Gates funded “independent” media cheers Gates plan to privatize public education in Liberia

In stunning expose written by Adam Johnson of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), it becomes undeniably clear that Bill Gates has reached the point where his billions not only fund the myriad of corporate education reform initiatives that are sweeping the country and the world, but his investment in the media taints much of the coverage of these developments.

In an article entitled, This Guardian Piece Touting Bill Gates’ Education Investment Brought to You by Bill Gates, FAIR’s Adam Johnson explains;

The Guardian (8/31/16) published a broadly positive report on Liberian education, which is handing over the reins of 120 primary schools to a consortium of private education companies and NGOs in a pilot program exploring privatization of the West African nation’s schools. One passage in particular was especially glowing:

The deputy minister [of Education], Aagon Tingba, is reading The Bee Eater, a biography of Michele Rhee, a polarizing educational reformist and former chancellor of Washington, DC, public schools.

“She changed the lives of children in Washington, but people complained her methods were controversial. But she made a difference. So why can’t we do that here?”

What the piece failed to note—other than the fact that Rhee’s tenure left DC’s schools “worse by almost every conceivable measure” (Truthout, 10/23/13)—is that multi-billionaire Bill Gates is both the major investor of the company administering the Liberian education overhaul and the principal of the Gates Foundation, sponsor of the Guardian’s Global Development vertical, where the story appeared.

The story clearly labels the Gates Foundation as its sponsor. What it never mentioned is that Bill Gates is a major investor of the firm at the heart of the story, Bridge Academies International, having pitched in, along with Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and eBay co-founder Pierre Omidyar, $100 million for the “education startup.”

Making the conflict more glaring is the fact that this is a personal, for-profit investment for Gates, not a charitable donation.

The Guardian claims its Global Development vertical, launched in 2011, is “editorially independent of any sponsorship.” According to its most recent tax filings in 2014, the Gates Foundation has an on-going $5.69 million grant to Guardian News Media Limited.

This is hardly the first time that the Gates subsidized coverage of himself has led to a positive news angle.  Adam Johnson adds,

The Guardian has run other puff pieces on the Gates Foundation in this vertical, such as “Gates Foundation Annual Letter: What Do You Think of Their Vision?” (1/22/15), which is basically an investment letter, along with “Melinda Gates Hits Out at ‘War on Women’ on Eve of Summit” (7/7/12) and “Bill Gates: Digital Learning Will Revolutionize Education in Global South” (1/22/15).

Johnson goes on to point out that,

FAIR has written for years about how Gates’ investment tentacles influence the media. He’s done softball interviews pushing common core with ABC (3/18/14), helped bankroll charter school reporting at the LA Times(8/24/15), funded the talking heads behind Race to the Top (9/1/10).

The Gates Foundation gives grants in the hundreds of thousands and often millions to such media organizations as NBCUniversal, Al Jazeera, BBC, Viacom (CBS) and Participant Media (the producer of pro-charter school documentary Waiting for Superman). Both Gates and the Gates Foundation are sizable shareholders in Comcast, which is the primary investor in Buzzfeed and Vox, as well the parent corporation of MSNBC and NBC News–the latter of which teamed up with Gates and other noted education experts like Exxon and University of Phoenix Online for the week-long charter school commercial “Education Week”.

And Johnson properly concludes;

In the case of the Guardian, Gates effectively owns an entire vertical, so when one of his investments is written up, one doesn’t notice the conflict of interest—like a fish doesn’t notice water. Because his influence is everywhere, it appears to be nowhere.

You can read and comment on Adam Johnson’s entire piece at: http://fair.org/home/this-guardian-piece-touting-bill-gates-education-investment-brought-to-you-by-bill-gates/

FYI – The following is background about Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting;

FAIR, the national media watch group, has been offering well-documented criticism of media bias and censorship since 1986. We work to invigorate the First Amendment by advocating for greater diversity in the press and by scrutinizing media practices that marginalize public interest, minority and dissenting viewpoints. As an anti-censorship organization, we expose neglected news stories and defend working journalists when they are muzzled. As a progressive group, FAIR believes that structural reform is ultimately needed to break up the dominant media conglomerates, establish independent public broadcasting and promote strong non-profit sources of information.

You can contribute to FAIR via the following link: https://www.cambeywest.com/subscribe2/?p=EXT&f=donate

Education reform billionaire Paul Allen’s Yacht destroys vital coral reef in Cayman Islands

Billionaire, Microsoft founder, college drop-out and charter school champion Paul Allen’s yacht, the MV Tatoosh, severely damaged 14,000 square feet of coral reef in the Cayman Island’s Coral Replenishment Zone earlier this month.  Local officials have reported that, “about 80% of the reef, situated in a protected area, was destroyed by the ship’s chain.”

A spokesman for Allen initially claimed that published reports were exaggerated and that it was the Cayman Islands’ harbor master’s fault for mooring the boat in that location.  Now, faced with a possible $600,000 fine, Allen has apparently dispatched a team to help deal with the damage his yacht did to the coral reef.

Paul Allen, who is worth $18 Billion, sits at the #27 spot on Forbes’ list of American billionaires and #51 on list of all the billionaires in the world.  Allen, a childhood friend of Bill Gates, drop-out from Washington State University and formed Microsoft with Gates after Gates dropped out of Harvard.

In the small world department, Donald Trump purchased Paul Allen’s Boeing 757-200 in 2011.  Now called “Trump Force One,” the plane serves as the visual backdrop for many of Trump’s photo ops.  The plane, retrofitted to Trump’s demands includes, “A master bath with 24-karat gold fixtures… In fact, virtually every fixture in the plane is 24-karat gold plated! Even the seat belts!”

But back to Paul Allen…

Widely recognized for his philanthropic generosity of conservation projects and programs to improve health care and educational opportunities for girls in the 3rd world, Allen won acclaim in December 2013 when he sold his private island in Washington State and donated $100 million to help with the emerging Ebola Crisis.

Allen owns the Trail Blazers, Seattle Seahawks and Seattle Sounders, a leading American soccer team.  He also ranks as the 8th wealthiest yacht owner in the world with three mega-yachts including; the Tatoosh, the 49th largest private yacht in the world; the Octopus, which is even larger than the Tatoosh, and the smaller Méduse.

While Paul Allen uses some his money to expand educational opportunities for girls in poor nations, when it comes to public students of the United States, Allen, like his childhood buddy Bill Gates, is using his fortune to undermine public education by promoting the charter school industry and the corporate education reform agenda.

Grants from Allen’s private foundation include, $150,000 for Stand for Children Leadership Center, a major political front group for the charter school industry.

