Sunday, January 29, 2012

Cheap labor: Our children in their corporate context

Those curious about what happens to unskilled high school graduates in South Carolina -- and the choices made for them by corporate titans whose interest is the bottom line, the profit margin -- would do well to read Adam Davidson's "Making It in America," a feature in the current edition of "The Atlantic" magazine.

Davidson enjoyed his visit to Greenville and Easley -- "a largely charmless place, thick with chain restaurants and shopping centers" -- to meet 22-year-old Maddie Parlier at nearby Standard Motor Products.

The last time I visited the factory, Maddie was training a new worker. Teaching her to operate the machine took just under two minutes. Maddie then spent about 25 minutes showing her the various instructions Standard engineers have prepared to make certain that the machine operator doesn’t need to use her own judgment. “Always check your sheets,” Maddie says.

By the end of the day, the trainee will be as proficient at the laser welder as Maddie. This is why all assembly workers have roughly the same pay grade—known as Level 1—and are seen by management as largely interchangeable and fairly easy to replace. A Level 1 worker makes about $13 an hour, which is a little more than the average wage in this part of the country. The next category, Level 2, is defined by Standard as a worker who knows the machines well enough to set up the equipment and adjust it when things go wrong. The skilled machinists like Luke are Level 2s, and make about 50 percent more than Maddie does.

For Maddie to achieve her dreams—to own her own home, to take her family on vacation to the coast, to have enough saved up so her children can go to college—she’d need to become one of the advanced Level 2s. A decade ago, a smart, hard-working Level 1 might have persuaded management to provide on-the-job training in Level-2 skills. But these days, the gap between a Level 1 and a 2 is so wide that it doesn’t make financial sense for Standard to spend years training someone who might not be able to pick up the skills or might take that training to a competing factory.

A high school graduate with no college education, Parlier is classified as an unskilled "Level 1" worker whose job exists only because hiring unskilled Level 1 workers is still less expensive than buying electronic robot arms to do the task she does.

Davidson learns from factory manager Tony Scalzitti, Parlier's employer,

Tony explains that Maddie has a job for two reasons. First, when it comes to making fuel injectors, the company saves money and minimizes product damage by having both the precision and non-precision work done in the same place. Even if Mexican or Chinese workers could do Maddie’s job more cheaply, shipping fragile, half-finished parts to another country for processing would make no sense.

Second, Maddie is cheaper than a machine. It would be easy to buy a robotic arm that could take injector bodies and caps from a tray and place them precisely in a laser welder. Yet Standard would have to invest about $100,000 on the arm and a conveyance machine to bring parts to the welder and send them on to the next station. As is common in factories, Standard invests only in machinery that will earn back its cost within two years.

For Tony, it’s simple: Maddie makes less in two years than the machine would cost, so her job is safe—for now. If the robotic machines become a little cheaper, or if demand for fuel injectors goes up and Standard starts running three shifts, then investing in those robots might make sense.

“What worries people in factories is electronics, robots,” she tells me. “If you don’t know jack about computers and electronics, then you don’t have anything in this life anymore. One day, they’re not going to need people; the machines will take over. People like me, we’re not going to be around forever.”

This young South Carolinian has a job because she's cheaper than a machine.

Let's stand back and look at this in a larger context: South Carolina's children are seen by corporate employers as business expenses of various sizes. If the business expense is smaller than the cost of a machine, then our children are added to the payroll.

And what does being added to the payroll mean? Does it mean they have a career?

No, it means the corporation is spending the least amount of its profit margin to yield the greatest production value -- and in most cases, offering the least (or no) health insurance coverage, the least (or no) retirement benefit package, the least (or no) opportunity for education or advancement within the corporation, and the least (or no) freedom and autonomy in self-determination.

As an expense to the corporation, the cost of our children -- our most precious legacy in life, and the vessel into which we pour all of our resources -- is weighed against the cost of a machine to produce the same value to the corporation. When the moment arrives that a machine is cheaper than our children, thus yielding a greater profit to the corporation, our children will be abandoned.

How much is your child worth to its corporate assessor?

Davidson views Parlier, and those like her, in a historical context:

Productivity, in and of itself, is a remarkably good thing. Only through productivity growth can the average quality of human life improve. Because of higher agricultural productivity, we don’t all have to work in the fields to make enough food to eat. Because of higher industrial productivity, few of us need to work in factories to make the products we use.

In theory, productivity growth should help nearly everyone in a society. When one person can grow as much food or make as many car parts as 100 used to, prices should fall, which gives everyone in that society more purchasing power; we all become a little richer. In the economic models, the benefits of productivity growth should not go just to the rich owners of capital. As workers become more productive, they should be able to demand higher salaries.

Throughout much of the 20th century, simultaneous technological improvements in both agriculture and industry happened to create conditions that were favorable for people with less skill. The development of mass production allowed low-skilled farmers to move to the city, get a job in a factory, and produce remarkably high output. Typically, these workers made more money than they ever had on the farm, and eventually, some of their children were able to get enough education to find less-dreary work.

In that period of dramatic change, it was the highly skilled craftsperson who was more likely to suffer a permanent loss of wealth. Economists speak of the middle part of the 20th century as the “Great Compression,” the time when the income of the unskilled came closest to the income of the skilled.

The double shock we’re experiencing now—globalization and computer-aided industrial productivity—happens to have the opposite impact: income inequality is growing, as the rewards for being skilled grow and the opportunities for unskilled Americans diminish.

Bur Parlier is a person, not a historical fact, and the group of South Carolinians she represents makes up a large part of the state's population and workforce. So, can it be said that South Carolina and America, as a state and a government, have helped Parlier and her contemporaries in the workforce find meaningful careers, or that they have simply produced Parlier and her contemporaries as inexpensive options for corporate entities?

Davidson ponders it:

I went to South Carolina, and spent so much time with Maddie, precisely because these issues are so large and so overwhelming. I wanted to see how this shift affected regular people’s lives. I didn’t come away with a handy list of policies that would solve all the problems of unskilled workers, but I did note some principles that seem important to improving their situation.

It’s hard to imagine what set of circumstances would reverse recent trends and bring large numbers of jobs for unskilled laborers back to the U.S. Our efforts might be more fruitfully focused on getting Maddie the education she needs for a better shot at a decent living in the years to come. Subsidized job-training programs tend to be fairly popular among Democrats and Republicans, and certainly benefit some people. But these programs suffer from all the ills in our education system; opportunities go, disproportionately, to those who already have initiative, intelligence, and—not least—family support.

So those who have, get; those who have not, get not.

Sound familiar?

David Brooks, columnist for the New York Times, noticed Davidson's article and commented on Parlier's circumstance in a column last week. "A good attitude and hustle have taken Parlier as far as they can. It’s hard, given her situation, to acquire the skills she needs to realize the American dream," he writes.

Across America, millions of mothers can’t rise because they don’t have adequate support systems as they try to improve their skills. Tens of millions of children have poor life chances because they grow up in disorganized environments that make it hard to acquire the social, organizational and educational skills they will need to become productive workers.

I would prefer that Brooks concern himself more with helping young people become productive citizens than productive workers, as America is a nation of citizens, not just a generator of workers. But his emphasis on helping young people attain "social, organizational and educational skills" is spot-on.

Are we, as a state, doing what's necessary to ensure that our children become productive citizens?

Ponder that, then ask: Are we, as a state, doing what's necessary to ensure that our children become cheap workers?

What a symposium these two questions would make.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Haley to state's children: Want state parks? Pay up.

If you live in NORTH Carolina, your access to all of North Carolina's state parks is absolutely free. Even after the new conservative legislature imposed some fees for some services last year, admission remains free statewide.

That's because in North Carolina, people regard some spaces, programs and services as necessary to promoting a high quality of life for all its citizens. So North Carolinians support those spaces, programs and services with tax dollars, and just as public libraries are free to visit, state parks are free to visit, too.

It's no wonder North Carolina ranks consistently high for its quality of life.

This is especially beneficial to North Carolina's working poor, and their children. Where else can they go for outdoor recreation, not to mention for sheer enjoyment of natural beauty, if they don't live happen to live at the country club?

But here in South Carolina, the working poor and their children -- indeed, all of us -- have to fork over several dollars per person just to get inside, which means the working poor and their children likely don't go to their state parks.

We have some beautiful state parks (and state historic sites) and a dedicated -- and tiny -- staff of park rangers and interpreters. I can see charging out-of-state visitors a fee to enjoy our parks. That makes perfect sense. But our own citizens? Don't the parks belong to us?

