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The Wrangling of Taxpayer Money by Jeb Bush and other Education Reformers

by Gretchen Logue of Missouri Education Watchdog

Education is the “Wild West”.  Scott Joftus was correct when talking about money to be made in education reform:

Scott Joftus, closely aligned with Bill Gates and his foundation since the early years of 2000, had this to say about education in an article aptly titled “Is the Stimulus Really “No Consultant Left Behind” “?:

That metaphor is an apt one for the market as well. In the fall of 2009, Mr. Joftus was contacted by a former contractor who was working for Global Partnership Schools, a new school turnaround venture funded by GEMS Education, a Dubai-based company founded by entrepreneur Sunny Varkey. The caller was hoping to obtain copies of Mr. Joftus’ contract for school improvement services in Kansas.
“You know we’re in a new era when school turnaround firms in the U.S. are being funded out of the Middle East,” Joftus said. “To me, that says there’s money to be made. I call this period the Wild West in education.”

We wrote about Joftus in May 2011.  Researchers such as Susan Ohanian and Dora Taylor have been writing about the money trail to Bill Gates and other “entrepreneurs” using taxpayer money to fund their private companies for years.   Note that Joftus’ remark was in 2009.  This has been in the planning for some time by private corporations and the Federal Government to create an enormous public/private partnership without voter/legislative approval.

Joftus is just a small part in the big picture of corporate payback in education.  The story garnering the attention of education activists this week was the information on former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and his plans to gain monetarily from the reforms designed “for the kids”. Rather than serving student educational needs, various education reforms allow the framework for investors and professional ed reformers to gain access to state/federal coffers.  Frominthepublicinterest.org:

Emails between the Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE), founded and chaired by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and state education officials show that the foundation is writing state education laws and regulations in ways that could benefit its corporate funders. The emails, obtained through public records requests, reveal that the organization, sometimes working through its Chiefs For Change affiliate, wrote and edited laws, regulations and executive orders, often in ways that improved profit opportunities for the organization’s financial backers.

“Testing companies and for-profit online schools see education as big business,” said In the Public Interest Chair Donald Cohen. “For-profit companies are hiding behind FEE and other business lobby organizations they fund to write laws and promote policies that enrich the companies.”

The emails conclusively reveal that FEE staff acted to promote their corporate funders’ priorities, and demonstrate the dangerous role that corporate money plays in shaping our education policy. Correspondence in Florida, New Mexico, Maine, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Louisiana paint a graphic picture of corporate money distorting democracy.

This report focuses on testing companies and for-profit online schools and doesn’t mention common core standards.  But think how easy (and necessary for increased profits) it will be for these testing companies and on-line schools to use the mandated CCSS standards, assessments and resulting curricula.  It doesn’t matter so much to these companies/investors what students are learning, it’s that they are learning the same material so the process can be streamlined for the assessment/testing companies.

Does anyone seriously believe the push for CCSS is anything more than a money making scheme and to control educational content?  Why the clamor to sign on to assessments that were never even written?  Why are the standards/assessments copyrighted by private companies?  Why won’t states/school districts be able to adapt these standards/assessments?

Read again what Scott Joftus said in 2009 and understand what education reform is really about.  It’s never been “for the kids”.  Mr. Joftus may be discovering how making money in education reform is getting in the way of real teaching for his own children in his post When Education Reform gets Personal in EducationNext.org:

Over more than 20 years in the field of education—including two with Teach For America—I have helped promote state standards, the Common Core, the hiring of teachers with strong content knowledge, longer class periods for math and reading, and extra support for struggling students, to name a few. I have recently discovered, however, that what I believe as an education policy wonk is not always what I believe as a father.

In Montgomery County, Maryland, where I live, academic expectations are extremely high. Our school district aims to teach math, for example, in a rigorous way. I appreciate this goal, but to date “increased rigor” has primarily meant that some students skip grade-level math classes and enroll in classes meant for older kids. Basic skills that are taught and reinforced in the grades being skipped are often given short shrift. In 2nd grade, my daughter brought home worksheets on probability before she had any real understanding of the concept, or even a strong foundation in simple division. Her frustration with probability, and consequently math, grew as we substituted times-table drills for play dates. Last year, to my horror, she said that she hated math. This year, which has included an increased focus on math facts and an inspiring teacher, math has become her favorite subject.

