School Choice Week – Choosing Away Your Choice



School Choice Week is one of the greatest scams in American history.



It is a well-funded, thoroughly organized attempt to trick parents into signing away their right to make educational choices about their children.






It goes like this:



Salesman: Would you like a choice?



Parent: Sure!



Salesman: Then just agree to never have another choice again.



That’s it in a nutshell.



Choose not to choose.



When you decide to send your child to a so-called choice school – a charter or voucher institution – you lose almost every other choice about what happens at your child’s school.



Sound impossible?



Let me count the decisions you lose by signing on the dotted line.



When you send your child to a school paid for with public money but run by a private organization, you lose:



AN ELECTED SCHOOL BOARD, so you have no say about what the school does.



OPEN DOCUMENTS, so you have no right to see budgets, spending agreements, bids, contracts, etc.



OPEN MEETINGS, so you have no public place to speak up to the people who run your school.



RIGHT TO SELF-GOVERNMENT, so you have no right to run for a leadership position on the school board. Instead you’re at the mercy of appointed flunkies.



THE RIGHT OF ENROLLMENT, so school operators get to choose whether your child gets to attend, unlike public schools which have to accept your child no matter what – so long as you live in the district.



QUALITY SERVICES, so school operators can cut services for your child and pocket the savings as profit or use it to advertise to get more paying butts in seats.



QUALITY TEACHERS, because most charter and voucher schools aren’t required to hire educators with 4-year degrees, and since they don’t pay as well as public schools and often refuse to let their teachers unionize, they attract less experienced and distinguished educators.



DIVERSE CLASSMATES, because charter and voucher schools increase segregation. Your children will be educated with more kids that look just like them. That’s healthy!



And that’s merely at MOST privatized schools. But that’s not all. At some privatized schools you can lose even more! You may also lose:



COMMON SENSE DISCIPLINE POLICIES, so your children will be held to a zero tolerance discipline policy where they may have to sit quietly, eyes forward, marching in line or else face aggressive public reprimands and harsh punishments.



AN UNBIASED SECULAR EDUCATION, so your children will be taught religion and politics as if they were fact all funded by public tax dollars! Hear that sound? That’s our Founders crying.



FREE TIME, so you’ll be required to volunteer at the school regardless of your ability to do so. Gotta’ work? Tough!



MONEY, so you’ll have to pay tuition, buy expensive uniforms, school supplies or other amenities.



And if your children are struggling academically, you may also lose:



ENROLLMENT, so your child is given the boot back to the public school because he or she is having difficulty learning, and thus costs too much to educate.



You lose all that if you decide to enroll your child in a charter or voucher school!



But that’s not all!



If you DON’T decide to send your child to a so-called choice school, you can still lose choice!



Why? Because of the rubes who were fooled into give up their choice. When they did that, they took some of your choices, too.



Because of them, you still lose:



-NECESSARY FUNDING, because your public school has to make up the money it lost to charter and voucher schools somewhere, and that means fewer resources and services for your child.


-LOWER CLASS SIZES, because your public school has to fire teachers and increase class size to make up for lost revenue.



-FAIR ASSESSMENTS, because the state and federal government require your child to take unfair high stakes tests to “prove” your public school is failing and thus justify replacing it with a charter or voucher schoolas if those have ever been proven to be better, but whatever! CA-CHING! CA-CHING!



This is what you get from School Choice Week.



It’s a uniquely American experience – selling the loss of choice — as choice.



And all the while they try to convince you that public schools are the ones that take away your alternatives.



Yet public schools are where you get all those things you lose at privatized schools.



You get elected school boards, open documents, open meetings, the right to self-government, the right of enrollment, quality services, quality teachers, diverse classmates, common sense discipline policies, an unbiased secular education, free time and money! That’s right! You actually get all that and more money in your pocket!



I’m not saying public schools are perfect. There are many ways they need to improve, but it’s difficult to do so when many of the people tasked with improving these schools are more concerned with sabotaging them to make room for privatized systems.



These are paid employees of the charter and voucher school movement who want to kill public schools – BUT THE KILLER IS ALREADY IN THE HOUSE!



Imagine if we dedicated ourselves to making our public school system better!



Imagine if we committed to giving parents and students more choices in the system and not trying to replace that system with one that gives all the benefits and choices away to corporate vultures!



So, yeah, School Choice Week is a scam.



But, hey, enjoy those yellow scarfs.




Betsy DeVos – Extreme Image Makeover as Champion of Special Needs Children

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Meet Betsy DeVos, Champion of Students With Special Needs.


At least that’s who she’s pretending to be this week.


The wealthy Republican mega-donor who bought her position as Secretary of Education published an article in the current issue of Education Week called “Commentary: Tolerating Low Expectations for Students With Disabilities Must End.”


It was almost like she expected us all to forget who she actually is and her own sordid history with these kinds of children.


Up until now, the billionaire heiress and public school saboteur always put the needs of profitizers and privateers ahead of special needs children.


During her confirmation hearing, she refused to say whether she would hold private, parochial and charter schools receiving tax dollars to the same standard as public schools in regard to how they treat special education students. Once on the job, she rescinded 72 federal guidelines that had protected special education students.


But now she’s coming off like a special education advocate!


What a turnaround!


