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Est. April 5, 2002
March 03, 2016 - Issue 643

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Connecting the Dots
Cartel Surrogate
U.S. Education Secretary
John King
and the
Corporate Charter Takeover
Public Schools, etc.

"The Cartel originally focused its energy
on electing Republican and Democratic
governors and state legislatures who
would sign on to its specific education
agenda and its broader goal to move
public services into the private sector."

There is an old adage, “criminals always return to the scene of the crime.” That is a fitting description of the Cartel advocates for the privatization of public education return to the White House and Capitol Hill to reinvigorate their corporate charter takeover of the nation’s public schools. Basically, the Cartel has run amuck during the successive presidential administrations of George W. Bush and Barack H. Obama.

First, it convinced President Obama, for the second time, to appoint one of its surrogates as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE): Arne Duncan in 2009 and Dr. John King in 2015. Duncan was employed after Obama had initially planned to choose the chair of his education transition team, Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, an African American female and one of the nation’s foremost education experts, for the position. The Cartel vetoed that choice as it felt she was too supportive of K-12 education and the nation’s public school teachers. Duncan guided the Cartel-developed education bill, Race to the Top (RTTT), through Congress in 2009; it expanded the platform for the corporatizing of public schools, getting rid of public school teachers, and the downsizing of teacher unions.

Dr. King is even more rabid about facilitating the growth of corporate charter schools than his predecessor and increasing federal funding for establishing corporate charters (nearly a quarter billion dollars during Arne Duncan’s term) to assist in that effort. During King’s confirmation hearing before the U.S. Senate’s Education Committee last week, the Committee Chair, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and members Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) essentially promised King a speedy and successful confirmation vote. They were joined in this love fest by liberal senators, Patti Murray (D-WA) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who have the political cover of supporting President Obama’s nominee. It should be noted that these senators and the remaining seventeen bipartisan members of the Committee have received direct and/or indirect campaign contributions from the Cartel in the millions of dollars during their political careers.

Moreover, the NEA and AFT appear to have given King a pass despite his vicious assault on their members in New York during his tenure as the state Commissioner of Education. However, since his nomination for education secretary, King has publicly praised teachers for their hard work as a way to blunt their opposition to his appointment, a strategy which seems to be working as their unions have backed off.

Second, the Cartel has doubled-down in targeting specific states and cities to flood with corporate charters after it has set up statewide and local infrastructures. In the 1990s, it created hundreds of advocacy organizations to promote voucher and corporate charter schools and other public school privatization organizing proposals throughout the nation. The Cartel originally focused its energy on electing Republican and Democratic governors and state legislatures who would sign on to its specific education agenda and its broader goal to move public services into the private sector.

Currently, there are 31 Republican governors, one Independent, and 18 Democrats (eight of whom are influenced by the Cartel on education and public-sector privatization policy). Republicans also control both houses of the legislature in 31 states, and there is split party control in 19.

In 1999, the Cartel established two ethnic minority-focused advocacy groups to promote vouchers and corporate charter schools in African American and Hispanic communities: the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) and the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options (HCREO), respectively. Dr. Howard Fuller, a charismatic ex-Black militant, for whom the Cartel lobbied to change Wisconsin state law in 1991 for him to become superintendent of the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS), from 1991-1995, was selected to head BAEO, and Julio Fuentes, President of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, was hired as Chair and CEO of HCREO.

Neither of these so-called minority nonprofit standard bearers for parent choice receives any funding from their particular ethnic groups. The Cartel uses them as fronts to advance its program in inner-city Black and Latin communities, and it is working.

Fuller and Fuentes have established statewide and local chapters of their activist organizations across America and have been instrumental in turning public school districts toward becoming corporate charter and/or voucher dominant: New Orleans, Washington, D.C., Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Camden and Newark, New Jersey among others. Their latest target is Newark, New Jersey where the Cartel is in the midst of trying to unseat Mayor Ras Baraka who solidly defeated its candidate, Atty. Shavar Jeffries, in 2014, although Jeffries outspent him by more than 8:1. But as Baraka prepares for his 2018 reelection, he is woefully short of money.

Thus, Baraka is “playing nice” with the Cartel’s corporate charter allies in an effort to raise campaign funding. As mentioned in last week’s column, Baraka sent a letter to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie soliciting transition funding for the Newark Public Schools (NPS) which is experiencing a budget deficit. A major chunk of this funding, if received, will go to Newark’s existing and newly established corporate charters. The letter was co-signed by Chris Cerf, current NPS superintendent, who established most of the existing corporate charters while he was the New Jersey Commissioner of Education from 2011-2014 through his hand-picked superintendent Cami Anderson (2011-2016) who left under fire.

Recently, Mayor Baraka put forth a slate, comprised of mostly pro-corporate charter candidates, for the May 2016 Newark Advisory School Board election. In addition, Dr. Lauren Wells, the Mayor’s Chief Education Officer, unilaterally invited BAEO to meet with a group of pro-public education stakeholders to plan for NPS’s long-term education future. After their protest about BAEO’s role as a Cartel proxy, Dr. Wells disinvited BAEO. These apparently political endeavors seem to be aimed at developing relationships with the Cartel to ensure that Mayor Baraka continues in office.

However, these approaches will not work. In 2006, former Mayor Sharpe James tried to reach out to Cory Booker (now U.S. Senator, D-NJ) whom he had defeated in a heated 2002 mayoral race. James tried to cut a deal with Booker in 2006 in exchange for “being left alone.” He wound up spending two years in jail and barred from any political activity for two years after his release.

Baraka should understand that the Cartel wants to put its own candidate in the Newark mayor’s office, and that person is Shavar Jeffries, who is being groomed to run again as was Booker from 2002-2006. No amount of negotiations and genuflection will change that fact unless Baraka devolves to complete obeisance to the Cartel. This movie has played out in mayoral races before: Indianapolis (2015), Milwaukee (2004-Present), New Orleans (2002-Present), Washington, D.C. (2006-Present), Newark (2006-2013), Philadelphia (2008-Present), Camden (2010-Present), Los Angeles (2013-Present), and in a number of other cities as the Cartel continues its goal to privatize substantial portions of America’s public sector.

Dr. John King, USDOE Secretary designate, will aid in this scheme.

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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