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NCLB Outrages

Bailing Out the Foes of Public Eduction

The corporate assault on
public schools is familiar to readers of this
site and Substance, though the authors
reveal an interesting link between Eli Broad
and AIG. The authors ask the big question, "Why
do we let them get away with it?" Specifically,
why are teachers so silent?

By Todd Alan Price

We live in dubious times when staunch
deregulators howl for vigorous and immediate

Lessons from the past

In 1983, the release by the Reagan
administration of the report A Nation at Risk,
launched over two decades of attacks on public
education by right wing foundations and
corporate pundits. Teachers and students were
ill equipped to defend against the Heritage
Foundation, the Hoover Institution, and the
American Enterprise Institute, just a few of
the many shock troops aiming their sights on
the public schools.

The document stated that we were losing the
battle against economic powers such as Japan,
"unilaterally disarming ourselves" by
miseducating youth.

In a previous Fighting Bob article, Demolition
Reauthorization, it was described how

"some of the loudest critics of public
education, the Hoover Institution, the Fordham
Foundation, the Aspen Institute, Bill Gates,
Eli Broad, Milwaukee's Bradley Foundation and
Fortune 500 corporations everywhere have
partnered with the federal government in an
effort to, they claim, save our public

The strategy employed so successfully in this
all out blitz of the media by supposedly august
foundations and think tanks is to attack the
public schools, try and drain them of funds
through tax payer vouchers to private schools,
then to 'save' the remaining public schools,
placing them under increased regulation, and
when they fail, restructure them and reopen
them as newly reconstituted charter schools.

The collapse of the banking, investment and
housing industry draws similar parallels.

Some of the same critics of public education
have also roundly criticized government. . .
until this last week.

As the feds buy up bad loans and "toxic"
securities, the critics have found new hope in
big government. Republicans and Democrats band
together in a newly minted bi-partisanship. The
current proposed buyout of the reckless
speculation in the collapsed housing finance
bubble dwarfs any previous efforts of big
government to rescue finance capitalism from
its worst tendencies. Indeed big government is
under way, in an unprecedented scale of
intervention with the Federal Reserve, not only
to rein in the floundering "quasi-governmental"
agencies of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, but
also to throw a life-line to the Mortgage
insurance/security agency, (AIG).


Naomi Klein explains this phenomenon when she
writes of a pernicious "disaster capitalism" in
the prescient document, The Shock
Disasters, it seem, breed
opportunity. There are only too many financial
predators ready to take advantage of others'
tragedy, be it war, lack of affordable housing
or a decent education. They strike during the
shock, quoting Friedman all the way.

In the case of New Orleans, the aftershock is
truly tragic; the city, (as well as much of the
Gulf Coast, lest we forget) devastated by
flood, was truly doubly shocked when thousands
of teachers were fired and hundreds of housing
units were leveled. Ushered in with new force
were "school choice" or vouchers by Bush and
Congress, and a latent "Recovery School
District" management style, based largely on
the philosophy that a newly fashioned and
deregulated system of Charter schools would
work best.

With the recent demise of several investment
banks, insurance companies, and "quasi-
governmental" agencies, the nation and the
world's financial markets left spinning, the
obvious question would be (and following upon
The Shock Doctrine's formula): how soon before
the wealthy and connected benefit from the
current economic meltdown and how much will the
taxpayer have to pay to foot the bill?

Fannie Mae, Lehman Brothers, and AIG: Foes of
Public Education

The Bush administration saved Fannie Mae, but
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal
Reserve Chairman Ed Bernanke sat on their hands
while the Lehman Brothers' stock went south.
Then they became nervous and bought up AIG.

Fannie Mae survives, barely. Fannie Mae is also
fond of charter schools. The Fannie Mae
Foundation, the World Bank, and the Washington
Regional Association of Grant makers have set
up a Public Education Partnership Fund to
implement 'reform' in DC Public Schools and to
"develop charter school capacity."

Lehman is a notorious privatizer. As noted by
educational statistician and writer Gerald
Bracey (2003), they sponsored a conference in
1996 with the Center for Education Reform where
they boasted: "we've taken over the health care
system; we've taken over the prison system; our
next big target is the education system. We
will privatize it and make a lot of money."
Lehman worked to set up a front group called
Fight for Children which received, as noted by
writer Basav Sen, Walton Family Foundation
funding, and support from "Anheuser Busch, Bank
of America, Citigroup, The Gap's Donald Fisher,
Lockheed Martin, the Marriott Foundation,
Microsoft, Exxon Mobil, the New York
Northwest Airlines, former Secretary
of State Colin Powell, the U.S. Chamber of
Commerce, Verizon, Wachovia, and the Washington
Post." Lehman's CEO made $17,000 an hour while
the one hundred and fifty year old company
tanked. Even the President's brother Jeb,
brought in as a last minute advisor couldn't
save the company.

