Monday, August 29, 2016

Schools Matter: Does your candidate hold left wing or right wing views on education?

First published on Schools Matter on August 25, 2016

“Hillary Clinton, who, for me, is a neoliberal disaster…” — Professor Cornel West

Is your candidate progressive or reactionary on education issues? One measure is to compare their views to those of the notoriously right-wing JBS. Here we look at some critical issues facing students, families, and our public schools.


K-12 Wire: Thank you John Oliver for exposing how charter schools steal from children

First published on K-12 Wire on August 26, 2016

“Fraud is a feature of deregulation, not a bug. When no one is looking, some people steal. Not everyone steals, but many do. That is why Ohio, Florida, Michigan, and California are scamming taxpayers.” — Professor Diane Ravitch

The vile poverty pimps and privatization pushers of the lucrative charter school industry were infuriated when John Oliver had the temerity to speak truth to their power. Given their fortunes at stake, the charter sector has launched an unprecedented attack on the truth teller. The Network For Public Education has begun a letter writing campaign to counter that of the well funded efforts by the school privatizers to silence Oliver and other public school supporters. Not one to use boilerplate text, I composed my own thank you note, reproduced here.

Dear Mr. Oliver:

I've spent the past two decades of my life researching and writing about the lucrative charter school industry. For many of those early years I, and a few others, were subjected to scorn and abuse for our audacity to speak truth to power.

My motivation has always been to defend those with the most to lose because of the charter project's existence—students with disabilities (SWD), students with disciplinary issues, low-performing students, and so on. All these students are discriminated against because they threaten charter school revenues.

Today our voices are no longer alone, ignored, or silenced. The recent NAACP announcement, and your brilliant segment are testament to that. I understand that the charter industry has been launching vile attacks against you for exposing their insatiable greed. Please know that people of good conscience stand behind you. The neoliberal corporate education reform project backing the charter industry puts profits before pupils, and that's unacceptable.

It's time to end the horrifically failed charter school project, and turn our attentions to public schools.

Thank you for your courage.

Robert D. Skeels
Juris Doctor Candidate


Schools Matter: Perhaps Bill and Melinda Gates need their folly expressed in a more familiar format to understand it?

First published on Schools Matter on August 16, 2016

“Philanthropy is not progressive and never has been.” — Tiffany Lethabo King and Ewuare Osayande

Seems Bill and Melinda Gates have great difficulty learning from their myriad mistakes. Our Professor Stephen Krashen is frequently reminding them and their fellow neoliberal corporate education reformers of what the real problem is. While the convicted predatory monopolist has no degree, Melinda Gates actually attended and graduated college, so one would think the two of them could sort these issues out. Despite this, the Gates Foundation duo are demanding yet more data, as if that doubling down on their poorly-thought-out ideas will work.

Since they're both computer science types, the problem may just be that they need to see their folly expressed in code. To that end, I've written a short program illustrating what the two Gates Foundation plutocrats do.

If I were more cynical, given their behavior in the face of overwhelming evidence discrediting their ideas and ideology, I think that their constant calls for more data are an attempt to rationalize their conduct, rather than actually trying to help anyone.


Monday, August 15, 2016

Schools Matter: Neoliberal Corporate Education Reform… for “other” peoples’ kids

First published on Schools Matter on August 12, 2016

“CCSS assume an American population embodied with a similar history of freedom and cultural ‘neutrality’ or ‘universality’” — Donald H. Smith, Ph.D.

The Atlantic has a surprisingly candid piece entitled “A Public-School Paradox” about the hypocrisy of the establishment elite in Washington not sending their own spawn to public schools. This has been exacerbated by the fact that the most vociferous neoliberal corporate education reform proponents — like Barack Obama, Arne Duncan, and Hillary Rodham Clinton — are all private school parents. Disconnected and disinvested from the public commons, they advocate for horrific, racist, classist “reforms” that only serve to widen the gap between working class families and themselves. Especially disturbing is this trio of Democratic politicians’ full-throated support of the white supremacist Common Core State Standards (CCSS), a curriculum from which their own scion were spared.

My brief comments in reaction to the piece follow.

Sidwell Friends School is the polar opposite of the horrific KIPP dungeons Obama advocates for other POC kids. My editor at Schools Matter — Dr. Jim Horn — has been publishing chapters from his book on KIPP, but I have a paper copy I’ll read once the MPRE is over. It was Horn that coined the phrase “cultural sterilization” to describe the no excuses model inflicted on students. I can’t think of a better way to frame it, nor anything more removed from the experience of establishment elitists that advocate it for “other” peoples’ children.


Schools Matter: Clinton cheerleaders claiming she isn't in the corporate charter camp?

First published on Schools Matter on July 09, 2016

“There is not a speck, not a sliced-thin scintilla of evidence to suggest that Clinton will do anything except continue straight down the same road that Bush and Obama took us. And there’s no telling what Trump will do about education, but it’s a safe bet that it will be huge, it will be business oriented, and that it will involve blustery hair-brained ignorance.” — Peter Greene

It's a tough time to be a public education advocate. The fervor over the 2016 election has partisans lashing out with an unprecedented amount of vitriol towards anyone questioning the education policies of mainstream candidates. Worst of the bunch are the supporters of presumed Democratic Party nominee, Hillary Rodham Clinton. Here's an example of the angry denials from one of Clinton's most ardent supporters:

It is also total bullshit that you keep insisting that HRC is pushing charters and ed reform. That is TOTAL BULLSHIT.

