SEIU Nationally And In California Colluding With “trigger laws” And NEA Pres Lauds “Won’t Back Down”
by Steve Zeltzer
In the midst of a major strike by Chicago CTU teachers against privatization and the targeting of publicschools and education workers, President Obama’s Department of Education Secretary Arnie Duncan launched a national bus tour titled “Education Drives America” which according to the Department’s PR would Spotlight Education Successes, Engage Communities in Conversations about School Reform, College Affordability, and Link Between Education and Economy.
Its first stop was in Silicon Valley where Duncan lauded the use of electronic books and more computers in theclass room. How this would affect teacher’s jobs was of course not on the agenda. Apple and other majorcomputer companies are spending millions to lobby elected officials to get government contracts to get their computers and software in schools and colleges with the promisethat they can cut the costs of teachers and faculty.
One of the highlights of the bus trip was the visit to Sacramento which is the national base of Michelle Rhee’s Student’sFirst funded by the billionaire Bill And Melinda Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation and others who are working to placepro-charter operatives on school boards, to hire more school “consultants” and to place superintendent positions throughout the country.
Duncan Called Out At Sacramento Event
Greeting the bus in Sacramento was a small delegation of teachers and advocates for public education. Their signs were in opposition to Duncan’s agenda.Decrying the corporatization of education with slogans such as “Schools are not businesses and our children are not commodities”.
They also protested the increasing testing schemes pushed by the Obama administration and his education secretary Arne Duncan.
Public education advocates slogan was “arts and science for students and not endless testing.”
St. Hope Charter Operator and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson hosts “Education Panel”
Charter operator Mayor Kevin Johnson who is also married to Rhee hosted the education panel in Sacramento whichprofiled his wife Michelle Rhee. Rhee was involved in illegally firing hundreds of teachers and she was being investigated for major test score scandals. Johnson himself was involved in a corruption
scandal with his private charter Sacramento high. Unbelievably, the victim of the alleged sexual harassment was a minor. It is alleged that Rhee herself was involved in covering up the scandal and Johnson’s connections.
Democratic Party Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson hosted the education panel, which excluded members of the public.
Exclusive Screening of “Won’t Back Down”
After the afternoon event, an exclusive screening of “Won’t Back Down” starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis was viewed with a panel discussion following the screening. The film was funded by pro-privatization billionaire right wing religious union buster Philip Anschut through his company Walden Media.
Even the president of NEA Van Roekel who went to a special screening lauded the film saying the “movie was moving and well-acted, but nonetheless should be seen as a Hollywood production - nothing more, nothing less.” For a film that has a agenda and ideology pushing trigger schools and financed by one of the billionaires seeking to destroy public education his comments raise questions about Van Roekel’s competence or his complicity with these privatizers.
One of Duncan’s focus was to continue to support the testing schemes and one of the key proponents of this testing agenda is Pearson and othereducation businesses and non-profits who have pushed the national “common core standards” that would directly benefit these companies. Pearson already makes hundreds of millionsas test publishers. Since they bought out National Evaluation Systems in 2006, Pearson has now cornered the market on teacher evaluations, and in contract with Achieve Inc has developed the “common core standards”. They also develop exams to become high school proficient (GED). So, Pearson stands to gain a major market share as more of public education becomes privatized. They sell the textbooks through the Penguin group, provide educator assessments through Pearson assessments and design testing for educators and students, all through government contracts (our tax dollars).
Pearson also owns the second largest online education company in the country called Connections Academy. This has become a cash cow for Wall Street.
Many venture capitalists are investing major money in the education market. This included Global Silicon Valley Capital which helped K-12 Inc go public. K-12 Inc was founded by ex- felon Michael Milkenwho was imprisoned for junk bond fraud. K-12 Inc is now the largest online education company in the country.
Pearson is presently being investigated by the New York Attorney General’s Office. It is alleged that Pearson foundation was giving government kickbacks in exchange for obtaining government contracts. The Pearson Foundation, a non-profit, is prohibited from lobbying government officials for the corporation Pearson Inc. It was reported that documents showed that government officials across the country were receiving first class vacation trips throughout the world.
One of the protesters in Sacramento was former Commission on Teacher Credentials lawyer and whistleblower Kathleen Carroll.
Assembly Bill 5, the Fuentes sponsored bill is being pushed by the Democrats in the legislature and would eliminate the Stull Act passed in 1972. The Stull Act prohibitsthe use of standardized tests being use for teacher evaluations. Assembly Bill 5 would conceivably allow standardized tests to be tied to teacher evaluations.
The use of parent triggers is a major new tool to bust up public schools and is being pushed nationally by Green Dot’s Steve Barr and many others who want to use this trigger law to take over public schools. Even the SEIU was involved in pushing the trigger laws in California. These laws prey on the most vulnerable populations and instill fear with low income parent groups. The SEIU is intimately involved in pushing these trigger laws in California. Mike Garcia, President, Service Employees International Union Local 1877, is currently listed as a member of the Green Dot’s board of directors.
Nationally SEIU Vice President Eliseo Medina works with Lumina and the Institute for Higher Education Leadership and Policy (IHELP) to push education privatization through an operation called “The Campaign for College Opportunity. This is funded by the Lumina foundation and other union busters. Nancy Shulock is the executive director of IHELP and she is a member of the Student Success Task Force that is actively involved in destroying California’s community college system. The Lumina Foundation has been a major funder of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
Although KTLA CBS Channel 12 reported on the protest, the Sacramento Bee censored out the protesters. Unknown to most, the Sacramento Bee is a business partner with St. Hope Academy.
So, although we often hear our legislators state that we must cut education budgets; companies like Pearson and K-12 Inc continue to receive massive amounts of our education tax dollars at the expense of educator jobs, school service jobs and at the expense of a quality, accessible and equitable education system. Public education is being purposefully de-funded so that profiteers can continue to reap big profits from making education a profit center for the billionaires and their shills the Democrats. John Burton who is the Chair of the Democratic Party is also on the Board of Directors of the University Of Phoenix and has actively pushed this privatization agenda. The push for privatization was also endorsed by Obama and Democratic Party at their recent convention.
Steve Zeltzer is a labor videographer and journalist as well as producer at KPFA Radio Pacifica
With research assistance from Attorney Kathleen Carroll