Part II: The Wild, Wild World of Charter Schools: The Attack of the Walmartians


By Thomas J. Fiala

Once again, let’s get something straight. This is not an all-inclusive discussion about charter schools, nor is it in any way a definitive history of the charter school movement. There are some books out there that actually critically evaluate charter schools. I like Kristin Buras’ work regarding New Orleans, and it’s always good to read books since blogs are only a good place to start understanding an issue or topic. And certainly I like my wife’s book. Nevertheless, after the business community got involved in systemic education reform by the end of the Reagan administration and then increasingly so during the administrations of Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, and now Obama, it didn’t take long for these savvy moneymakers to realize there were all kinds of opportunities to profit in the new burgeoning business of education. The Palisades conference in March, 1996, a collaborative effort of state governors and corporate CEOs, is important to always keep in mind because it impacted education reform in so many ways! In fact, according to an official review of the summit, CEO’s outnumbered governors at the conference 49 to 40! In addition there was a small and very select audience of 36 that was referred to as “resource participants.” These “resource” folks included 1) John L. Anderson of the New American Schools Development Corporation; 2) Lynne Cheney representing the conservative American Enterprise Institute; 3) Denis Doyle representing the conservative Heritage Foundation; 4) Chester Finn, representing the conservative Hudson Institute; 5) Christopher Cross a member of the Council For Basic Education and a Maryland State Board of education member; 6) Keith Geiger, NEA President; 7) Albert Shanker, AFT President; 8) former Governor of Maine James J.McKernan, McKernan Enterprises and eventual CEO of Education Management Corporation; 9) Robert G. Morrison, from the conservative Family Research Council; 10) James F. Orr, III, CEO UNUM Corporation and representing the National Business Alliance; 11) Lewis C. Solomon, The Milken Institute for Job and Capital Formation; 12) Marc Tucker for the National Center for Education and the Economy; and a couple of University folks like Diane Ravitch (pre-enlightenment) former Assistant Secretary of Education with the Bush I administration and at that point in time connected to New York University. The remaining individuals were mostly school superintendents, and there was ONE TEACHER! There were NO progressive think tanks represented like the conservative groups mentioned above.

Now why do I mention this? Because by right around the Palisades conference, business already knew that there was “money in them thar hills” when it came to systemic education reform. For example, as explained on page 128 in the Origins of the Common Core: How the Free Market Became Public Education Policy, prior to Palisades in in October 1996, Lehman Brothers sponsored the first Education Industry Investment Conference. According to Douglas Dewey, who was writing for the conservative publication The Freeman, those attending were “regaled with new opportunities in an emerging $600 billion industry.” New corporate entrepreneurs were told that they had the potential to eliminate the government completely when it came to education, and that “the savvy investor will focus his attention on the greatest emerging market in decades and treat government schools as just another competitor to blow out of the water!” One month after the conference, the New York Times reported that for profit companies had already captured $30 billion in the $340 billion education business! Eight months after the conference Chester Finn (see above) told the Georgia Public Policy Foundation that smart investors could “make a dime” in an education business worth hundreds of billions!

Now, again, why am I saying this? At the time the flavor of the day was certainly education technology. After all, the Palisades Conference ended up calling education technology – “The Great Equalizer!” Of course, there was all kinds of cash flowing in other areas as well. Pearson and companies of their ilk demonstrate the point.

By 2011, however, Forbes Magazine almost seemed to lament that “once upon a time” the charter movement was a grassroots phenomenon. I have to add that “time” was short-lived to say the least! And by 2011, Dr. Gary Miron of Western Michigan was warning that “charter schools have provided an easy route for privatization; many states allow private schools to convert to public charter schools, and increasing the use of private education management organizations is increasingly being seen as the mode for expanding charter schools.” Furthermore he stated, “Today, one-third of the nation’s charter schools are being operated by private education management organizations (EMOs) and this proportion is growing rapidly each year. In states such as Michigan, close to 80% of charter schools are operated by private for-profit EMOs.”

In 2014, Alan Singer analyzed and pointed out the involvement of corporate types in creating charters and the profitability in charter school ventures! And why not! What a deal!  Use public money for private gain! You really need to click the Singer link since Alan sends us on a scary journey into the corporate world of charter school creation!

