(Here’s a beginning roster of who favors it: Lamar, Arne, Pearson, Apollo Inc, the National Governors Association, ALEC, and the Brookings Institute).

Congress today voted whether or not to “fast track” a decision about the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). The TPP is free trade on steroids.  According to Robert Reich:

“It would be the largest trade deal in history —involving countries stretching from Chile to Japan, representing 792 million people and accounting for 40 percent of the world economy – yet it’s been devised in secret … The TPP also gives global corporations an international tribunal of private attorneys, outside any nation’s legal system, who can order compensation for any “unjust expropriation” of foreign assets … Even better for global companies, the tribunal can order compensation for any lost profits found to result from a nation’s regulations.”

According to one report involving TPP and the National Governors Association, “This agenda includes the completion and implementation of new trade agreements including the Trans Pacific Partnership, which the U.S. is negotiating with 11 other nations. Once completed, TPP will give American businesses free trade arrangements with 40 percent of global GDP.”

I’d like to provide you with more details but I can’t because the negotiations are being made in a basement room of the Capitol and members are required not to disclose any information to anyone including the media. This is a secret negotiation with global ramifications.

Washington BAT Don Bunger points out that, “Under the NAFTA–Trans Pacific Partnership Tribunal which will run by and staffed only by Corporations, neither the Supreme Court of the US, the House and Senate in DC, POTUS  and no state legislature will be able to refuse Pearson being able to be the de facto test preparer for every state, a status that it now enjoys.”

How does TPP work? For starters, “500 corporations and banks sit on advisory committees with access to various chapters.”  ALEC has crafted model legislation asking legislators to “fast track” TPP, see here.  We have indeed gone down the rabbit hole when ALEC and President Obama want the same thing.

And educators fighting against corporate reform and privatization of our democratic institution (formerly known as public education) should be worried. Because this has everything to do with the privatization of education. ALEC’s interest in fast tracking TPP is motivating for them on every front and across every industry … and education is not excluded. ALEC model legislation pushes for more privately owned charter schools and online education on an international scale, financing privately run companies like K12 Inc  and Connections Academy (both leading ALEC members), and Pearson– all of whom are developing online education models to deliver on an international scale.

Lamar Alexander who is currently crafting his own revisions to ESEA (aka NCLB) policies in tandem with Dem Patty Murray, aims to decrease federal oversight of testing and curriculum, bringing these back into the hands of the states. I am all for de-clawing the federal government from dictating education policy and the elimination of federally mandated standardized testing. And yet, given how easily state senators, congressmen, governors, and policy–makers can be bought and sold by the corporate interests who fund their political campaigns, I wonder whether or not Alexander knew how easily his reforms would fit within the TPP framework.

Alexander has been a supporter of the expansion of charter schools and privatizing public education, all the while promoting fewer tests and state level control. Such contradictions give me pause for concern. See Senator Alexander’s views on School Choice in his own words here.

Alexander supports the effort to fast track TPP (fast tracking would make it nearly impossible to renegotiate or alter once it’s in place).

Apollo Education Group has also provided political funding to Lamar Alexander over the years. I am sure their economic interests will be well served by their investment in shaping his policies. Online education corporations are international in scope. New state level reforms could easily fold business contracts to deliver classroom instruction, curriculum, and state level tests via these corporations.

The National Governor’s Association (famed for its creation and promotion of the Common Core standards) also supports fast tracking TPP.  After all, they suggest “It will ensure U.S. businesses in every state can access more global markets with fewer barriers.”

Arne Duncan favors negotiations via TPP as well. Discussions have been underway for some time about how the global education market can be expanded. Singapore’s Minister for Education Heng Swee Keat “met with US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and signed a Memorandum of Understanding on greater cooperation on education issues. This important collaboration bolsters one of the strongest aspects of our relation­ship, educational exchanges. The education MOU leverages our complementary strengths to identify ways we can equip our young people with the tools and knowledge they need to face a changing global economy.”

also favors fast tracking of the TPP. They state,

“The business case for corporate engagement is compelling: a well-educated and skilled workforce is crucial to corporate competitiveness and to national growth, particularly in our knowledge-based, globalized 21st-century economy. Private sector involvement within the education sector has until now largely taken place under the banner of corporate social responsibility, with activities among companies often fragmented.”

This Brookings report cite the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) as the vehicle through which corporations can take a more central role in developing and delivering (profiting from) global education programs. Of course then it is no surprise that both Pearson and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation represent the private sector through this mechanism. Fast tracking TPP certainly supports the GPE goal of “investment in private companies that are committed to original approaches and learning outcomes for economically disadvantaged children brings new capital into the education sector” where free trade is completely unhinged from any sort of regulatory bodies which might protect people over profits. Or in sugar-coated crap language, Brookings states it another way: “A core strength of the private sector is its ability to finance innovation, testing the viability of new approaches and models, and taking them to scale without long bureaucratic delays.”

