Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The New Orleans Charter Scam Game

...this really is about removing education from the public to the private sector and especially removing control of public education from urban black governance.  Once the schools are privatized, they never come back to the public.  
Here is a powerful piece on how New Orleans is the model for total privatization of the public school system. Most revealing is how certain selected charters were given double the resources to "prove" how "successful" the model was. All you need to know is this: Mayor Bloomberg has made sizable donations to Louisiana edu-politics causes. (Times-Picayune)

Lance Hill from New Orleans
Why foundation and corporations are focusing on New Orleans and why the true education reform movement and the national media needs to view New Orleans as the key battle ground for school privatization and deprofessionalization of teachers.  If the corporate reformers convince the public that the New Orleans model works (through fabricated and misleading data), then the rest of the nation will follow suit.
The “beachhead” strategy of the corporate education forces in New Orleans has always involved subsidizing select privatized charter schools to provide additional instructional resources and incentives which creates a set of model “successful schools” that can’t possibly be replicated on existing revenues in other districts.  From the outside, it appears that the charters and TFA have “done more with less” when in fact if they did more at all, it was with massive subsidies from the state, corporations, and foundations­all concealed from the public.  So the state, which never spent anything on education, gave Vallas double the expenditure per student. Broad foundation gave KIPP $150,000 to pay the kids (secretly) up to $50 a week to behave.  NOLA college prep spends twice per pupil as the state funding formula through corporate and foundation subsides.  And this does not take into consideration the in-kind subsidies­using AmeriCorps volunteers who function as teachers (calling them tutors); Konica-Minolta handing out $60,000 scholarships to KIPP 8th graders to attend private schools;  Bill Gates making a $3 million grant to plan charters and train charter CEOs. 

The outcome is a handful of model schools that the corporate reform advocates market as the norm.  That is why it is crucial to the corporate education reformers that New Orleans privatization appear to succeed at all costs.  It’s like a Ponzi scheme: great profits are returned at first but in the end, they could not sustain the flow.  So why would Gates and Broad and Duncan push a contrived, flawed, and subsidized model as the national model?  Because this really is about removing education from the public to the private sector and especially removing control of public education from urban black governance.  Once the schools are privatized, they never come back to the public.  That is part of the lesson of New Orleans ­the worse, chronically failing charters are just given to another charter operator.  Although Act 35 promised to return the schools once they were  brought up to standard, that promise was reneged.  What happens once all the veteran teachers quit because of new evaluation standards and pension cuts?  In the long run we end up with an untrained and inadequate teacher corp.  This is why we say the original charter movement which wanted autonomy to create replicable innovations was hijacked by the free-marketers who simply wanted control of education and the profits that will come with that. 

This shell bait-and-switch game can’t work without media complicity.  The first year that post-Katrina LEAP scores were published by the Times-Picayune, they only published the top charter school scores. They did not publish the scores of the “dumping schools”  within these charter networks where, in one case, 93% of the students failed the 4th grade LEAP.  So these temporary subsidies work if the media does not reveal them.  

New Orleans is at the center of the national debate on education because here we traded democratic control of education for the putative benefits of increased efficiency and lower costs ­the promise that privatization always makes.  The danger is that rest of the nation will forsake its local control of schools in trade for that same illusion.  In the end, the charter and on-line schools will make billions and the public will be left with schools that perform at the same level or worse but not accountable to the public.  

New Orleans is not an ”experiment”: it is a carefully planned corporate takeover of public education that will ignore evidence that they system they implement is a failure.  The free market has no problem selling products that don’t work as long as they turn a profit. 

Lance Hill, Ph.D.
Southern Institute for Education and Research

1 comment:

  1. The supermarkets use the same strategy: it's called the loss leader. You put an item on sale to attract customers, but mark all other items up. These initial donations to make the charters look good are loss leaders. After they destroy the public education system, leaving no choice at all, there will be no more donations. Just endless siphoning of public money and industrialized/kill/drill "education".


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