PRESUMABLY Well-Intentioned Philanthropists are Killing Democracy

December 18, 2018 Leave a comment

Danielle Holly’s recent Non Profit Quarterly Article never answers the question she poses in the title: “Billionaires Focus Their Philanthropy on Education, But Will Children Benefit?“… but it does illustrate how their philanthropy undercuts the democratic governance structure of our country and how philanthropists undercut public funding by diverting tax dollars into their foundations. And it also illustrates how these billionaires, like the industrialists that preceded them, will impose their “business methods” onto public education. Ms. Holley opens her essay with a quote from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos who intends to use some of his boundless billions to underwrite pre-schools:

“We’ll use the same set of principles that have driven Amazon,” Bezos said as he made the announcement. “Most important among those will be genuine, intense customer obsession. The child will be the customer.

One can easily imagine the kinds of schools that would open if 4-year old customers got to make the choice… and they are unlikely to be the kind of rigorous schools the “reformers” are envisioning.

Ms. Holley then identifies two overarching issues regarding philanthropic investments in public operations:

Two philosophical challenges have arisen with the nature of these investments. The first, which NPQ has discussed at length, is that it limits democratic control over the nation’s public education system. In effect, education philanthropy puts education program design in a few hands who are, by definition, outsiders, and often less expert and less informed than those who are doing the work…

Philanthropy is the least democratic institution on earth,” says Professor David Nasaw, a historian who has researched Carnegie’s philanthropic focus on education. “It’s rich men deciding what to do.”

The second challenge, behind which Anand Giridharadas’s 2018 book Winner Takes All: The Elite Charade of Changing the Worldhas ignited new fervor, is that the country’s wealthiest donors and most charitable companies have made their money by perpetuating the broken system they purport to fix. 

I am about to launch an adult education course based on Mr. Giridharadas’ book, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to gain an in depth understanding of the corrosive effects philanthropy and— ultimately— unregulated capitalism— has on democracy. It is an unsettling and yet hopeful read. Unsettling because of what we are now witnessing… but hopeful because our country has been through this cycle before and come out stronger on the other side. And it DOES seem that the public is becoming wise to the ways the supposedly well-intentioned and magnanimous philanthropists make their money and use it to buy influence and control.


Linda Lyon: Arizona Legislator to Teachers: “Shut Up”

December 18, 2018 Leave a comment

This is how democracy dies…. when pro-privatization legislators pass legislation making it impossible for employees to speak out against the laws that impact their lives.

via Linda Lyon: Arizona Legislator to Teachers: “Shut Up”

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‘Time for a Jubilee!’: US Student Loan Debt Hits Record $1.46 Trillion. Funny, That’s More Than GOP’s Corporate-Friendly Tax Giveaway

December 18, 2018 Leave a comment

The headline tells the story… but whenever a member of the GOP says “we can’t afford _______________(fill in the blank with, for example, students debt relief, Medicare for all, the ability to feed hungry children), just remember the figure $1,460,000,000,000 for the tax cut for billionaires and the even higher figure for needless wars to protect us… oh, and the “Big Beautiful Wall” we need.

Source: ‘Time for a Jubilee!’: US Student Loan Debt Hits Record $1.46 Trillion. Funny, That’s More Than GOP’s Corporate-Friendly Tax Giveaway

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Portland OR’s Hears a Cautionary Tale About Good Guys With Guns… and Illustrates How Costs WILL Shift in the Future

December 17, 2018 Leave a comment

Elise Herron’s Willamette Week story of the harrowing experience of a Beaverton school district student who was accused of stealing a calculator illustrates everything that is wrong with “hardening” schools… and the fiscal realities facing Portland Schools in their effort to secure more police is even more harrowing!

The description of an incident that involved Gregory McKelvey, a student of color, when he attended middle school in Beaverton OR, a suburb of Portland, opens the story:

“He got a warrant to investigate me for a stolen calculator,” McKelvey writes, “that I didn’t steal. He kicked down my door after school one day with eight other cops in riot gear with guns drawn on my Grandma.”

