Why? This is why.

14 May, 2014
Rat Fink

Why am I so angry about the government’s all-out assault on public education? This is why. It will take you an hour to read this article (I was up at 3 this morning, so I had time); therefore, I’m going to hit the main parts for you, and if you want to read further, you can. Believe me: should you ever need to have the “money trail” point driven home, this is the one to read.

I’ll begin with the bottom line: What happened (and is still unfolding) in Newark, New Jersey can also happen in Newark, Ohio, Newark, Illinois or Newark, Maryland. Education “reform” is the new pandemic sickness, and it’s coming to a town near you — unless we all do something about it.

Until we acknowledge and address the problem of what kids deal with at home (domestic violence, drug-addicted or otherwise incapacitated parents, homelessness, and most importantly, poverty), we will never solve the problems that plague them at school. Yet, teachers are now being held accountable for higher test scores, even though myriad issues in students’ personal lives are completely outside their control. Worse, if they can’t make the magic happen in three years, they’re out of a job.

It’s like firing the TV meteorologist because of a continued drought — and makes about as much sense. From the article:

 

Decades of research have shown that experiences at home and in neighborhoods have far more influence on children’s academic achievement than classroom instruction.

 

But let’s not allow pesky facts to get in the way. There’s money to be made, friend. Just ask the mighty triumvirate of the Newark parade of fools: Chris Christie, Cory Booker and Mark Zuckerberg (for the record — a Republican, a Democrat, and an Independent, respectively), who got together a couple of years ago and asked, “How can we purport to save the Newark schools, while making our friends rich and ourselves richer, so we can look like Christ on a pony and ride all the way to glory in Washington?” (OK, that was me quoting me. But you get the drift.) Young Zuck, ever the radical idealist, pledged $100 million to “fix” the financially ailing, violence-plagued Newark district. And of course, “fixing” the system meant spending millions upon millions in places other than the classrooms:

 

More than twenty million dollars of Zuckerberg’s gift and matching donations went to consulting firms with various specialties: public relations, human resources, communications, data analysis, teacher evaluation. [There were] other programs in the tight-knit reform movement, and a number of them had contracts with several school systems financed by Race to the Top grants and venture philanthropy. The going rate for individual consultants in Newark was a thousand dollars a day.

Booker has maintained a public silence about the Newark schools since being sworn in as a senator. Christie has been trying to salvage his Presidential prospects. Almost all of Zuckerberg’s hundred million dollars has been spent.

[Christie’s people have not] acknowledged how much of the philanthropy went to consultants who came from the inner circle of the education-reform movement.

 

Said one concerned administrator, “Everybody’s getting paid, but Raheem still can’t read.” And my favorite Christie quote, famously uttered after parents and community members protested the vast expenditure of time and money, and the fact that school children were not seeing any hope of benefit: “I don’t care about the community criticism. We run the school district in Newark, not them.”

Nice.

It doesn’t matter what or who you blame; the fact remains that the entire school “reform” movement — lock and stock — is based on the insatiable thirst for profit, using public school students (and their parents and teachers) as unwitting chumps in the scheme. I call out Bill Gates, the Walton (Wal-Mart) family, ALEC, Pearson, Battelle, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, whackadoodle Michelle Rhee, Teach for America, the Rand Corporation, Eli Broad, the entire US Dept. of Education, and every single politician who stands to profit from the systematic dismantling of neighborhood schools through the fist-down-the-throat tactics of Common Core State Standards and its high-stakes testing component. You’ve all been bought and sold, and now your sights are set on American kids.

You’re the wolf posing as the sheep. So I hereby declare you excommunicate and anathema. I cast you into the outer darkness. I judge you damned with the devil and his fallen angels and all the reprobate, to eternal fire and everlasting pain.

