I am an outspoken advocate for thoughtful, constructive educational transformation. I am NOT, however, an advocate for opening the coffers of public education to private investors of all flavors at the expense of our children as well as our collective future. In May 2004, I wrote the post, “School refinance, vouchers, generational compact and class warfare?” Is the dark conspiracy about which I wrote six years ago finally coming to pass in many states under the alleged educational leadership of Arne Duncan and President Barack Obama? I hope not, but I fear it may. The words of Diane Ravitch writing for Education Week yesterday are chilling. She concludes her article, “Conflicts of Interest and the Race to the Top” by noting:
Whatever Secretary Duncan chooses to do with the good advice offered by Millot, I have a prediction to make: As hundreds and possibly thousands more charter schools open, we will see many financial and political scandals. We will see corrupt politicians and investors putting their hands into the cashbox. We will see corrupt deals where public school space is handed over to entrepreneurs who have made contributions to the politicians making the decisions. We will see many more charter operators pulling in $400,000-500,000 a year for their role, not as principals, but as “rainmakers” who build warm relationships with politicians and investors.
When someday we trace back how large segments of our public school system were privatized and how so many millions of public dollars ended up in the pockets of high-flying speculators instead of being used to reduce class size, repair buildings, and improve teacher quality, we will look to the origins of the Race to the Top and to the interlocking group of foundations, politicians, and entrepreneurs who created it.
I learned at a meeting yesterday we don’t know yet if Oklahoma will receive “Race to the Top” dollars, and may not know till April. We live in such a strange time for educational budgets. I’ve heard rumors some of our largest districts in the state may fire/let go up to 500 teachers next school year. Several of my friends who have technology roles in Oklahoma districts are reportedly losing their jobs. On February 25th of this month, a group of Oklahoma schools will be announced who will split $6.5 million in ARRA funds for 1:1 laptop projects. And amidst this chaos, we have the federal government offering millions of dollars in carrot money to force states and schools to follow the agenda (as Ravitch argues) of the Gates Foundation and (as I perceive) the same edu-politicos who gave us the agenda which included NCLB, Reading First, and other destructive educational policies. For more of my past thoughts along these lines, see the past posts:
- A contrary view of education and NCLB (Feb 2008)
- Again, U.S. federal funds used to strong arm state legislators (Oct 2009)
- ReadingFirst, NCLB, School Accountability, and our Educational Future (Aug 2008)
- NCLB, local control, end of course exams, and educating shepherds instead of sheep (Jan 2007)
- NCLB has been a destructive tragedy, not an accomplishment (Jan 2007)
I not only wish our leaders in Washington had a DIFFERENT vision for education and educational change in the United States, I also wish we had DIFFERENT LEADERS. I am disgusted with the irresponsible levels of federal spending which we continue to see from Washington D.C. And I am disgusted with our President as well as his Secretary of Education who are bent on advancing the same destructive agenda of high-stakes accountability and privatization.
High stakes testing is not the only enemy. Leaders who take our nation down the wrong educational path are as well.
President Obama, please fire your secretary of education NOW and abandon this destructive educational agenda started during the Bush years. You shame yourself as an alleged leader for change and hope in educational politics. The time for CHANGE is NOW.
Unfortunately, I fear our political ship of state has so much momentum in the wrong direction it’s not going to alter course anytime soon.
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