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.
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