It’s almost like David Duke coming out in favor of civil rights! Or Roy Moore coming out in favor of protecting young girls from pedophiles! Or Donald Trump coming out in favor of protecting women from crotch grabbing!


It begs the question – who exactly is she trying to fool?


Does Education Week really expect us to buy

this crap? Or has the so-called corporate media enterprise simply caved to the Trump administration’s demand to publish a puff piece for rubes without any journalistic integrity?


Real journalists might have published this BS, but only after giving readers the proper context.


Not Education Week. The only nod toward objectivity was inserting the word “Commentary” in the title of DeVos’s article.


It’s almost like saying – DeVos ALLEGEDLY champions students with special needs.


Give me a break.


She’s championing a feel good decision from the US Supreme Court from March. Way to get on that, Betsy!


Moreover, the decision isn’t exactly substantive.


It basically says that public schools need to ensure their special education students make more than minimal academic progress.


Great! Who doesn’t want that?


Has Congress jumped on this decision to increase federal aide to help public schools meet this requirement?




And neither is DeVos calling for any additional federal help. In fact, her administration is proposing CUTTING federal special education funding.


Yet when the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was enacted in 1975 by the Gerald Ford administration, the federal government was supposed to fund 40% of the cost of all special education students. It has never met that promise.


Today, the federal government only shoulders 15.7% of the cost with the states and individual districts picking up the rest.


This is extremely unfair.


It costs roughly twice as much to educate a special education student as a non-special education student. Yet the numbers of special needs students are on the rise.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 statistics (the most recent available), students with special needs account for 8.8% of the population. That’s up an additional 100,000 students from the previous year.


And the areas with the largest increase of special needs students are the most impoverished.


So we’re expecting the poorest communities to take up the largest percentage of the tab.


There are several bills in Congress demanding the federal government increase funding to the 40% threshold, but DeVos didn’t see fit to mention them.


To her, money is a thing only worth being lavished on private, parochial or charter schools.


Instead, she mentioned “personalized” education as a remedy for special needs students in public schools.


She wrote:


“No two children are the same. Each has his or her own unique abilities and needs. Personalized, student-centered education can help all children thrive, especially children with disabilities.” (Emphasis mine)


Though few people really disagree with this statement, the use of the word “Personalized” sets off alarm bells.


The term has come to mean “personalized learning” or “competency based education” which is code for making students sit on a computer or a device for hours at a time completing stealth assessments. These are programs made to look like video games that really just assess the same standardized material on the typical fill-in-the-bubble high stakes test.


And the results of these assessments are likewise used against schools and students as an excuse to privatize and strip them of local control, legal protections and mandated transparency.


There are authentic ways to use technology to help kids learn, but the rush by corporations to cash in on this emerging market has been largely unregulated, unstudied and unchallenged.


DeVos has already noted her commitment to edtech solutions to academic problems.


At a conference for edtech investors earlier this year she said:


“We’ve just scratched the surface in the role technology can play. I only have to look at my young grandchildren to see how powerful tech is. It is a thousand flowers, and we haven’t planted the whole garden.”


Another place she can look is her investment portfolio.


Both she and her husband have a $5 million and $25 million investment in a shady “brain performance” company called Neurocore. DeVos even sat on the company’s board until she got her job as Secretary of Education and had to step down.


The company claims to be able to train young brains to think better by hooking kids up to hats with wires hanging out of them.


I’m not kidding. The whole things goes against just about every peer-reviewed study in the field of neuroscience, but DeVos claims her company can help cure attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, autism, anxiety, stress, depression, poor sleep, memory loss and migraines.


In other words, hooking kids up to machines of dubious scientific value is the cure for special education.


This is where we are people.


Our government is run by frauds and hucksters.


And the media calmly gives them an unchallenged platform to spout whatever nonsense they like with little to no skepticism.


So Betsy DeVos is a champion for students with disabilities, huh?


File that under B for Bullshit.

Like this post? I’ve written a book, “Gadfly on the Wall: A Public School Teacher Speaks Out on Racism and Reform,” now available from Garn Press. Ten percent of the proceeds go to the Badass Teachers Association. Check it out!


Public School Teachers Are Absent Too Much, Says Charter School Think Tank



Have you ever heard of media bias?

I don’t think many so-called journalists have.

At least their editors haven’t or perhaps they just don’t care.

Otherwise, why would self-respecting hard news purveyors publish the results of a study by charter school cheerleaders that pretends to “prove” how public school teachers are worse than charter school teachers?

That’s like publishing a study denigrating apples written by the national pear council.

Breaking news: Pepsi says, “Coke sucks!”

In a related story McDonalds has startling evidence against the Burger King!



I know it’s become trendy to defend the media when our lame-ass President attacks every factually-based report that puts him in a bad light as “fake news.” But the giant media conglomerates aren’t doing themselves any favors with lazy reporting like this.

And I know what many journalists are thinking when they do it, because I used to be one:

I’ll publish the report and include dissenting opinions and that will be okay because I will have shown both sides and readers can make up their own minds.

But what’s the headline? What’s the spin? Who is David in this story and who is Goliath? When multiple stories like this appear all over the news cycle, what impression is made on your readers?

It’s the same thing with climate science. Ninety seven percent of climate scientists say global climate change is man-made and happening. Yet the news gives us one scientist and one crank climate denier and pretends like that’s fair and balanced.

