Larry Miller's Blog: Educate All Students!

December 4, 2012

Vulture Capitalism Coming to a School District Near You

Filed under: Corporate Domination,Privatization — millerlf @ 9:01 pm

Following is an ad for for-profit companies to attend a seminar on ways to make lucrative investments with companies making profits from public school money.

The seminar is chaired by Harold Levy, who was Chancellor  of New York City’s public schools. “So 2013, and beyond, will see numerous for-profit companies making inroads into public and non-profit education by taking over large swaths of the market.” 

Conference provided by: http://capitalroundtable.com/ – January 15, 2013.

Private Equity Investing in For-Profit Education Companies

How Breakdowns in Traditional Models & Applications of New Technologies Are Driving Change

http://capitalroundtable.com/masterclass/For-Profit-Education-Conference.html

CHAIRED BY: Harold Levy, Managing Director
Palm Ventures
 

20 Expert Speakers, including –

David F. Bainbridge, Veronis Suhler Stevenson LLC
Michael P. McQueeney, Summer Street Capital Partners LLC
Jason Palmer, Straighterline
Ralph Protsik, BSG Team Ventures
Robert T. Puopolo, Epic Partners
Joshua N. Schwartz, East Wind Advisors LLC
David L. Warnock, Camden Partners Holdings LLC

Private equity investing in for-profit education is soaring, and for good reason — the public and non-profit models are profoundly broken.

This is why for-profit education is one of the largest U.S. investment markets, currently topping $1.3 trillion in value.

Look at the current state of K-12 public education.  School districts across the U.S. are underfunded, underperforming, and well behind the curve when it comes to adopting quality technologies.

Many simply lack the expertise to treat today’s applied technologies as not just gadgets or strategic opportunities, but as real solutions for expanding their capacity to teach students.

And in the post-secondary world, non-profit institutions are finding that very few enticements are bringing in money.  Not sports.  Not research.  Not classrooms.

Public funding and private endowments are both down, and neither will be particularly reliable in the future.

So 2013, and beyond, will see numerous for-profit companies making inroads into public and non-profit education by taking over large swaths of the market.  What’s more, they’ll prosper in the corporate training and continuing education marketplace as well.

Consider –

  • The entire education sector now represents nearly 9 percent of the U.S. GDP.
  • Merger and acquisition activity in for-profit education last year surpassed activity at the peak of the Internet boom.
  • More and more non-profit colleges are hitting the wall and seeking investors to help them transform into for-profit institutions.

 

July 21, 2011

See Who is Not Paying Taxes in Wisconsin

Filed under: Corporate Domination,Tax Evasion — millerlf @ 4:57 pm

Welcome to the inaugural edition of a new monthly e-publication from the Institute for Wisconsin’s Future: WhoDoesNotPayTaxes? Its focus is on the growing problem of tax avoidance, especially by large corporations. Tax avoidance is the practice of creating and exploiting tax loopholes, credits and exemptions. Increasing corporate tax avoidance weakens financial support for important public structures and places unfair burdens on those who pay their full share of taxes. The goal of the newsletter is to focus attention on the need to tighten the tax laws and broaden Wisconsin’s tax base.

Associated Bank and M &I have lucrative tax deals.

To see the Institute for Wisconsin’s Future newsletter go to:

http://www.wisconsinsfuture.org/

May 26, 2011

Meet the Billionaires Attempting to Takeover Public Educations

Filed under: Corporate Domination,Right Wing Agenda — millerlf @ 4:38 pm

By Zaid Jilani on May 21st, 2011 at 4:30 pm

Two weeks ago, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) marked “a new era for education in Indiana” when he signed into law one of the most expansive school voucher laws in the country, opening up a huge fund of tax dollars for private schools. A few days later, the Wisconsin state Assembly vastly expanded school vouchers, freeing up tax dollars even for private religious schools. GOP legislators in the Pennsylvania Senate say they have the votes to pass a sweeping voucher bill of their own. And on Capitol Hill, House Republicans successfully revived Washington, D.C.’s voucher system after it was killed off two years ago.

