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Est. April 5, 2002
March 17, 2016 - Issue 645

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Connecting the Dots
Cartel Public School Privatization
Lead Poisoning and the Link
Standardized Testing
Part XV

"There are strong relationships between long-term
lead poisoning (oftentimes unacknowledged and/or
denied) and standardized testing outcomes in
poverty-ridden school districts where the majority
of students are African American and Hispanic or
members of other racial minority groups."

Flint, Michigan’s problem with lead in its water system (promoted directly by Cartel member, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder) far exceeds the level considered acceptable according to the federal government’s national standard (15 parts per billion). The national attention to the dangers of lead poisoned water generated by this crisis has flushed out similar troubles with lead in a number of post-industrial cities: Milwaukee, Newark, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Chicago, and others. The cities with the highest concentrations of lead in their water systems are also those with public school districts that have majority-minority student populations (mostly African American and Hispanic).

These are schools targeted by the Cartel for so-called educational reforms that are actually designed to raid school system budgets for corporate profits and to acquire schools closed for alleged failure, and the land surrounding them, for redevelopment (gentrification) by venture-backed corporate charter management organizations (CMOs) backed by the Cartel. These for-profit venture capitalists purchase existing public school and other public buildings (at very low prices, often for a dollar, after the schools have been closed and the public buildings condemned) in poor neighborhoods. The schools are then replaced with corporate charters.

Dr. Leslie Fenwick, dean of the school of education at Howard University, explained this process in an excellent presentation on the panel, “No Excuses Schools” and the Education of Impoverished Students of Color, at the Albert Shanker Institute on March 9, 2016 in Washington, D.C. She went on to state that these strategies displace poor children and their families who will be replaced by upscale white families and their children. Very few low-income children with the greatest educational challenges (those with special needs) are admitted to these brand new corporate charters (or the substantially rehabilitated public schools that have been recast as corporate charters) although all claim to use a “neutral lottery system.”

Recent examples of these urban renewal efforts are: Fourth and M Streets in Washington, D.C., Brewers Hill in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the Broadway corridor in Camden, New Jersey, and Teachers Village in a blighted downtown area of Newark, New Jersey. Real estate developers are building these complexes under the banner of education reform that is supposedly helping poor, inner-city students of color. But in reality, these are schemes to remove the poor from land whose value has been increased exponentially. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has aggressively promoted these improvement projects to reward his Cartel benefactors.

Water poisoned by lead serves as a driver in this process as the corporate raiders know a priori that these schools are enveloped by lead, mold, or other toxins. When the new corporate charter schools and expensive condominiums, chic bistros, and ultra-modern drinking establishments are built, they have access to clean and purified water carried to the buildings through state-of-the-art pipes. There are no old, lead pipes involved in transporting the water; thus it is not necessary to coat the pipes with chemicals that are alleged to prevent lead poisoning and/or to install filters to mitigate lead consumption.

The Cartel recognizes that NO AMOUNT OF LEAD IN A WATER SYSTEM IS SAFE! Therefore, for mayors, health, school, and environmental officials to consistently state that their water is safe enough to drink, as has been the case in Milwaukee, Newark, Baltimore, and Chicago, during the past two weeks, is disingenuous at best, and an outright lie at worst.

Lead poisoning has a more severe impact on children than on adults. Over time, significant amounts of lead can cause anemia, numerous physical ailments, and major brain damage, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even at low levels, lead can retard intellectual development. It is no accident that low-performing schools have a disproportionate number of students who have been impacted by lead poisoning in their schools and communities. They under-perform on standardized tests which contributes to their schools being labeled as failing.

There are strong relationships between long-term lead poisoning (oftentimes unacknowledged and/or denied) and standardized testing outcomes in poverty-ridden school districts where the majority of students are African American and Hispanic or members of other racial minority groups. The Cartel-backed testing movement with one of its key corporate members, Pearson, an international testing and education conglomerate, that designs standardized tests for hundreds of U.S. school districts to accommodate the testing requirements of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Race to the Top (RTTT) federal legislation. (Pearson also owns a virtual charter school company.) It earns billions of dollars on its test construction and development on an annual basis.

As the Cartel implemented this corporate education reform, it insisted that standardized testing be at the core of the effort. Bill Gates, a major Cartel leader, spent more than $250 million to lobby and cajole governors in 46 states and President Obama, along with campaign contributions, to sign on to the Common Core curriculum and the associated tests (created by Pearson). After massive pushback by Tea Party activists, liberal and conservative governors; local, state, and national elected officials; and ordinary citizens in Oklahoma, North Carolina, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, and numerous other states bailed out of this Cartel-led initiative.

However, Gates has failed to mention that he has collaborated with Pearson to load the Common Core examinations for language arts and math onto the Microsoft Surface tablet. Corporate education reform is always about the money!

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s refusal to let go of his death grip on Common Core was in large part responsible for his inability to gain traction in his quest for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. Several of his opponents used Common Core to discredit him repeatedly.

The Partnership for Assessment Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test, also produced by Pearson, remains as a determinant of school success in many low-income urban, majority-minority districts and suburban school systems. Moreover, testing remains a key component of the recently passed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the replacement for NCLB, despite the huge number of parents in urban and suburban school districts across the nation who opted out of the standardized testing of their children during the past school year, a clear rebuke to the Cartel and its surrogates.

Standardized Testing remains central to Cartel-driven privatized education reform, and lead poisoned water in public schools facilitates the privatization of public schools in low-wealth communities, where majority and minority Cartel surrogates participate in obfuscation and cover-up of the lead contaminant in their schools.

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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