Friday, March 8, 2013

Corporate Reform in Idaho

By Diane Ravitch
A reader in Boise sends the following comment about the trial of Khan Academy videos, funded by the Albertson Foundation:
“The statewide pilot received $1.5 million for training, technology, technical assistance and assessment from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation.”
The Albertson Foundation has given over $500 million to Idaho schools over the years, but for the past few years its efforts have been devoted to promoting some of the worst initiatives and legislation ever to don the mantle of “education reform,” most notably in the run-up to the November 2012 elections. 
Throughout 2012 the Foundation published monthly full-color, multipage supplements in all the major print media in Idaho, touting the benefits of reform efforts, documenting the so-called “failure” of Idaho schools, and casting a suspicious eye upon the teachers union, the Idaho Education Association. (Idaho is a right-to-work state.) 
Joe Scott, an early investor in K12, Inc., heir to the Albertson fortune, and the current chair of the Foundation’s board of directors donated $200,000 to Idaho Voters for Education in an attempt to save the Luna Laws from repeal. 
Idaho Voters for Education presented itself as the “voice of Idaho parents,” but after a lawsuit filed by the Idaho Secretary of State forced it to reveal its donors, turned out to be a group of fewer than two dozen hedge-fund manager, venture capitalists, and billionaire social engineers, including NYC Mayor Bloomberg, who donated $250,000.
They threw their money away; the Luna Laws were repealed by large margins at the polls. 
“The Luna Laws imposed a mandate for online courses for high school graduates (a favorite of candidates funded by technology companies), made test scores the measure of teacher quality, provided bonuses for teachers whose students got higher scores, removed all teacher rights, eliminated anything resembling tenure or seniority, turned teachers into at-will employees, and squashed the teachers’ unions.”
To get out the reformers’ message, the Albertson Foundation created the ED SESSIONS, monthly talks by “national thought leaders on education reform,” now in its second year. The Foundation isn’t particularly interested in thought leader opposed to market-driven, for-profit education reform; past speakers include Salman Khan, Sir Ken Robinson, Marguerite Roza, Joe Williams of Democrats for Education Reform, and Andy Smarick of Bellwether Education Partners. Coming up, Kristoffer Haines, VP at Rocketship Education and Rick Ogston, founder of Arizona charter school Carpe Diem, to talk about “no-excuse schools.” In addition, the foundation recently launched a web site and radio/tv ads to promote its initiative “Don’t Fail Idaho,” the latest of the Foundation’s many efforts to dominate the conversation about school reform under the guise of fostering and promoting discussion. In short, the Albertson Foundation is anti-union, pro-charter, and apparently determined to spend a metric boatload of money to get its way.

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