This rapid expansion of voucher programs — which undermine and undercut public education by funnelling taxpayer money to private schools — is remarkable. After all, vouchers have been unpopular with the American public. Between 1966 and 2000, vouchers were put up for a vote in states 25 times, and voters rejected the program 24 of those times.

Yet if one looks behind the curtain — at the foundations, non-profits, Political Action Committees (PAC) — into the workings of the voucher movement, it’s apparent why it has gained strength in recent years. A tight-knit group of right-wing millionaires and billionaires, bankers, industrialists, lobby shops, and hardcore ideologues has been plotting this war on public education, quietly setting up front group after front group to promote the idea that the only way to save public education is to destroy it — disguising their movement with the innocent-sounding moniker of “school choice.”

ThinkProgress has prepared this report to expose this network and give Americans the knowledge they need to fight back against this assault on the nation’s public schools. Here are some of the top millionaires and their organizations waging war on our education system:

– Dick DeVos: The DeVos family has been active on education issues since the 1990′s. The son of billionaire Amway co-founder Richard DeVos, Sr., DeVos unsuccessfully ran for governor of the state of Michigan, spending $40 million, the most ever spent in a gubernatorial race in the state. In 2002, Dick DeVos sketched out a plan to undermine public education before the Heritage Foundation, explaining that education advocates should stop using the term “public schools” and instead call them “government schools.” He has poured millions of dollars into right-wing causes, including providing hundreds of thousands of dollars into seed money for numerous “school choice” groups, including Utah’s Parents for Choice in Education, which used its PAC money to elect pro-voucher politicians.

– Betsy DeVos: The wife of Dick DeVos, she also coincidentally happens to be the sister of Erik Prince, the leader of Xe, the mercenary outfit formerly known as Blackwater and is a former chair of the Republican Party of Michigan. Mrs. DeVos has been much more aggressive than her husband, pouring her millions into numerous voucher front groups across the country. She launched the pro-voucher group All Children Matter in 2003, which spent $7.6 million in its first year alone to impact state races related vouchers, winning 121 out of 181 races in which it intervened. All Children Matter was found breaking campaign finance laws in 2008, yet has still not paid its $5.2 million fine. She has founded and/or funded a vast network of voucher front groups, including Children First America, the Alliance for School Choice, Kids Hope USA, and the American Federation for Children.

- American Federation for Children (AFC): AFC made headlines recently when it brought together Govs. Scott Walker (R-WI) and Tom Corbett (R-PA) and former D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee at a major school choice event in Washington, D.C. AFC is perhaps the most prominent of all the current voucher groups, having been founded in January 2010 by Betsy DeVos. Working together with its PAC of the same name and the 501c(3) organization also lead by DeVos, the Alliance for School Choice, it has served as a launching pad for school choice legislation across the country. AFC made its mark in Wisconsin by pouring thousands of dollars into the state legislative races, donating $40,000 in the service of successfully electing voucher advocate Rep. Kathy Bernier (R) and donating similar amounts to elect Reps. Andre Jacque (R), John Klenke (R), Tom Larson (R), Howard Marklein (R), Erik Severson (R), and Travis Tranel (R). DeVos front group All Children Matter also donated thousands to many of these same voucher advocates. Altogether, AFC spent $820,000 in Wisconsin during the last election, making it the 7th-largest single PAC spender during the election (behind several other mostly right-wing groups with similar agendas).

