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

Monday, November 30, 2009

John Merrow Takes the Road Most Traveled, By Corporate Charter Advocates

John Merrow is better served when he sticks to putting the best news face possible on corporate education reform atrocities, all in the name of fair and balanced reporting. But he has a predictable habit of interjecting himself into educational debates that he feels he should know something about, even though his latest entry into the charter controversy shows once again that Mr. Merrow should take fewer naps and do some current reading in areas for which he obviously cares more about than he knows.

Merrow's latest commentary in Ed Week, "When Roads Diverge: Tracking the Charter Movement," shows Merrow doing a little backtracking, in fact, to a time in late summer 2009, before Caroline Hoxby's shoddy charter "research" for Mike Bloomberg had been thoroughly discredited as an expensive advocacy piece by an expensive advocate. Merrow, in this commentary, offers us a celebration of the "gold standard" that Hoxby might have brought to bear on the charter question, had she not been compelled to distort, manipulate, exaggerate, and extrapolate her findings to fit her commission. And the small issue of the Hoxby "study" never receiving peer review before becoming the gospel according to Eli Broad and the corporate press? No problem, for Merrow had lunch with Caroline, and she assured him the peer review would happen soon. Which it already has, but which Merrow never mentions for fear of damaging his own variety of George Babbitt boosterism that drives this pro-charter screed to its illogical conclusion.

If Merrow had written all this out of ignorance, I could look the other way. After all, it is common practice for education writers to go for a couple of months without reading anything about the subjects they report on. But it is in the way that Merrow abuses the PDK/Gallup findings that convinces me clearly he has a few things to teach even the most polished propagandist like Caroline Hoxby. From Merrow:
The general public clearly wants more charter schools—64 percent in the 2009 Gallup pollRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader on education. And a 2009 survey conducted by Education NextRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader reports that more than a third of public school teachers support charters, a number that jumps to nearly half when respondents are told of President Obama’s support.
First off, if I wanted to know what teachers think, I would not go to Education Next, which is sponsored by the union busters at the sludge tank, the Hoover Institute. Secondly, there are no teacher questions in the survey that is connected by Merrow's link. Thirdly and most importantly, Kappan/Gallup poll did not ask the public if they "want more charter schools." The question actually asks, "do you favor or oppose the idea of charter schools:"
TABLE 11. As you may know, charter schools operate under a charter or contract that frees them from many of the state regulations imposed on public schools and permits them to operate independently. Do you favor or oppose the idea of charter schools?
Quite a different question, wouldn't you say, Mr. Merrow?

Hoxby Study Gets Kicked After Smackdown

On November 14, we reported on an assessment of Caroline Hoxby's unpublished charter study paid for by Mike Bloomberg. The independent evaluation boiled down to these specific criticisms:
  • In measuring the effects of charter schooling on students in grades 4 through 12, the study relies on statistical models that include test scores from the previous year, measured after the admission lotteries take place. Yet because of that timing, those scores could be affected by whether students attend a charter school. As a consequence, the statistical models "destroy the benefits of the randomization" that is a strength of the study's design. (The use of a different model makes the results for students in grades K-3 more credible, he notes.)
  • The report's claims regarding the cumulative effects of attending a New York City charter school from kindergarten through eighth grade are based on an inappropriate extrapolation.
  • It uses a weaker criterion for statistical significance than is conventionally used in social science research (0.05), referring to p-values of roughly 0.15 as "marginally statistically significant".
  • The report describes the variation in charter school effects across schools in a way that may distort the true distribution of effects by omitting many ineffective charter schools from the distribution.
This month's District Administrator has another level of criticism offered by Jonathan Gyurko:
A report issued by the New York City Charter Schools Evaluation Project in September, and since been held up as clear evidence that charter schools are doing a better job than traditional schools, is now facing criticism that its claim of being an “apples to apples” study just isn’t true.

The report, How New York City’s Charter Schools Affect Achievement, examines the performance of students who applied for openings in New York’s charter schools, which are 94 percent filled through random lotteries. When researchers compared the academic performance of those who were “lotteried in” with those who were “lotteried out,” they discovered a higher rate of achievement in the charter group.

Critics claim the report does not take into account the “peer effect,” whereby a child learns not only from teachers but from fellow students. Writing in Edwize, a blog sponsored by New York’s United Federation of Teachers, Jonathan Gyurko says, “Charter schools benefit from the fact that 100 percent of their students hail from motivated families; as a result, a charter student is surrounded by peers who are there by choice—rather than by attendance zone.”

Alexander Hoffman, writing in GothamSchools, an online news source about the New York City public schools, says the report is flawed because, in contrast to a medical study, it has no placebo group. Both groups—students in charter schools and students in traditional schools—know what kind of education they are getting. “I know from my own experience teaching that students who get their choice of schools take a bit more ownership,” Hoffman says. “If they get their second choice, or last choice, or somehow do not get their choice, that’s a big hurdle for their teachers and parents to overcome.”

Led by well-known school choice advocate Caroline Hoxby of Stanford University, the researchers claim that since these two groups were essentially the same—both comprised of students who sought admission to charter schools—they were able to make a comparison in which where students were educated, charter school or traditional school, was the only variable.. . . .

Sunday, November 29, 2009

For Profit Diploma Mills Draining Fed Ed Dollars and Leaving Students Broke

The corporate felons at the Apollo Group were convicted in early 2008 of fraudulently misleading investors. From the NYTimes, 01/17/08:

PHOENIX (AP) — The Apollo Group Inc., the company that owns the University of Phoenix, fraudulently misled investors in 2004 about student recruitment policies, a federal jury decided Wednesday. The panel ordered the company to pay shareholders about $280 million.

Jurors said Apollo officials “knowingly and recklessly” made false statements in a news release, a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission and four conference calls with market analysts. By doing so, jurors said, Apollo violated federal securities laws. . . .

Since that time, the Apollonoid lawyers have been trying to cut a deal to lower the settlement to somewhere between 45 and 200 million. UPhoenix has nothing really to worry about, however, even if the entire amount has to be paid, for $280 million would be just over a third of what UP hustles in one year from Pell Grant dollars alone. From a story today by AP's Justin Pope on the corporate college corruption that Arne Duncan has enabled by allowing federal grants and loans to be wasted in the virtual learning corporations that are devoid of any discernible virtue:
Phoenix alone had more than 230,000 Pell recipients last year (and received $657 million Pell dollars, roughly its parent company's yearly profit). Its campuses educate nearly four times more low-income students than the entire Big 10, and more than 30 times the Ivy League, the AP found. Unlike proprietary schools, those traditional colleges enjoy tax-free status for supposedly providing a public service, notes Harris Miller, president and CEO of the Career College Association.
And $657 million is just the Pell Grant dough. There are hundreds of millions, too, in low interest federal student loans that go pay millions to UP's CEOs and to pay dozens of dollars at least to adjunct professors, many of whom bought their own degrees at these same pedagogical establishments.

Yes, business is good at Apollo, with a "buy" rating (that was likely bought) on its stock. Bought or not, Apollo is spending almost a billion dollars every year on sales and promotion. That's $1,000,000,000. The corporates control 10 percent of the higher education market. Hey, you can't keep a good casino capitalist down, especially when your lobbyists have made sure there is nothing virtual about the cold hard cash that comes pouring forth from the Federal Treasury, money that was intended to help those who need help to get a college education.

