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October 19, 2011 03:42 AM UTC

DPS school board - Follow the money

  • by: Angela Engel

Education and the Wall Street Connection

This election year, Denver voters will have an opportunity to demonstrate the power of citizen engagement and the importance of direct control of our neighborhood schools. National interests are investing heavily in Denver’s school board race. The players are many, the politics ugly, and the possibilities well…promising.

The Players

Stand for Children established a Colorado Chapter in 2010 in order to push legislation that tied teacher evaluations to test scores. Their investors include The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, and New Profit Inc. – a “national venture philanthropy fund.” Democrats for Education Reform, DFER, are a newer organization that promotes charter schools, alternative certification training, and performance pay, and in addition promote mayoral control. ACE originated in Colorado in 2000. ACE members made significant campaign contributions to the Douglas County School Board responsible for directing private dollars away from some of the most high-performing public schools in the state. Several other funders have also joined the ranks, and the one thing they all have in common are trustees and board members with corporate connections and with very deep pockets.

The Politics

So why are corporate executives and wealthy entrepreneurs suddenly interested in public education? Because they like to make money and recent education reforms along with “new tax credits” and Education Management Organizations, EMO’s, have provided ample opportunity to make a dollar. Here’s how they do it:

Private charters and online schools – Under the guise of failing test scores, Education Management Organizations co-opt community schools or aggressively market for online students. COVA, Colorado Virtual Academy managed by the Virginia based company K12 projected growth in excess of 100 million dollars last year. It’s fair to note that many charter schools are district managed and publicly controlled. Still, Colorado policy makers have created a double standard favoring charter schools. Ed News Colorado reported that nearly half of online student enrollments leave before finishing the year. The majority of programs are low performing and operating outside of the accountability mandates required of public schools. Online and charter schools can hire non-licensed and non-certified employees.

Alternative Licensing Programs – have become big business. Teach for America (TFA), reported earnings in 2009 of more than $269 million dollars. Their tax documents list their net assets at 261.5 million dollars. This past July the Walton Family Foundation committed 49.5 million dollars to double the number of Teach For America candidates throughout the United States; $3.1 million was designated for Colorado.

Senator Michael Bennet, DFER “Reformer of the Month” and recipient of nearly $500,000 in DFER campaign contributions, is sponsoring the GREAT Act, which calls for taxpayer dollars to fund private revenue generating alternative certification models. In a “Statement of Principles to fix the Elementary Secondary Education Act,” the Senator stated, “We also must support programs like Teach for America…” TFA prepares college graduates in a five-week summer training program. While their results are mediocre at best, TFA candidates are attractive to budget strapped districts. The majority of candidates don’t last and the two year revolving door of cheap labor keeps costs associated with salaries and benefits low. The two year contracts and building transfers allow TFA candidates to maneuver around teacher effectiveness mandates and the accountability required of real teachers.

Tests, text books, and more tests – While education experts and innovators call for personalized learning and differentiated models of schooling, groups like Stand for Children and DFER,  support national standards (Common Core is also funded by Gates), and punishments and sanctions tied to test scores. The McGraw Hill (publishers of CSAP) financial fact book mirrors the national education platform. It’s no wonder, with contracts in 26 states, this publishing company holds a monopoly over all curriculum and assessments. The failed No Child Left Behind Act based on standardization and high-stake testing has cost taxpayers billions and delivered zero in terms of return on investment. Unless of course you are a publishing company – McGraw Hill listed revenues at $2.3 billion in 2009.

The Possibilities – While corporate revenues are growing, school budgets across the state continue to shrink. Every child in Colorado will see a decrease of 5% in per pupil funding. The millions in cuts and misdirected funding has resulted in larger class sizes, fewer course offerings, reductions in intervention and prevention services, elimination of gifted and special education programs, and fewer college opportunities for Colorado’s children. This election represents a chance for communities to reclaim their neighborhood schools. So pay attention Colorado, Corporate board takeovers are targeted for Denver, Adams 50, Jefferson County, Colorado Springs District 11, Mapleton, Harrison, Mesa County and Weld County.

