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Billionaires vs. public schooling

It took The Daily Show to lampoon the notion that public school teachers have it easy making $50 K per year but Wall Street scoundrels deserve every penny of the bonuses they earned for bringing the world economy to the brink of another Great Depression.

As another counterweight to the ongoing demonization of teachers, Jon Stewart also did an interview with Diane Ravitch, the former Bush 43 education official who’s turned against No Child Left Behind and high-stakes testing in a big way. Ravitch is also a vocal critic of charter schools and of the “Waiting for Superman” mania that afflicts so many pundits.

In her new book, Ravitch warns about the influence of the Gates, Broad and Walton foundations that are throwing lots of money into sponsoring charter schools while urging cuts in teachers’ benefits and pensions. She calls them The Billionaire Boys Club, as she explained to Mother Jones.

“What’s happening now is venture philanthropy. They look at their philanthropy as an investment. They start off with strategy and a reform idea which they believe is right and then they say here is the money, but you have to do what we tell you to do. When Eli Broad funds medical research, he doesn’t tell them how to do medical research. But he has very clear directions for public schools with a pro-charter school and teacher evaluation obsession. Gates gave a billion dollars to break large high schools into small high schools and then decided that wasn’t working. And now he’s moved on to teacher evaluations. Well, he never made a public accountability statement about why small high schools weren’t working. …The big issue that concerns me is that they are using their money to control public policy and they have no accountability.”

Bill Sez: Bob Somerby has done a series of posts on Ravitch vs. Gates, examining a Washington Post op-ed in which Gates spouted some questionable “facts” and continued his anti-teacher ranting. Why do billionaires hate teachers? Republicans you can understand, they want to hurt unions because unions support Democrats, and they criticize public education because it’s public.

Seems to me it’s time for newspapers to examine highly paid private employees (e.g., CEOs) and how little their job performance affects their pay. Or perhaps take another look at tax waivers for businesses that promise new jobs they never quite get around to creating.

Categories: Education
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