Thursday, May 02, 2013

Walmart heirs invest in Rhee's Students First

Laura Clawson.
StudentsFirst has been having a rough week, what with the bad publicity around their choice of one of the authors of Tennessee's "Don't Say Gay" bill as "reformer of the year." The organization repudiated the bill in response, but didn't disown the legislator. In the meantime they've been blasted by the Los Angeles County Democratic Party and many Democrats nationally who are realizing just how poisonous Michelle Rhee's agenda is. But it's also been a good week for StudentsFirst financially: The Walton Family Foundation is donating $8 million over two years. Sorry, not donating. "Investing."
Think about that for a minute. When the Walmart heirs take a break from paying workers so little they qualify for food stamps and refusing to pay Bangladeshi contractors enough to have fire extinguishers in their factories, their philanthropic agenda is right in line with the Michelle Rhee education policy agenda. This isn't a first, either; $8 million over two years represents an increase in the Walmart investment in StudentsFirst, but the Waltons have already been a substantial source of money, giving $3 million to StudentsFirst since late 2010. StudentsFirst is also only one of many corporate education policy groups the Waltons have backed to the tune of $1 billion so far. Just what might a family whose vast wealth comes from low-wage labor and fierce anti-unionism like so much about so-called education reform? There's the obvious effort to bust teachers unions. But there's more than that. As I wrote last year:
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And, the Rhee agenda fails in the California Senate.  For now.

Legislation that would alter how California schools judge teachers flunked another test on Tuesday, failing to advance for the second time in a week.
The Senate Education Committee decided to reconsider the bill after deadlocking last week on a 4-4 vote (it needed five to pass), with Democrats and Republicans falling on both sides. The bill's author, Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, said he had altered his legislation to try and persuade opponents to shift their stance.
Currently, districts are required only to rank teachers as satisfactory or unsatisfactory. Senate Bill 441would create four different grades, which Calderon said is essential for allowing schools to flag the lowest-performing educators, and would increase the frequency of evaluations for veteran teachers from at least every five years to at least every three years.
Calderon said he had amended the bill to emphasize that a section calling for more parent input would not affect collectively bargained contracts. He said he had no intention of dictating how schools would implement the new four-tiered grading system.
Report on the legislation from the Sacramento Bee/ Capitol Alert.

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