Your kids are the new frontiers in corporate profit

06 Dec 2011 11:55 am
Posted by: Donna

Per karoli at Crooks and Liars:

While union-busting is certainly one goal of the privatization monsters, profit is the primary goal. Education for profit is lucrative and alluring, especially to people with large sums of money parked and waiting for investment in big-profit items. So when Bill Gates claims to stand for education reform in this country, I place him squarely in the category of those who stand to profit from privatized education.

Now we have this grant from the Gates Foundation to ALEC, of all things. It isn’t a small grant, by any stretch. $376,635 to be paid over a period of 22 months. That’s about $17,000 per month dropping into the coffers of one of the most evil organizations in the country.

I’m with karoli on this. Some famously wealthy individuals seem to be taking a lot of interest in “reforming” public schools lately and their prescriptions for improvement just so happen to be found in privatization schemes. And busting unions. So in that light it makes sense for the Gates Foundation to hook up with ALEC. I hope my many Democratic friends who fancy themselves “ed reformers” take note of this development and ask themselves what kind of progressive improvements to public education they could expect from it.

And here on the home front we have the announcement that former Intel CEO Craig Barrett was appointed to chair Arizona’s new Ready Education Council, formerly known as the Governor’s P-20 Council. Yay! He’s got super ideas about efficiency and stuff which he learned from running a Fortune 500 company that manufactures computer chips. There’s no doubt Barrett’s expertise at that one thing translates into expertise at many other things, including teaching kids, because he’s rich. He’s also the president of BASIS Charter Schools. Nope, no conflict of interest or self-dealing there. He’s really the perfect guy for Governor Coughlin’s oops I mean Brewer’s Council.

While acknowledging Arizona is “not terribly high” on funding per students compared to other states, he rejected the idea that more money is at least part of the answer.

In fact, Barrett said he does not even believe that the state needs to pay teachers more to attract the best and the brightest into education. He says the key is paying each teacher not only according to his or her performance but according to the business practices of supply and demand.

Wait until he figures out how to outsource teaching jobs to India and China! Barrett, who lives in a very nice mansion in Paradise Valley, is a revered figure around these parts. Back in March he had some scathing remarks about the poor quality of Arizona’s education system and how Intel would have seriously reconsidered locating here had things been as bad back when they did. There was much plotzing over this among local Business Class Democrats. Now the iconic Dr. Barrett comes to the rescue of the entire state school system, which he will accomplish somehow without additional funding. Good thing, since he’s part of the reason there’s less revenue to fund anything in Arizona. Barrett was CEO of Intel back in 2005 when the company threatened to pull a long-planned fab expansion out of Chandler unless they were given a massive tax break. The legislature and Governor Napolitano caved and the result was Sales Factor Reform, a reworking of the tax code on Intel’s behalf that cut their tax bill to the state by around 95%.

If you’re still wondering why rich guys like Gates and Barrett might be so interested in education “reform” here’s a good explanation of the Wall Street charter school connection by Paul Rosenberg of Open Left.

When Otto von Bismark created the first conservative welfare state, it was designed to co-opt the Social Democrat’s most popular idea, while strengthening German industry internationally and strengthening the power of its elites internally by placing them in charge of caring for social needs. In America, the pattern is a little messier, as it represents a convergence of different conservative interests, all the while being disavowed as conservatives repeatedly claim to be against the “nanny state”. But here we can see at least five different conservative ends being served at once: (1) The attack on public education itself is a prime example of the attack on social democratic ideas and institutions, paralleling Bismark’s co-opting of the Social Democratic Party’s most popular idea. This serves to discredit public education, take money away from the public education system, and take money and jobs away from public employees and their unions. (2) The siphoning off of certain students into separate learning environments is part of the conservative agenda for inscribing hierarchical differences in society. (3) The creation of lucrative money-making opportunities funnels public money to more wealthy members of society. (4) The creation of private governance structures further strengthens the power of unaccountable conservative elites, weakening democratic control. (5) The private governance structures in turn empower crony networks that can also serve as organizing foundations for further consolidation of conservative power.

UPDATE: David Safier of Blog for Arizona, who covers education extensively, exposed Barrett’s background in profit-rich charter school advocacy back in June.

12 Comments

  1. Comment by Timmys Cat on December 6, 2011 2:43 pm

    Step away from the latte and make no sudden moves. Sheesh!

    I used Google-fu on BASIS ’cause I’m nosy (hey! imma cat!) Interesting cast of critters.

    Lotsa Goldwater Institute boys on there. Steve Twist, blech. Remember your post from about three seconds ago naming the Morrison Institute? Check out Don Budinger. He’s on that board as well.
    I’m sure it’s all just about being philanthropic. (to their own freaking wallets).

