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

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Whittle, the kinder, gentler Corporate Welfare Artist

After burning through $700 million in the first few years of Edision Schools, Whittle's teetering privatization scheme was able to talk Jeb Bush, in 2003, into bailing out his failing outfit by using the Florida's teacher retirement fund (see earlier post here). In the meantime, Whittle was able to bump up his salary to $600,000, plenty to keep things going at his estate in the Hamptons.

Last nite his neighborliness paid off in an ass-kissing interview with Charlie Rose, another Hamptonite, who proved as clueless on education issues as he is knowledgeable on so many others.

Whittle has a new book that outlines his vision for the 21st Century Schools, one inspired by Michigan governor, John Engler, who advised Whittle in 1995 to give up trying to replace public education, but rather to focus on making a business out of creating corporate welfare schools that take public dollars to pay Whittle's folks to manage and run public schools. Very sensible from a business perspective: use the public buildings, infrastructure, buses, lunch room, and tax dollars to build a corporate empire that will be accountable to the stockholders rather than to parents or school boards. Too, to use the buying power of thousands of schools (now less then 200) to buy the same materials, same computers, same programs, same tests and books to create the MacSchools that are guaranteed to leave the same taste in you mouth no matter where you stop in across our great land.

Whittle said that after talking with Engler in 1995, he has not looked back, except to make sure that Jeb Bush was with him in 2003 when he was going broke.

I have not read Whittle's book, Crash Course. . . that Charlie Rose gave such a pink-cheeked approval last nite, but here are some of the grand ideas he laid out in the interview:

  • Whittle would double or triple teacher salaries, while cutting the number of teachers in half. Students in middle and high school would take three courses and work on the other half of the day.
  • Students would become employees of the school, working at least one hour a week, I think he said, thus reducing the number of needed custodial and clerical help (and gaining responsibility, of course).
  • Whittle would not attempt to end teacher union involvement, though some might wonder how many teachers would be willing work half-time. Wonder what happens to benefits? Of course, there would be plenty of time for a shift at Wal-Mart of Shoney's.
  • Whittle would reduce the impossible testing demands for poor children. After all, if this corporate welfare scheme gains any traction, by then the Feds will no longer need to use poor, black children to demonstrate the failure of those awful public schools--since they would have already been taken over by Whittle and his EMO buddies. And God knows we don't need accountability when that happens.
All in all, it make me want to read the book and give it the review that it seems to really deserve.

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