- Alliance for School Choice (ASC): The Alliance for School Choice is another DeVos front group founded to promote vouchers and serves as the education arm of AFC. In 2008, the last date available for its financial disclosures, its total assets amounted to $5,467,064. DeVos used the organization not only for direct spending into propaganda campaigns, but to give grants to organizations with benign-sounding names so that they could push the radical school choice agenda. For example, in 2008 the organization gave $530,000 grant to the “Black Alliance for Educational Options” in Washington, D.C. and a $433,736 grant to the “Florida School Choice Fund.” This allowed DeVos to promote her causes without necessarily revealing her role. But it isn’t just the DeVos family that’s siphoning money into the Alliance for School Choice and its many front group patrons. Among its other wealthy funders include the Jaquelin Hume Foundation (which gave $75,000 in 2008 and $100,000 in 2006), the brainchild of one of an ultra-wealthy California businessman who brought Ronald Reagan to power, the powerful Wal Mart Foundation (which gave $100,000 in 2005, the Chase Foundation of Virginia (which gave $9,000 in 2007, 2008, and the same amount in 2009), which funds over “supports fifty nonprofit libertarian/conservative public policy research organizations,” and hosts investment banker Derwood Chase, Jr. as a trustee, the infamous oil billionaire-driven Charles Koch Foundation ($10,000 in 2005), and the powerful Wal Mart family’s Walton Family Foundation (more than $3 million over 2004-2005).

- Bill and Susan Oberndorf: This Oberndorfs use their fortune, gained from Bill’s position as the managing director of the investment firm SPO Partners, to funnel money to a wide variety of school choice and corporate education reform groups. In 2009, their Bill and Susan Oberndorf Foundation gave $376,793 to AFC, $5,000 to the Center for Education Reform, and $50,000 to the Brighter Choice Foundation. Additionally, Bill Oberndorf gave half a million dollars to the school choice front group All Children Matter between 2005 and 2007. At a recent education panel, Bill Oberndorf was credited with giving “tens of millions” of dollars of his personal wealth to the school choice movement, and said that the passage of the Indiana voucher law was the “gold standard” for what should be done across America.

- The Walton Family Foundation (WFF):The Wal Mart-backed WFF is one of the most powerful foundations in the country, having made investments in 2009 totaling over $378 million. In addition to financing a number of privately-managed charter schools itself, the foundation showered ASC with millions of dollars in 2009. It also gave over a million dollars to the New York-based Brighter Choice Foundation, half a million dollars to the Florida School Choice Fund, $105,000 to the Foundation for Educational Choice, $774,512 to the Friends of Educational Choice, $400,000 to School Choice Ohio, and gave $50,000 to the Piton Foundation to promote a media campaign around the Colorado School Choice website — all in 2009 alone. WFF’s push for expanding private school education and undermining traditional public schools was best summed up by John Walton’s words in an interview in 2000. An interviewer asked him, “Do you think there’s money to be made in education?” Walton replied, “Absolutely. I think it will offer a reasonable return for investors.” (He also did vigorously argue in the same interview that he does not want to abolish public education).

The wealthy families and powerful corporate-backed foundations presented here are just a sampling of some of the forces currently taking aim at public education. By demonizing traditional public schools and the teachers that staff them, this corporate education movement is undermining a very basic aspect of our democracy: a public commons that provides true opportunity for all, no matter what their background or socioeconomic status.

While the goals of the figures in this movement are varied, their assault on our public education system is one and the same. Joseph Bast, the president and CEO of the Heartland Institute, explained his own thinking about vouchers once, saying, “The complete privatization of schooling might be desirable, but this objective is politically impossible for the time being. Vouchers are a type of reform that is possible now, and would put us on the path to further privatization.” It’s up to Americans to protect their schools, teachers, kids, and communities from that fate.

May 12, 2011

Scholastic Under Fire From Rethinking Schools for Coal Curriculum

Filed under: Corporate Domination,Education Policy — millerlf @ 10:06 am

Rethinking Schools editor Bill Bigelow is quoted in article stating “ ‘The United States of Energy’ is designed to paste a smiley face on the dirtiest form of energy in the world. These materials teach children only the story the coal industry has paid Scholastic to tell.”

Coal Curriculum Called Unfit for 4th Graders

By TAMAR LEWIN Published: May 11, 2011

Three advocacy groups have started a letter-writing campaign asking Scholastic Inc. to stop distributing the fourth-grade curriculum materials that the American Coal Foundation paid the company to develop.