Now, even though admission fees pay for 83 percent of the cost of running our state parks already, Governor Nikki Haley says the parks cost too much of the state treasury. Rather than making our state parks a perk of living in South Carolina -- where perks are few and far between for the less-than-wealthy -- her goal is to make the parks completely self-sufficient. That means charging everyone -- even South Carolinians, as if we're just customers in our own state -- more. And if they happen, one day, to start turning a profit for the state, so much the better...

After a yearlong review, South Carolina's 47 state parks will remain within the state Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism with a goal of making park operations pay for themselves by the end of next year.

When Gov. Nikki Haley took office last year, she asked for a review of the parks system with an eye toward whether the parks might be more efficiently administered by the state Department of Natural Resources.

After traveling from the mountains to the sea visiting all the state's parks, PRT Director Duane Parrish recently presented the governor with a report on the status of the park system. The park system began during the Great Depression with 15 parks carved out of the wild by workers with the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Ah, the Civilian Conservation Corps, a federal program initiated under Franklin Roosevelt to create jobs for American's working poor, to help the nation get out of an economic downturn. Where have good ideas like that gone today?

The 80,000-acre state park system features 3,000 campsites, 144 cabins, 80 hotel rooms, two golf courses, and more than 300 miles of hiking and riding trails.

The report makes four main recommendations:

-- That state parks remain under PRT to better market and develop the parks.

Marketing in North Carolina: Letting people know that their state parks are free and open to the public, almost every day of the year.

Marketing in South Carolina: Letting people know that if you want free state parks, move to North Carolina. Ours cost money to visit. Poor folks might want to stay home, put some lawn chairs in the yard and string some tin cans together for the kiddies to play with.

-- That steps be taken so park operations, which last year cost about $24 million to operate, are self-sufficient by the end of 2013.

Self-sufficient: Run like a business, so that when costs go up, you either raise admission prices and other fees, or you fire some park staff, or both. Making parks self-sufficient brings us one step closer to privatizing them altogether.

-- That deferred maintenance needs be prioritized and other sources of money be found to pay for such maintenance.

"Other sources" means not public dollars. Spending public dollars to maintain public parks might send the wrong message; for example, that all of South Carolina's citizens are welcome to attend, when we all know...

-- That revenue bonds be considered for capital projects, such as water attractions at state parks that will produce additional revenue.

Which means Disney-fication of the state parks. Can you see it? Long lines at the Swamp Fox roller coaster ride? Maurice Bessenger could get the state concessions contract: Piggies in the Parks!

The report also found the state's parks have almost $155 million in deferred maintenance needs. It found five must be accomplished within five years to avoid closing some areas because of safety concerns.

Translation: We've done such a poor job of funding needed maintenance, repairs and renovations with existing revenues that our some of our state park features are in danger of being completely closed.

Oh, well. Those who live close enough to the border can cross and enjoy North Carolina's state parks. This year's theme: "Naturally Wonderful."

You know what you could do for free in South Carolina?

Here the past, present and future of BMW come together in a one-of-a-kind building. See the cars, the speed, the innovation–all for free in the only BMW museum in North America. The Zentrum is more than just a museum; it’s a meeting and events center, a cafe, a gallery and a history lesson–all wrapped into one ultimate experience. Located next to the only BMW manufacturing plant in the U.S., this unique place offers something for everyone.

Thanks to massive corporate tax breaks -- courtesy of you and me -- BMW allows us to come and visit their museum in Greenville.

Poor folks, load up the kids and come to Greenville. And make it a two-fer! Greenville's close enough to the North Carolina border that you might spend half a day at some North Carolina state parks, for only the price of gas.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Chesterfield forum to discuss search for new supt

Chesterfielders, don't miss this opportunity.

The S.C. School Board Association will be holding community meetings to give the public an opportunity to give input on what characteristics, experiences, and professional traits the board should look for in the recruitment, screening and selection process of the new superintendent of Chesterfield County School District.

The public is invited to attend community forum meetings scheduled for Monday, Jan. 30, at New Heights Middle School in Jefferson at 6:30 p.m., and Thursday, Feb. 2, at the Palmetto Learning Center in Chesterfield at 6:30 p.m.
New Heights Middle School is located at 5738 Highway 151 in Jefferson and the Palmetto Learning Center is located at 116 Edwards Road in Chesterfield.
Discussion will last about one hour.

The S.C. School Boards Association is working with the Chesterfield County School Board on its superintendent search. More information will be provided regarding the search process during the meeting.

Current Chesterfield County Superintendent Dr. John E. Williams will be retiring at the end of this school year.

Wanted: DHEC head, skilled in health, environment issues

Failing that, a demonstrated bias against South Carolina's working class will do.

File this one in the folder labeled "Questionable appointments by Governor Nikki Haley," right behind her replacement of the University of South Carolina's largest single benefactor, Darla Moore, with a campaign contributor on the university's board of trustees. Stamp it "Service to Haley and ideology trumps service to state and people."

The state's health and environmental permitting agency is poised to get a pro-business Lowcountry lawyer as its new leader.

Catherine Templeton was selected Wednesday as the head of S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control by the agency's board.

Templeton, 41, of Mount Pleasant, is an attorney who has specialized in "union avoidance" in private practice and represented businesses in employee lawsuits. She is the S.C. Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation director, appointed last year by Gov. Nikki Haley, who has pushed for easing regulations on businesses.
She takes over as commissioner of an agency that may be the state's most unwieldy -- deciding permits for everything from hospital beds to industrial air emissions and waste disposal. Its lengthy, complex permitting system is criticized even by environmental and health advocates who push for tighter regulations.

DHEC sounds like a huge and important state system, with a lot of important responsibilities in serving our people. Sounds like it requires someone with a long history in agency management, probably a deep knowledge of health and environmental issues.

Let's check what Templeton brings:

Current position: S.C. Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation director, 1 year.

Background: A private practice attorney, who has specialized in union avoidance.

Education: Wofford College, University of South Carolina School of Law graduate.

Hm. Okay, well, she has one year of experience managing a state agency -- a small one -- and she has a law degree. But she must bring some sort of background in health and environment issues that isn't obvious. Otherwise, why would a governor appoint her to such an important position, overseeing such a large and important agency?

Templeton listed no background in health or environmental science on her application.

Hm. There went that theory.

Did we not have anyone else in the state who brought experience in agency management, or awareness of health and environmental issues? Did no one else apply?

She was voted as director over Pam Dukes, a DHEC deputy commissioner, and Ingo Angermeier, a Spartanburg hospital system chief executive.

This makes no sense. A DHEC deputy commissioner and a hospital chief executive applied, and their qualifications were inferior to the thin case that Templeton makes for the position?

Does this not sound bizarre to anyone else?

John Crangle of Common Cause of South Carolina, a public interest watchdog, called her hiring bizarre, given her background and worrisome for DHEC's regulatory authority.

So now it can be said, I have common cause with Common Cause.

He pointed out that the DHEC board earlier this month reversed a staff decision and approved the controversial Savannah River dredging project, after Haley asked her appointees to meet with Georgia officials.

"With a person like Catherine Templeton as director, there will be more of the same. She'll probably do what she's told to do and not what's good for the people of South Carolina," Crangle said.

Is that it? A yes-man or, in this case, a yes-woman in a position of vital importance?

After she interviewed Templeton for the LLR position last year, Haley said it felt like she was interviewing herself.

O, crikey. The ultimate narcissist found her mirror-image in another young woman with no applicable experience and no concern for the needs of working people. How can we tell them apart?

But, come on, DHEC is a large and complex agency. The director has real responsibilities. What does Haley expect Templeton to do there?

Templeton doesn't pull her punches. She has drawn controversy over LLR decisions from laying off workers to not moving to Columbia when she took the job. She said this week about her management, "When you go in and clean house, and you have to terminate 50 or 100 people, people don't like that. But we got better and got cheaper at the same time."

Ah -- it's about firing people. The appointment of Templeton means that Haley is a lot like the presidential candidate she endorsed and escorted across the state for two weeks: Like Mitt Romney, Haley likes to fire people, and Templeton is a skilled sacker.

Which means the poor at-will employees at DHEC should steel themselves: Heads are about to roll.

She calls the DHEC job a process geek's dream. Because the agency is so large, she said, she can look at bringing in economies of scale, eliminating redundancies, deciding whether some programs should be split off to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, and taking a new look at the bigger picture of just what DHEC should or shouldn't be doing.

Well, we know how consistent Haley is in her hatred of redundancies.