Achieve Inc promoted an event in their 2010 monthly newsletter highlighting Sir Michael Barber (CEO at Pearson) and Michael Fullan who co-chaired an international education summit in Toronto, Canada “designed to stimulate ideas, invoke creativity and foster innovation” called The Building Blocks for Education: Whole System Reform. This international summit examined four key areas: standards and targets; assessments and use of data; capacity building and the development of the teaching profession; and, leadership development and sustainability.

Charter schools are often also international in scope. In fact New Zealand Post Primary Teacher’s Association seemed concerned about this they included it in their recommendations:

“That the Select Committee seek to provide New Zealanders with assurances that a future sovereign government will not be prevented by the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement from closing a charter school, should voters determine to end the experiment.”

Indeed, with TPP these multinational education industries which Alexander, ALEC and other corporate reformers endorse will have a fast track toward global privatization of public education. Maybe they’ve got an insiders view into those secret basement meetings that we don’t have. And our national public education system can be easily outsourced.


Here lies public education

“Freddie Gray was about education.”

“We teach our kids how to add, but they need to learn social skills…and life skills”

“They want to close our school down and send our kids into a drug infested neighorhood…why?”

“So here we go”

These statements were spoken at a school-closing meeting about Langston Hughes Elementary School. The school is slated for closure by 2015. The community is fighting back to keep their public school. Langston Hughes Action Committee, a neighborhood group, has appealed the school board’s decision.

So let’s back track to see how we got were.

The School:

Langston Hughes Elementary is the best performing school in Park Heights (a Baltimore City neighborhood). It has the highest academic achievement rating of all the neighboring schools. The community loves this school. They see it as a corner stone of their neighborhood. It has a sound and well maintained infrastructure including a full size cafeteria and a playground. Generations of community members have attended this school. For the last ten years Langston Hughes has been home to approximately 220 students grades k-5.

What Will Happen to the Children if They Close the School?

The school they want to send them to is a lower performing one in neighboring Pimlico Elementary Middle School which was built in 1910 and has problems with overcrowded classrooms, lead paint and asbestos. Pimlico is scheduled for the first round of renovations under the 21st Century Schools Plan. This move means that even more neighborhood students would endure several years of lead and asbestos abatement and renovations.

Children as young as six or seven would have to walk about one mile to Pimlico through a high crime, high drug, and high traffic area to get to school every day. Then once they’re at school, they’ll spend every day exposed to toxic chemicals that will create permanent developmental and health problems.

Pimlico has lost over 100 students in the last few years—Langston Hughes is in better condition than Pimlico and has a better reputation.

How is this Possible?

When the school commissioners accepted a challenge to visit the school, many didn’t even know where the school was. The school board members do not reflect the demographic of the community. They were surprised at how well kept it was. They declined to take the walk from Langston Hughes to Pimlico. Despite a positive impression, they voted for closure anyway. School system representatives have also stated they have no need to talk to parents. They have any right to close any school they want without talking to anyone.

There is a $1.1 billion school construction budget for Baltimore city schools. Part of this budget includes mandated closure of 26 schools. As a result, communities are pitted against each other to save their schools. The Langston Hughes building is the only school in the major redevelopment area. It’s pretty clear to members of the Park Heights neighborhood that the plan for this community is gentrification—it starts with school closings. The school is clearly on a list of schools that charters are allowed to move into, which seems to be contrary to what Dr. Thornton told Helen Atkinson of the Teachers Democracy Project at a board meeting. Leaders of the Park Heights community have been informed verbally and by email that a charter school would like to use the building.

There are 8 COMAR regulations regarding closing schools—they are using 1 to justify this closure—low school enrollment. In 2011, rumors began about the possible school closures and as a result parents began moving their children to other schools, creating the low enrollment conditions necessary to justify the closure

Enrollment in 2013 was 217 students. Projected enrollment for 2013-14 was 229 students, but only 156 students signed up, according to school documents.However, according to community members, “as soon as the people found out the school wasn’t closing enrollment went back up.” Additionally, its kindergarten is currently at capacity.

This announcement of this closing happened at the end of last school year making it difficult for the school to organize any kind of response. There are 38 charter schools in Baltimore city right now and there is a push from Governor Hogan to increase this number. Hogan believes that expanding charter schools is “a great idea.” I am unsure how that could possibly be the case for Park Heights. Unless of course you are a developer.

