Posts Tagged ‘school privatization’

PSAT for 8-20-13: Don’t buy school supplies at WalMart

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

psat_logoPublic Schools Action Tuesday is usually about something you can/should do to support public education. Today it’s about something you shouldn’t do.


It’s that time of year when everyone is stocking up on new notebooks, shiny folders, colorful pencils.

It’s also a time when parents, teachers and students in places like Chicago, Philadelphia, and Washington DC are feeling more dread and despair than the excitement that usually accompanies the first day of school, because we can see so how the privatization and austerity moves in these cities are threatening every fundamental of our children’s education.

It’s a time when many are planning strong push-back activities against Rahm Emanuel and other autocrats who are listening only to their rich friends while thumbing their noses at the people who actually use the public schools, at solid education research, and ultimately at the mostly poor, mostly black and brown children whom they claim to love so much.

It’s a terrible time. It’s a time to act locally, but also to think and act globally. We have to do both – these guys have way too much money to spend on their pet strategies, and that money is coming from us.

Much of the blame for the disaster in our nation’s public schools today can be traced to the Walton family’s wealth, which in turn comes from the money people spend in their stores on school supplies and other items. Here’s what some $700 million of the money we spent at WalMart between 2005 and 2010 went to support and promote:


  • more charter schools: $3.8 million in Chicago alone  including $230,000 for UNO charter schools.
  • more school closings: $500,000 to pay for Chicago’s sham “public engagement” school closing hearings.
  • more astroturf “parent” groups like Stand for Children (millions) and Parent Revolution ($6.3 million) to push the parent trigger and other corporate reforms.
  • more high-stakes standardized testing: Walton supports teacher bonuses linked to raising test scores.
  • more vouchers for private and religious schools.
  • more Michelle Rhee: despite the recent scandals involving Rhee, WalMart recently raised her allowance to the tune of $8 million.

Doesn’t this year’s WalMart’s Back-to-school campaign slogan, “More School for your money,” just expose the greed behind their schemes? WalMart

As I’ve said before, it’s not that I think we can bring WalMart to its fiscal knees with a boycott. But companies like WalMart have what one marketing blogger calls a “fragile corporate image.” They want consumers to think of them as benevolent, loving rich folks who desire nothing more than to take care of the rest of us through their generosity. They want us to have a warm fuzzy feeling when we think about them, which will lead us to ignore their growing reputation as horrible bosses, and go buy some more stuff at their stores.

In fact, WalMart’s public image is getting more fragile all the time – read “The Real WalMart: Six Big Fibs in WalMart’s New Ad Campaign” by Calvin F. Exoo in yesterday’s Daily Kos, which suggests that WalMart is feeling the heat.

In all likelihood, the Waltons actually want our children to get a poorer, narrower education (or drop out early) so that the best they will be able to aspire to is working for low wages and few if any benefits at WalMart, leaving them little choice but to shop at WalMart in order to stretch their pennies.

So, where should you shop?

I’m not in the business of promoting one business over another, but I did do some research into Office Depot’s corporate giving and I can’t find anything like the rap sheet on the Waltons. In fact, Office Depot offers special rebates to teachers, provides grants for teacher-determined projects on the order of the Donors Choose program, gives away thousands of backpacks every year to low-income children including students in Navajo Nation schools, and even supports Lady Gaga’s anti-bullying efforts.

Just saying.

PSAT for 5-11-13: Sign this Declaration to Rebuild America

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

psat_logoI know, there are a lot of petitions and sign-ons these days. Do they do any good?

This one seems especially comprehensive and is already signed by a good mix of people and organizations. It demonstrates that the message of true education progressives is becoming clearer and more unified.

The full Declaration to Rebuild America is too long to reproduce here, but its main aspects are very similar, for example, to Parents Across America’s statement of beliefs.

The Declaration includes seven principles including opposition to school privatization and high-stakes testing, as well as the need for equitable funding and a more engaging curriculum. The Declaration makes recommendations in seven areas including better assessments, effective discipline, and meaningful engagement of parents and others in setting school policy.

