African-American Opt-Out In Delaware, Part 1: The Lomax Factor

The next time you see a civil rights organization or leader trotting out the “Testing Is A Civil Right” rhetoric, check them out at the Gates Foundation website and see just how much payola they’re taking.

Over the past year, the question of opting your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment has been one of the biggest issues in Delaware.  Many parents have made the choice, despite the Governor, the Delaware Department of Education, and certain school districts and charters resisting the movement.  One group in Delaware has not made a lot of noise about opt-out though.  The African-American community.  I have often wondered why this is.  After all, history has shown a clear pattern on standardized assessments of African-Americans not performing as well as their peers.

For many, this is the heart of the problem.  Some, such as Governor Markell, feel that all children can perform well on these tests if given the right amount of rigor, instruction, and leadership in our schools.  Others feel as though the issues facing many of the children in the African-American community in our cities like Wilmington and Dover, such as crime and poverty, are harmful and transparent factors in preventing a student’s educational success.  The Governor will not accept the “status quo” but really doesn’t do much to change the environment many of these students live in.  I believe the Governor thinks education can overcome the obstacles these children face at home, but when you talk to the teachers in many of these schools they don’t see it.

When opt-out was reaching its height in the 2014-2015 school year, civil rights groups voiced strong objection to the opt-out movement.  They felt it would cause African-American students to become further behind.  Despite laws preventing schools and teachers from opting kids out, these groups were very public about their point of view.  Leading these voices was Michael Lomax, the President of the United Negro College Fund.  As opt-out becomes a major issue again with the potential override of Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50, the Rodel Foundation and civil rights groups in Wilmington are bringing Lomax to town to speak about education for African-Americans.

Lomax

On January 14th, from 6pm-8pm, Lomax will speak to citizens of Delaware at the Christina Cultural Arts Center (CCAC) in Wilmington.  The event is sponsored by the Parents Advocacy Council for Education, a program from the CCAC, The Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League (MWUL), and the Wilmington Education Strategies Think Tank (WESTT).  But the real kicker is the next entity behind this event, which comes directly from the flyer for it: “Made possible in part by the Rodel Foundation of Delaware”.  All of these groups were very vocal with their opposition to the opt-out movement last spring, and some even took out an ad in the News Journal right before critical Senate votes on House Bill 50.

How does Michael Lomax, the President of the United Negro Fund, feel about opt-out?  He is dead set in his beliefs this is not the right path for African-American students.  Even though several civil rights groups joined in unison last year in support of the movement, others are sticking with their guns and fighting the movement.  What is causing this radical shift in thought among different groups?

Some, such as the popular blog called Perido Street School, believe there is a direct correlation between civil rights groups fighting opt-out and how much money they receive from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  The Gates Foundation has long been a proponent for the Common Core, standardized testing, teacher reform, and charter schools.  In fact, Lomax has written about how his grandchildren attend a charter school in Louisiana.  Last April, Lomax wrote an editorial in the New York Daily News about opt-out.

By opting out, parents do a disservice to all children, not just their own. Without an ample number of test takers, we will lose perspective on how our children are truly doing against the higher bar. This is especially important for students who need a better education the most: children of color, children from low-income families and those who require special education services or are learning English.

On its face, Lomax is absolutely right on several of his points in the article.  African-American students do have a history of not receiving equitable services compared to their Caucasian peers.  But the problem becomes what happens when those very same issues are continually brought up again and again so education consultants and vendors can profit off of the need to fix these problems.  Setting a higher bar all but ensures that there will always be proficiency gaps and attempts needed to get children to the point where they can reach this mythical end point.  The bar will always change to allow for more Wall Street intervention in our schools.

At the forefront of the civil rights groups is Michael Lomax.  He has spouted the same rhetoric about African-American students ever since he became the President of the United Negro College Fund in 2004.  In 2009, Lomax took part in a large education debate sponsored by the Philanthropy Roundtable in New York City.  Lomax made his feelings about teachers and unions very clear during his part in the debate:

The unions, superintendents, and school boards make up hundreds of hunkered-down intransigent, vigilant, resistant, inert status quo guardians guarding these gates.