The major re-vitalization of Pimlico race track has everything to do with this. Langston Hughes is the only school in the redevelopment zone. There is 125 mill in investment into Pimlico race track. 5 ½ million dollars have been allocated to Park Heights. This year they are getting 4 ½ million dollars—it’s the only community to get its slots revenue. Park heights HAS money-but the question is who is holding the money for Park Heights? One community advocate says, “Ask Park Heights Renaissance! Most of the funds are with housing being used for acquisition and relocation of the members out of the redevelopment area.”

This is strategically planned. To ensure that Langston Hughes closure could be “justified” they took the school’s budget away immediately—starting to dismantle the school. Even if the community wins the appeal it will be a hard slog to get the staff back in place and to recoup the loss of equipment and materials already removed. The community can demand the school go back to its previous status. The judge will decide to 1. Dismiss the appeal (in which case the city can proceed with closure) 2. Send the appeal to trial.

What Can We Do to Save Langston Hughes?

Call 410 396-8803— tell them you don’t want the school to close down Tell Dr. Burn, “I do not want Langston Hughes to close down.”

A school board meeting was held on May 12th to protest against the closure. This past week, the Administrative Law Judge ruled in our favor  in the appeal against school board and proposed closing of LANGSTON HUGHES Elementary school. A trial is set for June 20 at 9:30 am.

Continue to call 410-396-8803 to say Don’t close LANGSTON HUGHES call 24/7 you don’t have to leave your name.

Join us on a walk on May 15th and again on May 20th from Langston Hughes to Pimlico Elementary Middle and see for yourself what we are expecting our children to walk through.

The appeal regarding whether to send this case to trial will be decided on May 12th.

Next steps:

Baltimore Algebra Project advocates for community control of schools. We need to protest we are not accepting these results. The Teachers’ Democracy Project, the Baltimore NAACP and Maryland Refuse are also in support of future actions including public protest in collaboration with community leaders.

One looming question remains: Even if they win the appeal how does the community make sure that they are not in the same space facing this again? Advocates are asking, “How do we put ourselves in position so we cannot be put out again in the future?”

Join the Langston Hughes Community Action Facebook site.

Another question raised was “How do we engage young children in this?”

Advocates plan to protest whether or not the judge weighs in our favor in order to bring continuous pressure until the school is returned to community control.

Some Final Word from Community Advocates:

“My fight is for the education of our kids.”

“Every child is a dollar bill as opposed to a human being.”

Fight like we never fight before.”

Image result for standardized testing addiction

There’s a saying in certain addiction recovery circles that “One drink is too many and a million is not enough”—this phrase suggests that once an alcoholic takes the first drink there’s no guarantee they can control how many more they will take after that, or what will happen. I suggest that one of the reasons we are still so enmeshed with a test-driven reform mentality in spite of all the data and research documenting its destructive nature, is because we have a societal addiction of sorts to a test-driven dependency. One test is too many and a million will never be enough. While this might sound outlandish on the face of it, the similarities are so many this suggestion warrants our consideration.

Rhetoric around the supposition that standardized testing is necessary to defend a social justice approach to remediating inequities within our public education system is currently being defended by certain leaders within some civil rights organizations.  Why?

As a statement by Jesse Hagopian  and echoed by a press release by United Opt Out  have made painfully clear standardized testing is the problem which disguises itself as the solution. It is not enough to call for “better” standardized tests or “limited” standardized testing, because either proposal implicitly endorses the blind faith that standardized testing itself measures anything other than a child’s access to economic or racial privilege, or access to the resources handed to the dominant class and denied to children living in poverty (largely children of color).

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results. We have had several decades of test-driven accountability in the name of equity and fairness. It has not worked, and it will not. Ever.

Our societal obsession with standardized testing parallels an addiction mentality in that it perpetuates similar patterns of denial (the hallmark of addictive thinking): 1) denial –that poverty does matter, 2) denial– that the standardized tests themselves are the problem, and 3) denial– of our inability to limit or control the amount of testing that will occur. The parallel corollary is to that of an alcoholic who keeps saying “I can control it” or “I’ll just have one or two” when the outcome is always the same. The need for more.

The reauthorization of ESEA is underway promising the potential reduction in standardized testing, to be controlled at the state (rather than federal) level. Bear in mind that the new Alexander and Murray ESEA bill “Every Child Achieves Act” leaves “the details regarding the mandated tests up to the states” (Scheinder) which means that, “States will also be permitted to include other measures of student and school performance in their accountability systems in order to provide teachers, parents, and other stakeholders with a more accurate determination of school performance.” Do you really believe they’ll just “stop at one” (aka grade span) or keep it “under control” (no stakes)? There will always be the distorted justification for “just a few more.” Billions of dollars of profits to the testing companies who wield lobbying and political control over state level policy makers have too much to gain. We are addicted to the greed, and social control that are manifest in the implementation of these tests. The attraction for them is just too great to say no. Once you start it’s hard to stop. We cling to an ideology of schooling driven by competition, sorting, tracking, and measuring that depends on standardized testing to “feed the need”.

