Diane Ravitch on Bobby Jindal and Other Governors

From Bridging Differences:

Gov. Jindal has submitted a legislative proposal that would offer vouchers to more than half the students in the state; vastly expand the number of privately managed charter schools by giving the state board of education the power to create up to 40 new charter authorizing agencies; introduce academic standards and letter grades for pre-schoolers; and end seniority and tenure for teachers.

Under his plan, the local superintendent could immediately fire any teacher—tenured or not—who was rated “ineffective” by the state evaluation program. If the teacher re-applied to teach, she would have to be rated “highly effective” for five years in a row to regain tenure. Tenure, needless to say, becomes a meaningless term, since due process no longer is required for termination.

Education has become a venture field. Bobby Jindal was the up-and-coming darling of the Republican Party back when he gave the response to Obama’s first State of the Union speech. Jindal’s speech sucked and he slunk back into the type of national oblivion that the governor of a state like Louisiana deserves (except for Huey Long, who was an exception).

But now he is rebuilding his name by pushing a massive privatization and union-busting education scheme through his state’s legislature. It is the post-Katrina New Orleans school system writ large.

Jindal is just one of a new breed of governors who are making a name for themselves by trying to privatize education.  Diane Ravitch also mentions Scott Walker, Mitch Daniels, Rick Scott and John Kasich. The only time a national audience ever hears their names is when they are out to privatize education. It is a surefire way to get some press, especially after getting applause from Uncle Arne in Washington.

Education is the new venture politics where governors try to make a national name for themselves.

They had some more localized trailblazers in this regard, like Michael Bloomberg here in NY.

Go back further to the two presidents who preceded Obama, Clinton and Bush, and they both made their national names by being education governors. They were the Rosetta Stones for the flood of education governors we have today.

Only now it is a much different ballgame. Boatloads of public monies are up for grabs like never before. On top of that, we now have all the money flowing in from the Gates Foundation and other assorted members of the billionaires boys’ club.

Education has become the new venture capital, which has caused it to be the new venture politics. National recognition gets that billionaire money flowing into their states, not mention their campaign coffers. It is just another example of our broken political system, where a few people with fabulous wealth can dictate to the rest of us how our own children will be educated.

Obama, Duncan, Jindal, Walker, Cuomo, Christie, every last one of them is on the take. I shudder to think that the history books will celebrate this generation of so-called leaders as heroes for their education reforms.

Then again, if their reforms succeed, nobody will be able to read history books anyway.

2 responses to “Diane Ravitch on Bobby Jindal and Other Governors

  1. Diane Ravitch….

    Ravitch was a promoter of No Child Left Behind & charter schools and is deeply implicated, via her various high-level ed wonk jobs, in the research and politics that spawned them. According to Gerald Bracey, as assistant education secretary under GHW Bush Ravitch helped hide positive data about US education in the interest of promoting the “Nation at Risk” story of failing schools.

    Possibly she’s got religion after seeing what a disaster the policies she helped implement have been. i don’t know the woman. But I find her disingenous. For example, in comparing her comments on the PISA tests here:


    And here:


    In the first (2007) article, she insists that PISA tests shows US students are “lagging far behind” other countries — even our top students, she says, are “way behind”. She also is disingenuous in her reporting of the findings of the Sandia Report and the controversy surrounding it.

    In the second (2010) article, she mocks people who say things like “Oh no, our students are lagging behind on PISA!” as well as the “Nation at Risk” line she once defended.

    Having lived in Europe and taught in Asia and seen their supposedly superior education systems, and knowing some of the problems with the sampling in PISA & TIMMS, I am very skeptical of all analyses that begin by saying US education as a whole is “failing” in comparison. And especially of analyses that go on to say that we must revamp education in order to win the “economic competition” (as if it weren’t our “own” US, Japanese and European multinationals producing a lot of those “made in China” goods and colluding — not competing — to drive down the price of labor and the skillset of labor all over the globe.)

    But if you can get the public to believe in this “failure”, you’re 9/10ths of the way to selling them whatever gimcrack “solution” you want to foist on them. Ravitch was one of the salespeople. Great that she’s changed her tune, but only in the final innings of the game. Looking to her legacy, because this education “reform,” with all its ramifications, will eventually be remembered as one of the worst things that ever happened to education and democracy in the US.

    • I understand your point and it is a good one. It is tough for me to judge because I flip-flop a lot about neddlesome things, and even some bigger things, from time to time.

      Is it being disingenuous or is it just going with evidence? Or is it just not remembering what you said publicly before or not caring?

      I do agree with you that schools are not in a crisis. In Left Back, I think Ravitch makes the point that schools have always been in a crisis and that this has always been the excuse to foist hare-brained schemes onto school systems.

      Part of the problem is all of these comparisons between American students and those of other countries are based upon test scores.

      We do know American children are, by and large, poorer than those of many western nations and are more likely to be diagnosed with learning/emotional disabilities than other western countries. (Thanks to Big Pharma).

      I do know that Ravitch is one of the only people with a large national stage who is on the right side of the issue as of now. For my part, I value her work on the history of education than her crusade against education reform.

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