But you can keep keep down Apollo's clientele, those adults and teens left behind, those who comprise the poorest and most desperate college student population, the ones who can't go to the leafy three-dimensional campuses, the real campuses with libraries and labs, football teams and food courts. Meanwhile, the corporate ed reformers in charge of California's public university system are putting real colleges further out of reach with a 30-40 percent tuition increase planned for next year--assuming the students and workers don't burn the whole thing down first. A very effective corporate college feeder strategy that will, no doubt, attract more uninformed and gullible students to the Kaplans and the UPs, students who will never challenge the crap ed they receive. After all, that's what they got in the 12 years prior, right.

What's the graduation rate from these online corporate diploma mills? Try 38%. How much do students owe after their miseducative experiences? Almost 9 percent more than they would if they were enrolled in PRIVATE nonprofit four-year colleges:
Students who don't graduate will be hard pressed to repay their debts. On average, for-profit schools cost five and a half times the price of community colleges. Virtually all students must borrow some money, and even among graduates of for-profit four-year programs, the average borrower ends up owing $33,000, according to the latest government data analyzed by Mark Kantrowitz of the Web site finaid.org. That's about $5,000 higher than even private nonprofit four-year colleges.
Yes, the Federal gravy train just keeps on rolling for the capitalist frauds, crooks, and profiteers who act as if they own the Republic. Here is another clip big clip from Pope's piece:

RALEIGH, N.C. – Students aren't the only ones benefiting from the billions of new dollars Washington is spending on college aid for the poor.

An Associated Press analysis shows surging proportions of both low-income students and the recently boosted government money that follows them are ending up at for-profit schools, from local career colleges to giant publicly traded chains such as the University of Phoenix, Kaplan and Devry.

Last year, the five institutions that received the most federal Pell Grant dollars were all for-profit colleges, collecting over $1 billion among them. That was two and a half times what those schools hauled in just two years prior, the AP found, analyzing Department of Education data on disbursements from the Pell program, Washington's main form of college aid to the poor.

This year, the trend is accelerating: In the first quarter after the maximum Pell Grant was increased last July 1, Washington paid out 45 percent more through the program than during the same period a year ago, the AP found. But the amount of dollars heading to for-profit, or "proprietary," schools is up even more — about 67 percent.

For-profit colleges say the country has little choice but to accept their help to achieve President Obama's goal of getting every American to enroll in some form of education beyond high school. The for-profit schools have space while community colleges are bursting at the seams. Besides, their convenience and career-focused curriculum are clearly winning customers, who are free to use their aid where they choose.

But critics say the increased federal aid has unleashed a new gold rush. They complain the industry has too many incentives simply to enroll students and tap the spigot from Washington — and not enough to make sure students succeed.

The industry is "an aggressive sales operation that has a voracious appetite for recruiting the poorest students," said Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of AACRAO, a group representing admissions officers and registrars at traditional colleges. "The victims here are the students themselves and the taxpayers, who have to pick up the tab."

Regardless of how AP's findings are interpreted, they underscore the extent to which the United States has ramped up its support for low-income college students in recent years, but increasingly outsourced the job to the private sector.

• Last year, Washington paid out a record $18.3 billion in Pell Grants, which typically go to families earning under $40,000. Proprietary colleges collected about $4.3 billion of that, or about 24 percent — roughly double the proportion a decade ago.

• In the first quarter of the current academic year, for-profit colleges collected $1.65 billion, or 67 percent more than in the same period a year ago. On July 1, the government made more students eligible for Pell grants and increased the maximum award by $600 to $5,350.

• For-profits are also grabbing a growing share of loans subsidized by the government to help low-income students. They collected about $7 billion in subsidized Stafford loans in 2008-2009, up from $4.7 billion two years before. Taxpayers subsidize the interest rate and take the hit when students default. Nearly one-quarter of students at for-profit schools default within four years, more that double the rate of other schools.

Overall, the sector enrolled about 2.7 million students in 2007-2008, the latest year with complete federal data available. That was only about 10 percent of total enrollment in higher education, but it's about 2 million more than a decade before.

The numbers are even more striking for low-income students: The number of Pell recipients enrolled in for-profit schools is 50 percent higher than two years ago. . . .


Junk Bonds Fuel MN Charter Expansion

Junk bonds, insider deals, and public monies used to destroy public spaces - no, I'm not talking Wall Street investors, I'm talking about charter schools in the fine state of Minnesota. One must wonder how Minnesota, the birthplace of the nation's first charter schools, has yet to put into place a set of laws that would significantly regulate charter school corruption and general tomfoolery, but, then again, CMOs, EMOs, and edupreneurs detest regulation as much as their (equally corrupt?) Wall Street pals.
Below are some highlights from an excellent article by Tony Kennedy of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune. Do be sure to read this entire piece, available here.

Junk bonds fuel a building spree, but schools are more crowded, insiders are taking fees, and state regulators can't do much about it.

Last update: November 29, 2009 - 10:00 AM



Minnesota's charter school movement, which sparked a national rethinking of public schooling nearly two decades ago, has been infected by an out-of-control financing system fueled by junk bonds, insider fees and lax oversight.

State law prohibits charter schools from owning property, but consultants have found a legal loophole, allowing proponents to use millions of dollars in public money to build schools even though the properties remain in the hands of private nonprofit corporations.

The key to making it all work is the state's lease aid program, which was created 11 years ago to help spur competition in public education by offering rental assistance to groups promoting alternatives to district schools. In the beginning, many charters were located in dumpy strip malls and received no real-estate grants.

But the once-obscure program has snowballed into one of the fastest growing expenses in the state, with building projects receiving little of the vetting that typically accompanies other public works. One school project was being led by a convicted sex offender until this month, when the Star Tribune exposed his past.

...

State lawmakers are frustrated by the building boom. Since 2000, at least 64 public school buildings in the metro area closed because of declining enrollment. Charter schools are responsible for recruiting away some of those students.

"When district schools are closing, should we allow charter schools to build new buildings?" said Rep. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, who was cleared in 2001 of legislative ethics charges for voting to boost lease aid even though he personally received the funds from a charter school he helped start. "These are being built with 100 percent state moneys, but who is minding the store on using that money well?"

...

Taxpayer approval also remains unnecessary. A charter school simply needs to find a municipality willing to lend its name to a deal, even if that community is far removed from the school.

That is how it worked two years ago, when the Otsego City Council balked at financing a charter school. Undeterred, school promoters went 35 miles down the road to Falcon Heights, where officials were persuaded to authorize the bond issue in exchange for a $45,000 "processing fee." As is standard in such deals, the city of Falcon Heights was indemnified against default, merely acting as a "conduit" to give the bonds tax-exempt status.

...

At St. Croix Preparatory Academy, a K-12 charter school that opened in new space this year near Stillwater, three insiders rewarded themselves with $140,000 in fees related to the $21.7 million bond deal that financed the facility, records show. Former computer software salesman Jon Gutierrez, who co-founded St. Croix Prep and serves as its executive director, took $25,000 in fees, on top of his annual salary of $110,000. His wife, Kelly Gutierrez, the school's chief financial officer, received $15,000.