To illustrate this point further I feel the need to point out the parallels in addictive thinking between someone who says, “Well, you would drink too if you had my problems” while ignoring that fact that most of those problems are created by the excessive drinking– and a society that insists, “Well, you would need standardized testing too if you had our educational inequities” while ignoring the fact that those inequities are exacerbated by the testing itself.

One of the ways in which someone struggling with an addiction attempts to “manage” their problem is by switching things up: from vodka to wine, drinking at home rather than bars, being sure to eat before going out. However, the results for the problem drinker are always the same. Likewise, as a standardized test obsessed society, we cling to the idea that if we can just switch to “better” standardized tests, or from federally mandated to state-mandated, that somehow therein lies the “miracle” solution. The results, again, will be the same.

“Half measures will avail us nothing.” We should instead demand a revolutionary way of creating equitable, democratic, and meaningful public schools that serve all children. Until any reliance on standardized testing to shape how, who, or what we teach is eliminated, the possibilities for this revolutionary change remains daunting. By its very existence (even in reduced capacity), it will remain the focal point, the “True North” that drives how/what we teach, how we define children’s success, and how we perceive teacher quality.

As a test addicted society we cannot imagine public schools without standardized testing any more than an active alcoholic can imagine life without booze. We cannot imagine life with them, or without them it seems. But it is possible.

Why do policy makers who claim to fight for equity and justice not instead amplify and support programs that have actually demonstrated sustainable and meaningful results for students of color? Why are there no petitions, press releases, or high-priced lobbyists out there promoting programs that embrace student agency, culturally relevant pedagogy, and real social engagement? Here are a few examples:

In fact, in spite the amazing evidence for success of these programs, and the love expressed by students in these program FOR these programs (….ever seen students FIGHT to keep standardized testing?) two of the three of them were roundly dismantled.

Youth Dreamers is a student-led organization that created a youth-run youth center that would employ teens and creatively serve children of all ages. In building this program (and buying and fixing up their very own house for it) students learned real life skills they never would have gotten from any test. They learned how to: write letters, campaign, build community, read blue prints and financial spread sheets, understand basic architecture, and a myriad of communication skills. Yet, after a year of “low test scores” the program was cut. While it still exists outside the original school where it was founded, they lost their house and struggle to keep their existing programs

The Ethnic Studies Program in Tucson AZ showed a tremendous growth in graduation and college acceptance rates for the youth in that program (largely Latino/a students).  They felt empowered. They began to love learning. They had hope. What happened? The state of Arizona deemed the program illegal and banned it.  While it was later reinstated in some form, they continuously face attacks from the AZ Dept of Education and state legislators attempting to silence and control their every action.

Baltimore Algebra Project, a student-led tutoring program continues to serve students in ways that truly maximize their wisdom, strengths and needs. Their “mission is to carve a community of leaders as well as exhibit leadership while remaining committed to the education of those in need of advancements in their socioeconomic status.” Name me a test that has EVER proven to do this successfully. Why is this not a model being grown to “scale” rather than desperately trying to build “better” tests?

It would be a powerful movement if the same civil rights leaders who so vigorously defend standardized testing in the name of equal opportunity for students of color in public education put forth even half the attention to lobbying for these programs and the creation of more like them, as they do in fighting to defend standardized testing. Why are we not spending time, media attention, and money growing the movement for democratic and equitable schools from the foundation of programs that have proven to make a difference? In other words: The only way to get equality in education is to demand equality through our actions. Tests do not create equality. PEOPLE DO.

It would be a revolutionary redirection of resources and attention (now squandered on testing development, implementation, and data collection) that would yield the results they (and so many more of us) wish to see for under-served and under-represented students and their public schools.

Baltimore City is on the nation’s radar right now. Yet beside the media such as CNN running 24-7 news casts, who you don’t see working behind the scenes are the charter school privatizers. They were here before Freddie Grey was a national headline for police brutality. With Governor Hogan taking the lead, charter school proponents (profiteers) have been wielding revised charter school laws. And now…as Baltimore struggles to seek justice and to empower their community Voice, new charter laws are “sweeping up” from behind ensuring that public education be demolished. The voices from the city’s youth cry for relevancy, equity, and opportunity and cities like Phillie, Detroit, NOLA, New York and Chicago reveal that advancing charters will FAIL these children. They will FAIL these communities.