“Reforming” the nation’s teacher training system has also been a top priority for Allen.  His donations include $2.8 million to The Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession, $550,000 to The Alliance for Education, $325,000 to a teacher training reform group funded through Foundations For A Better Oregon  and $150,000 to the Business Education Compact, an entity that supports “proficiency-based teaching and learning.”

Digital Learning Commons, an effort to shift children to online courses has received $350,000 from Paul Allen, while Teach For America has collected at least $400,000 from the billionaire.

When it comes to promoting the charter school industry, Allen’s donations include $275,000 to the Washington State Charter Schools Association, along with massive lobbying and campaign expenditures in support of efforts to build charter schools in Washington State.

After Washington State voters rejected a major charter school initiative in 1996 by a two to one margin, Bill Gates and the Charter School Industry turned to the Washington legislature to try and force Washington State to approve and fund charter schools.  However, those legislative effort failed in 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000.

As the Associated Press reported in 2000, the pro-charter school corporate education reform lobby tried to get both the legislature and the electorate to approve and fund charter schools.

Employees from Paul Allen’s company, Vulcan Inc., were dispatched to help pass pro-charter school legislation and Allen donated his lobbyist to help with the effort. Allen also put up the $700,000 to help get Initiative 729 onto the Washington State ballot.  The initiative would have legalized charter schools in Washington State and required taxpayers to fund 80 new charter schools.

This time the initiative lost 52 percent to 48 percent.

Undaunted, Bill Gates, Paul Allen and the super-rich continued to fund efforts to undermine Washington State’s public school system.  In a 2012 article entitled Bill Gates, other billionaires funding charter effort in Washington state, the Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss highlighted their activities reporting;

To get an understanding of how America’s wealthiest people are using some of their fortunes to drive school reform, take a look at a list of the contributors to the pro-charter school initiative on the Washington state ballot in November. The first few pages — the ones with the biggest donations — is a who’s who of billionaires.

The money is being donated to support Initiative 1240, which, if passed, would allow public charter schools to open in the state for the first time.  Washington voters have rejected the opening of public charter schools three times — in 1996, 2000 and 2004 — but supporters are nothing if not persistent.

First on the list (which starts with the biggest donations and goes down) is Microsoft founder Bill Gates, with a $2 million gift dated Oct. 4, 2012. He is also third on the list — with an $800,000 donation dated June 19, 2012, and he is No. 11 on the list — with a donation of $200,000, dated June 7.  His aggregate total, according to the Oct. 4. report, is $3.053 million.

Another billionaire occupies the No 2 spot — Alice Walton of Walmart Stores, Inc., fame, who, unlike Gates, doesn’t live in the state. Her Oct. 5 donation is listed at $1.1 million. She is also fourth on the list, with a July 11 donation of $600,000, giving her an aggregate total of $1.7 million.

Walton is listed on the Public Disclosure Commission form as a resident of Bentonville, Ark., so you might wonder why she cares so much about charter schools in Washington State. The Walton Family Foundation has been instrumental in funding charter school and voucher initiatives around the country over the past several years.

We move to No. 5 on the list, billionaire entrepreneur Nicolas J. Hanauer of Seattle, with a $550,000 gift dated Sept. 14, which adds to his $250,000 gift on July 11, his $175,000 donation on June 28 and his June 5 donation of $25,000, for an aggregate of $1 million.

No. 6 and No. 7 are Jackie Bezos and her husband, Mike, who happen to be the parents of Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos. They each gave $250,000, for a total of half a million, dated Aug. 28. But wait, they are also No. 13 and 14 on the list too, each with a $125,000 donation dated June 13. They are listed as living in Mercer Island, Wash.

At No. 8 is the fabulously wealthy Anne Dinning, a powerhouse at the hedge fudge giant DeShaw & Co., who gave $250,000, as did her husband, Michael Wolf, for a total of half a million for the couple. They live in New York. Wolf is No. 10 on the list.

Rounding out the top 15 is another Microsoft billionaire, Paul Allen of Seattle, who donated $100,000 on June 14.

The latest public disclosure forms show that cash contributions to the pro charter effort amount to $8.3 million. Opponents of the charter initiative say they have no wealthy donors and far less money.

This all helps illustrate what education historian Diane Ravitch referred to as “the billionaire boy’s club” (which apparently has expanded to include females) in her  bestselling book, “The Life and Death of the Great American School System,” and her in subsequent writings. In this post, she wrote: “Today, the question of democracy looms large as we see increasing efforts to privatize the control of public schools. There is an even more worrisome and allied trend, and that is the growing influence of money in education politics at the state and local levels.”

This time the “big money” forces won, passing the pro-charter school initiative by a vote of 50.7 percent to 49.3 percent.

However, pro-public education advocates challenged the law in the courts and Washington State’s Supreme Court recently ruled the new law was unconstitutional.

But have no fear, Bill Gates, Paul Allen and the other the corporate elite behind education reform continue their fight to force Washington State voters to accept and pay for charter schools.

As for Allen and his collection of mega yachts, Boat International magazine explains;

Tatoosh, a five-deck yacht displacing 3,616 tonnes, was built for cellphone magnate Craig McCaw and later sold to Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. A model of understated luxury, she has a huge owner’s suite with a full-beam bedroom, family room, observation lounge, office, gymnasium and two cabins for children. Six guest cabins are located on the lower deck. Aside from the main and dining saloons, there are a panoramic lounge and cinema.

Other facilities include two helipads with refueling equipment, one for the yacht’s own McDonnell Douglas MD500 and one for guests’ helicopters; a 12 metre speedboat and a Frers-designed 13 metre sailboat positioned in davits to port and starboard; a swimming pool; and a diving room with decompression chamber in the stern.

Tatoosh is manned by a full-time crew of 30, with facilities available for visiting staff and the helicopter pilot.

The Tatoosh is the yacht that damaged the Cayman Island coral reef.

Then there is the Octopus which is “one the world’s largest yachts.” Superyachtfan.com notes;

Octopus has a large helicopter hangar on the main deck, giving shelter to two helicopters. The yacht has a large glass bottom pool and a 10 person submarine. The submarine and the main tender (named Man of War) float into the yacht through a large hatch. The yacht has a music recording studio on the bridge deck. Other features include an observation lounge, a cinema, a juice bar near a gym, a salon and a medical centre. The owner has his dedicated deck, with a large study, a walk-in closet and an outside bar with whirlpool. There is a large VIP cabin, 4 guest cabins, a children’s cabin and two additional staff/doctors cabins.

And finally, the Méduse, a smaller 60 meter superyacht which is equipped with a “large helicopter and with a diving recompression chamber, elevator, cinema, gymnasium and two staterooms on deck, plus 4 other guest suites, and a nanny cabin.”

Oh, and last but not least – needless to say – none of these mega yachts are registered in the United States.  In order to avoid paying US Taxes they are all registered at “off-shore” locations.