Astonishingly, this was written by a teacher member of the Badass Teachers Association (BATs). Never mind that Clinton has deep ties the Walton Family Foundation, ignore her intwinement with Center for American Progress (CAP), her association with the Broads, and all the other obvious red flags indicating that Clinton will double down on Obama's policies. Clinton is on record as completely supporting privately managed charter schools, so-called "school choice," and for that matter, the entire neoliberal corporate education reform platform. Total "BS"? Here's a screen capture right off of Clinton's campaign website, where she lauds ESSA and its support of "high-quality public [sic] charter schools":

Clinton cheerleaders claiming she isn't in the corporate charter camp?

Unequivocal. Clinton has never changed her stance on privately managed charter schools, and that's why the National Association of Public [sic] Charter Schools (NAPCS) features the following on their website. A pro-charter pull-quote by Clinton appears alongside similar ones by Bill Gates, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Arne Duncan. Clinton's mild criticisms of some charter schools a few months back were to placate certain constituencies, nothing more.

Clinton cheerleaders claiming she isn't in the corporate charter camp?

This is the same former Walmart board member who stood before the National Educators Association (NEA) Convention and had no qualms about boasting about her support for the lucrative charter school sector. The same Goldman Sachs confidant who is the favorite of the far-right Democrats for Education Reform (DFER). In sum, corporatist Jeffries of the arch-reactionary (DFER) is on record saying that Hillary Rodham Clinton is their choice to carry on their projects of privatization pushing and poverty pimping. He also states that it is because she is fully on board with their notions of "school choice" and she fully supports charter schools. Some in the BATs forum have ruthlessly attacked me, assailed my character, and called me a liar for saying as much, but to hear it out of the mouth a the hedge fund group's representative makes it a little bit harder to deny. Hillary Rodham Clinton is DFER's candidate.

The attacks on me, in any forum that I speak truth to power on education issues, are relentless. Here's something that I posted on my facebook page a bit back after an encounter with a particularly rabid Clinton supporter.

So red baiting is still a thing. I was on a teachers' message board talking about Oaxaca, Naomi Klein, neoliberalism, and privatization, and was essentially told by a right-of-center HillBot to shut up and pack my bags for North Korea.

It's like Dr. Khury Petersen-Smith writes in his powerful essay "I won't be shamed into voting for Clinton":

It was another example of a proven fact about liberalism — Democrats and their media cheerleaders save their deepest contempt not for right wingers, but for those who challenge them from the left.

Ain't that the truth! For some further reading on Clinton's education agenda check out this piece by Steven Singer and this one by Douglas Harris.

Lastly I wanted to address the dissembling about public versus private charter schools, since it has been a common form of deception employed by high-profile politicians and the billionaires that pull their strings. Clinton is an attorney, so she doesn't have the option of saying she doesn't know the legal standing of charter schools. I'm including my boilerplate prose on how charter schools are not public, since the more places this appears, the more likely this information will be disseminated:

As a Juris Doctor candidate whose specialty is education law in the era of neoliberalism, allow me to present the legal arguments on how privately managed charter schools are not at all “public.”

Generally charter schools are not public schools. This has been long established by both existing case law and public policy. The Washington State Supreme Court (2015) held that charter schools are not “common schools” because they are governed by appointed rather than elected boards. The 9th Circuit US Court of Appeals (2010) ruled that charter schools are not “public actors.” The California Court of Appeals (2007) ruled that charter schools are not “public agents.” Additionally, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) joined scores of other government agencies in unequivocally determining that charters are, in NLRB’s words, “private entities.”

By definition if a charter school is operated by a for-profit company, or by a 501c3 non-profit corporation (e.g. Harlem Success Academy), then it is not a public school. The United States Census Bureau frames this latter issue best:

“A few “public charter schools” are run by public universities and municipalities. However, most charter schools are run by private nonprofit organizations and are therefore classified as private.” (US Census Bureau. (2011). “Public Education Finances: 2009 (GO9-ASPEF)”. Washington, DC: US Government Printing O ce. Print. vi).

Because these lucrative charter schools are not public, and therefore not subject to even a modicum of public oversight, they are able violate the constitutional rights of their students. The decision in Scott B. v. Board of Trustees of Orange County High School of the Arts saw scholar Rosa K. Hirji, Esq. write for the American Bar Association:

“The structures that allow charter schools to exist are marked by the absence of protections that are traditionally guaranteed by public education, protections that only become apparent and necessary when families and students begin to face a denial of what they were initially promised to be their right.”

The distinguished Professor Preston C. Green III of University of Connecticut has written extensively on this subject. One of his recent papers examines "how charter schools have used their public characteristics to qualify for public funding under state constitutional law, while highlighting their private characteristics to exempt themselves from other laws that apply to public schools." This private-in-every-aspect except for when siphoning funds away from authentic public schools is a defining feature of charter schools.