Saturday, May 26, 2007

War Against the Weak: The Sequel

Cross-posted at Schools Matter:

I am as regularly impressed by the amount of education news coverage in Milwaukee as I am by the degree of media blindness to the larger problems of poor people in Milwaukee--problems that cannot be separated out when trying to understand education issues that are, indeed, manifestations of the larger problems that remain invisible to those whose refusal to even acknowledge those problems serves to help rationalize harsher and harsher performance demands placed upon those least able to comply.

When social historians look back in 50 years, no doubt they will see the current education reform regime of punishment, disenfranchisement, and oppression of the weak as a direct descendant of the unfulfilled eugenics agenda of the previous century that was driven by another "scientific," though no less archaic, form of social sorting.

In the meantime, the larger problems go largely unreported or are simply ignored by those who care and those who pretend to care, both of whom are now locked arm in arm in a national crusade to get tough and tougher and toughest in a malicious treatment of the more obvious symptoms of systemic brokenness among the black, the weak, the immigrant, and the poor.

Instead of focusing on the social, environmental, and economic problems that make learning difficult to impossible, the current bit of hand-wringing in Milwaukee is focused once again on the widening academic achievement gap. Education reporters once more cluck and shake their heads as yet another keep-on-the-sunny-side superintendent insists, Decider-like, on staying the course, even as the schools would seem to be on the brink of explosion or implosion, and even as the educators and children in them seem on the verge of a collective nervous breakdown.

The big scoop missed once more by the Journal-Sentinel reporters? As family incomes fall, so do test scores, and all the testing and all the threats that can be piled on the other tests and threats will only serve to push the schools and their children closer to eventual violent upheaval.

First, here is a clip from the Journal-Sentinel, and what follows then are a few very interesting facts from a recent report by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, New Indicators of Neighborhood Need in Zipcode 53206:

Three years ago, the gap between white and black high school sophomores in Milwaukee Public Schools in reading proficiency was 33 percentage points. This year, it was 35 points.

In math, the gap was 36 points three years ago and 42 this year, according to the data released Tuesday by the state Department of Public Instruction and MPS.

Two years ago, 37% of black sophomores in MPS were rated proficient or advanced in reading, based on their performance on the statewide standardized tests. This year, it was 31%. In math, the figure is 18%, down from 20% in each of the prior two years.

The gaps and scores between white and Hispanic sophomores are not quite as bad, but are still large.

In none of five subject areas tested did at least 40% of MPS 10th-graders as a whole rate as proficient this year.

. . . . But the message is clear: When it comes to high school in MPS, raising the achievement levels and closing the huge ethnic gaps in success remains a severe challenge, and overall answers have been elusive. For all the focus on improvement locally and nationally in recent years - it's the driving idea behind the federal No Child Left Behind law and has spawned innumerable reforms in Milwaukee - the results are just plain weak. Flat. Troubling.

. . . .

MPS Superintendent William Andrekopoulos said Monday that the signs of success at lower grades are evidence that the education plans now in place are beginning to work. It is important to stay the course, he has often said in recent months.

. . . .

So what else might be the answer?

More money? Per pupil spending is actually up, but staffing is down at most high schools, which means class sizes are larger in many cases and there are fewer adult figures around. A pinch on what is actually being provided for kids is visible in many schools.

Better safety? Efforts have increased in that area, with some signs that fresh steps are helping. But the problem of student behavior is huge, and the violence of the community keeps seeping into the schools.

Better-prepared kids? The dysfunctional and often just plain awful circumstances of many students' lives are a huge problem for schools. But if the solution starts at home and starts at the earliest ages, what do we do now about all these apathetic and/or angry teenagers who are reading far below grade level when they hit ninth grade?

Better teaching? That's the subject Andrekopoulos is stressing. As a visit to most any high school in MPS shows, the quality of teaching varies widely, from terrific to terrible, and overall efforts, local and national, to raise the quality have been mostly talk and not much action.

More concern? From low turnout at parent conferences to the almost total absence of audiences and speakers at three public hearings on the $1.2 billion MPS budget for next year, people every day are sending messages that they don't care, don't know what to do or don't think the education situation is worth their time. Yet it is hard to dismiss the observation that almost every successful education situation in the country, from suburbs to central cities, is one where there is an energized community around kids and schools.

So many questions. What a mystery this school failure remains!! What, oh what, is to be done!!

