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Archive for the ‘government’ Category

Hedge Funds for Education? The next economic (and moral) crisis starts here…

In classism, communities, corporations, economics and economies, Education Policy, government, high-stakes tests, NCLB, politics, Standing up for Kids on August 8, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Thanks to PAGE for sending this out.

I hope to comment on this before too long – but until then, educators, families, and politicians better think seriously about whether they want our collective children and youth to be the primary victims of the education equivalent to the mortgage corruption and resulting crisis.

Remember the words prime, subprime, mortgage “products,” underwriters, hedging, hedge funds, adjustable-rates, asset-backed commercial paper, insolvency, credit default swap, derivatives, foreclosure, bankruptcy, too-big-to-fail, leveraging, negative equity, mortgage-backed security, short sales, and others? 

What lexicon will be created to describe the crisis of hundreds of millions (and billions?) of private and venture-capital dollars pouring into formerly-known-as-public education once it creates a false financial bubble and then a real meltdown?

I hope folks are paying attention – 200,000 jobs in the financial sector were cut this year alone. Those economic geniuses are now eyeing our education system for replacing those jobs and more. So where will educators be? Replaced by hedge fund managers and financial magicians keeping our eyes on the rabbit while money is shuffled under shells.

We thought NCLB was bad, greasing the hands of the publishing industry like never before? We ain’t seen nothing yet…