But the biggest chunk went to Carroll Davis-Johnson, chairperson of the school's building company, who received $100,000. She served as a project manager on the new school even though the project's architect told school officials the expense was "unnecessary," records show.

...

Charles P. Schumacher also slipped through the cracks.

Although he was convicted on two counts of criminal sexual conduct in 1995, Schumacher, 40, wound up on the board of North Lakes Academy in Forest Lake. He also served as chairman of the school's affiliated building company.

Schumacher, who taught at Lourdes High School in Rochester 15 years ago, pleaded guilty to groping two of his students. The girls also accused Schumacher of forcing them to touch his groin.

...

Wall Street soon caught on, and charter school advocates discovered they no longer had to deal with ill-suited rental properties if they were willing to create building companies and use junk bonds -- high-cost debt issued by borrowers considered to be at greater risk for default -- for construction. The bonds are repaid with lease aid money, which is capped at 90 percent of property costs or $1,200 per student, whichever is lower. This year, Minnesota will distribute an estimated $42.4 million in lease aid, a figure that has doubled in just four years.

...

Prairie Seeds Charter School in Brooklyn Park and the Faribault Public School District each raised about $15 million through the sale of tax-exempt bonds in March. But after paying underwriting expenses and other costs, the charter school project was left with only 78 percent of the proceeds; the public school retained 96 percent.

Over the next 30 years, taxpayers will pay $32.4 million in lease aid to cover interest payments at Prairie Seeds, where the interest rate on most of the bonds is a whopping 9.25 percent. That's five times more than the interest expense in Faribault Public Schools. Records show the Prairie Seeds project generated $928,000 in fees and other underwriting costs, with $630,800 going to Dougherty & Co., the sales agent for the bonds. The Faribault deal generated $200,000 in fees.

Once again, entire article available here.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Children Hungry, Schools Broke: Corporate Reformers Blame School Boards and Teachers

Yesterday the Washington Post had a story of increasing hunger and insecurity among school children, realities that until last fall were largely not seen because they were real for the invisible children that constitute the bottom quintile of school children who have been repeatedly thrown away for generations :

Schools throughout the Washington area are feeding an unprecedented number of poor students as unemployment continues to rise.

One in four students in Fairfax County qualifies for free or reduced-price meals this fall, up from one in five three years ago. In Montgomery County, 29 percent of students were deemed eligible for meal subsidies in October, up from 26 percent in October 2007. In Prince William County, the eligibility rate increased from 29 to 33 percent, and in Prince George's County, from 46 to 52 percent.

As the lunchroom poverty barometer rises, schools are solidifying their role as centers for social services.

"If basic needs are not met, children cannot learn," said Karen Thompson, a guidance counselor at Guilford Elementary School in Sterling. "If we have children coming to school hungry, that is our first concern. We also have to make sure they have shoes, warm clothing. Have they slept? Do they have a place to live?"

Although poverty rates increased only slightly in Loudoun County in the past year, the rate at Guilford Elementary, in a working-class neighborhood near the Fairfax border, rose sharply, to about 68 percent, Principal David Stewart said.

Many parents who work as housecleaners, construction workers or landscapers have lost their jobs, or their hours have been cut. The school and the community have responded.

Guilford officials always keep a supply of winter coats to give to children in need. But this year, they also have dozens of pairs of shoes donated by a shoe store.

At Guilford and scores of other schools in the region, churches and charities are donating backpacks or providing boxes of food for children to take home on Fridays so that they will have something to eat over the weekend.. . .

And now the same capitalist charlatans who ran the national and world economies into the ditch want control over public schools and universities. Not only do these public institutions offer new corporate revenue streams, but the control and brainwashing of the next generation becomes more critical for insuring another few years of governance by multinational corporations. Having already redirected the purpose of schooling to the needs of the global economy, and having taken over the federal role in K12 education, the corporate reformers now seek to achieve corporate control of school operations, themselves. And eliminating publicly-elected school boards and teacher unions constitute Priority One in this phase.

That is why we see sleazy equity managers like Tom Van der Ark spend their time blaming school boards and teachers for the system of privilege that has produced income gaps unknown in this country since the Gilded Age. If there could be a more disingenuous and transparent attempt at manipulating public opinion, I have not seen it. From HuffPo:

. . . .The primary reason we have a federal law like NCLB is that school boards (and state boards) allowed generations of chronic failure. They cut bad employment deals and asked for more money when things didn't go well. Teachers that could went to the suburbs. Most low income and minority kids were getting left behind. Anyone committed to equity could see things had to change.

NCLB reflected a consensus that 1) measurement and transparency would help us understand the problem, 2) that a basic template for school accountability would ensure that things would get better for underserved students, and 3) the federal government should play a bigger role in ensuring equity and excellence.

There were a bunch of technical problems with the bill in 2001 and they never got fixed. But the biggest problem is that 8 years later states and school boards have continued to allow chronic failure--they basically ignored the federal demands to intervene. . . .
Priceless. So now the Oligarchs led by Gates and Broad and the Waltons want the American people to believe this bullshit, and to turn over their public schools to be run by the same corporate crooks who have destroyed the economy and the middle class. Don't count on it, Bill and Eli.

The closing paragraph from the WaPo piece:

As poverty rates escalate, many school systems are also dealing with the most severe revenue shortfalls in more than a generation. School boards are likely to face proposals to cut teachers, social workers or counselors to balance their budgets.

Dianna Sosa, a social worker at Hutchinson Elementary in Herndon, said the effects of increased unemployment are clear there. More students at the Fairfax school are being referred to her office because of non-academic concerns, and she is meeting with more families to connect them with emergency housing or other services. "It's a really stressful time," she said.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Michelle Played Damage Control for Kevin

For awhile there, Kevin Johnson's St. Hope charter school kind of minority edupreneurship was just what Broad and Gates hoped to spread eastward from Sacramento to DC. That was until the Inspector General for AmeriCorps offered up a report that recommended criminal charges against Johnson (IG report on St. Hope--click Contents page for a larger view of the large list of offenses). The primary charge involved the illegal siphoning off of over $800,000 from Americorps to advance Kevin's own "educational" interests in and around Sacramento.

And somewhere between misappropriation of federal funds and the sadistic boot camps and the improper sexual physical conduct, Kevin and Michelle fell in love, so much so that Michelle became chair of damage control for Kevin, even as the plan to bring St. Hope to DC went off the rails. Kevin ended up paying back $400,000, no criminal charges were filed, Keven became mayor of Sacramento, and the Obama Administration fired Walpin, the IG who wrote the criminal referral on Kevin, who, by the way, is a round ball bud of the President. Cozy.

As long as this story dealt with stealing public money and corrupt manipulations by the Oligarchs to move the charter chess pieces around the country, no media could be bothered with the story. But now the Republicans are fanning the sex scandal and hush money angle, so the Times on both coasts are going to press on this one. Poor Kevin. Poor Michelle. The NY Times piece here.

