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No Child’s Behind Left

Greg Palast 

To celebrate Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s exit, I am re-publishing this investigation. – GP

Excerpt from Armed Madhouse

They take away your overtime, your 40-hour week, your regulatory protection against corporate marauders, your right to courtroom justice, your protection against unfair trade, even the right to get your ballot counted.

But there’s always hope.

Hope is the last thing to go. And your hope is your kids, that they’ll have an opportunity you didn’t have. On January 21, 2004, the President told you they’d have to take that away too. On that night, deep into his State of the Union sermon to Congress, when sensible adults had turned off the tube or kicked in the screen, our President opened a new front in the class war. And like the one in Iraq, it began with a lie. “By passing the No Child Left Behind Act,” our President told us, “We are regularly testing every child…and making sure they have better options when schools are not performing.” …more

The Worst Teacher in Chicago

Greg Palast 

For the Occupied Chicago Tribune

This is a true story.

CHICAGO.  In a school with some of the poorest kids in Chicago, one English teacher–I won’t use her name–who’d been cemented into the school system for over a decade, wouldn’t do a damn thing to lift test scores, yet had an annual salary level of close to $70,000 a year.  Under Chicago’s new rules holding teachers accountable and allowing charter schools to compete, this seniority-bloated teacher was finally fired by the principal.

In a nearby neighborhood, a charter school, part of the city system, had complete freedom to hire.  No teachers’ union interference. The charter school was able to bring in an innovative English teacher with advanced degrees and a national reputation in her field – for $29,000 a year less than was paid to the fired teacher.

You’ve guessed it by now:  It’s the same teacher.

It’s Back to School Time!  Time for the editorialists and the Tea Party, the GOP and Barack Obama’s Education Secretary Arne Duncan to rip into the people who dare teach in public schools.

And in Arne’s old stomping grounds, Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is stomping on the teachers, pushing them into the street.

Let’s stop kidding ourselves. This is what Mitt Romney and Obama and Arne Duncan and Paul Ryan have in mind when they promote charter schools and the right to fire teachers with tenure:  slash teachers salaries and bust their unions.


Greg Palast is the author of the new Book Billionalres and Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps.  For two decades, Palast was an investigator for Chicago-area unions, including the Chicago Teachers Union.


They’ve almost stopped pretending, too.  Both the Right Wing-nuts and the Obama Administration laud the “progress” of New Orleans’ schools–a deeply sick joke.  The poorest students, that struggle most with standardized tests, were drowned or washed away.

One thing Democrat Emanuel and Republican Romney both demand of Chicago teachers is that their pay, their jobs, depend on “standardized tests.” Yes, but whose standard?

Here are an actual questions from the standardized test that were given third graders here in NYC by the nation’s biggest test-for-profit company:

“…Most young tennis stars learn the game from coaches at private clubs.  In this sentence a private club is….”   Then you have some choices in which the right answer is “Country Club – place where people meet.”

Now not many of the “people [who] meet” at country clubs are from the South Side of Chicago–unless their parents are caddies.  A teacher on the South Side whose students are puzzled by the question will lose their pay or job. Students on the lakefront Gold Coast all know that mommy plays tennis at the Country Club with Raul on Wednesdays. So their teacher gets a raise and their school has high marks.

And while Mayor Rahm promises kids in “bad” schools new teachers (the same ones at lower pay) at high-score schools, in fact, they are never actually allowed in.

But Rahm, after all, is just imposing Bush education law which should be called, No Child’s Behind Left.

You want to know what’s wrong with our schools?  Benno Schmidt, CEO of the big Edison Schools teach-for-profit business is a creepy, greedy privateer.  But he told me straight: that before Hurricane Katrina, his company would never go into New Orleans because Louisiana spent peanuts per child on education.  He made it clear: You get what you pay for.  Not what you test for.

So the charter carpetbaggers slither in, cherry-pick the easy students, declare success. The tough cases and special ed kids are left in the public system so they can claim the public system fails.

Here’s what the teacher who was terrible at $70,000 but brilliant at $41,000 told me:

“They’re not doing this in white neighborhoods.  And they want to get rid of the older, experienced teachers with seniority who cost more.  Get rid of the teachers and, ultimately get rid of the kids.  And the charter school gets to pick the kids who get in.”

It’s simple.  When you look at the drop-out rates in New York (41%) and Chicago (44%), the solution offered is to pay teachers less. They punish those who dare to work in poor schools where kids struggle and you can bet that “washing away” half the kids in our schools is, in fact, exactly what they’ve planned.

