Home > Uncategorized > Alternet Article Reports Confirms This Blogger’s Belief: “Ed Reform” is a Bipartisan Affair

Alternet Article Reports Confirms This Blogger’s Belief: “Ed Reform” is a Bipartisan Affair

I read Jake Jacobs December 2 Alternet article on leaks from the Clinton campaign with disgust, dismay… and affirmation. Titled “Leaks Show How Super-Wealthy School Privatizers Sought to Influence Hillary in Lead up to Campaign”, Mr. Jacobs’ article describes how the billionaire donors affected not only the Clinton campaign, but also the Obama administration and the DNC policy. Many who supported Ms. Clinton, including the two major teachers unions, did so on the belief that she would be open to moving away from the test-centric policies put forth by President Bush in NCLB and reinforced by President Obama in Race to the Top. But had they taken their direction from the mantra of Woodward and Bernstein and followed the money, they could have seen that their donations paled in comparison to the hundreds of thousands that the billionaire “reformers” might contribute. And had Ms Clinton not accepted the donations of the billionaire privatizers on the principle that it eroded democracy and efforts to provide equal opportunities for all children she might have created a distinct difference in philosophy between her party and the Republicans.

I am disgusted and dismayed that both major political parties have merged their thinking on public education, using “talking points” thoughtfully provided by “thought leaders” who advise both parties and provide large campaign contributions to ensure that their ideas are incorporated in the party platforms. As Mr. Jacobs writes:

“Donors want to hear where she stands” John Petry, a founder of both Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) and Success Academy, New York’s largest network of charter schools, told the New York Times.  Petry was explicit, declaring that he and his billionaire associates would instead put money into congressional, state and local races, behind candidates who favored a “more businesslike approach” to education, and tying teacher tenure to standardized test scores.

Clinton’s advisors warned her that wealthy donors like Petry, Whitney Tilson, or Eli Broad could walk if she didn’t support charter schools. Broad would indeed threaten to withhold funding from Clinton when she criticized charter schools for excluding difficult students. John Podesta and Ann O’Leary would publicly correct Clinton, reaffirming her commitment to charters.

The revolving door was also in full swing, with top Clinton and Obama administration officials working for “non-profits” run by Powell Jobs and Tom Steyer. In the end, the influence of the various well-connected “experts” advising Clinton could be felt in an official education platform that endorsed a test-centric approach that was becoming unpopular with parents, students and educators.

And in the end, the notion of running schools in a business-like fashion is a dominant idea in both parties, and the billionaires who advised Ms. Clinton to stay the course on “ed reform” are on their feet and providing “thought leadership” to the Trump administration:

The same cadre of billionaires that tried to steer Clinton towards unpopular pro-testing policies and controversial school privatization schemes are hard at work today. Powell Jobs, for example, has sought greater influence, funding a lavish and high-profile effort to “rethink high school” and acquiring a majority stake in The Atlantic. In July, Powell Jobs was reportedly contacted by Ivanka Trump on behalf of the administration, seeking “advice on shaping funding approaches” for STEM education in public schools.

While Eli Broad may have stepped down from his foundation, his post-disaster playbook of taking advantage of local government paralysis remains alive and well. Efforts to replicate New Orleans’ “amazing story” appear to be thriving in Puerto Rico, where schools were devastated by Hurricane Maria.

The 2014 policy book reveals some essential lessons about how education policy is crafted: in secret, with the input and influence of billionaire donors seeking more school privatization and testing—regardless of what party is in power. Even as the backlash against testing and the Common Core grew, Clinton’s advisors pushed her to embrace them. Clinton vacillated, then fell silent on K-12 policy, and as a result, education issues were largely left out of the election debate. Today, under Trump, privatization marches on worse than ever.

Until and unless the Democratic Party abandons the “businesslike approach” to public education we will perpetuate the poverty that is passed from generation-to-generation and the economic divide will continue to grow.

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