According to the ACE website, “we encourage everyone to pay close attention to this important election, as the pro-charter, pro-choice, pro-accountability reforms that have taken root in Denver may be at stake. Our friends at Stand for Children are a great resource on the candidates, their positions and the issues surrounding this critical election.”

Stand for Children and their investors will be directing millions at these targeted races. The question is will the money go to our children or will the children go to the money? Colorado deserves school boards committed to strong neighborhood schools that grow thriving communities. We need leaders that understand the importance a vibrant education system plays in a democratic society and an educated and empowered workforce.  Our children and their future warrant a local government dedicated to protecting and serving their interests. This election is an important opportunity to restore the “public” in public education and ensure that our school leaders put community service above self-interest. Ballots are out. Cast your vote for kids, not corporations.


52 thoughts on “DPS school board – Follow the money

  1. What’s wrong, this week’s paycheck from DFER hasn’t cleared yet? Or is it just that the rats are afraid of exposing themselves in the sunshine anymore?

    Great diary, Angela.

    1. …and he comes in talking about shills…

      I love “non-partisan” election season.

      And by “love,” I mean something other than love.

      Michael, I assume you know Angela. I looked her up on Facebook and discovered that she and I have a common fondness for a particular school, so I feel disposed to give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she just doesn’t know how to use formatting in the Pols interface. Blogs that are a wall of text rarely broken up even by paragraphs are not pleasing to read and rarely attract comments. If she wants to email me, I can send her the HTML for a more readable version of this post, which might get more attention.

      1. I’ve been lurking for months (since June) and was just recently motivated to post on an issue that I care deeply about. I imagine you had a first post here once upon a time, didn’t you? Perhaps I should clutter the forum up with mindless babble and that would somehow establish credibility? If you can’t tell the difference between legitimate longtime lurkers and spur-of-the-moment shill accounts, maybe you’re over your head as an FPE.

        And no, I do not know Angela, so there’s another assumption of yours that is wrong.

        Your suggestions about formatting the diary are constructive. I suggest you stick with that type of approach if you don’t want to prove Ralphie right about you.

        1. And Mr. Ellis, you’re no Ralphie.

          You’re gonna need to step your game up if you want to rattle me. Maybe you could ask him for lessons.  

          1. Why would I care whether you are “rattled”? Nor do I care whether or not you compare me favorably to Ralphie, and I rather doubt he cares either.

            “Step up my game”? WTF? Would you please either grow up or shut up? I really don’t care about whatever “game” you’re trying to draw me into.

          2. This dumbass up against Ralphie? It’d be a bloodbath for our poor new “lurker”.

            I don’t think he wants lessons from Ralphie, unless he’s ready to get schooled old style. It’d be ugly but boy would it be fun to watch and at least it would be something to read besides the daily regurgitation of DPS election diaries.  

              1. Now that he’s down for his nap, can the rest of us get back to ignoring walls of text, or would any other shills I mean LURKERS like to chastise us for having a bit of taste in where we comment?

            1. you’re saying that you enjoy needless interpersonal conflict? I’ve long suspected that of you, but it’s nice to see you acknowledge it publicly. You’ve taken an important first step here.

            2. you’re saying that you enjoy needless interpersonal conflict? I’ve long suspected that of you, but it’s nice to see you acknowledge it publicly. You’ve taken an important first step here.

                    1. He’s posted in three threads and he can already write his own site features!?!?!?

                      Guvs, you better hire this guy, I think he’s a wizard.

                      Sweetheart, if you get this cranky every time someone gives you useful advice with a side of mild snark, you’re not gonna do so well here.  

                    2. You’re the one who’s got yourself all worked up into a lather for no reason. Maybe you should take a time-out and think things over before you post anymore and make yourself look like even more of a jerk than you already have. Have you eaten your recess snack yet?

