Just Say No to Corporate-Driven Education Reform

I never thought I would find a use for Nancy Reagan’s famous anti-drug slogan of the ’80’s, but I think it might be the appropriate response to some of the education reforms being pushed by Race to the Top and its corporate underwriters, which include (most famously) Bill Gates, among other less famous billionaires. There is an important reason why we as parents and responsible community members need to think carefully about whether these reforms will truly improve education. David Sirota deftly outlines why we can’t trust corporations to give us real education reform:

What’s fascinating about the whole education debate is that the corporate “reformers” she [Diane Ravitch] talks about are, for the most part, the same people who don’t want to have an honest discussion about taxes and budget resources. In general, they ask us to believe that we can test our way out of our education problems, without better funding our school system.

While it’s certainly true that resources aren’t the only problem, it’s also true that they are a huge problem. You get what you pay for, as any undergraduate business major would tell you, and you’d think these corporatists would know that, considering their much-touted business experience. But they don’t. What they want us to believe is that education is not a problem of resources – it’s a problem of greedy unions, lazy teachers and poor standards.

That argument, of course, is self-serving. If you are a rich guy like Bill Gates, it’s in your self interest to blame teachers and unions for education problems rather than talk about how you and your fellow billionaires should be paying more taxes to help build a better education system.

I was relieved to see that Commissioner Gist postponed the plan for NECAP scores to be the new standard for high school graduation. As a parent and school certified social worker, I would like to see more investment within our public schools rather than in schools that function outside of the public education system. I realize we have some very interesting charter schools in the state, but I am concerned about drawing more resources away from our public schools to fund schools that will likely end up being shut down in a few years because they don’t consistently outperform public schools.

10 thoughts on “Just Say No to Corporate-Driven Education Reform

  1. Diane Ravitch was well respected (appointed?) during the Reagan years, and, if I remember correctly, was a big supporter of wow, I’m forgetting the term, ? vouchers as a way of improving the system.

    Perhaps, my memory is false, but I heard her speak once in Providence, and she clearly had Never encountered a teachers’ union for which a single good thing could be said.

    I am not defending or promoting the Race to the Top or NECAP (kneecaps are good things!) and my family’s experience with a charter school is a mixed one…

  2. Vouchers are a different story than the reforms being pushed now — they gave students the opportunity to change to another school system — they did not propose starting lots more schools outside of the public school system.

  3. Kiersten-do your daughters go to public schools?Just wondering.My kids did for sure.

    1. Public school for older, on third year of private preschool for younger. Very pleased with our public schools, though I see how they are being degraded every year by further loss of funding. As far as I can see, they do plenty of testing and testing does not need to be featured any more heavily than it already is.

      1. Well,private preschool is about the only choice.
        See,my wife taught at a charter high school which drew upon the same demographic as Central Falls HS and they had great success-I got to know the staff-very excellent teachers,a number from Brown,but all had accountability.
        And no,Nancy-no fundamentalist religious stuff whatsoever.

  4. “I see how they are being degraded every year by further loss of funding”

    How can this be reconciled with the fact that we have some of the most expensive public schools in the nation? (in the top quintile)

    When I was doing research on the prostitution criminalization stuff, I discovered that Rhode Island has -the most expensive- women’s prison in the nation, but it’s also at the bottom in terms of the condition of the physical plant and programs offered.

    My conclusion wasn’t that there wasn’t enough funding, it was that there’s too much overhead, and that virtually all of the money that should have gone to keeping the plant maintained and programs funded went instead to the labor contracts, which stipulated automatic step increases on top of inflation-adjusted steps.

    I think it’s the same way with schools here. It’s not that we aren’t adequately funding the schools, it’s that we’re not allocating the funds properly, so we have very well-compensated faculty working in dilapidated buildings with no books.

    1. That’s true about the “well-compensated faculty working in dilapidated buildings with no books,” but I’m fairly sure trying to pay them less is not the answer. We have some extremely qualified teachers in our public schools in Cranston and I am proud of that fact and thankful that we pay them good money. If you’ve ever spent a significant amount of time in a classroom with a good teacher, you know they earn every penny of it.

      Every contract needs to be carefully gone over and ways to save need to be found that both sides can agree on. Unfortunately this comes down to asking teachers to pay for more of their benefits — same as in the private sector, and that is happening. But budgets are shrinking faster than the gaps can be filled by union concessions. There are no easy answers, but we need to be wary of solutions that have not been well-researched and are being pushed for a specific political agenda — i.e. to keep the rich from having to pay enough taxes to properly fund education.

      1. Who’s the “rich”,Kiersten?Huh?
        My wife and I are well down into a five figure income(not even close to six figure)and we claim zero exemptions and are still going to owe over a thousand dollars.I feel like I’m being punished for owning my house outright and not running up debts.I have no car payments either and ONE credit card on which I never carry a balance and here you are telling me I have to carry teachers who want premium health plans with little tiny copays and contributions-the hell with them.
        The hell with Gump Chafee and his trust fund life.
        He never had to sweat being evicted or going sick in his miserable life.And you people here worship him.And that abominable Sheldon.What’s wrong with you?Can’t you see that it’s people like yourselves who will be ground underfoot at the behest of the elitist eloi?
        But “klaus”thinks WE are the troglodytes.Unbelieveable.

      2. A good teacher -is- worth a lot, and a bad teacher is a huge liability. Unfortunately the teachers won’t allow themselves to be ‘graded’ so we can pay all teachers well, and get rid of the bad ones over time.

        Paying every teacher really well because there are ‘some really good ones’, and not implementing a way to eliminate the bad ones is just… Dumb. There’s just no better word for it. It’s preposterous.

        When you look at where the money goes in education (and many other things) here, it actually -is- possible to taper-down the raises over a few years (perhaps index them to the median income?) and have enough money for technology, building repairs, books, and supplies. Having teachers pay 25% of their health premiums alone (compared to 0, I don’t know what they pay now) would free up about $4,000 per classroom every year, that’s enough for books and computers.

        As for ‘the budget being cut’… Well yeah, from 2008-2009 it was cut a little bit, but the overall arc from 2004-2010 shows over 2.8% -annual- growth, well above the rate of inflation, CPI, or median pay. I don’t have data on numbers of students, but I assume that Cranston isn’t exempt from the dwindling numbers of enrolled students we’re seeing elsewhere in the state.

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