; and therefore increasing the number of children that could later be identified as avoiding special education. Ultimately, according to the Times,

When Goldman negotiated its investment, it adopted the school district’s methodology as the basis for its payments. It also gave itself a generous leeway to be paid pack. As long as 50 percent of the children in the program avoid special education, Goldman will earn back its money and 5 percent interest — more than Utah would have paid if it had borrowed the money through the bond market. If the current rate of success continues, it will easily make more than that.


 In 2013, the national news painted John Arnold as a Jesus figure when he and his wife announced they were going to cover the government costs of funding Head Start during the government shutdown.  The Arnolds dished out the couch-change of $10 million for Head Start as a loan to be paid back.  Actually, the whole thing was merely a publicity stunt meant to digress from  what Arnold had been up to lately. When the news broke on the Head Start funding, David Sirota, noting that John Arnold is worth $3.8 billion, saw through the smoke and mirrors:

What do you do after a week’s worth of embarrassing revelations about your craven effort to slash the pensions of unsuspecting middle-class retirees? If you are a billionaire former Enron trader, you manufacture a self-congratulatory spectacle by offering a bit of pocket change to low-income kids – and you get to rest assured that the national media will suddenly ignore your pension-looting ways and dutifully portray you as a benevolent hero.

Such is the breathtakingly cynical P.R. strategy of John Arnold. After a week of revelations about his scheme to help Wall Street and the conservative movement loot public pensions, the former Enron trader made headlines yesterday by handing over a rounding error of his billion-dollar fortune to the federal Head Start program ostensibly to help float it through the government shutdown.   


What else should Indianapolis parents, students, teachers, and citizens know about John Arnold? People in Indianapolis, first, might want to look toward the sky for any suspicious activity for an answer, for in Baltimore, with no public input, Arnold and his wife’s foundation recently paid $360,000 to Dayton, Ohio’s Persistent Surveillance Systems to fly a surveillance plane over the city for at least “314 hours, taking more than a million images,” according to the Baltimore police department which finally acknowledged the surveillance and Arnold’s role several months after, ironically, Bloomberg Businessweek ran a story.