And here we get one biased neoliberal think tank vs. millions of public school teachers all across the country and since you’ve given us an equal number to represent each side, you pretend THAT’S fair and balanced.

It isn’t.

But who’s paying your advertising revenue?

Who owns the media conglomerates that publish your articles?

Often the same people publishing bullshit reports like this one. That’s who.

No wonder they get so much coverage!

So here’s the deal.

The Fordham Institute wrote a report called “Teacher Absenteeism in Charter and Traditional Public Schools.” They concluded that 28.3 percent of teachers in traditional public schools miss eleven or more days of school versus 10.3 percent of teachers at charter schools.

To come up with these figures they used data from Betsy Devos’ Department of Education.

So let the hand-wringing begin!

Look how bad public school teachers are and how much more dedicated is the charter school variety! Look at how much money is being lost! Look at the damage to student academic outcomes!

Won’t someone think of the children!?


This report brought to you by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the College Board, Education Reform Now, the Walton Family Foundation and a host of other idle rich philanthrocapitalists who are drooling over the prospect of privatizing public schools and hoovering up public money as private profit.

Oh. If that’s not enough, Fordham actually runs a series of charter schools in Ohio.

Biased much?

So what’s wrong with the report?

First of all, it’s not news.

Neoliberal think tanks have been publishing propaganda like this for at least a decade. Play with the numbers here, look only at this data and we can paint a picture of “failing” schools, “failing” teachers and therefore justify the “need” for school privatization.

Second, look at all the important data Fordham conveniently leaves out.

Look at the number of hours public school teachers work in the United States vs. those in other comparable countries, say those included in The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

In fact, the OECD (which is not biased one way or another about American school privatization) released a mountain of statistics about how many hours teachers work in various countries.

The result: in the United States teachers on average spend more time teaching and receive less pay than those in other countries.

American teachers spend on average 1,080 hours teaching each year. Across the O.E.C.D., the average for most countries is 794 hours on primary education, 709 hours on lower secondary education, and 653 hours on upper secondary education general programs.


Source: OECD



Yet American teachers start at lower salaries and even after 15 years in the profession, earn less money than their international counterparts.

So – assuming Fordham’s absenteeism statistics are accurate – why do public school teachers miss so much school? They’re exhausted from the hours we demand they keep!

But what about charter school teachers? Aren’t they exhausted, too?

Some certainly are.

Working in a charter school often requires grueling hours and fewer benefits. That’s why charters have a higher turnover than public schools.

Since they’re often not unionized, charter schools usually have younger, less experienced staff who don’t stay in the profession long. In fact, they rely on a constant turnover of staff. At many of the largest charter chains such as Success Academy and the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP), teachers average only 4 years before moving on to another career, according to the New York Times. And this is typical of most charter chains.

So why don’t charter school teachers take as many sick days as traditional public school teachers? Maybe because when they check out, they often don’t check back in.

Moreover, there is a significant difference in the student population at both kinds of school – privatized vs. public.

As their marketing departments will tell you, the students in a charter school choose to be there. The charter schools often weed out the students with behavior problems, special needs or those who are otherwise more difficult to teach. As a result, the strain on teachers may not be as severe. When you’re only serving kids who want to be there and who are easy to teach, maybe you don’t need as much downtime.

Public school teachers, on the other hand, face real dangers from burnout.

According to a study by Scholastic (that actually goes counter to its pro-privatization bias), we work 53 hours a week on average. That comes out to 7.5 hours a day in the classroom teaching. In addition, we spend 90 minutes before and/or after school mentoring, tutoring, attending staff meetings and collaborating with peers. Plus 95 additional minutes at home grading papers, preparing classroom activities and other job-related tasks.

And for teachers who oversee extracurricular clubs, that’s even more work – 11-20 additional hours a week, on average.

Add to that the additional trauma public school children have experienced over the last decade. More than half of public school students now live below the poverty line. That means increased behavior issues, increased emotional disturbances, increased special needs, increased malnutrition, increased drug use – you name it.

Public school teachers deal with that every day. And you seriously wonder that some of us need some downtime during the year to deal with it.

Moreover, let’s not forget the issue of disease.

Working in a public school is to immerse yourself in a petri dish of bacteria and viruses. My first year teaching, I got so sick I was out for weeks until I developed immunities to strains of illnesses I had never been exposed to before.

Kids are constantly asking for tissues and blowing their noses and sometimes not even washing their hands. This is why teachers often purchase the tissues and hand sanitizers that school districts can’t or won’t – we’re trying to stop the spread of infection.

When teachers get sick (and often bring these delightful little maladies home to their spouses, children and families) what do you expect them to do? Continue going to work and further spreading the sickness around to healthy children?

And speaking of illness, let’s talk stress.

Stress is a killer. Do you think pushing the responsibility for the entire school system on to teachers while cutting their autonomy has an effect on teachers individual stress levels?

I can tell you from my own personal experience I had two heart attacks last year. And in the 15 years I’ve been a teacher, my health has suffered in innumerable ways. I’m actually on medication for one malady that makes me immunosuppressed and more susceptible to other illnesses.

So, yeah, sometimes I need to take a sick day. But if you ask most teachers, they’d rather stay in the class and work through it.

