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

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Gates Ponying up Nearly $1 Million for i3 Planning Grants

In yet another step in their takeover of the DOE (and US education policy, in general) the Gates Foundation will be issuing $100,000 grants to nine groups for i3 planning. i3 is the cheesy name given to the $650 million program designed to spur "innovation," headed by former Gates employee James Shelton. Jimmy has experience in the for-profit charter realm via his own charter, LearnNow, which he sold to Edison Schools, and he also worked for junk-bond king Mike Milken's Knowledge Universe, NSVF, and McKinsey & Co. The i3 grants can be used for a variety of purposes. From Edweek's Michelle McNeil:

This time, for i3, the chosen school district winners are: Philadelphia, New Haven, Conn., New Orleans, Minneapolis, Houston, and El Dorado County, Calif. In some cases, the grants are going directly to the district, or in other cases, the money is being awarded to the city, or one of the district's philanthropic or nonprofit partners.

Also winning a grant is the Central Texas Education Stimulus Collaborative, which represents Austin and eight other school districts in the region, or about 200,000 students collectively. (In learning about this Texas collaborative, which brings together philanthropy and school districts, it seems like just the kind of thing the education department is looking for.)

The other winners are a group of five Los Angeles charter management organizations that make up the College-Ready Promise initiative, which also won a major teacher-reform grant from Gates, and two New York City charter organizations, the New York City Charter School Center and New Visions for Public Schools.

Michelle seems to have forgotten about a piece she penned less than a week ago, "Changed Urged in Rules for Federal Innovation Aid," which noted there were complaints that i3 provisions "would turn foundations into gatekeepers for these federal grants." Make that Gateskeepers, Michelle (there's zero mention of the "gatekeeper" concerns in her newest article mentioning the $100,000 i3 grants).
It is particularly interesting to look at the districts and organizations offered these grants, all worth up to $100,000:
Philadelphia: the district has already announced the "Renaissance Schools Initiative," a Ren2010-like plan to turn Philly schools over to private operators. Check out the blog of the Philadelphia Student Union for updates on the corporate reform model. This post explains how the process is led by Leroy Nunnery, a former head of Edison Schools.
New Haven, Conn: New contract. Some people like this contract, some don't.
New Orleans: Charter school haven, all under the watchful eye (ha!) of Duncan's former boss, Paul Vallas. Interestingly, Synesi Associates and their non-profit arm, which has been used extensively by Valls in New Orleans, also put in bids to every single school put on the market by LAUSD. Mike Klonsky did a nice write-up about it here.
Minnesota: Birth of charter school movement; second largest city, St. Paul, just selected Broad-trained Valeria Silva as their Superintendent.
Houston: Another charter haven, particularly for KIPP and YES. Hear Jay Mathews spew his usual charter school BS in this article from Philanthropy magazine, a publication of the Philanthropy Roundtable. It's totally fair to call this guy a propaganda machine of the first order.
El Dorado County, CA: Don't know much about El Dorado, but it's in another charter haven facing the consequences of disaster capitalism, the Governator's California.
Central Texas Education Stimulus Collaborative: Impressive list of corporate sponsors, including AT&T and the foundation of oil baron Sid Richardson. Brags about how effectively they've pimped themselves trying to get their hands on stimulus and foundation dollars. Melinda Gates is from Texas.
College-Ready Promise Initiative: Green Dot, Aspire, ACRPS, ICEF, and PUC - all NewSchools Venture Fund investments (in their "portfolio"). All charter chains operating in LASUD.
New York City Charter School Center: major charter school center for NYC.
New Visions for Public Schools: a "Partnership Support Organization" (PSO) for NYDOE.

Gates spokesman Chris Williams claims the foundation looked for districts and charters working together and collaborating, which is the bogus PR line that runs contrary to the school competition reasoning pushed by philanthrocapitalists and charter school proponents. Charters and districts working are working together, that's for sure - to kill off public schools, public school teachers, and further the privatization, test-centric agenda of the business community and corporate America.
What'll be left in it's path? A system of school openings and closures (with evidence this strategy doesn't work, and can be literally deadly in some areas); various charter chains and education management organizations, including corrupt groups like Edison Schools and Imagine Schools, not to mention the segregated chaingangs reliant on dubious psychological methods to create docile minorities as the solution to poverty; more schooling based on education, but with even more emphasis on test scores and other metrics (which will never be based on things that really matter, partly because some things that matter in education cannot be measured on some spreadsheet); and a less-experienced, less-prepared teaching force reliant on temporary teachers.
Sounds an awful lot like the deck-of-cards, gamble-your-socks-off approach of the Wall Street thugs and banksters. Gates is just providing the seed money in this scheme (co-investing with his philanthrocapitalist buddies), and I'd wager that charters receiving Gates funding will benefit from these i3 grants. Ah yes - the "entrepreneurial arm" of the Department of Education.

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