Alan, however, has not been alone in warning of the “Walmartian invasion” coming from the Corporate Universe. For example, Elaine Magliaro, pointed out that New York was under attack as early as 2010. In 2014, Marian Wang, reporting for Bill Moyers, explained how the Koch Brothers and their minions are supporting the creation of charters in North Carolina within, in point of fact, a burgeoning national education market with the help of ALEC, a group that prides itself in creating charter schools, that are not under local control like most regular public schools are!

The Walmartians are not shy in their assault on the American institution of public education. Of course, why should they be? They basically have all the Republicans and Democrats beginning in 1983 on the side of corporate Wall Street, and certainly now if the current flock of Democratic and Republican candidates is any indication!

In spring 2015, The Walmart Family juggernaut co-sponsored, with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (CCSS loyalists), a symposium for investors at the Harvard Club in Manhattan!   And what was this symposium called? Bond and Blackboards: Investing in Charter Schools! I suggest you carefully look at the short 3 page or so conference proceedings. It sure scares the “you know what” out of me! I am not going to summarize. You must read this just to get some insight into how the Walmartians are planning to take over our public schools and who are some of the panelists and the organizations they represented that have allied themselves with these invading corporate Walmartians! I am also not shocked that a representative from KIPP was also on one of the panels, as the program indicates!

Oh my!!! I almost forgot! What Walmartian invasion would be complete without the support of the Broad Foundation’s support for charter schools!   Yes, the same Eli Broad of whom the Clintons have had and continue to have a long and warm relationship!

Well, now you see it! Walmartians are not just a family! They are, indeed, a species. In fact, an invading species whose wealth is beyond the comprehension of too many of us insignificant little earthlings who still love our public schools because they have helped our communities as well as each of us as individuals in so many ways! For public schools, and in particular, locally controlled public schools, the invading Walmartians are like invading snakeheads into America’s lakes and rivers! However, I suggest that if some of the lakes and rivers need some cleaning up, don’t try to accomplish the task with snakeheads! I think anyone reading this can figure out the point I am making when it comes to education reform, and the larger social and economic factors impacting our public schools throughout the United States that impact the education of every child.

Wow – all of a sudden I just had a Jack Nicholson moment! I sure hope, for the sake of our historically beneficial locally controlled public schools, that the counterattack against these Walmartians is not too late!

jack nicholson mars attack

The attack of the Walmartians: Part I: The Wild, Wild, World of Charter Schools – Let’s get Something Straight!

By Thomas J. Fiala

The unregulated world of charter schools is about to get another boost if the current ECAA is put into law.  We already know how most of our senators and congressional leaders feel about the ECAA, and in this case, charter school expansion and increased funding.   Many of us have had to engage supporters of charter schools who are always ready to point out that “not all charters are the same,” and of course, their claim that the charter schools they do endorse are taking the right approach to helping students who are being harmed by those nasty public schools.

Now I want to get this straight from the outset, before you read any farther.  I unabashedly support America’s democratic system of public education, regardless of whether a public school is governed by a locally elected school board or a school board appointed by a mayor.   Understand, however, that I do not support the process per se for any mayor appointing a school board.  This is a bad idea that is being shown again and again to be the wrong approach to meeting the educational needs of communities, large and small.  For example, if Chicago is not the poster child for using Rahm Emanuel’s  power to destroy public schools, while he sends his children to an elite private school, then I am certainly open to other contenders for the poster.   I like a city or any other type community having to elect their public school governing board.  This fact alone is going to be foundational in understanding my concerns about the charter onslaught that is increasingly pillaging our public schools across the nation.

First and foremost, charter schools are a scam for those individuals, wittingly or not, who support the neoliberal Friedmanomic educational notions of voucher and choice that circumvent the public school educational process, which has historically been a positive part of our democratic fabric and still needed today.   But let’s get down to the nitty gritty as to why charters are problematic in the very least, while an overwhelming number are simply despicable.  But first and foremost, I am not going to buy the corporate pro-charter line used by many charter start up supporters that goes like this:

Sure I support public schools, but until public schools solve all their problems, then I am going to proceed with creating my idea of what a charter school is supposed to look like!   I know charters have problems but so do public schools!