He writes how a child in the foster system disrupted the class and took the teacher’s time and away from other children:

The tension between my understanding of good education policy—driven by a deep commitment to equity and the belief that an outstanding education can transform lives, and this country—and what is right for my daughters makes me both a better policy wonk and a better father. The tension also illustrates why school reform is so difficult.

I would suggest the educational reform currently being driven by leaders like Jeb Bush, Bill Gates, Achieve, David Coleman, etc won’t alleviate the types of problems Mr. Joftus details.  Living in the “Wild West” of education leaves much to be desired, even for the education reformers profiting from the wrangling of taxpayer money.

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The War of Women on Federal Control of Local Schools Being Waged in Maryland and Missouri.

By Gretchen Logue of Missouri Education Watchdog.

Two women, one in Maryland and the other in Missouri, are extremely concerned about what’s happening in public education.  One is sounding the alarm about Common Core, the other about Race to the Top and her district planning to apply for the RTTT “direct to district” grants, bypassing the state educational agency.  Who needs state educational agencies when the Federal government will give your district money and mandates?  The Federal DOEd has bypassed state agencies and will direct district education from Washington DC, hardly a constitutional power granted to the federal government.

Cindy Stickline-Rose, a parent, wrote a two part article first appearing at www.TheTentacle.com for parents and taxpayers about Common Core standards.  Excerpts are reprinted below with permission from  Ms. Stickline-Rose and TheTentacle.  From Taking Parents Out of The Equation – Part 1:

Beginning today Frederick County Public Schools will be hosting a series of education nights to familiarize parents with The Common Core Standards.
 
As a parent advocate, I want interested persons to be fully informed before setting one foot inside their propaganda rooms. I don’t hold the school system wholly responsible for the spin. Most are ignorant as to how what we know as “Common Core” grew from an ideology to an idea and into reality.
 
I’ll share the facts I know and let you decide if you want this in our local classrooms.
 
First, let’s start out calling Common Core what it is: a National Curriculum. It was sold to schools, parents and educators as a way to level the playing field for career and college readiness. Students in Miami would be taught the same as students in Seattle.
 
It was sold as standards in math and English; but, oh, looky here, come this December Social Studies will be added in.
 
Before I continue, let me point out that there are two groups working on “education reform.” Group One I call the “faux reformer.” They seek to transform the American education system into the Department of Labor. Group Two is the one I and my associates are working on. It seeks to re-establish the parent as the entity with first and final authority over how and what our children are taught under a “true partnership” with our educators.
 
So, you should not be surprised that less and less control is being had on the local level because it is the faux reformers who have current control over education.
 
Power is being siphoned away from local jurisdictions back to the states and will ultimately arrive at the feet of the federal government. The conduit is Common Core. The end game of this reform is to remove the parents and the states completely.
How a nationally run education system is put in place starts with three pieces of legislation from 1994: Goals 2000 Act (also known as the Educate America Act), School to Work Act and Improving American Schools Act. They run in concert with the No Child Left Behind Act (the reauthorized, tweaked version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act), Race to The Top and Common Core Standards.
 
What these pieces of legislation set out to do:
 
·        Bypass local school boards and parents by having federal funding go directly to the states, through the governors, not to the schools.
 
·        Centralize all student information into a national data base. This information would include personal, identifying information such as family information, social security numbers, academic, medical, mental and behavioral information as well as information from guidance counselors in K-12, college and the work place.
 
·        National standards and testing. To solidify control, the 12th grade diploma will be replaced with a Certificate of Initial Mastery (CIM). No person will be able to get a job without a CIM.
 
Don’t think it’s being implemented in our local schools? Take a look at the Frederick County Board of Education’s position paper to the local legislators in 2012: “Today’s investments in Frederick County Public Schools are key to a prosperous economy, strong business growth, and students’ ability to compete for good jobs in a global, high-tech economy.”
 
I’m not seeing a whole lot of language about educating our children today so they can have bright futures tomorrow based on what they choose for themselves. It looks like an employment and economy pitch not an education pitch.
 
Troubled yet?
Ms. Stickline-Rose has done an excellent job informing folks of what common core is and who is behind it and why it is being implemented.  It’s not so much “for the kids” as it is for a managed economy.
 
Laura Martin, a school board member from Camdenton, Missouri, is raising questions about educational direction and programming as well.  Her superintendent wants to receive Race to the Top grants given directly to districts, bypassing the state educational agency, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.  From Camdenton School District faces scrutiny from within over Race to the Top:
According to the application, the grant, offered by the U.S. Department of Education, would allow Camdenton R-III, Marshall and Knob Noster school districts to partner with State Fair Community College and the University of Central Missouri to build a facility to house some of Camdenton’s programs; it would provide personalized learning environments in the form of take-home laptops, iPads and tablet computers for all middle and high school students in the three districts; and it would allow the districts to integrate career planning systems and develop curriculum designed to focus on “real-world applications” of academic content in order to allow students pre-kindergarten through 12th grade and their parents to better plan for the future.
 

