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Something Positive Resulted from Minneapolis’ Failed School Reform: A Similar Police Reform Was Stopped Before it Started

August 12, 2020 Leave a comment

Yves Smith’s Naked Capitalism webpage offers articles that are critical of the privatization movement that seems to capture imagination of both the GOP and the neoliberal DNC wing of the Democrats. Earlier this month she shared an article by Sarah Lahm, a Minneapolis-based writer and researcher, which explained how the pro-privatization forces have expropriated the “Police Reform” movement in the same fashion as they expropriated “school reform”.

Using the public sentiment that there are “failing police departments” in urban areas like Minneapolis, that city is turning to the use of “…”real time data” to overhaul its operations.” According to mayor Jaco Frey, this impersonal data collection would help the police department “weed… bad apples out” by predicting “which officers are more likely to have some sort of critical incident in the future.”

This process reminded Ms. Lahm of the one used by the city a few years earlier to take over public schools, one that has done nothing to improve schools but done a lot for the plutocrats who operate data collection enterprises and the private groups that operate former public entities. She writes:

For evidence of how this approach can fail the public, look no further than the Minneapolis Public Schools, where a similar cast of characters and strategies have already been used to shake up the district’s schools. These “reform” efforts took Minneapolis schools down a failed path, and they stand as a warning sign of how attempts to rehabilitate police forces, in Minneapolis and elsewhere, can be subject to the same sort of misguided thinking and exploitation by opportunists…

These local reform efforts are part of a national and ongoing trend, with representatives from both major political parties pursuing austerity and accountability reforms for public schools with the help of billionaire philanthropic outfits such as the Walton Family Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The focus of these efforts usually involves using data (primarily from high-stakes standardized tests) to push a crisis narrative around public education.

The crisis justifies the takeover of public entities, often for the exclusive benefit of plutocrats. Recent examples of this include New Orleans and Puerto Rico, where the disasters wrought by hurricanes Katrina and Maria, respectively, helped pave the way for privatization within the multibillion-dollar K-12 education market.

In Minneapolis data wasn’t needed “to push a crisis narrative”, the killing of George Floyd and previous killings and instances of police brutality created a crisis. The “collection of real-time data” is likely to reinforce that crisis and thus open the door to replacing the existing police force with a fully privatized one. But will a private police force be an improvement? If the experience of the replacement of public schools with privatized charters is any indication we know the answer. And a group of community activists pushed back at the notion of the “solution” of hiring a private data collection firm overseen by the former mayor of the city who promoted privatization for schools… and… “for now, it looks like police reform efforts in Minneapolis will stay out of the hands of such opportunists, thanks to pressure from local activists and their supporters.”   

Ms. Lahm concludes her article by flagging an opportunity that exists to restore the control of public schools to the communities:

Still, the legacy of supporting neoliberal education reform and privatization for the city’s public school system remains intact. In the coming months, the Minneapolis Public Schools district is set to embark on an ambitious overhaul designed to “right-size” the district in the face of steep budget and enrollment shortages.

But these drops in funding and public school enrollment numbers in Minneapolis were catalyzed by the funding and support for school choice and data-driven accountability schemes at the expense of the city’s public school system.The kind of grassroots activism seen in Minneapolis in the fight against a misguided police reform program is a useful model and could help end these efforts to undermine and privatize public schools.

MAYBE the failed efforts to privatize public schools will stem the tide of privatization in other sectors of the public sphere and POSSIBLY lead to a reversal of direction. If so, it will be healthy for democracy and the well-being of our communities.

Privacy Advocates Demand Ban on Facial Recognition in Schools in Response to Damning Study on the Technology

August 11, 2020 Leave a comment

I have long been concerned with the use of surveillance videocameras in schools for fear that they would ultimately be linked with emerging facial recognition technology to create an even more oppressive environment in our public schools. According to this article by Andrea Germanos from Common Dreams that day has just arrived. And, as researchers at the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program (STPP) write in their recent report “Cameras in the Classroom” indicates, it is as bad as I feared:

“Schools have also begun to use [FR] to track students and visitors for a range of uses, from automating attendance to school security,” the researchers wrote, though they noted that the technology’s use in schools is “not yet widespread.”

But, the authors added, there’s good reason to stop its spread:

[O]ur analysis reveals that FR will likely have five types of implications: exacerbating racism, normalizing surveillance and eroding privacy, narrowing the definition of the “acceptable” student, commodifying data, and institutionalizing inaccuracy. Because FR is automated, it will extend these effects to more students than any manual system could.

FR “is likely to mimic the impacts of school resource officers (SROs), stop-and-frisk policies, and airport security,” all of which “purport to be objective and neutral systems, but in practice they reflect the structural and systemic biases of the societies around them,” the study says.

And most white Americans support “…school resource officers (SROs), stop-and-frisk policies, and airport security” because they know that SROs won’t profile their children, their children will not be subjected to stop-and-frisk policies, and their children will never be profiled by TSA at airport security. This is yet another example of how white privilege is an ocean white parents and children swim in without realizing that they are receiving a benefit. The use of FR will add yet another layer of privilege in the name of safety. As the “Cameras in the Classroom” report note:

“All of these practices have had racist outcomes due to the users of the systems disproportionately targeting people of color,” the researchers wrote.

We have more than enough “normalization of surveillance” to ensure our safety. Adding FR will further erode the liberty we have sacrificed to algorithms. FR should not be used in schools. Period.

Source: Privacy Advocates Demand Ban on Facial Recognition in Schools in Response to Damning Study on the Technology

Categories: Uncategorized

At LEAST 97,000 Children Tested Positive for COVID in the last 2 Weeks of July. My Question Remains? Why Even Consider Opening

August 10, 2020 Leave a comment

Here’s the headline from the NYTimes latest coronavirus story:

Positive in Last 2 Weeks of July

I can hear the response now from the White House: “Well of COURSE they fond lots of positives! They did lots of tests and when you do lots of tests you find lots of positives!”

Meanwhile, school districts need to figure out whether to open, where the $$$ will come from to do so, and whether anyone will show up if they do. Parents, in the meantime, are in limbo waiting to see IF schools will open and, if they do, whether to send their children and, if they don’t, how to work from home or go to work if their children are not in school. Hobson’s choices all the way around.

My question from a week or so ago remains: “Why Even Consider Reopening?”

And that question should have even more traction now that it is clear that additional federal funding is highly unlikely…. and leads to another question: “Why spend any more money or any more time making reopening plans that require MORE spending when those plans may go out the window if COVID continues to spread in your school district?”