Education Nation: Stakeholders or Stockholders?


Education reformers love to use a lot of words like “accountability,” “rigorous,” and ….”stakeholders.”

What is a stakeholder? In the corporate world a stakeholder makes decisions about the products, and how and what to sell to the consumers. A stakeholder could be an accountant, group, organization, member or system who affects or can be affected by an organization’s actions.

Who exactly are reformers referring to when they use the word stakeholder? Their empty and meaningless rhetoric would have us believe that they value children as stakeholders.

But who’s got the voice?

Who’s got the influence to shape education policy?

Apparently students’ needs and community input mean little, if the cast of characters at Education Nation are any indication. Some student town hall dog and pony show notwithstanding, what makes someone a “stakeholder” is their ability to influence decisions and to benefit as a result of these decisions. So who exactly does Education Nation and education “reformers” VALUE?

Perhaps education reformers should just get honest and use the word they really mean. Stockholders.

Stockholders are stakeholders. And it’s stockholders who are the face of Education Nation, and whose interests are driving education reform policy. Just look at who’s got the Education Nation secret decoder ring:

Lloyd Blankfein. He is the chairman of Goldman Sachs (so of course you can see here his logical connections with curriculum and pedagogy). Once more for the cheap seats in the back who might have known this already but “In late 2010, Goldman Sachs announced it would lend $25 million to develop 16 charter schools in New York and New Jersey. The news release said the loans would be “credit-enhanced by funds awarded by the U.S. Department of Education” (Ravitch).

Who else does Education Nation consider to be an important “stakeholder”?

Robert Wrubel. He is Chief Innovation Officer and Executive Vice President, Apollo Group whose flagship institution is University of Phoenix. The policy push for online learning won’t hurt him will it?

Who (or what) are Students?

They’re either consumers or products. Students as consumers are merely there to buy the products that profit-driven testing and curriculum companies are selling. In fact, they are forced to be consumers of a corporate “brand” of public education that is supposed to be freely available to all.

Or worse, students are products. They are products being molded and sold to the corporate marketplace. How often do we hear statements like “Schools need to produce students that…” in order to “meet the needs of ..”. Students are “produced” to the service of corporations.

So who else are the major stakeholders (stockholders) in education reform? Corporate millionaires. They’re the ones crafting the policies “in their image.”

The for profit online company K12 Inc is another excellent example of “stakeholders”  (stockholder) in the Common Core which comes with its own long line of online education policies and products.

Lamar Smith Representitve from Texas is a shareholder in K-12 Inc. Not coincidentally, Texas is one of the states that passed the ALEC designed The “Virtual Public Schools Act” bill.

ALEC has Stake/Stock in Common Core

In spite of its protestations to the contrary, ALEC has a vested interest in Common Core. They just need to pretend to their largely conservative constituents that they don’t, because of the tremendous backlash against the Common Core coming from conservative parents. But facts are facts. Common Core is not only part and parcel of Jeb Bush’s agenda and his brainchild Foundation for Excellent Education which is a member of ALEC. Then there’s the Walton Foundation and the Broad Foundation.

Most interesting is K12 Inc which is active in crafting the behind the scenes ALEC legislation being rolled out around the country (to their financial benefit of course) also is involved with Common Core.

In 2011 Ohanian wrote:

The K12 Inc list of advisors is telling. Read the small print at the The Common Core Curriculum Mapping Project and you get Barbara Byrd-Bennett, also on the Education Advisory Committee of K12 Inc. There’s our future: K12 Inc. delivering the Common Core Standards, paid for by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, into every home in America. Now the tab will be picked up by the U. S. taxpayer. . . and carried on the backs of our children. 

K12 Inc is directly interconnected with Goldman Sachs. Let’s not forget the front and center starring role that Goldman Sachs got at Education Nation. Who else serves in their ranks? Previously, K-12 Inc’s Mr. Packard formerly worked for McKinsey & Company, as well as for Goldman Sachs in mergers and acquisitions.

Packard raked in over $16 million in compensation from 2008 to 2012 as CEO of K12 Inc. Almost all of that money came from U.S. taxpayers.

Craig Barrett, who sits on the K12 Inc Board of Directors currently serves as Co-chairman of Achieve, Inc. the organization largely responsible for the Common Core. How many enormous yellow caution flags do we need here??????

Who Else?

John Holdren, Senior Vice President of Content and Curriculum at K-12 Inc, came to K12 Inc from the Core Knowledge Foundation, where he was vice president and director of research and publications. Mr. Holdren (along with E. D. Hirsch, Jr.) oversaw development of the Core Knowledge Sequence and co-edited the Core Knowledge Series of resource books

Let’s not forget that Pearson, the largest delivery system for Common Core materials and tests owns Connections Academy which is also a member of ALEC. They have a great deal of stock invested in ALEC legislation that promotes online learning.

Brief Recap

So one of the most powerful organizations in the world, ALEC, has an education subcommittee run by millionaires and for profit education corporations who are crafting behind the scenes legislation to sell our public schools to the highest bidders. ALEC is deeply enmeshed with Common Core, which has been imposed wholesale upon nearly three quarters of the states in the United States. And ALEC still pretends to be opposed to it? Yet they stand to profit handsomely from it.

And I contend that the Common Core is a Trojan horse being used to usher in various other policies and practices that will result in precisely what ALEC wants: privatized public education delivered through online systems (in which classrooms and unionized teachers are not needed) and in which corporations profit at the expense of children who are little more than the product they will sell or the consumers forced to buy their shitty products. What is most astounding to me is how ALEC pretends its philosophy is the elimination of federal oversight of corporate interests, and elimination of whole programs like the EPA and US Dept of Ed. They eschew the corporate welfare model, or at least they don’t like poor people who “collect welfare.” But yet these companies are making billions of dollars bilked out of tax payer coffers to line their own pockets. While our children, our schools, and our democracy withers on the vine.

But rest assured you can put stock in Education Nation to guarantee they have their stakeholders interests at heart!

Published by educationalchemy

Morna McDermott has been an educator for over twenty years in both k-12 and post secondary classrooms. She received her doctorate in education, with a dissertation focus on arts-based educational research, from The University of Virginia in 2001. Morna's teaching, scholarship, and activism center around the ways in which creativity, art, social justice, and democracy can transform education and empower communities. She is currently a Professor of Education at Towson University.

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