Maybe, now that she has much greater responsibilities to South Carolina's people, as head of a much larger agency, she's take her public service seriously enough to move to Columbia, where she can be readily accessible to the people she manages and the people she serves.

A mother of three, Templeton makes no bones about not having moved to Columbia. She won't do it for this job either.

"We're at 2012. People can do their job from anywhere. I have never been accused of a poor work ethic. I couldn't do any more sitting in an office in Columbia. When I'm needed, I'm there," she said.

This is what we have, instead of a serious government: A governor, and her mirror-image agency head, who do nothing useful and call it everything we've ever needed.

It's ours; we elected it.

Paving the road to Charleston with good intentions

I remember being a kid in school, seeing other students' parents there for any and every school activity there was. They were present so often that when they were absent, it was cause for alarm. Were they all right? Had they taken ill? Were they visiting family out-of-town?

My own parents didn't do that, and I knew well why. Both worked, full-time, to support a family with several children. We had no independent wealth, and no white-collar jobs in the household, so my folks were not familiar faces at my schools. Unlike the cases of my friends' parents, it was cause for concern when my mom and dad did come to school -- usually to pick up an ill child.

Certainly I wished that my folks were like my friends' folks in one way, that they had the sort of freedom that let them pop up for a pep rally, a choral recital, a school play, a ballgame, and to be woven into the fabric of a small school community. Reality was, they didn't have that freedom.

This is what came to mind when I read about the recommendation of a well-intending parent group in Charleston, who asked the local school board "to require parents or guardians to give eight hours of their time annually to their children's schools. Parents would receive a rating of 'highly engaged' or 'emerging' at the end of the year based on whether they fulfilled that commitment."

At least one board member was eager to hear it.

The school board didn't make a decision, but board members likely will consider it again at a future meeting. Their reactions were mixed. Some, such as member Cindy Bohn Coats, wholeheartedly supported the premise.

"I love it," she said. "When can we start?"
The proposal came from the Parents Roundtable, a group of parent representatives from schools across the district that has been meeting regularly with Superintendent Nancy McGinley since 2007. McGinley said she saw their idea as a proactive step that would raise awareness.
Hope Hannon is a member of the roundtable and has children at Fort Johnson Middle and Stiles Point Elementary. She said the Family Partnership Agreement would let parents know how they could get more involved, and that would help schools achieve their goals.

"We don't have anything that holds the family accountable," she said.

Hannon regularly volunteers at her children's schools, and she spent some of her time Thursday at Fort Johnson Middle, making copies for science classes and a band fundraiser, soliciting feedback from a teacher on the proposed agreement, and meeting with the school's guidance counselor. She doesn't want the agreement to be viewed as punitive or judgmental, and she doesn't think it is either the way it's written, she said.

Mmm. Well, let's see: "Highly-engaged" or "emerging." To "emerge" means "To rise from or as if from immersion," "To come forth from obscurity," "To become evident," or "To come into existence," as if their absence from chaperoning the school dance means they don't exist, or they're hidden, or unknown, or -- worst of all -- under water. The words are unfortunate; the concept more so.

Kids are stratified by the brands of polo shirts they wear, the brand of mp3 player they carry, the style of their shoes, the names on their jeans. Identifying one another by class and social strata begins way too early -- I know of a first-grader who wore a gold-nugget bracelet to school daily, a birthday gift from his car-dealership-owning dad. I wasn't the only one to notice, probably am not the only one who remembers it -- everyone noticed it, and probably many of his classmates and teachers remember it, so many years later. Making and leaving that impression was the purpose of the bracelet. It made a statement.

In high school, the strata are even more distinctly visible: One drives a new BMW SUV into the student parking lot, another a mid-90s Chevy; others ride the school bus through the senior year. The separatenesses are unavoidable in our society.

What is avoidable is drawing attention to them and their parents, and assigning some approbation to those parents in the least-bright-and-shiny strata. I suspect they're not "emerging," they may just be what we rather sanitizedly call the "working poor."

Laura Dobbins-Beeks, who has a senior at Academic Magnet High and serves on the roundtable, supports the agreement and took it a step further, saying parents' involvement needs to be meaningful. And Myrtice Brown, PTA president at Hursey Elementary, said this would give parents more ways to participate.

"It will make a difference in the lives of Charleston County students," she said.

No doubt it would.

I don't question the motives of this group of parents. Teachers, too, want every student's parents to be actively engaged. But that's the ideal, not the reality. And to establish a system to label parents positively or negatively, no matter how sweet the intention or the language, sets up one more kind of hierarchy for students to alternately celebrate or suffer.

Imagine it: It's not enough that my shoes, jeans and hair aren't the latest styles, or that my siblings and I share a hand-me-down Dodge when it runs (and, more often, ride the bus because it doesn't run), but now my mom and dad (who hold down a total of three service-industry jobs between them) are ranked "emerging" because both of them have to work, or because they earn wages rather than salaries, and punch a clock rather than telework or flex their schedules. They're under water; they're obscure; they're hidden; they don't exist.

Navigating school isn't tough enough for these students?

Not everyone is a fan of the proposal. Jon Butzon is director of the Charleston Education Network, a nonprofit education advocacy group. He thought it a mistake to do anything that sounded like evaluating parents when that's not happening in a more rigorous way for teachers and principals, he said.

If this is such a critical piece to schools' success, then schools need to do whatever it takes to make that happen, and that means teaching parents how to be involved, he said. Many of the parents who aren't engaged likely are the same ones who didn't finish their education, he said.

Beverly McCarty is a parent and director of the nonprofit Family Resource Center, which helps parents advocate for their special-needs children. McCarty believes strongly in parent involvement, but she questioned how parents would respond to the suggestion that they're not committed to their child's education. She often hears from parents who have personal experience with schools not doing what they should, she said.

"I would make sure (the schools) were doing everything you need to before you start judging whether others are doing it, too," she said. "This just doesn't make me feel comfortable."

If we really want to engineer some social change: Why not encourage our legislature to require employers to grant paid leave to employees for service to their children's schools? The costs aren't astronomical; businesses could write off the expense as charitable donations. Schools and the community would benefit from having more parent participation. Employers would benefit from having employees who know more and feel better about their children's school experience.


Heavy lift, that. Businesses don't want interference anyway, and employers don't want to pay for time not spent on the clock, and they frankly don't want anything that distracts their employee or complicates their management of their employee.

Which is, of course, why we are where we are.

So, why not just encourage parents to participate, and leave it at that?

Elsewhere in the Lowcountry, neither Berkeley nor Dorchester 2 schools require parent involvement, but both encourage it. School-based PTA groups manage volunteer programs in suburban Dorchester 2, and Berkeley school leaders are looking at ways to track and analyze the impact of their volunteers.

Although this kind of requirement would be new for Charleston, some successful public schools already are doing this. East Cooper Montessori Charter in Mount Pleasant is a charter school, which means it's a public school governed by a school-based board of parents and community members.

Doesn't that characterize a charter school, by definition? See, charter schools are set up and governed by parents who have the time and means to be highly-engaged, and that's great for them. Traditional public schools enroll the children of the rest of our community.

The excellent-rated school wrote in its charter application that parent volunteers would be integral to its academic and financial success, and parents are asked to volunteer 40 hours each year. School Principal Jody Swanigan said it saves the school money, citing the parent who volunteered to power-wash the school (a service the school typically would've paid for) or another who volunteered his paint crew's services. Parents have done everything from cutting out laminated materials, to reviewing proposed summer reading books, to volunteering as a reading buddies, she said.

We all want our schools to be like that, and our parents to have the time, the means and the freedom represented here. Reality is, they aren't, and they don't.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Duplicitous Gov. Haley, who hates duplication, duplicates.

A parable.

South Carolina has two things in abundance: A history of treating poorly those who earn their living by the sweat of their brow, and governors who look for more ways to treat poorly those who earn their living by the sweat of their brow.

We might as well post signs at the borders: "Abandon hope and your rights, all ye who enter to work here."

First, the record.

Governor Nikki Haley has made it part of her standard fare to rail against duplication of services. If a program provides a service over here, no other program is necessary to provide a service over there. Any secondary or tertiary programs which exist to provide the same or similar services must be annihilated. So let it be written, so let it be done.

The wealthy in Haley's world, it appears, deserve choices (school choice, anyone?), but the poor or the working class deserve only one option, NO duplication of services.

Why is duplication of services to be abhorred? It is wasteful. It is redundant. And it is wasteful, especially of taxpayer dollars. And, it is redundant, which is unnecessary and repetitive. Duplication is unnecessary. Therefore, Haley is opposed to it. For its wastefulness.