Camdenton Schools had expressed interest in program to the U.S. Department of Education by Aug. 30, according to district officials.

“We had just gotten out from under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program so I was leery about rushing into something else offered by the federal government,” Martin said, adding that her concern quickly grew when she realized the board was being asked to approve the grant so it could be submitted by the deadline of Oct. 30. “It might be a great deal but I wanted to read our application and research the program before committing,” she said. “To me, this had undertones of Nancy Pelosi’s ‘sign-it-now, read-it-later’ handling of the health care law.”

Others apparently agreed. The board told the superintendent to continue pursuing the grant but decided to table the vote until the next meeting. That meeting, which is open to the public, is scheduled for 7:30 a.m., Oct. 23, and will include a presentation by Pat Gillman, the director of College and Career Readiness for State Fair, who took the lead on preparing the grant.

In the meantime, Martin said she set out to learn as much as possible about Race to the Top.

The article details the excellent questions Martin has about RTTT  regarding the cost, the federal control, the emphasis on career training for the entire district, teacher evaluations, the sustainability requirements, the lack of teacher input and tax levies necessary when the grants ran out.  Martin is doing the job a school board member should be performing; asking questions on debt, future ramifications of decisions to taxpayers and students and the reasons “reforms” are being adopted by the Board.  You can find more of Martin’s concerns here on her blog, The Sunshine Seeker.

The War of Women on Corporate/Governmental Educational Reforms is here.  Join women (and concerned men) to fight these reforms that are not “for the kids” but for special interests and the federal control of education. These reforms are not “state led”.  In fact, these reforms actually make state education agencies, school boards and taxpayers powerless and useless.

The federal mandates are funded by the taxpayers.  These taxpayer funded mandates (not voted on by the taxpayers) are administered by bureaucrats who have no power except by which they are “granted” by the Federal Department of Education and private corporations.  Are these educational mandates an example “of the people, by the people, for the people”?  Hardly.  Instead of education being a Declaration on Independence from the Federal Department of Education, these education reforms are more akin to a nationalized version of managing human capital for state/corporate purposes.

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RFID Chipping: When Students are Determined to be Human Capital, then it’s Necessary to Track them as Inventory.

by Gretchen Logue of Missouri Education Watchdog

One of the schools in my district is looking to implement fingerprint scans to hurry up the lunch line.  Some parents express concern on this practice while others view it as an efficient method to solve a problem of impatient waiting children and decreased times to eat lunch.

I read education articles from progressive to libertarian to conservative sites.  Regardless of political affiliation, writers from all sides are concerned about data mining of students and the future implications of

  • who has access to this information
  • where it will be shared
  • how it might be used
  • possible data breaches compromising private and sensitive information

Voices championing these programs are the ones making money off the data mining information and programs and the clueless taxpayers who believe governmental agencies have our individual interests in mind as the basis for these programs.

The article Student RFID Chipping Conditions American Youth to Accept Government Surveillance covers the gamut for student data mining. Once it’s permissible to scan your child’s fingerprints to receive government services, why isn’t it permissible (or mandated) to use other bioscan techniques in order to receive other educational programs?

A school in Maryland has installed PalmSecure, a biometric scanning system that requires elementary students to place their hand on infrared scanners in order to pay for their school lunch. The unique nuances of each child’s individual hand will be catalogued and the image encrypted with a numerical algorithm that is combined with the cost of school lunches.

PalmSource, a Japanese corporation specializing in biometric technology offers this “authentication system” which is a marketed as a necessity in healthcare, security, government, banking, retail and education.

The corporation also provides an array of RFID chipped tags with memory capacity.

The cost to taxpayers and parents for the installation of this Big Brother surveillance system in 43 schools in Maryland is estimated to be $300,000.

PalmSource is being beta-tested in Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana.

The school district of Spring Independent in Houston, Texas believes that “RFID readers situated throughout each campus are used to identify where students are located in the building, which can be used to verify the student’s attendance for ADA funding and course credit purposes.”

