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

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Duncan Supports Snyder's Privatization Plan for Michigan Schools

Dreamed up by the lawyers to the Billionaire Boys' Club, Gov. Rick Snyder's infamous Public Act 4 grants the Governor or his appointed "emergency" managers "power to fire local officials, cancel contracts, privatize municipal services, and even dissolve whole towns."

Yesterday Snyder applied his new powers to take over, charterize, and further segregate Detroit's poorest schools, and Arne Duncan was on the satellite hookup offering his full support for Snyder's bold action, which is being imposed through the Governor's latest emergency lackey, Roy Roberts, former GM exec trained by the same stooges at Harvard who provide instruction at Eli Broad's corporate training camp for urban superintendents just down the street.

From an excellent piece at HuffPo by Joy Resmovits:
The plan mirrors similar efforts in New Orleans and Tennessee that target the lowest-performing schools. But how Michigan's EAS [Education Achievement System] will live up to its promise to improve Detroit's schools -- and address the district's crippling debt -- has yet to be revealed.

What Roberts did say is that the state will run the EAS in partnership with EMU beginning in the 2012-2013 school year. The coming 2011-2012 school year will be an "incubation" period for the development of the system. In addition enveloping schools from DPS, the system is slated to expand to include low-performing schools throughout Michigan.
Why the incubation for this Alien takeover?  Michigan voters are likely to vote down Public Act 4 in a referendum next year, which could leave the privatization plan high and dry.  The specifics of the plans are were not elaborated yesterday, but it does includes firing all teachers in "failing" schools, giving school CEOs latitude to set up their own fiefdoms without oversight, and control by the unelected anti-democrats who own the Governor's Office:
Schools deemed low-performing based on standardized test scores and student grade point averages will enter the EAS. After five years in the system, an evaluation will determine whether the school can choose to go back to local control.

A parent advisory council will be created at each school, and each parent will be required to sign a contract certifying involvement in his or her child's education.

The new authority will function with an 11-member board. Two members will be appointed by DPS, two appointed by the university [Eastern Michigan] and seven by the governor. Five of those board members will make up the system's executive committee, chaired by Roberts.
Under Broad's Detroit's previous emergency manager, Robert "Bonus" Bobb, the DPS debt swelled from by $127 million.  Things are obviously bad enough now to declare a crisis and an emergency corporate solution (see The Shock Doctrine).

Here's more on the plan, which is not even mentioning the toxic, segregative, and brutalizing corporate charters that are being planned for Michigan's poorest children:
The plan was developed to mirror earlier efforts by former DPS emergency manager Robert Bobb, as revealed in documents subpoenaed by a lawsuit, said Donna Stern, national representative of BAMN, an activist coalition in Detroit. Bobb's plan called for an aggressive conversion of failing DPS schools into charter schools, but had been since tempered by Roberts.

When asked whether EAS would focus on creating charter schools, Wilbanks pointed to the eight charter schools EMU runs across Michigan. "That's one mechanism we might use to improve performance," he said.

The FAQ on EAS says the system will include input from "top quality charter authorizers" in developing its "objective criteria for identifying high quality schools."

"Performance against these criteria will be the basis for all decisions made within the EAS," the fact sheet reads.
Anthony Adams, president of Detroit's school board, said he had heard bits and pieces of the plan over the last week.

Before Monday's announcement, the school board -- which has been stripped by the emergency manager of its powers -- met with Roberts to learn about the plan's details. That meeting resulted in a heated exchange, Adams said, when one member asked for details on eliminating the district's debt.

"One of our board members wanted more detail regarding the deficit elimination portion of the plan," Adams told The Huffington Post. "The emergency manager didn’t necessarily like the questions. People here are very aggressive."
Requests for comment from Roberts following the news conference were not returned.
Response from teachers, students, and parents was immediate and strong:
Some teachers were curious to hear about the changes to their schools, but they were turned away at the door, so they started picketing, forming a crowd of about 20.

Joined by several students, they chanted: "No layoffs, no cuts, Detroit won't get to the back of the bus."
Among the student protesters was Leroy Lewis, a 16-year-old rising senior at Southeastern High School.

"They were holding a press conference to destroy public education, so I wanted to see it," he told HuffPost. "My school is on the list of failing schools. I'm prepared to fight around it and gather up support."

"They took our teachers away, cut our fine arts program. It's very difficult to learn here," he added.

Some critics said the move to create a separate district run by an appointed board invites further privatization of Detroit's schools.

"This is the next level in the attack on public education," said Nicole Conaway, a science teacher at Catherine Ferguson Academy. "They're trying to implement a New Orleans plant model that will have severe brutality and be segregated."

"Classrooms will be overcrowded. Supplies will be shorter. It is like the new Jim Crow in creating a second-class tier of schools," she added.
Unless Michigan citizens act to shut down this plan, it will spread from Detroit to other poor areas of Michigan.  With Duncan's stamp of approval to turn around the bottom 5 percent of schools, there will always be a bottom 5 percent as long as schools are measured based on their standardized tests, which is, in fact, a measure of the level of poverty.