RTTT Final Rules Give Ground on Charters While Continuing to Lie About Charters

From William Black at HuffPo:
Tom Frank's book, The Wrecking Crew explains how the Bush administration destroyed effective government and damaged our social fabric and our economy. The Obama administration has chosen to reward two of the worst leaders of Bush's crew -- Geithner and Bernanke -- with promotion and reappointment. Embracing the Wrecking Crew's most destructive members has further damaged the economy and caused increasing political and moral injury to the administration. . . .
The same could be said for Obama's education plan, which picked up right where BushCo. left off, just before the final assault on public schools and teaching, one of few remaining career choices with benefits, retirement plans, and the potential to leave the planet's people a bit better off. In fact, the corporatization of education has accelerated with the installation of Obama and Duncan as the Oligarchs' choice to continue the pillaging of America's educational institutions by corporate interests.

The Race to the Cliff provides almost $5 billion in taxpayer money for bribes that have been set aside to "incent" the crushing of collective bargaining laws, create charter laws where there aren't any, install permanent data surveillance systems in every state, mandate pay-per-score teacher pay plans, and turn over urban schooling to corporate franchises that are modeled after the KIPP dropout factories that so effectively segregate and brainwash the poor and dark-skinned who can survive the chain gang test prep and mind control measures.

Feedback, however, on the parameters for Arne's Big Bribe bucks has been harsh, so much so that the Dunc has backed off on the ramming down of the charter option to the exclusion of other attempts to fix, rather than replace or shut down, low performing schools. This is from the Final Rules on RTTT:
The Department made three noteworthy changes to the selection criteria on turning around the persistently lowest-achieving schools. First, this notice removes the restriction, proposed in the NPP, that permitted the ‘‘transformation’’ model to be used solely as a last resort. Instead, we simply specify that an LEA with more than nine persistently lowest-achieving schools may not use the transformation model for more than 50 percent of its schools (p. 59691).
This would mean, presumably, that a system with fewer than nine low-achieving schools could use the transformation model to "fix" all of them, and thus avoid the draining away of public money by the corporate charter welfare solution being jammed down by the oligarchs, Broad and Gates. There are other changes worth noting. My bolds and italics:
Third, the public comments suggested that there was confusion about the role of charter schools in the Department’s reform agenda. Some commenters concluded that by placing the charter school criterion in the school turnaround section, the Department was advancing charter schools as the chief remedy for addressing the needs of the persistently lowest-achieving schools. While the Department believes that charter schools can be strong partners in school turnaround work, it does not believe that charter schools are the only or preferred solution to turning around struggling schools. In fact, it is the Department’s belief that turning around the persistently lowest-achieving schools is a core competency that every district needs to develop, and that closing bad schools and opening good ones is the job of school district leaders. Notwithstanding research showing that charter schools on average perform similarly to traditional public schools, a growing body of evidence suggests that high-quality charter schools can be powerful forces for increasing student achievement, closing achievement gaps, and spurring educational innovation (59691).. . . .
This last remark continues to ignore the only peer-reviewed national study on charters, the one published by CREDO at Stanford earlier this year, which shows that bad charters outnumber good ones by a margin of 2 to 1. Thirty-seven percent of charters score below the public schools, while only 17 percent score better. In 42 percent of the nation's charters, there is no significant difference in scores. Is this what Duncan's dopes mean by "perform similarly?"

The Black Swans?
And the high quality charters? The real high flyers are the KIPP dropout factories, where the total compliance boot camp system and the psychological brainwashing scatter as many as 50-60 percent of enrollees between 5th and 8th grade--not to mention record attrition rates among teachers that no public system could sustain.

These are the black swans that are displayed for those looking for the solution to urban poverty without doing anything to end poverty. Click on the slide above to see what former hedge fund investor exec, Whitney Tilson, is pumping onto the Web, as noted in previous post by Ken Libby. The KIPP dropout factories have become the sustaining illusion and delusion for the positive psychology hypesters like Broad and Gates and the glassy-eyed drones of Martin Seligman, whose entire urban reform system is built on a house of cards that continues to ignore the grinding poverty that sustains the achievement gaps for the bottom quartile of American children whom we have deemed disposable, all the while turning over their containment and permanent segregation, er, education to the corporate plunderers and leeches who are destroying our Republic.

Giving Thanks for Secular Investigations

The NYTimes has an AP story today on, yet, another damning report on the unholy pedophile priests and their protectors within the Catholic Church hierarchy:

DUBLIN (AP) -- Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church in Dublin covered up decades of child abuse by priests to protect the church's reputation, an expert commission reported Thursday after a three-year investigation.

Abuse victims welcomed the report on the Dublin Archdiocese's mishandling of abuse complaints against its parish priests from 1975 to 2004. It followed a parallel report published in May into five decades of rape, beatings and other cruelty committed by Catholic orders of nuns and brothers nationwide in church-run schools, children's workhouses and orphanages from the 1930s to mid-1990s.

The government said the Dublin investigation ''shows clearly that a systemic, calculated perversion of power and trust was visited on helpless and innocent children in the archdiocese.''

''The perpetrators must continue to be brought to justice, and the people of Ireland must know that this can never happen again,'' the government said, also apologizing for the state's failure to hold church authorities accountable to the law.

The 720-page report -- delivered to the government in July but released Thursday after extensive legal vetting -- analyzes the cases of 46 priests against whom 320 complaints were filed. The 46 were selected from more than 150 Dublin priests implicated in molesting or raping boys and girls since 1940.

Other than the evil frauds who claim some form of celestial protection as their rightful due for their crimes against humanity, it is impossible to imagine any non-holy (irony alert) societal institution that would not be dismantled and burned at such repeated reports, with all of the guilty officials locked away for life or executed.

And so it seems fitting to share part of this piece of ecclesiastical history related to the emergence of celibacy within the priesthood and the economic motive that drove it. From the Irish Democrat:

Peter Berresford Ellis looks at the politics and philosophy behind the Catholic church's rules on marriage and celibacy

IN SPITE of the election of another conservative Pontiff, Benedict XVI in April of this year, liberal reformers in the Catholic Church are continuing their campaign for a return to a married priesthood.

However, the former Cardinal Joseph Alois Ratzinger [helpful background here], is clearly not some one who will look benignly on any attempts to liberalise the Church. He is known to be a firm supporter of Pope Paul VI's encyclical Sacerdotalis Caelibatus, which reaffirmed the prohibition on clerical marriages. Cardinal Ratzinger's Salt of the Earth: the Church at the end of the Millennium, published in 1997, showed no moderation of those views.

Some liberals argue that this attitude has been responsible for the rapid decline of members of the religious during the last thirty years. A month or so ago in Ireland, that fact that two young men were entering a seminary from one county was so unusual that it was reported as newsworthy.

In my opening I said 'a return to a married priesthood'. Yet many think that the Catholic priesthood has always been celibate one and that it was the Protestant movement in the sixteenth Century that allowed clergy to marry. Only from the twelfth Century AD did the Roman Church begin to enforce celibacy among its clerics.

In most religions, both ancient and modern, there have always been ascetics who believed that celibacy somehow brought them close to the deity. They have sublimated physical love, a natural life, in a dedication to whatever deity they worshipped. Celibacy within the western Christian movement was something that took many centuries to become a universally accepted idea; even then it was a means of causing schisms within that movement.

