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Friday, August 16, 2013

Our Gilded Age Education System - In These Times

Our Gilded Age Education System - In These Times:

Our Gilded Age Education System

The main lesson from the ongoing education debate has little to do with schools and everything to do with money.
Former Indiana school superintendent Tony Bennett, in Sept. 2012 (Photo by Eric Bradner / Flickr / Creative Commons)
No matter how many kids they harm or how many scandals they create, education 'reformers' continue getting jobs.
Paradoxes come in all different forms, but here's one that perfectly fits this Gilded Age: the most significant lesson from the ongoing debate about American education has little to do with schools and everything to do with money. This lesson comes from a series of recent scandals that expose the financial motives of the leaders of the so-called education “reform” movement—the one that is trying to privatize public schools.
The first set of scandals engulfed Tony Bennett, the former Indiana school superintendent and much-vaunted poster boy for the privatization push. After voters in that state threw him out of office, he was quickly given a job as the education chief in Florida. At the same time, his wife not-so-coincidentally landed a gig with the Florida-based Charter Schools USA—a for-profit company that not only has an obvious interest in Bennett privatizing Florida schools, but that also was previously awarded lucrative contracts by Bennett in Indiana.
Grotesque as it is to shroud such self-enriching graft in the veneer of helping children, the self-dealing controversy wasn't Bennett's most revealing scandal. That distinction goes to recent news that Bennett changed the grades of privately run charter schools on behalf of his financial backers. Indeed, as the Associated Press reported, “When it appeared an Indianapolis charter school run by a prominent Republican donor might receive a poor grade, Bennett's education team frantically overhauled his signature 'A-F' school grading system to improve the school's