Thursday, August 14, 2014

Teacher Sounds Off vs. Campbell Brown "No, I Am Not Going to Destroy Society"; Brown's Caginess on her "Education Reform" Funders & Obama Associates' Vergara Links

UPDATE: The big money behind Vergara suit: David Welch & his Students Matters connections with Obama administration associates and Pearson
*Teacher sounds off on Campbell Brown *Cites Brown's disaster appearance on Colbert's show *Picks up and lambastes media's meme with title, "Yes, I am a teacher. No, I am not going to destroy society and your children." Subtitle: "The anti-union celebrities (and their secret backers) have taken the war on teachers public. But educators shouldn’t have to defend doing our jobs" /// *Writers are asking why won't Brown divulge her funders? /// Michelle Rhee leaves StudentsFirst to perform miracles at Miracle-Gro

AQE & NYCC revealed Brown to be a Republican,
and that she was "caught in a lie" in her Twitter denials of being a Republican
The Alliance for Quality Education and New York Communities for Change said that the New York City Board of Elections reported that Campbell Brown is indeed a Republican, in spite of her denials on Twitter and her spokesperson's claim that she is a “lifelong independent” who has registered as a Democrat and a Republican. But as we see below, she has plenty of help from Democrats.

Teacher Valerie Braman told off Campbell Brown and perennially warrior against public school teachers in a piece published in the UK Guardian.

Valerie Braman, English teacher and AFT staff rep
Key excerpts of Braman's opinion piece:
In the “real world”, I’ve been informed, the singular solution to the problems with education in America is to get rid of the teachers’ unions and even to just fire and replace all teachers, which would magically transport us all to this vaunted real world in which no educator should be entitled to pensions, affordable health benefits or due process. (In it, I’m certain I’d be wealthy enough to start using phrases like “job creators” and attending Chamber of Commerce events, instead of just standing outside of them to protest corporate tax breaks and cuts in education funding.) 
Take journalist-cum-teachers’-union-warmonger Campbell Brown, who has been busy on the talk-show circuit this summer ["Who the f*** is Campbell Brown," in "Esquire"] spewing false research about “bad teachers” and bemoaning how impossible it is to fire them while refusing to disclose her funders or links to special interest groups hell-bent on privatizing public education and de-professionalizing educators [a Buzzfeed contributor laid out all the ways that Brown dodged all the questions on the Stephen Colbert show]. 
Or there’s Whoopi Goldberg feeding into misconceptions about teacher tenure, telling us she is all about teachers – but only the great ones [LA Progressive]
And let us not neglect Alec, the group that with backing from the omnipresent Koch Brothers creates model legislation that’s serving as a how-to manual for dismantling and privatizing public school districts by using school closures, mass firings and vouchers – all in the name of “accountability” [See expose "Educational Accountability Act" at "ALEC exposed"]. 
Closer to home (for me), the governor of Pennsylvania cut over $1bn in education funding
[Axis Philly] – then watched as districts crumbled, schools closed, budgets got slashed, staff got laid off, and woefully inadequate educational programs popped up in their place ...  and then Governor Tom Corbett dared to tell Philadelphia educators that by not taking pay cuts we haven’t “stepped up” to solve the crisis he created [Philadelphia Inquirer].
          . . . .

She closed, advising educators to counter the media-propagating of myths, the scape-goating of teachers. Once that is done, we can get back to discussions of what works and what doesn't in teaching.
When Brown went on Colbert the other day [video archive at Colbert], they saw her evasions and realized that her inability to cite accurate research was less because she’s bad at her job and more because such research simply does not exist [Answer Sheet at Washington Post].
When Whoopi talked about tenure and bad teachers having the gift of a job for life, we got this gem of a video breaking down the truth about tenure and why it is crucial for educators and students [at Daniel Katz, Ph.D. blog].
When Corbett took direction from a secret poll suggesting the path to re-election lies in attacking the teachers’ union and using the school crisis in Philadelphia for political leverage, the electorate saw behind the curtain – and he made it easier for people to cast their votes for his opponent ["Secret poll: Corbett should exploit Philly school crisis, attack teachers union for political gain" in Philadelphia City Paper]. 
The more these myths – and the people paying to propagate them – are exposed, the more professional educators and our unions can do the real work of having tough conversations about what works and what doesn’t (rather than who shouldn’t) in education. We can stop defending our right to have jobs at all, and get back to partnering with families and communities to ensure equal, excellent educational opportunities to all children. There’s no spin in the world that can touch that.
                                                                        * * *
Campbell Brown’s transparency problem: Why won’t she say who funds her “ed. reform” group?