It’s notable that, when he lived in Chicago, Barack Obama played basketball with city school chief Arne Duncan, but Obama sure as hell didn’t send his kids to Arne’s crap public schools. Those are for po’ folk.

His kids went to the tony “Lab” School in Hyde Park.  Obama knows what Duncan knows and what Romney knows:  there’s no money and no need for universal education.  Yes, they like to say that “children are our future.”  But they mean the children of China are our future, the Chinese kids who will make the stuff we want and the children of India who will program it all for us.

After all, how much education does some obese kid from Texas need to stack boxes from China in a Wal-Mart warehouse?

Education is no longer about information and learning skills.  It’s now about “triage.”  A few selected by standardized tests or privileged birth will be anointed and permitted into better and “gifted” schools.

The chosen elite are still very much needed:  to invest in India and Vietnam, to design new derivatives to circumvent the laughable new banking laws, and to maintain order among the restless hundred-million drop-outs squeezed out of the colon of our educational system.

Democrats’ Bantustans, Republicans’ Value-less Vouchers.

The Obama/Duncan/Emanuel plan is to create Bantustans of un-chartered, cheaply-run dumpster schools within a government system.  But Romney and the GOP would give every child a “choice” even outside government schools with “vouchers.”

Of course, the “vouchers” don’t vouch for much.  Romney’s old alma mater, Cranbrook Academy, runs at $34,025 a year, not counting the polo sticks and horse.  The most generous voucher program is Washington DC’s, beloved of the GOP, which pays about $7,500, or if the student’s “choice” is Cranbrook, about 2 months of school.  Hyde Park Day School Chicago is $35,900.  To give each kid a real choice, not just a coupon, means a massive increase in spending per pupil.  I didn’t see that in the Republican platform, did you?

The experienced teacher in Chicago who took the pay cut was offered one consolation.  She was told she could make up some of the pay loss by quitting the union and saving on union dues.

So that’s the program.  An educational Katrina: squeeze the teachers until they strike, demolish their unions and drown the students.

Chicago’s classroom war is class war by another name.

Class dismissed.

* * * * * * *

Greg Palast is the Author of the recently published, acclaimed book Vultures’ Picnic and the New York Times Bestsellers Armed Madhouse and The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.

Palast’s brand new book Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps, will be out on September 18.

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No Child’s Behind Left

Greg Palast 

This month marks the 10th anniversary of the passage of No Child Left Behind.
Before George W. Bush invaded Iraq he knew he would have to invade our classrooms first.

While the occupation of Iraq has ended the brutal occupation of our classrooms by the Forces of Stupid remains.

Herewith is a reprise of our original warning:

NO CHILD’S BEHIND LEFT

They take away your overtime, your 40-hour week, your regulatory protection against corporate marauders, your right to courtroom justice, your protection against unfair trade, even the right to get your ballot counted. But there’s always hope. Hope is the last thing to go. And your hope is your kids, that they’ll have an opportunity you didn’t have. On January 21, 2004, the President told you they’d have to take that away too. On that night, deep into his State of the Union sermon to Congress, when sensible adults had turned off the tube or kicked in the screen, our President opened a new front in the class war. And like the one in Iraq, it began with a lie. “By passing the No Child Left Behind Act,” our President told us, “We are regularly testing every child…and making sure they have better options when schools are not performing.” …more

Where’s Your Homework, Mr. President?

Greg Palast 

Greg Palast gets a lesson from super-teacher Bill Roney. Listen to the podcast on ActionPoint radio.

Click twice to enlarge

The Looney-Tunes Right Wing is all bent up that our President is planning to tell kids to do their homework in a broadcast to schools set for Tuesday. They’re panicked he’s going to “sell socialism,” says one, and apparently, encourage kiddies to join the military to marry someone of their own sex.

But the teacher does have a serious question for the President: Barack, why haven’t you done your homework?

That’s right, Mr. A Student. Where is it?

Teacher wants to know.

And not just any teacher. William (Bill) Roney has been Yonkers’ Teacher of the Year, recipient of a Disney national teaching award, recognizing him as one of America’s top classroom educators; he was even picked for Ronald Reagan’s teacher in space program until that idea, well, blew up.

The latest fad among politicians is to put our schools in the hands of “entrepreneurs” (as if coming up with a bogus derivative to sell to Iceland is preparation for teaching long division to fifth graders). But I’ve decided to commit a heresy by asking advice on fixing our schools from, heavens!, a teacher. And this one knows his stuff.
…more

Obama’s “Way-to-Go, Brownie!” Moment?