  2. Comment by Timmys Cat on December 6, 2011 2:47 pm

    Three seconds ago in Diva time.

  3. Comment by David Safier on December 7, 2011 7:46 am

    I’d forgotten about that post about the skin Barrett has in the ed privatization game. Thanks for reminding me.

    In today’s Tucson Weekly (I think), I should have a column about Arizona’s new ed privatization scheme, Empowerment Accounts. The term I use is Voucher Laundering — “cleaning” the government off of state money so it can be spent on religious school tuition.

  4. Comment by Timmys Cat on December 7, 2011 8:36 am

    Good thing I’m not .paranoid

  5. Comment by Timmys Cat on December 7, 2011 8:41 am

    Dang, won’t let me link. School vouchers was one of Paul Wyerichs big plans for control of education for the teaching rightwing Christian values . That evil creature also founded The Heritage Foundation and help found the Moral Majority

  6. Comment by Fuming on December 7, 2011 12:40 pm

    Very, very sad for our future. A true economist will say EVERYONE should be educated FREE. You never know where the next breakthrough will come from. If that 1 person, that can help the planet is left out, the future is left out. So sad, t…o see Barrett involved in this. The pay structure didn’t work at his Fortune 500 Company and now he wants to apply it to teachers. (Oh sorry, ii works if YOU are the one GETTING the money, in the right “click.”) Intel located for the tax breaks and cheap labor in Az. The employees helped improve the schools by participating with their children in their education !!!! And why do teacher’s salaries NOT count, when CEO’s want bigger and bigger bonuses. There isn’t one good teacher I know of that doesn’t put some of their OWN money towards the children in their classroom. How about funding what we have and improve what is needed. Support Public Education !!!!!!!!!! Maybe we should limit the CEO’s and rich to private roads. SInce the public paid for them, they wouldn’t be able to leave their houses with their nonsense ideas.

  7. Comment by Timmys Cat on December 7, 2011 3:23 pm

    Ok, i are paranoid.

    THIS

    THIS Lewis C Solomom- Director

    THIS

    THIS> 5th paragraph down

    And the music goes round and round…

    If all my linkies work, you and (morley)Safier owe me sashimi.

  8. Comment by Timmys Cat on December 7, 2011 3:28 pm

    Bugger, second linkie was to the Corp Comiss website. Basis Schools 2000 corporate filing. Solomom is listed as director.

    you still owe

    (morley) -hee!

  9. Comment by Timmys Cat on December 7, 2011 3:56 pm

    Yeah yeah OCD. (really)

    DOC 00143740

  10. Comment by Timmys Cat on December 7, 2011 4:11 pm

    Yeah Yeah
    (quit smirking)

    Check out Agenda Item H

    I’m sure Twist had never heard of BASIS before. Can’t pin down when he joind the schools board.

  11. Comment by Eli_Blake on December 9, 2011 9:24 am

    You’re missing one large (in fact huge) part of the picture. The role of the testing companies.

    I lived in Texas in 1997-1998 and dealt with TASS and TASP (standardized tests that were required before studetns could get their diplomas from high school and community college respectively.) At the time the testing industry was a billion dollar a year industry in Texas, with the strong support of the Governor (who talked about ‘holding schools accountable’) and fulltime lobbyists making sure they got their share of the spoils from state coffers.

    Three years later said Governor was (s)elected as President and came up with a revolutionary ‘new idea.’ NCLB. So those testing companies that made huge $ in Texas, now got to do the same thing in the other 49 states. The tests are of course of dubious value and as teachers teach to the test (since their school won’t get funded if they don’t) critical thinking skills have declined. Textbook publishers have also gotten into the act, with testing now so high-stakes that school districts are tossing the old curriculum in favor of AIMS preparation even at the first grade:

    http://www.amazon.com/Arizona-Harcourt-Math-Preparation-Workbook/dp/015342334X/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1323281173&sr=1-2

    And in the process they are lubricating the transition to private schools and charter schools of which you speak, since under NCLB the lowest performing 20% of schools must be considered for a government takeover and transition to a charter school after firing at least half of the teachers at the school. Of course the wickedness here is that 20% is 20%. Even if EVERY school was doing a great job, 1 out of 5 would still be the ‘lowest performing’ and would be on the list, almost like a quota of schools to be turned over every year.

    The Obama administration has not helped either, with its ‘race to the top.’ Instead of sending funding to states to help adequately fund all schools, they must now compete with the reward being adequate funding for two states every year. All in the name of ‘competition.’

  12. Comment by Eli_Blake on December 9, 2011 9:26 am

    Though, I do have to admire the teamwork among conservatives in working together to further all their agendas. I wish we were better at doing the same thing.

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