He refuses to accept the possibility that the problems facing so many African-American students come from outside of the school.  He actually thinks education will bring African-American students out of poverty, as he wrote in a joint letter to the editor in the Washington Post:

Apologists for our educational failure say that we will never fix education in America until we eradicate poverty.  They have it exactly backward: We will never eradicate poverty until we fix education.  The question is whether we have the political courage to take on those who defend a status quo that serves many adults but fails many children.

For Lomax, the status quo has served him very well.  In Delaware, the figure for low-income status varies, but depending on family size, the average could be anywhere between $20-$25,000.00.  If you added the figures for 22 families at $25,000 for their annual income, Lomax would still make more.  According to that link, Lomax made $458,000 in 2014.  In 2013, with bonuses, he made $700,000.  The event in Wilmington, made possible in part by the Rodel Foundation, has their CEO making $343,000 a year.  It is very easy for these groups and “education leaders” to tell people how bad education is because it is obvious they get paid handsomely for doing so.

The United Negro College Fund received many donations from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation over the past seven years.  Over $1.5 billion dollars in donations.  As Perido Street School wrote in the top quote in this article, it would not be good for folks like Lomax to support opt-out at the risk of losing such generous sums of money.

Now it’s possible that Michael Lomax, CEO of the United Negro College Fund, would love testing and Common Core without the billion and a half+ in cash his organization has received from the Gates Foundation to fund scholarships.  But getting that kind of help from Gates sure does cut down on the time the organization has to spend fundraising and you can bet neither Lomax nor the United Negro College Fund want to lose that source of funding.  Now I dunno if somebody at the Gates Foundation called in a chit and “suggested” Lomax write his pro-testing screed or if Lomax just decided to be pro-active on his own and do it himself.  But you can bet it’s not an accident that a national civil rights organization that is receiving over a billion and a half dollars in cash from the Gates Foundation is pushing an education reform agenda that makes the Gates Foundation happy.

I have no doubt it is integral to Lomax’ financial wealth to continue to perpetuate the beliefs of the corporate education reformers.  He hangs out with some of the most vocal proponents of those who profit off the backs of students, teachers, and schools.  They are given the ability to raid state and local funding for their agendas and are given full support and approval by the United States Department of Education.  Folks like Joel Klein from Amplify, who was also brought in by Rodel to speak about education at $100 a seat last September.  The two of them helped to write the Washington Post editorial linked above.  In February, Lomax wrote an editorial for a website called Real Clear Education about the upcoming ESEA reauthorization.  This letter was written with Rahm Emanuel, the former Chief of Staff for President Obama and the current Mayor of Chicago, who is also a lightning rod for controversy these days.  In fact, Lomax is cited as one of the key people involved in the creation of state longitudinal data systems (SLDS) which are collecting a massive amount of data and personal information on students according to this article in the  Huffington Post.  These SLDS initiatives, with federal funding and massive amounts of money from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation circumvent around appropriate laws to protect student data by allowing education vendors and outside companies to see much of this data.

Does Wilmington really need another supposed trumpeter of civil rights coming to town to tell us how bad African-American students are doing in our schools and how much our teachers need to change?  If you are the Rodel Foundation and Governor Markell, the timing could not be more advantageous.  Rodel and Markell are fierce opponents of parental rights when it comes to the opt-out movement.  They do not believe parents have any rights when it comes to testing.  They would rather see parents lose sleep over making the opt-out choice and have them fight with difficult charter schools and districts than allow a law to pass that would give them protection when making a fundamental and Constitutional supported decision.  When the arguments heat up over opt-out, Rodel decides to bring a very big weapon to town.  I do not believe it is mere coincidence Lomax will be speaking on the very same day the Delaware PTA is having an opt-out rally outside Legislative Hall and State Rep. John Kowalko may bring up the override question to the Delaware House of Representatives.  This is how Rodel operates, in my opinion.  This event was just announced yesterday, the day after a very controversial article about opt-out in the News Journal.

I will be exploring the issue of opt-out, especially for African-American students in Delaware, at greater length.  But for the people going to see Mr. Lomax speak next week, I would urge all to question a few things: “Why now?”, “How much is he getting paid to speak”, “Would he feel the same way if he was making the same amount of money as the students’ families he claims to want to lift up out of poverty?”, and “Would he be willing to go to the roughest neighborhoods in Wilmington after his speech tonight and hang out with the folks on the street for a few hours?”

