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Est. April 5, 2002
December 03, 2015 - Issue 632

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Connecting the Dots
Cartel Public Education
Privatization Surrogates
Part III

"Questionable teacher evaluations, school closings,
federal under-funding of public education as compared
to privatized educational reform, etc. have been robustly
implemented with the full backing of President Obama,
turning a blind eye to the ongoing corruption in corporate
charter schools and outright criminality by
Cartel-appointed public school superintendents."

Click here for links to all parts of this series

Like the Cartel’s Broad-trained and influenced superintendents, there are no more effective proxies for its privatization agenda than the Obama Administration, the grassroots operatives for Cartel policies, and its primary spokesperson of color. The latter also provide racial, social, and cultural affinity for the Cartel’s primary targets: parents and students of color. Each will be examined in turn.

First, President Obama has been a staunch ally of the Cartel, commencing nine days after his inauguration (January 29, 2009), when he approved the Cartel-developed Race to the Top (RTTT) legislation in a meeting in the Oval Office. This legislation has substantially contributed to the current dismantling of the nation’s public schools. Less than two years later (October 10, 2010), Obama hosted a showing of the movie, Waiting for Superman (and met with its featured students) at the White House. The movie is an unabashed endorsement of charter schools and a virulent denigration of public school teachers and unions under the seal of a sitting U.S. president. Primarily targeting student of color, the Cartel’s Waiting for Superman took advantage of the President’s popularity among African American, Native American, Hispanic, and Asian parents who overwhelmingly voted for him in 2008. They began to apply for charter schools in droves across the country, fueling the view that charters are superior to public schools although they perform no better, and often worse, despite not being held to the same academic and student behavioral standards.

No other U.S. president had provided a corporate initiative such positive national and international publicity since Woodrow Wilson hosted a showing of Birth of a Nation, the racist film which praised the Ku Klux Klan on March 21, 1915. In both instances, the White House was used to promote racial discrimination and/or profits for the elite. Additionally, Obama’s Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan (who is unqualified for the job), has run roughshod over teachers, unions, and school districts. Questionable teacher evaluations, school closings, federal under-funding of public education as compared to privatized educational reform, etc. have been robustly implemented with the full backing of Obama, turning a blind eye to the ongoing corruption in corporate charter schools and outright criminality by Cartel-appointed public school superintendents. Moreover, Duncan’s forthcoming replacement, former New York Commissioner of Education, Dr. John King, has a worse record of assault on K-12 public education and teachers than Duncan, having been forced out of his position by the Cartel-supported Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The more things change, the more they remain the same.

Even more disconcerting is Obama’s virtual silence on the current legal actions against America’s major teacher unions (NEA and AFT), two of his major organization supporters who provided him with key contributions and campaign workers in his 2008 and 2012 elections. The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) will hear Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association on January11, 2016, a case challenging the unions’ fair share rules in 23 states—including California, Illinois and New York—that force government workers to pay hefty “agency fees”—for representation they receive from unions that they have no interest in joining. SCOTUS ruled that this requirement was lawful in 1977, but today’s more conservative court is poised to overturn it.

Meanwhile, recently elected Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, a billionaire Cartel member, has issued an executive order that absolves state workers of fair share payment responsibility for unions that represent their employment interests. In Tennessee, the legislature has passed the Professional Educators Collaborative Conferencing Act (PECCA) which is designed to weaken teachers’ collective bargaining agreements (CBAs). These anti-union efforts have been ignored by President Obama who owes a substantial political debt to teacher unions for his back-to-back election victories. The Obama Administration’s pro-privatization labors serve to add heft to the Cartel’s on the ground grassroots strategies.

Second, while Obama was giving the Cartel agenda full-throated support at the national level, the Cartel deployed grassroots activists to drive its program at the state and local levels with specific policy initiatives developed by its fully-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC); it drafts pro-privatization of public education laws for the fifty states. One of its most prominent pieces is the Parent Trigger Law, which has been promoted as giving voice to the voiceless. Former Democratic State Sen. Gloria Romero composed the nation’s first parent trigger bill which was passed by the Democratic-controlled California Legislature in 2010.