The voices of the youth, seen and heard all over the world these many past few days illustrate the FAILURE of current education reform policies to meet the needs of Baltimore’s youth. Instead of after-school programs and fully funded rich curriculum and reasonable class size and human services, we feed them more tests and bogus “career and college ready” materials that serve no one but the testing and publishing companies. And the “solution” (according to private companies and politicians in the back pockets of said corporations) to their anger, needs, and desires is to dismantle their schools and communities, replaced with for-profit privately run charter schools.

Here’s a summary of this takeover (in the words of Helen Atkinson of the Teacher’s Democracy Project):

Vital battles going on around education–

1.  The effort to keep Langston Hughes Elementary open rather than turn the building over to a charter school and send the current students to Pimlico.
2.  The charter coalition board is arguing behind the scenes for an increase to their already large per pupil.  They want $10,010 next school year which is an increase of about $600 per pupil over their current rate.  If they are successful in persuading the board about this, it will impact the budgets for all the other schools and may even force further layoffs.

According to Steve Baker (thanks to Helen for these references!):

One of my big concerns is that, among other things, public assets including valuable land and school facilities are being “relinquished” as district school enrollments drop – often these days because district officials themselves are forcibly closing their schools and handing them over to charter operators  – or, sending out pamphlets to parents telling them that the charter schools are better, so choose them, not us. In many cases, citywide enrollments are remaining relatively constant. That is, the number of children that need to be served isn’t changing. Children are being shifted from district schools to charter schools. District facilities (land and buildings representing the investment of taxpayers over decades) are being sold at bargain rates, and there’s no turning back. Many urban districts now lack the capital assets to serve the children they would be responsible for serving, were the charter sector to suddenly collapse.

For a full run down of how new charter laws will affect Baltimore City (and Maryland state) public school students read here: “Explanation Behind the Proposed Charter School Legislation“.

This document notes (and rightly so, for anyone who has followed the destructive path of charterizing through other major cities), “Existing charters get more money; new out-of-state charters see Baltimore as an expansion opportunity; traditional Baltimore schools get less. The financial impact would be felt immediately by the rest of the school system and would not be offset by significant savings as charters scramble to provide their own equivalent services such as transportation, food services and special education.

NOW is the time expose this corruption and greed. Baltimore is on the national radar. With the media’s ear and with the world watching we can expose the charter “reform” (colonization) movement to the nation, or we can sit back and allow them to make Baltimore’s struggle one more “crisis” they “will not let go to waste” (paraphrasing Rahm)

Standardized testing is like “fun house” mirrors. Sure, they cast a “reflection” of the learner being tested, but it’s a grossly distorted reflection of who that student is as a learner or what they know or are capable of learning.
(“Is that what I really what I look like?”)
Now imagine what it does to children’s sense of identity or self- worth as learners (as well as the self worth of the teachers) when such policies insist we make children “see” themselves through this distorted lens, and center their futures around that distorted information and how others will choose to see them.
In the words of United Opt Out organizer Ceresta Smith (original post on Edfly):
Annual testing has netted this result: public school students that sit before high school teachers in a large percentage of classrooms that are resistant to learning because they have acquired little basic foundation skills (were not tested, so were not emphasized) and have learned to skim text only to comply with testing parameters and time limits.  Today, in these contemporary times, students  are so turned off to active engagement in the learning process after being spoon fed benchmark instruction and test prep year after year, that they choose to cheat, borrow, and plagiarize to avoid straining their brains to engage in enough critical and creative thinking to arise at original ideas and responses. It is not their fault.
In lieu of  pedagogy that nurtures, enriches, and stimulates a desire to read, write, discuss, create original works, and learn information that gets stored in long term memory banks; we have turned to outcome based instruction in which far too often basic skills are ignored, carefully crafted schema or background information are not laid in the recesses of their long term memory banks, and standard approaches to test taking that are antithetical to authentic learning are taught in lieu of quality instruction that in most cases can’t be quantified.  As a consequence, reading, thinking deeply, creating original ideas, and arising at original responses are a challenge to far too many, particularly those that have suffered under mandated”sanctions” that double down on the benchmark instruction and test prep. Moreover, students who seem like genuine intellects based on test scores and grade point averages, struggle to catch up on campuses from  Ivy League institutions to the online colleges for profit because of the pedagogical neglect facilitated by state and federal legislation.  Additionally, far too many students suffer a reproachful invalidation early in life that serves to govern much of what  they do for the rest of their elementary and secondary school years.  Some recover; far too many do not.
Classroom teachers are daily witness to what goes on inside the classrooms because we are in them working with the students. We are the real experts, and we want to get back to creative and innovative teaching and learning that validates as opposed to invalidates. Outcome based instruction and annual testing have netted the same results year after year – no significant improvement in literacy, intellectual, civic, or creative prowess for public school students. We have come to realize over the course of more than fifteen years that constantly pushing outcome based instruction and annual testing is a costly waste of time and has done major harm to America’s public school students and their ability to love, appreciate, and engage in the learning process. Allow NAPE to do what it does, gather the data, and allow teachers to teach!
And yet, despite all these facts, we remain a society that feels compelled to ask, “But if we don’t have the tests, how will we 1) ensure good teaching, 2) know what children have learned 3) guarantee quality services?” There is a myriad of answers to those questions, but the short answer is simply that a distorted biased and unreliable “measure” is not an answer.  According to Paul Thomas, “Instead of chasing ‘better tests,’ we must admit standardized tests are flawed mechanisms for creating equity.” He adds, “In short, from the SAT and ACT to PARCC, I would argue, high-stakes tests perpetuate and even create inequity.”
As Sen Lamar Alexander and Patti Murray deliberate on the re-authorization of ESEA (aka No Child Left Behind) they claim this bill calls for a reduction in standardized testing and the elimination of federal oversight.  And yet… if the standardized tests, like the fun house mirrors, are all distorted and inaccurate, then having fewer of them, controlled at the state level,  changes nothing about the larger ideological assumption that standardized testing has any value. It doesn’t. So why have any? If you want an image that accurately reflects a person, you cannot use a distorted mirror to do that. Fewer tests are not more accurate tests, they are just fewer bad measurements.  Additionally, the language of Alexander’s bill suggests that the states CAN add more testing beyond the stated grade-span tests if they so choose. Given the corrupt partnerships between state legislators and governors and private corporate interests like Pearson, it’s a safe bet that state-level testing policy will more accurately serve their interests (profitable partnerships)than those of the students and teachers.