Now here are a few selected quotes from UW-M's New Indicators of Neighborhood Need in Zipcode 53206 on the problems that are ignored while we continue to blame the schools for not getting done what the schools can never do alone.

As New Indicators . . . points out in the introduction, "the 53206 ZIP code neighborhood serves as a bellwether for poverty changes in Milwaukee and nationally:"
Income and Poverty

The poverty guidelines provide the federal government’s estimate of the income level families require to meet their basic needs and are used to determine eligibility for federal support programs.

In 2005, the federal government set these guidelines at $12,830 for a two-person family, $16,060 for three persons, and $3,260 for each additional person in the family. These standards were used to determine the number of family tax filers showing income below the poverty line.

Over half of working families have incomes below poverty.

For the 4,824 single parent families with dependents, in zipcode 53206 in tax year 2005 about 48% of single tax filers with one dependent showed adjusted gross income (AGI) below the poverty level ($12,830 for two persons).

Over half (58%) of single filers with 2 dependents showed AGI below ($16,090 for three persons) and 63% (or more) of filers with three or more dependents had income below poverty.

When the number of filers claiming the state and federal earned income credit (EIC) was considered, the percentage of single parent families living in poverty was reduced to about 41% of filers with one dependent and 42% (or more) of filers with three or more dependents.

About 18% of married tax filers with one dependent showed adjusted gross income below the poverty level. About 24% of married filers with two dependents reported AGI below the poverty level, as did 37% (or more) of married filers with 3 or more dependents.
When inflation is considered, the real income earnings of residents in zipcode 53206 dropped by 18.5% over the 5-year period.

In 2005, income up 10% [for single filers] from the average of $15,902 in the 2000 tax year. After controlling for inflation the incomes remained nearly flat (with only an 0.5% improvement).

In 2005, income up 2% [for married filers] from an average of $40,447 in the 2000 tax year. After controlling for inflation, the average income for married tax filers showed a 6% decline.

When inflation is considered, the real income earnings of residents in zipcode 53206 dropped by 18.5% over the 5-year period.


78% of recent housing loans to owner-occupants are subprime or high interest.

Housing prices jumped 50% and more in last 3 years.
60 subprime lenders operating in Zipcode 53206.


90% of Jobs in the Zipcode Are Held by Non-Residents

Majority of Workers at 53206 Jobsites Are White, Resident Workforce Is Black

Public Assistance

The number of families receiving income support (AFDC or “W-2”) in July 2006 was the lowest seen since the W-2 program began and 87% below the 1994 levels.

The number of families receiving food stamp/Food Share benefits dropped from 4,612 in March 1994 to 2,934 in April 2000, or a 36% decline.


Since 1993, the number of individuals being released from state adult correctional facilities in zipcode 53206 has grown dramatically from 201 in 1993 to 879 in 2005, a 336% increase. Many [53%] subsequently return to prison. For most major crime areas, the numbers released each year in 53206 have tripled, although for individuals charged with “drug offenses only” the numbers have increased at an even higher rate (a 493% increase from 1993 to 2005).

For the 30 to 34 year old age group, 21% of the men from 53206 are reported in a state DOC facility, another 42% were previously incarcerated in a state correctional facility, and only 38% were never in an adult state correctional facility.

4% of ex-offenders have a valid driver’s license.

63% are not high school grads.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Maggie and Jon

From the CHE news blog

Comedy Left Behind as Margaret Spellings Appears on 'Daily Show'

Margaret Spellings is the secretary of education, not the secretary of defense, but she may nevertheless be the bravest member of President Bush’s cabinet.

Ms. Spellings, capping a visit on Tuesday to New York City, sat down as the evening’s guest on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, a comedy program on cable television known for its caustic — and decidedly left-of-center — treatment of current events. Ms. Spellings appeared last fall as an unsuccessful contestant on the game show Jeopardy, but The Daily Show promised to present her with a different sort of challenge.

Mr. Stewart began by handing his guest a traditional gift for teachers, a polished apple. He also pulled out a No. 2 pencil and a children’s lunch snack. He then praised Ms. Spellings’s willingness to submit to his questions, calling her the only top administration official “who is not allergic to me.”

Their eight-minute encounter at the end of Mr. Stewart’s half-hour program went without any of the more pointed jabs that the comedian routinely levels at Mr. Bush and his administration.
He asked several questions about the No Child Left Behind law, the federal statute that requires states to test grade-school students in subjects that include mathematics and reading. Ms. Spellings responded with some well-worn talking points about the need to fix a system in which half of all minority children don’t finish high school on time.

