Weighing Capital Intent in Public Systems

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From the Herald Times of Bloomington, IN.

Letter: Voucher programs

October 26, 2011

To the editor:

Recently the Chamber of Commerce hosted an education forum that will showcase the aggressive policies of profiteering implemented by the state government and promoted by the Indiana Superintendent for Public Instruction, Tony Bennett.

Note that “Instruction” is not “Education” but rather marching orders. Bennett has turned the position into a kind of Creel Commission for Propaganda. (The community that perpetrated this practice of manipulation actually used the word and thus were at least honest about the intentional deceptions they manufactured for the population.)

Let’s just exam the most contentious: The state’s voucher program has been described as the “broadest” in the country, meaning 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?

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 as regards our now commonplace methods of measure. .

If the highly touted “free enterprise” method of private education shows no greater learning success, who exactly is benefiting? To date, religious institutions and private “edupreneurs.”

Douglas Storm, Bloomington

I wrote the above to coincide with the event indicated in the opening paragraph of this letter.  I submitted it on 10/3.  Twenty-three days ago perhaps this letter was more relevant.  Perhaps twenty-three days ago it would have had more contextual meaning.  Perhaps twenty-three days ago it would have struck a cord with any of those folks who attended the Chamber meeting in which TB Sheets spouted his Long Con to those receptive business-oriented listeners validated by organizations like the Chamber of Commerce.

Alas, such are the limitations of the local press.  There are many letters that ask for space (for a voice) and HT priorities that are not about timeliness or relevance–but are as far as I can discern strictly about “order received” and daily spatial layout needs.  A daily organ of communications that does not, on the whole, encourage communication but rather reception of “news” releases is not very dynamic or hardly even useful.

A newspaper, to this reader and citizen, should ideally prep its readers for important events: not just “paid” events thrown by the corporate owners of the town, or sporting events.

So, for example, the letter I wrote and an accompanying column by the Errant’s Doug Martin regarding the cronyism of Bennett and Daniels, would run PRIOR to the event OR immediately following.  Also the paper itself would devote resources to these kinds of events as a way to describe and explain policies and legislation that has passed so that local, busy, working men and women can be aware of the way their lives, and their children’s lives, are being “operated” and managed outside of their knowledge.

There, that’s my wish and I’m sending it our to the editorial board of the HT via email.

The world is big and there are many things happening to us that we have zero control over.  Much of our psychological lives are spent in a pretense of control–this is how we’re governed and placated.  “Choose” your soda, your box lunch, your movie, your razor blades, your cell phone, your car or truck, and so on.  It sure seems like you make decisions for yourself and your family.

But these are peripheral to the operations of our managed society.  Budgets are parsed, passed, rejected and before you know it we have more roads, fewer schools, a new park project, less green space, more charter schools, and so on.  And for the most part, we know nothing about it…it happens and we don’t see it, hear it, taste it, feel it, die of it, until it wraps itself into our dailiness.  And by that time, it is status quo.

This is the real strength and weakness of the human.  Highly adaptable also means easily manipulated.

So, how are you managed? A quick and dirty list follows and it is no way exhaustive or even minimally detailed.  A sketch is all.

1. National “interest”: this happens and you as a citizen are “spoken for”–this is true governing without consent.  Look at any polls regarding our various “wars” and you will see that the citizens are against them overwhelmingly.

2. (Un)Employment.  Jobs are created (believe it or not).  And letting “money” lenders be the impetus for this is creating a further depth of poverty and spiritual malaise.  Many of us NEED work as a social and psychological definition.  Capital does NOT want to spend money on labor–it wants to invest it and keep it.  So, do you think wealthy capitalists want to create jobs?  They want more machines and technology!  These require no health benefits after all.

3. Public Institutions of Education.  This one is where I think we can make a real difference.  But we are up against it.  Money and Power are pushing vouchers and charters and they are mobilized and entrenched in our legislatures and our courts and our universities.  They are writing and passing laws that have reduced funds to our public institutions and this FORCES local communities to cut services.  Like busing kids from the country to the city for school; like keeping schools open that only serve a small population.  Indiana is succeeding like no other in destroying all of our public institutions by simply defunding them and claiming “recessionary” restraint.

The two examples mentioned were in the local news:

Busing.  From the HT yesterday, “Area schools to continue bus service — for now”.

Eastern Greene runs 20 regular bus routes in addition to three routes for special needs students. The school owns 15 buses and contracts 10.

Because of the district’s rural area, Mungle said he views transportation as a necessity and said canceling bus routes would cause a hardship for Eastern Greene parents. He could not guarantee, however, that changes might not happen in the future.

“It’s hard to say what’s on the horizon two to four years from now because of changes we are seeing in school finance and partly the economic impact we are being hit with,” he said. “I’m not going to predict what we are looking at in two to four years. We may limit the number of roads we go down, don’t drive as many miles, limit pick up areas, who knows what we may see.”

One district that has decided to start charging students for certain bus trips is Richland-Bean Blossom Community School Corp., which this year began charging for trips to extracurricular activities such as field trips and sporting event.

Carol Gardiner, assistant superintendent and director of transportation for R-BB, said the decision came about due to state budget cuts the district has experienced the past few years.

“Every year, we are getting less money from the state,” Gardiner said. “We have to figure out how to cut some of those costs. The extra trips are the pieces where we felt like we were getting hit the hardest.”

