Detroit Loses Race to the Top, thank God:  Robert Bobb finally under the gun for ethics violations

According to the Detroit Free Press, Michigan lost in the 1st round of the federal school funding program known as Race to the Top.  However, Detroit teachers and their students know that this is a win for them as it is for any state that has not buckled to the demands of Secretary of Despair, Arne Duncan. The reason for the denial of the slice of the $4.5 billion dollar funds made available to obedient states, by Secretary of Education Duncan in an effort to ‘deform’ schools, was that Michigan could not get the “collaboration” needed from teachers, particularly the Michigan Educational Association (MEA) and the opposing members of the Detroit Federation of Teachers (DFT).

In other words, teachers would not give up their rights, their benefits; nor would they capitulate to having themselves or their students measured for a coffin under the standardized testing regime legalized by No Child Left Behind.  They would not abandon their collective bargaining, their schools and their union, nor would they “give-back” salaries and benefits as the titans of despair wished they do.  In short, they wouldn’t lie still while their schools were closed, pillaged of music and arts programs and roll over for the new privatization plans of Duncan and his billionaire backers, like Wal-Mart internships in schools.

These are all issues Keith Johnson (current president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers) and Robert Bobb have been goading them and threatening them to do all along.  So, as punishment, the draconian federal and feral educational policy under Barrack Obama was and is, to starve some public schools and favor others.  And this is just the beginning, as Detroit teachers well understand.

The well-orchestrated demolition plan hatched by Duncan in concert with ‘state players’ like Governor Jennifer Granholm and front-man Robert Bobb are not fairing as well as they should.  Rightly so, for they are policies of regimentation and testing, bankruptcy, and dislocation — disposability and public school closures that threaten the sanctity and sanity of both students and teachers.

So the loss of the Race to the Top monies really means Detroit has won an important battle in stopping the privatization and corporate takeover of Detroit Public Schools and other districts throughout Michigan. It’s a badge of honor! But as Detroit teachers say, they haven’t won the war.  The war will not be won until state by state, city by city, we see the resistance exemplified by battle weary Detroit teachers repeated over and over again with more stunning detail and better coordination.  Remember, Detroit is suffering some of the worst nightmares capitalism has wrought on this nation.  Detroit Public Schools is $219 million in debt and the corporate media and leisure class blames teachers and their salaries and benefits while the administrators who never teach, never get into a circle with kids, get bloated salaries, chauffeurs, fancy luncheons and all-expenses paid.

Where do they go from here?

The next step for Detroit teachers, students and their community is clearly to sue Robert Bobb in a court of law for ethics violations and cleanse the city of this notorious and scandalous self serving sycophant.  The so-called Emergency Financial Manager has been exposed, as I also wrote at dailycensored.com (Weil, D. February 14, 2010, Detroit Teachers fight obsequious politicians, union bosses and privatizations plans http://dailycensored.com/2010/02/14/detroit-teachers-fight-back/), for his recent pay raise funded by private foundations.

According to the Detroit News, online, dateline March 4th, 2010, the day of the student and teacher protests nationwide the public was also entertained with the news that:

“Community and union activists Wednesday raised questions about influence that foundations that are paying more than a third of Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb’s salary may have on his decisions. The philanthropic organizations, some of which haven’t been identified, increased their share of Bobb’s $425,000 pay from $84,000 in his first year on the job to $145,000 for his second year. His new contract, revealed Tuesday in The Detroit News, shows his base salary from Detroit Public Schools increased from $260,000 to $280,000. Such agreements create a situation where private foundations could have “undue private influence over Robert Bobb’s public duties,” said leaders from the DPS Board Advisory Committee and the Coalition to Restore Hope to DPS, who called for the contract to be rewritten over ethics and other concerns (Bobb’s pay stirs ethics controversy (Detroit News, Schultz, M.  Gov rejects critics’ assertion that private sources of salary may influence DPS chief” http://www.detnews.com/article/20100304/SCHOOLS/3040389/1410/METRO01/Bobb-s-pay-stirs-ethics-controversy#ixzz0hWiAunCR.)

Burning, slashing and cutting teacher’s positions and salaries, closing schools, eliminating music and art programs from the curriculum, “manufacturing consent” and attempting to manage perceptions for a Wal-Mart takeover of schools while transferring $40 million dollars of public funds to private coffers is the hall mark of Bobb.   His crimes are exasperating but his efforts are ‘best practices curriculum’ at the Eli Broad Supervisors Academy where he attended and then graduated.