Segregation, cultural sterilization, behavioral neutering, and cognitive decapitation: welcome to the New Eugenics, the Oligarchs' version.

I started to post this piece below separately, but it makes for good reading here to see the level of debased hypocrisy and deception coming out of the Obama Department of Education.  By Nathan Bomey for AnnArbor.com:
In the aftermath of Gov. Rick Snyder's decision to give emergency managers more power to address crises in Michigan's distressed public school districts and municipalities, Snyder faced a barrage of criticism.

Activists ranging from the Michigan Education Association to the Michigan Democratic Party to liberal MSNBC commentator Rachel Maddow slammed Snyder and Michigan Republicans, saying the emergency manager legislation dismissed democracy in favor of dictatorial politics.

But it's becoming increasingly clear that Snyder's emergency managers — whose existence has inspired an effort to place the issue on the ballot in 2012 to allow voters to repeal the legislation — have more political support than previously thought.

Exhibit A: Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners Chairman Conan Smith, a Democrat.
Exhibit B: Flint Mayor Dayne Walling, another Democrat.
Exhibit C: President Barack Obama?

Silly, you say? There's no way that Obama would back Snyder's decision to allow emergency managers to sever union contracts, wrest power away from elected officials and unilaterally reshape budgets and curriculum in the name of fiscal sanity. Right?

Perhaps. But then I ask you this: Why did U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, an Obama appointee, participate in Snyder's press conference today by satellite, praising Detroit Public Schools emergency manager Roy Roberts' leadership and lauding Snyder's efforts to uproot the "status quo."

Duncan — the third speaker at the press conference, behind Snyder and Roberts — praised the initiative to establish a statewide system to revitalize Michigan's worst public schools by transferring them to a new autonomous authority, requiring teachers to reapply for their jobs and giving principals more authority to make their own decisions.

The new initiative starts with Detroit's approximately 100 failing schools in 2012-13 but it will extend to the other 100 failing schools in Michigan in 2013-14.

"This city has no viable future if the status quo is allowed to stand," Duncan said. "Detroit has the potential to be a model not just for the state, but for the entire country."

Fair enough.

Bad news, though: Without the strengthened emergency manager law, Roberts would find it much harder to make all the changes he wants to make — and that Snyder is supporting.

"I want to be a good partner to folks in Detroit who want to take that school system to a whole new level," Duncan told reporters this morning.

I believe him. Because if he actually opposed the emergency manager powers, he'd basically be opposing Roberts' right to take control of the district, which makes much of these reforms possible.

That's why it was startling to see Duncan post this to his Twitter account after the press conference:
Emphasizing that it's "important to give teachers and unions a voice in reform" is a puzzling caveat to add, considering that under Snyder's new Education Achievement System, teachers at Michigan's 200 failing schools will be fired and forced to reapply for their jobs.

It's always fascinating to watch back-tracking occur in real time through the modern lens of social media.
So I directed my questions to Duncan through the same medium he chose to add his caveat:

Seems like a fair question, right? No answer. So I pressed further:

Still no answer.

So I decided to go the traditional route. I called his communications office in Washington.

I asked Daren Briscoe, deputy press secretary for the U.S. Department of Education, whether Duncan's participation in the press conference means he supports Snyder's emergency managers.

"The way to understand what the secretary was saying was, more so than endorsing that as a specific blueprint, he was expressing his support of thematically what they’re doing in Michigan, which is taking urgent action, to remedy a situation that is not serving the students there well," Briscoe said.

Duncan participated in the press conference to endorse "the kind of collaboration that you have to have in a situation like that in order to come to the kind of agreement that they’ve come to, which involves administrators, parents and teachers," Briscoe said.

Briscoe added: "That’s what he was endorsing and praising, was the broader-stroke urgency, collaboration and that sort of thing, rather than line by line" approval of Snyder's reform policies.

That's strange: So, you're publicly supporting a theme of change but the details make you uncomfortable?

I asked Briscoe whether Duncan — which, by extension, means the president of the United States — supports forcing teachers in failing public schools to reapply for their jobs as part of a broader reform initiative.

In situations where schools are "persistently failing," the Department of Education sometimes supports "all of the teachers being fired and principals being fired."

"That's not a blanket description for each school, but that is among the options that the department endorses, given a certain set of circumstances," Briscoe said. "Where you have dramatically underperforming schools, persistently underperforming schools, yeah the department does endorse actions that are both dramatic and urgently needed."

Here's my takeaway: President Obama supports firing teachers when schools are failing — and, if he had a big problem with Snyder's emergency managers, he wouldn't have allowed his education secretary to lend his political clout to an event trumpeting one of the biggest education reform initiatives to sweep through Michigan in decades.

What about you?

If Obama despised Snyder's emergency managers and firing bad teachers, why would he allow a key member of his cabinet to sing the praises of a reform initiative that is partly possible because of Snyder's policies?

Contact AnnArbor.com's Nathan Bomey at (734) 623-2587 or nathanbomey@annarbor.com. You can also follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's newsletters.

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