The three groups — Rethinking Schools, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and Friends of the Earth — say that Scholastic’s “United States of Energy” package gives children a one-sided view of coal, failing to mention its negative effects on the environment and human health.

Kyle Good, Scholastic’s vice president for corporate communications, was traveling for much of Wednesday and said she could not comment until she had all the “United States of Energy” materials in hand.

Others at the company said Ms. Good was the only one who could discuss the matter. The company would not comment on how much it was paid for its partnership with the coal foundation.

Scholastic’s InSchool Marketing division, which produced the coal curriculum in partnership with the coal foundation, often works with groups like the American Society of Hematology, the Federal Trade Commission and the Census Bureau to create curriculum materials.

The division’s programs are “designed to promote client objectives and meet the needs of target teachers, students, and parents” and “make a difference by influencing attitudes and behaviors,” according to the company Web site.

“Promoting ‘client objectives’ to a captive student audience isn’t education,” Susan Linn, director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, said in a statement. “It’s predatory marketing. By selling its privileged access to children to the coal industry, Scholastic is commercializing classrooms and undermining education.”

The Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood, a tiny group in Boston, has often been at odds with Scholastic, a $2 billion company whose books and other educational materials are in 9 of 10 American classrooms. Last year, the group criticized the company for its “SunnyD Book Spree,” featured in Scholastic’s Parent and Child magazine, in which teachers were encouraged to have classroom parties with, and collect labels from, Sunny Delight, a sugary juice beverage, to win free books. The campaign has also objected to Scholastic’s promotion of Children’s Claritin in materials it distributed on spring allergies.

And in 2005, the campaign tangled with the company over its “Tickle U” curriculum for the Cartoon Network, in which posters of cartoon characters were sent to preschools and promoted as helping young children develop a sense of humor.

None of the previous episodes led to any specific action.

The coal controversy seems to be the first time the campaign and its allies have challenged Scholastic lesson plans.

“ ‘The United States of Energy’ is designed to paste a smiley face on the dirtiest form of energy in the world,” said Bill Bigelow, an editor of Rethinking Schools magazine. “These materials teach children only the story the coal industry has paid Scholastic to tell.”

The Scholastic materials say that coal is produced in half of the 50 states, that America has 27 percent of the world’s coal resources, and that it is the source of half the electricity produced in the nation, with about 600 coal-powered plants operating around the clock to provide electricity.

What they do not mention are the negative effects of mining and burning coal: the removal of Appalachian mountaintops; the release of sulfur dioxide, mercury and arsenic; the toxic wastes; the mining accidents; the lung disease.

“The curriculum pretends that it’s going to talk about the advantages and disadvantages of different energy choices, to align with national learning standards, but it doesn’t,” Mr. Bigelow said.

“The fact that coal is the major source of greenhouse gases in the United States is entirely left out,” he said. “There’s no hint that coal has any disadvantages.”

In a statement, Ben Schreiber, a climate and energy tax analyst at Friends of the Earth, called the curriculum “the worst kind of corporate brainwashing.”

According to an article by Alma Hale Paty, the executive director of the American Coal Foundation, and posted on Coalblog, “The United States of Energy” went to 66,000 fourth-grade teachers in 2009.

There was no answer at the foundation Wednesday, and Ms. Paty did not return calls.

May 8, 2011

The Rich Get Richer

Filed under: Corporate Domination,Economy — millerlf @ 7:25 am

More for Millionaires

By Al Lewis Wall Street Journal

Just what America needs: richer rich people.

Collectively, U.S. millionaires are going to go from $39 trillion to $87 trillion in wealth by 2020, according to a study the Deloitte Center for Financial Services and Oxford Economics released last week.

Not a word about what happens to hundredaires, thousandaires or even hundred-thousandaires. Perhaps they’ll keep looking for jobs, losing homes to foreclosure and filing for bankruptcy. Or maybe all those trillions will one day trickle down.

Meantime, there has got to be at least one bespectacled, brainiac problem-solver in Washington thinking, “Hmm, trillions? We only need $14 trillion to end the nation’s debt crisis. Thanks, Deloitte.”