Here lies public education

Hogan recently stated, “We’re going to do everything we can to expand the use of charter schools. It’s a great idea.”  Currently, local school systems bear the cost of charter schools, so approving them means increasing spending or cutting funds for existing schools.

“I don’t see new schools being able to open,” said Kara Kerwin, president of the Center for Education Reform, a national charter school advocacy group that is pushing for Hogan’s bill to remain intact.  Let’s take a look at Center for Education Reform. It’s funded by notable corporations and billionaires including the deadly reform triad: Gates, Broad and Walton.

Hogan is creating a financial incentive: tax benefits of up to $200,000 for businesses that donate to private and public schools.

National Alliance for Public Charter Schools ranked Maryland last among states with alternative school programs. Of course they did. ALEC cannot get his claws into MD unless they alter existing laws protecting public education from privatizers.

Don’t look to Maryland Public Policy Institute for help. They tack on heavy layers of pro charter studies and reports to promote an ideology of privatization. Despite their desire to identify as “non partisan” we must note they received the 2006 Milton & Rose D. Friedman Foundation Innovation in Promoting School Choice Award. Their academic advisory board includes individuals who worked as senior research manager of the President’s Commission on Privatization, and two worked for the far right CATO institute. Where’s the non partisan piece of this?

Jason Botel, founder of KIPP Baltimore and founding member of MDCAN also has a stake in colonization.

MDCAN is also funded by Gates, Broad and Walton.

Botel has been busy. He was part of a meeting in March 2015 hosted by The Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers which “featured a rich discussion about ways that members of the philanthropic community might advocate for restoring funding for public schools.” A RICH discussion indeed. This should work swimmingly for corporation taking advantage of Hogan’s new tax incentive for private donations to fund charters.

Also worth examining the list of 2012 Maryland Charter School Task Force members.

Their “recommendations” rely heavily on research from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. So it’s not surprising how much their recommendation “mirror” ALEC model legislation.  They are members of the ALEC education task force.

NACSA receives funding from the Walton Family Foundation, the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Robertson Foundation

Finally, it is critical that Marylanders and Baltimore City parents in particular understand the real reasons for the push behind the pro charter narrative. Read the “make money now!” description of a recent conference hosted by Baltimore based Camden Partners.

Here are some of the headlines in the promotional flyer they used to promote interest:

Here are 7 important reasons you should register to attend this encore conference, “Private Equity Investing in For-Profit Education Companies” —

Learn how to benefit from today’s huge industry shift, with so many education companies revising their business models.
Understand why much of the industry is pursuing certification training for its huge cost benefit over degree programs.
Discover which skill-based training programs are becoming commodities and which have pent-up demand.
Recognize the ramifications of commercial textbook publishers and educational software vendors being eclipsed by new online players.
Hear why companies providing resources and technical support for MOOCs are flourishing, and why the MOOC trend shows no sign of abating.
Realize how game-based learning is finding its way into more and more K-12 classrooms, and why game designers are becoming part of the educational team.

