‘Education reform’ actually a handout to corporations

OPINION - ISLAND VOICES

HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER


‘Education reform’ actually a handout to corporations

By Kelly Maeshiro

With the new public school year just underway and new strategies being launched, now seems an opportune time to address what is called “education reform.”

There is no data to support its policies — namely, No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Race to the Top — whose common traits include “testing and accountability,” teacher evaluations, and sanctions — all of which result in massive corporate profits.

A 2010 Economic Policy Institute report, for instance, concluded that because “student test scores are not reliable indicators of teacher effectiveness” even with value-added-modeling, the policy is “likely to harm teachers (and) the children they instruct.”

Furthermore, overemphasis on testing has been shown to narrow the curriculum — and indeed, Finland, best in the world on international tests, doesn’t have standardized tests at all.

Research finds that no less than two-thirds of student achievement is attributable to family characteristics, including, importantly, economics. The link between income and achievement is well-established. In 2011, for example, family income was the strongest predictor of SAT scores locally. Yet we hear talk of “poor performance” but no talk of poor students, poor teachers or poor school funding — this in a state where 50 percent of public school students are economically disadvantaged, whose teachers are the lowest paid in the nation (adjusting for the cost of living) and whose public school funding as a portion of revenues is the lowest in the nation.

Yet reformers blame teachers. Supposedly, it’s the evil forces of greed (teachers) versus the kindly munificence of noblesse oblige (Wall Street). This is not even good nonsense. High-performing nations like Finland have high unionization and pay teachers handsomely. The claim that teachers are greedy does not warrant serious refutation.

Wall Street, on the other hand, has massive profit incentives. Under NCLB’s sanctions regimen, every school that does not meet unrealistically high AYP (adequate yearly progress) goals is required by law to contract a private corporation with its own taxpayer funds to “restructure” the school. Profit motives are clear: the more unrealistically high the AYP goals, the more schools fail, the bigger the profits. And the profits are massive. Nationally, estimated profits are at least $1.9 billion a year.

Rather tellingly, former President George W. Bush education adviser Sandy Kress, after ushering NCLB through Congress with no public hearings, went from lawmaker to lobbyist, tapping into those billions. It’s large-scale corporate welfare — public funds going straight to mega-corporations — and it’s not surprising that the major funders of the movement are Wall Street financiers like Rupert Murdoch and Walmart heiress Alice Walton.

As a former Hawaii Board of Education member, I know the superintendent personally. She and the current board are extremely intelligent and well-intentioned — not profit-motiva- ted. Indeed, their intelligence and good intent only illuminate the systemic nature of this problem. With the sanctions of Race to the Top, from which Hawaii stands to gain $75 million, states have little choice but to conform to the will of the federal regime.

Yet states can and must do certain things. We must raise teachers’ salaries, fund our schools adequately, address poverty and restore our social safety nets. In the wake of this harrowing experience of education reform gone awry, we should have learned, if anything, the need for democratic dialogue in the face of disastrous dogmatism. Until then, we shall have failed our students.

Kelly Maeshiro

HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER / Letters to the Editor

For Sunday, August 18, 2013

Privatization is about profit, not service

Kelly Maeshiro, the former student member of the Board of Education, makes the point that privatization of the country’s school management systems has resulted in higher costs and profits with the quality of education falling (”‘Education reform’ actually a handout to corporations,” Star-Advertiser, Island Voices, Aug. 14).

The same result can be found in other government social services, the prison system, the military and government-funded health care.

The U.S. privatization drive is perhaps the biggest promoter of graft in the history of man.We all know that private companies do not have any goal other than to maximize profits.K Street lobbyists and their ilk in each state have been picking our pockets for too long with dismal results.

It is easy to find examples of better ways to care for our population — Finland in education, Norway for prisons, Canada for social services, and pretty much every developed country in the world in health care.

The profit motive has only promoted bigger profits for the 1 percent.

Dennis Davis
Pacific Heights