Deloitte, however, is not pointing this out for the tax man. This is for bankers, insurance peddlers and wealth managers, so they can find the trillions and collect a fee.

For all the economic misery in the news, there remain nearly 7.8 million households in America with $1 million to $5 million in assets, 2.3 million households with $5 million to $30 million and 496,000 households with more than $30 million, according to the study.

Deloitte projects the assets of these millionaire households will more than double by 2020. Why? Simple compounding of reasonable investment gains.

“There’s a lot of accumulated wealth already,” Andrew Freeman, one of the study’s co-authors, explains. “The existing pot just carries on growing. It’s a bit like a supertanker that keeps on moving.”

The rich get richer. The income gap widens. And pretty soon there’s a totally unjust disparity between the millionaires and the billionaires.

“Being a ‘millionaire’ in the U.S. is no longer viewed as the milestone of success that it was in the past,” the study notes.

So if you’re in one of those $52,000-a-year-median-income households, you really need to get with it.

America’s definition of rich is so rich, it isn’t funny. It only took $100 million to land on the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans in 1982. Bob Hope got on it for cracking jokes. Today, you need $1 billion. And not even Jerry Seinfeld makes that cut with his paltry $800 million.

I already know two words some of you are thinking of emailing me: class envy.

Let’s be clear: I don’t hate the rich. The rich hate me. They hole themselves up in gated communities. They join exclusive clubs. They buy their own planes so they don’t have to sit next to me in coach. And they often pay a lower tax rate than me. Yet I am rooting for them.

I had feared that by 2020, most of the world’s millionaires would be in China. First goes the manufacturing, then the services, then the jobs, then the millionaires, then the nation. But not according to Deloitte.

In 2000, 55% of the wealth held by the world’s millionaires were held by U.S. millionaires. That figure dropped to 42% this year. But Deloitte sees the number rising slightly to 43% by 2020.

China, Brazil and Russia may fuel the growth of millionaire wealth, but the single largest population of millionaires stays here.

I’d much rather envy our own millionaires than some other country’s millionaires.

—Al Lewis is a columnist for Dow Jones Newswires in Denver. He blogs at tellittoal.com; his email address is al.lewis@dowjones.com

April 12, 2011

Walker Supporter Guilty on Two Felony Charges Won’t Get Any Jail Time

Filed under: Corporate Domination,Scott Walker — millerlf @ 4:25 pm

Railroad CEO charged with campaign law violations

By Daniel Bice and Patrick Marley of the Journal Sentinel April 11, 2011

A major donor to Gov. Scott Walker was charged Monday with funneling more than $60,000 in illegal campaign contributions through his railroad employees over five years.

William Gardner, president and chief executive officer of Wisconsin & Southern Railroad Co., has agreed to plead guilty to two felony counts – one for exceeding the campaign contribution limits and a second for giving company and personal funds to associates so they could make political donations, mainly to Walker but to others as well. Individuals can give no more than $10,000 to gubernatorial candidates.

As part of a separate settlement, the railroad paid a civil forfeiture of $166,900 – the largest ever imposed by state election officials. Seven employees will each pay $250 forfeitures as well.

Under Gardner’s criminal plea deal, prosecutors ask that Gardner be sentenced to two years’ probation.

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November 30, 2010

Mega Rich and Public Education

Lessons to Be Learned From Paulo Freire as Education Is Being Taken Over by the Mega Rich

Henry A. Giroux, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed Tuesday 23 November 2010

At a time when memory is being erased and the political relevance of education is dismissed in the language of measurement and quantification, it is all the more important to remember the legacy and work of Paulo Freire. Freire is one of the most important educators of the 20th century and is considered one of the most important theorists of “critical pedagogy” – the educational movement guided by both passion and principle to help students develop a consciousness of freedom, recognize authoritarian tendencies, empower the imagination, connect knowledge and truth to power and learn to read both the word and the world as part of a broader struggle for agency, justice and democracy.