The statement concludes: “As a nation, we’re failing to provide the basics our children need for an opportunity to learn. Instead, we have substituted a punitive high-stakes testing regime that seeks to force progress on the cheap. But there is no shortcut to success. We must change course before we further undermine schools and drive away the teachers our children need.”

Take a look and consider signing and sharing.

This week’s leg fax: corporate reform not working in Chicago

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

FAX Machine 19In 2007, FairTest’s Monty Neill and I wrote a report called “Chicago School Reform: Lessons for the Nation,” which strongly cautioned against using Chicago and its mayoral controlled school district as a model for school improvement.

Six years later, our concerns have been confirmed by researchers Elaine Weiss and Don Long for the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education group.

I just shared their findings with the Illinois House and Senate Education committee members in this week’s PURE leg fax:

NEW REPORT: Market-driven school reforms, mayoral control causing more harm than good

A new study, “Market-oriented education reforms’ rhetoric trumps reality,” on the effects of market-driven reform in Washington, D.C., New York City and Chicago concludes that little has been accomplished and some harm has been done to students, especially the underprivileged.

Market-oriented education reform refers to a series of initiatives that include educator evaluations based in large part on student standardized test scores, the closure of schools that are considered failing or underenrolled, and an increase in the number of charter schools, many of which are operated by for-profit companies. (Washington Post,

States and districts have been forced to adopt many of these reforms to comply with NCLB or apply for Race to the Top grants, with added pressure from corporate-backed groups like Students First and Stand for Children.

The executive summary of the report ( concludes:

  • Test scores increased less, and achievement gaps grew more, in “reform” cities than in other urban districts.
  • Reported successes for targeted students evaporated upon closer examination.
  • Test-based accountability prompted churn that thinned the ranks of experienced teachers, but not necessarily bad teachers.
  • School closures did not send students to better schools or save school districts money.
  • Charter schools further disrupted the districts while providing mixed benefits, particularly for the highest-needs students.
  • Emphasis on the widely touted market-oriented reforms drew attention and resources from initiatives with greater promise.
  • The reforms missed a critical factor driving achievement gaps: the influence of poverty on academic performance. Real, sustained change requires strategies that are more realistic, patient, and multipronged.


  • Support the CPS school closing moratorium bills SB 1571 and HB 3283.
  • Support community-based school improvement and stronger local school councils trained by independent, non-CPS training groups. (
  • Support an elected school board in Chicago.

Watch out! Tribune, Joyce Foundation team up to push school privatization

Sunday, March 24th, 2013

Newspaper Salesman 1flipThe Chicago Tribune published some pre-digested results of a new public education survey they carried out with support from the Joyce Foundation.

Shockingly, the poll results, according to the Tribune, suggest that most people approve of the Tribune’s positions on teacher accountability and school privatization.

Here’s what my look at the actual poll found:

Who responded:

  • 50% of those polled were white. Less than 9% of CPS students are white.
  • 30% of those polled make more than $ 75,000 a year. 87% of CPS students are from low-income families that qualify for federal free or reduced lunches.
  • 43% of those polled do not know a Chicago Public School teacher or teachers’ union member. Really?

Of course, the Trib claims that results were “weighted” to assure a mix consistent with city demographics…but then, like Mayor Rahm, most of the white people in Chicago send their children to private schools.

Key results the Trib decided not to tell you about: 

  • The most popular answer to their question about what to do about underperforming schools was “devote more resources while keeping the staff intact” (37%). The least selected answers were “close the school and transfer students to a higher-performing school” (only 6%) and “allow an experienced nonprofit to come in and run the school” (18.8%) (question 24).
  • Nearly as many people think the CPS budget should be balanced by raising taxes on businesses as by closing schools. Oops! (question 31).

One more thing the Trib left out: the Joyce Foundation also funded the notorious report, “What’s Trust Got to do with it?” which was re-titled “Giving Parents the Run-around on School Turnarounds” by the university-based National Education Policy Center in a review. The press release announcing that review said:

(T)he report never treats seriously the substantive concerns of resistant parents; it never questions the fundamental strategy that it proposes communicating about….The result is a document that’s “paternalistic and arrogant” in its “criticism of parents for not knowing what’s good for them.”