Having the day off is often more trouble than it’s worth. You have to plan an entire lesson that can be conducted in your absence, you have to give the students an assignment to do and you have to grade it. Even with the day off, you have a mountain of work waiting for you when you return.

So as a practicing public school teacher, I dispute the findings of the Fordham Institute.

They don’t know what they’re talking about.

They have focused in on data to make their chosen targets, public school teachers, look bad while extolling the virtues of those who work in privatized systems.

There is a manufactured shortage of teachers across the country. We’ve got 250,000 fewer teachers in the classroom than we did before the great recession of 08-09. Yet class enrollment has increased by 800,000 students.

So if we wanted today’s students to have the same experience as those of only a decade ago, we’d need to hire at least 400,000 more teachers.

I wonder why college undergraduates aren’t racing to become education majors. I wonder why there aren’t more incentives to get more teachers in the classroom and why there isn’t a boom of more teaching jobs.

And I wonder why reports like this are talked about as if they were anything but what they are – school privatization propaganda.


School Choice is a Lie. It Does Not Mean More Options. It Means Less.



“A lie told once remains a lie but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth.”

-Joseph Goebbels



Neoliberals and right-wingers are very good at naming things.


Doing so allows them to frame the narrative, and control the debate.


Nowhere is this more obvious than with “school choice” – a term that has nothing to do with choice and everything to do with privatization.


It literally means taking public educational institutions and turning them over to private companies for management and profit.






There are two main types: charter and voucher schools.

Charter schools are run by private interests but paid for exclusively by tax dollars. Voucher schools are run by private businesses and paid for at least in part by tax dollars.


Certainly each state has different laws and different legal definitions of these terms so there is some variability of what these schools are in practice. However, the general description holds in most cases. Voucher schools are privately run at (at least partial) public expense. Charter schools are privately run but pretend to be public. In both cases, they’re private – no matter what their lobbyists or marketing campaigns say to the contrary.


For instance, some charter schools claim to be run by duly elected school boards just like public schools. Yet the elected body is a proxy that gives over all management decisions to an appointed private board of company officers and a CEO. That’s not really the same thing as what you get at public schools. It’s a way of claiming that you’re the same without actually being it.


Likewise, voucher schools are subject to almost no regulations on how they spend their money – even the portion made up by tax dollars – but charter schools are subject to more state and federal oversight. This is why voucher schools can violate the separation of church and state – teaching creationism as fact – while charter schools cannot.


Yet, in practice, state and federal laws often allow charters much more flexibility than public schools and the state and federal government rarely checks up on them to see if they’re following the regulations. In fact, in many states, auditors are not even allowed to check up on charter school compliance unless specific complaints have been filed or long intervals of leaving them to their own devices have passed. So charters can also teach things like creationism as fact only more clandestinely.


In short, the differences between public and privatized schools is significant. Yet the difference between the two types of privatized education is more political and rhetorical than practical.


Despite these facts, when we talk about privatized schools, we ignore the real distinctions and focus on the fake ones. We overlook the salient features and instead describe privatized schools as vehicles for choice.


They’re not.








School choice.


Got choice?


Parents should have the freedom to choose the school their children attend.


But using “choice” as the ultimate descriptor of what privatized schools are and what they offer is at best misleading and at worst an outright lie.


They are essentially private businesses existing for the sole purpose of making a profit.


Yes, parents choose if they want their children to enroll in these schools. But they also choose if their children enroll in the neighborhood public school.


Critics say the public school option is not a choice because there is only one public school district in a given neighborhood. Yet isn’t it the parents who decide the neighborhood where they live? In most cases, even the wealthiest district has rental properties where people can move to take advantage of an exceptional school system.


Certainly the quality of a school shouldn’t be determined by a zip code. But this is an argument for funding equity, for providing each district with the resources necessary to educate the children in their charge, not an argument for privatization.


In BOTH cases, public and privatized schools, parents exercise choice. But the propagandists choose to call only one of them by that name.

And it is a misnomer.


Privatized schools – both charters and voucher schools – are under no obligation to accept all students who seek enrollment. Public schools are.


If a student lives in a public school’s service area, the district must accept that student. It doesn’t matter if educating that child will cost more than the average per pupil expenditure. It doesn’t matter if she is easy or difficult to educate, if she has a record of behavior or discipline problems, if she has special needs, if she has low test scores. The public school must accept her and give her the best education possible.


Privatized schools are legally allowed to be selective. They can deny enrollment based on whatever reasons they choose. Charter schools may have to be more careful about their explicit reasoning than voucher schools, but that’s just a restriction on what they say, not on what they do. The results are the same. If they want to deny your child entry because of her race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, whatever – they can. They just have to put something more creative down as the reason why.


Vouchers schools don’t even have to give you a reason at all.


And charters have a multitude of ways to avoid accountability. They can simply pretend to have conducted a lottery. Or they can include an onerous series of demands for enrollment such as expensive uniforms, school supplies and parental volunteering at the school, to discourage difficult students from applying.


Moreover, even if they let your child enroll, they can kick her out at any time if she proves to be too expensive or it appears she’ll make the school look bad. This is why every year charter schools send a stream of struggling students back to the public schools just before standardized test time – they don’t want the students low test scores to reflect badly on the school – yet they’ll use the fact that they enrolled difficult students at the beginning of the school year to “prove” they aren’t selective!