Negative attention to ex-journalist Campbell Brown has grown against Brown: ran two negative stories on her in the  last month. Yet, her front profile position in her suits against teacher tenure in New York State, comes right as her mentor is moving on (to help the image-beleaguered Scotts Miracle-Gro fertilizer company -thanks to NYC Educator for breaking this one). First came, "Tenure haters’ big delusion: Why Campbell Brown and co. are wrong about teaching."
This article made several cogent points.
It noted the argument that teachers can only contribute so much to a child's education: Audrey Beardsley, an associate professor at Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, started her career as a teacher. “I fell into such a utopian ideology, believing that schools and teachers can change and inspire everything,” Beardsley says. “But current research suggests, unfortunately, that teachers only truly impact about 10-20 percent of student achievement.” Other factors with a larger impact include parental income and education, which account for about 60 percent of the variation in student outcomes.
But we must ask, as the second article in Salon asks, if Brown is so confident in her arguments, why is she needing to hire a public relations firm to help her in her lawsuit? The firm, Incite Agency, indicates one more expression on how Democrats have joined in the war on teachers. It is headed, as Salon's Gabriel Arana notes, by former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs and former Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt. "Robert Gibbs will lead the national public relations campaign along with Ben LaBolt" is the caption in Politico's story on Gibbs' and LaBolt's role in assisting Brown's suit against teacher tenure.

Andy Kroll in Mother Jones reported last year in "Who's Really Behind Campbell Brown's Sneaky Education Outfit?" that in the 2012 election cycle, Michelle Rhee's StudentsFirst, a "'bipartisan grassroots organization' backed 105 candidates in state races, 88 percent of them Republicans."

{POSTSCRIPT: Why won't Brown say who funds her? After all, Silicon Valley multi-millionaire David Welch (Co-Founder, President, Director and Member of Technology & Acquisition Committee, Infinera Corporation) let it be known that he was the Astroturf benefactor behind Strudents Matter which brought the anti-teacher tenure Vergara suit in California. Read "The Big Money Behind California's Tenure Lawsuit" at It tells of Welch's active role in negative "reform" groups. The millionaire, whose $10 million-dollar home, on a 1.53 acre lot, sits in Atherton, one of Silicon Valley's most expensive zip codes, is an investment partner with the NewSchools Venture Fund. Futhermore, the NSVF funds several charter schools and charter school management organizations. So, the more public district schools he disrupts and replaces with charter schools, the more he financially benefits.
The article goes on to connect Welch's creation, Students Matter with StudentsFirst, Michelle Rhee's organization (until this week). Students Matter files its IRS statements under the name of the StudentsFirst Foundation. Welch's philanthropic operation, the David and Heidi Welch Foundation also gave $550,000 to Rhee's StudentsFirst lobby.

For more on Welch and Students Matter's spending, see the excellent article, "A Silicon Valley Entrepreneur, A Billionaire And A USDOE Assistant Secretary Walk Into A Courtroom...," by the blogger, New Jersey mother and public school supporter at the blog, "Mother Crusader." She points out that money for Vergara poured in not only from Welch, but from other wealthy opponents of public schools-- the Broad Foundation, William H. Crown, one to the heirs to the fortune of billionaire Lester Crown and from Students Matter CFO Ted Schlein, #67 on Fortune's list of Top 100 Venture Capitalists.

Democratic connections to Welch's Students Matters board
The Students Matter board has had people associated with the Obama administration, including Russlynn Ali and Ted Mitchell; also, Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) were early supporters of Students Matter.

[Russlynn Ali (left, at the USDOE, with Duncan), who began her government work with the Gov. Schwarzenegger administration, a member of the advisory board of Students Matter. According to Inside Philanthropy,  she has researched for the Broad Foundation, and more recently had been the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in Arne Duncan's Education Department. She is the Managing Director of the Education Fund at the Emerson Collective LLC, a project started a decade ago by Steve Jobs' widow Laurene Powell Jobs. Frying Pan News reports that the Emerson Collective gave $1.2 million to Parent Revolution (Remember the Parent Trigger "movement"?)  Emerson Collective has given at least $240,000 to other California pro-charter school organizations.
To be fair, heading the legal team at Students Matter is Republican Theodore "Ted" Olsen, George W. Bush's first solictor general, and assistant attorney general at the Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice during president Ronald Reagan's first term.  He argued on the Republican side in the pivotal Bush v. Gore Supreme Court case that decided the 2000 presidential election.
The ed entrepreneur that heads U.S. higher education policy: Back to the Democrat-connected: The Nation magazine revealed in an article, "Oppose the Nomination of Ted Mitchell to the Department of Education," noted that the Obama administration nominated him for Education Secretary in October. Mitchell, until recently, sat on the advisory board of Welch's Students Matter. The magazine contended that his nomination represented the further privatization of education in the United States. Mitchell has connections with for-profit colleges and until May was the chief executive of the NewSchools Venture Fund. Mitchell is also connected with Pearson PLC (NSVF is a "limited partner" with Pearson) and with the venture capital Salmon River Fund, which launched the for-profit Capella University. The Nation's valiant opposition did not succeed: the Senate confirmed Mitchell as under secretary, on post-secondary issues, for USDOE secretary Arne Duncan.
"Who's Investing in Ed-Tech?: Tech Investors and Their Education Portfolios" in EdTech is valuable for understanding the ramifications of education entrepreneurs' investments. EdTech cross-references: For more information on education technology investments (plug their name into the database) at Crunchbase.]