Mr. Stewart expressed exasperation when his guest repeated the president’s trademark warning against schools’ practicing “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” He got his most animated response — an exaggerated impish grin from the secretary — when he suggested that she might “smite the teachers’ unions” if given one moment of omnipotent authority over education policy.

Before finishing with the secretary, Mr. Stewart raised the subject of the scandal in the student-loan industry, a controversy that has prompted both colleges and lenders to change practices, pay legal settlements, and fire some top officials.

In a reference to an audience member, Mr. Stewart said he had a “lady up here” who is “very mad” about her college loans.

Ms. Spellings said she’s undertaking a far-reaching examination of the problem. “There’s obviously issues in the way everybody runs student loans,” the secretary said. “We have to fix the system comprehensively. It’s not just one little thing.” —Paul Basken

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Another Department of Education scandal

[NB] In case no one has noticed, between the Reading First scandal, the student loan scandal, and now this, the Dept of Education has become quite the center for corruption in this administration
[ABC] The White House appointee in charge of the Education Department's troubled financial aid office took home $250,000 in bonuses, leading Democratic lawmakers to question what she did to deserve such lavish rewards. . . [read on]

Our seniors are gone - a personal reflection

yes, this is NOT strictly speaking educational policy. I am posting this in a number of venues, and as the perhaps the only K-12 public school teacher participating here, thought it relevant to share because it is my connection with young people that drives my participation in educational policy discussion

Yesterday was the last day for our seniors. That may seem strange. Graduation is June 1, and the school year goes for almost another two weeks beyond that. I won’t try to justify this. But yesterday was the beginning of a time for goodbyes, and when one says goodbye, it is not unusual for one to look back. So before I begin what will be a hectic and peripatetic day I thought I would take a few moments to share some thoughts. This posting will contain thoughts about teaching, about students, about society. It will personal but it will also be political. I invite you to continue reading, but will also understand if the subject does not interest you.

I have just over 150 students on my roles right now, of whom 16 are seniors. 6 of these will have to return next Friday to sit for (but not pass) the state examination in Government - they joined us this year and the examination is a requirement for graduation. For the young ladies it means they will not be able to begin preparing for that night’s prom until 1 PM, which given how extensive the preparations can be will squeeze a few for time. 15 of the 16 are going on to further education next year, two in the local community college, others to places like University of Chicago, William & Mary, MIT, UMBC, and of course Maryland. This group of students includes two born in India, one in Jamaica, one in Syria, and one in Jordan. They are black, white, yellow and brown, with family members also born in Taiwan, England, and Canada. They are Catholic, evangelical, Hindu, Taoist, Jewish, Muslim, and no religion. Their politics range from anarchist to exceedingly conservative with everything in between. There are superb athletes and equally superb musicians, people in our championship model UN team and one who missed her last week because she was in Albuquerque for the international science fair (where she partnered with a student who was in my classes two years ago). One has been an intern at the US Senate (her father is a senate committee staff director) - she’s a Democrat, and another has been a page at the Maryland General Assembly - she’s a Republican, and personally close to former state First Lady Kendall Erlich. 5 of these 16 took regular government from me as freshman before we changed the sequence of the course and enrolled in AP to have me as a teacher again. One had her younger brother ace both the course and the AP exam as a sophomore which provoked her to sign up this year. One other was new to us last year and took regular government as a junior, and I urged and persuaded her to take on the challenge of AP this year. I wrote college recommendation for 7 of the 16. 9 of them asked me to sign their yearbooks.

But none of the foregoing gives a full sense of what it has been like to have these seniors in my classes. Most of my students are sophomores, and the two-year age difference represents a serious difference in maturity, both intellectually and emotionally. It provides a leaven to 5 of my six classes, although I acknowledge one young man, who is repeating the basic course, may be the single most immature student I have. It was touch and go until yesterday if he would pass 4th quarter and thus pass the required course and be able to graduate. He was up most of the night completing a project that was late for which he got only partial credit, but 40% on the assignment was the difference between passing and failing.