That’s not choice. It’s marketing.


At best, it’s not choice for the parents or students. It’s choice for the operators of privatized schools.





Critics will argue that these problems are a feature of the limited scope of so-called school choice programs. If there were more of them, the market would self-correct and many of these irresponsible practices would disappear.


Yet such a belief shows a complete ignorance of how business works in America.


The free market has not lead to more choice. It has led to consolidation.


When WalMart moves into an area, it doesn’t help boost the local mom and pop stores. It devours them. It’s a principle best described as the bigger fish eat the little ones.


Our system is designed to hide this fact by preserving separate companies with individual names and brands but that are all owned and operated by huge conglomerates. For instance, there are multiple newspapers and TV stations across the country all owned by a handful of huge corporations. The same with airlines, banks, pharmaceuticals, you name it.


That’s not choice. It’s the illusion of choice. And if privatization were given free reign over our public schools, we should expect nothing less.


If all or most of our public schools became privatized, after a short time we would have a handful of huge corporations dominating the field with near monopolies. Schools would be large charter and voucher chains, possibly with a variety of names and brands marketed differently, but providing pretty much the same generic services. It would be the WalMartiztion of education.


That goal is not the expansion of choice. It is the reduction of it.






And what of those critics who claim school choice isn’t about privatization but about allowing students to attend even neighboring public districts?


First, this is rarely what so-called “school choice” programs do. And there is a very good reason for that.


It’s a terrible idea.


Let’s say you have three districts in your part of the state, one of which is exceptional and the other two struggle. If we allow students at the struggling districts to attend the exceptional one, what happens? You have a mass exodus to the exceptional district while the other two close due to lack of funding.


Now what? The one exceptional district has to somehow service more students than it can house and somehow create an instant infrastructure to meet their needs. Even under the best of circumstances, this is impossible. It would take years to do so, and in the meantime all students – even those who originally lived in the exceptional school’s immediate coverage area – will suffer.


Moreover, it ignores the realities on the ground. Why were there two struggling districts and one exceptional one? Almost always this is because of the wealth disparity between the three districts. The exceptional district probably serviced wealthier children. They have fewer needs than poor children. They have books in the home, less food uncertainty, less exposure to violence, racism and trauma.


Yet the rich district has an overabundance of resources to meet whatever needs its students have. It can levy higher taxes and thus spend more per pupil than the other struggling districts.


So when you combine the three districts, you end up being unable to continue spending the same amount per pupil. You probably have to decrease that spending and thus all students receive fewer services. However, at the same time, student needs for services increase because now you’re also trying to educate the more impoverished and racially diverse students from the two previously struggling districts.


No, even this kind of school choice doesn’t improve the quality of education. It degrades it.


The only solution is to provide each district with the funding necessary to meet students’ needs – whatever they are. That is the only way to increase the quality of education – not playing musical chairs with where students physically go to school.






At every level, so-called “school choice” is a lie.


It’s about preserving the status quo for the wealthy while providing substandard services for the poor and middle class.


It’s a power grab by the business community to profitize public funds set aside to educate children.


And perhaps the easiest way to combat it is the simplest: stop calling it school choice.


Call it what it is – school privatization.


XQ Live – Desperate School Choice Rebrand After Trump Touched It


What do you do when your corporate brand has become repugnant to consumers?

You REBRAND, of course! And that’s exactly what uber-rich widow, Laurene Powell Jobs, paid a boatload of celebrities to do last night all over your TV.

The program was called XQ Superschools Live, and it took over four major networks.

It’s ironic really. Using an almost 100 year old medium to push “schools of the future.” They tweeted and Facebooked all over it, but the focus was on the old boob tube.

Why? Because the audience they wanted wasn’t so much the young. They wanted the old – those deep pocketed investors who might be startled by all the flash and bombast and ask their grandkids if this was “cool.”

It was the most pathetic display of desperation I have ever seen in my life.

If there is any justice, Tom Hanks, Yo-Yo Ma, Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Hudson and Common will have to spend the rest of their lives to regain even a fraction of street cred.




They were nothing but a series of singing and dancing sell outs. This was a modern day minstrel show. A bunch of highly paid shills pretending to represent the common folk.

I’m talking raised fists at the end of dance numbers meant to evoke all the power of authentic activists like Black Lives Matter without really having any grassroots support or message.

To be honest, my overwhelming response was pity.

Did anyone really think this was going to connect with an audience?

And speaking of that audience, if you had no idea who XQ or corporate education reform was, you probably watched the screen in bemused confusion. What the heck was this crap? It was platitudes about improving high schools broken up by song and dance numbers. It made the MTV Video Music Awards seem like a college dissertation.

Yet, to the initiated, you could see the subtle nods to privatization and charter schools, the shade thrown on traditional public schools.

Rethink high school?

Sure! Let’s do that! Let’s rethink inequitably funding it. Let’s rethink high stakes standardized testing. Let’s rethink Common Core, stealing local control, teacher autonomy and a host of the kinds of top down bull crap XQ tried obscure while selling  an issue of Tiger Beat.

So now that it’s over, what have we learned?

1) Corporate education reformers are THAT desperate to distance themselves from Donald Trump.

His wholehearted endorsement of their agenda has done them serious life threatening damage. He has exposed their racist, privileged, corporatist policies for exactly what they are. No amount of celebrities will replace that in the public consciousness.

