The Mind Trust’s “Opportunity” for Indianapolis Corporate Schools

Hatching Opportunity

As Bart Peterson and David Harris’ Mind Trust sells its “Opportunity School” agenda (PDF) to the City-County Council Community Affairs Committee this week, it is time to get one thing straight. The Mind Trust plan for Indianapolis Public Schools is not about improving education. Essentially, it is an elaborate (and $500,000 of it taxpayer funded) ploy to privatize the public schools, one which would give the Indianapolis mayor the “opportunity” to dictate a corporate school agenda for the entire city.

If the plan succeeds, Indy’s mayor will have the opportunity to select corporate cronies for the school board. If up to Bart Peterson and David Harris (who made a healthy $185,860 working for the Mind Trust in 2010, and $13,744 in “Other Compensation”) these will be Eli Lilly representatives and members of phony parent groups like Stand for Children, who recently sold out parents, teachers, and students to a handful of rich campaign donors in Illinois. For this anti-democratic board, the mayor may even appoint bankers who loan money to charter schools, with interest, as former mayor Anthony Williams did with the Washington D.C. charter school authorizing board.

The Mind Trust’s New School Incubator Fund is sure to draw national profiteers, for it calls for downsizing IPS’ central office and funneling $7.5 million (then $2 million afterward, as the plan progresses) to 10 new charter schools yearly. Along with the $250,000 in start-up funds dished out by the federal government, this money will please profiteers like Peterson’s former employer, Strategic Capital Partners (SCP), and help expand their Indy profit. The IFF (formerly the Illinois Facilities Fund) we be lurking in the shadows, too, for the real estate-charter school loaning outfit has been operating in Indiana for quite some time, eager for investors to apply the $25 million in New Market Tax Credits the Obama administration has just recently handed to it. If lucky, IFF will end up being hired by the major to “evaluate” the Indy schools, and the group will find, as it recently did in the Walmart-funded D.C

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As the public schools are deemed failing and turned into charters under the Mind Trust plan, a horde of Teach Plus and Teach for America temporary workers will be recruited to go into neighborhoods where their mentality will be far removed from the day to day struggles of students, parents, and teachers. All sense of community will be drained from the schools. For this, the Mind Trust scheme allows $2.5 million per year to be taken from IPS to go to these corporate school teachers, who as de-skilled workers will focus on dog-and-pony test scores.

The Mind Trust ploy also gives the mayor-led board authority to pick the Indy school superintendent, who will undoubtedly be a corporate school reformer, possibly one trained by the billionaire Eli Broad’s Academy, which places business leaders and military heads as superintendents in cities across the country. This would be right up David Harris’s alley, for he attended the Aspen Institute and NewSchools Venture Fund’s corporate Entrepreneurial Leaders for Public Education Fellowship Program (PDF) with John Deasy and Hosanna Mahaley Johnson, two members of the Broad Academy, the former now Los Angeles superintendent of the schools and the latter acting school superintendent in Washington D.C. Despite resignations from Broad leaders over mismanagement and outrages from communities, members of this corporate training ground still are prevalent in schools across America.

Yet this will not end it. Peterson and Harris also envision all schools in Indy eventually privatizing their transportation, food services, and school maintenance, in order to get rid of that “pesky” thing called a public service “monopoly.”

In the 160 page Mind Trust propaganda report, Peterson’s long-time bedfellow Bryan Hassell at Public Impact is fond of making up an alternative reality as to education reform in Chicago, New Orleans, and New York City when the profiteers moved in. In Chicago, school reform meant privatizing the schools and destroying low-income housing, which kicked poor people out into the streets and fed money to private developers.  The fight to stop charterizing Chicago schools continues, even after the corporate plan led to the shooting death of one student whose school was given over to a military academy and, more recently, occupations of local schools and even the mayor’s house by parents, students, and teachers who have had enough. Fulfilling Milton Friedman’s death-bed wish, the privateers put the hurting on New Orleans after Katrina. Going into the new school year, only five public schools remain in New Orleans, and those five will, no doubt, be charterized in the near future. Parents who have applied to start their own charter schools have been denied in favor of national corporations, which is a lesson for Indy parents who believe that the Mind Trust’s plan will encourage them to sit on nonprofit boards across the city. In New York City, mayoral control has constantly worked to give taxpayer-handouts to insiders like Joel Rose, even as the DOE rushes to close up to 60 more schools, 33 of them in an attempt to fire teachers who don’t buy into Bloomberg’s teacher evaluation agenda. Not surprisingly, Andy Rotherham, a Mind Trust member, has come out in praise of releasing to the public the ratings of NYC teachers based solely on student test scores, even though doctors would fight in full-force such ludicrousness if they were rated on patient illness. Expect a similar public lashing of teachers in Indianapolis if the Mind Trust plan becomes implemented.

If examining these cities is not enough, there’s always Philadelphia to consider.  In this hotspot for corporate school reform, 19 charter schools recently have been investigated for massive fraud and corruption.  Even sending some corporate school leaders to jail hasn’t stopped the quest to privatize the schools. In fact, although $400 million is given to charter schools in Philly each year, the powers-that-be are still turning so-called “low-performing schools” over to charter operators, and operators are applying to open even more schools in a city where the school district has a multi-million dollar deficit.

Peterson, Harris, and Hassell know all of this, and they hope damn well that you don’t find out about their plans to turn Indianapolis into a breeding ground for the next phrase in “disaster capitalism.” But those who have followed the corporate school movement have heard this narrative before, and the end result is never pretty.  The Mind Trust’s game plan is merely the same corporate playbook and paybook that has been used by the wealthy across America who want taxpayer money from the public schools. If people don’t stand against it now, it will lead only to more misery, inequality, and injustice.

David Harris’ presentation to the City-County Council Community Affairs Committee is on Tuesday, February 28, 2012, at 5:00 p.m. at Central Library, 40 E. St. Clair St. If you are unable to make it, you can still voice your objections to the Mind Trust plan by emailing City-County Council Community Affairs Committee members listed below:

Maggie Lewis (Chair):

Zach Adamson:

John Barth:

Pamela Hickman:

Jeff Miller:

Leroy Robinson:

Christine Scales:

Aaron Freeman: No email or contact info given


Photo Credit: AlishaV


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