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Hey Big Spender

Stand For Children just opened its Illinois office, but it’s sure moving fast.

In October, the new Illinois office of the Oregon-based advocacy group dropped big bucks — $635,000 — on eight legislative races, as Jim Broadway at Illinois School Policy Updates reported.  Most of the money came from the national office, which received a $3.4 million grant from the Gates Foundation in May.

“Clearly, SFC is acquiring ‘champions’ in the four caucuses” of the General Assembly, Broadway observed.  “Why is an Oregon nonprofit buying up Illinois legislators?” he asked.

At the beginning of this month came an answer: a special House Education Reform Committee was formed, including two of SFC’s “champions,” and hearings were announced, though no agenda or legislation was available.

Days before the hearings, which concluded today, a “confidential draft” of a bill was circulated (available from ISPU).  It would limit seniority and collective bargaining rights for teachers, tie teacher evaluation to standardized test scores, and revoke teacher certification for teachers given two “unsatisfactory” ratings by administrators.

“This is a formula for turning our schools into low-wage, high-turnover places of employment,” according to the Chicago Teachers Union.  “This system would squelch innovation and motivate teachers to teach to the test rather than encourage creative, critical thinking.”

Rewarding higher test scores “results in score inflation, not genuine learning,” commments PURE, citing studies from the RAND Corporation and National Research Council which found insufficent evidence to support the use of test scores to rate teachers.

It’s all part of “a war on public education,” says PURE, and it’s being waged by “the corporate interests who want to cash in on our schools and take away educational opportunity for the most at-risk children, making education a prize only for those deemed ‘the fittest’ in their dog-eat-dog world of corporate ‘reform.’”

Broadway offers this clip of Diane Ravitch, who goes over a range of findings undercutting the current fad of blaming teachers – watch it – and concludes:

“In my heart of hearts I believe that the whole issue of teacher evaluation is a red herring – a diversion intended to take our glance away from the poverty and racial isolation in which so many students live.  It salves the conscience of the Billionaire Boys Club and enables them to blame hardworking teachers for the poverty and inequality that mars our society and hurts children.”

Chicago Teachers Union