State budget enabling education industrial complex

Following up on an earlier piece by William Phillis, Ohio E & A

Remember the news articles about military contractors charging the military $100 for a $2.98 hammer and $600 for toilet seats and $3,000 for a coffeemaker? The military is a government function but the size of the defense budget attracted lots of private operators to the table. Contractors developed cozy relationships and deals with government officials which cost the taxpayers heavily.

The size of America's collective education budget has gotten the attention of private operators in recent years. Much of the charter school money in Ohio goes to for-profit operators. State officials have allowed the "nonprofit" charters to be managed by companies whose bottom line seems to be profit-at any cost.

Campaign contributions from for-profit charter operators may be the reason that Ohio's charter school laws are, for the most part, not rational.

The corporate operation of charter schools may be just the tip of the iceberg. Pearson, the world's largest education company has operations throughout the world. This company continues to commercialize education by suggesting that every teacher and student in the USA is a potential customer. Pearson has been buying up the competition. This company is engaged in all facets of education-testing of students and teachers, virtual schools, textbooks, digital texts, online learning tools, etc.

The privatization movement, (i.e.) the Education Industrial Complex, seeks to eliminate the current practice that communities, through their boards of education, operate their schools for the benefit of all their students. The greatest discovery of mankind-the public common school-is being replaced. Unfortunately, state officials throughout the nation, particularly in Ohio, are enabling the demise of the public common school system through enactment of policies that open the door to the complete privatization of education.

As the privatization movement blossoms, there will be fierce competition among the private schools, nonprofit charters, corporate charters and huge education groups like Pearson. In this environment, the losers will be taxpayers, students and all who cherish democracy.

Mirroring Microsofts failing system

Vanity Fair has a preview of an about to be published expose on the failings of Microsoft, the software company that now corporate education reformer Bill Gates founded

Analyzing one of American corporate history’s greatest mysteries—the lost decade of Microsoft—two-time George Polk Award winner (and V.F.’s newest contributing editor) Kurt Eichenwald traces the “astonishingly foolish management decisions” at the company that “could serve as a business-school case study on the pitfalls of success.” Relying on dozens of interviews and internal corporate records—including e-mails between executives at the company’s highest ranks—Eichenwald offers an unprecedented view of life inside Microsoft during the reign of its current chief executive, Steve Ballmer, in the August issue. Today, a single Apple product—the iPhone—generates more revenue than all of Microsoft’s wares combined.

It's revealed that one of the primary causes of the decline, is related to the evaluation system they implemented, a system which in many aspects is mirrors the direction corporate education reformers are trying (and succeeding!) in taking teacher evaluations

Eichenwald’s conversations reveal that a management system known as “stack ranking”—a program that forces every unit to declare a certain percentage of employees as top performers, good performers, average, and poor—effectively crippled Microsoft’s ability to innovate. “Every current and former Microsoft employee I interviewed—every one—cited stack ranking as the most destructive process inside of Microsoft, something that drove out untold numbers of employees,” Eichenwald writes. “If you were on a team of 10 people, you walked in the first day knowing that, no matter how good everyone was, 2 people were going to get a great review, 7 were going to get mediocre reviews, and 1 was going to get a terrible review,” says a former software developer. “It leads to employees focusing on competing with each other rather than competing with other companies.”

Teachers will also be under similar pressure to compete against peers, rather than trust their natural instincts and best practices to collaborate.

Education News for 01-13-2012

State Education News

  • Ohio education in top 10 nationally despite a so-so grade – (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Ohio’s grade on a national report card this year slipped to a C-plus, down from a B-minus, but the state inched up to the 10th best school system in the nation. Ohio was 11th in last year’s report. For the fourth year, Maryland was the top-ranked state, earning the highest grade, a B-plus. The nation as a whole got a C, the same as last year’s report. Read More…

  • Vice President Talks Education Cost – (Ohio News Network)
  • Vice President Joe Biden brought the administrations message of affordable education to students and faculty at Gahanna's Lincoln High School. "There was a bargain in place for the last 50 years that if you worked hard, played by the rules, you helped increase productivity in America, you got a piece of the action," Biden said. Read More…

Local Issues

  • TPS eyeing Head Start management – (Fox-Toledo)
  • Toledo Public Schools are looking to get involved in a child's life even before they're enrolled in the district. Wednesday evening district board members gave the go ahead to Dr. Jerome Pecko to start researching whether the district would be able to assume management of the program. If all works out, Dr. Pecko says it will major, positive impact on kids before they ever start school. Read More…

  • Publishing Co. sues TPS over copyright – (Toledo Blade)
  • A Worthington, Ohio-based publishing company has sued Toledo Public Schools in federal court, claiming the district "engaged in massive infringement" of its copyrighted work. Align, Assess, Achieve entered into a copyright license agreement with TPS for company books and materials that provide teacher guidance in meeting the Common Core education standards, a voluntary multistate effort to have uniform curriculum standards in schools. The company claims in its lawsuit, which it filed Jan. 6 in Columbus, that the agreement specified TPS could only use the works to prepare pacing guides for the teachers for whom the district had bought the company's book. Read More…