Selling the Common Core – Bill and Melinda Gates’ Audacious Plan to Control Public Education  

“If you don’t want a man unhappy politically, don’t give him two sides to a question to worry him; give him one. Better yet, give him none…Cram them full of noncombustible data, chock them so damned full of ‘facts’ they feel stuffed, but absolutely ‘brilliant’ with information. Then they’ll feel they’re thinking, they’ll get a sense of motion without moving. And they’ll be happy…” – Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451)

February 2011:  A Gates Foundation grant to the National Association of State Boards of Education – “to build the capacity of State Boards of Education to better position them to achieve full implementation of the Common Core standards.”

April 2011:  A Gates Foundation grant to the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) – “to assist teachers in understanding and implementing the Common Core State Standards.”

June 2011:  A Gates Foundation grant to the Council of Chief State School Officers – “to support the Common Core State Standards work.”

June 2011:  A Gates Foundation grant to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) – “to promote education policy reform at the state and federal level…”

June 2011:  A Gates Foundation grant to the National Urban League Inc. – “to promote national and state advocacy, engagement and education reform efforts throughout the National Urban League affiliate movement…”

November 2011:  A Gates Foundation grant to the Military Child Education Coalition – “to develop and execute an advocacy campaign in support of the implementation of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in multiple states by leveraging the voices and actions of its network of military families and uniform leadership.”

November 2011:  A Gates Foundation grant to the New Venture Fund – “to support efforts to better engage and mobilize public support for educational policy and advocacy goals, especially around common core standards and effective teaching reforms within and among the faith community and faith leaders .”

The control of information is something the elite always does, particularly in a despotic form of government. Information, knowledge, is power. If you can control information, you can control people. – Tom Clancy

Enter Bill and Melinda Gates et.al.

Led by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Walton Foundation (Owners of Wal-Mart) and the Eli Broad Foundation, along with the “Irrational Exuberance” of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, the Common Core and Common Core testing system have rocketed from an untested conceptual notion of education reform to the untested national standards and systems that are rapidly undermining public education in the United States.

In a June 2014 article entitled, “How Bill Gates pulled off the swift Common Core revolution,” The Washington Post examined what it called, “the swiftest and most remarkable shifts in education policy in U.S. history.”

Today, while much of the discussion about “Education Reform” revolves around the diversion of scarce public funds to privately owned and practically unaccountable charter schools and the debate about whether the Common Core Standards are useful or appropriate and whether the unfair and discriminatory Common Core testing scam can be derailed, there is a growing realization that the rise of the Common Core is one of the biggest public relations snow jobs in American history.

And like the Common Core itself, much of the credit for the “Selling of the Common Core” goes to Bill and Melinda Gates and their Gates Foundation which has successfully bought up key constituencies and advocacy groups across the political spectrum.

Earlier this year (May 2015), the Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss reported that, “Gates Foundation pours millions more into Common Core.”   Strauss wrote;

Bill Gates famously spent hundreds of millions of dollars to develop, implement and promote the now controversial Common Core State Standards. He hasn’t stopped giving.

In the last seven months, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has poured more than $10 million into implementation and parent support for the Core… [Including] $3.7 million to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to support the Core at a time when it has come under increasing attack across the country, for both educational and political reasons.

[…]

Opposition to the Core has grown stronger this year with the rise of the opt-out movement, in which hundreds of thousands of parents around the country are opting their children out of Core-aligned standardized testing.  The attacks on the Core — which include moves by some states to repeal them and create new standards — have alarmed supporters, some of whom have been pushing back against the criticism. That explains a letter that a nonprofit group called Children Now just released, disseminated via e-mail that had a subject line that says, “At critical juncture 500 California organizations affirm support for Common Core.” Not so incidentally, Children Now has received at least $2 million from the Gates Foundation since 2011.

Money to assist the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Children Now, the Pro-Common Core advocacy group, promote Gates’ Education Reform and Common Core agenda is just the tip of a much bigger effort by Gates and the Corporate Education Reform Industry to control the debate about public education in the United States and dismiss, trivialize and silence opponents of the Common Core and the public school privatization mania that is sweeping the country.

The following are just some of the grants that the Gates Foundation has handed out in recent years to help ensure that a “positive” Common Core message is fed to the nation’s parents, children, teachers, policymakers and taxpayers;  

 

ORGANIZATION YEAR AMOUNT
National Association of State Boards of Education  2009 $450,000
     
Alliance for Excellent Education Inc.                         2009 $551,000
  2010 $3,200,000
  2013 $425,000
     
Council of State Governments 2010 $400,000
  1011 $370,000
     
Education Commission of the States  2010 $799,000
     
New Visions for Public Schools, Inc.  2010 $8,150,000
  2013 $80,000
     
National Governors Association  2010 $1,294,000
  2013 $750,000
     
National Association of State Boards of Education  2011 $1,078,000
  2013 $80,000
 
   
American Federation of Teachers  2011 $1,000,000
  2012 $4,400,000
     
Military Child Education Coalition 2011 $150,000
  2013 $564,000
     
NAACP 2011 $1,006,000
     
National Urban League Inc. 2011 $2,899,000
     
Council of Chief State School Officers  2011 $9,389,000
  2012 $1,100,000
  2013 $800,000
  2013 $4,000,000
  2013 $1,959,000
     
Council of Great City Schools  2011 $5,511,000
  2013 $2,000,000
     
Americas Promise-The Alliance For Youth  2011 $500,000
  2013 $100,000
     
New Venture Fund  2011 $378,000
  2013 $1,150,000
  2014 $12,750,000
     
Hunt Institute for Educational Leadership and Policy  2011 $501,000
  2012 $45,000
  2013 $100,000
  2013 $500,000
  2013 $1,749,000
     
Children Now 2011 $900,000
  2014 $475,000
  2015 $700,000
  2015 $150,000
     
Student Achievement Partners Inc.  2012 $4,043,000
     
National Education Association  2012 $100,000
  2013 $3,883,000
  2013 $502,000
  2014 $100,000
     
PTA (National Congress of Parents and Teachers) 2013 $660,000
     
Council for a Strong America 2013 $2,200,000
     
National Catholic Educational Association 2013 $100,000
     
Foundation for Excellence in Education Inc. 2013 $2,000,000
     
Center for American Progress 2013 $550,000
     
National Conference of State Legislatures 2013 $557,000
     
U.S. Chamber of Commerce 2013 $1,911,000
  2015 $3,701,000
     
Partnership for Learning 2013 $750,000
     
United Way 2014 $1,213,000
     
Ed Week – Editorial Projects in Education Inc. 2014 $750,000
     
Children Now 2011 $900,000
  2014 $475,000
  2015 $700,000
  2015 $150,000
     
Leadership Educational Achievement Inc. 2014 $225,000
     
Silicon Valley Education Foundation 2014 $750,000
     
Stand for Children  2014 $2,551,000
     
The Match Foundation, Inc. 2014 $341,000
     
Learning First Alliance 2014 $366,000
     
Consortium for Educational Change 2014 $7,500,000
     
George W. Bush Institute 2014 $120,000
     
The Get Schooled Foundation 2015 $1,576,000
     
Parent Institute for Quality Education, Inc. 2015 $307,000
     
GreatSchools, Inc. 2015 $800,000
     
WestEd 2015 $4,095,000

And the list goes on and on…

For as Doors lead singer Jim Morrison said,

Whoever controls the media, controls the mind.” 

