Yesterday the Bloomington Chamber of Commerce hosted a kind of dog and pony show they called an Education Forum that featured the salesmanship of one Tony Bennett (aka T.B. Sheets*), Indiana’s Minister of Public Deception. Others involved were two local Superintendents (who carry water for the elephants) and an IU policy researcher. The local paper reported on it today in an article titled “State schools chief Tony Bennett acknowledges he has ‘fences to mend,” but from the content of the piece it appears that absolutely nothing was said that might lead to further understanding the designs that Bennett and his corporate cohort have on education.
Doug Martin has addressed these facts many times for us at The Errant in several articles and he took some time to summarize them to submit to the HT as a Guest Column. In case it doesn’t run, here it is:
A day before Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett’s appearance at the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce’s Education Forum, the Florida Ledger published a story on how Polk and Seminole county officials are fighting to keep Charter Schools USA out of their backyards. One assistant school board attorney went so far as to suggest the charter school group, run by Jeb Bush’s friend Jonathan K. Hage, is attempting an elaborate “money grab.”
Charter Schools USA, thanks to Bennett and the IDOE, is also set to “takeover” Indianapolis’ T. C. Howe Community High School and Emmerich Manual High School, even though the for-profit company has no experience turning around low performing schools. In fact, most of its experience rests in running K-8 charter schools—not high schools.
As a $2,000 donor to Bennett’s campaign, EdisonLearning–the choice for a Gary school takeover–is an even more questionable outfit. Jeb Bush bailed out Edison when the then-Florida governor bought out its failing stock with teachers’ retirement funding. The public should read DePaul professor Kenneth Saltman’s 2005 book outlining Edison’s track record of distorting test results, kicking out special needs children, disappointing communities nationwide, and caring more about profiting from taxpayers’ money than about seriously helping students
Jeb Bush’s connection to both of these for-profit companies coming to Indiana is disturbing.
As Hoosiers know, Mitch Daniels is no stranger to the Bush family. This year, Jeb even publicly endorsed Daniels for the presidency. Like Daniels (who followed George H.W. Bush to Eli Lilly), Charter Schools USA’s Jonathan Hage is family. Hage speech-wrote for George H. W. Bush’s 1992 presidential campaign, later joining the 2004 Bush/Cheney National Steering Committee as an educational talking head. A former researcher for Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Florida’s Future, Hage helped develop Liberty City Charter School, the first charter in Florida, which was sponsored by Jeb Bush.
Besides appearing at the Indiana Education Roundtable a while back, Jeb Bush has even picked Tony Bennett to lead his group, Chiefs for Change, which promotes the same myths about accountability, standardized testing, and 21st century jobs that those at the 1989 Business Roundtable summit concocted. These guidelines, meant to bust teachers unions, de-skill teachers, destroy students’ critical thinking, and give companies cover for job outsourcing, were later adopted into Bill Clinton’s Goals 2000 plan and became the blueprint for George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind. As Bennett and business leaders talk incessantly about 21st century job qualifications, the truth is the majority of future jobs will only require rudimentary skills at most. America now has too many trained scientists, which has been the business plan all along. If 100 percent of the population has a college degree, then companies can pick and choose who they pay low wages to.
Jeb Bush’s business friends are the first invaders. The privatizers are moving into our state and they have their eyes set on the money. Our children will just be pawns for the profit.
Meanwhile, back at the forum…HT reporter Bethany Nolan let us know that, “All four [panelists] expressed myriad ideas when asked what will drive public education in the next three to five years,” she did not articulate any of these except to say that the policy guy said it’s important to have good data and the Supers worried about funding. Myriad? Ideas?
Here is the meat of the paper’s report:
Bennett weighed in on several other issues at the forum, including early childhood education (he supports the idea, but said it’s not a panacea); about constitutional questions regarding sending tax dollars to private schools through vouchers (he said public schools aren’t entitled to those dollars and he wants to see children go to a school where their needs are met); and whether Indiana will apply for a waiver for federal No Child Left Behind legislation (yes, he said, as early as November).
First, let’s stop acting like Tony Bennett deserves to be called “doctor.” He, like any number of ambitious men in the feminine profession of education (I said it, check the stats), decided a PhD would allow him to advance and be the alpha male and boss in an institution that is and should be closer to a “stateless” or leaderless society. At the very least schools should be a kind of community with one goal in mind–learning to the betterment of human understanding as opposed to the betterment of trained labor.
But what is significant here is the outright statement that PUBLIC SCHOOLS are not entitled to the money that the public pays for public schools. Bennett feels he and his friends are entitled to it instead (as Doug shows above). The rest, where he tries to say that he wants every child’s needs met, is the whited sepulcher of Market religion. You know that Bible verse, right? The King James Version: Matthew 23:27.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like unto whitewashed sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outwardly but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.
Anyway, I wrote a comment on the article at the HT Online starting with the false admission that Bennett needs to “mend fences” (has he read his Frost?…”something there is that doesn’t love a wall”).
There are no fences to mend. Bennett has no concern about human learning and human communities UNLESS we buy (and I mean that verb) the idea that human beings and human communities are best served by private interests in the form of markets and consumption. Our public institutions are public for a reason; they provide a kind of bulwark AGAINST private interest. They offer what we might actually call a kind of “freedom” of opportunity to learn. I’m thinking primarily of schools and libraries and I’d include postal service also. This opens up the minds of men and women to other men and women (and children of course).
Markets only want to exploit for profit in any way that is available, legal or illegal (as long as it can be got away with it is “legal”).
What is happening now is a destruction of the freedom to not be coerced into a market decision. The bulwark against market intrusions into our very minds has already suffered immense damage with our visual media’s massive influence on us. All we really have left might be home (if we turn off the tv and computer); school (if we turn off the tv and computer); and the library (lather rinse repeat).
Bennett is at the national forefront of reducing us even further to demographics on a spreadsheet. That is all we are to advertisers and that is all we are to politicians and corporations.
Let’s just exam the most contentious of these deceptions: the state’s voucher program, which has been described the “broadest” in the country. This means anyone can apply, while other states primarily offer vouchers to students at lower-performing schools and/or students shown to be living in poverty. This is touted as offering “equal opportunity.”
But if it is, to what end and for whom? The primary longitudinal study on vouchers as compared to public education (out of Milwaukee) has shown that AT BEST vouchers do no worse than public schools (i.e., no better) as regards our now commonplace methods of measure, “standards” testing. If the highly touted “free enterprise” method of private education shows no greater learning success, who exactly is benefiting? To date, religious institutions and privateers. Of course, those groups, in some measure, in most of the world, have always been the primary components of the state.
*I have nicknamed Bennett above, T. B. Sheets. This is the name of a Van Morrison song. It is about a girl dying of tuberculosis and the songwriter’s urge, when visiting her, to flee the disease and doom of the situation. I’m not sure it’s an appropriate nickname but I can’t help thinking of Bennett and his cohort as an infectious disease eating away at our power to even breathe any air that isn’t about profit to the detriment of people.