I totally stole that from one of my favorite movies.  :-) But again, you get me. This isn’t about a 21-year veteran public school teacher trying to save her cushy pension (Ha! Just typing that made me laugh.). It’s about someone whose grandchildren are now approaching school age, and will be subject to this and so much more (I haven’t even started to rant about data collection). It’s about my friends who teach core subjects, wondering how the Value Added Model is going to affect them, when they’re being judged by the test scores of students they haven’t even met yet, using a formula that no one understands.

All we can do is vote out people who sleep with the corporations that fund this vulgar enterprise. In Ohio, that’s John Kasich. He has to go. I don’t care what party affiliation you espouse; if someone in power is prostituting the children of your state to the first entity that dangles a possible Washington office key, it’s time to go. I don’t care what he says — I’m convinced everything that comes out of his mouth with regard to public education is a lie. Voters just have to wake up and realize it.

Oy…

I guess we all have our pet causes, and this one is mine. And it’s impossible to encapsulate it in one rambling, incoherent treatise on a Wednesday morning when I have a concert tomorrow and craziness for the next 14 days. But I hope it somewhat clarifies why I get so jacked up when I read of yet another school district capitulating to the BS that the corporate-controlled Department of Education is spewing today. I would feel rage for any victim, but I have to admit: it’s worse when the victims are kids, and elementary principals are calling Pearson on testing day, asking what to do with test booklets on which freaked-out fourth graders have vomited. It’s worse when kindergarten teachers are forced to retool their lessons because they have to think about their six-year-olds as “preparing for college.”

It’s worse when one of those six-year-olds is my grandson, Jake.

So this, in part, is why I’m mad today. Today, and every day. Fortunately, I can put the mad in a drawer for however long I need it to stay there. If I didn’t, I’d be a raving banshee all the time, instead of just…well…now. :-D

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Addendum: Immediately after I pressed “Publish” on this post, I read that Newark had just elected a pro-public-schools mayor, defeating an opponent who’d been bankrolled by the education “reformers” of Wall Street to the tune of $3M. One for the good guys.

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PKPudlin
14 May, 2014 9:52 am

Well, well, well! SUMbody has her knickers in a knot this morning! But rightfully so, my dear. I’ve been following the Zuckerberg-Newark story with some interest of late and although it does not affect me directly (no grandkids, pending or otherwise; I teach, but privately), it still is quite sickening. Here in NC, there isn’t even a teacher’s union (outlawed!), so my teaching friends here are especially vulnerable to the whims and follies of our largely conservative state government. More and more, there are fewer and fewer differences between parties. Both have been bought and paid for by the large… Read more »

David
David
14 May, 2014 11:08 am

Ms Fink, I just wish you would stop beatin around the bush and say it like it is. Of course I jest even though it is not funny, I too have Grandkids that are in the quagmire of Common Core. I have been following the whole New Jersey debacle, frightening. Love your illustration that it is not a singular Party issue…they are all in it for the money and how they can ride their feigned concern for the education of our kids to bigger and better places. We here in AZ have a log jam of potential candidates vying in… Read more »

RD
RD
15 May, 2014 11:29 am

I appreciate your investment in this vital topic and for writing about it so passionately and convincingly. Please keep it up. You have given many factual details about the money trail of which I was only superficially aware. I, too, believe that it goes back to what’s happening or not happening in the families of the children. However, it seems that a lot of people immediately either completely ignore that or just dismissively poo poo it. It makes no sense to hold teachers responsible for conditions and circumstances over which they have absolutely no control. I like your clear analogy… Read more »

Stein
Stein
15 May, 2014 1:25 pm

I don’t think ousting Kasich will solve much. I don’t think it’s good to have him, but I think he will get replaced by another politician “in the pants” of corporations. Politicians frankly know very little, if anything, about education. I’m also tired of it being listed as a problem of “public education” when private and charter schools should teach children the same way. I’m still confused as to why education is dealt with on the state level sometimes and the national level others. I know, I know, there are certain aspects controlled by blah blah blah. Can’t it all… Read more »