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Don’t Call Them “Reformers”; Call Them Plutocratic Profiteers

December 3, 2018

Diane Ravitch featured two posts yesterday (here and here) that discussed the desire of  “Reformers” to be called something different. Diane Ravitch has a good idea why this is the case:

It seems the term “Reformer” has become toxic. But the money backing “reform” is so huge that it just keeps stumbling forward, certain about what other people should do, loaded with money and power, but without any examples of success.

She’s right about the toxicity of the term “reformer”… in addition to being inaccurate it is toxic in the minds of those who work in school. I would suggest the term “reformer” be replaced with the term “plutocratic profiteer”.

Reform “think tanks”, especially those underwritten by hedge funders, tend to promote ideas based on the premise that the marketplace is pure and anything that interferes with the marketplace is a problem. The market rewards those who can deliver a product cheaply and efficiently… and government regulations stand in the way of that ethos and democracy slows everything down. The algorithm of hedge funders is to strip away any regulations, disempower employees, find a way to tear up “costly” agreements that are in place, and view any adverse community impact as inconsequential collateral damage.

One of the initial problem business-minded reformers faced was measuring the output of education. That problem was solved when NCLB passed and standardized test scores became the metric of choice for politicians, taxpayers, voters, and the media. By setting cut scores based on norm-referenced tests it was no surprise that 50% of the schools were labelled as “failing”, thereby opening the door for the “takeovers”… the language of hedge funders!

Look at the way vulture capitalists work and look at “school reform” models espoused by the GOP and neo-liberals… and tell me if you see a difference. The public’s imagination has been captured by the idea that the business takeover of schools and government will result in the elimination of “waste, fraud and abuse” and an increase in productivity, which in the case of public education means higher test scores…. And if the latter doesn’t happen, it’s OK because taxes are not going through the roof. Welcome to the plutocracy where the system never changes and the results remain the same: the .01% get richer and the rest of us pay rent.

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