A little while ago we wrote about how corporate money has been rolling into school board elections across the country, upturning normally low-key, local affairs and twisting them towards corporate school de-form. Of course, the local example was how GO Public Schools funneled $185,000 towards 3 Oakland school board candidates, Rosie Torres, James Harris, and Jumoke Hinton-Hodge. GO had received the money from 3 main sources: the California Charter School Association, Gary Rogers (seed funder of GOPS), and Arthur Rock. Well now, Arthur Rock and some other Bay Area venture capitalist friends have been popping up in even more local elections. Teacher blogger, Jersey Jazzman, did the dirty work to uncover the campaign finances and here is a sample of what he found:
- Colorado: According to election records, Rock, Penner, Callaghan, the Goldberg-Sandbergs, and the Fourniers gave a total of $19,830 dollars to a slate of candidates consisting of State Senators Linda Newell, Mary Hodge, and Andy Kerr; Representatives Pete Lee, Millie Hamner, Brittany Pettersen, and Dave Young; and House candidate Chuck Rodosevich, who lost his bid. While each if the candidates got different amounts all donors individually gave the same amount to each candidate.
- New York: According to election records, Callaghan, Penner, and Rock gave State Senator Jeffrey D. Klein $2,000 each; Sandberg and Goldberg each gave $1,000.
- Nevada: According to election records, Alison Serafin, who was recently elected to the Nevada State Board of Education, received the following amounts:
- Rock, Sandberg, Thiry: $5,000 each.
- Goldberg: $3,500.
- Callaghan, Penner: $2,000 each.
- The Fourniers: $1,000 each ($2,000 total).
While some of this might seem like chump change when Obama raised $1 billion for his reelection, in school board elections these amounts of contributions totally warp the democratic process. For more info from Jersey Jazzman, please click here for his post. As he puts it these folks have been buying elections 3,000 miles from home (New Jersey in his case).
Of course, they’re also buying elections here and with huge consequences. GO has continued its push to bring corporate de-form policies into Oakland schools, most notably, with its recent campaign to evaluate teachers by test scores–a scientifically invalid process. To stop this red herring of a reform and point attention to where it should be (support and training for teachers based in professional learning communities and, crucially, increased resources for schools and our communities) we will have to be doubly vigilant and mobilized to offset the undemocratic nature of our current board. Click here for more ideas on what we can do and, as always, please share your ideas too.
Some of you might have already seen the shocking results in the New York Times today. Apparently, all the teacher evaluations programs pushed on school districts by Obama’s Race To The Top and the corporate de-formers have found a shocking conclusion: most teachers are, in fact, “highly effective” at their jobs.
Diane Ravitch does a great job of poking holes in this “realization” and cites some of their statistics:
In Florida, 97 percent of teachers were deemed effective or highly effective in the most recent evaluations. In Tennessee, 98 percent of teachers were judged to be “at expectations.”
In Michigan, 98 percent of teachers were rated effective or better.
This is serious news for Oakland. As many of you hopefully know by now, GO Public Schools & Co. (including Youth Together, Youth Uprising, SEIU 1021, OCO, and Education Trust-West), is making a serious push to evaluate Oakland teachers by student test score data. They are not alone. Superintendent Smith is heading the same direction in conjunction with 8 other California school districts (in the group called California Office to Reform Education (CORE)).
We post a fiery letter from an OUSD teacher who attended GO Public Schools’ event Wednesday night. There GO and a coalition of other organizations (including SEIU 1021, Youth Together, Youth Uprising, OCO, and Education Trust-West) proposed to evaluate, fire, and hire teachers according to student test score data. Click here for the report. The teacher is as angry for what it leaves out as what it proposes. A must read on a very relevant issue for Oakland, as GO and Tony Smith appear to be making a full-court press to evaluate teachers by test scores.
The only brief explanation of how you determine who is an exceptional teacher, average or weak teachers was in the number of years a student’s learning increases within a school year (based on standardized test scores I imagine although this was not explicitly stated). They said that highly effective teachers can raised student achievement by 1.5 years in a single year, average teachers can raise achievement by 1 year and weak teachers raise it by less than 1 year. As a teacher, this definition of effectiveness in teaching seems ignorant at best and quite honestly, insulting.
