Exposing Jeb Bush’s Promotion of Walmart Family’s Monster Private Schools Initiative | Alternet

May 27, 2015 Leave a comment

Exposing Jeb Bush’s Promotion of Walmart Family’s Monster Private Schools Initiative | Alternet.

For those who don’t think the privatization of public education MIGHT be an issue in 2016, here’s one candidates take on how to reform public education: de-fund it and introduce vouchers that can be used for parochial schools. And Scott Walker is advocating the same approach in WI…

I know Bernie Sanders opposes ANY privatization and, along with many others, await a clear stance from his main opponent, Hillary Clinton.

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The Student Loan Crisis and the Debtfare State

May 27, 2015 Leave a comment

The Student Loan Crisis and the Debtfare State.

This article explains how the current system is rigged against those who must borrow money to go to college. What is DOESN’T emphasize is:

  • The cuts to colleges at the state level have made it more expensive for students to get post-secondary schooling without getting a loan
  • The USDOE is a major beneficiary: if the USDOE lost the $101,000,000,000 generated since the advent of quantitative easing it would be in difficult straits
  • Because of the revenue it receives, the USDOE cannot be an advocate for indebted students. Indeed, USDOE is effectively contributing to the stress student debtors face by employing loan collectors to help support itself
  • The privatization of public loans places shareholders at the forefront, not the students.
  • The whole student loan structure moves money upward: the banksters get lots of guaranteed money while the striving students get race-to-the-bottom wages and must pay outlandishly high interest rates on their loans

The answer is either a direct infusion of funds into publicly funded colleges or an indirect infusion of funds by forgiving loans issued for bogus degree programs and/or lowering interest rates to a manageable level.

The Newly Appointed NYS Commissioner Favors VAM and “Collaborative Approach”

May 27, 2015 Leave a comment

I wish MaryEllen Elia well… but based on the article in the NYTimes announcing her appointment, I sense that in the coming weeks I may be finding some areas of serious disagreement with her OR she may be finding herself in disagreement with the Regents and/or the Governor.

In Ms. Elia’s most recent assignment as Superintendent of Hillsborough County Superintendent in FL, she was the recipient of a $100,000,000 grant from the Gates Foundation to improve the teacher evaluation system. Under the new system she implemented, 40 percent of teachers’ evaluations were based on “…their students’ improvement on tests” (VAM), and 60 percent was based on “….observations by principals and peers“. During Ms. Elia’s ten year tenure she Hillsborough also instituted a merit pay system that “…allowed some new teachers to earn more than veteran teachers”.  These “reforms” would clearly warm the hearts of the Regents and Governor Cuomo. However, Ms. Elia was also part of “…a group of Florida superintendents who asked the State Board of Education to suspend consequences for schools and students in the first year of the tests“, presumably because the transition was too fast. THAT position would contradict the previous Commissioner’s stance and would fly in the face of the Governor’s impatience. Her willingness to advocate for a phasing in DID win her the qualified support of the union leadership in NYS:

The president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, offered tempered praise, saying in a statement that while the union was “opposed to high-stakes testing” and grading teachers on students’ test performance, “even when MaryEllen applied it as required under Florida law, she made collaboration her mantra.”

If past actions are the best predictor of her future, Ms. Elia is more likely to lose Randi Weingarten’s support than the Regent’s support… and VAM is likely to proceed on schedule in NYS. This paragraph in the Times article explains why:

She will make these decisions against a backdrop of low test scores, well-funded special-interest groups, angry parents and a State Legislature that has become more active on education policy and has been in conflict with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

The Times may believe that the “well funded special interest groups” are supportive of teachers… but anyone keeping a balance sheet knows that the for-profit charter lobby has much more money than the unions and much more support in the legislature than those pesky parents who want their public schools to provide something more than test preparation exercises. I hope I’m wrong about VAM… but I’m afraid money will trump common sense and the needs of children.

Algorithms And Accountability Of Those Who Deploy Them

May 27, 2015 Leave a comment


Cathy O’Neil takes down VAM and other bogus algorithms used to provide false precision to decisions that require thoughtful reflection .

Originally posted on mathbabe:

Slate recently published a piece entitled You Can’t Handle the (Algorithmic) Truth, written by Adam Elkus, a Ph.D. student in computational social science at George Mason University (hat tip Chris Wiggins).

