Thompson: Private Emails & School Privatization
Andrea Eger's State Emails Reveal Behind-the-Scenes Discussions of School Report Cards in the Tulsa World, is painful reading for anyone seeking compromise solutions for troubled schools.
By all accounts, Oklahoma’s attempt to implement Jeb Bush’s A –F School Report Card has been riddled with errors. Keith Ballard, Tulsa’s highly respected superintendent who has taken a lead in working with the Gates Foundation and implementing tough accountability systems, and 300 superintendents challenged the first report card. A compromise fell through.
At the same time, Damon Gardenhire, the State Superintendent’s communications officer, left his position for the Walton Family Foundation, which pushes for school vouchers. On his last day on the job, Gardenhire told the Tulsa superintendent that he hoped to work with him in his new role. In an email released through the Freedom of Information Act, however, Gardenhire wrote: "A big part of why I took the Walton gig was because I see real promise for bringing positive pressure to bear that will help cause a tipping point with enough (superintendents) that the ugly voices like Keith Ballard will begin to be small and puny."
You can imagine my embarrassment when secret discussions by advocates of the report card were revealed. I had just been challenged by Diane Ravitch, in her “A Brief Conversation with John Thompson” to explain why I believe it is too early to conclude that the real goal of “reform” is privatization. Commenters argued that my reluctance to use the p-word amounts to appeasement. At any rate, Ballard no longer has any qualms in saying that the private discussion “reveals an agenda to divert dollars intended for public education to vouchers and for-profit vendors that should be very frightening to all Oklahomans."-JT(@drjohnthompson)