"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Democrats Sell out the Public Schools in Indiana

Full disclosure -- I'm not a Republican.

That probably doesn't surprise anyone who knows me. On the other hand, I'm not a Democrat either. In elections for the last 30 plus years, I've tried to focus on education issues...I've voted for people, no matter what their party affiliation, who promised to provide public schools with the tools needed to help children in Indiana and across the country. That choice -- of finding someone who will support the public schools -- seems to have come to an end. Our children, and the public schools in general, have become the battleground for the corporate takeover and privatization of America.

The drive to privatize public schools is not new. The current attack on public schools started (to a certain extent) during the term of President Reagan. During the first Bush administration, then Governor Clinton did his share to make testing the most important part of education -- something he continued as President Clinton (Goals 2000). President Bush II gave us No Child Left Behind, which leaves learning behind. President Obama has done the same when he fielded a team (under the direction of Arne Duncan) which brought testing from the terrible bludgeon it was under No Child Left Behind to a nuclear warhead under Race to the Top.

I think the Republican administration in Indiana (and others across the country...Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida, Ohio...) has been a disaster for public education, despite what Tony Bennett would have you believe. The proliferation of charter schools and the Indiana school voucher plan, both of which take much needed money from the public schools, has done nothing to improve the already successful system of public education in Indiana. Unfortunately, in my humble opinion, it will not be much better if Democrats take over.

It seems that John Gregg, the Democratic candidate for Governor of Indiana, has worked closely with Democrats for Education Reform and was, in fact, their Reformer of the Month last January.

Who are the Democrats for Education Reform? According to Daily Kos...
The loudest voices [in favor of Arne Duncan and against Linda Darling-Hammond for Secretary of Education] were those of a new organization calling themselves Democrats for Education reform (DFER), led by young extremely wealthy hedge fund operators from New York City...They want to shift the political debate by getting the Democratic Party to back innovations such as merit pay for teachers, a longer school day, and charter schools...

There is a glaring lack of experience or knowledge about education amongst the leaders of DFER. Michael Hirsch writing for the United Federation of Teachers explains, "...Understand that DFER’s endgame has little to do with learning and everything to do with marginalizing public-sector unionized workers and bringing down the cost of taxes for social programs. It’s about creating new business and investment opportunities in areas that are still publicly run and serving as a pre-emptive strike against any hope for private-sector union renewal. Where better to start than with attacking teacher unions, one of the few labor strongholds in this country? (emphasis added)
Democrats for Education Reform, or DFER, is the group which called Diane Ravitch a liar...and said...
Diane Ravitch is moving quickly to Limbaugh/Coulter status when it comes to education.
[Ravitch has her own things to say about DFER, at http://dianeravitch.net/category/democrats-for-education-reform/]

DFER also supported pro-voucher candidates in Wisconsin...and have supported increases in charter caps as well as the Parent Trigger despite the fact that charters have consistently been shown to be no better than regular public schools. "DFER's endgame has little to do with learning...It’s about creating new business and investment opportunities in areas that are still publicly run..." It's not about student learning at all. It's about money.

John Gregg has "worked closely with" DFER and they have rewarded him by awarding him the title of Reformer of the Month for January 2012...
As Speaker, John built bipartisan coalitions to pass two of Indiana’s most significant reform efforts, which established the state’s first charter schools and created Indiana’s landmark K-12 accountability system.
More testing...more teaching to the test...more basing teacher evaluations on test scores...more money for private schools...more corporate control over public money...more charter schools -- these are not reforms. These are gifts of our tax money to privatizers. They are tools for the removal of public oversight from public education. They are tools for the destruction of the single most important democratizing institution in our society -- the public schools.

Doug Martin, writing in the Common Errant, wrote an Open Letter to John Gregg. He said...
Betrayal Merits the Deepest Pit: John Gregg Supported by Corporate Ed Reform Funders

According to the DFER website, you are working closely with the hedge fund group to thrust their corporate ed. agenda. This is highly insulting, especially since many teachers have donated hard-working cash to your campaign. These educators have been demonized and desperately stressed by the same school privatization regime you have deceitfully jumped in bed with. Parents have also unknowingly given to your anti-parent campaign, and I know from my research into the DFER that the hedge fund money for you is just now beginning...It is time for the Wall Street psychopathy, the monetization of childhood, and the legalized land/school/housing/tax grabs for the rich to end. We want a public school system which teaches kids how to detect the deception the oligarchs are selling, not one which teaches kids how to grow up and steal their former teachers’ pensions.
I know the argument from the left...the Republicans would be worse for education in Indiana since they would likely continue the privatization effort so expertly handled by Daniels and Bennett. Maybe they would, but it still disappoints me that the only viable candidate against them is pushing the same erroneous program of privatization.

It's discouraging.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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