Bart Peterson's The Mind Trust likes hyping its Public Impact-outsourced "Opportunity Schools" plan as written specifically to benefit Indianapolis school kids, but it is a corporate school blueprint being promoted and put in place all over America, for the sake of private profit.
In fact, when the "Opportunity Schools" brief was released in December 2011, Public Impact had hammered out another report for the Education Entrepreneurship Trust (CEE-Trust) on "incubating" charter schools in Texas, New Orleans, Rhode Island, Minnesota, Delaware, Colorado, and Tennessee. Founded and led by the Mind Trust, the CEE-Trust is active in 15 cities, including Philadelphia where a corporate takeover of public education is well underway with the help of Bill Gates and other wealthy power-players.
Entitled "Better Choices: Charter Incubation as a Strategy for Improving the Charter School Sector,"this nationally geared Public Impact report (like the Indianapolis plan) is a boilerplate presentation to shovel state, city, and federal money to private companies, decentralize central school offices, loosen teacher and principal certification for more Teach for America, Teach Plus, and New Teacher Project temporary recruits, and give more "autonomy" to charter schools.
Those who study the corporate school movement realize that "autonomy" is merely a code word for letting charter school leaders do anything they desire to collect a hefty profit.
Likewise, as I detailed recently at Bloomington's Common Errant, Bart Peterson's charter school accountability agenda always takes into consideration whether or not he knows the so-called "entrepreneurs" involved.
Case in point is the then-mayor Peterson-approved Challenge Foundation Academy Indy, whose board includes two members of Strategic Capital Partners, a national real estate and investment firm Peterson worked for after he lost his re-election bid. The charter school is operated and funded by the Challenge Foundation, an anti-climate change promoter and libertarian outfit started in Texas in 1989, which has lavished millions of dollars to over 182 charter schools across the U.S. and is led by Georgia Gulf Corporation's John D. Bryan, a heavy Scott Walker donor and Koch Brothers acquaintance.
In a State Board of Accounts audit covering 2005-2007, investigators found several red flags concerning Challenge Foundation Academy Indy. First off, none of the applications for free and reduced school lunches were verified, the report of average daily membership at the school was turned in late, and from October 2006 to May 2007, payments made to Fifth Third Bank "were not supported by original bills or invoices." Even worse, auditors found that payments "were made to employees that were not included in the payroll system or on a salary schedule or contract" and that payroll taxes "were not properly withheld or remitted."
In what looks like a scratch-your-back-moment, in 2008 the Challenge Foundation handed Peterson's Mind Trust $486,400 to support its education fellowships given to Challenge Foundation Fellows.
Certainly, one must also ask what role the Peterson family businesses themselves may play in charterizing Indianapolis. The Precedent Companies, the Peterson family real estate development firm Bart headed before becoming mayor, was involved in renovating the new Stonegate Early College High School before it closed. Formerly known as the Lawrence Early College High School, the board there, which included Becky Skillman's educational point man, Virgil Madden, paid Precedent over $664,000 (noted on page 8 of the 2009 990s) for its work at the charter school. Precedent also has subsidized student scholarships to private Catholic schools in Indianapolis for several years now, as page 16B of the Criterion notes.
In reality, Peterson Construction Company is another candidate for "incubating" the city with charter schools.
Mind Trust Fellow Earl Martin Phalen has already thrown his hat into the corporate school ring, with plans to open six blended-learning Phalen Leadership Academies in Indy. Blended-learning incorporates hiring one or two teachers for an entire school and propping students in front of computers for the majority of the day. Low-paid staff watch over the kids in what Douglas Storm has called "the digital nursery." This comes as no surprise. The Mind Trust is in favor of increasing blended-learning throughout the United States.
The Bill Gates/Lilly-funded Mind Trust itself is a perfect example of the highly connected interlocking web of corporatists leading the Indiana school discussion.
As an Eli Lilly executive, Peterson has welcomed several current or former Lilly members onboard the Mind Trust, including former Mind Trust president Claire Fiddian-Green, Tony Bennett's pick to run the state's charter school authorizing board. If future mayors of Indianapolis turn down Mind Trust-supported charter schools, Fiddian-Green can approve them.
In 2010, David Harris was paid $185,860 and $13,744 in "other compensation" to spearhead the Mind Trust.
Then there's board member and mega-media celebrity Jane Pauley, whose son Ross once directed MATCH Corps Recruiting in Boston, a tutor-training ground for Teach for America and cheap-labor charter school hires.
Andy Rotherham, a Mind Trust board member, recently celebrated releasing publically the ratings of NYC teachers based solely on the fallacy of student test scores, so expect a similar public lynching of teachers in Indianapolis if the Mind Trust plan becomes implemented.
Rotherham is notorious for dispensing Bill Gates-backed pseudo-research which calls for dismantling public education and de-professionalizing teachers.
In 2006, Rotherham's Education Sector published Marguerite Roza's "Frozen Assets: Rethinking Teacher Contracts Could Free Billions for School Reform," which was funded by the Joyce Foundation, another Mind Trust donor. In this report, Roza, now senior data and economic advisor at the Gates Foundation, outlines how corporate-run schools could win $77 billion in annual public school funds if more students were herded into classes and teachers were stopped from getting master's degrees, since professional teachers are paid more than rookie teachers and have too generous health plans.
Bill Gates, in fact, is the shadowy figure behind the Mind Trust (as he is at Mitch Daniels' Education Roundtable, the U.S. Department of Education, and numerous other corporate school organizations). His foundation funds Mind Trust's CEE-Trust, the Diploma Plus program, Teach Plus, and the New Teacher Project, all part of the Mind Trust plan for Indianapolis. Gates also funds Stand for Children, the front-group the Mind Trust imported to Indiana.
Gates uses money he doesn't pay in taxes to "give back," not to communities that buy his products but to school choice corporatists who will profit now and in the future.
And "profit" is the key word here, as school activist Jonathan Kozol revealed in Harpers in 2007, after being slipped a stock-market prospectus from a Wall Street friend detailing how privatizing public education could swell the pockets of hedge fund managers like those who run the astroturf Democrats for Education Reform, whose Indiana branch leader applauds the Mind Trust plan.
Kozol writes:" From the point of view of private profit, one of these [Wall Street] analysts enthusiastically observes, "the K-12 market is the Big Enchilada."
Indianapolis parents and school children, you're the meat in this Big Enchilada, and you're about to get swallowed.
A Walt Whitman scholar and Hoosier who holds a Ph.D. from Oklahoma State University, Doug Martin's exposures of the corporate education movement have appeared or been referenced in the Associated Press, the Parents Across America blog, the Washington Post Answer Sheet blog, Charter School Scandals, Susan Ohanian's Testing Atrocities and Outrages, NPR/State Impact Florida, the Pulp (Broward-Palm Beach New Times), the Indianapolis Star, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, HoosierEd.com, and Firedoglake, among others. He blogs at Common Errant.
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