Monday May 21, 2012

There is no group more invested in improving public education than teachers. We are, by nature, a driven lot. Even when the numbers are positive, as they have been here in Massachusetts, where students outperform their cohorts in standardized testing, graduation rates, and literacy, teachers here do not rest on their laurels. Our professional development standards ensure that we are life-long learners of our craft. Yet, despite this and the fact that our students are on top, we are under attack. The source? It’s an ostensibly reasonable organization called Stand for Children.

Here’s the problem. When you follow the money trail, it becomes clear that the one element left out of the Stand for Children equation is -- children.

It’s funded by Bain Capital. Right -- that Bain Capital, whose investors pocketed profits while the companies they leveraged went belly up. It’s also funded by the Walton Family Foundation, the "charitable" arm of Wal-mart -- a company that doesn’t care about the children of families whose businesses are driven out of small town America by their notorious undercutting.

Here’s what their new corporate model of education looks like. Disempower teachers. Tie job security to test scores. Trash the tenure system. Schools should be able to fire any teacher, at any time. Here’s what most civilians don’t know. Schools can.

It takes three years for teachers to gain professional status.


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Until that time, if new teachers fail in the classroom, they’re out. They are not protected by some magical union force field. No teacher is. A principal can remove an ineffective teacher under the "just cause" provision in the contract. So, if that’s true, why keep the tenure system? Teachers’ salaries reflect years of experience. The more seasoned, the more expensive. Connect the dots. It’s mighty tempting to pink slip teachers who are at the top of the pay scale. After all, undercutting is what these people do best.

So, why is corporate America interested in our schools? There is enormous profit to be made in privatizing public education, and no one knows that better than the Stand for Children folk and the corporations that fund them.

What can we do? Educate ourselves. Follow the corporate money trail and then, please, go viral with what you discover. Stand for Children is not about children or improving public education. It’s about corporate greed.

ROBIN GETZEN

KAREN O’BRIEN

Lenox