In it, Elkus criticizes those who criticize unaccountable algorithms. He suggests that algorithms are simply the natural placeholders of bureaucracy, and we should aim our hatred at bureaucracy instead of algorithms. In his conclusion he goes further in defending the machines:

If computers implementing some larger social value, preference, or structure we take for granted offends us, perhaps we should do something about the value, preference, or structure that motivates the algorithm. After all, algorithms can be reprogrammed. It is much harder—but not impossible—to recode social systems and institutions than computers. Perhaps the humans who refuse to act for what they believe in while raising fear about computers are the real ones responsible for the decline of our…

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“Long Odds in the Game of Life” Could be Shortened with Public Employment

May 26, 2015 Leave a comment

Two NYTimes articles published on two consecutive days underscore the important role the governments play in the economy, particularly in creating and sustaining middle class jobs.

Long Odds in the Game of Life“, today’s NYTimes op ed page essay by restaurant server/UNLV English professor Brittany Bronson, describes the struggles her first generation college freshmen face as they try to earn enough to pay for college while trying to meet the academic demands. She implicitly and explicitly compares their experiences with those of more affluent students who attend elite colleges, and notes that many of the students she teaches will find it challenging to even make a middle class wage when they graduate.

An article in yesterday’s NYTimes explains why this is the case. “Public Sector Jobs Vanish, Hitting Blacks Hard” by Particia Cohen describes the impact budget cuts have had on families in the Miami FL area. Noting that government employment has been a favored route for blacks to reach the middle class, Cohen notes that cutbacks in those jobs has affected blacks more than whites. She also reports that the current trends do not favor the restoration of those jobs:

Even now, with the economy regaining strength, public sector employment has still not bounced back. An incomplete recovery is part of the reason, but a combination of strong anti-government and anti-tax sentiment in some places has kept down public payrolls. At the same time, attempts to curb collective bargaining, like those led by Wisconsin’s governor, Scott Walker, a likely Republican presidential candidate, have weakened public unions.

After reading these two articles in succession it is clear to me that the way out of the woods is to use the trillions of dollars currently in offshore tax shelters to create more public jobs. Doing so would not only restore employment to those laid off during the recession but also create jobs for those first generation college students who want to do community service work. We have the resources to make this happen… Let’s do it.

WND Reports that “Socialist Utopians” Control Schools

May 26, 2015 Leave a comment

The Google Alert on Public Education occasionally includes some conspiratorial articles about education policy, and today’s aggregation of articles included one from WND titled “Public Schools Called “Gigantic Criminal Enterprise””. Not being familiar with WND, I clicked on the article expecting it to be about the for-profit charter school movement… but I was way off base! It seems that the criminal activity involves “globalists” who are intentionally dumbing down America’s schools to achieve “planetary totalitarianism”.

How are the socialist utopians accomplishing their goal of intellectual enslavement? Writers Alex Newman and Samuel Blumenfeld have a list of ways:

  • …progressive education gurus have caused dyslexia and other learning disabilities by teaching children to read using the “whole word” method … instead of phonics and as a result of this “quackery” Americans “…won’t even be able to bypass the propaganda and get a book, get the Bible, get the Constitution, get the Declaration of Independence and read it”.
  • through the use of “…“cooperative learning” (which) is evidence of communist influence in the classrooms.” The authors view cooperative learning’s small group approach where all in the group “...receive the same grade for their work, even if they took a quiz or test separately” as a “...collectivist mindset (that) will come in handy in the new global society”
  • through the teaching of “...evolution and secular humanist doctrines which erode the students’ religious beliefs, beliefs that a totalitarian society destroys.
  • by collecting massive amounts of personal information about students, information that the USDOE is using to develop “...massive dossiers on every student in the country, in the government schools, including information that parents wouldn’t imagine in their wildest dreams…
  • by implementing the Common Core, which many teachers are rejecting because it prevents them from teaching students properly.

Newman and Blumenfeld see education as a key to pushing back against this movement toward planetary totalitarianism:

“Education is really at the heart of it, because if you don’t have a dumbed-down population, if you don’t have a population that’s sufficiently indoctrinated into this nonsense, it’ll never fly,” Newman said. “And so education, we consider, is really at the heart of this globalist effort to really, to be blunt about it, enslave the world. Without the education system, it would never be possible. Without mass-producing illiterates and collectivists, they could never build something like this.”