                    3. Given your definition of ignoring my posts, could you please also ignore that I’m feeling a bit peckish this afternoon? I figure, doing things your way, if you ignore me hard enough you’ll eventually end up making me a sandwich. I mean you DID suggest I have a snack. <3

                    4. if you’ll agree that it’s counterproductive for us to hurl nastiness at each other. 🙂

                    5. I can’t say no to an offer to bury the hatchet, especially if it comes with sandwiches. I’m a Democrat, we’re all about wimping out just when we have the other guy on the ropes compromise.  

    2. I invite you to start fresh and new with Cowgirl. She’s as opened minded as they come. It would be great to have some real dialogue, rather than faction-bashing on this issue. It’s important.  

    1.  have any money funding.

      I don’t care that much, and certainly not enough to get in the CoPols way back machine and find those posts.  But wasn’t this the pass the hat   magic pizza group?

          1. I do it all the time. The preview screen sometimes doesn’t look like it does anything on the first click, and out of habit you automatically click again within that split second. I was SURE it was doing the double posts on one click for a while, but then I caught myself double-clicking a couple times and realized that the preview sometimes hangs JUST long enough for you to think you didn’t click hard enough. Here, I bet I can do it on this post.

            (The good news is, Guvs usually notice these and just silently delete one of the doubles.)

          2. I do it all the time. The preview screen sometimes doesn’t look like it does anything on the first click, and out of habit you automatically click again within that split second. I was SURE it was doing the double posts on one click for a while, but then I caught myself double-clicking a couple times and realized that the preview sometimes hangs JUST long enough for you to think you didn’t click hard enough. Here, I bet I can do it on this post.

            (The good news is, Guvs usually notice these and just silently delete one of the doubles.)

            1. but there appears to be a problem with my mouse interpreting a single-click as a double-click.  Not sure if it’s a hardware or software issue (could be the wrong mouse driver maybe).  I’ll figure it out.  

                1. It seems that the problem is actually on my end, however. It’s now happening with this mouse in other applications as well. Time to swap in a new mouse and see if the glitch goes away.

      1. She’s a former teacher, wrote a book on whole-child education, helped found Uniting 4 Kids and has otherwise been very involved in education.

        Where ya been?

            1. I don’t know what it is, but I’ve found that I need to be featherlight when I click. I almost never get double posts now – just sometimes when I end up clicking forcefully anyway.

    2. Where does their funding come from?  They seem to be pretty darn connected, and as Mario Solis Marich points out, they lawyered up enough to figure out a nonprofit structure that would help them launder neocon funds to bust up public education.

      Why don’t you ask them where they get their funding?  

      Here’s the link: http://www.latinosforeducation

      Or is it ok because they’re all elites rolling in bed with voucher money?

        1. Growing up working on ranches will do that to you. Appreciate ALL the parts of the animal, you spent enough time shoveling the poop that you BETTER appreciate it!

          I’m a nutrition nerd, and organ meats are actually really good for you in moderation and if cooked at low temperatures without a bunch of added junk. Nourishing Traditions has some great information on why that is. But basically, everyone’s mom was right to tell them to eat their liver after all!

          But although I do like liver, it turns out I don’t like liverwurst–just Googled it and it has pork in it 🙁 I assumed it was beef liver.

            1. My mom is big on fermenting. Have you read Wild Fermentation? Good stuff! She has her own sourdough culture and all sorts of pickled things around her house since she read that. Dad is loving it since he’s a huge fan of sauerkraut… our Sunday family get-togethers have gotten full of picked foods the past few months.

              I haven’t actually tried beef heart myself but I do feed it to my dog, so I’ve been tempted to try cooking up a slice or two for me… no idea how to prepare it though, I’m an awful cook. But I can bake anything.

              They have tongue sandwiches at my favorite Jewish deli though, not bad!

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