Money Talks – By Ann Policelli Cronin at Real Learning Blog

Ann Policelli Cronin is an education advocate and fellow blogger.  Many of her commentary pieces have been featured here at Wait, What? and in other Connecticut media outlets.  Ann is a Connecticut educator who taught middle and high school English and was named  Connecticut Outstanding English Teacher of the Year. She currently is a consultant in English education for school districts and university schools of education.  You can bookmark and read her blog at Real Learning CT.

In her piece entitled, Money Talks, Ann lays out the extremely troubling reality about how the wealthiest many in the world is undermining public education in the United States.  Ann Policelli writes,

At first, I felt empathy for Bill and Melinda Gates as they spoke about the Common Core in an interview with Gwen Ifill on the PBS NewsHour. I always feel for people who are talking publicly about something about which they know very little. I then reminded myself that these two people who know so little are actually in charge, almost single-handedly, of American education. That is profoundly wrong. Children and adolescents are entitled to the best education their society can provide. And in a democracy, it is unconscionable for the wealthy few to decide what that education will be.

You can watch the 9:54 minute interview with Bill and Melinda Gates here –  please click this link

1. Bill Gates says the Common Core sets high standards, but the Common Core Standards are not high. The Common Core Standards are judged to be harmful and developmentally inappropriate by the most respected early childhood professionals in the country. The math Common Core Standards prepare students for math at the community college level and do not equip students with the high school math to set them on the path for STEM careers. The Common Core English Standards require a pedagogy, popular in the 1930’s and 1940’s but now discredited. The National Council of Teachers of English did not endorse the Common Core. The Common Core is the antithesis of what we know, from John Dewey and many others who have studied the learning process, about how human beings learn because those standards do not teach students to create meaning and construct knowledge.

2. Bill Gates said that the Common Core Standards “have gotten the K-12 progression down”, but the Common Core Standards have not done that. The standards are not based on the cognitive, social, and psychological development of children and adolescents and do not address how children and adolescents learn. Both are required for a K-12 progression.

3. Bill Gates said the Common Core Standards will help students who move from one state to another state, but those standards do not help those students. Standards are not curriculum. Just because using adverbial clauses is part of a Grade 9-10 standard does not mean that it will be taught on the same day or even the same year in Florida and in Massachusetts. There are 188 skills for 9th and 10th graders and no schedule for when they are taught within those two years. To have uniformity of instruction, there would have to be a national curriculum with daily, scripted lessons used in every state at the same time. And that is against the law.

4. Melinda Gates said the Common Core Standards eliminate the need for remediation at the community college level, but the Common Core Standards do not eliminate the need for remediation.  Standards alone never create achievement even when achievement is based on the low bar of standardized tests. According to the Brookings Institute,” the CCSS (Common Core) will have little or no effect on student achievement”. The Brookings Institute report provides data that demonstrates that students in states that adopted the Common Core Standards did not do any better than students in states that did not adopt the Common Core, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the largest and most respected national assessment of what U.S. students know and can do.

5. Melinda Gates said that the Common Core Standards were approved by the governors and state commissioners of education, but no governor or state commissioner approved the Common Core Standards. Governors and commissioners voted to adopt a set of standards a year before the Common Core committee convened to write the standards. They had no idea what those standards would be so it is not true to say that governors and commissioners decided that the Common Core Standards were better, higher, or lovelier than the standards the states already had.

6. Melinda Gates said the governors and commissioners of education voted for the Common Core Standards because they knew it was the right thing to do, but doing the right thing was not their goal. They voted for undetermined standards in order to avoid financial sanctions from the federal government for not having 100% proficiency (an impossible goal) as specified by No Child Left Behind.

7. Melissa Gates said teachers believe in the Common Core, but teachers increasingly oppose the Common Core. In fact, the more teachers work with the Common Core, the less they like it, the less they think it’s the right thing.

8. Melinda Gates said teaching the Common Core makes teachers “step up their game”, but teaching the Common Core requires very little of teachers.Teaching the Common Core drains the life out of teachers. Teachers do not need to think critically, plan thoughtfully, and design assessments to evaluate their students’ growth and achievement. Teaching the Common Core also does not give teachers those rewarding moments in which they see their students in love with learning and motivated to stretch themselves as far as they can because the learning environment is so inviting.

9. Bill and Melinda Gates equate assessments of learning with standardized tests. The two are not the same. Not even close. Every educator knows the difference between real achievement and standardized test scores. Bill and Melinda Gates must know that too because they send their children to a private school which neither teaches the Common Core nor assesses students with standardized tests.

10. Bill and Melinda Gates said the best part of their work in education was seeing great teachers at work, but they didn’t ask one teacher to be part of creating standards for K-12 education. How great do they really think teachers are? I would bet, in their work of fighting ebola and finding cures for AIDS, they asked medical people to play key roles. Teachers, K-12 curriculum directors, college professors, and researchers who are knowledgeable about how children and adolescents learn could have created excellent standards for education, but Bill and Melinda Gates didn’t ask them.

Bottom line: Money talks. Even when it doesn’t know what it’s talking about.

Families for Excellent Schools, Luke Bronin and the expansion of the Charter School and Corporate Education Reform Industry in Hartford Connecticut.

Families for Excellent Schools (FES) is a major New York City based, corporate funded, charter school and education reform advocacy group.

In recent months the group and its allies have played an increasingly powerful role on behalf of Greenwich native and political newcomer Luke Bronin’s campaign for mayor of Hartford.

The work for Bronin is only part of the organization’s effort to expand into Connecticut.

So far this year FES has spent well in excess of a $1.5 million to push Governor Malloy’s successful effort to divert scarce public funds to charter schools rather than adequately funding Connecticut’s public schools.  The net effect of Malloy’s pro-charter school, pro-Common Core testing and anti-teacher agenda is that charter schools are getting even more public funds while local Connecticut communities are being forced to raise property taxes and cut public school programs just to balance local budgets.