Private firms eyeing profits from U.S. public schools

By Stephanie Simon
NEW YORK Aug 1 (Reuters) – The investors gathered in a tony private club in Manhattan were eager to hear about the next big thing, and education consultant Rob Lytle was happy to oblige.
Think about the upcoming rollout of new national academic standards for public schools, he urged the crowd. If they’re as rigorous as advertised, a huge number of schools will suddenly look really bad, their students testing way behind in reading and math. They’ll want help, quick. And private, for-profit vendors selling lesson plans, educational software and student assessments will be right there to provide it.
“You start to see entire ecosystems of investment opportunity lining up,” said Lytle, a partner at The Parthenon Group, a Boston consulting firm. “It could get really, really big.”
Indeed, investors of all stripes are beginning to sense big profit potential in public education.
The K-12 market is tantalizingly huge: The U.S. spends more than $500 billion a year to educate kids from ages five through 18. The entire education sector, including college and mid-career training, represents nearly 9 percent of U.S. gross domestic product, more than the energy or technology sectors.
Traditionally, public education has been a tough market for private firms to break into — fraught with politics, tangled in bureaucracy and fragmented into tens of thousands of individual schools and school districts from coast to coast.
Now investors are signaling optimism that a golden moment has arrived. They’re pouring private equity and venture capital into scores of companies that aim to profit by taking over broad swaths of public education.
The conference last week at the University Club, billed as a how-to on “private equity investing in for-profit education companies,” drew a full house of about 100.
In the venture capital world, transactions in the K-12 education sector soared to a record $389 million last year, up from $13 million in 2005. That includes major investments from some of the most respected venture capitalists in Silicon Valley, according to GSV Advisors, an investment firm in Chicago that specializes in education.
The goal: an education revolution in which public schools outsource to private vendors such critical tasks as teaching math, educating disabled students, even writing report cards, said Michael Moe, the founder of GSV.
“It’s time,” Moe said. “Everybody’s excited about it.”
Not quite everyone.
The push to privatize has alarmed some parents and teachers, as well as union leaders who fear their members will lose their jobs or their autonomy in the classroom.
Many of these protesters have rallied behind education historian Diane Ravitch, a professor at New York University, who blogs and tweets a steady stream of alarms about corporate profiteers invading public schools.
Ravitch argues that schools have, in effect, been set up by a bipartisan education reform movement that places an enormous emphasis on standardized test scores, labels poor performers as “failing” schools and relentlessly pushes local districts to transform low-ranked schools by firing the staff and turning the building over to private management.
President Barack Obama and both Democratic and Republican policymakers in the states have embraced those principles. Local school districts from Memphis to Philadelphia to Dallas, meanwhile, have hired private consultants to advise them on improving education; the strategists typically call for a broader role for private companies in public schools.
“This is a new frontier,” Ravitch said. “The private equity guys and the hedge fund guys are circling public education.”
Some of the products and services offered by private vendors may well be good for kids and schools, Ravitch said. But she has no confidence in their overall quality because “the bottom line is that they’re seeking profit first.”
Vendors looking for a toehold in public schools often donate generously to local politicians and spend big on marketing, so even companies with dismal academic results can rack up contracts and rake in tax dollars, Ravitch said.
“They’re taking education, which ought to be in a different sphere where we’re constantly concerned about raising quality, and they’re applying a business metric: How do we cut costs?” Ravitch said.
Investors retort that public school districts are compelled to use that metric anyway because of reduced funding from states and the soaring cost of teacher pensions and health benefits. Public schools struggling to balance budgets have fired teachers, slashed course offerings and imposed a long list of fees, charging students to ride the bus, to sing in the chorus, even to take honors English.
The time is ripe, they say, for schools to try something new — like turning to the private sector for help.
“Education is behind healthcare and other sectors that have utilized outsourcing to become more efficient,” private equity investor Larry Shagrin said in the keynote address to the New York conference.
He credited the reform movement with forcing public schools to catch up. “There’s more receptivity to change than ever before,” said Shagrin, a partner with Brockway Moran & Partners Inc, in Boca Raton, Florida. “That creates opportunity.”
Speakers at the conference identified several promising arenas for privatization.
Education entrepreneur John Katzman urged investors to look for companies developing software that can replace teachers for segments of the school day, driving down labor costs.
“How do we use technology so that we require fewer highly qualified teachers?” asked Katzman, who founded the Princeton Review test-prep company and now focuses on online learning.
Such businesses already have been drawing significant interest. Venture capital firms have bet more than $9 million on Schoology, an online learning platform that promises to take over the dreary jobs of writing and grading quizzes, giving students feedback about their progress and generating report cards.
DreamBox Learning has received $18 million from investors to refine and promote software that drills students in math. The software is billed as “adaptive,” meaning it analyzes responses to problems and then poses follow-up questions precisely pitched to a student’s abilities.
The charter school chain Rocketship, a nonprofit based in San Jose, California, turns kids over to DreamBox for two hours a day. The chain boasts that it pays its teachers more because it needs fewer of them, thanks to such programs. Last year, Rocketship commissioned a study that showed students who used DreamBox heavily for 16 weeks scored on average 2.3 points higher on a standardized math test than their peers.
Another niche spotlighted at the private equity conference: special education.
Mark Claypool, president of Educational Services of America, told the crowd his company has enjoyed three straight years of 15 percent to 20 percent growth as more and more school districts have hired him to run their special-needs programs.
Autism in particular, he said, is a growth market, with school districts seeking better, cheaper ways to serve the growing number of students struggling with that disorder.
ESA, which is based in Nashville, Tennessee, now serves 12,000 students with learning disabilities or behavioral problems in 250 school districts nationwide.
“The knee-jerk reaction [to private providers like ESA] is, ‘You’re just in this to make money. The profit motive is going to trump quality,’ ” Claypool said. “That’s crazy, because frankly, there are really a whole lot easier ways to make a living.” Claypool, a former social worker, said he got into the field out of frustration over what he saw as limited options for children with learning disabilities.
Claypool and others point out that private firms have always made money off public education; they have constructed the schools, provided the buses and processed the burgers served at lunch. Big publishers such as Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt have made hundreds of millions of dollars selling public school districts textbooks and standardized tests.
Critics see the newest rush to private vendors as more worrisome because school districts are outsourcing not just supplies but the very core of education: the daily interaction between student and teacher, the presentation of new material, the quick checks to see which kids have risen to the challenge and which are hopelessly confused.
At the more than 5,500 charter schools nationwide, private management companies — some of them for-profit — are in full control of running public schools with public dollars.
“I look around the world and I don’t see any country doing this but us,” Ravitch said. “Why is that?”

Troy Davis

In American Dream, democracy, government, justice, prison on September 22, 2011 at 2:13 am

I know folks in Georgia and around the country have been watching the case of Troy Davis and wondering if he is, indeed, going to be executed tonight. The execution has been delayed (a temporary stay was granted) for now – here is a live broadcast from the prison through Democracy Now.

Here are facts about the U.S. death penalty.

Amnesty International’s campaign to abolish the death penalty.

Mistakes and Innocence on Death Row.

Anti-death penalty video based on true story.











“Time to Tax the Rich” says one of the world’s richest men

In democracy, discourse, government, institutions, justice, politics, poverty on August 15, 2011 at 7:16 pm

Thanks to MV for passing this along – Warren Buffett has always gone out on limbs and here he goes again. He knows our country – especially our country’s politicians – has lost its way and fairly taxing the most wealthy is exactly what can lead us to the right path. In this article he tells of paying around 17% of his taxable income while many middle-class Americans pay up to 40% of their taxable incomes. Buffett calls it “coddling the rich” and I couldn’t agree more. Coddling those at the very top of our income earning ladder who have acquired the majority of the economic resources in our country makes us a country of extreme Haves and Have-Nots. Those who have abundance wealth enjoy more tax credits and access to powerful people while paying a much smaller overall income tax, and those who are on the bottom 90% of the wealth ladder pay higher taxes, get less from the government in terms of tax credits and safety nets, and end up barely being able to pay their bills and feed their families.