I will hopefully see all of these students again at graduation. After the ceremonies are completed they will come to get their actual diplomas (they receive an empty container at the ceremony so we don’t have to worry about the order of about 600 walking across the stage) and at that point there will be time for hugs - they will no longer be our students. Some will stay in touch, and there is something I insist upon - one year from now they will no longer address me as Mr. Bernstein or even Mr. B, but at that point I am Ken - if they want they can make the change now, but in a year I will insist on it. If experience is any guide, I will see about 1/2 of them some time during the next school year. Some students stop by several times a year. A few will remain in ongoing contact via email. I am always delighted when that happens, but understand if it does not - they are now in new phases of their lives, and while it is normal to remain in close contact with a few of their classmates, their lives will be so busy that it is easy to lose contact with former teachers.

Some of the most interesting former contacts are from students who perhaps resisted what I tried to do for them, or for whom it suddenly begins to make sense a year or more out of high school. Perhaps once or twice a year I will have contact with a former student with whom I either was not close or who really struggled. The former want to show me their success as if to say “so there” and that’s great- whatever motivates them. The latter want me to realize that they kept at it, and it is very gratifying that they choose to share their success with me. They can tell me that I made a difference, but when the success comes well after they have left my pedagogy, then they should claim the lion’s share for themselves. I am appreciative that they remember any part I may have played.

These students have spent their high school year’s in a time of unnecessary war. I have watched the evolution of the thinking of those I have taught more than once, and over several years there has been a lot of change. But even those who were my students only this year have evolved in their attitudes about politics and government. I think of the young lady going to William & Mary, whose younger brother I taught last year (and coached both both his freshman and sophomore years). The family is politically conservative and evangelical Christian, seriously so. She plays volleyball and bass clarinet. She has an acute intelligence, and a strong sense of honor and responsibility. And she is now one of the first to laugh at the president. My task with her, and with the young lady going to Chicago who is about as far politically left as any of these 16 young men and women, is that they not become totally cynical about government and politics, that they remain willing to be engaged, and attempting to make a difference. I reflect back on what has happened in our classes this year and in the world around us. And it is remarkable to me that so many do remain as optimistic about the future as they do. Perhaps it is their youth, that they anticipate so many possibilities among which they can still choose. The two who have been most politically active and have served as pages and interns, neither has yet been turned off to politics or government - in fact in both cases it has inspired them to want to pursue careers in the arena. My U of Chicago leftist hopes to use film/video and photography to persuade people, even to radicalize them. She remains engaged in the political processes, and I suspect will continue to be engaged.

In the two weeks until they graduate I will inevitably think about them. I will step into a classroom and see up to 5 empty seats, and that will remind me - I will miss their voices, the expressions on their faces, the insights they shared with their classmates and with me. I will wonder if I did enough as their teacher to challenge them, to support them, to encourage them? Of course, I do that with all of my students, but most of those who are not seniors will be back in our building next year and I will have an opportunity to somewhat observe any impact my teaching may have had, to hear from other teachers how they are doing. I might encounter them in the hall, or perhaps they will participate in an activity with which I am associated, soccer, musical theater. Some may come to talk with me about colleges to consider, as some of last year’s students now ending the junior years have already begun to do - I already have about a dozen who want me to write recommendations for college. Some of those underclassmen will ask for help getting into programs - one of last year’s students will intern this summer in the office of a Senator who is running for president, perhaps in part because of the recommendation I wrote for him.

Teaching contains inevitable transitions. Students pass through our lives, as I supposed we are sometimes but a fleeting part of theirs. I may hope that they have positive memories of their time with me, but I do not control that. Nor do I have sufficient time to thank them for the positive contributions they have made to my life. I am inevitably affected by every student who passes through my classroom, however briefly. I regularly wonder what I could have done to be more effective for these young people, and am delighted when I learn of their subsequent successes. At times they may drive me nuts, but I am nevertheless the richer and the wiser for having known them.

I will try to see each on graduation day, to thank them for being part of my life this year and is some cases over several years. For now let me end this the only way I know how:

TO: Latoya, Keenan, Lina, Sarah, Chloe, Brandon, John, Alex, Rino, Jessie, Ibrahim, Melissa, Cathryn, Amanda, Lindsay, Kesha -

thank your for sharing your lives with me this year. I am honored to have been a part of your learning. You taught me, and I love you all.


Mr. B

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Accountability for Failing Businessmen and Politicians

Our business and government leaders, always at the ready to devise more and more rigorous accountability schemes for those without power, remain immune from the same kind of accountability that they would impose on school children and their teachers. In the meantime, an intellectual and emotional rigor mortis has set in at these schools that businessmen and politicians would, otherwise, make accountable, as joy and trust have evaporated at the same rate that threats and policing have moved into the classrooms.