The hijacking of local school board elections by corporate funders pushing their education “reform” policies continues unabated across the country. This pattern has already been seen in our elections in Oakland last November which we analyzed here. November was when the PAC for GO Public Schools collected $185,000 to be donated to their three candidates Jumoke Hodge, James Harris, and Rosie Torres. This doesn’t mean GO doesn’t also support other corporate “reformers” on the board such as Jody London who also ran in November, but it seems they were more worried about the potential for losing in the districts of Hodge, Harris, and Torres. So to defend their policies at all costs they collected $50,000 each from such luminaries as Arthur Rock, a San Francisco hedge fund capitalist, Gary Rogers, millionaire founder of Dreyer’s Ice Cream and seed funder of GO Public Schools, and the California Charter Schools Association. Compared to the next largest source of money, the OEA, GO spent 9 times as much.
The money doesn’t stop in Oakland. Last week’s Los Angeles school board elections saw millions of dollars in corporate money, again ridiculously outspending the non-corporate aligned candidates. Donations included $1 million from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, about $340,000 from the California Charter Schools Assn., $250,000 from an organization led by former District of Columbia schools chancellor Michelle Rhee and $250,000 from a New York-based subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. All of this was funneled through Mayor Villaraigosa’s campaign PAC. Let this be another lesson of where the Democrats stand when it comes to corporate “reform” of education. For more info on Los Angeles check out: this LA Times article and Diane Ravitch posts.
Here is a new article by two Oakland educators that explores the recent local and national elections as it relates to public education. It touches on everything from Proposition 30, to Race to the Top, to GO Public Schools (an Oakland non-profit) which had an enormous impact on the recent Oakland School Board elections. We hope it sparks conversation and look forward to your comments.
Election 2012: The True Impact on Oakland Schools
By Margarita Monteverde and Felicia Vivanco
Over the weeks and months leading up to the November 6 elections, electoral politics dominated the conversation in the news, social media and discussion; a unique moment in a culture normally preoccupied with shopping and celebrity gossip. These conversations, focused mainly on the two party debate over the presidential race, have now all but ceased. With Obama’s re-election victory and the passing of California’s Prop 30 (which puts funds into public education through a sales tax increase and tax on the wealthy) many residents in Oakland and across California breathed a celebratory sigh of relief. However, the post-election rejoicing may be premature when we begin to take seriously the real implications that these policies and politicians have on our lives. While the Obama hypeovershadowed local elections, a traditionally less popular topic during election times, the Oakland school board race drew more attention than usual this year. This was due to the unusually large number of contested seats across districts and the historic amount of money poured into these races which often go ignored by the public. If we believe in fighting for quality public education for all, then it is important that we take a deeper look at the landscape that has led to our current situation and what has now been laid down by the 2012 election results as it affects public education locally and nationally.
The recent Oakland school board elections, where close to 200,000 private sector dollars were dumped into the Great Oakland Public School’s (GOPS) campaign coffers for three candidates, are a perfect example of what this courageous teacher is addressing to the American Legislative Exchange Council. (ALEC is an extremely right-wing organization composed of legislators, businesses and foundations which produces model legislation for state legislatures. For more info on ALEC click here). That is, private sector interests entirely disconnected from the public school realm and shaping the discourse and decision making. The nerve of these legislators to allege that they merely suggest the policies currently plaguing public education and it’s the school boards that ultimately “decide.” That is laughable. School closures, high stakes testing, teacher evaluation based on testing, vouchers, charters, etc. etc. are all in the interests of the ruling class and benefit their strategy to open up public education to the “free” markets.
Our education committee, Transform Education, Abolish Capitalism, Heal (TEACH) completely agrees with Sabrina Joy Stevens, the teacher seen in the linked video. Thus, we will continue to fight school closures and all the worst top down “reforms” coming the Tony Smiths of the public education hierarchy. If you share a similar commitment to this fight please get in touch with us. Thank you.