The first disciples of Jesus were, for the majority, married men: disciples such as Simon Bar-Jonah, nicknamed 'The Rock' (Petrus in Latin, Cephas in Greek), the man on whom Jesus is accepted as founding his Church and regarded as the first 'Pope'.

Evidence shows that many of the early Christian religious leaders were married men and women and, moreover, women often took a prominent role in the services. Even many centuries later, women in Gaul were officiating over the divine offices and other rituals and that called forth a rebuke from Rome.

One has to remember that the Christian movement, like most human movements from the religious to the political, was constantly changing and reforming. Indeed, it was with the third century that the teachings of Gnosticism began to argue that a person could not be married and be 'religiously perfect'. However, The Oxford Dictionary of Popes, lists no less than 39 Popes as being married. Even the most conservative of Catholic scholars will accept that seven Bishops of Rome were married. Moreover, some of the Popes were succeeded by their sons in office.

Some ascetics, as in other religions, became hermits, shunning society, and removing themselves from 'worldly temptation'. Such was the idea of St Anthony (born c. AD 250) who took up residence in a deserted fort in Pispir on the Nile.

It was from these first Christian 'monks'- Anthony and Pachomius - that inspired the former Roman soldier named Martin, born c. AD 315 in Pannonia. He became a hermit in Gaul. By AD 370 he was also a bishop and founder of an entire community. He built his monastery at Marmoutier, in Celtic Gaul, that still shows its original Celtic name 'mor munntir', meaning 'place of the great family'. Martin became 'Father of Celtic Monasticism' and his ideas spread from Marmoutier to Celtic Britain and then to Ireland.

Yet at this stage, the majority of priests were married and their children often rose to office in the Church. The Pope St Damascus I (AD 366-384) was the son of the priest St Lorenzo. St Innocent I, who was Pope from AD 401-417, was son of Pope Anastasius I (399-401). Popes Boniface (AD 418-422), St Felix (AD 483-492), Anastasius II (AD 496-498) and St Agapitus I (AD 535-536) were all sons of priests, while St Silverus (AD 536-537) and John XI were sons of previous Popes and at least three more Popes were also sons of priests.

Even St Patrick (a British Celt from near Carlisle whose original name seems to have been Sochet 'silent one') was the son of a deacon (Cualfornius or Calpornius) who, in turn, was son of a priest (Potitus). One interesting point, Diaconus (now translated in modern terms) at this point was an ordained priest (see Acts 6: 1-6).

Ireland was not unique within the wider Christian Church in having married clergy and mixed-sex religious communities were found not confined to Ireland but through western Christendom.

Yet the ascetic group, advocating celibacy, grew stronger as a political force within the Christian movement. In AD 308 the Council of Elvira in Spain issued a decree that a priest who slept with his wife on the night before Mass could not perform the ceremony. In AD 325 the Council at Niceae argued that, after ordination, priests should not marry.

One fascinating point is that the Council of Laodicea in AD 352, ordered that women should no longer be ordained as priests. So women were being ordained as priests at this time. Early Irish references show that St Brigid of Kildare, (who died AD 525) herself was ordained as a bishop. She founded her conhospitae, or mixed, house with Bishop Conláed. St Hilary in Northumbria is also referred to as being ordained bishop.

In AD 494 Pope Gelasius I (492-496) decreed that woman could no longer be ordained as priests. It is fascinating, therefore, that we find Bishop Pelagio, in the twelfth century, complaining that women were still being ordained in the western Church and hearing confessions. K.J. Torjesen's book When Women Were Priests, discusses the implications of this.

In AD 385, Pope Siricius (AD 384-399), supporting the ascetic lobby, abandoned his wife and children, and ordered that priests should no longer sleep with their wives. But he did not go so far as prohibiting marriage.

Clerics marrying remained an unchanging factor of religious life through the sixth century. In AD 567, at the second Council at Tours, it was decided to recommend that any cleric found in bed with their wives should be forbidden to perform church rituals and reduced to a lay state. However in AD 580 Pope Pelagius II (AD 579-590) was not so much bothered with married clergy but with inheritance to their offspring. He ordered that married priests should not bequeath property acquired in their office as a member of the church to their sons or other heirs.

The Roman Church was becoming conscious of the value of property and wanted what had been acquired to remain within the church. Throughout the seventh century there is much documentary evidence showing that in Frankia and Gaul the majority of clerics, priests, abbots and bishops, were married. In the following century, St Boniface of Crediton (c. AD 675-755), comments that almost no priest, including bishops, in Germany followed the idea of celibacy.

Well into the ninth century, it was reported at the Council of Aix-la-Chapelle that the inhabitants of monasteries and convents were living together and that where the bishops and abbots were trying to enforce celibacy there were a number of abortions and infanticides taking place to cover up these relationships.

St Ulric of Augsburg (890-973) argued that the Holy Scriptures and logic demanded that the only way to purify the western Church from these worst excesses was to continue to allow the clerics to marry. He pointed out "When celibacy is imposed, priests will commit sins far worse than fornication." His letter on this matter was later claimed to be a forgery by the pro-celibacy lobby. Ulric's stand is discussed in Married Priests and the Reforming Papacy: the 11th Century debates.

Pope Benedict IX was elected when he was fifteen years old in 1032 because he was connected with the powerful Counts of Tusculum. He resigned the Papacy in order to marry. Gregory VI took over but Gregory was banished after a few months. Re-elected in 1045, the married Benedict IX was deposed by Clement II who died shortly after and Benedict IX was re-elected for a third time before finally being deposed in 1048.

Peter Damian (AD 1007-72) was a high-ranking ecclesiastic and theologian who became the leading advisor to successive Popes and drew them firmly into the celibacy camp. Peter Damian called the wives of clerics "harlots, prostitutes... unclean spirits, demigoddesses, sirens, witches" among other vicious rhetoric. He found an enthusiastic pupil in Hildebrand di Bonizio Aldobrandeschi of Sovana.

When Hildebrand was elected as Pope Gregory VII (AD 1073-1085), he declared, in 1074, that "priests must first escape the clutches of their wives", and then take a pledge of celibacy. But it was Pope Urban II, in 1095, who decided to order that the wives of priests be rounded up and sold into slavery, the money used to boost the Papal finances.

Riots took place in Germany, Italy and France as priests rejected this order. So far, no research has been done on how Ireland reacted to this order. Pope Urban even allowed the nobles to forcibly abduct the wives of priests and sell them into slavery.

When the Count of Veringen took part in this, he found his own wife murdered in her bed. Pope Calixtus II (AD 1119-1124) at the Lateran Council of 1123 decreed that all clerical marries were invalid, a decree later confirmed by Pope Innocent II (1130-1143). But, by the fifteenth Century, it was reported that 50 per cent of Catholic priests were still married but, of course, this figure actually shows that the long transition from marriage to celibacy had finally begun to take effect.

The Popes themselves were hardly obeying their own rules on celibacy. We know that Popes such as Innocent VIII (AD 1484-1492), Alexander VI (1492-1503), Julius II (1503-1513), Paul III (1534-1549), Pius IV (1559-1565) and Gregory XIII (1572-1585), each had many illegitimate children. Of these, one of the most notorious was Alexander VI (1492-1503), a Borgia Pope, who had seven illegitimate children when he was a cardinal and, as Pontiff had an affair with Giulia Farnese, a 19 year-old married girl.