McKelvey alleges he and his grandmother were held at gunpoint as officers trashed his room and confiscated belongings. He says he spent the next few years “always terrified” at school.

It also led to Mr. McKelvey becoming an anti-SRO activist.. for good reason:

“The problem is, for many people, that cop is not a good guy,” McKelvey says. “I think that a lot of white people and white parents that hear these stories think that it’s just so outlandish and outrageous that it couldn’t be possible because it doesn’t happen to their kids. But it happens to so many kids that the stories are just going to continue to flood in.”

McKelvey hopes that sharing about his experiences with his school resource officer will shed light on how police presence affects students of color.

“The focus on the calculator I know seems outrageous,” McKelvey says, “but I would prefer the focus to be on years long intimidation of the threat of arrest [students of color experience] when white kids don’t have to deal with that. They get detention.”

As bad as Mr. McKelvey’s experiences were, the decision of the Portland School Board to spend $1,000,000 to add more nine SROs is even worse. Prior to this year, the POLICE budgeted the SROs. By assuming the fiscal responsibility for the SROs the Portland School Board is spending precious resources on enforcement instead of using those funds to provide more counsellors, more mental health workers, and more support for students. In effect, fear has trumped love in Portland. No wonder students of color are angry.

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Robert Reich on the Perils of Privatization in Public Services

December 16, 2018 Leave a comment

Robert Reich’s blog posts regularly appear in several progressive blogs and on Facebook posts from friends who are Bernie Sanders supporters. One of his recent posts, Privatization Can’t Solve Our Country’s Ills, offers five instances where privatization should be avoided, with specific Mr. Reich’s examples regarding public education italicized:

1. Don’t privatize when the purpose of the service is to bring us together – reinforcing our communities, helping us connect with one another across class and race, linking up Americans who’d otherwise be isolated or marginalized. 

…This is why we value public education and need to be very careful that charter schools and other forms of so-called school choice don’t end up dividing our children and our communities rather than pulling them together.

2. Don’t privatize when the service is less costly when paid for through tax revenues than through prices set by for-profit corporations. 

In the case of public education, don’t tout tax savings when profiteers are pocketing large sums and at-will employees are underpaid.

3. Don’t privatize when the people who are supposed to get the service have no power to complain when services are poor. 

This is why for-profit schools are located primarily in low income areas.

4. Don’t privatize when those who are getting the service have no way to know they’re receiving poor quality. 

The marketers of for-profit colleges, for example, have every incentive to exploit young people and their parents because the value of the degrees they’re offering can’t easily be known. Which is why non-profit colleges and universities have proven far more trustworthy.

5. Finally, don’t privatize where for-profit corporations face insufficient competition to keep prices under control. 

This is where the profiteers hope that public education heads…. because it is exactly where tech corporations and Big Oil have “evolved”.

Mr. Reich concluded with this paragraph:

In other words, for-profit corporations can do some things very well. Including, especially, maximizing shareholder returns. But when the primary goal is to serve the public, rather than shareholders, we need to be careful not to sacrifice the public interest to private profits.

A video at the end of the post is worth watching….

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Chicago: A Happy Ending to the Charter Teachers Strike

December 14, 2018 Leave a comment

Because I doubt that the reporting on this strike will focus on the humanitarian efforts of the union, I am glad that Diane Ravitch flagged Harold Meyerson’s coverage of this provision:

“As a conclusion of their five-day strike—the nation’s first at charter schools—the teachers not only secured raises for themselves but also a groundbreaking provision to protect their students, whom the union’s attorney described as “overwhelmingly low-income Latino,” from the agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (aka ICE).

via Chicago: A Happy Ending to the Charter Teachers Strike

I’m a Postal Worker. If You Get Mail in a Small Town or Suburb, Listen Up!

December 14, 2018 Leave a comment

The costs to deliver mail, internet, medical services, and schools to rural areas is higher no matter who provides it… but if you think the privatization of these services will result in competition that will, in turn, lower costs, Ive got a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn…. and a computer at home that cannot be connected to broadband…

Source: I’m a Postal Worker. If You Get Mail in a Small Town or Suburb, Listen Up!

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