So, parents, look out when the Tribune and the Joyce Foundation team up to talk about education.

Stand for Children front man: No need for “parent trigger” with Chicago’s LSCs

Thursday, November 15th, 2012


I was proud to share the Local School Council model with my co-founders at Parents Across America, and delighted when PAA adopted it as our alternative to the “parent trigger” school privatization mechanism.

Unlike charter or private turnaround companies, LSCs have a significant track record of improving schools over time without any extra resources beyond the collaborative efforts of parents, teachers, administrators and community members.

Now, to my astonishment, organizers for such pro-privatization groups like Stand for Children and New Schools for Chicago seem to be agreeing with us on LSCs as an alternative to the parent trigger.

Here’s what’s being reported in Catalyst Notebook:

“New Schools for Chicago…says it isn’t exploring the possibility of a parent trigger law. Stand for Children is not working on a parent trigger, either. (SFC director Juan Jose) Gonzalez says that with the local school council model of governance in place at most CPS schools, he doesn’t see the need. ‘To me, through the LSC system, that is an existing parent trigger type model,’ he says.”

It’s McTeachers night!!! Want fries with that other thankless job?

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

McDonald’s chairman Andrew J McKenna, why not just DO YOUR FAIR SHARE and fund schools adequately so that teachers don’t have to pay for school supplies out of their own pockets? Do you really expect teachers to appreciate this latest effort to pretend that you support public schools, while you sit on the board of New Schools for Chicago, which promotes school closings and replacement with privatized charter schools? When from 2004 until 2008 McDonald’s Corporation and Ronald McDonald House Charities donated over a million dollars to the Renaissance Schools Fund which funded Mayor Daley’s dismantling of over 60 neighborhood schools?

But no, apparently you would rather further humiliate teachers by putting them in your little paper hat and behind your greasy counter.


Contact: Carrie Woltman, Porter Novelli    312-552-6303

Chicago Area McDonald’s Host Unique Fundraising Events to Raise Funds for Local Schools

CHICAGO, IL (November 12, 2012) – Chicago area teachers and school administrators will be working at local McDonald’s restaurant during a week-long fundraising initiative to help supplement education budgets at local schools. Beginning November 12th through November 16th, participating McDonald’s restaurants in Chicago and Northwest Indiana will donate a percentage of sales made between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. to local schools. Residents are encouraged to visit one of the neighborhood McDonald’s restaurants listed below to support schools in their area.

“McDonald’s strives to be a good neighbor by hosting programs that support students and educators in our local communities” said Janet Karavites, McDonald’s Owner Operator. “McTeacher’s Nights are great fundraising opportunities that allow teachers and students to work together.”

The Chicago area McTeacher’s Night activities are part of a weeklong Educator Initiative taking place November 12-16th, and spanning across McDonald’s Restaurants in three states – Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana. McDonald’s restaurants across the region are joining together to support their local schools and communities.

As part of the McTeacher’s Night program, teachers are able to work the registers at McDonald’s, provide tours of the kitchen, decorate the restaurant with school colors, and invite school mascots to attend the event. The program represents all grades in public, private and parochial schools.

McDonald’s has a rich heritage of being a good community partner, and a long-standing commitment to supporting education. McTeacher’s Nights provide communities a chance to support their local schools while they enjoy a great tasting, quality meal at McDonald’s.