On April 1, 2009, when she was just dreaming of a Haley-like state (or hailing a dream-like state?), then-Representative Haley decreed on her website,

In the process, we will consider the economic, fiscal and outside impacts of each agency or program, including management process and structure as well as the extent to which these programs duplicate services, functions and programs administered by another federal or state agency. And in the end, we will eliminate areas of duplication, update missions and goals that need updating, and yes, we will phase out dated and inefficient programs that don’t address the 21st century priorities and needs of the people of our state.

Yes, under a Haley regime, no program or service will exist if another program or service exists. Two programs or services are redundant, which means one of them is wasteful and unnecessary, and the time and resources devoted to it are wasted. So let it be written, so let it be done.

Last June, testing out her veto pen, she trotted out the "duplication of services" trope in her instruction to Speaker Bobby Harrell to undo what he'd allowed to be done, for it was unnecessary and she didn't approve of its necessity, making it unnecessary.

In a polite letter to Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell, Governor Haley exercised her line item veto 35 times. Duplication of services, actions not in keeping with the core function of government and a preference for private funding were the top three reasons the governor listed for vetoing a host of different budget items.

So let it be written, so let it be done.Except that the legislature was apparently more appreciative of duplication of services, and wastefulness, and redundancy generally, for it found fit to override, in some cases, what Pharoah -- that is, Governor Haley -- had decreed and instructed.

Department of Education’s “High Schools That Work” Program ($1.4 million): Intended to help improve students’ transition from high school to college. Haley argued it duplicated programs already used in high schools and colleges. Legislature disagreed. Action: OVERRIDDEN

But Haley is nothing if not repetitive, and redundant, and sometimes exceptionally consistent. This month, she posted on her Facebook page the following bit of imperial gratitude:

Thanks to the members of the House of Reps who voted 76-47 to uphold my veto that stopped the creation of a 19 member council for the 1-95 corridor that would have unneccarily increased state govt, spent money we don't have, and duplicated what commerce already does. No new programs!

You will not speak of the governor's lack of spell-check; no error was made, no lack of awareness revealed. It is, that it is.

Now, what once was spelled "unnecessarily" will be respelled "unneccarily" and the new spelling will take the place of the old spelling in all government documents, though none of these will be duplicated. Or have copies made of them. Old copies will suffice: No new copies! So let it be written, so let it be done.

Haley won an acolyte in Rep. Bill Taylor, who accepted the governor's language and wrote on his own blog on January 20,

On the first day of the new session, the SC House killed legislation that would have expanded government. The House upheld Gov. Nikki Haley's veto of a bill creating a regional council that was intended to improve economic and education opportunities along rural I-95. I was one of a handful of Representatives who originally voted against the bill last spring because it created another needless bureaucracy. However, it passed the House and Senate and Haley vetoed the bill arguing it unnecessarily increases state government and duplicates what the state commerce and education departments already do. The Senate voted to override her veto. This week the House sustained the veto and the legislation failed.

What duplicates is duplicative, and duplication is a vexation. It will not be tolerated.

This is the record of our governor's hatred of duplication and redundancy. So let it be written, so let it be done.

In light of the record, we must assume that the governor is exceptionally weary. Squiring a former presidential hopeful around her state and helping him to peddle his threadbare wares unneccarily to the people has tired her.

And, upon sending her guest bowed and bent into Florida, we must assume that she had no time to rest; finding her right flank uncovered unneccarily, she searched the nooks and crannies of the Governor's Mansion for a doily with which to cover her right flank.

And, in her weariness, this is the doily she found:

Gov. Nikki Haley and House Republicans are joining forces to close loopholes that, they say, unions could use to set up shop and expand in South Carolina.

“Unions are not needed, wanted or welcome in South Carolina,” Haley said during a Tuesday press conference where she and state Rep. Bill Sandifer, R-Oconee, announced a new bill filed in the House that would:

• Require S.C. employers to display a poster in the workplace, alerting workers that they do not have to be union members in order to work.

This is a splendid doily, indeed, with which to cover her right flank in her weariness, except that it is a duplication of services.

State law already gives workers the right to turn down union membership.

No matter. The doily accomplishes very much of a little more:

• Increase civil penalties for those who violate the state’s right-to-work laws

• Allow workers to resign their union membership and stop paying dues at any time. Currently, union members have to wait a year.

• Require unions to file financial information with the state. Unions already must file some of that information with the federal government.

It is a powerful doily, in truth, and entirely suitable for covering an exposed right flank. Except that it is unneccarily a duplication of services already:

Democrats say the bill changes very little. They note less than 5 percent of the state’s workers are unionized, the country’s seventh-lowest rate of unionization.

“We already have some of the toughest anti-union laws in the nation,” said state Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg. “Can you say overkill? Our time would be better spent trying to improve the conditions for working people instead of attacking working people.”

But that is not written.

So that is not done.

Haley said the changes are needed because Boeing was threatened with a National Labor Relations Board lawsuit after building a new plant in North Charleston where few workers are union members. Ultimately, the lawsuit was dropped.

“I saw (the lawsuit) as a warning shot,” Haley said.

The National Labor Relations Board saw (Haley) as (unneccarily) opposing (federal) law.

“The more I bring companies in (to South Carolina), the more concerns there are about unions.”

South (Carolina) rejoined the (union) on (July 11,) 1868, which has concerns about (it) still. But Congress held that states had no (right to secede), so (rejoining) the union was (a duplication of services), meaning it was unneccarily.

That was written. That was done.

Furthermore, as the exposure of her right flank was substantial, Haley s t r e t c h e d out the doily and furthermore decreed some more:

Haley signed an executive order Tuesday that prohibits striking workers from receiving unemployment benefits.

Which was a powerful decree and well covered her right flank again.

Except that it was duplication of services and unneccarily.

That already is state law, said Catherine Templeton, director of the S.C. Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

This is another way of saying that Haley's hand-picked, anti-union director of the state labor department, trained by anti-union textile magnate Roger Milliken, found the governor's decrees duplicative, and therefore violative of her record opposing duplication of services.

But the stretching of the doily to recover her exposed right flank unneccarily was discovered by those who earn their living by the sweat of their brow, who gained a new perspective on the duplicitous governor:

“I don’t know what state Nikki thinks she’s in or what she’s running for,” said S.C. AFL-CIO president Donna Dewitt, “but striking workers in South Carolina can’t get unemployment and unions already fully disclose their financial information.”

Dewitt said Haley’s proposal was an attempt to pander to GOP hardliners “in a desperate attempt to distract attention from her support of Mitt Romney and play to her eroding Tea Party base.”

I think I heard DeWitt also say that the word "unneccarily" should be spelled "unnecessarily," which made perfect sense among readers of English, regardless of what duplicitous governors with stretched doilies covering exposed right flanks may say.

I am confident that I heard those who earn their living by the sweat of their brow say something even more profound in a press release:

South Carolina's union membership is amongst the lowest in the nation and there are no unionized public workers who can bargain for wages.
"With our state's low wages, low taxes and lax environmental regulations, I fear that the only thing Haley can do to make South Carolina more "business friendly" would be to issue an executive order to bring back slavery," Dewitt observed.

And the people stood and said, "Let that be duplicated, copied, printed, mailed, emailed, linked, friended, cutted-and-pasted, tweeted, posted, re-posted and shared again and again and again."

House nearly criminalizes teenagers' poor judgment

What do you say?

There comes a point in a young person's life when their freedoms and autonomy outpace their capacity to think and act rationally. Some call it their twenties. Most scientists and medical practitioners call it puberty. And science has reached some data-driven conclusion about this phenomenon.

Yes, science is hard, but this isn't very long:

In calm situations, teenagers can rationalize almost as well as adults. But stress can hijack what Ron Dahl, a pediatrician and child psychiatric researcher at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center calls "hot cognition" and decision-making. The frontal lobes help put the brakes on a desire for thrills and taking risk -- a building block of adolescence; but, they're also one of the last areas of the brain to develop fully.

Luckily, this period only lasts several years, and we call it being a "teenager." And in most cases, the teenagers don't screw up so badly; some of them even get into college.

A few of them, though, exercise poor judgment. In ye olden days, that might have meant cow-tipping, or toilet-papering the neighbor's house. Today, thanks to the ubiquity of cheap and instant technology, it might include taking and sending impertinent photographs of one, or one's friends or acquaintances, to others.

And that's what took up time in House committee this week.

Nearly 10 percent unemployment in the state, yet a House committee warmed the air over pictures that teenagers take and send to others using the cellphones their parents have given them.

Talk about "hot cognition."

