Jeb! 2016 & the Web of Influence Peddling

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Yesterday, Jeb Bush announced his candidacy for President under the logo Jeb!2016.  Then today, Donald Trump, from a basement in one of his buildings in NYC, announced that he is running for President! Is his logo The Donald!2016?  Can it get any worse?

But Trump aside, I want to focus on the idea of influence peddling by examining three ideas that drive much of what happens, not only in education, but in other important issues in the upcoming election such as democracy, immigration reform, race, and jobs.

Here, however, I want to zero in on education.

Politicians, lobbyists and corporate executives have worked together to peddle their influence in the name of educational reform. This triad of influence is dismantling public education one charter school, voucher, tax incentive, and law at a time.

This group of education peddlers is known as “reformsters”, and I’ll use that term in this and future posts. For more about the term “reformster,” please see here, here, here, and here.

As you read this article, think of Jeb! 2016, the man also known as John Ellis Bush, and Jeb Bush, former Governor of Florida.  He is a good example of a reformster, and it may help in seeing how reformsters work as you read the rest of my article.  I am not particularly picking on Jeb Bush. I could have just as easily replaced Bush’s name with Bill Gates.  But Bush is representative of a host of people who have pitched their ideas around the country in the way a salesperson tries to solicit your business.  And he’s running for President.

In today’s culture, politicians and especially business leaders, have perpetuated the myth that academic achievement in a few subjects is the most important outcome of schooling, and that indeed, there is a huge gap between achievement of students in the United States and its counterparts in other industrialized nations. Furthermore, these same politicians and business leaders (reformsters) would have us believe that there is a serious decline in the supply of high-quality students from the beginning (the end of high school) to the end of the Science & Engineering “pipeline.” Both of these cases are myths—that U.S. students do not achieve at high levels, and that there is a serious shortage of high quality persons for science & engineering. They are perpetuated to fulfill the needs and desires of officials whose best interests are served by claiming such weaknesses in the American educational system (see Lowell & Salzman).

These myths are real, however.  They are fodder for those looking to game the system.

Fear, Money & Gaming

Influence peddling is wide-spread in American education.  During the 2016 Presidential campaigns, you will see slick videos, prepared speeches, and hucksters of all shape and sizes pushing ideas that rest on three ideas:

  1. Fear
  2. Money
  3. Gaming

Fear, money, and gaming dominate the system. I’ve organized this inquiry around three ideas, and have additionally provided several case studies, as shown in the tabs below.  You’ll find two or more articles that I’ve written related to the fear, money, and gaming, as well as two case studies, one of Jeb Bush, and other on Bill Gates.  You will be surprised.  Did they go to the same schools?

[restabs alignment=”osc-tabs-left” pills=”nav-pills” responsive=”true” icon=”true” text=”More” tabcolor=”#ef4928″ seltabcolor=”#1e73be” tabhovercolor=”#eeee22″]
[restab title=”Fear Factor” active=”active”]Since the Soviets launched Sputnik in 1957, and a U.S. government report, A Nation at Risk was published in 1983, American education has been cast as a failing system, and if “reforms” were not put in place, the sky would fall.  Although the sky hasn’t fallen, teachers and schools are envisioned as the cause of the mythical failure of American education.

The underlying and foundational reason that influence peddling is flourishing in education is the move toward the privatization of education. And the privatization of education is born out of assumptions that American education is a failed system, and that the only way to prove that the system is improving is show that it returning a profit to the taxpayers. When we begin to think of schools as a business, then test scores are a measure of profitability. Indeed, students of teachers who get high achievement scores are rewarded in the same way that employees earn bonuses. But when scores are low, it is analogous to a unprofitable business, which might mean layoffs, store closings, and fired staff.  Here are two articles that underscore this fear.

Why Education Must Be Public and Not Privatized

Using Achievement Scores to Support Myths and Build Fear[/restab]

[restab title=”Gaming the System”]The drive to privatize education is a web of connections worked out by politicians and corporate executives with the support of some very prominent and not so prominent foundations and “not-for-profit” organizations that have cropped up spreading their spray over the public education landscape. The relationships and the overall web of connectivity has brought a lot of people together who have influenced state legislatures to the extent that they collectively are gaming not only public schools, but the citizens who pay the taxes to support local and neighborhood schools.  This web shows very clearly how these organizations and people have figured out how to game the education system.  In these articles, we show how politicians have learned to game the system to not only use laws written by the American Legislative Exchange Council, but make use of the Tax Code to set up not-for-profit organizations that ask for money from around the country to support the bills that they support in their legislative bodies.