In Ireland celibacy was not an issue in the early Church. Indeed, the decisions in the documentary recounting 'The First Synod of Patrick' simply takes married clerics for granted and says that "any cleric from ostiary to priest ...whose wife walks about with her head uncovered shall be despised by the laity and separated from the Church." Dr Patrick Power, in Sex and Marriage in Ancient Ireland (Mercier Press, 1976), points to the fact that a later Brehon Law actually grades ecclesiastical marriages indicating that married bishops and priests were allotted only two-thirds of the honour price of an unmarried bishop or priest.

In spite of attempts to 'sanitise' things by those who want to present celibacy as a strict rule of faith from early times, the evidence to the contrary is absolutely clear. Attempts to reduce bishops and abbots in Ireland to semi-religious officials holding hereditary office, sort of like managers for the community shows no understanding at all of early Irish society.

One of the problems has been that the surviving literature comes from a period when the scribes were members of the accepted orthodoxy of late medieval Rome and were writing with a consciousness of their new dogma. Superficial readings could easily mislead just as one encounters the new religion influencing the bowdlerisation of the concepts and themes of the original versions of Irish mythological tales. But not all the records could be successfully expunged.

As writers have tried to 'sanitise' references to married religious, they have presented many curious arguments. Some even argue that the Irish terms for 'monk' and 'nun' were used strictly in the same way as they were used in the late medieval Roman church, implying that any union between them was forbidden. . . .


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

RTTT Final Rules Give Ground on Charters While Continuing to Lie About Charters

From William Black at HuffPo:
Tom Frank's book, The Wrecking Crew explains how the Bush administration destroyed effective government and damaged our social fabric and our economy. The Obama administration has chosen to reward two of the worst leaders of Bush's crew -- Geithner and Bernanke -- with promotion and reappointment. Embracing the Wrecking Crew's most destructive members has further damaged the economy and caused increasing political and moral injury to the administration. . . .
The same could be said for Obama's education plan, which picked up right where BushCo. left off, just before the final assault on public schools and teaching, one of few remaining career choices with benefits, retirement plans, and the potential to leave the planet's people a bit better off. In fact, the corporatization of education has accelerated with the installation of Obama and Duncan as the Oligarchs' choice to continue the pillaging of America's educational institutions by corporate interests.

The Race to the Cliff provides almost $5 billion in taxpayer money for bribes that have been set aside to "incent" the crushing of collective bargaining laws, create charter laws where there aren't any, install permanent data surveillance systems in every state, mandate pay-per-score teacher pay plans, and turn over urban schooling to corporate franchises that are modeled after the KIPP dropout factories that so effectively segregate and brainwash the poor and dark-skinned who can survive the chain gang test prep and mind control measures.

Feedback, however, on the parameters for Arne's Big Bribe bucks has been harsh, so much so that the Dunc has backed off on the ramming down of the charter option to the exclusion of other attempts to fix, rather than replace or shut down, low performing schools. This is from the Final Rules on RTTT:
The Department made three noteworthy changes to the selection criteria on turning around the persistently lowest-achieving schools. First, this notice removes the restriction, proposed in the NPP, that permitted the ‘‘transformation’’ model to be used solely as a last resort. Instead, we simply specify that an LEA with more than nine persistently lowest-achieving schools may not use the transformation model for more than 50 percent of its schools (p. 59691).
This would mean, presumably, that a system with fewer than nine low-achieving schools could use the transformation model to "fix" all of them, and thus avoid the draining away of public money by the corporate charter welfare solution being jammed down by the oligarchs, Broad and Gates. There are other changes worth noting. My bolds and italics:
Third, the public comments suggested that there was confusion about the role of charter schools in the Department’s reform agenda. Some commenters concluded that by placing the charter school criterion in the school turnaround section, the Department was advancing charter schools as the chief remedy for addressing the needs of the persistently lowest-achieving schools. While the Department believes that charter schools can be strong partners in school turnaround work, it does not believe that charter schools are the only or preferred solution to turning around struggling schools. In fact, it is the Department’s belief that turning around the persistently lowest-achieving schools is a core competency that every district needs to develop, and that closing bad schools and opening good ones is the job of school district leaders. Notwithstanding research showing that charter schools on average perform similarly to traditional public schools, a growing body of evidence suggests that high-quality charter schools can be powerful forces for increasing student achievement, closing achievement gaps, and spurring educational innovation (59691).. . . .
This last remark continues to ignore the only peer-reviewed national study on charters, the one published by CREDO at Stanford earlier this year, which shows that bad charters outnumber good ones by a margin of 2 to 1. Thirty-seven percent of charters score below the public schools, while only 17 percent score better. In 42 percent of the nation's charters, there is no significant difference in scores. Is this what Duncan's dopes mean by "perform similarly?"

The Black Swans?
And the high quality charters? The real high flyers are the KIPP dropout factories, where the total compliance boot camp system and the psychological brainwashing scatter as many as 50-60 percent of enrollees between 5th and 8th grade--not to mention record attrition rates among teachers that no public system could sustain.

These are the black swans that are displayed for those looking for the solution to urban poverty without doing anything to end poverty. Click on the slide above to see what former hedge fund investor exec, Whitney Tilson, is pumping onto the Web, as noted in previous post by Ken Libby. The KIPP dropout factories have become the sustaining illusion and delusion for the positive psychology hypesters like Broad and Gates and the glassy-eyed drones of Martin Seligman, whose entire urban reform system is built on a house of cards that continues to ignore the grinding poverty that sustains the achievement gaps for the bottom quartile of American children whom we have deemed disposable, all the while turning over their containment and permanent segregation, er, education to the corporate plunderers and leeches who are destroying our Republic.

Whitney Tilson's School Reform

Yesterday, I wasted 15 minutes of my time listening to a web-based lecture given by hedge fund manager Whitney Tilson, co-founder (and funder) of Democrats for Education Reform. The slide below shows how groups like DFER champion test abuse and intend to bring corporate structures for reform (or turnarounds) to our public school system. Tilson claims you could fix "any broken system," with the logic and mentality, of course, of hedge fund managers and corporate hucksters (be sure to check out this video of Tilson claiming, "There's a very fine line between what all of us do, and fraud..."). Whitney has taken this strategy and applied it to public education.
Step number 3 of Tilson's grand plan includes waging war on "happy schools" - where the teachers, students, principal, and parents are all happy, but those darn test scores just aren't high enough. Schools - they're all about testing, not about those pesky people (including children) with the audacity to step foot in the building. Shame on them for being so happy! They just need a charter school, merit pay, and the end of social promotion (reforms with dubious, at best, research behind them, and quite a bit of research saying they're all bad ideas).

Ohanian Responds to the Funding Race Beyond the "democratic handout"

From Susan O:
Ohanian Comment: AGHHHH!

Here we have it: The Democratic Leadership Council, corporate power, and the Broad Foundation joining hands to destroy public education. Bill Gates must have taken the day off.

Don't dismiss this as right-wing propaganda typical of the Wall Street Journal editorial page. This trio is likely to be spewing their filth in the New York Times and the Washington Post any day soon.