Now for those pro-charter folks using this line, I am going to school you a little – or maybe a lot!  First and foremost, the wonderful and courageous part about our public schools is that they nobly take on the challenges facing the United States.  These schools reflect the larger society, and all the wonderful aspects of that society – and all the ills of that society.  Our public schools DO NOT require a student and parent to sign a contract that has requirements and rules that if violated means that the student can rather easily be removed and then – of course – be sent back to the good old public school!  So, let me be straight with anyone reading this.  If your charter school requires a contract signed by a parent and child, and if that contract states that the child can be removed from the charter, which of course implies the child will head back to the regular public school, then that is one of the many reasons I think charters are just flat out wrong!

Let’s flip this around a little.  Would it be a good idea for public schools to be allowed to engage in this same practice?  Certainly, a student can be expelled from a regular public school.  However, the process is simply not the same, as we all know – and that WE includes charter supporters!   Public schools must not be easily used as a place for charter school castoffs!  This is particularly true when neoliberal charter supporters claim that competition is key to improving education.  That’s not competition.  That’s stacking the deck!

Let’s look at this issue in another way.  For example, it seems that America’s media certainly worries more about underinflated footballs  at the Super Bowl being competitively unfair than it does when it comes to unfair educational competition and America’s traditional public schools!  So charter supporters, become as noble as the public schools and do not use these contracts to avoid the complex challenges facing our public schools that go beyond the walls of the school!  What’s really amazing is that when looking at the big picture, overall, charters do not outperform the regular old public schools!  Of course, as we will see later, there’s plenty of cash in “them thar hills” when it comes to charter schools!

Another basic issue that cannot be tolerated in my opinion, is that charter school governing boards are not accountable to the public in the same way regular public schools are.  A group that gets together, then gets a school charter and appoints a governing board that is immune from public scrutiny – and then is at the public trough syphoning dollars away from the regular public schools – is not an example of democracy in action.  Certainly the neoliberal Milton Friedman would have defined this as democratic in nature – but I don’t!  If a school governing board takes public money – then the school governing board must be transparent and accessible in a public manner.  Not just accessible to the specific clientele that is part of the charter school of which this board governs!  This is an intolerable action!

Understand, all this CANNOT – I repeat CANNOT – be construed in any way as being an INNOVATIVE  educational approach to improving education!  And, of course, we always hear that this is what charters are supposed to be all about – INNOVATION free from the constraint placed on regular public school!   I believe that if a charter school does NOT address these two major ways of doing business — 1) contracts and 2) transparency and real public accountability while taking public money —  then the charter should not be allowed to exist.  I am not about to acquiesce to those who want to create, in effect, private schools with public money!  And I am NOT about to buy the claim that this is an example of educational INNOVATION!

So here we end part one of the Wild, Wild, World of Charters!  Stayed tuned for more regarding this particular attack on our democratic institution of public schools.

Part II: The Wild, Wild, World of Charter Schools – The Attack of the Walmartians!

Part III: The Wild, Wild, World of Charter Schools – The Plague of Corruption

2 Good Reasons Not to Endorse Senate’s ECAA: Standardized Tests and Charter Expansion

First, there is no language whatsoever that softens the blow of standardized testing for children.  None.  For children, all standardized tests are high stakes and, quite frankly, it doesn’t matter whether these tests are foisted on them by their state government or the federal government.  It still detracts from their education.  Standardized tests merely measure, sort, and label — they don’t educate.

Second, nearly 10% of the bill is devoted to the expansion of charter schools.  The entire bill is 601 pages.  The first 11 + pages consist of a table of contents.  That leaves 590 pages of text.  Fifty-five of those pages — nearly 10% — outline a plan to expand charter schools.  I think the record is clear that charter schools are problematic.  Remember — the charter school movement emerged from the voucher and choice movement.   Milton Friedman’s own foundation — The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice — claims the charter school movement as a boon to the free market, competition driven ideology of neoliberals.  Charter schools = privatization.

Question:  So, what further provides impetus in the move to privatization?

Answer:  A steady stream of standardized tests to support the faulty logic promoted by A Nation at Risk — and barely challenged — that our entire public school system (which Friedman labeled a monopoly and socialistic) is a failure and in need of constant systemic reform.

How can anyone who supports public schools and the children they serve support this legislation?  And I anticipate the final bill that emerges from the House and Senate conference committee will be worse.