Using Students for Politics and Influence Peddling. In this article, I show how politicians have learned to game the system to not only use laws written by the American Legislative Exchange Council, but make use of the Tax Code to set up not-for-profit organizations that request money from around the country to support the bills in their legislative bodies.

Why Don’t Our Elected Representatives Write Their Own Legislation?  In this article, we show that ALEC, a national “bill-mill” is an “amazon” marketplace for state legislators looking to acquire “legislative bills.[/restab]
[restab title=”Money”]More than $700 billion is spent annually on public education in America, making education an investment and consumer market comparable to banking, energy, transportation, and retail.  But just as important is the idea that education is being shaped by organizations and a few people with a lot of money.  Here are two articles to offer some evidence for this.

Billions and Billions, and I am not Talking About Stars!  I am talking about dollars, and how billionaires are influencing (science) education policy from the K-12 level to the U.S. Department of Education, and this is being done in an environment where the billionaires are demanding accountability from the recipients of its money, but do so without having to be held to any standards or accountability themselves.

Are the Deep Pockets of Gates, Walton and Broad Contrary to the Ideals of Education in a Democracy? In this article, I wonder if the deep pockets of just 10 people can be consistent with the ideals of public education.[/restab]
[restab title=”Case Studies”]In this inquiry, we look at the Gates Foundation and Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education as core examples of organizations that use power and money to influence educational change throughout the states, often in the interests of corporate affiliates.

How the Gates Foundation Used $3.38 Billion in College-Ready Education Grants to Change Education Policy.  Did you know that since 1999, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (technically founded in 2000) have made over 4,000 grants in the US Program, one of the major categories of funding for the Gates. The 4,000 grants were distributed among 16 categories such as College-Ready Education, Community Grants, Postsecondary Success, Global Policy & Advocacy, etc.

Bush’s Education Foundation and Influence Peddling: Any Truth to it? The connections between Bush’s Foundation, private companies, and state officials has set up the perfect storm for not just a privatization of schooling, but the expansion of a corrupt and secret, behind closed doors operation that changes laws to line the pockets of corporate officials

Graphics of The Bush Foundation’s Influence on State Education Laws  The Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd) agenda has seven “reform” priorities, and its work centers on influencing state governments to pass laws that are directly related to these reform priorities. Follow the link to see some data.[/restab][/restabs]


Establishment-Reformster Spray

The drive to privatize education is the outcome of connections worked out by politicians and corporate executives with the support of some very prominent and not so prominent foundations and “not-for-profit” organizations that have cropped up spreading their sp ray over the public education landscape.  And this spray stinks.

During the election cycle, including the debates to held by each party, America will be covered by this sediment comprised of nuggets of fear, money, gaming and untruths forming layer upon layer of spray, which in the is nothing but a pile of “excrement.”

What is your take on the nature of influence peddling in education?

Jeb! Is Running: From What?

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Jeb! Is Running: From What?

On this blog I wrote several articles about influence peddling and the role played by wealthy philanthropists such as Bill Gates, “former” politicians such as Jeb Bush, and reformists organization such as Achieve, The Fordham Foundation, and Teach for America.

Jeb!, the 11th Republican to announce a candidacy for President brought up somber deep inner reminders about education reformsters and how Jeb! is a poster child for politicians who have dipped their toes into schooling, and with that experiential knowledge, claim to know what is best for education.

Jeb! created an organization, The Foundation for Excellence in Education, and through it and the organization’s large sums of money and power, has used his influence as governor of Florida to peddle his Foundation’s ideas around the country.

One of his ideas is how online learning and related technologies can revitalize and improve education.  To make this happen, Jeb!’s organization takes aim at state departments of education by peddling its ideas by trying to influence key state education officials.

In the next few posts I am going to republish several articles about this, and use Jeb!’s education organization as a case study about how groups like his are working to undermine the work of American teachers.


Is Georgia’s Opportunity School District Plan Immoral?

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Is Georgia’s Opportunity School District Immoral?

From The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, President of the North Carolina NAACP, came a letter from The Nation that I think is crucial as we act on recent actions by the Georgia Legislature and Governor.

The Governor of Georgia, with the backing of both Democrats and Republicans in the Georgia Assembly approved a bill that would call for a change in the Georgia Constitution that would enable the Governor’s office to create a separate and centrally controlled school district composed of so-called “chronically failing schools,” based on an arbitrary score primarily based on student achievement test scores.  The new district would be called the Opportunity School District, which will be a copy of the Louisiana Recovery District, and the Tennessee Recovery District, each of which has resulted in failed attempts to improve education of students in schools, especially in New Orleans.

