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NBC Steps Up for Corporate Politicos & Cronies in Its Education Coverage

by Susan Ohanian

How opportunistic it is, in the face of the widespread criticism of Rahm Emanuel--not just from Chicago teachers but from parents, the clergy, aldermen, and other concerned citizens-- NBC Education Nation chooses this moment to feature a story about a wonderful science program at Ariel Community Academy, a school sponsored by Ariel Investments,founded by John W. Rogers, Jr., co-chair for the Presidential Inaugural Committee 2009. Former Chief Executive Officer of the Chicago Public Schools Arne Duncan's official biography at the US Department of Education highlights his involvement: He was part of a team that later started a new public elementary school built around a financial literacy curriculum, the Ariel Community Academy. His biography as an Aspen Ideas Festival speaker reiterates this point, as do many other bios.

In addition to a regular school curriculum, Ariel features an investment curriculum taught by a full-time Investment Program director, a veteran of the securities industry. According to the website the ultimate goal "is to increase economic and investment literacy within the African-American community and to bring the topic of investing to every dinner table in Black America." As Kenneth Libby pointed out at Schools Matter, Chicago's Ariel Community Academy Offers Example of Business Roundtable in Action, "The academy draws approximately half of their funding from the Chicago Public Schools and the other half from a private investor, the Ariel Education Initiative. As such, it is neither a charter school nor your traditional neighborhood public school. The school opened in 1996 while the Ariel Education Initiative was under the direction of Arne Duncan, the future CEO of Chicago Public Schools and President-elect Obama's choice for Secretary of Education."

It's hard to see this NBC feature as just a coincidence. This school at this time. It is of a piece with previous media coverage. For example, in a 2010 New Yorker profile of Duncan Carlo Rotella quotes Duncan's belief in "a perfect storm for reform"--a heightened awareness of global competition, agreement that there is a crisis, plus the desperation of near-broke states--will allow him to push his program through. Rotella notes that Obama's 2009 speech on education

marked the ascendancy of a cohort of superintendents exemplified by Duncan, Klein, Paul Vallas (Duncan's predecessor in Chicago), and Michelle Rhee, the chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools. "You can look at them as the offspring of a previous generation who gave us the standards movement," Amy Wilkins, who directs government affairs for the Education Trust [and who has now moved on to the College Board], a nonprofit group that advocates for disadvantaged students, said. The most prominent figures in that earlier generation were Southern governors--Bill Clinton, Dick Riley, Jim Hunt, and Lamar Alexander. . . . Wilkins . . . credits them with bringing the insistence on accountability, choice and incentives "out of academics' heads and in to the public sphere" on the state
level. "It's a moment that's been a long time coming," Wilkins said. "The hard heads and soft hearts are replacing the softheaded and hardhearted."

This is how The New Yorker covers education: a puff piece on Duncan, a puff piece on Steve Barr of Green Dot. It was no surprise that The New York Times Magazine gave Steven Brill space to praise Race to the Top and the pressure the Obama administration put on states to tie teacher evaluation and pay to students' standardized test scores. Topping it off, Brill issued lavish praise for nonunionized charter schools.

And so on and so on. This is old news. But it puts the latest NBC Education Nation story in context. There is a war in which the survival of public education is at stake, and don't forget which side major media has chosen.

Now read what David Bacon writes at Truth Out.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's War on Teachers and Children
Truth Out
June 20, 2013

by David Bacon

On June 14, the Chicago Public Schools sent layoff notices to 850 school employees, including 550 teachers. The layoffs will hit hardest at those teachers working in African-American and Latino communities. These are the communities that were targeted in the system's recent decision to close 49 schools - the largest single school closure in US history.

Many view the layoffs and closures as payback by Mayor Rahm Emanuel for a bitter but successful nine-day strike by the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) last September. But it is also a blow not just to the public school system but to the city's schoolchildren themselves.

The district is implementing massive budget cuts rather than look for the funding schools and children need. The union has proposed "redirecting tax increment financing (TIF) surpluses back to public schools, ending tax loopholes or raising a new tax levy for pensions that would stabilize the CPS budget."

Instead, at Kennedy High School, for instance, a reduction from $15 to $13 million will cause the elimination of four of its five counselors, the school librarian, a clerk and special education personnel. Blair Elementary, which focuses on special education, is getting a 75 percent budget cut and will lose seven special ed teachers, one general education instructor, and up to eight paraprofessionals.

The education reform program of Mayor Emanuel has convulsed Chicago, which has the third-largest school system in the United States, since he left a position as White House aide in 2010 and was elected the city's chief executive.

Emanuel, a former Congressman and investment banker, has become a darling of the US education reform lobby by implementing its demands for privatizing the public education system through establishing charter schools - privately owned, for-profit schools that receive public financing -- by attacking the CTU, and most recently, by pushing forward the huge school closure. . . .

Read the rest of the article here.

— Susan Ohanian




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