Ruby Bridges: Grit, A Dream Deferred, and the Destruction of New Orleans Public Schools

On the 54th anniversary of Ruby Bridge’s courageous and lonely walk that led the charge in desegregating New Orleans’ public schools, I want to pause and say a heartfelt thank you to one of America’s heros.  In 1960, little Ruby’s parents heeded the call of the NAACP for families who wished to exercise their right to send their children to the school of their choice and break the color barrier in New Orleans’ public schools.  Day after day, Ruby walked the gauntlet to William Franz Elementary School amidst white racist protesters shouting racial epithets at her, one woman even placing a black doll in a miniature coffin for the brave little girl to see.  As a result, President Eisenhower sent U.S. Marshals to accompany Ruby to school and keep her safe.  This action helped Ruby to persevere.  She never gave up and today speaks of the success of her efforts.

Cain Burdeau spoke with Ruby Bridges and provides an excellent commentary ( According to Bridges, “… white students returned to William Frantz and the school became integrated … she went to integrated middle and high schools in New Orleans. Fast forward to today: The school now occupying the William Frantz building is 97 percent black, according to school data.”

Education policy makers are enamored with the idea of “grit” as the factor that will help low income and/or low achieving students to overcome the structural factors that inhibit academic achievement.  They laud perseverance, self-control, and the ability to embrace challenges.  Grit has become a research agenda in education and scales have been developed to measure “grittiness.”  I suggest that if you want a model of grittiness in a young child, look to Ruby Bridges.  Of course, the power of her grit was not used to document a standardized test score.  Rather, her grit sparked a social movement and resulted in the fruition of a dream that Dr. Martin Luther King would eloquently speak about almost three years later in August, 1963, when he said “I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”  For a short period of time and in some schools, and although not seamlessly, that dream was realized in New Orleans.

The dream did not last very long in New Orleans, however.  In the decades following Ruby Bridges’ lonely walk, the dream was sadly deferred.  Education policy discussions no longer focused on the impact of poverty, racism, and equity.  We will never know what the educational achievement of our public schools would have been if we’d kept the dream of integrated schools alive in the U.S.   Efforts to ameliorate the impact of poverty on educational attainment begun during the Johnson administration were never fully realized.  I am reminded of the Langston Hughes’ poem “A Dream Deferred.”

A Dream Deferred

by Langston Hughes


What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up

like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore–

And then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?

Or crust and sugar over–

like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags

like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

As the War on Poverty initiatives were steadily defunded, the dream dried up in cities like New Orleans.  Segregated schools slowly but surely once more became the norm.  And the problems festered.  Poverty’s grip on the city placed a stranglehold on its schools and, not surprisingly, students’ educational achievement suffered.  It’s a story that repeated itself across the country in large urban areas.  Jonathan Kozol wrote extensively about the problems of schools like those in New Orleans and urged America to right the wrongs associated with schools trying to survive in desolate, crime ridden neighborhoods with shrinking tax bases and funds in which students, predominantly of color, were increasingly isolated.

In the headlong rush to demonstrate that America’s public schools were a failure and to systemically reform our public school system through free market principles and efforts to privatize education, New Orleans and other urban areas in the U.S. would become ensnared in the corporatization of public schools.  The syrupy sweet public relations campaign surrounding the charter school movement would provide the propaganda needed to further efforts to dismantle the public schools in these cities and divert efforts to reform the schools by addressing poverty, racism, and other structural factors at the heart of educational disparities.

And then the dream exploded in Ruby Bridges’ own home town, New Orleans.  Hurricane Katrina hit the city square on, bringing death and destruction and leaving families displaced.  Friedmanomic free market coporate reformers grasped at the opportunity to totally remake New Orleans’ public school system and privatize education.  Teachers were fired en masse and public schools were closed and re-opened as charter schools.  As Kristen Buras explains in Charter Schools, Race, and Urban Space: Where the Market Meets Grassroots Resistance, “Time and again in New Orleans, charters would be given funding and facilities in what amounts to an educational land grab premised on historical erasure and the racial-spatial redistribution of resources.”

There are no traditional public schools in New Orleans any more.  They are all gone.  The school Ruby Bridges’ attended, William Franz Elementary — a historical landmark — does not even bear its own name.  It was taken over by the charter school management group Crescent City Schools and renamed Aliki Academy.  I am left to wonder why the legacy of Ruby Bridges’ efforts was not important enough to preserve the name of the school that has such an important part in history?  It seems that the name of Ruby Bridges’ school is being erased from history in New Orleans.  Is this part of the erasure that Buras talks about?

