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
September 28, 2017 - Issue 713

Teachers, Unions Losing
School Privatization
Marketing War

"Grassroots, Cartel-funded groups have
run ads in major newspapers and on
cable television with the talking heads
endorsing voucher and charter schools as
the best way to improve public education."


Political Updates: Recent polls reveal that Democrats are losing ground in the 2017 gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia that they need to win. After leading their Republican opponents by double digits during the spring and summer, the gap between the two parties is closing now that we are in the final two months of the campaigns.

The rise of privatization in public education has been at hand since the Wisconsin legislature passed a law allowing for the public funding of private school vouchers in the early 1990s, and teachers and unions have been increasingly under siege by a variety of slick marketing strategies funded by the private-sector. And the parents and the general public have often been captivated by the catchy slogans and/or promotional gifts extolling the virtues of non-public alternatives to public schools. At the same time, the corporate Cartel of education reformers have made significant campaign contributions to elected officials throughout the nation who, in turn, reduced funding for public education causing public schools to operate with less funding, especially in low-income urban districts as the in-and-out-of-school needs of students escalate. The latter action has created opportunities for Cartel reformers to recruit parents to enroll their children in these so-called superior schools. A variety of strategies are being employed.

Grassroots, Cartel-funded groups have run ads in major newspapers and on cable television with the talking heads endorsing voucher and charter schools as the best way to improve public education (see Figure 1): Anderson Cooper and Dr. Steve Perry on CNN; Bill O’Reilly (formerly) and Juan Williams on Fox News; and Chris Matthews, Michelle Bernard, and Jonathan Alter on MSNBC.

In addition, MSNBC holds an annual education town hall in cooperation with Microsoft that skews toward school privatization as well as providing a platform for numerous voucher and charter school advocates throughout the year. Elsewhere, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post have published numerous op-ed essays and articles supporting the privatization of public education.

Furthermore, state and local papers have been inundated with advertisements for school choice and have taken editorial positions in support. Virtual and corporate charters, vouchers, and continuing attacks on teachers unions, with the most prominent, as noted in last week’s column, slated to be the forthcoming Janus v. AFSCME Decision which will assuredly be rendered by January 2018 (see Figure 2). Justice Neil Gorsuch is joining Justices Kennedy, Roberts, Alito, and Thomas to eliminate a major component of union stability. Given the possible retirement of one of the Democratic-leaning justices, President Trump would have the opportunity to appoint a second Justice which would give the conservative Republican-leaning members a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), shaping educational policy for a generation. Janus was a years-long Cartel marketing strategy which was designed to weaken its union adversaries. Private-sector education reformers have consistently taken the long view as they advance their agenda. They have deployed a comprehensive array of tactics that have regularly been successful.

One of the Cartel’s most effective methods has been the establishment and funding of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) which recruits state and national legislators from the 50 states (see Figure 3). ALEC is subsidized by major U.S. corporations and foundations to encourage politicians to implement its programs across the country. It holds forums and retreats that legislators are sponsored to attend, and Cartel members are invited to private meetings with the attendees where they pitch their statutory requests. The elected officials whom they encounter are also significant recipients of the Cartel members’ financial largesse. Thus, it appears to be a legalized form of ‘pay to play.’ The listing of the corporations in Figure 3 is just a thumbnail sketch of the total list of contributors who donate millions of dollars to ALEC on an annual basis, and there is an attempt to legislatively address all corporate interests.

But the most important role of ALEC is to advance legislative templates for state and national legislative bodies. As shown in Figure 4, it has sent fully-developed bills designed to: increase teacher contributions to their pension and benefit plans, which lowers their static incomes; apply harsh evaluation protocols for teachers; lift the cap on charter schools which ALEC drafted as part of Obama’s Race To The Top (RTT) law that he pushed through a Democratically-controlled Congress in 2009; convert traditional public schools to charters; close schools; establish virtual charters; and revise teacher tenure laws or outright eliminate them as North Carolina did in 2015.

While these elements of the Cartel’s marketing plans have put unions on their heels as they appear to be pursuing a ‘firefighter strategy,’ only springing to action after the fox is in the educational hen house. At this very moment, a Cartel-allied corporation, the Bridge Education Group, an e-learning organization, is expanding its private academies nationally and internationally. The Liberian national government recently awarded Bridge a contract to run all public education in the country. Its instruction will take place in buildings made of simple sheet metal and lumber with few traditional comforts. Bridge teachers are not required to have college degrees, are given 5-6 weeks training (similar to Teach for America {TFA}), and are only mandated to read and deliver a canned script to students that is developed by so-called experts. Bridge’s targets are low-income K-12 students, and their class sizes range from 40 to 60 students. Bridge plans to expand its K-12 operations in the U.S. as school privatization increases during the Trump administration.

Teachers and unions need to cultivate a new marketing plan to forestall this takeover.

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 served as Professor of Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and as Professor of Educational Policy and Community Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Contact Dr. Farrell. 




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

Perry NoName: A Journal From A Federal Prison-book 1
Ferguson is America: Roots of Rebellion by Jamala Rogers