This is how the billionaire philanthropists work, what they teach at their exclusive ‘academies’ to their social engineers and social Darwinists, and mirror the private policy they promote as ‘public interest’, when in fact they are clearly ‘private interests’ and why they must be exposed, city by city.  For as I wrote in my article    (ibid), there is a Robert Bobb in every major urban center.  From the killing fields of Michelle Rhee, in D.C. to the cosmopolitan template of Joel Klein in New York.  City by city they operate as clandestine thugs for powerful interests and they are hammering the public with horrific social policies designed to lead the public into servitude.

According to Wes Ganson, chairman of the Board Advisory Committee, and Sandra Hines, co-chairwoman of the Coalition to Restore Hope in Detroit Public Schools, who recently called for the contract to be rewritten over ethics and other concerns?

“Such agreements create a situation where private foundations could have ‘undue private influence’ over Robert Bobb’s public duties.  If the Chamber of Commerce or the AFL-CIO paid one-third of the governor’s salary, everyone would see the inappropriate nature of the arrangement,” (The Detroit News: http://www.detnews.com/article/20100304/SCHOOLS/3040389/1410/METRO01/Bobb-s-pay-stirs-ethics-controversy#ixzz0hWlr9G3y).

This is not the appearance of impropriety it is the summit of impropriety and it is, as I wrote last year, the canary in the coal mine for those of us who see the real issue in the educational debate: it is not test scores or the new economy, it is the privatization of education and this injudicious payment to Robert Bobb to encourage his doggy dish behavior is just the tip of the iceberg.  Remember: Eli Broad paid Bobb $28,000 at least to relocate from D.C. to serve as a Scicario for the privatizers (ibid).  However, even Arne Duncan and his battering ram couldn’t staunch the incompetence of their own graduate who now is struggling to maintain composure if not “you hold ‘em, I’ll hit ‘em” policies.

According to the report in the Detroit News, George Washington, a Detroit attorney who has represented district teachers in legal challenges against the district, said Bobb’s contract could violate state ethics laws that prohibit public officials from accepting gifts that could influence the way they perform their duties. George simply asked what any working person would ask:

“If one-third of your salary is coming from these foundations, how could you not think about it (their agendas)?” (ibid).

Jennifer Granholm the Governor of the State of Michigan was quick to cover her behind. Liz Boyd, the mouthpiece for Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who you might remember appointed Robert Bobb in 2009, dismissed any notions of ethical concerns:

“It’s apples and oranges.       We are talking about philanthropic organizations that have a strong commitment to education. His initial contract was supplemented by the philanthropic community, and this is no different other than the degree” (ibid).

This is the myth given to the public that is wolfed down like kibbles by many citizens: that the billionaire philanthropists are good people, they deserve their profits, they are here to save our kids and they know what is best for education.  Don’t be beguiled.

It’s all garbage and as an ideological loin cloth for corporatist interests, it appears to be coming apart at the seams as more and more people see the insidious ‘business plan’ to ‘deform’ Detroit schools, as well as everywhere else in the nation, and who actually is languishing in the shadows of power or behind the curtain of control and domination.

The report went on to note that according to Boyd:

“The other organizations, which are paying up to $89,000, have not been named because commitments aren’t finalized” (ibid)

And when asked, Erica Lepping, spokeswoman for the Broad Foundation stated:

“Robert Bobb is accountable to Gov. Granholm and the people of Detroit, not to any foundation. Decisions regarding what will work best for Detroit students are entirely up to Bobb, Gov. Granholm and the Detroit community to make.” (ibid).

Who is are they kidding?  And Saddaam had weapons of mass destruction, right? And why the animosity when asked to tell the public who else is paying the servile private servant?  Come on all you billionaires pony up the information and tell us how much you’ve paid the henchman from Motor City.  I thought full court democracy and full disclosure were the benchmarks of the Granholm tutelage?

Evidently not, for she not only appointed this handmaiden for corporate interests, but this is the second time or more that she has gone out of her way to defend not just Bobb, but his ruthless policies.  We can only hope the blood stains appear on her clothes before the next election, for she too must go.

Granholm is little more than a tool for the Race to the Top priorities of the Secretary of Education who never taught a child in his life.  In fact, Duncan played Bobb’s role in Chicago as you can see from my articles and knows all too well what it is like to face an angry public as the executioner of public education.  That is why he was “Peter principled” to the position he holds now.  The ruling class thinks he’s good at crowd control.

Why Detroit is so important

The situation unfolding in Detroit, minute by minute as teachers, community members and students begin to understand the educational traps set for them from testing to school closure, from Wal-Mart to privatization, is why it is so important that we keep abreast of the struggles of Detroit teachers, for it paints the grim outline of the shadows of the renegades who are working with Arne Duncan to launch a full scale attack on teachers, their unions and students.