Great Oaks Charter Charging $100 A Seat To Hear Joel Klein Talk About Education

I really had to crack up when I saw this.  For those of you who have never heard of Joel Klein, he is the former New York City Chancellor of Schools and currently sits as the Chief Executive Officer for Amplify.  Amplify has been in the news quite a bit lately as the company tanked in spectacular fashion and News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch dropped Amplify like a bad habit.  Klein likes to claim credit for reforming NYC schools, but he was appointed as Chancellor without the credentials necessary for that role and no classroom experience.  His huge offering from Amplify?  A tablet that caught fire and only one state bought it in mass quantities.

This isn’t his first rodeo in Delaware.  He spoke at a Vision 2015 gig back in 2010, also a gotta pay to get in event.  Weeks prior to that, the New York Times reported Klein chickened out from speaking during a protest by parents.  Why were the parents upset?  New York Times wrote:

The upheaval began after Mr. Klein, among others on the stage, said that despite the drop in this year’s scores after the state recalibrated its standardized exams, students citywide were still making substantial progress, based on graduation rates and other data.

Say, didn’t we hear something very similar this month in Delaware when the Smarter Balanced Assessment results were released?  But I digress…

What is Klein’s connections with Greak Oaks?  Because we know there is always a connection in the corporate education reform game.  He knows the Great Oaks founder, Michael Duffy, very well.  Duffy ran the NYC Charter School Office from 2007-2010 when Klein was Chancellor.  And Duffy probably knows Rodel’s Dr. Paul Herdman pretty well, because they both worked under former Massachusetts Governor William Weld back in the 1990s.  I bring up Herdman because Rodel is really promoting this gig.

Great Oaks is a charter chain with schools in NYC and Newark, NJ.  They opened a charter in Wilmington last month.  What is Great Oaks all about?  Technology in the classroom, personalized learning, and modeling themselves after a failed chain of schools from Sweden.  In an article for The Spectator, Duffy wrote:

On my most recent visit to the UK, I visited a school in Twickenham run by the innovative Swedish network of schools known as Kunskapsskolan (‘knowledge school’). Their approach is to tailor education to each child, with goals set between the student, a tutor and the child’s parents.

I wrote about this huge school voucher privatization failure in Sweden last year.  And take a wild guess which school chain was at the top of the list of these failed schools?  Kunskapsskolan!

Klein is coming to town to promote his book, Lessons of Hope.  It is all about his time as NYC Chancellor.  I wonder who wrote this description of the book on Amazon?

Lessons of Hope is Klein’s inside account of his eight-year mission of improvement: demanding accountability, eliminating political favoritism, and battling a powerful teachers union that seemed determined to protect a status quo that didn’t work for kids. Klein’s initiatives resulted in more school choice, higher graduation rates, and improved test scores. The New York City model is now seen as a national standard for meaningful school reform. But the journey was not easy. Klein faced resistance and conflict at every turn.

And what of Klein’s connections with our very own Delaware Governor Jack Markell?  We know they have met before and even though Klein and Markell never email each other, at least through official state channels, it’s obvious they have the same ideals.  As Markell publicly stated during the 2012 Democratic National Convention, “I have no problem with business executives running for office, after all, I am one.”  And apparently running the schools for one of the largest cities in the country thrives on that same business executive mentality.  But Klein left his role (it was rumored then Mayor Bloomberg was about to boot him out), and went to start up Amplify.  And even though Amplify is in the midst of financial controversy, the Delaware Department of Education seems to have no problem handing them money.  Between Amplify and their former name of Wireless Generation, Delaware taxpayers through the DOE have given this company $11,530,850.00 since Fiscal Year 2011 and it doesn’t look like that is going to stop anytime soon since many schools are currently using Amplify’s latest testing products.