Greg Palast 

I will not pick a bad Secretary of EducationFor the Huffington Post

Has Barack Obama forgotten, “Way-to-go, Brownie“? Michael Brown was that guy from the Arabian Horse Association appointed by George Bush to run the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Brownie, not knowing the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain from the south end of a horse, let New Orleans drown. Bush’s response was to give his buddy Brownie a “way to go!” thumbs up.

We thought Obama would go a very different way. You’d think the studious Senator from Illinois would avoid repeating the Bush regime’s horror show of unqualified appointments, of picking politicos over professionals.

But here we go again. Trial balloons lofted in the Washington Post suggest President-elect Obama is about to select Joel Klein as Secretary of Education. If not Klein, then draft-choice number two is Arne Duncan, Obama’s backyard basketball buddy in Chicago.

Say it ain’t so, President O.

Let’s begin with Joel Klein. Klein is a top notch anti-trust lawyer. What he isn’t is an educator.

Klein is as qualified to run the Department of Education as Dick Cheney is to dance in Swan Lake. While I’ve never seen Cheney in a tutu, I have seen Klein fumble about the stage as Chancellor of the New York City school system.

Klein, who lacks even six minutes experience in the field, was handed management of New York’s schools by that political Jack-in-the-Box, Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The billionaire mayor is one of those businessmen-turned-politicians who think lawyers and speculators can make school districts operate like businesses.

Klein has indeed run city schools like a business – if the business is General Motors. Klein has flopped. Half the city’s kids don’t graduate.

Klein is out of control. Not knowing a damn thing about education, rather than rely on those who actually work in the field (only two of his two dozen deputies have degrees in education), Klein pays high-priced consultants to tell him what to do. He’s blown a third of a billion dollars on consultant “accountability” projects plus $80 million for an IBM computer data storage system that doesn’t work.

What the heck was the $80 million junk computer software for? Testing. Klein is test crazy. He has swallowed hook, line and sinker George Bush’s idea that testing students can replace teaching them. The madly expensive testing program and consultant-fee spree are paid for by yanking teachers from the classroom.

Ironically, though not surprisingly, test scores under Klein have flat-lined. Scores would have fallen lower, notes Jane Hirschmann, head of watchdog group Time Out From Testing, but Klein “moved the cut score,” that is, lowered the level required to pass. In other words, Klein cheats on the tests.

Nevertheless, media poobahs have fallen in love with Klein, especially Republican pundits.The New York Times‘ David Brooks is championing Klein, hoping that media hype for Klein will push Obama to keep Bush schools policies in place, trumping the electorate’s choice for change.

Brooks and other Republicans (hey, didn’t those guys lose?) are pushing Klein as a way for Obama to prove he can reach across the aisle to Republicans like Bloomberg. (Oh yes, Bloomberg’s no longer in the GOP, having jumped from the party this year when the brand name went sour.)

Choosing Klein, says Brooks, would display Obama’s independence from the teacher’s union. But after years of Bush kicking teachers in the teeth, appointing a Bush acolyte like Klein would not indicate independence from teachers but their betrayal.

Hoops versus Hope

The anti-union establishment has a second stringer on the bench waiting in case Klein is nixed: Arne Duncan. Duncan, another lawyer playing at education, was appointed by Chicago’s Boss Daley to head that city’s train-wreck of a school system. Think of Duncan as “Klein Lite.”

What’s Duncan’s connection to the President-elect? Duncan was once captain of Harvard’s basketball team and still plays backyard round-ball with his Hyde Park neighbor Obama.

But Michelle has put a limit on their friendship: Obama was one of the only state senators from Chicago to refuse to send his children into Duncan’s public schools. My information is that the Obamas sent their daughters to the elite Laboratory School where Klein-Duncan teach-to-the-test pedagogy is dismissed as damaging and nutty.

Mr. Obama, if you can’t trust your kids to Arne Duncan, why hand him ours?

Lawyer Duncan is proud to have raised test scores by firing every teacher in low-scoring schools. Which schools? There’s Collins High in the Lawndale ghetto with children from homeless shelters and drug-poisoned ‘hoods. They don’t do well on tests. So Chicago fired all the teachers. They brought in new ones – then fired all of them too: the teachers’ reward for volunteering to work in a poor neighborhood.

It’s no coincidence that the nation’s worst school systems are run by non-experts like Klein and Duncan.

Obama certainly knows this. I know he knows because he’s chosen, as head of his Education Department transition team, one of the most highly respected educators in the United States: Professor Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford University.

So here we have the ludicrous scene of the President-elect asking this recognized authority, Dr. Darling-Hammond, to vet the qualifications of amateurs Klein and Duncan. It’s as if Obama were to ask Michael Jordan, “Say, you wouldn’t happen to know anyone who can play basketball, would you?”