Isn't it time to devise an accountability system for our own policymakers and employers and accountability experts, the same leaders who ignore the real elephants in their own living rooms as they bash about in pursuit of one they have not yet found? Is it really the fault, for instance, of the American school, first grader or college senior, that more and more of our jobs are exported to overseas markets, or that obesity is an epidemic, or that our country is the lead contributor in the world to global warming?

Here are some benchmarks for the education reformers to meet before they are given any further privileges to continue muckiing around in human affairs for which their own education and experience offer them zero qualifications. By 2014:
  • all American citizens will have health insurance coverage that offers equal coverage and facilities for mental and physical health;
  • the federal government will have devised a menu of school integration plans from which school systems across America will choose in order to live up the Supreme Court decision of 53 years ago which declared that separate schools are inherently unequal;
  • American business and government will deliver to the American people a practical plan for full employment in jobs that offer livable wages;
  • All families in America will be offered affordable and quality child care whose cost will be based on income;
  • A minimum wage, workmen's compensation, and social security withholding will be provided to all workers, both citizens and immigrants. Businesses that do not comply will be forced to close until they do comply.
  • State governments and the federal government will devise a funding structure for public schools that is not dependent upon property taxes.
  • Business and government will take the action required to reduce greenhouse emissions of Americans to a level that will sustain a healthy planet.
  • A national action plan that includes private and public commitments will be offered to rebuild the infrastructure of America, to offer adequate and affordable housing for all Americans, to reenergize the arts, to enhance our parks.
  • Once these things are done, American businessmen and politicians, if they still have the urge to do so, may continue their public school reform initiatives--if they are willing to include the public in each and every step of their reformations. Otherwise, forget it.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Cronyism and corruption in the Dept of Education (why should it be any different?)

[NYT] Officials who gave states advice on which teaching materials to buy under a federal reading program had deep financial ties to publishers, according to a congressional report Wednesday.

The report, compiled by Senate Education Committee Chairman Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., details how officials contracted by the government to help run the program were at the same time drawing pay from publishers that benefited from the reading initiative.

Kennedy's report added new detail to a conflict-of-interest investigation by the Education Department's inspector general, John Higgens, who earlier had found that the Reading First Program favored some programs over others and that federal officials and contractors didn't guard against conflicts. . . .

Sunday, May 06, 2007

The coming backlash against one-to-one computing, and what it suggests about educational policy

The following is also posted on my blog at

A New York Times article this week talks about some schools and school districts that have decided to discontinue one-to-one laptop initiatives in which each student is provided their own computer. While there are some questions about the quality of reporting in the article and the real issues involved in at least one district's decision to end giving out laptops (see this blog post), the article offers some cautions to those who believe (with the State of Maine and Apple) that one-to-one initiatives offer the best route to a "major transformation" of K-12 education.

The biggest issues with one-to-one initiatives seem to be the expense, the likelihood that students will use the laptops for nefarious purposes, the need for technical support, the huge professional demands of "transforming" teaching and learning, and the lack of alignment between desired learning outcomes and traditional assessments. A laptop program in one Virginia district cost an additional $1.5 million per year. These costs are sometimes shared with parents, who may resent that their children are using the computers for non-academic purposes. Some laptop programs have suffered from reliability issues with the equipment (see here), and other districts have discovered that the speed of their networks is reduced to a crawl during high-intensity use.

What's more, unless teaching and learning is fundamentally changed to incorporate the ubiquitous presence of technology, the laptops will become extraneous or worse, a distraction:
“The teachers were telling us when there’s a one-to-one relationship between the student and the laptop, the box gets in the way. It’s a distraction to the educational process,” said one district official quoted in the Times article. For example, if students are allowed to use instant messaging during class, they may pay more attention to classroom gossip and planning for the weekend events than to the academic program. Or, search engines may be used to simply find the answers to questions without any actual thinking about the question itself. Whole class or teacher-centered instruction may not employ the laptops at all.

Perhaps most significantly, ubiquitous availability of laptops--even if built into new approaches to teaching and learning--may not lead to noticable gains in student achievement.
“After seven years, there was literally no evidence it had any impact on student achievement — none,” said one school board president. Various studies have shown no increase in student grades or scores on standardized achievement tests. This becomes a huge problem for schools seeking to justify expenditures in an era of increased "accountabiility" to standards.

