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

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

More Divisive Neocon Education Strategies

With his company's stock performance down over 40% during the past year, Internet junk salesman, Patrick Byrne of Overstock.com, has a new venture that he hopes will pay off in the world of conservative politics. Located just down the street from the White House at 1101 Pennsylvania Ave., Byrne heads a new organization, Upper, er, First Class Education, that hopes to sow divisiveness between public school administrators and teachers, while building support for vouchers and corporate welfare charter schools:
The goal of the group, First Class Education, is to change the laws in all 50 states by 2008 to require schools to spend at least 65 percent of their operating budgets on classroom expenses, including teachers’ salaries, computers and after-school activities.

Since the group’s public rollout in March, legislatures in Kansas and Louisiana have passed measures encouraging the idea and Texas Governor Rick Perry, a Republican, in August ordered state schools to meet the 65 percent threshold. With financial backing from Internet retail tycoon Patrick Byrne, president of Overstock.com, the group is running TV commercials in Minnesota and Arizona and plans to gather signatures in up to 10 states to put the proposal before voters in the 2006 general election.

First Class Education hopes to get the issue on the 2006 ballot in up to 10 states, including Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Oklahoma, and raise at least $10 million to fund the effort, Mr. Byrne said.
The source of funding for First Class Education remains unknown (could it be another discretionary grant from ED?), but we know that this pampered blueblood, Patrick Byrne, has come a long way from running a uniform company owned by his father's pal, Warren Buffet. He has the good looks, the family connections, and the questionable business skills to, I don't know, become President some day? Here is more from the Arizona Capital Times piece, which was based on reporting from Stateline.org:

Stateline.org obtained a First Class Education memo circulated among Republican lawmakers in several states that lists “political benefits” by putting the 65 percent proposal on the ballot. The memo, first published by the Austin American-Statesman last month, says the proposal will “create tremendous tension” within state education unions by pitting administrators against teachers and will divert spending on other political goals of the “education establishment.”

It says that backing the 65 percent plan will boost Republicans’ credibility on education issues and make it easier to build support for charter schools and school vouchers, which “the voting public — especially suburban, affluent women voters — view as an abandonment of public education.”

Tim Mooney said that the memo was intended to point out to lawmakers that supporting the 65 percent plan can benefit them politically because 70 percent to 80 percent of voters surveyed support the idea, according polling conducted by First Class Education.

Read the rest of the story here--you will be hearing more about First Class Education.

Jim Horn

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:46 AM

    Does anyone have information on who or what organization (beyond Byrne and First Class Education) may be providing the huge amounts of money that must be necessary to produce and buy TV time for the '65%' spots airing around the country?

    It's hard to believe that Byrne alone is behind this, financially, given how widespread this concept is popping up among the states.

    There must be an organization and backer who are developing each state's legislation, along with the logistical skills necessary to fly to each of the states to put together an organization, make the legislator contacts and the media buys for their highly professional TV spots.

    If you could respond to me at npenning@aasa.org, I would be most grateful.

    It just seems there's more to this than meets the eye.