The Plutocrat’s Lament

Writer Joanne Barkan argues that for plutocrats like Bill Gates, democracy is a nuisance…

gates-billionaire.jpg (400×266)Jennifer Berkshire: You’re the author of a recent case study on what you call Bill Gates’ *charitable plutocracy,* his years’ long, and many millions-ed campaign to bring charter schools to Washington State. In the interest of the data to which Gates himself is so committed, can you reduce your argument down to a series of numbers? Oh, and please speak in bullet points.

Joanne Barkan:

  • Number of years required to pass a charter school enabling law in Washington State: 17 (1995-2012).
  • Number of statewide ballot initiatives required: 4 (1996, 2000, 2004, and 2012).
  • Total dollars spent by charter school supporters in the 2000, 2004, and 2012 ballot initiatives: $18.7 million. (Practically no money was spent by either side in 1996.)
  • Total dollars spent by charter school opponents in the 2000, 2004, and 2012 ballot initiatives: $2.04 million.
  • Money spent by the Gates Foundation *to give public charter schools in Washington State a strong start* in 2013-2015: $31 million.

And a few other data points your readers might be interested in:

  • Net worth of Bill Gates in 2015: $76 billion
  • Assets of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2016: $44.3 billion.
  • Total receipts of the National Education Association in 2015: $388.8 million.
  • Total receipts of the American Federation of Teachers in 2015: $327.6 million.
  • Average salary of an elementary public school teacher in Washington state (except in special education) in 2015: $60,140.

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*Will Donald Trump Deport Me?* And Other Questions from My Nine-Year-Old Students

A student teacher reflects on what her fourth grade students are learning from Donald Trump…

By Mary Sypek

Trump*Ms. Sypek, what do you think of Donald Trump?* Karim asks. I quickly scramble around in my mind, trying to think of an answer that’s both diplomatic and clear. *I don’t really like Donald Trump,* is what I decide to say, to which he promptly responds, *I don’t like Donald Trump either.* I exhale, hoping I have managed to escape the topic of Trump without too much of a hassle. I am wrong.

It’s literacy time in Ms. Smith’s fourth grade classroom. Students are working with partners and in small groups to read nonfiction books about the US government, and I am working with four struggling readers. I am a student teacher at an urban public school in one of the most diverse cities in Massachusetts. In our classroom of 26, we represent 22 countries.
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Why the Washington State Supreme Court Ruling Matters

The origins of a surprisingly simple decision that could have major implications…

By Martha Carey
Something unusual happened in Washington state late last week. Charter schools came out on the losing end of a lawsuit. In fact, charter schools, as they are currently defined, funded and organized, were actually ruled unconstitutional by that state’s Supreme Court.  And the basis of that decision was surprisingly simple. The charter school law that narrowly passed Washington in 2012 was found to be in violation of the state’s constitution precisely because charter schools have private boards. Continue reading →

What It Looks Like When Test Prep Eats Ur School

report card

It looks like this, as a matter of fact. This is an actual report card from a fifth grade student in Massachusetts whom we will call Ginny, in place of the inevitable Johnny. A note on the notations: the slash marks indicate *not introduced at this time,* meaning that Ginny seems to have gone entirely history/social studies/and map free during the all important spring testing season. The *D* stands for developing, as Ginny likely spent much of her time developing short essays in response to the out-of-context passages she spent most of the rest of her time reading. That is when she wasn’t honing her math skills. Continue reading →

In the Future, All the Seats Will Be High Performing

I talk to Andy Smarick about the urban school system of the future…

future 8EduShyster: Let’s talk about the future. In your vision, urban parents will choose between their choice of high-performing charter schools. But one can’t help but observe that the cities that seem to be hurtling towards the future at the greatest velocity don’t seem to have all that much choice about where they’re headed.

Andy Smarick: I don’t agree with that at all. I believe that the systems that are going in that direction are places where families, communities and organizations have the most say. They’re places that have the longest charter school wait lists, or in some cities they have the longest scholarship or tax credit wait lists. What I do agree with you about is that in these systems where there are more and more autonomous schools, we don’t have a system yet for ensuring that there is democratic control of the entire system. I think these cities are showing us that parents desperately want a different kind of system, they want choices, they want to be able to exercise their options. But now it’s up to us to ensure that there is democratic control as well.  Continue reading →