I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Outsiders

James Osborne at the Philadelphia Inky had a great piece on the secretive, unaccountable charter application process in New Jersey. I want to add a few things to his report:
New Jersey education officials had a dilemma last summer: Following the approval of a record number of charter schools, questions were flying about how closely the applications had been screened.
It's worth noting that the only reason we know who screened the charter applicants is because the ACLU and the Education Law Center filed a lawsuit to get the names released.  Officials in the NJ DOE reported said they would "go to the mat" to protect the names of the reviewers. This is what passes for transparency in the word of Chris Christie and Chris Cerf.
The National Association of Charter School Authorizers, a Chicago nonprofit, had offered to fly in 14 consultants to lead Department of Education staff in the next approval round, looking toward overhauling the entire process. 
What was particularly enticing was that the association could arrange funding through the Newark Charter School Fund, a nonprofit backed by the same philanthropies that support the association, including the Walton Family Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
But the association also employs a Washington lobbying firm, primarily to push for more federal funds for charter-authorizing agencies. 
And it works with the nonprofit American Legislative Exchange Council, founded in 1973 by a conservative political activist. The council gives corporations and think tanks access to its 2,000-plus state-legislator members. The groups are circulating legislation to remove control of charters from local school boards through creation of state charter-school commissions that would free school officials from "regulatory interference by other governmental agencies" - a position even some charter backers say could lead to corruption and more failing schools.
What Osborne neglects to note is that ALEC also gets money from Gates. That's right: Gates is funding this thing from every possible angle. The Baron of Bellevue has more say over the New Jersey education system than the people who actually live here.

Of course, New Jersey is just the latest stop on the charter superhighway; Gates's proxies have also worked their reformy magic in New York:
Public education has never been so divided, between those like Dr. Tisch, Commissioner John B. King Jr. and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg who support the Obama administration’s signature Race to the Top initiative and its emphasis on standardized tests and charter schools; and dissenters on the board, who call it a Race to the Bottom and put their faith in teachers as well as traditional public schools. The Race to the Bottom folks warn that the supposedly free fellows come at a stiff political price.
The Bottoms: “Private people give money to support things they’re interested in,” saidRoger B. Tilles, a lawyer and longtime education administrator who has been a regent for six years.
Those donors include Bill Gates ($892,000), who is leading the charge to evaluate teachers, principals and schools using students’ test scores; the National Association of Charter School Authorizers ($50,000) and the Robbins Foundation ($500,000), which finance charter expansion; and the Tortora Sillcox Family Foundation ($500,000), whose mission statement includes advancing “Mayor Bloomberg’s school reform agenda.”
Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Gates are expert at using philanthropy in a way that pressures government to follow their public policy agendas. [emphasis mine]
 So this is how we do it:
Of course, Bill is very angry about the gimmicks in state budgets; specifically, that we might have to actually meet our obligations to fund public employee health care and pension benefits compensation. He calls it "the young vs. the old." Does he consider it may be "the rich vs. the poor"?

Until we solve our budget problems, however, Bill is happy to take advantage of their fiscal crises to remake education the way he likes it - even in states where he doesn't live or pay taxes.

Everyone OK with that?


Anonymous said...

"The young versus the old" is very eloquent. There is one really powerful special interest with blatant financial self interest and greed in this debate -- the NJEA. The other people painted as having "money motives" -- Norcross, etc, -- are molecules on that whale.

I think it is noteworthy that the NJEA abandoned its "for the children" spin a years ago. It really is about young vs. old now -- New Jersey's children against the organized tenured teachers playing prevent defense on their benefits, and the elected officials that they bought. Young vs. old, very nice.

Duke said...

I hope nj.com isn't too annoyed with me for stealing all of their trolls...

Rob Galgano said...

Please note that anon didn't have the balls to post his/her name!

Unknown said...

Dear Anonon, Wake up and smell the coffee. Teacher union donations to pols are, by comparison, a drop of peepee in the ocean relative to donations given by our private financial overlords to their bff's in govt. Check out this list of top contributors:


Every Wall St behemoth is investing in public/private edu-partnerships. Why do you think this effort to demean teachers and public schools is bipartisan?
These golden investment opportunities are laundered public school taxes via charter schools and vouchers.

Unknown said...

Gates has quite the Rube Goldgerg of financial support for edu-privatization. I think it's time for a new flow chart, Jazzman.

Anonymous said...

The NJEA is a union, it advocates for its members, that's what it's supposed to do. You have a problem with that? So if a union advocates for its members it's greedy and selfish?? Well of course, if you're Christie or Cerf you do have a problem with unions. The NJEA does not run the schools, it does not hire the administrators or teachers, it does not replace the school boards. These anti union twits seem to think that the NJEA is all powerful, that it has its own army navy and air force and that it has day to day control over the schools. The NJEA represents teachers' interests and it is also for the kids, in other words it can chew gum and walk at the same time. There are so many anti union yahoos out there and sadly amongst folks who would benefit the most from unions. They have been so brain washed by right wing radio and the vicious thugs on NJ 101.5. Don't Gearhart and his henchmen belong to unions, too?