Perspectives in Education: Mary Nolan

 

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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