Of course, it can be argued that the gains supported by one-to-one computing are not easily measured through traditional means. So called "21st Century Skills" such as creativity and teamwork are not typically measured on standardized tests. Such tests tend to focus on subject-matter recall, individual performance on predefined tasts, and other "20th Century" skills. (See this article on the potentialo disconnect between NCLB requirements and high use of technology.) A student who is used to using a laptop for regular school work may be disadvantaged when prohibited from using that tool during achievement tests. Student grades may not reflect increased learning because grades are typically given on a "curve" that reflect relative performance in a class rather than absolute achievement relative to a fixed standard.

While evidence of increased student learning in technology-rich environments is available, the situation exemplifies a major problem with school reform generally: the demand to redesign the vehicle while it is still traveling down the road. The need to continue to educate students while "retooling" the educational system means that it's impossible to change everything at once: teaching methods, technologies, school infrastructure and support, administrative demands, parental expectations, student habits, assessment systems, and more. So while "progress" may be made on one or more of these fronts, such progress will result in increased tensions or lowered "outcomes" in another part of the system. In a political environment that demands instant results, it is very difficult to sustain reform efforts that may actually produce lower measured achievement or create widespread confusion or dissatisfaction in the short or medium term.

One of the reasons that the American school system is so difficult to "transform" is that it is really multiple systems, with overlapping and often competing levels of governance and constituencies of stakeholders. Without a "national" vision for education (something more robust and engaging than the completely impossible goal of 100% student proficiency on standardized tests by 2014), and without true leadership on a federal level for educational transformation, we are likely to see a continued cycle of limited visions replaced by demands for "back to basics" approaches for a long time to come. This reality--and the commitment to at least try to break that cycle--may be why Bill Gates and Eli Broad
plan to make education a central issue in the 2008 presidential campaign. Their contention is that even though "Education is primarily a state and local responsibility..., this is an American problem that affects us all." My own view is that it is time for an amendment to the US constitution making education a federal responsibility, and for our politicians to get behind the depoliticization of educational reform through creation of a robust and independent educational authority at the federal level. (See the Lonang Commentaries for a radically different view on this issue.)

Real systematic reform--perhaps even a national decision to not only redesign the vehicle but perhaps even choosing a new road--is necessary to overcome the cycle of "transformation" and "back to basics" backlash that will otherwise continue to plague the arena of education, and specifically the technology of education.

Paul Vallas and the Future New Orleans Schools Miracle

Posted at Schools Matter May 6, 2007:

There could not have a more appropriate finale to National Charter Schools Week than to have diehard EMO advocate, Paul Vallas, announced as the next superintendent of the distressed New Orleans Schools.

Even though you would never know it from reading the New York Times story on Vallas's new adventure and venture, he leaves an unimpressive privatization experiment hanging by a thread in Philadelphia, where a Rand study earlier this year showed the EMO-managed schools underperforming the public schools they were to replace--even though EMOs receive $450-$750 more per student, thanks to Vallas, than the public schools. (Philadelphia officials were less impressed by the Edison-sponsored study by voucher research chef, Paul Peterson, who turned himself into a psychometric pretzel once again in order to present a partly-sunny picture for Whittle.)

With Vallas's spending authority in Philly diminished as a result of a $73.3 million deficit that he created, and with the final vote on the EMO issue there slated for the coming week, perhaps it was high time for Vallas to move on to greener pastures. And there is none greener than New Orleans, where millions of greenbacks are to be made with fewer of those busybody citizens demanding to know how school money is being spent.

With the blessing of the White House to privatize the New Orleans Schools by whatever means, what better chance could Vallas ask for? Maybe this is where Chris Whittle will finally begin to realize his vision--and our nightmare. And perhaps Jeb Bush's investment of Florida state retirement funds will finally begin to pay off. Remember that story?
November 13, 2003—Acting through a captive money management firm, the Florida Retirement System--whose members consist primarily of public school teachers and other public-sector employees--will pay off the debts and buy out the shareholders of the for-profit education firm Edison Schools Inc., it was revealed Nov. 12.

Reported price tag: $174 million.

The Florida Retirement System is chaired by Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, who supported the purchase despite vigorous objections from teacher unions and some investment experts. The decision to buy Edison, which has used school technology as a key sales point in its efforts to take over troubled public schools, is the most controversial move by the $92 billion pension fund since 2001. That's when the fund lost a reported $325 million buying plummeting shares of Enron stock.

In New York City on Nov. 12, Edison shareholders quickly approved the management-led deal. . . .