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Corporate Feeding Frenzy Continues in Fragmented Memphis Schools

Ohanian Comment: Suzi Parker's byline indicates she's written two books. Listed at Amazon: Sex in the South and 1000 Best Bartender Recipes. But here is the important part: TakePart, the medium in which her piece on Memphis schools appears (see below), bills itself as the digital division of Participant Media, the company founded by Jeff Skoll who was executive producer of Waiting For Superman.

by Jim Horn

When Bill Gates came to Memphis in 2009 with $90 million in handouts for every corrupt politician in the city and county, Memphis public schools were doomed. This outcome was further assured by successful campaign to "consolidate" county and city schools. Laws were changed, plans written by corporate foundation drones and Stand on Children politicos, and outlandish promises were made about turning the lowest scoring schools in TN into top scoring ones in 5 years. Beyond ridiculous, particularly in light of the fact that no state money or corporate money is going to do anything about poverty and lack of opportunity in the poor areas of Memphis. And nothing to challenge apartheid schooling.

What we have today is not a consolidated system but a fragmentation of systems, so that now we have five suburban communities planning for their own segregated charter or public systems, a Memphis charter system controlled by local corrupt politicos, another Memphis charter system made up of Achievement District Schools run by out-of-state corporations (KIPP, Uncommon Schools, Rocketship, etc.), and what remains of the public school students in East Memphis and the County. And let's not forget the largest private school concentration in the state. Utterly atomized, just as Gates Broad, and the Waltons wanted. The only thing missing now are vouchers, which would allow the state to fund religious education in Memphis and elsewhere in the State.

In a Take Part corporate news piece, Suzi Parker provides this on what is going on Memphis:

At the heart of the program are charter schools that allow for intense student testing, performance pay for teachers, long school days and no teacher tenure. The district also incorporates recruits from Teach for America.

The Memphis district's website states, "Proving the Possible by moving the bottom 5% of schools in Tennessee to the top 25% within five years." Teacher unions have criticized the district, and some parents have complained about the loss of neighborhood schools.

Race has also become an issue with critics who point out there are not enough black teachers in the district. And other critics say the schools are simply a small hub for the rich. Last month The Walton Family Foundation gave $1 million to fund training for four school leaders interested in running charters in the Achievement School District.

In January, Republican Governor Bill Haslam visited the Memphis district and said the program was changing the archaic methods of teaching as well as the roles of schools.

"A lot of it is about giving more autonomy," he said at the time. "It's about letting principals in school buildings and teachers in the classroom make more decisions because they have a better sense of how to do that than we do on Capitol Hill."

It's interesting that school freedom and autonomy only become important considerations by Haslam and Huffman when the schools are handed over to corporate school operators. Otherwise, accountability by testing remains mandatory for everyone else in Tennessee, i. e., public schools.

Of course, the high stake testing guarantees a continuing supply of "failed schools" (there will always be a bottom five percent) that can be handed over to privatizers and profiteers who plan to open more total compliance segregated corporate testing camps for poor children.

We called it eugenics a hundred years ago. We call it neo-eugenics today.

The latest on the new Superintendent's search: expect a former TFAer, per Rhee and Huffman. Personally, my money is on an Eli Broad pick.

— Jim Horn
Schools Matter





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