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The Inconvenient Truth Of Education 'Reform'

Despite stated intentions to use education reform to advance civil rights, reform measures in their current frame are resulting in deep and pervasive civil wrongs.

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In Chicago as well, parents and teachers have pointed out that districts are justifying school closures on the basis of budget and attendance as they lavish millions of dollars on brand new, unproven charter schools.

The damages of these reform policies are especially harmful to the individual lives of students. In a write-up of the Journey for Justice rally at The Washington Post , a student representative in the crowd, twelve-year-old Gavin Alston, whose Chicago school was closed last year, explained that he is having to be homeschooled because there is no longer a middle or elementary schools in his neighborhood, and he won’t cross gang turf lines to get to his reassigned school 22 blocks away. “I have been denied the right to a quality education,” Gavin said.

The same day of the Journey for Justice demonstration, the National School Boards Association released a statement decrying Duncan’s school policies. At her blog on The Washington Post , Valerie Strauss posted NSBA’s release which called federal reform policies “unnecessary and counter-productive federal intrusion.” The organization is proposing legislation that would “protect local school district governance” from federal demands that are not “educationally, operationally, and financially supportable at the local level.”

Revelations Of Corruption

At the same time that open dissent to education reform erupted from the street, a remarkable leak of emails by the nonprofit organization In the Public Interest revealed how leaders of the education reform movement have written and edited laws, regulations and executive orders in ways that improved profit opportunities for their corporate benefactors.

Public Interest’s release of the emails shows, quoting Valerie Strauss again, “how a foundation begun by Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor and national education reform leader, is working with public officials in states to write education laws that could benefit some of its corporate funders.”

Strauss explained:

The e-mails are between the Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE) and a group Bush set up called Chiefs for Change, whose members are current and former state education commissioners who support Bush’s agenda of school reform, which includes school choice, online education, retention of third-graders who can’t read and school accountability systems based on standardized tests. That includes evaluating teachers based on student test scores and grading schools A-F based on test scores. John White of Louisiana is a current member, as is Tony Bennett, the new commissioner of Florida who got the job after Indiana voters rejected his Bush-style reforms last November and tossed him out of office.

Donald Cohen, chair of the nonprofit In the Public Interest, a resource center on privatization and responsible for contracting in the public sector, said the e-mails show how education companies that have been known to contribute to the foundation are using the organization “to move an education agenda that may or not be  in our interests but are in theirs.”

Writing at the blogsite of The Nation magazine, investigative journalist Lee Fang delves into some details of the leaks:

What’s new in this release, however, is the revelation that Bush could be using his education reform crusade for personal gain.

In one e-mail from last year, Bush’s top aide at his foundation, Patricia Levesque, communicated with school officials to urge them to use a company called SendHub, a start-up that uses cloud computing and text messages. Bush, according to TechCrunch, has a modest “five-figure” investment in SendHub. Garrett Johnson, the founder of SendHub, previously worked for Bush and still serves on the board of Foundation for Florida’s Future, another Bush-run education nonprofit.