And “consolidation” of smaller systems.  From State Impact Indiana (NPR) “Rural Schools Could Be Forced To Consolidate” (my highlights).

School officials at many of Indiana’s smallest districts are having a hard time balancing their checkbooks. There is mounting evidence that this is part of a concerted effort by Governor Mitch Daniels and the General Assembly to force consolidation onto districts with fewer than two thousand students. For the few attempting a referendum, it’s a battle for survival.


John Krause (Click here for a complete transcript of our conversation with Krauss) headed a research team behind a report Governor Mitch Daniels commissioned in 2007 entitled “Streamlining Local Government.” Among other findings, was a suggestion to eliminate all school districts with fewer than two thousand students.  The basic idea was to eliminate administrators, but keep the school buildings.

“There are quite are few that are very large, then there’s some that are very, very small. But both of them have the same administrative structure as the other,” says Krause. “For example, superintendent and assistant superintendent.”

He and his research team suggested a structured approach where schools made and implemented their own consolidation plans– all under the watchful eye of the Indiana Department of Education.

But schools haven’t followed Krauss’s recommendations.

Let’s take a trip across the state to Eastern Greene Schools. Located among cornfields at a crossroads about 15 miles from Bloomfield.

Ty Mungle has been in charge of the district for about three years

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. During that time, his schools which serve about 14 hundred students have faced large cutbacks from the state. Mungle’s fired teachers to make up for the shortfall.

“Obviously a large percentage of our budgets ends up in salary and benefits,” says Mungle. “And unfortunately, that’s where we have to end up. Is looking at personnel.”…

…if Mungle doesn’t pass a referendum, then he has little choice other than to keep firing teachers every year. It’s the classic death by a million cuts.

And, in the mean time, with fewer teachers each year, there’ll be fewer classes. After all, no P.E. teacher, no gym class. No foreign language teacher, no French class. Lose too many teachers and eventually, the school disappears.

It’s hard to call this anything but diabolical.  And be clear, I mean the word as denoted: of the devil…evil in intent.

It’s worse though, sad to say.  So, picture the situation where buildings remain, and for the time at least, people remain, but there is no way to fund the human interaction we call teaching.  Imagine who, or what, might come to the rescue…think about it…you know what it is.  Technology!  That’s right: the machine will train, er, teach for America!

Case in point: Billy and Mel Gates–those billionaire do-gooders who just want to free the world of poverty and disease in order to get the newly healed in front of a Windows OS where they can discover the American freedom of managed consumption (ah, to dream! see #2 above)–penned, a few days ago, this promo piece in the WSJ (natch) touting their own project designed to grade teachers called “Measures of Effective Teaching” or MET (my highlights)*:

For the last several years, our foundation has been working with more than 3,000 teachers on a large research project called Measures of Effective Teaching, or MET. These teachers volunteered to have their classes videotaped and their lessons scored by experts, to have their students evaluate their teaching, to fill out surveys about the support they receive and to be assessed on their content knowledge.

The intermediate goal of MET is to discover what we are able to measure that is predictive of student success. The end goal is to have a better sense of what makes teaching work so that school districts can start to hire, train and promote based on meaningful standards.


There are others who say that teaching is so nuanced that it is simply impossible to measure. We can’t accept that either, because we know that just throwing up our hands is bad for students and for teachers.

Because we have been unable to define effective teaching, we now reward teachers for easy-to-measure proxies like master’s degrees and seniority, even though there is no evidence that these things help students learn. As a result, a tenured teacher with a master’s degree whose students aren’t learning much will always earn more than a recent college graduate whose students are sweeping the academic decathlon.

You can argue or agree about “success” in schools, about teachers as inspirational examples, about teachers as “retirees” patiently waiting a pension, about poverty in rural areas vs. poverty in urban areas…and on and on.

But what Billy is talking about here, and what all school reform that finds its “reformative impetus” in testing and measurement, is really a “measure of control”.  Billy wants to measure his way and call it the right way.  And this is the dream of all megalomaniacs.  Control and Power (money is the handmaiden of both).

Measurement is control, friends.  You assent to this without being conscious of it.  He who controls the measures controls the people.  “One King, One Law, One Weight, One Measure.” (Kula, Witold.  Measures and Men, quoted in A Measure of Failure by Mark Garrison.)  It should be clear “that neither in the past nor the present is testing mainly about improving education.  It is, instead, about control over the purpose and nature of schooling.” (Garrison, 2)

I think this pretty much nails what it is the Gates’s of the world are trying to do, and by extension the governments both state and federal.  The crony capitalists in the mix might be characterized like gulls on the shore just waiting for the scraps out of the hands of the powerful.

Garrison, again, spot on: “Measures become one means by which conflicting claims are sorted out.  The failure of established measures to sort out confiscating claims might signal the failure of the authority they represent.”

In other words, establish standards that measure failure and then overturn the current public systems under that “authority.”  Then there will be a new king, a new law, a new weight, a new measure.  Or rather, an old law written with fresh blood.

Kula, makes clear the punitive nature of this:

The right to determine measures is an attribute of authority in all advanced societies.  It s the prerogative of the ruler to make measures mandatory and to retain the custody of the standards….The controlling authority, moreover, seeks to unify all measures within its territory and claim the right to punish metrological transgressions.

This is an apt description of the turn-around and takeover policies of the state.**


*For a very critical read on Gates’s MET see this piece, Premises, Presentation And Predetermination In The Gates MET Study.

**The Errant has an archive of posts about these practices.

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