In Dr. Barber’s letter, he calls for a movement that isn’t liberal or conservative, but based on moral, fusion language (using his term). The Opportunity School District that voters in Georgia will vote on in the November 2016 election is not in the interests of students and parents that will be labeled as attending “chronically failing schools.”  You can read the bill here.

I believe that creating such a district is immoral, and lacks common sense for our students and their parents.  Twenty schools will be forced to become part of the Opportunity School District based solely on student achievement test scores.  After the first year, the Governor’s Office can force up to 20 more schools into the district, for five years.

The plan for the Opportunity School District is based on a “turnaround the lowest-achieving schools” philosophy that is outlined in Georgia Department of Education documents you can find here.  That philosophy is best described by Mr. Ed Johnson as “turnaround delusion.”

Turnaround delusion, according to Johnson, is promoted by reformsters who:

try and manage and control and ultimately standardize the “huge variety of value demand” that shows up at school every school day, mostly in the form of children. They know not to think to learn to absorb the value demand the children bring with them to school. After all, the children are the students, not them. Their delusive decision to turn APS into a Charter System exemplifies the genesis of the kind of failure demand they generate and then try to manage and control through standardized teaching and learning and performance (email correspondence from Ed Johnson, May 27, 2015).

Dr. Barber reports, that in North Carolina,  a movement had already reformed the voting laws before Obama was on the ballot—an interracial, intergenerational, anti-poverty, pro-labor fusion movement that was challenging even Democrats to be more committed to a moral vision.

It was unfortunate that Georgia Democrats in the Senate lacked the moral conviction to vote against the Governor’s bill (Senate Resolution 287).  Instead, some of cast a quid pro quo vote.  Where were the progressives among the state Democrats?

Barber goes on to explain the nature of a movement that needs to take root in Georgia if we are to affect the very nature of schooling for communities that is community based, and not controlled by administrators far from the center of the lives of Georgia students in “chronically failing schools.”

Here is what Dr. Barber says about “a different kind of movement”

Since the social, political, and economic system of slavery was defeated by progressive Northern white families aligning with hundreds of thousands of African slaves and freed people in the South in 1865, The Nation has fought to repair the deep breaches this system created in the human family of the nation. Today, when Southern legislatures have fallen to Tea Party zealots, the need for a Southern-oriented anti-racism mass movement is greater than ever. The Nation will continue to play an important role in building this movement in the South, and explaining it to the rest of the nation.

We need a transformative movement—state-based, deeply moral, deeply constitutional, pro-justice. We need to build for the long-term, not around one issue or campaign.

We need the kind of language that’s not left or right or conservative or liberal, but moral, fusion language that says:

  • It is extreme and immoral to suppress the right to vote.
  • It is extreme and immoral to deny Medicaid to millions of poor people, especially when denied by people who have been elected to office and receive their own insurance through that office.
  • It is extreme and immoral to raise taxes on the working poor and cut earned-income tax credits, especially in order to slash taxes for the wealthy.
  • It is extreme and immoral to shut off people’s water in Detroit.
  • It is extreme and immoral to end unemployment compensation for those who have lost jobs through no fault of their own.
  • It is extreme and immoral to resegregate and underfund our public schools.
  • It is mean, it is immoral, it is extreme to kick hardworking people when they are down.


The Governor’s plan is full of hypocrisy and lacks the moral vision that Dr. Barber calls for, and that a growing number of citizens of Georgia are setting the stage to act on.  On Monday, June 15, there will be a STOP OSD! Coalition Meeting at 1:00 P.M. at the Wheat Street Baptist Church, 359 Auburn Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30312.

Georgians need to unite to defeat the Opportunity School District, and insist that the Georgia Legislature fund schools a levels that will enable local school districts to carry out their own community based plans.


Michelle Rhee’s legacy

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Michelle Rhee’s legacy

Dr. O’Neil provides important comparisons between the Atlanta cheating scandal and the cheating scandal in Washington, D.C. under Michelle Rhee. The difference was the scandal in D.C. was buried.

Originally posted on mathbabe:

Lately, as background research for my book, I’ve been looking into the 2008 cheating scandal associated with Michelle Rhee’s high stakes Value-Added Model regime in the D.C. area, Specifically, I’m talking about the high erasure rates associated to certain standardized tests that had cash bonuses attached to large improvements, and the consequential investigation that was smothered

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