In Texas, children attending school in the Northside Independent School District will be required to carry RFID chipped cards while on campus. The 6,000 student’s movements will be monitored by faculty, in a pilot program that hopes to expand to tracking all students in the 12 districts.

Principal Wendy Reyes of Jones Middle School, explains: “It’s going to give us the opportunity to track our students in the building. They may have been in the nurse’s office, or the counselor’s office, or vice principal’s office, but they were markedly absent from the classroom because they weren’t sitting in the class. It will help us have a more accurate account of our attendance.”

In the San Antonio school district, the Student Locator Project (SLP) is being beta-tested at Jay High School and Jones Middle School – two schools in the Northside district. The SLP includes the use of radio frequency identification technology (RFID) to “make schools safer, know where our students are while at school, increase revenues, and provide a general purpose ‘smart’ ID card.”

Students rallied against the use of RFID chips in two of their middle schools in San Antonio, Texas. The school district “maintained” that controlling truancy and tardiness as well as gaining $2 million in state funding for the use of these tracking devices was the motivation behind the implementation of the technology.

The school district of Spring Independent in Houston Texas believes that “RFID readers situated throughout each campus are used to identify where students are located in the building, which can be used to verify the student’s attendance for ADA funding and course credit purposes.”

In order to check out school library books, register for classes, pay for school lunches, the “smart” ID card is being employed to trace and track students and their movements on campuses all across America. By using leverage of educators to coerce school districts to adopt this method of tracking students, the argument for the use of the RFID technology is campus safety, efficient registration, and food and library programs.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) demands that ranchers use RFID chips to monitor their livestock. It is expected that RFID chips will become a part of our daily life, with their presence embedded in clothing, packaging, and bar-code labels on retail goods.

Herding and surveying people in our society with the use of RFID chipping disrupts our innate ability to remain private and infringes on our Constitutional civil liberties. The information contained in the RIFD chip could be the individual’s social security number, home address, medical records, school records, criminal records, financial records, and any other information that can be referred to digital storage. These chips can be accessed either by a source 100 feet or more from the person wearing the RFID chip. Remote access to the information contained in the chip is able to be read by directed satellites and sent to database centers where it can be used within a digital profile.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has built 70 counterterrorism fusion centers across the nation. The cost to taxpayers is $1.4 billion so that federal and local law enforcement agencies can use surveillance equipment to database the movements of American citizens. According to a US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations report on fusion centers, some may be allocated for pre-crime suspicions, others would be simply watched so that they the US government will be able to properly learn how to control a mass of people.

These fusion centers receive mostly unusable information that endangers citizen’s civil liberties. The Committee could not surmise from data provided by DHS how the fusion centers worked with local law enforcement, but rather came to an assumed conclusion that data being collected on Americans is being stored within DHS facilities for the expressed (and as of now unknown) use by the federal agency.

Meanwhile, mainstream media is busy selling the idea that multi-media devices like smartphones, need to be implanted in the body. In the not-so-distant future, corporations hope that humans will embed microchips into their brains in order to use technologically advanced devices. However, this endeavor has a dark side.

It is predicted that in 75 years “microchips can be installed directly in the user’s brain. Apple, along with a handful of companies, makes these chips. Thoughts connect instantly when people dial to ‘call’ each other. But there’s one downside: ‘Advertisements’ can occasionally control the user’s behavior because of an impossible-to-resolve glitch. If a user encounters this glitch — a 1 in a billion probability — every piece of data that his brain delivers is uploaded to companies’ servers so that they may “serve customers better.”

Anngie and I have returned from a trip to a one room Amish schoolhouse.  We’ll be writing in the next few days about the difference between education including electronic tracking vs education delivered in a small, intimate setting with no government surveillance needed.  The difference between how public education students are tracked in school and how the Amish teachers handled student movement on school property is astounding.

This community established the school two years ago.  It was approached by the public school district to sign the students up as public education students.  It would have been a great tax infusion for the district and financing for the Amish school, but for the community school autonomy, not so much.  The community made the decision not to align itself with the public school’s programs.  The Amish teacher understood this tradeoff and while finances are tough for the school, she was pleased she has the authority to teach the students in the manner the community believes appropriate.  She was aghast that local public school districts are now mandated by Washington DC for much of the education delivery on the local level.  I can just imagine her response on chipping children for informational data information for governmental use.

Here’s a website  alerting folks to the dangers of chipping children like cattle.