AIG has close links to Los Angeles billionaire
Eli Broad and his Broad Foundation. Broad is
the long-time chairman of AIG Retirement. Eli
Broad is the most outspoken advocate of the
business model for education-treat school
district like corporations, schools like
"profit centers", students as "revenue
sources". Broad's disciples now control or
heavily influence public education in dozens of
large urban centers, including New York,
Philadelphia, Chicago and Oakland. Broad has
poured hundreds of millions of dollars into
charter schools-through direct donations to
charter school chains like KIPP, Green Dot and
Aspire, as well as by funneling money through
the Silicon Valley-based New Schools Venture
Fund. Eli Broad, and his close collaborator,
disgraced former AIG chief executive officer
Maurice "Hank" Greenberg (who was forced to
resign as AIG CEO when he was caught
fraudulently inflating the value of AIG stock a
few years ago), are upset with the federal
bailout of AIG. They want an even bigger
bailout from taxpayers. Public schools that
aren't "profitable" should be closed, says
Broad-but AIG investors losses must be
subsidized! Truly, privatization of profit,
socialization of loss!

The deregulation agenda is occurring in the
school districts in not only Washington D.C.,
and New Orleans, Louisiana, but in Chicago and
elsewhere in Ohio, and despite tepid results
(where those results are even released),
Charters continue to gain support.

Charter Schools to the Rescue

In Chicago, where we work with teachers
sharpening their knowledge and craft in
graduate school and preparing for National
Board Certification, teachers are overburdened
and discouraged by the relentless before,
during and after school preparation for
standardized testing. They are told to not
worry about social studies, and in many cases,
to not even teach science as mathematics and
reading consume the bulk of their curriculum.
More and more teachers we work with have been
handed scripted curriculum written by outside
private contractors. When their schools fail to
meet Annual Year Progress under NCLB, they face
declining enrollment as students are recruited
for the burgeoning charter schools growing in

Last spring, despite vociferous community
resistance, eighteen public schools in Chicago
were permanently closed, reorganized with the
complete replacement of building principals and
teachers or reconstituted as new charter
schools. These trends go forward with the
substantial political and financial support
from the Chicago corporate and banking leaders
who typically live in the suburbs or don't send
their own children to the schools they have
come to control behind the scenes.

Meanwhile, the continuing expansion of charter
schools undermines the teacher union movement
as charters by law exclude unions. And in the
past year the Daley run school system appears
to have moved to silence community involvement
in school operation by increasing the number of
appointed local school leaders and attacking
the integrity of school councils across the
city. In this brave new world of alternatives
to public schools, teachers become lone
entrepreneurs in the spirit of the free market
advocates who push for the replacement of
public education in the United States. And all
of this moves forward with Chicago school
operations dictated by the mayor's office in
alliance with the corporate school agenda of
the Commercial Club of Chicago.

Renaissance 2010

But finally, and beyond the merit of Charter
schools versus Public schools is the question:
why can't we find the will to fix public
schools? To fund them properly?

As stated by a Chicago group, Teachers for
Social Justice, Charters are being used to
replace public schools. Cited verbatim from
their blog is the following assertion:

Renaissance 2010 is not just a school plan. It
is part of a much larger plan for
gentrification and for moving out low-income
African Americans and some Latinos from prime
real estate areas, in fact from the city
altogether. These are the areas where the
proposed school closings are concentrated.
Gentrification is a central source of profit
for developers, banks, and investors and a key
element in making Chicago a global city of
increasing inequality in housing, income,
quality of life, and use of urban space.

Unfortunately, both major party candidates seem
intent on expanding charter schools with Obama
calling for a doubling of federal money for
subsidizing charter expansion. And this support
comes in the face of the 2006 Department of
Education large scale study which showed public
schools outperform charters on the limited, but
mandated, measures being used to determine
student learning and school success.

This is not to say that Charter schools or
their advocates are all the same. Nor does this
suggest that everyone who supports charters,
supports deregulation, or supports in turn the
dismantling of the public school system. As Joe
Nathan pointed out for the magazine Rethinking
Schools when the charter movement kicked into
gear in the mid 90's, charter schools can serve
as creative responses to needs unmet by the
larger school system, and can offer
alternatives that may inform and guide the
larger public education system "to empower the
powerless and to help encourage a bureaucratic
system to be more responsive and more
effective." Unfortunately, from the beginning
of charter schools free market ideologues have
sought to privatize and repackage large swaths
of public education into another consumer
choice option joined at the hip to the
pervasive inequalities of market capitalism.

Much of the thrust of the current charter
school movement, and certainly of the last
twenty years of vouchers is clearly indicative
of those educational policy makers who, with
their corporate and foundation backers, see no
problem in steering public funds to private and
for-profit corporations. And it is those same
foundations and corporations today, hat in
hand, begging for handouts, who are responsible
for the proposed and current deregulation and
privatization of our commons. With the current
track record comes the even more obvious

Why do we let them get away with it?

In this so far victorious war of the soon to be
rescued finance industry super-powers against
the public schools, disaster capitalism has
made an impressive debut. The scenario of
wrecking institutions in the public sector in
order to save them with intervention by private
capital has now spread like a wildfire that can
only take hold in the rest of the public sector
-- health, housing, and Social Security
retirement income provision. Too bad for Lehman
that they won't be around to share the rewards
from this coming Golden Age of privatization
and deregulation for which they can claim such
a key share of authorship.

Todd Alan Price, author of The Myth and Reality
of NCLB: Public Education and High Stakes
Assessment & John Duffy, author and contributor
to Democracy and Education, are professors of
education at the National College of Education
in Chicago, Illinois.

— Todd Alan Price and John Duffy


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