His groundbreaking book, “Pedagogy of the Oppressed,” has sold more than a million copies and is deservedly being commemorated this year – the 40th anniversary of its appearance in English translation – after having exerted its influence over generations of teachers and intellectuals in the Americas and abroad.

Since the 1980s, there have been too few intellectuals on the North American educational scene who have matched Freire’s theoretical rigor, civic courage and sense of moral responsibility. And his example is more important now than ever before: with institutions of public and higher education increasingly under siege by a host of neoliberal and conservative forces, it is imperative for educators to acknowledge Freire’s understanding of the empowering and democratic potential of education. Critical pedagogy currently offers the very best, perhaps the only, chance for young people to develop and assert a sense of their rights and responsibilities to participate in governing, and not simply being governed by prevailing ideological and material forces.

When we survey the current state of education in the United States, we see that most universities are now dominated by instrumentalist and conservative ideologies, hooked on methods, slavishly wedded to accountability measures and run by administrators who often lack a broader vision of education as a force for strengthening civic imagination and expanding democratic public life. One consequence is that a concern with excellence has been removed from matters of equity, while higher education – once conceptualized as a fundamental public good – has been reduced to a private good, now available almost exclusively to those with the financial means.

Universities are increasingly defined through the corporate demand to provide the skills, knowledge and credentials in building a workforce that will enable the United States to compete against blockbuster growth in China and other southeast Asian markets, while maintaining its role as the major global economic and military power. There is little interest in understanding the pedagogical foundation of higher education as a deeply civic and political project that provides the conditions for individual autonomy and takes liberation and the practice of freedom as a collective goal.

Public education fares even worse. Dominated by pedagogies that are utterly instrumental, geared toward memorization, conformity and high-stakes test taking, public schools have become intellectual dead zones and punishment centers as far removed from teaching civic values and expanding the imaginations of students as one can imagine.

The profound disdain for public education is evident not only in Obama’s test-driven, privatized and charter school reform movement, but also in the hostile takeover of public education now taking place among the ultra-rich and hedge fund zombies, who get massive tax breaks from gaining control of charter schools. The public in education has now become the enemy of educational reform. How else can one explain the shameful appointment by Mayor Michael Bloomberg of Cathleen Black, the president of Hearst Magazine, as the next chancellor of the New York City public school system? Not only does she not have any experience in education and is totally unqualified for the job, but her background mimics the worst of elite arrogance and unaccountable power. Surely, one has to take note of the background of someone who should be a model for young people when such a background includes, as reported in The New York Times: “riding horses at a country club where blacks and Jews were not allowed …. lending a $47,000 bracelet to a Manhattan museum … and [refusing] interviews since her appointment.”(1) With friends like Rupert Murduch, it should come as no surprise that she once worked as a chief lobbyist for the newspaper industry in the 1990s “fighting a ban on tobacco advertising,”(2) which is often targeted toward the young. It seems that, when it comes to the elite of business culture, ignorance about education now ranks as a virtue.

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Bill Gates New Initiative

Filed under: Corporate Domination,Merit Pay — millerlf @ 8:27 am

After setting back high school reform by a decade with his “small schools”  initiative Bill Gates now wants to dabble with merit pay.

Gates Urges School Budget Overhauls

By SAM DILLON NYTimes November 19, 2010

Bill Gates, the founder and former chairman of Microsoft, has made education-related philanthropy a major focus since stepping down from his day-to-day role in the company in 2008.

His new area of interest: helping solve schools’ money problems. In a speech on Friday, Mr. Gates — who is gaining considerable clout in education circles — plans to urge the 50 state superintendents of education to take difficult steps to restructure the nation’s public education budgets, which have come under severe pressure in the economic downturn.

He suggests they end teacher pay increases based on seniority and on master’s degrees, which he says are unrelated to teachers’ ability to raise student achievement. He also urges an end to efforts to reduce class sizes. Instead, he suggests rewarding the most effective teachers with higher pay for taking on larger classes or teaching in needy schools.

(more…)

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