And what about “entitlements”? I have practiced a new response to all those people who tell me that “government entitlement programs must go” before we raise taxes on anyone:

1. Do you own a home? Are you paying a mortgage? Then you are part of (probably the nation’s largest) entitlement program – it’s called your mortgage interest tax credit and in many cases it earns you more per year than a family receives from the government in food stamps per year.

2. Are you, or do you know, someone who owns land registered as agricultural for tax purposes? Wooops. There’s another entitlement program.

3. Have you taken on any home improvement projects to lower energy costs and submitted those receipts for a tax credit? Hmmmm….

4. Do you send your child to private school and live in a state where there is a loophole for claiming that tuition as charitable contributions to an educational institution? There’s another.

5. And what about these entitlements: You are entitled to police security in your community; You are entitled to being protected by a fire department if you need them for any reason; You are entitled to drive and walk on public roads and sidewalks; You are entitled to free and public education from grades Kindergarten through 12. Want to get rid of those too?

We are not yet entitled to any of these things with dignity if we are poor or struggling in any way, but there sure is pride and dignity in receiving that mortgage interest tax credit/entitlement!

Thanks Warren – we need more of you and your fellow billionaires to speak out loudly and clearly.


Riots in London and Connections to U.S. Politics and “Society”

In American Dream, critical literacy, democracy, discourse, government, justice, Neoliberalism and Education, politics, poverty on August 14, 2011 at 6:51 pm

Hey all – thanks to a friend for sending this along. I have grown more impatient with the “These are your children, control them!” response from UK officials to the riots in London that resulted from a police officer killing a young man of color. UK officials are now considering the eviction of all families related to any accused in the riots. Great – so then the disenfranchised, angry, resentful collection of working-class and poor (mostly) immigrants will be homeless. This is a terrific solution! That should certainly prevent any future uprisings.

Is this an uprising? Or is it just a bunch of hoodlum adolescents expressing their greed and self-righteousness the way UK officials make them out to be?

It may be an uprising.

We weren’t surprised by the uprisings in the Middle East this year, but somehow people are less inclined to speak of “uprisings” in the “civilized, western” world including metropolitan London.

But this may just be an uprising.

Margaret Thatcher (the woman who spoke the words “There is no such thing as society” quoted at the bottom of this article in The Guardian) and her cronies including everyone involved in the Reagan era politics wanted “individuals” who were solely responsible for themselves and no one else – just as no one else would be responsible for those individuals – would be bound to consumerism and market fetishes and not worry about something so abstract as “society.”


This is a terrific article and a nice primer for folks not familiar with “neoliberal” policies of the last 30-40 years and their implications.


What comes after the SOS national march and rally?

In American Dream, democracy, discourse, Education Policy, government, high-stakes tests, NCLB, politics, Standing up for Kids, teacher education resources, Uncategorized on August 1, 2011 at 5:07 pm

So I’m more than envious of all you folks who participated in this historic event – but I’m still happy that I spent the day at my cousin’s wedding in Ohio celebrating with family and friends and dancing the night away…

But these speeches look like they were fabulous! Linda Darling-Hammond, Jonathan Kozol, John Kuhn, Diane Ravitch, and all the amazing educators, families, and children who are fighting every day to make sure kids are respected and can experience education with dignity and hope and power:

Other great video footage of the march.

What should we do now?

Paul Thomas has some good ideas here…

Parents Opt-Out of Testing for Kids

In democracy, Education Policy, government, high-stakes tests, NCLB, Neoliberalism and Education, politics, social action, Standing up for Kids on March 22, 2011 at 4:18 pm

Thanks to J.J. for sending this my way:

Mother Hopes Others will Opt Out of Standardized Testing

By Ross Levitt and Susan Candiotti, CNN
March 21, 2011 5:52 p.m. EDT

Click to play
Parents opt out of standardized tests
  • Pennsylvania woman says tests are inaccurate, used to punish schools
  • College education professor agrees they are waste of time
  • Proponent calls tests “a parent’s ally,” says they improve schools
  • No national statistics exist on opting out

State College, Pennsylvania (CNN) — A Pennsylvania mother has decided she does not want her two children to take the two-week-long standardized tests given by her state as part of the federal No Child Left Behind law. And she hopes other parents will do the same.

Michele Gray’s sons — Ted Rosenblum, 11, and John Michael Rosenblum, 9 — did independent study the week of March 14 while their classmates were filling in hundreds of bubbles in classrooms with doors marked, “Quiet. Testing in Progress.”

Gray says the only legal exemption that would allow her kids to sit out the tests was a religious objection. So that’s what she did.