A SC House of Representatives committee effectively killed a bill Tuesday aimed at deterring underage “sexting.”

State Rep. Joan Brady, R-Richland, sponsored the legislation to fine minors who forward emails, texts and other electronic communication that includes sexually explicit photos of minors.

Members of the House Judiciary Committee generally supported the idea but could not figure out a way around unintended consequences, including the possibility that police could seize minors’ cell phones without parental consent and use the contents as evidence.

Mm. That's not all of the unintended consequences one can imagine. What happens when a lawmaker's own son or daughter takes and sends such photos?

Sometimes it's best to leave parenting to parents.

Sumter Item opens online poll on "Sweet 16"

As of this morning, the Sumter Item's online front page features a poll on "Sweet 16," the complex new teaching evaluation instrument implemented this year across Sumter County public schools.

The poll addresses "Sweet 16" directly and by name:

What's your stance on the implementation of the SWEET 16 in the Sumter School District?

I'm a teacher and I'm for it
I'm a teacher and I'm against it
I'm not a teacher and I'm for it
I'm not a teacher and I'm against it

In accompanying text drawn from the district's website, however, it is acknowledged that the model's "expectations align with National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and ADEPT, the state "system for assisting, developing and evaluating professional teaching," two different, previously-existing evaluation tools.

These expectations align with National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and ADEPT, the state "system for assisting, developing and evaluating professional teaching," according to the S.C. Department of Education web site.

The instructional activities, materials and resources are ready prior to lesson start and are appropriately aligned to the grade-level lesson objective.
The lesson standard is clearly visible and is effectively communicated to all students. The lesson objective is aligned to the grade-level standard.
The teacher reviews students' understanding of the previous lesson to make connections to current instruction.
The teacher demonstrates his or her knowledge of the subject matter by effectively modeling what students are to know and be able to do. The teacher applies and connects what was taught to real-life situations.
The variety of learning activities and teaching strategies reflects the teacher's understanding of students' needs, strengths, special interests, learning styles and required learning time.
With grouping strategies, the teacher assures that students are provided with opportunities to be group leaders, facilitators, decision leaders, peer tutors and peer leaders.
The skills, concepts and content are appropriately aligned to state and local performance standards and are taught at appropriate levels of complexity.
A variety of technology is used to engage students in lesson-related activities.
Connections are presented within and across content areas by the teacher and students.
The teacher maintains a well-managed learning environment that fosters equity, diversity and fairness.
The teachers formally and informally assess students' level of understanding during the lesson.
Questions go beyond simple recall and require students to think, synthesize, evaluate and conclude. Students are required to explain their responses and answers.
Re-teaching activities are provided for students who need additional instruction.
Students are informed as to how well they followed directions, completed tasks and were likely to achieve the lesson objective.
Homework and follow-up assignments are differentiated to meet the varying needs and strengths of the students.
A review of the lesson objective, feedback regarding students' understanding of what was taught and a preview of the next lesson is provided.

The Item has not set a clear deadline for responding to the poll.

Parents and educators pack the Sumter board meeting

The review by the Sumter Item of Monday's Sumter County board of trustees meeting was interesting for what it said and what it didn't say. After reading numerous emails from parents and educators in the area throughout today, I went back to re-read the Item's coverage before offering commentary.

The comments of parents and educators continue to be enlightening, and they're attracting the attention of other educators around the state.

A little research into the ideology and reach of the Broad Foundation and the Broad Superintendents Academy sheds a great deal more -- and very valuable -- light on the matter.

The Item's coverage begins,

More than 160 teachers, nurses, principals and other members of the community came out for Monday's meeting of the Sumter School District Board of Trustees.

Some may have been there for the student and staff recognition, but given the response during public participation, many were there to share solidarity as six people came up to speak about SWEET 16, financial questions and communication concerns. One state teachers' association leader said she was there to represent those fearful of speaking out.

Per board policy, the members could only receive information Monday.

"Within 48 hours, the superintendent will respond in writing to every individual who addressed the board," said Shelly Galloway, spokesperson for the school district.

Correspondents explain that, perhaps as a matter of board policy or custom, anyone hoping to speak to the board was required to complete and submit a personal information card in order to be added to the speaking order.

From the dozens of emails that have addressed this school district and its issues alone during the past week, I've seen clearly that education professionals, in particular, feel intimidated and are fearful of retribution for speaking out, even to some mid-level administrators in the district. It stands to reason, then, that being asked to submit a personal information card before speaking to a public board might add a layer of anxiety to the situation.

And, by board policy or custom, only 15 minutes is allowed for public participation on the agenda. I'm sure that accommodation might be made if many more citizens ask to speak to the board at these meetings.

But it sounds as if this sort of meeting, or its agenda, is not designed to encourage input from the public. It clearly isn't designed to yield answers to citizens' questions, as it appears that none were given. Helpfully, the Item quotes the district's public information officer's explanation that speakers are given responses in writing later.

If 200 interested citizens packed a district office to hear questions put to their publicly-elected board of trustees, whose policy is only to hear questions and concerns but not to respond except in writing, and except directly to those who speak, then I imagine that the nearly 200 interested citizens may have left the building feeling unsatisfied.

Except that this isn't exactly what happened.

However, Randolph Bynum, vowing his committment to the Sumter district, said after the regularly scheduled meeting that he was not approached beforehand and some of the information shared was not factual.

Obviously, I believe in a free press. But if the board's policy is to respond to questions and concerns only in writing and only directly to those who raised them, how came the superintendent to answer those concerns to a reporter after the meeting? If policy might be bent to speak to the reporter, might it just as well have been bent to offer a response to the gathering of 200 interested citizens?

On one hand, it's a small thing. Reporters ask some questions and publish some answers. On the other hand, only six speakers reportedly addressed the board, so written responses will be sent only to six individuals -- not to the 200 interested citizens who packed the district office in hopes of hearing questions asked and answered. A little more information, freely shared, might go a long way toward resolving questions in a circumstance as charged as this seems to be.

For this service, from this perspective, we should thank the Item for asking the questions that it did. But in reporting the superintendent's view that "some of the information was not factual," without pursuing to learn which information was accurate and which was not, the report leaves citizens as much in the dark after the meeting as before the meeting.

The onslaught of public participation, he said, appeared to be an effort to incite those fearful of the unknown.

"Incite" is a loaded word. Its definitions include "to stir up" and "to persuade (someone) to act."

Respectfully, the comments of dozens of parents and educators suggest that the implementation of a complex new teacher evaluation instrument has done much "to stir up" feelings about the new direction it represents. If that's the case, citizens may have needed little persuasion to act; drawing attention to the time and date of the meeting may have been all that was necessary.

Barney Gadson was the first person to speak and only one in support of SWEET16, Systematic Way to Ensure Effective Teaching 16, the instructional assessment the district has implemented to help design professional development.

"As my grandmother once said, if you keep doing what you've been doing, you keep getting what you've been getting," he said. "We want all children to have the best education possible, and we want to help the teachers be better, which in turn helps the students and the community. I support you and what you're doing, and so does the group that follows me. Press on."

The Item doesn't identify the speaker as an educator or parent, as it clearly identified the remaining speakers; the information might have been helpful to understand his perspective. Readers are often more skillful at discernment than is credited.

Parent Nicole Williams, however, said she is not impressed by the instructional evaluation tool. Williams said she and her followers could not find SWEET 16 being used in any other states.

"I think most of us can agree if I take various parts in cars and put them together into a Frankenstein vehicle, I can put 'Cadillac' on it, but I can't use the safety standards for the vehicle," she said. "Where is the research that backs it?" She wondered if SWEET16 would benefit teachers.

She also is concerned about the board being "good stewards of finance resources." She gave a couple of examples of the district's spending on fabric and dry cleaners asking how those "improve the education" for the students.

Williams's observation that "Sweet 16" doesn't exist outside Sumter County is valid, so far as internet search engines can tell. Her concerns, and the concerns of another parent who spoke, about district finances ought to be easily proved founded or unfounded by posting finance policies and line-item budget reports, with details, online. After all, we're talking about public revenue being expensed by public employees. Aren't budgets and budget reports considered public documents?

The Item reports,

Jackie Hicks, president of the SCEA, said she was speaking because many teachers were afraid to speak, something she said is currently prevalent in the district.

She quoted one teacher as saying, "This year has been horrible. My love for teaching has been tested. The extra busy work has interfered with planning interesting activities for the students. The amount of work I take home has affected my family. The extra money has affected my finances. At the beginning of the school year, teachers were heard and dared to be vocal, but more and more I'm seeing silence take over. I'm tired, disappointed and hopeless."