Families for Excellent Schools also have their hand in Luke Bronin’s recent win in the Democratic Primary for Mayor of Hartford and a recent job post announces that the group is also hiring a Hartford, Connecticut organizer “to work with its Connecticut team.”

Andrew Doba, Governor Dannel Malloy’s former mouthpiece, who also served as Hartford mayoral candidate Luke Bronin’s spokesman, is the lead consultant for Families for Excellent Schools in Connecticut.  Doba works for a New York based public relations group that is headed by the former spokesperson for Michael Bloomberg.

Not only has Families for Excellent Schools been paying Malloy/Bronin’s spokesperson but the organization has also handed hundreds of thousands of dollars over to Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy’s top advisor and the managing director in Connecticut for another New York-based public relations firm called Global Strategies.

Occhiogrosso, who played a key role in Malloy’s 2010 and 2014 campaigns and worked in the Governor’s Office during Malloy’s first term, collected millions from Malloy’s various re-election campaign accounts in 2014. Occhiogrosso and his firm are also one of the highest paid consultants to Luke Bronin during his recent campaign for Mayor.

Formed in 2011, the Charter School and Corporate Education Reform Industry advocacy group Families for Excellent School’s fundraising has skyrocketed from $642,042 in 2011 to $1,000,053 in 2012 to $12,264,668 in 2013.  The entity’s IRS 2014 filing is not yet available.

According to a recent article in the Nation magazine entitled, 9 Billionaires Are About to Remake New York’s Public Schools—Here’s Their Story, both the Chair and Vice Chair of the Families for Excellent Schools Board of Directors are among the super elite that are funding the extraordinary effort to undermine public education in the United States.

Though Families for Excellent Schools presents itself as a grassroots parent education reform organization, four of its five original board members are Wall Street titans like Bryan Lawrence and Paul Appelbaum, who made their millions in the hedge fund and private equity worlds respectively.

Other FES Board members also come to the table having made millions as hedge fund and private equity managers.

Of the $12.3 million that Families for Excellent Schools collected in 2013, $9.1 million was spent on television, radio and direct mail campaigns in support of pro-charter school initiatives like those proposed by Democrat Governors Andrew Cuomo and Dannel Malloy.

Since its inception, Families for Excellent Schools has been involved in some of the most controversial pro-charter lobbying efforts in recent years.

As part of its 2015 effort to support Governor Malloy’s charter school funding initiative, the group bussed in charter school parents and students from as far away as New York and Boston for a rally on the lawn of the State Capitol in Hartford.  More recently, the group sent out glossy mailings to voters in a number of Connecticut legislative districts “thanking them” for their pro-charter school vote – a vote that will actually end up costing state and local property taxpayers even more money.

Families for Excellent Schools also spent approximately $6 million in 2014 to “prevent Mayor Bill de Blasio from regulating the charter school sector and won passage of a law that forces the city to pay the rent of charters “not located on public school grounds.”

Like many of the leading Charter School and Corporate Education Reform Industry front groups, the organization uses a series of loopholes to keep from having to divulge its list of donors.  In addition, these groups often set up more than one corporate entity to hide donations, reduce the potential to track funds or use the tax code to get around restrictions on lobbying.

In the case of Families for Excellent Schools, they actually have two different entities; Families for Excellent Schools, Inc. and Families for Excellent Schools Advocacy, Inc.

In Connecticut, both organizations have filed with the Office of State Ethics as lobbying entities, although the two groups are used very differently under the law.

According to research conducted by fellow education blogger and activist Mercedes Schneider, some of the biggest donors to Families for Excellent Schools are:

The Walton Family Foundation, Inc.

The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation

StudentsFirst New York, Inc.

Tapestry Project, Inc.

Moriah Fund, Inc.

Hertog Foundation, Inc.

Peter and Carmen Lucia Buck Foundation, Inc.

Vanguard Charitable Endowment Program

You can find out  more about FES’s fundraising operation via a WNYC story by reporter Robert Lewis – WNYC March 2014 report:

WNYC’s Robert Lewis determined that The Walton Family Foundation provided much of the early start up money for Families for Excellent Schools.

Even Connecticut’s richest billionaire and recipient of well over $50 million from Governor Dannel Malloy’s taxpayer funded corporate welfare program, Ray Dalio, is a donor to Families for Excellent Schools.

While it is difficult to determine where Families for Excellent Schools and other Charter School and Corporate Education Reform Industry groups get all their funding, some of the major players behind the organization are much easier to identify.

For example, as WNYC reported, the Tapestry Project is one of the organization’s major donors.  As Mercedes Schneider noted in her research, the Tapestry Project’s Executive Director is Eric Grannis who is the husband of the infamous charter school operator, Eva Moskowitz.

The Tapestry Project’s Board of Directors also includes Gideon Stein, who is a member of Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy board. Stein is also a member of the Moriah Fund Board of Directors, another major contributor to Families for Excellent Schools.

And not only is Students First NY a donor to Families for Excellent Schools but the group shares an office with Families for Excellent Schools and Eva Moskowitz is a member of the Board of Directors for Student’s First NY.

A number of the other Board members of Families for Excellent Schools have equally incestuous relationships with other entities in the charter school industry and the corporate education reform effort.

So…

Look out Hartford, not only is the newly crowned Democratic Mayoral nominee Luke Bronin basking in the sunshine thanks to the money and players behind Families for Excellent Schools, but the charter school lobbying group is now hiring political operatives to “organize” in Hartford.

Educators 4 Excellence – Because teachers NEED their own “Education Reform” front group

Some teachers and public school advocates have heard about Educators 4 Excellence, aka E4E.  For those that haven’t, you probably will as the organization continues to expand across the country.

Calling themselves Educators 4 Excellence (E4E), they claim to speak for teachers – although most E4E organizers don’t have more than a year or so of teaching experience – and what little actual teaching experience they have is usually the result of a short stint with Teach for America.

But the New York-based Educators 4 Excellence, originally created in 2010 using funds from the Gates Foundation, managed to pull in over $7.4 million from the corporate education reform industry in their first two years of operation.

Among the “teacher advocacy group’s” major funders is Education Reform Now, another corporate funded advocacy group that spends its money promoting charter schools and an end to tenure and “seniority-based layoff.”

In 2010 Education Reform Now ran a rather infamous television commercial in New York State that included a “parent” saying, “Stop listening to the teachers union.”

E4E’s fundraising has reportedly skyrocketed since 2012 allowing them to expand, including into Connecticut.

The Gates Foundation alone dropped another $3,000,695 into E4E’s coffers in July 2013.