  • Big cuts are coming to schools in Lorain City Schools – (WOIO-Cleveland)
  • Board of Education members in Lorain have approved close to $5 million in layoffs and program cuts. School officials are trying to reduce more than $10 million deficit for next year. In fact by the end of the year they will cut 150 more staff from Lorain City Schools and kindergarten will go to half days. The sports department will see big cuts as well. Read More…

  • Cleveland schools encouraging students to seek financial aid for college – (Plain Dealer)
  • Filling out a college financial aid application can be intimidating, so the Cleveland schools are nudging students along gently - offering much more counseling than ever before. Read More…

  • Defunct Legacy Academy $376K in arrears, audit says – (Vindicator)
  • The latest audit of a now-closed community school says the school owes more than $376,000 in taxes and Medicare costs. State Auditor Dave Yost’s office released on Thursday the audit of Legacy Academy for Leaders and the Arts, covering fiscal years 2006 through 2010. The school, which operated inside Mount Calvary Pentecostal Church on Oak Hill Avenue, closed last June, citing declining enrollment. Read More…

  • Richmond Heights school officials finish investigation into Superintendent Linda Hardwick – (News Herald)
  • The Richmond Heights investigation of Superintendent Linda T. Hardwick has come to a close, although information is not ready to be released. Former board President Joshua Kaye — replaced by Linda Pliodzinskas this week — sent Hardwick a letter in December to inform her that discussion of her termination would soon take place. Read More…


  • First exam – (Akron Beacon Journal)
  • Ohio was one of 11 states and the District of Columbia that made big promises to win competitive grants in 2010 to reform their school systems. A full year of the four-year grants has been completed, which offers time enough to assess how well the states are delivering. Read More…

  • Only time will tell who wins the $4 billion Race to the Top – (Vindicator)
  • After the first year, a Washing- ton assessment of the $4.35 billion Race to the Top grant program gives Ohio high marks on its participation. States and individual school districts had to compete for extra federal funding aimed at improving student achievement, closing achievement gaps, improving high school graduation rates and better preparing students for success in college and careers. Read More…

Stop Tying Pay to Performance

The evidence is overwhelming: It doesn’t work.

That's the headline from a Harvard Business Review article. If the HBR can conclude that pay for performance doesn't work for big business executives, it's not a giant leap to understand it won't work for the teaching profession where there is no profit motive, but instead relies on collaboration and teamwork.

Time frame: next week | Degree of difficulty: operationally easy, psychologically hard | Barrier: greed, economic theory

We’ve talked about this since the financial meltdown. Now it’s time to do it: Unlink pay from performance. The evidence keeps growing that pay for performance is ineffective. It also may induce executives to take company-killing risks. There are other ways to motivate employees that yield better results at lower cost.

It may take a while before actual evidence and research finally convinces corporate education reformers they have it wrong, but month after month the moiuntain of evidence grows.

When endorsements go wrong

Toledo Mayor Mike Bell (I), is probably regretting his ill-conceived endorsement of SB5 right about now. No sooner had his claims about the benefits of SB5 been debunked as nonsense, and it revealed he was laid off as a firefighter before collective bargaining existed, now the attention he has brought himself has landed him in some ethical hot water.

The chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party has asked the Ohio Ethics Commission to investigate the $656,000 in federal grants and loans the city of Toledo has awarded to a development company owned by Mayor Mike Bell's niece.

In a brief letter yesterday, Chris Redfern, the party's chairman, formally requested the ethics commission "to commence an investigation into the contractual relationship that exists between the City of Toledo and Shayla Bell."

Ms. Bell, 27, started Fort Industry Development shortly after her uncle took office in January, 2010. Since then, the city has awarded Ms. Bell's company five contracts to buy, rehabilitate, and sell foreclosed homes. The rehabilitation work itself is performed by a general contractor. Fort Industry also is to receive two more contracts, which would bring the total close to $1 million.

"I think it's clear that Shayla Bell wouldn't have received one penny if her last name wasn't Bell," Mr. Redfern said.

City officials dispute that claim. Mayor Bell has said his niece earned the contracts on her own initiative with no assistance from him. She had to qualify with the city's neighborhoods department to begin receiving the contracts.

She had no prior construction or development experience, but she teamed up with two businessmen from an established commercial and industrial glass company in creating Fort Industry. That gave the firm the experiences and financial wherewithal to qualify for the program, neighborhoods department staff has said.

Is it any wonder that people are sick and tired of politicians taking care of themselves and their special interests while attacking hard working people?

Vote NO on Issue 2

Outsourcing the Future

From Pro Publica

Since 2008, an Ohio-based company, White Hat Management, has collected around $230 million to run charter schools in that state. The company has grown into a national chain and reports that it has about 20,000 students across the country. But now 10 of its own schools and the state of Ohio are suing, complaining that many White Hat students are failing, and that the company has refused to account for how it has spent the money.

The dispute between White Hat and Ohio, which is unfolding in state court in Franklin County, provides a glimpse at a larger trend: the growing role of private management companies in publicly funded charter schools.

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