So major corporations and policy makers driven by an ideology of privatization are shaping the public narrative for education in Maryland. The connections between Hogan, the agenda to privatize public education and corporate interests run far deeper than what I have posted here. But unless the general voters, educators, and parents of Maryland are aware of how the narrative of public education, equity, and choice have been hijacked we will be stunned to awake one morning to find the fundamental core of our democracy: public education, has been sold out from under our feet. At some point, the blame must rest not with privatizers, but with ourselves for not doing anything to stop it.

This has been brewing for years. Also Read:


A young girl was trudging along a mountain path, trying to reach her grandmother’s house.
It was bitter cold, and the wind cut like a knife.
When she was within sight of her destination, she heard a rustle at her feet.

Looking down, she saw a snake.
Before she could move, the snake spoke to her.
He said, “I am about to die.
It is too cold for me up here, and I am freezing.
There is no food in these mountains, and I am starving.
Please put me under your coat and take me with you.”

“No,” replied the girl. “I know your kind. You are a rattlesnake.
If I pick you up, you will bite me, and your bite is poisonous.”

“No, no,” said the snake. “If you help me, you will be my best friend.
I will treat you differently.”

The little girl sat down on a rock for a moment to rest and think things over.
She looked at the beautiful markings on the snake and had to admit that it was the most beautiful snake she had ever seen.

Suddenly, she said, “I believe you. I will save you.
All living things deserve to be treated with kindness.”

The little girl reached over, put the snake gently under her coat and proceeded toward her grandmother’s house.

Within a moment, she felt a sharp pain in her side.
The snake had bitten her.

“How could you do this to me?” she cried.
“You promised that you would not bite me, and I trusted you!”

“You knew what I was when you picked me up,” hissed the snake as he slithered away.

what if

Yes, we all know that corporations “own” politicians and sway legislation. ALEC has gamed that system for decades. But what if that corporate-driven system of manipulating public governance “behind closed doors” to serve corporate interests could take it …one…step…further? What if there was an international TRIBUNAL of corporations that was able to TRUMP national governance, and enforce protection of corporate profits at the expense of human well-being? You’d have the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).

I’ll take a giant leap here, as Don Bunger did (who alerted me first to this possibility) and suggest that Pearson (a corporation centered in the United Kingdom), the world’s largest producer of education tests and textbooks has its eye on (and hands in) the Trans Pacific Partnership. Pearson has enormous global power and reach.

What is TPP

According to Robert Reich:

“It would be the largest trade deal in history — involving countries stretching from Chile to Japan, representing 792 million people and accounting for 40 percent of the world economy – yet it’s been devised in secret … The TPP also gives global corporations an international tribunal of private attorneys, outside any nation’s legal system, who can order compensation for any “unjust expropriation” of foreign assets … Even better for global companies, the tribunal can order compensation for any lost profits found to result from a nation’s regulations. Philip Morris is using a similar provision against Uruguay (the provision appears in a bilateral trade treaty between Uruguay and Switzerland), claiming that Uruguay’s strong anti-smoking regulations unfairly diminish the company’s profits … The foreign subsidiaries of U.S.-based corporations could just as easily challenge any U.S. government regulation they claim unfairly diminishes their profits.”

For example, if Uruguay can be penalized by Phillip Morris for creating an anti-smoking campaign what would stop Pearson from suing the United States for reducing (dare I hope….eliminating) standardized k-12 testing? The TPP agreement would give big corporations and Wall Street banks a way to eliminate any and all laws and regulations that get in the way of their profits.

Proponents of TPP want ‘‘more international protection when it comes to their intellectual property and other assets,’’ yet also seek ‘‘less protection of consumers, workers, small investors, and the environment, because they interfere with their profits.’’

Blogger Ken Previti had TPP on his radar in 2013 pointing out, “So, if we pass a law that requires our state to ‘Buy American’ or a law which regulates emissions of greenhouse gas, protects water supplies, or a law which protects workers’ rights, or consumer health, a corporation based in Korea or Australia could sue to collect damages.”

Let’s postulate for a moment that TPP (currently in its final phases of negotiations between the US, the EU, Mexico, Canada, Japan, Singapore and seven other countries) actually holds water (under public radar and in secrecy….which it is) and the testing refusal movement continues to grow in the United States. Just as we are nearing a tipping point and as states, one by one, are crafting legislation to roll back testing, we might foresee Pearson FORCING states to REVISE their legislation and SUE the United States into maintaining Pearson contracts for all testing.

