December 3rd, 2009

Race To The Top Podcast: Diane Ravitch Questions The New Role

( Click here to download the podcast )

Historian Diane Ravitch is critical of President Obama’s new education incentive strategy called “The Race to The Top.” The 4.35 billion dollar competition pits state against state to turn around failing public schools. But there’s a catch: in order to compete states must promise to raise standards, track student performance and tie it to teacher pay, turn around the lowest performing schools, mainly by opening charters and more.

In a conversation with John Merrow, Ravitch, a former Assistant Secretary of Education under George H.W. Bush, questions the federal government’s new role in public education.

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Mr. Duncan has over 4 billion dollars to spend on education reform yet California education has been cut by almost 18 billion over these last two years alone. The Los Angeles Unified School District, second only in size to New York will face a cut of another 500 million this upcoming year. 8,000 teachers are threatened to lose their jobs and the art and music programs of the elementary schools will be annihilated within two years if budget cuts go through. Is this our race to the top? Public education funding for students speaks the real truth. As we talk these reforms, we need to take a closer look at what is really going on in our schools. Teachers and administrators fighting for kids on a daily basis with cut after cut. No matter how you dress it up, we don’t adequately fund our public schools, and so we continue as a nation to fail students everyday.

California might get $350 million to $700 million from the Department of Education’s Race to the Top. So what? It only works out to being a one time chunk of $56 to $112 per pupil (2008-09 enrollment was 6,252,031). You can bet that some of the money will be used on administration.

States are allowing themselves to be manipulated for a quite tiny amount of money.

Schemes to attach a set of specific strings to the federal money is just another tool of the “innovative disruption” approach favored by the corporate class who wants to dismantle public education. They call it “venture philanthropy.”

Just look at the number of Eli Broad/Bill Gates reps who have now infested the leadership at the US Dept. of Ed.

Duncan’s Chief of Staff, Margot M. Rogers, most recently served as the special assistant to the director of education at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Director of Race to the Top, Joanne Weiss, was most recently employed as Partner and COO at NewSchools Venture Fund, a major hub where millions of dollars from philanthropists are accumulated and then distributed to charter management organizations and “education entrepreneurs,” both nonprofit and for-profit. NSVF received $7,605,000 from Eli Broad from 2002-2007. This organization has also received enormous amounts of money from the Gates Foundation. In 2003 alone, they received $22 million from the GF to create charter schools.

The Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement, James H. Shelton, previously served as a program director for the Gates Foundation. He also had been a partner and the East Coast lead for NewSchools Venture Fund.

Other Broad affiliations are Thelma Meléndez de Santa Ana, Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education who was a fellow in the Broad Superintendents Academy, and Russlynn H. Ali, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, who was a member of the review board of the Broad Prize in Urban Education.

Why don’t you share this type of info with the public, John Merrow?

As an aside, Matthew Yale, Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategy, was previously vice-president at Chicago’s Ariel Capital Management LLC. Ariel Capital was founded by John Rogers, Duncan’s longtime basketball buddy. Rogers provided Duncan with his first job after the Australian basketball years, and greased the way for Duncan into Chicago Public Schools. Rogers is also the ex-husband of Desiree Rogers, the friend of the Obama’s who was appointed as White House social secretary. After that recent breach in security at a state dinner, Rogers was asked to testify before a House panel, but she has refused.

Attempting to push from the top DC seems similar to pushing a wet noodle across a table top . Much easier to pull it as from the bottom , at the school level , focus on its culture of character and virtue of all its citizenry and from that comes extroadinary successful school building. We are doing it in Wisconsin see . Keep the discussion going and the fine reporting that illuminates effective solutions ! Thank you .

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