11110 W. 31st. St. Westchester, IL    Nov. 12
7915 E. Ridge Rd. Hobart, IN    Nov. 13
5130 N. Sheridan Rd. Chicago, IL    Nov. 13
3241 W. North Ave. Chicago, IL    Nov. 13
4601 W. Diversey Ave. Chicago, IL    Nov. 13
164 Pine Lake Ave. La Porte, IN    Nov. 13
10 W. Biesterfield Elk Grove Village, IL    Nov. 13
515 Ridge Rd. Munster, IN    Nov. 13
774 E. Rollins Rd. Round Lake Beach, IL    Nov. 13
9449 W. Irving Park Rd. Schiller Park, IL    Nov.14
740 E. 47th St. Chicago, IL    Nov. 14
8611 S. Harlem Ave. Bridgeview, IL    Nov. 14
6740 N. Clark St. Chicago, IL    Nov. 14
1380 W. Lake St. Chicago, IL    Nov. 14
3560 N. Cicero Ave. Chicago IL,    Nov. 14
8460 Dempster Ave. Niles, IL    Nov. 14
19 N. 694 Rt. 20 Hampshire, IL    Nov. 14
840 NW Highway Fox River Grove, IL    Nov. 14
704 E. Main St. Genoa, IL    Nov. 14
125 S. Randall Rd. Algonquin, IL    Nov. 14
10711 Rt. 47 Huntley, IL    Nov. 14
200 W. Grant Hwy. Marengo, IL    Nov. 14
4550 N. Cumberland Chicago, IL    Nov. 15
2350 N. Central Chicago, IL    Nov. 15
5130 N. Sheridan Rd. Chicago, IL    Nov. 15
3241 W. North Ave. Chicago, IL    Nov. 15
1951 N. Western Ave. Chicago, IL    Nov. 15
350 E. St. Charles Rd. Elmhurst, IL    Nov. 15
190 E. Butterfield Elmhurst, IL    Nov. 15
1004 W. Wilson Ave. Chicago, IL    Nov. 16
2350 N. Central Chicago, IL    Nov.16
2900 W. 81st Ave. Merrillville, IN 46410    Nov. 15
3639 169th St. Hammond, IN 46323    Nov. 12
2400 W. Lincoln Hwy. Olympia Fields, IL 60461    Nov. 12
72 Stratford Square Drive. Bloomingdale, IL 60108    Nov. 13

McDonald’s Owners of Chicago and Northwest Indiana represent more than 100 owner/operators and nearly 500 restaurants throughout the greater Chicagoland region, including stores as far north as Gurnee, west as Marengo, south as Watseka and east to Northwest Indiana.  MOCNI manages and facilitates all marketing, sports, community relations, educational and philanthropic programs throughout the region, and is responsible for implementing and maintaining consistency at every Chicagoland restaurant. Visit MOCNI’s social media outlets: Twitter: @McD_Chicago and@McD_NWIndiana and Facebook:


Mayor Daley’s brother not in favor of New Orleans-style school privatization

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

The latest “our schools suck” report from Advance Illinois would seem to suggest that the testing and privatization policies this group has been successfully promoting in the state legislature for the past 4-5 years are not helping much. But instead, AI CEO Robin Steans wants to double down on failure: “We’re going to have to hit this with a 2-by-4,” Robin told the Tribune.

Reminds me of when Paul Vallas called his student flunking policy “The Hammer.” That didn’t work either.

My friend Jim Broadway put it more kindly than I in today’s Illinois School Policy Update:

“(T)he business community’s factory model of educational reform, driven by high-stakes tests aligned to ever more ‘rigorous’ learning standards and intensified ‘accountability’ on everyone involved – has failed. Educators were not involved in the formulation of this model 15 years ago…. But it became law in Illinois and throughout the U.S…. (T)wo AI Board members – Edgar and State Farm Chairman and CEO Ed Rust, Jr. – were key figures in installing the corporate model of education reform in Illinois in the 1990s. Still, it is – by state law – the operative model.”

(Read the rest by subscribing to this most useful of all resources for people who follow education policy in Illinois.)

But here’s the real news: Bill Daley agrees with Jim and me. 

While supportive of charter schools, Advance Illinois Co-chairman William Daley said the solution doesn’t lie in a voucher system or other measures that could largely privatize education. “I’m a big charter school believer, and I think they are playing an enormous role and a growing role, but to take the New Orleans model (where 70 percent of schools are privately run charters), post-Katrina, and say this is the model of the future is totally unrealistic,” Daley said.


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About the PURE Thoughts blogger
Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.