How can they do this?

Don Bunger, WA BAT suggests, “If Pearson can make the case to TPP’s Tribunal for a quasi breach of contract that will harm foreign companies and subcontractors, then this means that TPP will be the book end to the damage that POTUS and Duncan have set up … It will be the rule of the land backed up by a foreign corporate tribunal that will not give the democratic elected school boards, nearly 15,000 of them, a say as to who will do the testing in their school district.”

Bunger also points out that: “Under the NAFTA–Trans Pacific Partnership Tribunal which will run by and staffed only by Corporations, neither the Supreme Court of the US, the House and Senate in DC, POTUS  and no state legislature will be able to refuse Pearson being able to be the de facto test preparer for every state, a status that it now enjoys.”

How does TPP work? For starters, “500 corporations and banks sit on advisory committees with access to various chapters.”

ALEC has crafted model legislation asking legislators to “fast track” TPP, see here.

Here is Don’s full letters to his state senators:

Dear Senators Murray and Cantwell:
I am writing you to request a copy of the draft text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. The TPP would be the most significant international commercial agreement since the World Trade Organization with broad implications for U.S. jobs, food safety, financial regulation, medicine prices and more.

Here is my urgent concern. Pearson LLC has 40,000 employees in 80 countries, many of which are in TPP locations. Should a school board, state or the DOE in Washington D.C. decide to cancel a Pearson PreK-12 testing contract it would, as I understand it, be possible for Pearson through the Investor-State Dispute Settlement System to take the contract cancellation up with a corporate run tribunal. This could result in overturning the wishes of a school board, state or federal DOE without any formal oversight by our state or federal legislatures or the Supreme Court. Thus, Pearson or any other foreign corporation who had operations in a TPP location could, with the aid of the TPP Tribunal become the de facto corporation in charge of public school testing in America. Please send me a copy of the Trans-Pacific Partnership draft texts, and information about your leadership to represent the public interest throughout this process.”

Corporate lobbying groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Republican leaders in Congress strongly support the deal, while congressional Democrats are overwhelmingly opposed. TPP’s backers say the final deal will boost economic growth, while critics argue that it could exacerbate income inequality and undermine key financial and environmental regulations. So if the “TPP investment chapter (can) grant multinational companies the political power to challenge domestic laws and regulations before an international tribunal” what would stop global Pearson from challenging anti-testing regulations?

(As a side note here) Another issue that warrants further investigation beyond this one post is the effect TPP may have on the colonization of public education by international privately managed charter schools. New Zealand Post Primarary Teacher’s Association seemed concerned enough about this to include it in their recommendations:

“That the Select Committee seek to provide New Zealanders with assurances that a future sovereign government will not be prevented by the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement from closing a charter school, should voters determine to end the experiment.”

A book by Jane Kelsey also notes how, “foreign firms running privatized public services such as charter schools … would enjoy special protection.”

According to Wiki Leaks:

“The Investment Chapter highlights the intent of the TPP negotiating parties, led by the United States, to increase the power of global corporations by creating a supra-national court, or tribunal, where foreign firms can “sue” states and obtain taxpayer compensation for “expected future profits”. These investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) tribunals are designed to overrule the national court systems. ISDS tribunals introduce a mechanism by which multinational corporations can force governments to pay compensation if the tribunal states that a country’s laws or policies affect the company’s claimed future profits. In return, states hope that multinationals will invest more. Similar mechanisms have already been used. For example, US tobacco company Phillip Morris used one such tribunal to sue Australia (June 2011 – ongoing) for mandating plain packaging of tobacco products on public health grounds; and by the oil giant Chevron against Ecuador in an attempt to evade a multi-billion-dollar compensation ruling for polluting the environment. The threat of future lawsuits chilled environmental and other legislation in Canada after it was sued by pesticide companies in 2008/9. ISDS tribunals are often held in secret, have no appeal mechanism, do not subordinate themselves to human rights laws or the public interest, and have few means by which other affected parties can make representations.”

Yes. I know. Some of this may sound far-fetched. But then again, ten years ago if you had told me that children with severe physical and cognitive delays would forcefully have a pencil placed in their hands in order to take a test when they cannot even write their own name, that Pearson could and would spy on students Twitter accounts, and that teachers would be sentenced to 20 years in prison on “racketeering” for erasing bubble dots, I would have said that was all far-fetched too. Nothing that Pearson can or will do should be underestimated by us ever again. If you needed yet another reason to reject a test-driven system of public education…this might be it.