If you doubt that the Democratic Leadership Council had already destroyed every shred of integrity that once rested in the Democratic Party, then be sure to note what Harold Ford, Jr. is doing these days. And remember, no group was a stronger supporter of NCLB than the Democratic Leadership Council. Take a look at this page. Click on a few of the articles--if you have the stomach for it.

And with Lou Gerstner joining the discussion, we come full circle from when he and Bill Clinton stumped for America 2000 for Pres. Bush the Elder. It contained many of the same elements as RTTT but lacked teeth. Pres. Clinton didn't get the national test he wanted but Obama is well on the way to achieving that goal. Without a whimper from our professional organizations. Members of the Executive Council of NCTE say they cooperated on the LEARN (sic) Act so as to keep a "seat at the table."

Now where have we heard this concern for sitting at a table laden with poison food before?

In the ugly piece below, this trio turn the three wise monkeys upside down, shouting pernicious and phony declarations about the beauty of competition. Look at the concern they express about the embarrassing achievement gaps between middle-class children and poor and minority children--at the same time failing to mention the devastating gap in money and the security of food, shelter, and family well-being that money brings, between middle-class children and poor and minority children. No mention of the gap between the $700,000+ average salary of a Goldman-Sachs worker and the 14 million US children living in families with income below the poverty level. Research shows that, on average, families need an income of about twice that level to cover basic expenses. Using this standard, 41% of children live in low-income families.

The US has one of the highest poverty rates among industrialized nations, second only to Mexico.

I just read the manuscript of Ken Saltman's new book coming out early in 2010, The Gift of Education: Public Education and Venture Philanthropy, which shows how vulture venture philanthropy, pushing the neo-liberal/corporate agenda, sets current ed policy. There are chapters on Gates and Broad. And here's something you may not have thought about: Big venture philanthropies are operating largely with our money. They get enormous tax breaks and then march off with our money to destroy public education.

After reading this statement in the news item below-- Competition brings out the best performance. That's true in athletics and in business, and it's true in education-- please go to a lovely description of what a real third grade teacher does.


By Harold E. Ford Jr., Louis V. Gerstner Jr., and Eli Broad

For decades, policy makers have talked about significantly improving public education. The problem has been clear: one-third of public school children fail to graduate, there are embarrassing achievement gaps between middle-class children and poor and minority children, and the gap between our students and those in other countries threatens to undermine our economic competitiveness. Yet for the better part of a quarter century, urgent calls for change have seldom translated into improved public schools.

Now, however, President Barack Obama has launched "Race to the Top," a competition that is parceling out $4.35 billion in new education funding to states that are committed to real reform. This program offers us an opportunity to finally move the ball forward.

To that end Mr. Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are pushing states toward meaningful change. Mr. Duncan has even stumped for reform alongside former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Yet the administration must continue to hang tough on two critical issues: performance standards and competition.

Already the administration is being pressured to dilute the program's requirement that states adopt performance pay for teachers and to weaken its support for charter schools. If the president does not remain firm on standards, the whole endeavor will be just another example of great rhetoric and poor reform.

Competition among the states is also vital to reform. The administration is resisting the temptation to award funds to as many states as possible. And that's good. To be effective, Race to the Top funds cannot become a democratic handout. Competition brings out the best performance. That's true in athletics and in business, and it's true in education.

Race to the Top funds will not serve their purpose if they are awarded based on good intentions and promises. Instead, the administration is right to look at results. Has a state embraced rigorous standards? Has it welcomed charter schools? Has it turned around low-performing schools and held teachers accountable?

Grants from the National Institutes of Health are awarded to scientists who have advanced their research to a stage where there are promising returns. By setting a high qualifying bar and requiring a record of past performance, the president is instituting a similar system for allocating education dollars.

The first wave of education stimulus funding, allocated earlier this year, was intended to tide over states facing budget shortfalls. This next tranche of dollars have a different purpose—to be a stimulus for positive change.

If the administration were to simply spread the funds around, Race to the Top would end up supporting incremental, not transformational, change. The time is right for bold, comprehensive reform--even if only in a handful of states. This is why it is important to consider a state's record. Is the governor a true change agent, someone who is willing to withstand pressure in order to implement difficult reforms? If so, it may be right to award funding to his state.

The old way of doing business would be to spread around the money so no one could be held accountable. The new approach is to give governors authority and responsibility, and then hold them accountable for results.

For decades, adult interests have been at the forefront of public education. Reform has been derailed by adults who wanted to protect the status quo and enjoy lifelong benefits. This time the focus will be on learning in the classroom. What's important is that the administration is demanding that every child receive an education that prepares him or her for college or for work. Without that we will continue to be sidetracked by insignificant issues.

States that have the track record and leadership in place to implement Mr. Obama's aggressive reform menu—of enforcing rigorous academic standards, creating data systems that track individual student performance, ensuring teacher quality and effectiveness, and turning around failing schools—deserve the funds to show that our public schools can again lead the world.

We have yet to prove, on a systemic basis, that we can dramatically improve America's public schools. Race to the Top is a chance to start small, hold states accountable, and expand proven reforms to the rest of the country.

Mr. Ford is chairman of the Democratic National Leadership Council. Mr. Gerstner is former chairman of IBM and former chairman of the Teaching Commission. Mr. Broad is founder of The Broad Foundations. — Harold E. Ford Jr., Louis V. Gerstner Jr., and Eli Broad
Wall Street Journal

2009-11-25

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.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Will Students and Workers Save the Universities? Giving Thanks for the Disobedient

A piece by Marc Bousquet from Brainstorm:

Yesterday [November 18] the University of California Regents walked into a room packed with gasoline and nonchalantly lit their cigars -- handing down tuition increases that will hike 2010 rates 44 percent over 2008, turning higher ed into a gated community for the offspring of California's "Real Housewives" class. Their bet is the usual bet made by the comfortable: Someone else will get scorched.

Why wouldn't they feel safe? We live in an upside-down world where bankers -- not the capitalists, just their paid lackeys -- get bonuses larger than the deficits of entire states, and the money pimps at The Wall Street Journal are saying, yeah, take it, citizens, take it, ha-ha! And say thank you, too!

The misery of tens of millions in every sector of the public -- in education, health, income security, could be swept away if we forced more bankers and executives to live like teachers and nurses for a year or two.

California Is Burning

That pent-up misery is volatile, though, and starting to flow around the feet of the bankers. More and more of us are waking up to one thought: It's the capitalism, stupid!

For over a year now, students, faculty, and parents across the globe have been turning out by the hundreds of thousands to protest American-style "reforms." You know: junk curricula, volunteer teaching, the return of indentured servitude, corporate domination of research, ruthless administrator control. The New York Times serving up Stanley Fish ("Do your job, punk!") as the face of higher ed.

Today, American students, staff, and faculty are protesting American-style education. Led by staff strikes and student occupations, a pillar of fire is racing across the California desert toward the huge air-conditioned mausoleums of the trustee class.

No question, it's not yet an inferno.

But last month's occupations featuring a few dozen are now occupations of a few hundred: 500 students have set up barricades at UC Santa Cruz; hundreds more marched chanting through hallways at San Francisco State, taking over an administrative building.