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Conservative parent stands against biased third grade textbook in Frederick County, Maryland

Cindy Rose runs a Facebook page called Eye on the Board. From the Eye on the Board Facebook page “All children deserve an education free from political and social agendas. History is slowly being erased from our textbooks and replaced with social beliefs. If you believe the federal and state governments have too much power in what is going on in your school, join us in our cause to dismantle the U.S. Department of Education, minimize the authority of state departments of education and put power back into the hands of parents and the local school boards ‘We The Parents’ elected. Their future should be in the hands of the people who know them best, not government bureaucracies.”

We received this information from her recently. What she is doing in her home school district exemplifies what all conservatives should be doing in their home districts. When something is wrong you do not shrug shoulders and ignore it, you get involved and you don’t let up.

In March of 2011 I began the process of having a liberally biased textbook, Social Studies Alive! Our Community and Beyond, removed from our third grade classrooms in Frederick County, Maryland (FCPS).

 

Those of you unfamiliar with the book can Google it and you will find articles on it.  Excerpts are also located on my Facebook page:  Eye on the Board.

 

Robert McCartney, liberal writer for the Washington Post also did an article on it:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/frederick-shouldnt-use-slanted-3rd-grade-textbook–even-if-it-leans-same-way-i-do/2011/07/06/gIQAJVpC1H_story.html

 

Per procedure, I sent my complaint to the superintendent who recommended against convening a “reconsideration committee”.  I appealed her decision but before it could be heard I learned if five people complain, the book automatically goes before a reconsideration committee.  I got four others to join me so in July of 2011 the process for creating a Textbook Reconsideration Committee (Committee) began.

 

Because of the way the process and policies for this are put in place there was no time frame for the committee to make it’s decision.  It wasn’t until December 9, 2011 that I even spoke to the committee regarding this issue.  They gave me thirty minutes to speak and ask questions, however, they extended the time to almost an hour.

 

It wasn’t until March 1, 2012 that the Committee made a decision.  That decision was in our favor:  “Having studied the material, determined the complainant’s main concerns, and discussed the instructional process with teachers [1 teacher], the committee concluded the main question at issue is Should this book be removed from FCPS third grade classrooms? As the text is up for review and replacement in the next budget cycle, and there may be more books appropriate to the third grade to choose from today than were in 2004, the committee recommends that the book be maintained until replacement in the regular cycle can be implemented.  We encourage Frederick County Public Schools to focus resources as soon as possible to facilitate the replacement with a newer text.”

 

The superintendent agreed with the recommendation, however, elected to keep the book until a replacement could be found, which could be as long as the 2014-15 school term:  “I do not wish to commit the school system to having a replacement textbook by 2014-15.  There are several unknown factors which could impact this timeline, including budgetary constraints, the development of the new state resources for the Common Core implementation and the feasibility of online resources versus textbooks.”

 

FCPS has a companion textbook by Houghton Mifflin.  During the June 22, 2011 Board of Education public meeting on this issue, curriculum specialist James Gray gave a presentation.  During that presentation Mr. Gray pointed to the companion text, 13 other FCPS resources as well as 8 years of teacher accumulated resources.  He was asked directly by one of our board members if third grade social studies could be taught without the book. He said yes.

 

Upon hearing the superintendents recommendation and being aware of funding we offered a compromise.  For the students who will be using this book until a replacement is found send the book home with each student with a note to the parent informing them this book has been recommended for removal.  The notice would also ask them to read the book and sign the letter stating whether you did or did not want your child to use the text.  Unless you were around when the book was adopted in 2004 you never saw the book, these books do not go home.  We wanted parents to be aware and to decide for themselves.

 

This compromise was rejected.  We appealed the superintendent’s recommendation and currently have a “closed hearing” scheduled for August 6, 2012.  We object to the closed hearing and believe it should be open to the public.  We further believe it is a violation of the Maryland Open Meetings Act.  There is nothing in this hearing that concerns personnel, pupils nor pupil grades.  FCPS cannot close a meeting because it doesn’t want the publicity or negative outcries from the community.

 

We are also concerned that the lawyer for the school system asked a board member who is known to support the book removal to recuse herself, however, has not asked the known supporter of keeping it to recuse herself.  We are also concerned that this request was sent directly to the board member and not the board’s counsel of record.

 

So here we are, a year and a half later with children still being taught from this book and no resolution.  If it takes this long for a book with 163 pages written, in my opinion, below grade level, (including table of content, maps, glossary, index and filled with pictures) how long would it take to reconsider a high school book on government?

 

I shudder to think what happens when local boards lose their control and we have to complain directly to the state or federal government.

 

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