TIME Magazine, Corporate Superstars, and Teacher Hate

I’m infuriated.  I want to declare my allegiance to heros who have dedicated their lives to  America’s public schools.  My list includes Mrs. Zablocki, my 1st grade teacher in St. Petersburg, Florida; Mrs. Gerstner, my 3rd grade teacher in Ledyard, Connecticut; Mrs. Broadmoor, my 4th grade teacher in Staten Island, New York; and Mrs. Hill, my 7th grade English teacher in Savannah, Georgia.  You see, my father was in the Coast Guard and we moved around quite a bit — so I experienced public school education in a number of states.  My list also includes those on the front lines of efforts to reclaim the democratic institution of public schools like Diane Ravitch, Susan Ohanian, Mercedes Schneider, Peter Green, Anthony Cody, and so many others.  My list also includes the millions of moms and dads who have supported their public schools over the years, the children served by public schools across our country, the teachers who are in the business of transforming the lives of their students, and the administrators and school board members who work diligently to meet the needs of the communities they serve.


TIME Magazine’s cover story, “Rotten Apples: It’s Nearly Impossible to Fire a Bad Teacher.  Some Tech Millionaires May Have Found a Way to Change That,” obviously panders to the One Percenters who position themselves as being the standard bearers of the free market that has rewarded them so richly and has allowed hedge fund managers to set the economic agenda for the rest of the country.  This, however, is not a new phenomenon.  Corporate superstars have been inserting themselves in federal education policy for decades.  And leading the charge has been those involved in the tech industry.  David Kearns, credited with saving Xerox in the 1980s, brought his corporate reform ideas to the education arena and the federal Department of Education during the H. W. Bush administration.  Lou Gerstner, former CEO of IBM, likewise became a powerful voice in education reform in the 1990s, hosting the 1996 Palisades Summit at the IBM headquarters, a meeting that brought governors (who he referred to as the CEOs of their states) together with prominent corporate CEOs to decide the fate of public schools in the U.S.  This was the meeting that birthed Achieve, a free market reform agenda, and the CCSS.  It was at this meeting that President Bill Clinton introduced the education policy world to Bill Gates, then embroiled in investigations into his dubious, monopolistic practices at Microsoft.


Teacher hate and a disdain for public schools is not new to the tech millionaires.  In 1995, speaking at the National Governors Association, Lou Gerstner ironically began his speech by stating, “I’m here because of Willie Sutton.  Willie robbed banks, the story goes, because he realized that’s where the money is.  I’m here because this is where the power is — the power to reform — no, to revolutionize — the U.S. public school system.”*  Almost two decades later, I think it’s safe to say that Gerstner’s first assertion has turned out to be more accurate.  The corporate world was there at the table of education reform policy because, indeed, that’s where the money is.  In 2008, Gerstner would reveal the corporate agenda for education reform, calling for “The abolishment of all local school districts except for 70 — one for each of the 50 states and one for each of the major cities and the establishment of a set of national standards for a core curriculum.”


There has been no secret conspiracy to privatize the American public school system.  Corporate reformers have been quite bold in establishing their agenda.  As I write in my upcoming book, The Origins of the Common Core: How the Free Market Became Public Education Policy, “The steady drumbeat of corporate encroachment into the education arena was there the entire time. However, its cadence was so steady and natural that, like cicadas at sunset, the noise went almost unnoticed by too many Americans.  The idea that the nation’s public school system was a failure had become an unquestioned zeitgeist by a burgeoning number of critics who jumped on board the anti-public school bandwagon.  Those on the political right and the political left seized every opportunity to point to the need to systemically reform public education.”*


“There is a price on the head of every child in America.  As the free market theories of Milton Friedman became the driving force behind public policy in the United States, beginning with the Reagan administration, public schools would inevitably become ensnared in the dragnet of entrepreneurs who envisioned public education as a burgeoning market.”*


The issue of teacher tenure is just the latest focus of corporate reformers intent on destroying public schools in America.  Is teacher tenure protection really the problem?  I began my education career as a public school teacher in Mississippi.  There is no tenure protection in Mississippi and no real union presence to advocate for teachers.  Mississippi, therefore, should be the exemplar for the power of eliminating tenure protection and allowing teachers to be fired more easily as a way to improve education and student achievement.  The reality is, however, that Mississippi students have and continue to rank much lower on measures of student achievement than other students across the country.  Apparently, teacher tenure laws are not the largest barrier to student achievement.  Research has demonstrated time and again that poverty and other social factors contribute greatly to student achievement.  So, it is no wonder that Mississippi, with some of the highest rates of poverty in the country, lags behind the rest of the country in rankings of student achievement.