Back to Great Oaks, this new charter school in the Community Education Building in Wilmington, is run by Kia Childs who was a leader at Mastery Charter Schools and Southwest Leadership Academy Charter School.  Touting the school as bringing kids to success by using tutors, Duffy talks about the school here:

In a very odd coincidence, both Great Oaks and Freire opened up shop in Wilmington this year.  They are both charter chains.  They are both backed by some serious cash.  And neither of them show up as schools on Delaware Online Checkbook.  Is it because they are new schools?  Nope.  Delaware Design Lab High School is listed.  So how can you find out how much money these schools are paying out?  To do that, you have to actually go to “Dept of Education continued” to find Great Oaks Charter School and Freire.  I guess that answer’s this question concerning Delaware Online Checkbook, DOE, and Great Oaks.  How convenient…

But in the case of Klein’s not-so-cheap visit to Great Oaks, interested attendees have to pay the piper to hear him talk about a book about himself.  But don’t worry educators, it’s only $25 for you!  Should a public school be able to charge outrageous prices to hear a guy stroke his ego?  And where are the proceeds going? In Klein’s pocket or into the classroom to help the children of the school?  This event is to “celebrate the launch of our school”, but it sounds like what should be a free and public event is for the Richy Rich crowd.

Fellow blogger Kilroy was not happy about Klein’s first visit to Delaware back in 2010 during another Rodel sponsored event when the tickets were only $50.00.  How will he react now that the price has doubled in five years?  You don’t have to pay $100 to hear Klein pimp his book though.  You can watch it here, if you have the stomach for it:

Hey, did you see that sign behind him?  Is that the Aspen Institute?  The same corporate education reform “fellowship” “think-tank” Markell, Herdman and soon to be former Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy all belong to?  Yes, they all pal around together, our little destroyers of public education!

The Governor Markell FOIA Release: Rodel, Herdman, RTTT, Common Core, and guess who’s coming to town…

For those who may not be aware, I requested a Freedom of Information Act request from Delaware Governor Jack Markell’s office on December 3rd, 2014.  I received it today, January 12th, 2015.  My request was for all emails between Markell and the following individuals: US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, Joel Klein (of Amplify) and Paul Herdman of The Rodel Foundation of Delaware.

Some things are obvious from this FOIA release.  Governor Jack Markell does not communicate big education matters via email.  At least not his official state email.  For a Governor that pushes education so much, you would think there would be more communication with his partner on the Education Blueprint.  Some questions that are answered in this: Continue reading

Delaware Race To The Top, Hedge Funds & Millions Wasted: The Story of Rodel, Markell, Charters & The Vision Network

Dr. Paul Herdman  and Governor Markell have a long history in Delaware in the 21st Century.  Their collaborations have resulted in the biggest changes to education the state has seen in decades.  Name any education change since Markell became Governor, and Rodel’s been a part of it.  And they are making a lot of money off these changes!

As part of my blog, I find out information about education in our state, and recently Rodel had their latest Vision conference where they focused on personalized learning, with a whole education reform agenda yet to be revealed to the mass public, sponsored by a company called 2Revolutions.  Rodel has a long history in the world of corporate education reform.  But what if I told you they aren’t doing it for the love of education and students, but pure profit? Continue reading

The Truth About Education Reform, Charter Schools, Standardized Testing & Big Profits @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @dwablog @nannyfat @ecpaige @TNJ_malbringt @DeDeptofEd #netde #eduDe #edchat

In a recent article in Politico magazine, entitled “The Plot Against Public Education: How Millionaires and Billionaires Are Ruining Our Schools”, writer Bob Hebert gave an excellent breakdown of how the education reform began and who profits the most from it.  As I’m sure we all know, it’s not the students or the teachers.  Billions of dollars have been wasted on this “reform” with no increase in results over time.  It all started with Bill Gates and has spiraled downhill from there.

Tonight is the Wilmington City Council meeting, and Delaware Secretary Of Education Mark Murphy will be in attendance to discuss the priority schools with the council.  Someone should give each council member a copy of this article so they know what the true endgame is here.

I’ve posted a link to the article, and a big thanks to State Representative Paul Baumbach for posting it over on Delaware Liberal.  The below quote are two questions that parents should be asking themselves at this point in time.

Those who are genuinely interested in improving the quality of education for all American youngsters are faced with two fundamental questions: First, how long can school systems continue to pursue market-based reforms that have failed year after demoralizing year to improve the education of the nation’s most disadvantaged children? And second, why should a small group of America’s richest individuals, families, and foundations be allowed to exercise such overwhelming—and often such toxic—influence over the ways in which public school students are taught?

Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/10/the-plot-against-public-education-111630.html#ixzz3FfXytA7C