Here in Connecticut…

When Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy took to the microphone on April 17, 2015 to announce that he was dropping the word “interim” from Dianna Wentzell’s title as “interim” Commissioner of Education, Educators 4 Excellence was quick to announce their support for the Common Core and Common Core testing aficionado writing,

“Dr. Roberge-Wentzell…was a critical member of [former Education] Commissioner Pryor’s team, which worked to secure funding for struggling schools where resources are needed most….We look forward to working with her in the years ahead…”

The reference that Wentzell deserved to be appointed Connecticut’s Commissioner of Education because she was a “critical member of Commissioner Pryor’s team,” the co-founder of the Achievement First, Inc. Charter School Management Company, reveals a lot about Educators 4 Excellence’s mission and purpose.  Public funding for charter schools skyrocketed as a result of Governor Malloy and Commissioner Pryor’s policies over the last three years, with Pryor’s charter school management company receiving the lions’ share of the money.

With co-CEOs each enjoying compensation packages in excess of $150,000, Educators 4 Excellence explains their reason for existence by saying,

“For far too long, education policy has been created without a critical voice at the table – the voice of classroom teachers. Educators 4 Excellence (E4E), a teacher-led organization, is changing this dynamic by placing the voices of teachers at the forefront of the conversations that shape our classrooms and careers.”

Educators for Excellence now has chapters in Connecticut, Chicago, Los Angeles and Minnesota and the have pledged to expand even further.

According to their “official” version of events, Educators 4 Excellence (E4E) began,

“As a group of New York teachers who wanted to change the top-down approach to policy-making, which largely alienated teachers like us from crucial decisions that shaped our classrooms and careers.”

Their propaganda fails to explain that their initial funding came in November 2010 when the Gates Foundation funneled $160,000 through Stand for Children, a multi-million dollar corporate education front group to set up “Educators 4 Excellence.”

According to the grant announcement, the Gates Foundation explained that the group was being funded to, “build an authentic, alternate teacher voice.”

Stand for Children is a leading player in the “education reform” movement, with a special focus on moving corporate funds into political campaigns in order to reward candidates who support their cause and punish those who aren’t on the school privatization  bandwagon.

Jonah Edelman, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Stand for Children, says the organization now has eleven state affiliates (AZ, CO, IL, IN, LA, MA, OK, OR, TN, TX, and WA).

According to Edelman’s biography,

“Jonah’s personal stand for children began during college, when he taught a six year-old bilingual child to read.”

Like a number of his fellow corporate education reform industry elite, Edelman graduated from Yale University (Class of ‘92) and attended Oxford University on a Rhodes scholarship.

If that wasn’t enough for the financiers of the education reform frenzy, the Chairperson of Stand for Children’s Board of Directors is Emma Bloomberg, former Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s daughter.

When Bridgeport Connecticut Mayor Bill Finch engaged in his failed attempt to do away with Bridgeport’s democratically elected board of education and replace it with one that he would appoint, a coalition of corporate education reform groups and corporate elite, including Mayor Mike Bloomberg, dropped in enough campaign donations to make it the most expensive charter revision campaign in Connecticut history.

In Connecticut, Educators 4 Excellence use a New York public relations firm, the same PR firm that collected much of the money in the failed Bridgeport campaign and has been used by a number of other education reform groups in Connecticut to engage in advertising in favor of Malloy’s education reform initiative.

A Connecticut E4E press release out last summer by the New York firm opened with, “Teachers, Joined by Bridgeport Superintendent Rabinowitz, Call for Needed, Pro-Student Improvements in Professional Development at E4E Roll-out Event.”

The press release went on to read,

June 11, 2014 (Bridgeport, CT) — Educators 4 Excellence, a national teacher-led organization that seeks to elevate the voices of teachers in education policy discussions, formally launched its new chapter in Connecticut Wednesday with a kick-off event in Bridgeport and a call for sweeping changes to existing professional development. This major policy proposal, written by a team of working Bridgeport public school classroom teachers, proposes a number of changes to this pressing issue. These include increasing the opportunities for teachers to weigh in on and even lead professional development topics and personalizing the experience so that trainings better meet the needs of schools and individuals. The full proposal can be seen HERE.”

The press release adds,

“Over the past several months, a team of nine E4E-CT Bridgeport members has been developing recommendations to improve the quality of their professional development. The recommendations, which they released Wednesday, seek to inject the ideas of actual classroom teachers into the policy changes the Superintendent is currently considering.”

The release conveniently made no mention of E4E’s funders or whether any of the advocacy group’s money was spent developing or lobbying for their “teacher led changes.”

This year Educators 4 Excellence is ramping up their Connecticut presence.

The corporate education reform industry group recently advertised for a Vice President of Regional Operations, which the posting explained may be housed in Connecticut.

According to the advertisement for the job, the Vice President of Regional Operations responsibilities will include, “Designing and leading high level issue based advocacy campaigns.”

To ensure a proper understanding of life as a classroom teacher, the organization lists the preferred qualifications to be a,

“Bachelor’s degree and at least one year of professional experience as a Pre K-12 classroom teacher preferred; some form of teaching, school-based professional experience, student-based professional experience or previous work with educational non-profits.”

The required skills include, “Political savvy and keen interest in/understanding of education policy, the education reform movement broadly, and the power and politics of the education landscape both locally and nationally.

E4E explains the right candidate must also have “Tenacity” and “grit.”

In Connecticut, the organization is also looking for a new Executive Director for Connecticut,  whose job will be to oversee Connecticut’s E4E operation.

According to the job post, lobbying legislators will be one of the Executive Director’s responsibilities, along with working to, “Establish E4E-CT as a go to source for the opinions and perspectives of progressive educators on issues that impact Connecticut’s classrooms.”

Again the entity says that, “At least one year of experience serving as a Pre K-12 classroom teacher” is preferred,” as well as the requirement for “Tenacity” and “grit.”

Apparently E4E is also looking for a Managing Director of Outreach in Connecticut.

The job postings don’t explain where the present Executive Director Ranjana Reddy is heading, although after a sting with TFA she headed to Newark, New Jersey to help create Rise Academy charter school, a position she left to attend Yale Law School.

At Yale she proudly reports that she worked for John White, who took over from Paul Vallas in New Orleans and Commissioner Stephen Pryor in Connecticut.  Her biography explains that when working for Pryor she, “spearheaded the writing of Connecticut’s No Child Left Behind waiver.”

From charter school founder, to Yale, to writing Connecticut’s NCLB waiver… What a testament to the corporate education reform.

And as the saying goes, all this is just the tip of the iceberg –

Just wait till you hear what else E4E is up to in Connecticut.

You can read more about E4E in Connecticut via the following Wait, What? posts Another faux pro-public education group targets Connecticut (12/18/12) and  Teacher-led organization that gives teachers a meaningful voice in policy is expanding in CT! (5/23/13)

Gates Foundation and Scholastic Corporation report that teachers love the Common Core!