2) Rich people cannot set education policy.

Steve Jobs widow may be a very nice lady. But she has no freaking clue about public education. Nor is she honest enough to engage actual classroom teachers in the discussion to find out.

Instead of relying on the billionaires of the world, we should tax them. Then we can afford to fully fund our schools and let the people actually in the classroom decide what’s best for the students in their care. Let parents decide. Let school boards decide. Not a privileged tech philanthrocapitalist.

3) Celebrities will do anything for money.

The things these Hollywood elite prostitutes did last night to sell snake oil would make porn stars blush. I will never look at any of these people the same. Some of them I knew were true believers because of other projects. Heck! As much as I love Common’s new album, he does rap about Corey Booker – so warning there. Viola Davis is an amazing actress but she was in the parent trigger propaganda film “Won’t Back Down.”

Being famous doesn’t mean you know a damn thing. We recognize their faces. We associate them with past roles and characters we loved. We think their political stands are authentic when they are often just a pose. We’ve got to stop respecting these people just because they’re celebrities.

What will the long-term effect of last night’s propaganda be?

I don’t know.

I seriously doubt anyone really bought that. But you know what they say – no one ever went broke betting on the stupidity of the public.

And that’s what this was – a high stakes wager on American gullibility.


The Arrogant Ignorance of Campbell Brown: Education Journalism in Decline


Apparently facts don’t matter much to Campbell Brown.



Though her latest “fact” about public schools has once again been shown to be more truthiness than truth, she refuses to retract it.



During an interview published in Slate where she gave advice to the next president, she said:



“Two out of three eighth graders in this country cannot read or do math at grade level. We are not preparing our kids for what the future holds.”


It’s a scary statistic. The problem is it’s completely unsupported by evidence.


And when education experts called her out on it, she complained that SHE was being attacked.


When pressed, Brown admitted she got this figure from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) a test given to random samples of students in fourth and eighth grades every two years.


However, Brown either misunderstands or misinterprets the scores. If one were to interpret the data in the way Brown suggests, the highest scoring countries in the world would be full of children who can’t read at grade level. Hardly anyone in the world would be literate or could add and subtract. It’s beyond absurd.


And when she was notified of her error by authorities in the field including Carol Burris, Tom Loveless and Diane Ravitch – who, by the way, served on the NAEP Governing Board for seven years – Brown responded by likening her critics to Donald Trump.


She wrote:


“That the people who disagree with my characterization would react by attacking me personally… speaks volumes. Those feigning outrage over the difference between “grade level” and “grade level proficiency” are the people who profit off the system’s failure and feel compelled to defend it at all costs. Sadly, in the age of Donald Trump and Diane Ravitch, this is what constitutes discourse.”


I especially like the bit where she attacks experts, teachers, and PhDs because they “profit off the system’s failure.” It’s pretty rich stuff coming from Brown who makes a pretty penny retelling the fairytale of “failing public schools.”


Once upon a time, Brown was a respected reported for NBC and anchorperson for CNN.



Now she’s a paid Internet troll.



I’m sorry if that sounds harsh, but it’s true.



She co-founded and edits a Website called The Seventy Four – a reference to the 74 million children across the country who are 18 or younger.



It might be more honest to call it The Four, instead, for the $4 million she receives annually from the mega-rich backers of school privatization to bankroll the endeavor.



She claims her site is “nonpartisan.” Funny. I guess that explains why she continually backs every cause and campaign championed by her donors.



Change all public schools to private charter schools? Check.


Block teachers unions from collectively bargaining? Check.



Ignore the overwhelming preponderance of stories about charter schools cheating the public and their students? Check.



When called out on her bias, she proudly proclaimed, “I have learned that not every story has two sides… Is The Seventy Four journalism or advocacy? For 74 million reasons, we are both.”



Pithy. Yet it remains unclear exactly how the nation’s school children will benefit from Bill Gates and the Walton Family having an even larger say in education policy.


Brown has sold her image and rep as a journalist so it can be used to purposefully mislead the public into thinking she is still dedicated to those endeavors. She’s not. What she’s offering these days is not News. It’s bought-and-paid-for public relations meant to destroy our nation’s public schools.


If anyone thought Brown retained even a shred of journalistic integrity left, she should have removed it when she called herself, “a soldier in Eva’s army.” This is a reference to Eva Moskowitz, the founder and CEO of a New York City charter school chain – Success Academy – where children are put under such pressure they wet themselves during testing and kids in first grade are shamed and berated for math mistakes.


As a public school teacher, myself, this makes me sad.


John Merrow, one of the elder statesmen of education journalism, recently proclaimed that we live in the “golden age of education reporting.”


I must respectfully disagree.


Yes, there is more being written about education policy and public schools than ever before.


But most of it is just paid advertisements from the standardization and privatization industry.


Look who’s funding these stories.



TV Networks such as NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo have broadcast various education segments on “Nightly News” and “Today” underwritten by Bill Gates and Eli Broad.



The Education Writers Association – which boasts more than 3,00 members – receives money from Gates and Walton. The L.A. Times receives funds from Broad for its Education Matters Digital initiative.


