By Guest Blogger George Thompson
It seems absurdly naïve to think that what is happening everywhere else in the world and especially in America is not going to affect the Canadian education system. For example Canadian provincial governments have imported high stakes testing, test-score and demographics websites (“data dashboards”) for parents to shop schools, “magnet” schools, adequate yearly improvement plans and achievement “contracts” for school boards, school restructuring provisions based on test scores, the marketing of seats to overseas students, and segregated schooling for Afro-Canadians, aboriginals and boys. Charter schools are well established and expanding in Alberta. With the predictable cooperation from the corporate media, philanthropy think tanks like the Fraser Institute, C.D. Howe, and Society for Quality Education, emphasize the notion that quality is based on test-score competition and school rankings. This helps to further the perception that schools are a product sold to parents to prepare their kids for a global job competition, not a public good for the protection and enhancement of democracy.
It is therefore worth the time for Canadians to educate themselves about the charter school explosion taking place just south of the border. They need to realize how deeply the Obama administration, allied with Bill Gates, is committed to reforming America’s public school system into one of public private partnerships wherein the public pays and the private corporations make the money.
Canadians also need to understand the degree to which even the supposedly non-profit charters are being driven by self-interest from the highest levels of business and government.
A prime example would be Obama’s recent firing of Gerald Walpin, the Inspector General of AmeriCorps, an agency which spends federal funds on a wide area of public services such as education. Gerald Walpin was dumped by the president immediately after he filed his report recommending criminal charges against former NBA star Kevin Johnson for the misappropriation of $850,000 in public funding at the St. Hope “non-profit” charter school. While Johnson, a high-profile Obama supporter who is now mayor of Sacramento, was quietly ordered to pay back half the money he took, Walpin was immediately dismissed from his position as the watchdog for public spending. According to an article in National Review Online,
“At first there was no explanation for Walpin’s firing; Obama simply said he ‘no longer’ had ‘the fullest confidence’ in Walpin. After the initial uproar, the White House started claiming the IG had been ‘disoriented’ and ‘confused’ at a May 20 meeting, something an eyewitness directly refutes. Moreover, even alleged ‘confusion’ at a hostile meeting is an insufficient substantive ground for dismissal if the IG’s work is sound.” http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=YWI5Y2U2MTkyODg4NTM4NTRhNzllYmNmMGU4YzRlM2Q=#more
The real explanation may have more to do with the fact that St. Giles was a model inner city charter school and Obama is very committed to the charter school movement. Any embarrassment about the siphoning of public funds by a high-profile player like Johnson would be an embarrassment for charter schools. Thus, as Jim Horn points out in his Schools Matter blog, the sex scandal regarding Johnson paying off a female employee $1000 a month to keep quiet about their relationship helped to conceal the real story from public awareness:
“As long as this story dealt with stealing public money and corrupt manipulations by the Oligarchs to move the charter chess pieces around the country, no media could be bothered with the story. But now the Republicans are fanning the sex scandal and hush money angle, so the Times on both coasts are going to press on this one.” http://www.schoolsmatter.info/ (November 26, 2009)
In Canada, as we have seen in “The Global Privatization of Education Policy” (http://dailycensored.com/2009/11/06/the-global-privatization-of-education-policy-lorna-earl-conflict-of-interest-is-the-tip-of-the-iceberg/ ) the use of public services by consultants from the private sector for personal gain is the new “normal”, for “The recent conflict of interest case of Lorna Earl in Ontario is merely the symptom of a growing trend in Canada and the rest of the world”. The article reveals how five recent members of the Ontario Ministry of Education have been involved in upper level policy decisions which either directly or potentially benefit their own firms. The fact that this information—moreover the whole issue of privatization-continues to be ignored by the news media and the broader public is a clear sign Canada is ready to import that same kind of partnership arrangement between corporate greed and government corruption that has grown in proportion to privatization to the south. It’s also a signal that all manner of Canadian watchdogs—unlike Walpin (who stepped out of line)—are either asleep or just choosing to look the other way.