Teachers, parents and public school advocates may want to play the YouTube video of Bobby McFerrin – Don’t Worry Be Happy song while reading this blog post.

The USA Today headline reads, “Survey: Common Core standards working well.”

In other words, the USA Today and other “main stream media outlets” are telling the Common Core naysayers to sit down and shut up with all this anti-common core mush.

How do we know the Common Core standards are working well?

Because the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the driving force behind the Common Core and its unfair, inappropriate and expensive Common Core Testing Scheme, along with one of the companies that will profit most from the implementation of the Common Core, have a new public opinion survey showing that public school teachers love the Common Core.

The highlights of the Gates Foundation/Scholastic Corporation survey show the following…

  • As of July 2014, nearly two-thirds of public school teachers report that the implementation of the Common Core is “mostly or fully complete” (65%, up 19 points from 2013), and teachers increasingly agree that the implementation of the Common Core is “going well in their schools” (68%, up six points from 2013).
  • In addition, more public school teachers report feeling prepared to teach to the Common Core, with 79 percent of teachers saying they are “very” or “somewhat” prepared (up eight points from 2013), even as more agree that implementation is challenging (81%, up eight points from 2013).
  • According to the survey, among the challenges that teachers continue to face is “critical resources they need to ensure successful implementation,” with more than eight in ten teachers citing Common Core–aligned instructional materials (86%) and quality professional development (84%), and many teachers wanting additional planning time (78%) as well as opportunities to collaborate with other teachers (78%).  In other words, school districts need to invest in more computers, more common core software and more common core-aligned instructional materials.
  • Finally, an incredible seven in ten (68%) public school teachers report that they are “enthusiastic about Common Core implementation in their classrooms,” although slightly fewer agree this year over last (down five points from 2013).

So where did this wonderful, albeit unbelievable, survey come from?

According to the press release issued by the Scholastic Corporation,

NEW YORK, NY – October 3, 2014 – Scholastic (NASDAQ: SCHL) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today released results from a survey of more than 1,600 of America’s pre-K–12 public school teachers who are in the more than 40 states where the Common Core State Standards are being implemented. Focused on how the new standards are affecting teachers’ students and classrooms, the survey found that over the past year the majority of teachers have remained optimistic that the Common Core will lead to greater levels of student achievement and that many are observing positive changes in their classrooms despite some challenges in implementation. This survey, which was conducted in July 2014, is a follow-up with the teachers who responded in July 2013 to the comprehensive survey that comprised Primary Sources: America’s Teachers on Teaching in an Era of Change

The actual internet survey being reported about today was conducted by YouGov, an on-line multi-national polling company that is headquartered in England and run by a group of businessmen that are primarily associated with Britain’s Conservative Party.

YouGov’s former Chief Executive Office won a seat in Parliament as a Conservative member in 2010 and the company’s current CEO ran as a Conservative Party candidate for Parliament in 1997.  The company’s chairman is a successful media entrepreneur, while YouGov’s president is a well know political commentator in England.

This year’s Gates Foundation/Scholastic Corporation Survey was another in a series of opinion research projects aimed to building government, business and public support for the Common Core and its related standardized testing program.

According to the Scholastic Corporation, “The first edition, which was fielded in 2009 and surveyed more than 40,000 teachers, is widely considered the largest-ever survey of America’s teachers. The following second and third editions were fielded in 2011 and 2013, respectively. The third survey asked 20,000 teachers their views on the many changes occurring in America’s classroom. Acknowledging the fast pace of these changes, the 2014 Update shows the impact of one year on teachers’ views on the Common Core State Standards.”

It is unclear how the 40,000 or 20,000 teachers were selected to participate in the various on-line studies, although see below for how YouGov generally recruits participants.  You can find the report on the 2013 Gates Foundation/Scholastic Corporation survey at:  http://www.scholastic.com/primarysources/2013preview/PrimarySourcesCCSS.pdf and the most 2014 press release on the new study at: http://mediaroom.scholastic.com/press-release/survey-provides-first-hand-look-how-one-year-has-affected-teachers-views-common-core

This year’s survey apparently used a similar on-line questionnaire, this time polling 1,676 pre-K–12 full-time public school classroom teachers.

According to the report released with the survey, “All Common Core State Standards implementation states, plus the District of Columbia, are included in this research with the exception of Delaware. The states not included are Alaska, Nebraska, Virginia, Texas, South Carolina and Indiana. The sample is balanced on population characteristics including grade(s) taught, years of teaching experience, gender and urbanity, as was the case in each edition of Primary Sources.”

Putting aside the broader questions about the selection of participants, the methodology, including the impact of internet based self-selection and the impact that weighting can have on the results, it is important to note that the “2014 Common Core Update…fielded online by YouGov, includes teachers who participate in Primary Sources, Third Edition: America’s Teachers on Teaching in an Era of Change, which was fielded in July 2013.”

This means that the survey was simply a sub-set of teachers who had already shown their support for the Common Core in the 2013 survey.

Some readers may recognize the YouGov name.  The company generally recruits people,

who like to express and share their opinions, and earn points along the way…As a panel member you will receive regular email invitations for new surveys. Every survey you complete earns points that when accumulated can be redeemed for rewards such as movie ticketsgift cards, and other prizes. You will also receive surveys that don’t have points but enter you in a monthly prize draw…All YouGov surveys are completed online and filled out at a time that is convenient for you. Redeem Points for Rewards… Join Today and Receive Our 2000 Points Welcome Bonus.

So there you have it.

Thanks to the Gates Foundation and the Scholastic Corporation we now know that the implementation of the Common Core standards are going great and that an incredible seven in ten public school teachers report that they are “enthusiastic about Common Core implementation in their classrooms.”

Don’t worry, be happy!

Corporate America has everything under control.

Another MUST READ column on Jumoke/FUSE by Sarah Darer Littman

Sarah Darer Littman is an award-winning columnist and novelist of books for teens.  She is also one of the most important voices on behalf of public education in Connecticut.

This week Sarah Darer Littman’s commentary piece on  CTNewsJunkie is a key addition to the discussion about the impact the corporate education reform industry is having in Connecticut and how key players in the Malloy administration, the City of Hartford and various pro-education reform entities are undermining Connecticut’s public education system.

In a piece entitled, “Don’t Let Foundation Money Be A Trojan Horse,” Sarah Darer Littman writes,

“…I read the Hartford Courant report on the discovery that computers and equipment are missing from the Jumoke Academy at Milner…

[…]

Last year, Hartford received a “gift” in the form of a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Hartford is a city where the Board of Education is under mayoral control — a situation the corporate education reformers in this state (and many forces from outside the state) tried extremely hard and spent a lot of money to try to replicate, unsuccessfully, in Bridgeport in 2012

This means that Mayor Pedro Segarra appoints five members of the Hartford Board of Education, and four are elected by the people of Hartford. However, according to its bylaws , the Board is meant to act as a whole.

