New ESEA is a Stinker – Kill It

2 Dec

Our corrupted political system is poised to advance the theft of public education from local communities and surrender it to corporate greed. The reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) was agreed to in conference committee around November 17, but withheld from public or congressional scrutiny until November 30th. This thousand page plus law is scheduled for a vote (with no time for comment or study); this week in the house and next week in the senate.

Here are some of the discoveries I have made.

On pages 450 and 469, the federal government commits to giving large grants to promote “blended learning” and “personalized learning.” These are euphemisms that mean replace teachers with computer delivered lessons. There is a complete lack of evidence supporting this education approach, but if you own a large technology company it is a way to capture taxpayer provided education dollars.

So what if it harm public schools?

The doors are also opened for Wall Street actors like Goldman-Sachs and JP Morgan Chase to get their hands on school funds through social impact bounds. These are bonds that do not pay a fixed rate of return. They are paid by the local governments to the bond holder when a particular social need has been successfully solved by the investment. On page 797, this financial scam is called the “Pay for Success Initiative.”

As Mercedes Schneider observed, “Of course, the problem here is that the funder of the pay-for-success initiative could somehow exploit children or influence such exploitation in an effort to shape the desired, ‘successful’ outcome. Only successful outcomes result in profits.”

Testing of every child in grades 3 – 8 and 11 every year is mandated. Every state is required to test 95% of its students and language learners are subject to multiple statewide interim assessments. States are allowed the “opt out” option for parents, but it is not clear what happens if more than 5% opt out of yearly testing. That appears to be illegal. Only 1% of the special needs population is allowed an alternative assessment.

No other country in the world forces their children into this much testing. It truly is folly. Every year since the acceleration of the federal takeover of schools in 2001, student growth has slowed and the learning gaps have increased. These policies are not good for students, they are not good for communities, but they are profitable for testing corporations.

They are also the means by which control over education can be wielded by federal overlords.

I am reminded of something presented by Francis W. Parker of Chicago at the 1891 National Education Association gathering. He wrote:

 “The common school furnishes the essential principles in the development and perpetuation of a democracy, and its growth and progress has been purely democratic; it has been and is, ‘of the people, for the people, and by the people.’ The common school had its birth in the New England school district; and the New England school district with the town is the root from which sprung all the democratic forms of government which have developed in our country. In a word, the spirit and nourishment of the common-school system has always depended, and depends to-day, entirely upon the will of the majority. State and national officials are given little more than advisory influences.

 “… That which has its birth-in-the-desires-and-intelligences-of-the people, and is applied by the will of the people, becomes an organic, permanent factor in the progress of civilization of that people.”

Today’s legislators have forgotten the hard won lessons of our ancestors. Instead of protecting the common school concept and the rights of local communities who built and paid for our public education system, they are busy selling it for thirty pieces of silver or worse foolishly giving away what they have no right to govern.

The section titled “21st Century Schools” could also be called the “Public School Privatization” section. It states:

 ‘‘SEC. 4302.”

“(a) IN GENERAL.—The Secretary may carry out a charter school program that supports charter schools that serve early childhood, elementary school, or secondary school students by—

‘‘(1) supporting the startup of new charter schools, the replication of high-quality charter schools, and the expansion of high-quality charter schools;

“(2) assisting charter schools in accessing credit to acquire and renovate facilities for school use; and

‘‘(3) carrying out national activities to support—“

 Charter schools are not public schools. Citizens have no voting control over their governance and have no right to see what wages are paid or how money is being spent. Public schools are prohibited from pulling students out of schools, dressing them in colorful tee-shirts and making them participate in political demonstrations. That is becoming more and more frequent at charter schools.

The money to support charter schools comes from public school budgets; taxpayers.

Charter schools are plagued with fraud and instability. They have been a powerful agent exacerbating segregation. Across the nation public schools have consistently outperformed charter schools and I do not know of any pedagogical innovations originating in a charter school. In fact, the “no excuses” charter schools are quite regressive.

But billionaires like Bill Gates, Eli Broad and the Walton family love charter schools, so we the taxpayers of this country are going to support the diminution of our local public schools and doom children to attending corporate for profit schools.

Even the “non-profit” charter schools are really for profit schools. Just look at the salaries founders and top administrators are giving themselves.

In the bill, congress promotes the expansion of temporary teachers with no training like those provided by Teach for America. Today, these idealistic young people are cynically utilized to undermine professional teachers and their unions. Many of the “no excuses” charters schools are predominantly staffed with these untrained – inexperienced youths.

None of this is good for students but there is a lot of money to be made in the burgeoning charter industry.

This bill will be in force at least until 2020 if it is passed. It is clearly both anti-public school and anti-teacher, still, labor leaders Garcia of the NEA and Weingarten of the AFT support it and so does the PTA.

However, unlike them, I am not getting money from Bill Gates and I don’t support Hillary Clinton. So, I say kill this stinker of a bill and start over. I know NCLB is terrible, but replacing it with nearly as bad does not make sense to me.

One Response to “New ESEA is a Stinker – Kill It”

  1. Jim Horn December 7, 2015 at 8:41 pm #

    Go to Change.org to sign the petition stop the rewrite: https://www.change.org/p/u-s-senate-tell-the-u-s-senate-to-say-no-to-esea-reauthorization-plan-ver-traducción-en-español-abajo

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