She also voiced members' concerns about the Broad Academy's involvement with Sumter County, the four furlough days and no raises for teachers in three years.

Superintendent Bynum is a graduate of the program that identifies and prepares leaders to go into urban school districts and improve education. Some area teachers and community members are distrustful of the Broad philosophy and it could come into play locally.

But the report didn't mention what many -- many -- correspondents have characterized as the most charged moment of the meeting, with words like "prolonged applause and a standing ovation" after hearing a teacher's perspective as part of Hicks's remarks.

Last week, two Republican presidential primary debates were held in South Carolina, and in each of them, comments by former Speaker Newt Gingrich earned standing ovations. Multiple media outlets during the course of the week highlighted the ovations as unique in the history of presidential debates, and coverage of the candidate and the primary race uniformly featured references to them.

So it's striking that after a meeting that drew a packed house, during which the single instance of a standing ovation occurred -- and "sustained" applause appeared to release pent-up emotions of crowded parents and educators -- in response to a teacher sharing the pained perspective of another teacher aloud, that event didn't rate a mention in the next day's edition.

Perhaps it's enough that the article included Hicks's report that 75 percent of her members in Sumter County had "contacted her office with complaints."

Two months ago, a poll showed that 75 percent of Americans agreed with President Barack Obama's decision to withdraw American troops from Iraq. In today's political and social climate, it's difficult to unite 75 percent of a group to take an action or agree with a policy. But the Item's coverage suggests the decision to withdraw American troops from Iraq, and the decision to implement a complex new teacher evaluation instrument, accomplished the same difficult goal. That's significant.

The report returns to additional observations that bend the board's policy on answering speakers' questions directly in writing rather than aloud in its public forum.

Bynum did have a few thoughts after the meeting as did Chairman Addison.

"Quite a few things were untrue and had no factual basis, especially the finances pieces and the SWEET 16 not being researched," Bynum said.

Again, neither the Item nor the superintendent identified which concerns raised by speakers were true or untrue, but he emphasized the general topic of "finances pieces" and "'Sweet 16' not being researched."

If research exists to support "Sweet 16" in the form that the administration has implemented it, it seems clear and obvious that education professionals and parents would appreciate to see and study that research. They seem not to be asking for research that supports the model in any component parts, because "Sweet 16" is a package and has been delivered to education professionals as a package, not as a collection of component parts from various schools of thought in teacher evaluation.

In the interest of answering many questions, the administration might consider posting its supportive research online in a prominent space on the front page of the district's website, making it easily accessible to all.

"I'm sure every parent and every teacher knows if a student doesn't understand it the first time, you reteach it. What extra research is required? ...

Whether the superintendent intended to mean that education professionals didn't understand the presentation of "Sweet 16" in its initial delivery and must be re-taught, or that parents don't understand the model and must be re-taught, the impression is clear and unfortunate in its condescension.

Even if he was referring to "reteaching" as a routine instructional strategy in a classroom, and meant to say that this strategy is one of the fundamental elements of the "Sweet 16" instrument, the reference is misleading. Re-teaching as an instructional strategy is an old one; even student teachers are familiar with it.

Again, "Sweet 16" is a package and was delivered to education professionals as a package. Thus, it's reasonable to expect that the package has been tested and researched, unless this is, as many parents and educators believe, simply a complex and stressful experiment being imposed without input from parents and educators in Sumter County.

He also thinks the teacher associations should have set up a meeting with him beforehand instead of bringing their concerns first into the public forum.

"That piece tonight was choreographed to incite people that have a fear of the unknown, although SWEET 16 should be known to everybody and comfortable by now," Bynum said. "In my opinion, if they were serious about their concerns for the district, they would have scheduled a meeting with me and my cabinet. The goal was to use a public forum to help increase membership."

Responding to the reference to a "fear of the unknown," one correspondent posted the following comment today:

First of all, I was not there because of the fear of the unknown. My fear is very well known and established through the accounts of daily life at school told by my own children. Mr. Bynum, DON'T YOU CALL MY KIDS LIARS! Second, his repeated remarks about setting up meetings with him beforehand and/or meetings with him and his cabinet that would not be public forums...that,in my opinion, validates exactly what we are hearing from the teachers....that they are NOT TO CONTACT THE SCHOOL BOARD! We as parents are the public and the school board and Mr. Bynum and his CABINET serve the public taxpayers. DO NOT TRY TO SQUELCH COMMMUNICATION THAT WE DESERVE TO HEAR! This is not about a Fortune 500 company with a private board of officers! HOW DARE YOU??????????? This is about our children! I hope everyone reading The Item article can read between the lines and see what he is really saying. And one last thing....Who is the EVERYBODY that should know and be comfortable with Sweet 16 by now???? Surely he is not referring to the parents/taxpayers because it is news to us! We need people to contact the school board and stand firm behind our teachers. Our kids are liars and our teachers ARE NOT LIARS! WE NEED TO BE INCITED AND EXCITED!!!!

As this comment is reflective of several dozen that followed publication of the Item's report, it would appear that a great deal is known, and that citizens are reacting to what they know more than to what they don't know.

He said another piece "confounds" him.

"Some people who never wanted me here in the first place are trying to drag out all types of information to alienate or subvert initiatives in place," Bynum said. "Broad's Superintendent Academy doesn't have a brain washing instrument. You don't come out of it after 10 months and want to destroy every school you enter or alienate teachers. It is the finest superintendent academy in the country. Superintendent graduates who have been in place three or more years, their districts outperform districts of similar size of non-Broad graduates. Lastly, Broad had absolutely nothing to do with SWEET 16."

It is reassuring to learn that the Broad Foundation and its programs did not develop the "Sweet 16" instrument; but the question left by that knowledge is amplified by it: Who did?

Finally, the claim that Broad Superintendents Academy certificants "outperform" their counterparts who do not hold Broad certificates has been examined by Education Week magazine, as reported in its June 7, 2011, edition.

There is little or no independent research evaluating the impact of Broad Academy graduates on all the districts where they are placed. The foundation itself looks at five measures of student achievement for academy superintendents who have been in place for three or more years, including students’ academic-proficiency levels, achievement gaps, and graduation rates. The foundation then compares those measures with those of demographically similar districts in the state and with state averages.

Based on its calculations, 65 percent of graduates who have been serving as superintendents for three or more years are outperforming comparison groups on raising state reading and math test scores, closing achievement gaps, and raising graduation rates.

Education Week examined a small slice of performance in six districts with long-serving Broad superintendents: reading and math scores on standardized tests for 3rd graders and 8th graders. In most cases, the results on that measure were mixed, even within a district.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

When billionaire businessmen take over public education

A number of correspondents have referred to billionaire Eli Broad and the influence of the Broad Superintendents Academy in American public education over the past decade, and have asked for more information on the topic.

So, what follows is a digest of coverage of the man, his ideology and his training programs for superintendents, principals and other administrators. It's only a sample, by no means a comprehensive report.

You'll want to pop some popcorn and grab a Coke before sitting down for this.

From education researcher Diane Ravitch in 2007, in the earliest days of her change-of-mind about so-called education reform and the tactics of "reformers":

I have been doing quite a lot of soul-searching these past couple of years. I don’t think it is because of age, although one can never be too sure about that. I think I am reconsidering first principles because of the very topics that you hit so hard in your latest letter. Living in NYC, I see what happens when businessmen and lawyers take over a school system, attempt to demolish everything that existed before they got there, and mount a dazzling PR blitz to prove that they are successful.

Lest anyone think that what you described is purely a NYC story, consider this: I hear from various people who participated in the judging for the Broad Prize that NYC will win it this year. This is not much of a surprise. When Joel Klein was first named chancellor, Eli Broad held his annual prize event in NYC and handed Klein a huge dummy check and predicted that one day soon this would be his. The $1 million hardly matters to NYC, which has an annual budget that approaches $20 billion, but the prestige is what the city is after. It desperately wants the confirmation from Broad that its new regime has succeeded.

About 18 months ago, I was invited to meet Eli Broad in his gorgeous penthouse in NYC, overlooking Central Park. I hear that he made his billions in the insurance and real estate businesses. I am not sure when he became an education expert. We talked about school reform for an hour or more, and he told me that what was needed to fix the schools was not all that complicated: A tough manager surrounded by smart graduates of business schools and law schools. Accountability. Tight controls. Results. In fact, NYC is the perfect model of school reform from his point of view. Indeed, this version of school reform deserves the Broad Prize, a prize conferred by one billionaire on another.