But that’s not what happened in the case of the $5 million grant announced back in December 2012.

On June 29, 2012, staff members of the Gates Foundation came to Hartford for a meeting. According to a memo former Hartford Schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto sent to the Board on October 12, 2012  — which was the first time the wider board knew of the meeting — “Participants included Board of Education Chair Matthew Poland, Mayor Segarra, Hartford Public Schools, Achievement First and Jumoke Academy senior staff members, Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, Connecticut Council for Education Reform, ConnCAN, and other corporate, community and philanthropic partners.”

[…]

What’s really disturbing is that by funneling a grant through another foundation, a private foundation was able to impose public policy behind closed doors, and what’s more, impose policy that required taxpayer money — all without transparency or accountability.

I had to file a Freedom of Information request in order to get a copy of the paperwork on the Gates grant and what I received was only the partial information, because as Connecticut taxpayers will have learned from the Jumoke/FUSE fiasco, while charter schools consistently argue they are “public” when it comes to accepting money from the state, they are quick to claim that they are private institutions  when it comes to transparency and accountability.

But what is clear from the grant paperwork is that Hartford Public Schools committed to giving more schools to Achievement First and Jumoke Academy/Fuse, a commitment made by just some members of the Board of Education in applying for the grant, which appears to be a clear abrogation of the bylaws. Further, as a result of the commitment made by those board members, financial costs would accrue to Hartford Public Schools that were not covered by the grant — for example, the technology to administer the NWEA map tests, something I wrote about back in December 2012, just after the grant was announced.

One of the Gates Foundation grant’s four initiatives was to “Build the district’s capacity to retain quality school leaders through the transformation of low-performing schools, replicating Jumoke Academy’s successful model of a holistic education approach.”

And the stunning, disturbing and incredible story gets worse…. Much, much worse…

The entire “MUST READ” article can be found at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_dont_let_foundation_money_be_a_trojan_horse/

Sarah DarerLittman ends her piece with the observation,

That’s why we need transparency and accountability in our state, not backroom deals structured to avoid the public eye, but which still impact the public purse.

Editor’s Note:

While Sarah is absolutely right about the need for greater transparency and accountability, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that various players within the Malloy administration and the City of Hartford violated the spirit and the letter of Connecticut law.  While great transparency and accountability is vitally important, when it comes to the Jumoke/FUSE issue, indictments and convictions are also in order.

But please take the time to read the commentary piece – Don’t Let Foundation Money Be A Trojan Horse.

Teacher “wins” appointment to State Board of Education  

Congratulations to Erin Benham, a Meriden teacher on her appointment to the State Board of Education!

It is great news that a teacher will be added to counter-balance the cadre of corporate education reform industry advocates who have spent the last four years undermining public education.

In an apparent move to show teachers, parents and public school advocates that he is a softer, kinder and more pro-public education governor, Dannel “Dan” Malloy announced today that he has appointed educator Erin Bernham to the State Board of Education.

Erin Benham has been a secondary school teacher for 34 years.  She presently serves as a Literacy Teacher at Lincoln Middle School.

Teacher Benham is also the President of the Meriden Federation of Teachers and the Vice President of the AFT-CT Executive Committee.

Wait, What? readers may remember that the American Federation of Teachers was the union that refused to allow me to fill out a candidate questionnaire, interview with the AFT Political Action Committee or even speak to the AFT Executive Committee before they endorsed Malloy.

Of more interest than the political connections between Malloy and the AFT leadership is the fact that Benham and the Meriden Federation of Teachers are the recipients of a major grant from the American Federation of Teacher’s national “Innovation Fund.”

The AFT Innovation Fund supports a variety of programs at the local level.  While many of those programs are undoubtedly valuable, the major donor to the American Federation of Teacher’s national Innovation fund is Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation.

In 2010, the Gates Foundation gave $4 million to the AFT Innovation Fund and another $4.4 million in 2012.  The money was targeted to pay for the union’s work to build support for the Common Core.

Hopefully Teacher Benham will use her classroom expertise to persuade Malloy and the State Board of Education that while standards are an important part of a successful educational system, the Common Core‘s unfair, inappropriate and expensive Common Core Testing Scheme is hurting Connecticut’s students, teachers and public schools and must be suspended until it can be redesigned and appropriately implemented.

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

Another MUST READ column – Are Wall Street Values Right for Schools?

Fellow public school advocate and award-winning columnist Sarah Darer Littman had another “MUST READ” column posted on this past weekend’s CT News junkie website.

Sarah Darer Littman reminded readers that while Governor Malloy and the corporate education reform industry are fond of claiming their reforms are all about the children, the reality is far from that.

Here piece traces the “education reformers” and their on-going effort to bringing Wall Street values to our local public schools.  Her column could also have been entitled, “Beware: Their preoccupation with data is destroying our schools.”

Littman reminds readers that President Obama’s Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, recently said,

 “Data is an essential ingredient in the school reform agenda. We need to follow the progress of children from preschool to high school and from high school to college and college to career to see whether they are on-track for success . . . I look forward to the day when we can look a child in the eye at the age of eight or nine or 10 and say, ‘You are on track to succeed in colleges and careers.’ . . . Data systems are a vital ingredient of a statewide reform system . . . Data can help us unleash the power of research to advance reform in every school and classroom in America. Data can help us identify the teachers and principals all across America who are producing miracles in the classroom every day . . . Data can help us identify outdated policies and practices that need to change so our children will succeed in school and in the workforce.”

And she added Bill Gates’ comment that,

“Aligning teaching with the common core — and building common data standards — will help us define excellence, measure progress, test new methods, and compare results. Finally, we will apply the tools of science to school reform.”

But then Littman turned to the real experts, the ones who actually understand that value and role of data.

In this case it was the American Statistical Association, one of the nation’s leading academic experts on the role of data and statistics.  The organization recently blasted the education reformers and their failure to recognize the very real problems associated with their junk science.

All of those who are fighting to save our schools should definitely read Sarah Darer Littman’s latest piece which can be found at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_are_wall_street_values_right_for_schools/

When you read it, you’ll also find that Littman ended her column with a paragraph worth clipping and saving.  She wrote,

Teaching is a collaborative profession, something that the current administration and the billionaires who guide its actions don’t appear to understand. What’s more, as parents we want our children to receive a well-rounded education that prepares them not just to be “college and career ready” but to be life ready — to develop the critical thinking skills, the creativity, the social skills, and the ability to advocate for themselves that they’ll need as citizens in what’s left of our democracy post-Citizens United and McCutcheon. Perhaps that’s what the billionaires are afraid of?