At least a thousand students and faculty will face off against riot police and join staff picketing the Regents in Los Angeles.

Yesterday 14 students were arrested for chanting and singing "We Shall Overcome" during the regents' theater piece ("we're having a meeting here and trying to pretend that the outcome is in doubt!")

At 6 a.m. this morning, two or three dozen students stormed UCLA's Campbell Hall, chaining the doors.

Give Thanks for the Disobedient

This has actually been a season of swift victories for faculty and students -- wherever we've seen truly organized and militant faculty, as with AAUP-Oakland in Michigan in October, or grad students, as at Illinois this week, the administration has quickly caved.

Of course the administrators caved -- the real power is where it's always been, with the mass of us, if we can just keep ourselves together long enough to say "no" in one breath.

The California situation is bigger and more complex.

And the faculty with the loudest voices, those in the tenure stream at the UC campuses, aren't unionized: Most of them and many of their students have little experience with solidarity with other education groups, much less other labor sectors.

They're doing their best, but they can't help themselves. So far it seems they want to save their idea of Berkeley and other public research universities -- and just don't care all that much about Cal State-Fullerton, third-grade teachers in Modesto, or the nontenurable faculty they work with every day.

Because, honestly, if they did care about other educators and workers, they'd have been out in the streets long ago! And not too many of them are in the streets right now.

The biggest problem with this California movement is that the folks who are actually in the streets -- staff, especially, but grad students, contingent faculty, and undergraduates -- are letting the tenured do the talking for them.

I mean, these are decent folks doing the talking. Don't get me wrong. Still, why not shut up and hand the mike to the militant, articulate, intellectual staff, for a change?

As higher ed becomes a mass experience -- as more and more workers in all sectors become highly educated, whether they learn in schools or on the job -- it is harder and harder to pretend that higher ed is just about the reproduction of the Bush family's privilege. Today, higher ed is a field of working-class struggle, and one of the reasons it's still hard to see that is the hierarchical, undemocratic tendency represented by handing the mike to Judith Butler. Again, no offense to Butler and other mike holders. (After all, I'm holding one right now, aren't I?)

This could be a moment where the tenured might -- just might -- have unexpected humility thrust on them and achieve enough overnight wisdom to subordinate their Stanley-Fish-sized egos and take leadership from pipefitters, nurses, and food-service workers.

We'll see.

In the meanwhile, I'll be giving thanks for the disobedient, those chaining themselves to doors and shutting down the absurdity of business-as-usual while thugs in suits hand over our future to yet another movie actor.

"Dead Peasant" Policies, Life Settlements, and Other Evils of Capitalism
















I saw Capitalism: A Love Story over the weekend and came away with another layer of understanding of how our former love, with whom we invested so much trust and care throughout our long affair, turned out be the incarnation of evil and generally oppressive despot, despite all of our best efforts to make it work.

So, yes, Virginia, there is still a Santa Claus, but he is not coming to your house anymore unless you are in the top 1 percent of Americans (See chart above, and click it to enlarge: From Center of Policy and Budget Priorities). If you are so lucky as to be in the top 1 percent, Santa needs to remember to have the doorman bring right up all those Neiman-Marcus items you ordered online. Otherwise, they may be taken by the hungry crowds in the street who are starting to circle your building.

Now if you are one of these hungry ones, looking for a job or another job to help keep food on the table or a roof above your head, you probably can't afford the 10 bucks to see Michael Moore's movie. So here is something you might want to check out. When you go to the public library, if you still have one that is still open, to print out your resume and application letters, go to this site to see if your employer or your past employer has a "dead peasant" policy on you. It is a death hedge, you might say, one that is tax-deductible for your employer, and if you happen to starve to death or die of a stroke, then your employer collects. Check out the hundreds of corporations that buy "dead peasant" policies on their peasants, er, employees.

I was glad to see that Michael Moore also picked up on the Pennsylvania school story from earlier this year, where a contracted corporate juvenile detention center paid $2.6 million in kickbacks to a Judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. for keeping all their beds and desks filled with children.

There are many real life capitalist horrors that Moore's researchers missed or could not include. My favorite of late is a new investment scheme known as life settlements, an arrangement whereby investors buy up life insurance policies at a discount, bundle them into packages, and sell them to other investors who collect when the original insureds die. The New York Times explains (and this is no joke):

After the mortgage business imploded last year, Wall Street investment banks began searching for another big idea to make money. They think they may have found one.

The bankers plan to buy “life settlements,” life insurance policies that ill and elderly people sell for cash — $400,000 for a $1 million policy, say, depending on the life expectancy of the insured person. Then they plan to “securitize” these policies, in Wall Street jargon, by packaging hundreds or thousands together into bonds. They will then resell those bonds to investors, like big pension funds, who will receive the payouts when people with the insurance die.

The earlier the policyholder dies, the bigger the return — though if people live longer than expected, investors could get poor returns or even lose money.

Either way, Wall Street would profit by pocketing sizable fees for creating the bonds, reselling them and subsequently trading them. But some who have studied life settlements warn that insurers might have to raise premiums in the short term if they end up having to pay out more death claims than they had anticipated.

The idea is still in the planning stages. But already “our phones have been ringing off the hook with inquiries,” says Kathleen Tillwitz, a senior vice president at DBRS, which gives risk ratings to investments and is reviewing nine proposals for life-insurance securitizations from private investors and financial firms, including Credit Suisse [and Golman Sachs].

“We’re hoping to get a herd stampeding after the first offering,” said one investment banker not authorized to speak to the news media.. . . .

. . . .In early 2008, the firm [DBRS] published criteria for ways to securitize a life settlements portfolio so that the risks were minimized.

Interest poured in. Hedge funds that have acquired life settlements, for example, are keen to buy and sell policies more easily, so they can cash out both on investments that are losing money and on ones that are profitable. Wall Street banks, beaten down by the financial crisis, are looking to get their securitization machines humming again.

Ms. Tillwitz, an executive overseeing the project for DBRS, said the firm spent nine months getting comfortable with the myriad risks associated with rating a pool of life settlements.

Could a way be found to protect against possible fraud by agents buying insurance policies and reselling them — to avoid problems like those in the subprime mortgage market, where some brokers made fraudulent loans that ended up in packages of securities sold to investors? How could investors be assured that the policies were legitimately acquired, so that the payouts would not be disputed when the original policyholder died?

And how could they make sure that policies being bought were legally sellable, given that some states prohibit the sale of policies until they have been in force two to five years?

Spreading the Risk

To help understand how to manage these risks, Ms. Tillwitz and her colleague Jan Buckler — a mathematics whiz with a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering — traveled the world visiting firms that handle life settlements. “We do not want to rate a deal that blows up,” Ms. Tillwitz said.

The solution? A bond made up of life settlements would ideally have policies from people with a range of diseases — leukemia, lung cancer, heart disease, breast cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s. That is because if too many people with leukemia are in the securitization portfolio, and a cure is developed, the value of the bond would plummet.. . . .

And so a generation hence, the biggest casinos of Wall Street may be positioned, once more, to make a killing, so to speak, from the continued deterioration of life and early deaths in a place once known as America.