From Worcester, Massachusetts, in 2011:

Since 2002, its Superintendents Academy has been preparing educators and others from careers outside education to become superintendents of schools. Unfortunately many individuals who complete this 10-month executive-management program remain completely unaware of the unique challenges faced by teachers, administrators, students and school committees.

Broad Superintendents Academy graduates are brainwashed into believing that charter schools are superior to traditional public schools, high-stakes standardized testing is the only way to measure the progress and achievement of students and schools, and merit pay for teachers will result in higher student test scores. However, much of the educational philosophy of the Broad Foundation, long considered to be anti-teacher union, has been discredited by national studies.
Whatever you think of charter schools, standardized testing, teacher unions and merit pay, be skeptical of a billionaire’s master plan for the education of our children. Advocate for local control of our school system. And recognize that, while the mayor and some school-committee members look the other way, the Broad Foundation is pushing a Trojan horse into the Durkin Administration building.

From Seattle, Washington:

Many of us have discovered the Broad Foundation’s presence within SPS and have requested an explanation for why they are here and what their objectives are. In the summer of 2009, we met with Harium Martin-Morris, one of the school board members, to discuss our questions and concerns. He said that he would request a “white paper” from our superintendent, a Broad Superintendent’s Academy graduate and now on the Board of Directors for the Broad Foundation, about her goals and the presence of Broad graduates and residents within our school system. We never got that white paper and Mr. Martin-Morris never explained why we never received that information.

The first Broad manifesto stated that the following is all that the state should require as credentials to be a principal and/or superintendent:
"For would-be principals, the state should require a bachelor’s degree, a careful background check, and passage of a test of basic laws and regulations pertinent to the principal’s job, including health and safety standards, special-education requirements, Title I funding regulations, etc. (The test may come after a person is provisionally hired and trained, as described below.) For aspiring superintendents, we believe that the state should require only a college education and a careful background check."

From Broward County, Florida, by way of Seattle, Washington, in 2011:

The following article should be a red flag to you about hiring anyone who has anything to do with Bill Gates or the Broad Foundation.

I would highly recommend that you personally vet each candidate even if it’s a quick Google search, for instance with the candidate’s name and the words “broad foundation”. If there is no connection, great, then continue to check out their credentials, if there is a connection, do not let this candidate pass “Go”.

From Dissent Magazine, winter edition of 2011:

the Broad Foundation, gets its largest return on education investments from its two training projects. The mission of both is to move professionals from their current careers in business, the military, law, government, and so on into jobs as superintendents and upper-level managers of urban public school districts. In their new jobs, they can implement the foundation’s agenda. One project, the Broad Superintendents Academy, pays all tuition and travel costs for top executives in their fields to go through a course of six extended weekend sessions, assignments, and site visits. Broad then helps to place them in superintendent jobs. The academy is thriving. According to the Web site, “graduates of the program currently work as superintendents or school district executives in fifty-three cities across twenty-eight states. In 2009, 43 percent of all large urban superintendent openings were filled by Broad Academy graduates.”

The second project, the Broad Residency, places professionals with master’s degrees and several years of work experience into full-time managerial jobs in school districts, charter school management organizations, and federal and state education departments. While they’re working, residents get two years of “professional development” from Broad, all costs covered, including travel. The foundation also subsidizes their salaries (50 percent the first year, 25 percent the second year). It’s another success story for Broad, which has placed more than two hundred residents in more than fifty education institutions.

In reform-speak, both the Broad Academy and Residency are not mere programs: they are “pipelines.” Frederick Hess, director of Education Policy Studies at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, described the difference in With the Best of Intentions: How Philanthropy Is Reshaping K–12 Education (2005):

"Donors have a continual choice between supporting “programs” or supporting “pipelines.” Programs, which are far more common, are ventures that directly involve a limited population of children and educators. Pipelines, on the other hand, primarily seek to attract new talent to education, keep those individuals engaged, or create new opportunities for talented practitioners to advance and influence the profession.…By seeking to alter the composition of the educational workforce, pipelines offer foundations a way to pursue a high-leverage strategy without seeking to directly alter public policy."
Can anything stop the foundation enablers? After five or ten more years, the mess they’re making in public schooling might be so undeniable that they’ll say, “Oops, that didn’t work” and step aside. But the damage might be irreparable: thousands of closed schools, worse conditions in those left open, an extreme degree of “teaching to the test,” demoralized teachers, rampant corruption by private management companies, thousands of failed charter schools, and more low-income kids without a good education. Who could possibly clean up the mess?

All children should have access to a good public school. And public schools should be run by officials who answer to the voters. Gates, Broad, and Walton answer to no one. Tax payers still fund more than 99 percent of the cost of K–12 education. Private foundations should not be setting public policy for them. Private money should not be producing what amounts to false advertising for a faulty product. The imperious overreaching of the Big Three undermines democracy just as surely as it damages public education.

From the advocacy group Parents Across America, in 2011:

This summary is designed to help parents and other concerned citizens better understand the Broad Foundation’s role in training new superintendents and other “reform” activities, and how the foundation leverages its wealth to impose a top-down, corporate-style business model on our public schools. It is time for communities to become aware of how this major force works.
The signature effort of the Broad Foundation is its investment in its training programs, operated through the Broad Center for the Management of School Systems and the Broad Institute for School Boards. The Broad Center for the Management of School Systems is the larger of the two and consists of two programs: the Broad Superintendents Academy and the Broad Residency in Urban Education.

The Broad Superintendents Academy runs a training program held during six weekends over ten months, after which graduates are placed in large districts as superintendents. Those accepted into the program (“Broad Fellows”) are not required to have a background in-education; many come instead from careers in the military, business, or government. Tuition and travel expenses for participants are paid for by the Broad Center, which also sometimes covers a share of the graduates’ salaries when they are appointed into district leadership positions. The foundation’s website boasts that 43 percent of all large urban superintendent openings were filled by Broad Academy graduates in 2009.

The Broad Superintendents Academy’s weekend training course provides an “alternative” certification process which has come to supplant or override the typical regulations in many states that require that individuals have years of experience as a teacher and principal before being installed as a school district superintendents.
The Broad Foundation also supports a broad range of pro-charter school advocacy groups, as well as alternative training programs for non-educators who want to work as teachers and principals (Teach for America, New Leaders for New Schools).

In addition, the foundation offers free diagnostic “audits” to school districts, along with recommendations aligned with its policy preferences. It produces a number of guides and toolkits for school districts, including a “School Closure Guide,” based on the experiences of Broad-trained administrators involved in closing schools in Boston, Charleston, Chicago, Dallas, Washington, D.C., Miami-Dade County, Oakland, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Seattle.
The foundation also helps sponsors media events (a PBS series on the “education crisis” hosted by Charlie Rose, the series Education Nation on NBC, etc.). These programs help promote for Eli Broad’s vision of free-market education reform.

In addition to using his foundation to effect change to American public education, Eli Broad has made personal campaign contributions to candidates who are favorably disposed to his preferred policies, even down to the local school board level. In this way, he has helped influence the selection of superintendents who are aligned with him ideologically, even though they may not be Broad Academy graduates.
Broad and his foundation believe that public schools should be run like a business. One of the tenets of his philosophy is to produce system change by “investing in a disruptive force.” Continual reorganizations, firings of staff, and experimentation to create chaos or “churn” is believed to be productive and beneficial, as it weakens the ability of communities to resist change.

As Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, a proponent of this philosophy has said, “…we can afford to make lots more mistakes and in fact we have to throw more things at the wall. The big companies that get into trouble are those that try to manage their size instead of experimenting with it.”

A hallmark of the Broad-style leadership is closing existing schools rather than attempting to improve them, increasing class size, opening charter schools, imposing high-stakes test-based accountability systems on teachers and students, and implementing of pay for performance schemes. The brusque and often punitive management style of Broad-trained leaders has frequently alienated parents and teachers and sparked protests.

Several communities have forced their Broad-trained superintendents to resign, including Arnold “Woody” Carter (class or 2002), formerly of the Capistrano Unified School District; Thandiwee Peebles,(class of 2002), formerly of the Minneapolis Public School District; and John Q. Porter (class of 2006), formerly of the Oklahoma City Public School District.

