Click to go to the Subscriber Log In Page
Go to menu with buttons for all pages on BC
Click here to go to the Home Page
Est. April 5, 2002
June 16, 2016 - Issue 658

What We Should Know About
Corporate Education Reformers
and the
Undermining of Teachers

"The Cartel uses its communications unit to
ensure that charter schools are referred to as
'high performing and/or high quality' irrespective
of their academic outcomes, fraud, and dismissal
of students whom they claim are not a good fit."

Update: Rev. Jevon Caldwell-Gross who was recently appointed to the Montclair, NJ School Board by Mayor Robert Jackson was alleged to be ineligible for the appointment due to his lack of registration as a voter, a requirement for the position. The mayor followed up and has concluded that Rev. Caldwell-Gross is eligible. He is now the swing vote for putting the Board back on the path toward the privatization of Montclair’s public schools. Meanwhile, Rev. Caldwell-Gross’ congregation is concerned that he is being used as a pawn in this public education-privatization brawl. Stay tuned for further developments.

As noted in this column, the corporate Cartel of education reformers has established a national, state level, and local coordinated assault on the profession of teaching and of individual teachers. The scheme is expanding on a daily basis and is being deployed by both Democrats and Republicans across the nation. Organizations and individuals, “who carry this bipartisan water,” keep coming in waves even as local teachers and unions score victories over privatization. The attacks have been devastating personally and professionally.

Teachers in low-performing schools have been especially victimized by the corporate-constructed teacher evaluations with the so-called value-added measurement (VAM) system designed to determine teacher quality via their impact on student achievement on standardized tests. Developed to weed out “bad teachers,” the VAM, after rigorous assessment by a cross-section of scholars, has been found to be a flawed tool for making decisions to sanction and/or terminate teachers.

This barrage of unfair criticism is having a deeply demoralizing impact. A tragic case in point was that of Rigoberto Ruelas, a dedicated teacher for fourteen years with perfect attendance in an under-performing school in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Shamed and depressed after seeing his rating published in the Los Angeles Times, he committed suicide. He was one of the early casualties of the Cartel’s war on teachers.

In Belleville, New Jersey, Michael Mignone, the local union president was brought up on tenure charges after questioning the teacher surveillance policies instituted by the superintendent. Although he had been rated highly in previous evaluations, he was suddenly deemed ineffective. After a year-long struggle, in which he was supported by thousands of teachers and the state teachers’ union, he was vindicated, and the superintendent was terminated.

VAM has resulted in the firing of teachers in numerous school districts since 2012—Washington, D.C.; Newark and Camden, New Jersey; Denver Colorado; New York City; and Atlanta, Georgia among others. In Atlanta, teachers’ and administrators’ fear of bad evaluations led to a major cheating scandal. But the corporate education reformers insist on the continued use of this defective instrument.

Public school budget cutting at the state level is another favorite strategy of the Cartel of corporate education reformers. Deploying their resources to elect governors (mostly Republican) and state legislators throughout the nation, public school budgets have been downsized by tens of billions of dollars during the past decade.

The Cartel has been so successful that in 2007, Dana Rone, an African American and Newark City Council member whose campaign it had funded, testified before the New Jersey legislature’s education committee, asking that it reduce the budget of the Newark Public Schools, the state’s largest school district that also has the highest percentage of students qualifying for free- and reduced priced-lunch. She claimed that money was being wasted and wanted it re-directed to publicly-funded private school vouchers and corporate charter schools.

The legislature dutifully adhered to one of Councilwoman Rone’s recommendations, escalating public school budget cuts under the Cartel-backed Gov. Chris Christie from 2009 to the present. Christie even changed the school funding formula and defied the New Jersey’s Supreme Court’s decision to increase the funding of public schools. In addition, at the Cartel’s behest, Gov. Christie has under-funded the state’s contributions to the teachers’ pension system and has toyed with reducing teachers’ health benefits during retirement.

However, corporate charter schools are the point of the spear in undermining teachers. First, the Cartel uses its communications unit to ensure that charter schools are referred to as “high performing and/or high quality” irrespective of their academic outcomes, fraud, and dismissal of students whom they claim are not a good fit. Whether one is reading liberal (e.g., The Washington Post, The New York Times, etc.) or conservative (The Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, etc.) newspapers or viewing MSNBC, CNN or Fox News, the references to charter schools are the same. On MSNBC, the Cartel, via Microsoft, funds the annual Education Nation forum that promotes corporate solutions to the challenges of public education.

The Cartel also funds Teach for America (TFA) to recruit and place new college, non-education major graduates in troubled public schools to masquerade as language arts, science, math, and reading teachers. These novice teachers, who have been given temporary highly qualified status as teachers for two years, have wreaked untold damage on low-income students of color who have significant educational needs.

Approximately eighty percent of these supposed teachers leave after two years placing the students under their charge in an ongoing state of teacher turnover. Nonetheless, the Cartel-influenced print and broadcast media overlook this reality and continue to heap high praise on this corporate experiment.

Nevertheless, the main purpose of the TFA initiative is to cause turmoil in the teaching profession and to drive veteran teachers from the ranks. Former Washington, D.C. schools Chancellor, Michelle Rhee, used TFA to great effect when she discharged more than four hundred teachers and support staff and replaced them with TFA members. Her main goal was to reduce the number of union members with whom she had to negotiate and to intimidate their local union. The same practice has been repeated in numerous school districts.

The Cartel also has links to search firms for senior school district personnel and backs school board and city council members, mayors, county commissioners/freeholders, and county executives in local elections through whom they implement their education reforms.

One of the Cartel’s most recent tactics is the creation of Achievement, Opportunity, or other special school districts in states with large numbers of low-performing urban schools—Wisconsin, Tennessee, North Carolina, New Jersey, etc.—where the schools are placed under the control of corporate charters who make money off at-risk students like the owners of private prison corporations do off prisoners.

What we must recognize is that the Cartel is employing multiple approaches to take over public schools as their populations become majority-minority and are made up of poor students. In this way, it is, perhaps unwittingly, recreating the segregated public school systems that legally existed prior to the 1954 Brown decision as our society is rapidly moving toward racially demographic pluralism.

links to all 20 parts of the opening 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. 




is published every Thursday
Executive Editor:
David A. Love, JD
Managing Editor:
Nancy Littlefield, MBA
Peter Gamble

Ferguson is America: Roots of Rebellion by Jamala Rogers