It allows a majority vote by parents in a school that the Department of Education labels as failing to convert their school into a charter public school of choice. The Cartel provided funding for community organizers to lobby parents to call for a vote at the McKinley Elementary School in Compton, California (the first trigger beneficiary), overriding the wishes of the district administration and the local union affiliate. Similar laws were subsequently approved in Texas, Connecticut, and Ohio. Trigger bills are also in legislative committees in North Carolina, New Jersey, Wisconsin, and several other states as the Cartel expands its multi-faceted attack on public education from multiple directions.

Third, the Cartel’s primary national minority and general spokesperson for the past twenty years has been Dr. Howard Fuller, who is based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin which is considered the mecca of school choice. A former militant during the civil rights movement, Fuller was given a series of high profile state and local jobs by Cartel allies during the 1980s and 1990s, culminating in his becoming superintendent of the Milwaukee Public Schools in 1991 for which the Cartel successfully lobbied for a change in state law since he lacked the traditional qualifications for the position. (Now it has become routine to appoint school superintendents, university presidents, and teachers with no previous educational training or experience.) Now serving as a Bradley Foundation-funded distinguished professorship at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Fuller fronts for the Cartel’s multiple pro-charter, voucher, and public school privatization and political schemes and has become wealthy as a result.

Since 1999, he has headed the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) which is wholly funded by the Cartel and is used as an outreach vehicle to recruit parents of color to the privatization fold. Fuller travels the country mentoring and campaigning for Cartel-backed minority and majority candidates for local, state and national office, e.g., Adrian Fenty (D) for Mayor of Washington, D.C.; Cory Booker (D) for Mayor and U.S. Senator from New Jersey; Thom Tillis (R) for U.S. Senator from North Carolina; George W. Bush (R) and Barack Obama (D) for U.S. President; and numerous others. A compelling speaker, he has addressed nearly all-minority and all-majority audiences from Oregon to Florida.

Fuller has also given anti-union and pro-school choice testimony before education committees in more than thirty state legislatures. In Milwaukee, Gov. Scott Walker has granted Fuller the authority to decide which minority applicant is granted a voucher or charter school and when, on rare occasions, one is closed. And he has enjoyed success in cultivating parents of color and majority parents for public school privatization. It is ironic that Fuller’s advocacy for undoing public schools is as forceful as that of Robert Smalls, a former slave and South Carolina Reconstruction-era state legislator, who authored state legislation providing for South Carolina to have the first free and compulsory public school system in the United States, that was later adopted nationally.

Moreover, the Cartel’s impact is central to the present crisis in Chicago revolving around the first degree murder charge against police officer, Jason Van Dyke, for the killing of the black male teenager, Laquan McDonald. A videotape of the incident was kept secret for thirteen months until a judge ordered its release. The roots of this dilemma are grounded in the Cartel-backed Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s systematic privatization of city services, an out-of-control police department that has run amuck, the funding of DePaul University’s basketball arena in the hundreds of millions of dollars while wiping out youth-serving programs for youths in the most distressed part of the city, the mayoral attacks on teachers and the under-funding of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) which Emanuel controls.

In last week’s Black Friday march in protest against the McDonald shooting, thousands of teachers marched in solidarity as they view themselves as the next victims of privatization. The privatization of public services in America’s large cities, Newark, Cleveland, Milwaukee, New York, and Los Angeles, etc., have proceeded in conjunction with tensions and conflicts between the police and the community. If the Cartel’s privatization plans continue at the current pace, can we expect more?

Click here for links to all parts of this series Columnist, Dr. Walter C. Farrell, Jr., PhD, MSPH, is a Fellow of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado-Boulder and has written widely on vouchers, charter schools, and public school privatization. He has appeared on the Today Show with Matt Lauer and National Public Radio’s The Connection to discuss public school privatization, and he has lectured to parent, teacher, and union groups throughout the nation. Contact Dr. Farrell. 

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