A number of other Broad-trained superintendents have received votes of “no confidence” from the teachers in their districts, including Rochester’s Jean-Claude Brizard (class of 2008), Seattle’s Maria Goodloe-Johnson (class of 2003); Deborah Sims (class of 2005) while Superintendent of the Antioch Unified School District (CA); Matthew Malone (class of 2003) while Superintendent of the Swampscott School District (MA); and most recently, Melinda J. Boone (class of 2004) Superintendent of the Worcester Public Schools (MA).
Eli Broad is a wealthy individual, accountable to no one but himself, who wields vast power over our public schools. Parents and community members should be aware of the extent to which the he and his foundation influence educational policies in districts throughout the country, through Broad-funded advocacy groups, Broad-sponsored experiments and reports, and the placement of Broad-trained school leaders, administrators and superintendents.

Parents Across America considers Broad’s influence to be inherently undemocratic, as it disenfranchises parents and other stakeholders in an effort to privatize our public schools and imposes corporate-style policies without our consent. We strongly oppose allowing our nation’s education policy to be driven by billionaires who have no education expertise, who do not send their own children to public schools, and whose particular biases and policy preferences are damaging our children’s ability to receive a quality education.

From Parents Across America, also in 2011:

How to tell if your School District is Infected by the Broad Virus

Schools in your district are suddenly closed.

Even top-performing schools, alternative schools, schools for the gifted, are inexplicably and suddenly targeted for closure or mergers.

Repetition of the phrases “the achievement gap” and “closing the achievement gap” in district documents and public statements.

Repeated use of the terms “excellence” and “best practices” and “data-driven decisions.” (Coupled with a noted absence of any of the above.)

The production of “data” that is false or cherry-picked, and then used to justify reforms.

Power is centralized.

Decision-making is top down.

Local autonomy of schools is taken away.

Principals are treated like pawns by the superintendent, relocated, rewarded and punished at will.

Culture of fear of reprisal develops in which teachers, principals, staff, even parents feel afraid to speak up against the policies of the district or the superintendent.

Ballooning of the central office at the same time superintendent makes painful cuts to schools and classrooms.

Sudden increase in number of paid outside consultants.

Increase in the number of public schools turned into privately-run charters.

Weak math text adopted (most likely Everyday Math). Possibly weak language arts too, or Writer’s Workshop. District pushes to standardize the curriculum.

Superintendent attempts to sidestep labor laws and union contracts.

Teachers are no longer referred to as people, educators, colleagues, staff, or even “human resources,” but as “human capital.”

The district leadership declares that the single most significant problem in the district is suddenly: teachers!

Teachers are no longer expected to be creative, passionate, inspired, but merely “effective.”

Superintendent lays off teachers for questionable reasons.

Excessive amounts of testing introduced and imposed on your kids.

Teach for America, Inc., novices are suddenly brought into the district, despite no shortage of fully qualified teachers.

The district hires a number of “Broad Residents” at about $90,000 apiece, also trained by the Broad Foundation, who are placed in strategically important positions like overseeing the test that is used to evaluate teachers or school report cards. They in turn provide — or fabricate — data that support the superintendent’s ed reform agenda (factual accuracy not required).

Strange data appears that seems to contradict what you know (gut level) to be true about your own district.

There is a strange sense of sabotage going on.

Superintendent behaves as if s/he is beyond reproach.

A rash of Astroturf groups appear claiming to represent “the community” or “parents” and all advocate for the exact same corporate ed reforms that your superintendent supports — merit pay, standardized testing, charter schools, alternative credentialing for teachers. Of course, none of these are genuine grassroots community organizations.

Or, existing groups suddenly become fervidly in favor of teacher bashing, merit pay or charter schools. Don’t be surprised to find that these groups may have received grant money from the corporate ed reform foundations like Gates or Broad.

The superintendent receives the highest salary ever paid to a superintendent in your town’s history (plus benefits and car allowance) – possibly more than your mayor or governor — and the community is told “that is the national, competitive rate for a city of this size.”

Your school board starts to show signs of Stockholm Syndrome. They vote in lockstep with the superintendent. Apparently lobotomized by periodic “school board retreat/Broad training” sessions headed by someone from Broad, your school board stops listening to parents and starts to treat them as the enemy. (If you still have a school board, that is — Broad ideally prefers no pesky democratically elected representatives to get in the way of their supts and agendas.)

Superintendent bypasses school board entirely and keeps them out of the loop on significant or all issues.

School board candidates receive unprecedented amounts of campaign money from business interests.

Grants appear from the Broad and Gates foundations in support of the superintendent, and her/his “Strategic Plan.”

Local newspaper fails to report on much of this.

Local newspaper never mentions the words “Broad Foundation.”

Broad and Gates Foundations give money to local public radio stations which in turn become strangely silent about the presence and influence of the Broad and Gates Foundation in your school district.

THE CURE for Broad Virus:

Parents. Blogs. Sharing information.

Vote your school board out of office.

Boycott or opt out of tests.

Go national and join Parents Across America.

Follow the money.

Question the data – especially if it produced by someone affiliated with the Broad or Gates Foundations or their favored consultants (McKinsey, Strategies 360, NCTQ, or their own strategically placed Broad Residents).

Alert the media again and again (they will ignore you at first).

Protest, stage rallies, circulate petitions.

Connect and daylight the dots.

From Norm's Notes, in 2011:

In all, 21 of the nation’s 75 largest districts now have superintendents or other highly placed central-office executives who have undergone Broad training.

But as the program has risen in prominence and prestige—758 people, the largest pool ever, applied for the program this year, and eight were accepted—it has also drawn impassioned criticism from people who see it as a destructive force in schools and districts. They say Broad-trained superintendents use corporate-management techniques to consolidate power, weaken teachers’ job protections, cut parents out of decisionmaking, and introduce unproven reform measures.

One of those critics is Sharon Higgins, who started a website called The Broad Report in 2009 after her school district in Oakland, Calif., had three Broad-trained superintendents in quick succession, each appointed by the state. She said she grew alarmed when she started seeing principals and teachers whom she called “high-quality, dedicated people” forced out. She contends in her blog that Broad superintendents are trained to aim for “maximum disruption” when they come to a district, without regard for parent and teacher concerns.

“It’s like saying, let me come to your house and completely rearrange your furniture, because I think your house is a mess,” Ms. Higgins said, adding that other parents around the country have reached out to her to complain about their own Broad-trained school leaders.
...the foundation often tweaks the academy curriculum to keep it up to date. However, since its inception, the basic format for the program is a 10-month fellowship that brings participants together for six extended weekends in different cities. Tuition and travel expenses are free.

The program is designed to be a concentrated introduction to the many issues that superintendents face, and Ms. Lepping provided more than two dozen content threads that are revisited over the course of the fellowship year, including labor relations, targeted student interventions, data-management systems, management for continuous improvement, and school board relations.
Broad fellows also get continuing, on-the-job mentoring from experienced professionals, can call Broad experts in to evaluate district issues, and are part of a network that allows them to reach out to one another for advice on thorny district-management issues.
What the Broad fellows see as a program that provides mentorship and continuing support, their detractors see as a sign of a takeover.

“What I see happening is that they colonize districts,” said Diane Ravitch, an education historian who criticized education venture philanthropy in her 2010 book The Death and Life of the Great American School System.

“Once there’s a Broad superintendent, he surrounds himself with Broad fellows, and they have a preference towards privatization. It happens so often, it makes me wonder what they’re teaching them,” said Ms. Ravitch, who co-writes a blog on Education Week’s website.
There is little or no independent research evaluating the impact of Broad Academy graduates on all the districts where they are placed. The foundation itself looks at five measures of student achievement for academy superintendents who have been in place for three or more years, including students’ academic-proficiency levels, achievement gaps, and graduation rates. The foundation then compares those measures with those of demographically similar districts in the state and with state averages.

Based on its calculations, 65 percent of graduates who have been serving as superintendents for three or more years are outperforming comparison groups on raising state reading and math test scores, closing achievement gaps, and raising graduation rates.

Education Week examined a small slice of performance in six districts with long-serving Broad superintendents: reading and math scores on standardized tests for 3rd graders and 8th graders. In most cases, the results on that measure were mixed, even within a district.

And, from National Public Radio, an interview with Eli Broad himself in December 2011:

Ryssdal: There's a tactful way to ask this question, and then there's the expeditious way to ask this question. And so I'll go straight to that way: For all your experience, for all your resources and your success, what do you know about education?

Broad: Well, I know that we aren't getting the job done. I'm looking at student acheivement. I don't see it growing rapidly -- it has too. And how do you change it? You change it -- in my view -- by having better governance, better management -- whether it's the superintendent or the principal. You've got to have better teachers, paid more money -- incentivised -- but held accountable.

Ryssdal: You'll forgive me if I say that sounds spoken like a businessman.

Broad: Well, I'm not sure that some of the things you learn in the world of business, or in government, or in other non-profits can't be applied to education.