Clearly when it comes to corporate led education reform, “America’s public school system has once again become a scapegoat for all that ails American society, while heralding all the ramifications of free market systemic education reform as the means of saving the United States from its supposed enemy –  the public school system writ large.”*  However, as the last short paragraph of my book proclaims, “For American citizens, if there is one thing to remember about public schools it is this: Public schools are not government schools, nor are they corporate free market schools.  Public schools belong to the public.  Public schools are citizen schools, and it is now up to citizens to reclaim what is theirs!”*


* Quoted texts are excerpted from my upcoming book The Origins of the Common Core: How the Free Market Became Public Education Policy (Palgrave Macmillan, January, 2015).


Deb Owens

Chester Finn Steps Down!

On August 1st, 2014,  Chester Finn will resign as leader of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation.  He will be replaced by Michael Petrilli.  The Fordham Foundation has been a leader in the creation and promotion of the Common Core State Standards, other conservative education initiatives, and the assault on public schools.  This will not change under the leadership of Petrilli.  As a matter of fact, I think it is fair to say that Petrilli will be a stalwart proponent of the Common Core as well as other free market conservative education reform initiatives such as school vouchers, choice, and charters.  I also think it is fair to say that we can expect the promotion of education policies that further erode the local control over public schools.   On the other hand, Finn, in his farewell address, seems to admit that the privatization of public education is problematic, leading to the feeding frenzy we have seen by those who envision the education of children as a boon to entrepreneurial capitalists.  Finn acquiesced:   “I hail the entry into the ed-reform camp of entrepreneurs with all their energy, imagination, and venture capital, but I’ve seen too many examples of them settling for making their venture profitable for investors or shareholders (or themselves) rather than educationally profitable for the kids it serves. That’s not so very different from traditional adult interests within the public and nonprofit sectors battling to ensure their own jobs, income, and comfort rather than giving their pupils top priority. …”   Thanks at least for that, Dr. Finn.  Professional educators and public school supporters will continue to try to clean up the mess you helped make.   Read Dr. Chester Finn’s farewell address at: See you on the flip side! Deborah Duncan Owens

Common Core Origins: A New Book on the Horizon

As a long time supporter of public schools, a former public school teacher, a teacher educator, and a believer in democracy and local school governance of public schools, I am pleased to announce that my book The Origins of the Common Core: How the Free Market Became Public Education Policy is on the horizon.  It is currently in production with Palgrave Macmillan, with a scheduled release date of January, 2015. While this is scholarly endeavor, it is also written from my heart.  I began researching the impact of free market policies on education fifteen years ago while working as an elementary teacher in Mississippi.  This research led me to Milton Friedman, who has been hailed as the “father of modern school reform” and is often credited with originating the idea of school vouchers and school choice — a concept that has morphed into the charter school movement.  Of course, within this book there is a great deal more  than a discussion about Friedman!

I will discuss further details about my book in future postings on this website as well as further research on this topic.  The goal of this book and website is to add to the efforts of those bloggers and authors who are valiantly defending America’s democratic institution of public schools, an institution that has historically served America well.  I hope my future contributions will help those millions of public school supporters in their quest to maintain the integrity of American public education.

I am providing a few short selections from the book’s forward, which I believe captures the spirit of The Origins of the Common Core: How the Free Market Became Public Education Policy:

“What Owens has been able to accomplish is an explanation of how … the free market became public school policy.  As Owens points out, within this process, America’s public school system has once again become a scapegoat for all that ails American society, while heralding all the ramifications of free market systemic education reform as the means of saving the U.S. from its supposed enemy – the public school system writ large. …

For those individuals on the political and ideological right or left who are militantly wedded to their ideas, however, this book will not provide safe haven.  This is because, as the book makes clear, both political parties have found common ground in a unified allegiance to a free market approach to systemic education reform that has created an educational sea of profit at the expense of America’s most important resource – its children. …

For those who see the numerous reform initiatives such as high stakes testing, charter schools, vouchers, value added measurement, student data collecting, and the disempowerment of citizens in decision-making when it comes to their public schools as the wrong approach to meeting the education challenges confronting the U.S., this is an empowering book. …” (by Thomas J. Fiala)