But Gray says her concerns go well beyond religion. “The more I look at standardized tests, the more I realize that we have, as parents, been kind of sold a bill of goods.”

She says the tests are not accurate measures of accomplishment, create undue anxiety for students and are used to punish schools.

She gives the example of her sons’ award-winning school, Park Forest Elementary, which last year was put on “warning” status after the school’s special education students fell below the level of progress the state expects on their exams.

“The more I looked at it, the more outraged I became,” Gray said, “This is not something I want to be contributing to (or) something I want my children participating in.”

Dr. Timothy Slekar, an associate professor of education at Penn State Altoona, agrees. It was his op-ed piece on the Huffington Post website that inspired Gray to take action.

Slekar is also a father and this year chose not to allow his 11-year-old son Luke to take the tests. He says schools are narrowing their curricula in an effort to boost test scores and wasting too much time preparing for, and then taking, the tests.

He says the tests aren’t an accurate indicator of a child’s — or a school’s — performance. “I’m a father and an educator who’s finally said, ‘This is it. I’m done.’ Something has to give. Something has to change,” Slekar said.

Another education professor, Dana Mitra, also isn’t happy with the tests, but decided to allow her third-grader daughter to take them this year because she’s afraid that holding her daughter out could harm the school’s test results.

“Given that we’re interested in wanting our schools to be the best that they can, we feel pressure as parents to want to help our school,” she said. She’s not sure what she’ll do with her daughter next year.

Testing proponents, such as United Negro College Fund President and CEO Michael Lomax, say parents who opt out “are doing their own children a disservice.” He added, “Testing is a parent’s ally” and that in order to compete with countries such as China and India, U.S. schools need to be held to a higher standard. And testing, he says, is the way to do it.

“The testing isn’t the reason the schools are failing. The instruction is the reason the schools are failing,” Lomax insisted.

But “opt-out” parents like Gray and Slekar are undeterred.

Gray has a Facebook page aimed at helping other parents learn that they are able to opt out of testing and how to do it.

Parents in Colorado have created a similar website.

Despite these efforts, opting out of standardized tests is rare nationwide. The U.S. Department of Education says it doesn’t track the numbers.

At Park Forest Elementary, where Gray’s children go, nine out of 500 were held out of standardized tests this year, including Gray’s. Last year, all the students there took the test.

President Barack Obama, at a March speech at a Virginia school, acknowledged testing reform is needed. But he says testing isn’t going away.

“There will be testing,” he said. “We can have accountability without rigidity — accountability that still encourages creativity inside the classroom, and empowers teachers and students and administrators.”

His administration recently announced a $300 million grant aimed at revamping standardized tests.

Meantime, Ted and John Michael won’t be participating. Their mother thinks if enough parents follow her lead, high-stakes testing may go away altogether.

Michael Lomax thinks parents like Gray are hurting education. “I’m sure they love their kids,” he said, “but I think they are wrong.”

Is this land still made for you and me?

In American Dream, democracy, government, institutions, justice, social action, social class on February 24, 2011 at 2:21 am

Tom Morello at the Wisconsin protests – this is amazing stuff!!



Make a sign and put it in your car – use a marker for a T-shirt and wear it tomorrow – draw on your backpack or grocery bag – stand in solidarity with workers in Wisconsin and everywhere. This is how history is made, and we have to be on the right side of it this time!



What a fun time to be teaching about work, workers, and government!

In critical literacy, democracy, Education Policy, government, Neoliberalism and Education, politics, professional development resources, social action, social class, social policy, teacher education resources on February 24, 2011 at 1:45 am

What an incredible time!!! It’s all so exciting, and scary, and…wow.

Get to work teaching this stuff! Teach your elementary students what’s going on; teach your high schoolers; teach your graduate students; teacher your children and neighbors. Just dig in and go for it.

Cool YouTube site and contact information for We The People Wisconsin:

Email We The People Wisconsin at – and check out this video that folks are hoping can 1) talk back to the media narratives that we feel are misleading or inaccurate, 2) create an archive for people to store/share their experiences, and 3) provide space for people involved to show their support for each other, wherever they are.

12 things you should know about the protests in Wisconsin!

Gotta love Susan Ohanian…

In corporations, discourse, Education Policy, family-school relations, government, high-stakes tests, NCLB, Neoliberalism and Education, politics, Standing up for Kids, teacher education resources on February 6, 2011 at 11:54 pm

She’s done it again, and I’m only a couple months late in responding.


Thanks to Gloria for passing this along!

Classism Exposed blog is fabulous…

In American Dream, classism, democracy, discourse, Education Policy, family-school relations, government, politics, poverty, social action, social class, social policy, teacher education resources on November 14, 2010 at 11:02 pm

Check out Paul Gorski’s blog called Classism Exposed.

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