Classroom Class War

It’s not just Klein’s and Duncan’s empty credentials which scare me: it’s the ill philosophy behind the Bush-brand education theories they promote. “Teach-to-the-test” (which goes under such pre-packaged teaching brands as “Success for All”) forces teachers to limit classroom time to pounding in rote low-end skills, easily measured on standardized tests. The transparent purpose is to create the future class of worker-drones. Add in some computer training and – voila! – millions trained on the cheap to function, not think. Analytical thinking skills, creative skills, questioning skills will be left to the privileged at the Laboratory School and Phillips Andover Academy.

We hope for better from the daddy of Sasha and Malia.

Educationally, the world is swamping us. The economic and social levees are bursting. We cannot afford another Way-to-go Brownie in charge of rescuing our children.

****************

Greg Palast is the father of school-aged twins and the author of, “No Child’s Behind Left,” included in his New York Times bestseller, Armed Madhouse. Palast is a Nation Institute Puffin Foundation Fellow for investigative reporting.

Get a signed copy of Armed Madhouse for the holidays for a tax-deductible contribution to the Palast Investigative Fund at www.PalastInvestigativeFund.org

Subscribe to Palast’s reports at www.GregPalast.com

Please re-post this.

One Bush Left Behind

Greg Palast 

Richie Rich and his $20

Here’s your question, class:

In his State of the Union, the President asked Congress for $300 million for poor kids in the inner city. As there are, officially, 15 million children in America living in poverty, how much is that per child? Correct! $20.

Here’s your second question. The President also demanded that Congress extend his tax cuts. The cost: $4.3 trillion over ten years. The big recipients are millionaires. And the number of millionaires happens, not coincidentally, to equal the number of poor kids, roughly 15 million of them. OK class: what is the cost of the tax cut per millionaire? That’s right, Richie, $287,000 apiece.

Mr. Bush said, “In neighborhoods across our country, there are boys and girls with dreams. And a decent education is their only hope of achieving them.”

So how much educational dreaming will $20 buy?

-George Bush’s alma mater, Phillips Andover Academy, tells us their annual tuition is $37,200. The $20 “Pell Grant for Kids,” as the White House calls it, will buy a poor kid about 35 minutes of this educational dream. So they’ll have to wake up quickly.

-$20 won’t cover the cost of the final book in the Harry Potter series.

If you can’t buy a book nor pay tuition with a sawbuck, what exactly can a poor kid buy with $20 in urban America? The Palast Investigative Team donned baseball caps and big pants and discovered we could obtain what local citizens call a “rock” of crack cocaine. For $20, we were guaranteed we could fulfill any kid’s dream for at least 15 minutes.

Now we could see the incontrovertible logic in what appeared to be quixotic ravings by the President about free trade with Colombia, Pell Grant for Kids and the surge in Iraq. In Iraq, General Petraeus tells us we must continue to feed in troops for another ten years. There is no way the military can recruit these freedom fighters unless our lower income youth are high, hooked and desperate. Don’t say, …more

They Don’t Call it The “White” House for Nothing

Greg Palast 

Bush at the NAACP Convention

God lost this time. I counted: Bush mentioned God only six times in his speech to the NAACP today. The winner was ‘faith’ — which got seven mentions, though if you count “The Creator” as God, well, then the Lord tied it.

Coming in right behind God and Faith, other big mentions in the First Home Boy’s rap included: The Voting Rights Act, his family’s “commitment to civil rights,” the “death tax,” rebuilding New Orleans and “public school choice” and “soft bigotry.”

As the philosopher Aretha Franklin once said, “Who’s zoomin’ who?”

Let’s take it one point at a time. …more

No Child’s Behind Left

Greg Palast 

By Greg Palast

Excerpt from Armed Madhouse

They take away your overtime, your 40-hour week, your regulatory protection against corporate marauders, your right to courtroom justice, your protection against unfair trade, even the right to get your ballot counted. But there’s always hope. Hope is the last thing to go. And your hope is your kids, that they’ll have an opportunity you didn’t have. On January 21, 2004, the President told you they’d have to take that away too. On that night, deep into his State of the Union sermon to Congress, when sensible adults had turned off the tube or kicked in the screen, our President opened a new front in the class war. And like the one in Iraq, it began with a lie. “By passing the No Child Left Behind Act,” our President told us, “We are regularly testing every child…and making sure they have better options when schools are not performing.”

“And at Daddy’s Polo Club, the Waiter Is Called A…” …more