Eli Broad teaches Bobb’s tactics at his ‘academy’, where Bobb and others like him learned them.  Organizing parent front groups, hoodwinking parents and students phony with job fairs, introducing corporations into schools under the auspices of public-private partnerships, setting up tests so that students will most assuredly fail and then close these schools for not meeting state standards; all of this is part of the tool belt of Bobb and his urban contemporaries.  This and assuring that the public taxpayers transfer their public funds to outsourced corporations; this is real the plan.

It is easy to see how this all fits nice and snug with Milton Friedman’s prognostications as to the efficacy of privatized vouchers.  For this is where Broad, Bobb, Gates, the Skillman Foundation, Fisher Foundation, Wall St. and the venture capitalists are all headed, as I wrote in dailycensored (Weil, D. Charter schools and the road to private school vouchers http://dailycensored.com/2010/02/28/charter-schools-and-the-road-to-private-school-vouchers/). They want to restore budgetary fiscal responsibility by shifting the corporate crisis on to the backs of workers, in this case teachers.  This is the governing class’s plan. Then once the public schools are broken, the unionized teachers with historical memory dismissed, then they’ll swivel in their chairs to a new public relations strategy that will ask citizens to simply privatize education in the form of private federal vouchers.

Administrative salaries

As many bewildered citizens scream over teacher pay at the level of $70,000, say in Rhode Island or California, the average base salary for urban school district superintendents is $228,000, according to a 2008 survey by the Council of the Great City Schools. Former Detroit district Superintendent Connie Calloway made $280,000, and Robert Bobb’s new agreement was to bring his pay in line with hers.  District spokesman Steve Wasko stated this was the intent of the original contract with Bobb (The Detroit News http://www.detnews.com/article/20100304/SCHOOLS/3040389/1410/METRO01/Bobb-s-pay-stirs-ethics-controversy#ixzz0hWlr9G3y).).

However a close forensic examination of administrative pay reveals a far different picture than that the public is drawn.  While the administrators do the assassin’s bidding for the corporations seeking to take over public education and destroy the profession of teaching and learning, they live lavish lifestyles, dine with corporate CEO’s over ‘luncheons’ where they plan their next attacks and ambushes on the public and figure out how to loot the state treasury.  They are not corporate charlatans, this does them no justice; they are pickpockets, plutocrats, and kleptocrats and they work in tandem with the right wing think tanks and venture capital interests that formulate their verbs and nouns and activate them like wind-up toys.

Robert Bobb’s contract announced on the eve of wage cuts

The news of Bobb’s bloated contract came just as he was demanding concessions from the district’s labor unions. His contract took effect last Tuesday, the same day his lead negotiator declared an impasse in collective bargaining and imposed a 10 percent wage cut and 10 percent health care premium on 500 school secretaries and other clerical staff, this according to DTF union. Ruby Newbold, president of the Detroit Association of Educational Office Employees hit the nail on the head:

“It was a slap in the face” (ibid).

The managerial elite want to blame the budget crisis on us, teachers, students and working people, many of us who are public employees, pay public taxes that are then transferred into private hands for private interests.   The elites tell us we are responsible for the budgetary crisis while they continue to press their bloody handprints on our public coffers in an attempt to get more and more.

This is neo-liberalism, a peculiar stage in the economic history of capitalism where big government is lamented and blasted by the ruling class while they use the same government as a collection plate for their own private interests and then call it public service.  You see it in health care and you see it in education.  It is shame, public shame and should be the object of a lesson plan in every classroom, from kindergarten to graduate school.  It is a lesson in larceny, burglary and theft with a liquid center of perfidy and mendacity.

We’ve been here before!

All of this has occurred before, notably during the rise of the Gilded Age in the late 1890’s.  Remember the Carnegies, the Rockefellers, the Vanderbilt’s all of whom walked the streets of gold while murmuring niceties in the name of the public?

Don’t be fooled by the ‘billionaire’s boy’s club’ made up of Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Reed Hastings (NetFlix) The Fisher Family (the GAP), The Skillman Foundation,  Green Dot Schools, Parent Revolution or any other of the henchmen Halloween disguises.  Ask critical questions, think critically and transfer your knowledge into the classroom to teach young people what it means to be a critical thinker, what it means to be ethical and unethical.  This is a fight we can win!

In fact, it is a fight that if Detroit teachers and their students continue to wage and win, will be the lantern we all need to instigate our own community struggles against the prevaricators of lies, deception and social disaster.