As you have probably determined by now, WND is an ultra-conservative web site… and yet many of the assertions could come from Truthdig’s Chris Hedges or Diane Ravitch or even George Orwell. I recall taking a Political Science course in college where the teacher contended that political views were not linear but circular. That is the views of extreme conservatives and extreme liberals often overlapped and while both were fearful of totalitarianism both wanted to see their perspectives embraced by society as a whole. The final paragraphs of this article, which could have been taken from a Bernie Sanders campaign speech, reinforce this idea:

Newman said it’s important for people to educate themselves about what’s going on and to organize within their communities, because as more Americans become aware of the globalists’ plans (NOTE: insert “oligarchs’ plans” here), they will be better able to resist.

“We’re going to have a great opportunity here to put a stop to all this,” Newman promised. “And if we miss it, it’s going to be a disaster for humanity, but if we seize it, it would be absolutely wonderful and amazing.”

Newman longs for the day when the American people collectively wake up, put their foot down and deliver this message: “Enough of this! We’re going to keep our rights. We’re going to keep our nation, thank you very much. We’re going to educate our children. We’re not going to let you dumb them down, and we’re not going to have your New World Order (NOTE: Insert “plutocracy” here). Take a hike, you’re a criminal, that’s enough.”

Newman is right: enough IS enough… we need to make certain that the governance of public education is returned to its community roots and not taken over by business, we need to get our children to ask probing questions and seek the truth, and we need to restore the opportunity for any child in our country to reach their full potential…. and this might be a place where the view of a “secular socialist Utopian” overlaps with that of a fundamentalist conservative.



Can a Millionaire’s Largesse Be Replicated?

May 26, 2015 Leave a comment

Yesterday afternoon’s NYTimes web page featured a heartwarming story about a Florida millionaire who has donated over $11,000,000 to the Tangelo School district outside of Orlando FL, an investment that has turned around the school district. Harris Rosen, a 75-year old hotel owner, provided these funds to Tangelo, which has roughly 900 youngsters under the age of 18, over an extended time period.…. and the results are unarguably impressive:

Nearly all its seniors graduate from high school, and most go on to college on full scholarships Mr. Rosen has financed.

Young children head for kindergarten primed for learning, or already reading, because of the free day care centers and a prekindergarten program Mr. Rosen provides. Property values have climbed. Houses and lawns, with few exceptions, are welcoming. Crime has plummeted.

This past year, Tangelo schools and child care centers received $500,000, funds that were used to man day care centers and provide scholarships for the 25 students who graduated from high school. But is the project replicable? The bold face, italicized, and underlined words answer the question:

…Tangelo is perhaps hard to mimic… The community is small – with only 3,000 people – and filled with homeowners, a compactness that is unusual for an urban area. Tangelo has organized leaders who were fighting the drug trade even before Mr. Rosen’s arrival. And it has had Mr. Rosen’s focus and financing over 21 years.

“It’s not inexpensive,” Mr. Rosen said. “You stay until the neighborhood needs you.”

But, he added, there are a lot of wealthy people with the resources to do the same thing if they choose.

The factors that made a difference in Tangelo are money and commitment.

How much money?

The $500,000 Rosen donated to Tangelo this year works out to $555/child under 18 years old, an amount that would require 0ver $600,000,000 per year to fund NYC schools and over $17,000,000,00 per year to support every child receiving free or reduced lunch.

How much commitment?

A longer time commitment than we’ve allowed for schools to show improvement in ANY state in the country! I doubt that there is a Governor in the nation would seek millions of dollars this year to realize a payback 21 years from now… and there are even fewer shareholders who would be willing to wait that long for a payback. And do I do NOT think those with pockets deep enough to provide the funding Rosen offered will choose to do so and I doubt that any politician will seek to raise taxes from those individuals to direct funds for community based schooling.

And a deeper community commitment than we’ve expected in years past. The newspaper only mentions the community leadership in the one sentence extracted above… but I know from experience that without that level of commitment making any school improvements is a daunting challenge.

The story underscores the preposterousness of those who believe there is a fast, cheap and school-centered way to “fix” public education. Money, patience, and commitment are the only way to make the kind of changes Tangelo experienced… but I imagine we’ll be reading about the “Tangelo Miracle” and that some Presidential candidate visiting FL will make sure they get their picture taken with Mr. Rosen as evidence that voluntary philanthropy will give students the hope they need to succeed.