The Truth-Out article notes that Students Matter is looking into launching anti-tenure campaigns, not only in New York, but also Connecticut, Idaho, Kansas, Maryland, New Mexico and Oregon. It also cites George Washington University Law School professor Eric Kerr, who, though supporting the Vergara decision, conceded in a Washington Post op-ed piece, "I Like the Result, But the Opinion Has Problems," that there is no evidence that tenure laws create bad teachers.

Big money ramifications for ed entrepreneurship
An article in, giddy over venture capital opportunities in education, notes, (emphasis below, mine)
... VC investors continue to pour money into the education space at an ever-increasing clip, and have nearly tripled the amount over the past decade. Investments in edtech companies nationwide rose to $429 million in 2011, the latest year with available data, from $146 million in 2002, according to statistics from the National Venture Capital Association.
TheDeal then asked,
Why the rush? And why now? Education industry banker Peter Yoon, managing director at New York's Berkery, Noyes & Co., rattles off a few reasons. "First, the size of the sector. In terms of percentage of [gross domestic product], it's No. 2 behind healthcare," he said. "In the K-12 space alone it's about $700 billion. I think investors at venture capital firms have seen that education and training has outperformed other sectors and GDP in general during the Great Recession."
Students in the U.S. educational system are increasingly acclimated to digital communication and content delivery in several other aspects of their lives, and technology proponents believe the school system must adapt both to more effectively disseminate information and cut costs, particularly when the value of a traditional education program is being seriously questioned.
"Education is going through a period of tremendous transition, transformation, disruption," said Yoon, adding that entrepreneurs and investors in edtech see opportunity amid all the technological dislocation.
So, there you have it, the education reformers/entrepreneurs are aggressively challenging the traditional institutional format of education (public schools with a competitive market-place for school products, and a low level of commercialization to increasingly privatized schools, with a market dominated by limited players, notably Pearson PLC, all amidst an environment that is increasingly commercialized). They seek to disrupt. In the chaos, they seek to transform education according to the prerogatives of the privatizers.

Back to the interesting Truth-Out article, for followers of Alex Caputo-Pearl, the new progressive caucus president of the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), it tells of some of his travails, including how he was forcibly transferred from Crenshaw High School to a middle school after he lobbied for more resources for his students. We wish him well in this increasingly hostile environment that he and other California union activists are working in.}

Meanwhile: Michelle Rhee, founder of the Sacramento-based StudentsFirst (Brown's husband, Dan Senor, sits on the board of StudentsFirstNY), is now leaving her CEO post there, moving over to Scotts Miracle-Gro. She'll remain on the board.
Her StudentsFirst success was "underwhelming," in the words of one blogger. She raised  a tenth of the $ billion that she pledged to raise. Staff turnover was high, and StudentsFirst closed five of their eighteen state franchises.
The fertilizer company needs help for their sheen, as they have been hit by a suit over birdseed that appears to have been toxic to birds, killing them. Two chemicals, Storcide II and Actellic 5E, have been added to Miracle-Gro's products, even though the company's own doctors warned them over the danger they posed to birds. Finally, the U.S. Justice Department hit Miracle-Gro with a $12.5 fine. An EPA press release stated,
The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, a producer of pesticides for commercial and consumer lawn and garden uses, was sentenced today in federal district court in Columbus, Ohio, to pay a $4 million fine and perform community service for eleven criminal violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), which governs the manufacture, distribution, and sale of pesticides. Scotts pleaded guilty in February 2012 to illegally applying insecticides to its wild bird food products that are toxic to birds, falsifying pesticide registration documents, distributing pesticides with misleading and unapproved labels, and distributing unregistered pesticides. This is the largest criminal penalty under FIFRA to date.
In a separate civil agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scotts agreed to pay more than $6 million in penalties and spend $2 million on environmental projects to resolves additional civil pesticide violations. The violations include distributing or selling unregistered, canceled, or misbranded pesticides, including products with inadequate warnings or cautions. This is the largest civil settlement under FIFRA to date.
Will Rhee be a drag on Scotts Miracle-Gro? Already three days ago there was this report that some teachers will boycott Scotts Miracle-Gro. Teachers have been leaving comments to this sentiment on Columbus Business First's news page on Rhee's move to Scotts' board of directors, and will serve on the innovation/marketing and the compensation/organization committees. But the company won't stand down their decision. But, hey, she had no school administrative experience before becoming Washington, D.C. schools chancellor, so why not hire someone with no agricultural or chemical background to be a leader at Scotts Miracle-Gro?

Well, Michelle Rhee performed Miracles in Baltimore, Miracles in Washington, D.C., and Miracles across the media, dodging negative news about her true track education track record (except on PBS' Frontline). Surely, her miracles performance record can help Miracle-Gro.
The Sacarmento Bee is reporting that her husband, Sacramento mayor, Kevin Johnson (Dem.), is setting his sights on higher office. This could be a problem if the press gives attention to his penchant for his using the mayor's office and the St. HOPE charter schools (which he founded) as patronage mills, as the Sacramento News and Review reports. Last month, the charter chain's board so happened to appoint her to be board chairwoman.