Dismantling Public Accountability & Transparency in the Name of Accountability & Transparency?

8/23 Saturday Post: Deconstructing the School ‘Deformers’

A comment by Diane Ravitch brought this post to our attention.
School reform, which began in the late 1970’s had laudable goals…to help schools and school district’s become better at educating our children.
One early idea included giving teachers the freedom to innovate through adjunct or ‘chartered’ schools, who would then be brought back into the regular system to share and spread what they learned. From this, district’s could establish best practices, and measure results carefully to learn what works and what does not.
But this earnest motivation was soon overwhelmed and betrayed by outsiders claiming they wanted ‘to help.’
‘Education Reform’ became a political tool in the hands of extremist politicians looking for wedge issues. Next, a number of religious and political ideologies saw it as a way to get the public to pay for schools where their children and the children of well-meaning, but misinformed parents could receive covert indoctrination into a particular political and/or religious philosophy.
Conservative business groups got involved, seeing the possibility to use the good-faith goals of many to disrupt and destroy the unions. Other ‘business’ people saw it as an opportunity to get wealthy at public expense. And now, the Koch Brothers, through AFP, the Independence Institute, and other similar organizations, see it as their last, best hope for altering the basic fabric of the country.
Somewhere along the road, the idea of helping teachers teach our children disappeared. It has not so much gotten lost, as it has gotten trampled by opportunists who are seeking only their own profit, be it money, power, or the destruction of perceived enemies.
Such are the supporters of WNW.
We of JeffCo need to realize that we have many dark days yet ahead of us. We have slowed WNW+Miller down, but not stopped them. They still hold a majority on the Board and can ram through almost anything they want. And make no mistake about it, they will.
Now is the time to take inspiration and heart from our own history.
There was another time when a small but powerful group of people tried to take control of the political process of our country. They had everything on their side; money, power, people in influential positions, and a ruthless determination to win at all costs. The public of the time was divided not only on what to do, but also whether it was even worth fighting. How could they win?
And the first few years showed that more often than not, they could not. At least not if winning meant the other side stopped trying to control them.
But they did win the most important battle. That was for their morale. Instead of giving up, they kept fighting. And eventually won.
The British were defeated and the American people threw off their control.
A bit melodramatic? Maybe. But the lesson it offers is clear, practical, and as applicable as ever – WNW and all their cronies and hidden backers only truly win if we give up. And we won’t, will we? After all, our forebears fought tougher wars and smarter opponents that Witt, Newkirk, and Williams, even with Miller’s tutelage! So long as we do not give up, we can’t lose…but they will.

Keep Fighting, JeffCo!

School Finance 101

This post comes about as a follow up to a previous post where I critiqued the rationale of the Students First policy agenda.  It should be noted that the Students First policy agenda is anything but unique. Like DFER, SFER, ALEC or any policy advocacy organization, the SF policy agenda is little more than an aggregation of largely non-original, template policy prescriptions.

Now, I’m not one who goes all in for the lingo of “corporate reform” or one who perceives “privatization” or “market” mechanisms to be inherently evil and contrary to the public good. However, I am someone who believes we should consider carefully the multitude of tradeoffs involved in shifting between publicness and privateness in the governance and provision of schooling.

What I have found most intriguing over time is that the central messaging of these reformy template policy prescriptions is that they will necessarily improve accountability and transparency…

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