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WEASELS IN THE HENHOUSE: Head Of School Reform Bringing Same Old Crony Capitalist Bullshit?

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NEWSWORKS: Just over a month ago, the chairman of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission took part in a pivotal, closed-door meeting to discuss the fate of a charter-school deal potentially worth $60 million, only hours after he publicly recused himself from voting on the matter due to a conflict of interest. SRC Chairman Robert Archie [pictured, below right, with Arlene Ackerman] confirmed his participation in the private session in an e-mail statement to NewsWorks and the Public School Notebook. The meeting was held March 16 at Philadelphia School District headquarters, and included Archie, State Rep. Dwight Evans [pictured, below left], and John Q. Porter of Mosaica Education, an Atlanta-based, for-profit school operator. Earlier that day, Archie’s fellow commissioners had voted 3-0 to award Mosaica the right to negotiate for the charter to run Martin Luther King High in Germantown. Archie didn’t vote, citing his law firm’s ties to another applicant for the charter. Porter described himself that afternoon as “ecstatic” about the vote. But the day after the three men met, Mosaica Archie1.jpgwalked away from the King deal. Porter explained the reversal at the time by saying that he did not want to interfere with Evans’ plans for his community. He also said that his company “did not believe that, without full support, we could be successful.” Mosaica’s abrupt about-face left Foundations Inc., a New Jersey-based nonprofit with ties to both Archie and Evans, as the only bidder for the King charter.  The law firm where Archie is a partner, Duane Morris LLP, has represented Foundations. MORE

RELATED: You might want to gather the kids tomorrow and take them down to the School Reform Commission meeting. They couldn’t get a civics lesson like this if you could afford to send them to Harvard. Tomorrow’s agenda includes a discussion of “reform” plans at Martin Luther King High School. The plans were reviewed and then revised by an ad hoc group of district officials who had trouble remembering which back room they met in, let alone what was discussed. You could get whiplash trying to follow the meandering course of this sordid affair. MORE

PHAWKER: This is why Philadelphia schools suck so bad, this is why every hard-working couple of child-bearing age have plotted an escape to the suburbs by the third trimester, this is why a quarter of adults in Philly can’t read and almost half of all students don’t graduate, because before they even start kindergarten, before pencil ever touches paper, before chalk ever touches blackboard, every kid knows deep down on some sub-verbal level of intuition, the way dogs detect the approach of storms long before their masters do, that it ain’t about them. It’s not about reading and writing and arithmetic, it’s not about learning or enlightenment, it’s not about acquiring skills for survival in the modern adult world, it’s not about teachers or students, it’s about the money, how it gets divided and who gets how much. And, on behalf of the children, fuck you all for that.

Dwight_Evans.jpgRELATED: The assault by corporate America on public education has taken an ominous turn in the last decade. Funded by an array of conservative institutions such as the Heritage Foundation, Hudson Institute, and the Olin Foundation, the corporate drive to undermine public education has enlisted an army of conservative pundits many of whom served in the Department of Education under Presidents Reagan and Bush. […] Providing policy papers, op-ed commentaries, appearing on television talk shows, and running a variety of educational clearinghouses and resource centers, these stalwart opponents of public education relentlessly blame the schools for the country’s economic woes. Citing low test scores, a decline in basic skills, and the watering down of the school curriculum, Ravitch and others use such critiques to legitimate the ideology of privatization with its accompanying call for vouchers, charter schools, and the placing of public schools entirely in the control of corporate contractors. More specific reforms simply recycle right-wing ideology critiques calling for the replacement of teacher unions and “giving parents choice, back-to-basics and performance-driven curriculums, management ‘design teams’ and accountability.” Underlying the call for privatization is a reform movement in which public education is seen as “a local industry that over time will become a global business.” As a for-profit venture, public education represents a market worth over $600 billion dollarsMORE

RELATED: The voucher issue has divided education advocates and sparked a fierce and costly lobbying campaign, pitting large unions – such as the Pennsylvania State Education Association, a sponsor of Tuesday’s rally – against “school choice” advocates, bankrolled by wealthy investors, who say vouchers are the answer to failing public schools. Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams (D., Phila.), whose unsuccessful run for governor last year was largely financed by voucher supporters, drove past protesters in his Cadillac Escalade. Williams said in a statement that while he recognizes the right of the NAACP to protest, he remains focused on passing the voucher bill. “It is tragic to condemn generation after generation to persistently failing schools simply due to their zip code or family income,” he said. MORE

PREVIOUSLY: Dwight Evans For The Deaf

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