On-line publications also have been infiltrated. The Education Post took $12 million in start-up funds provided by Broad, Bloomberg and the Waltons. The site focuses on “K-12 academic standards, high-quality charter schools and how best to hold teachers and schools accountable for educating students,” according to the Washington Post.


Even well-respected education blogs including Chalkbeat and Education Week are funded in part by the Waltons (in the latter case, specifically for “coverage of school choice and [so-called] parent-empowerment issues.”) Education Week even tweets out paid advertisements for Teach for America as if they were news stories!



We’ve all seen “Waiting for Superman,” the infamous union bashing, charter loving propaganda film packaged as a documentary. Its popularity was helped with outreach and engagement funds by the Waltons and a host of other privatizers. It’s far from the only effort by market-driven billionaires to infiltrate popular culture with corporate education reform. They tried to sell the parent trigger law with “Won’t Back Down,” but no one was buying. Efforts continue in Marvel Studios television shows.


A plethora of teachers, academics and other grassroots bloggers have taken to the Internet to correct the record. But they are often ignored or drowned out by the white noise of the same corporate education reform narratives being told again-and-again without any firm footing in reality. In fact, after blogger and former teacher Anthony Cody won first prize from the Education Writers Association in 2014 for his criticism of Gates, the organization banned bloggers from subsequent consideration.


We bloggers are almost completely unpaid. We do it because we care about our profession. Meanwhile the so-called “news” sources are funded by corporate special interests, yet it is bloggers that are looked at as if they were somehow reprehensibly compromised and biased.


Education journalism is not going through a golden age. It’s a sham, a farce.


When we allow our news to be funded by private interests, we lose all objectivity. The stories are spun to meet the demands of the big foundations, the billionaires bankrolling them. And the real experts in the field are either not consulted or left to quixotically do whatever they can on their own time.


Education journalism isn’t about what’s best for children. It’s about how best to monetize the system to wring as many taxpayer dollars out of our schools as possible for corporate interests.


It goes something like this: reduce the quality to reduce the cost and swallow the savings as profit. But it’s sold to the public in propaganda that we call journalism.


As famed cartoonist and counter-culture figure Robert Crumb wrote in 2015:


“You don’t have journalists [in America] anymore. What they have is public relations people. Two-hundred and fifty thousand people in public relations. And a dwindling number of actual reporters and journalists.”


Nowhere is this as obvious as with Brown.


Just as Broad was initiating a plan in February to double the number of charter schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District, Brown’s site, the Seventy Four, was given control of the LA School Report, an on-line news site focusing on the second largest district in the country. Brown was expected to run interference for the takeover. She was running the propaganda arm of the privatization push.


And that’s really what’s happening with our education journalism.


I’m not saying there aren’t actual journalists out there trying to tell unbiased stories. But they are few and far between. They are beset by corporate interests. And anyone who wants to tell the truth is silenced or marginalized.


As we’ve seen, when you actually try to point out errors like Brown’s ridiculous assertions about eighth grade students, the media treats it as a he-said-she-said.


They say, “Wow! Teachers really hate Brown.” Shrug.


Meanwhile the truth is left murdered on the floor as our schools are pillaged and sacked.


Selling the Big Lies About Schools and Teachers on Sci-Fi Fantasy TV

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“The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.”
Malcolm X

I’m with Brother Malcolm on this.

The media matters. And not just the news.

We learn what is real from the stories we tell ourselves and allow to be told about us. We construct our view of reality based on fairy tales, soap operas, rap lyrics and energy drink commercials.

There are cultural truths left unspoken that govern the very way we think. When the media speaks, we listen.

How dangerous, then, that we allow money to write the script. We let the 1% define who is an enemy and who is a friend. It’s no surprise that this almost always aligns with their interests.

As a public school teacher, I am an enemy of the plutocracy. I dare to teach children – even poor children, especially poor children – that knowledge is free. I stand in the way of the monetization of our schools. So I am a frequent target of attack.

It happened most recently in such a subtle way you might not even notice it. Wall Street bankers and hedge fund managers briefly shifting the narrative of science fiction/fantasy to increase the bottom line.

Marvel Studios is often concerned with escapism. But this season, two of its television shows – Marvel’s Agents of Shield and Daredevil – offered brief propaganda amid the comic book action.

Agents of Shield is a superhero/spy drama that connects the production company’s big budget blockbuster films – Iron Man, Thor, The Avengers, etc. It follows the escapades of a well-meaning intelligence agency made up of folks without super powers trying to deal with a world where super heroes are becoming more common.

This season on the ABC drama, one of the major arcs focused on Skye, a young woman just getting used to her super powers, and her quest to find her mother and father both of whom had abandoned her as a baby.

When she finally meets her dad, Cal, he is a mentally unbalanced enemy of Shield . However, as time goes on, Skye begins to see a nicer side to him.

In episode 2X18 “Frenemy of my Enemy,” the two spend the day together walking around Milwaukie and have a conversation about why she had been deserted as an infant. It was all rather interesting until they walked through a puddle of stinking corporate school reform.

Cal talks about how he and Skye’s mom had planned to raise her before they were thwarted by the evil Hydra organization. He talks about the nice middle class suburb where he had bought a home. He talks about the cute local businesses. And to show what an awe shucks great dad he might have been, he rhapsodizes about a really good local charter school where they were going to send her.

Skye: So, you had a … you had a practice here?

