Free Market education reform and the destruction of our public Schools!

By Thomas J. Fiala

Pardon me but I am frustrated beyond belief!!!!  I’m about ready to take a long break from the acid reflux creating world of education reform and trying to help folks understand how we got to this point in the continued assault on our democratic system of locally controlled public school!  So you can take this as a rant or an example of sour grapes – or –  I hope, a post that will allow you to actually understand what Diane Ravitch is now trying to explain!!  However, while I appreciate Diane Ravitch’s mea culpa around 2008 when she had an epiphany that there were forces out to destroy our democratic system of public schools, and that she acknowledged she had actively participated in that attack  prior to her epiphany, perhaps I can speak for many of us who find her new new more crystal clear revelation about the free market to be “kinda?” self-serving.  While some think she is the new savior who will lead the re-taking of our public schools by the PUBLIC, she constantly puts me in a state of angst when it comes to education reform.  Perhaps I am not alone.  Here is why.

Now I am not talking, for example, about her organization endorsing the new ESSA even when some saw the act as a flawed document. That’s bad enough, but it’s even worse than that reality! That’s because this act, when her organization endorsed it, was already a product of exactly what she is now criticizing, which is fundamentally the source of the multifaceted attack on the system of public education Ravitch seems to want to be seen as championing!

Here is what she recently proclaimed as if this is some new profound revelation upon which she is an expert!!  Ravitch states, “As we have seen again and again, the corporate education industry is eager to break into U.S. public education and turn it into a free marketplace, …”

Understand that there were some of us who were accurately seeing this happening “again and again” and pointing this out in more crystal clear and well researched terms before Ravitch now seems to be intent on making this explicit and even before the ESSA was first floated out to the public. You need to read a really good book Diane, since the book had already explained the impact of the free market Friedmanomic neoliberal free market education reform on our democratic system of public schools both before and after your epiphany – and well before the ESSA became the law of the land!!!!   Very importantly, this book was out there prior to you and your group’s jumping on the ESSA bandwagon of which you now seem to be expressing “buyer’s remorse!”  Of course, others were also warning you about this!!!  However, you did not listen it seems.  The question therefore remains, why did you not listen even after your mea culpa epiphany, and even as “The Origins of the Common Core: How the FREE MARKET Became Public Education Policy” (a book endorsed by Susan Ohanian, a long time champion for public schools) made the corrosive effects of free market education reform explicitly clear both after the creation of NCLB (2001) and when you were actively supporting free market corporate privatizers prior to NCLB – and before the creation of the ESSA?  Maybe you just did not know about it?  Maybe you just learned about free market education reform?  I have no clue as to the right answer to these questions.

All I can say is that while no single book totally explains how the “free market” is assaulting our public schools, I believe, and perhaps some might even agree, that the public will never get even close to the real story of how this happened by simply relying on Diane Ravitch!

You know, you can indeed, lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink!!! The question remains, what source of water from which the public is drinking will actually enable the public to understand how the free market neoliberal corporate privatizers began engaging, and continue to engage, in destroying our public schools as even Diane Ravitch now admits is happening.  Problem is – all this was starting to happen prior to 2016, prior to the CCSS 2010, prior to 2008, and prior to NCLB (2001).  Very importantly, during this election year we might ask, “What Presidents were engaged on facilitating these corporate free market efforts to destroy our public schools?”  Answer, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, and Obama!  I think the research is clear!!!  But even more importantly, what does the public believe and know about the complex invasive insidious world of corporate free market education reform?

How long will it take for America to wake up???  Diane Ravitch once said that we need to get the story about education reform out to the public!  On this point I would agree!


Another Clinton Presidency? Let’s Recall the Role of the First Clinton in Establishing Achieve and the Common Core

Much is being written about the AFT’s early endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president.  As American citizens consider who they believe would make the best president when it comes to education policy, let’s take a stroll down memory lane.

In 1996, corporate superstar Lou Gerstner hosted an education summit at IBM headquarters in Palisades, New York.  This is where Achieve was born.  You remember Achieve, don’t you?  This organization is responsible for the construction of our Common Core State Standards  — the extension of their American Diploma Project.   In attendance at the Palisades Summit were our nation’s governors, accompanied by at least one corporate CEO from each of their respective states.   It was literally an elite  “who’s who” of education reform, too.  Marc Tucker (remember his letter to Hillary Clinton?) was there along with the leaders of the NEA and the AFT and other folks deemed to be “resource people.”  Diane Ravitch was there representing New York University.  Denis Doyle attended as a representative of the Heritage Foundation.  Doyle had recently co-authored the book Reinventing Education: Entrepreneurship in America’s Public Schools with Lou Gerstner and he would go on to co-author a book  with Susan Pimentel (one of the chief architects of the CCSS).  And there were other folks as well who would provide commentary about what took place at Palisades.

President Bill Clinton was there and gave a speech on the second day.  What’s ironic is that some of the conservative education reformers in attendance sang the praises of Clinton’s speech at Palisades.  For example, as I explain and cite in my book (p. 121):

“The bipartisan spirit of the summit was impressive.  On the second day, President Clinton delivered a speech that Doyle described as ‘calculated to please.’  Doyle explained, ‘not surprisingly … it was a speech 95% of which any Republican could have delivered with complete conviction.’  Chester Finn, who attended the summit as a representative of the conservative Hudson Institution, noted that ‘it was a speech which Ronald Reagan could have given.’”

The love feast of Republicans and Democrats and corporate America at Palisades in 1996 resulted in the birth of Achieve and the Common Core State Standards.  President Clinton was there and wholeheartedly endorsed the process of systemically reforming America’s public schools.  “The president even gave a shout out to Bill Gates, a rising corporate superstar who would later join the ranks of CEOs with the big minds and big ideas about education reform, by referring to Gates’ book, The Road from Here.” (p. 121)

So — when you consider who you think will best serve the needs of our public school system in America, please remember that we already have the legacy of the first Clinton presidency in the public education arena.  And I have no doubt that this legacy will continue if Hillary is elected.

This is why I cannot support another Clinton presidency nor any presidency as a result of the current Republican gaggle.  I can only support a candidate who has vowed to address income inequality and to stave the economic and democratic public school blood-letting in our country.  Only Bernie Sanders has the courage to work in the interest of our democratic pluralistic nation and hold public spaces as sacred — not places to be exploited for profit by Wall Street.

Video of press conference: The King County NAACP comes out against the SBAC and Garfield High School does it again

This is big news! The NAACP already resists the charter school movement. Now the Seattle chapter of the NAACP declares its resistance to the Smarter Balanced CCSS test.

Seattle Education


There was a press conference this week on the growing resistance to the Common Core SBAC in Seattle.

Parents, students and teachers from schools across Seattle, including Nathan Hale, Garfield, NOVA, Franklin and Chief Sealth high schools, Dearborn Park Elementary School, the Seattle Opt Out group, Parents Across America, Washington State, the Seattle Chapter of Social Equality Educators (SEE) and the NAACP, Seattle/King County Chapter spoke up about the SBAC testing.

One of the big announcements was made by Jesse Hagopian, a teacher at Garfield High School and founding member of SEE.

To follow is what he posted about his remarks on his website I Am an Educator.

I am excited to announce that the parent opt out campaign at Garfield High School has resulted in 221 students already opting out of the 11th grade SBA with two weeks to go before the test is supposed to be administered!

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