Cal: Yeah, before I met your mother.

Skye: She was a doctor, too?

Cal: Studying to be one. She had a natural gift for it … compassionate, beyond intelligent, wise … always five steps ahead of me. She wanted to finish med school here. Oh, and there was this great, little charter school just around the corner.

Skye: A charter school for medicine?

Cal: What? [Chuckling] Oh, no, not for her … for you. Oh, it was gonna’ be perfect. I was gonna’ drop you off every morning and pick you up, help you with your science fair project … the volcano, because who doesn’t love a volcano, right? We’d go to the father-daughter dances together, get ice cream. Ah, the life we could have had … should have had…

A charter school!?

Are you freaking kidding me!?

First of all, let’s talk continuity error. The first charter school law wasn’t even passed until 1991 in Minnesota. Skye was born in 1988. There were no charter schools in existence when Cal was musing about sending his infant daughter to one. Moreover, Wisconsin didn’t allow charter schools until 1993, long after Skye was separated from her parents!

But putting aside issues of believability (This is a show where people have super powers, after all) the charter school reference is hardly organic. It’s used as an emotional shorthand to show that Cal was a good father once. And you know what else is all warm and fuzzy? Those plucky charter schools. Shouldn’t you consider enrolling your child in one today?

However, charter schools have a terrible academic record. They either do no better than traditional public schools or – in most cases – much worse. In fact, for-profit charters are notorious because – unlike public schools – they don’t have to spend all of their budgets on kids. They’re big business producing huge profits for investors at the expense of student learning. Just google “charter school scandals.”

I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that some of that lucrative taxpayer money may be finding its way into Marvel’s coffers to buy advertising space on Agents of Shield.

Product placement: drinking a Coke, driving a Toyota and – now – if only daddy could have sent me to a charter school.

Instead Skye had to deal with a life in an orphanage, at foster homes and – yuck! – the public school system!

Even worse, though, is the outright libel on Daredevil, a show delivered streaming on Netflix.

Most of the time it’s a pretty good action thriller about a blind lawyer who moonlights as a vigilante superhero fighting crime. (Yeah. He has superpowers, too, kinda.)

One of the supporting characters is Ben Urich, a grizzled seen-it-all investigative reporter. While New York’s Hell’s Kitchen is being taken over by the evil businessman, Wilson Fisk, some of Daredevil’s friends try to convince Urich to write about Fisk in the newspaper.

In episode 1X04 “In The Blood,” Urich warns feisty secretary Karen Page about how dangerous it is to go after nefarious evil organizations – like the mob, corporate polluters, the VA and – gasp – the teachers union!

Karen goads him by saying, “I read every big story with your byline. The VA kickbacks, toxic runoff, the Teachers Union scandal. Hell, you pretty much brought down the Italian mob back when I was in diapers. What ever happened to that reporter, Mr. Urich?”


Ben Urich: You said you read a bunch of my articles. Remember the one about the, uh the runoff? What that company was dumping into the river?

Karen Page: Yeah, sure.

Ben Urich: Fished the guy that tipped me off out of that same river a month later. And that fella trying to clean up the Teachers Union? Moved out of state after flyers went up saying he was a pedophile. They underestimated what people in power will do to stay there.

So in the Marvel Universe, the ultimate evils are Red Skull, Loki, Thanos and public school teachers.

I’ve got to tell you my union must really be slacking. We never seem to get to world domination at our meetings.

I pay my dues. How come I’ve never gotten to whack anyone? Why haven’t any of our members – who by law can’t have a criminal record to work with children – why haven’t any of us ever slandered each other as pedophiles? All we do is talk about how to make our school better for both the students and our members.

But those big corporations drooling all over themselves at the prospect of privatizing public education dollars sure do hate us. We’re the last line of defense stopping them from stealing from the piggy bank of tax money put aside to educate your child.

So it’s no wonder some of their shadowy money donated by multi-billionaires like the Koch Brothers and the Walton family probably made its way into Marvel’s bank account.

I can’t prove that Marvel Studios took a cent to write either of those episodes. The Daredevil script was written by Joe Pokaski, a television writer for other genre shows like Heroes and also a Marvel comic book author. The Shield episode was written by Monica Owusu-Breen, one of the show’s co-executive producers. She also has a long career writing for television.

Maybe they each just have personal axes to grind.

Or maybe vampire organizations trying to bleed public money into their bank books might use some of that blood money to soften their image and take down their enemies.

Hey, Daredevil! Hey, Agents of Shield! Maybe if you really want to root out evil, your next mission should be at Marvel Studios! Because making nefarious charter schools look just swell and attacking school teachers – that’s not something heroes do.


“The mass media serve as a system for communicating messages and symbols to the general populace. It is their function to amuse, entertain, and inform, and to inculcate individuals with the values, beliefs, and codes of behavior that will integrate them into the institutional structures of the larger society. In a world of concentrated wealth and major conflicts of class interest, to fulfill this role requires systematic propaganda.”
Noam Chomsky & Edward S. Herman
Manufacturing Consent

“Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.”
Adolph Hitler

-This article also was published on the Badass Teacher Association Blog.

-The article inspired fellow blogger Peter Greene to write a post, “Privatizer Product Placement,” asking readers to contact Marvel Studios and ask the company to stop putting anti-school propaganda in its TV shows.