WALMART, CHARTER SCHOOLS AND UNIONS…

I pay my monthly bills, put food on my table and gas in my car as an educator. And I’m not a member of any teacher’s union. I hear (and occasionally see) the same examples of educational malpractice that charter school advocates trot out whenever they can.

But I still think that public education trumps the private models we’ve seen in recent years as an alternative, and that turning schools into for-profit entities is a bad idea. But what does that have to do with Walmart?

From Clay Burell:

The biggest players in the charter school movement – the Walton Family of Wal-Mart fame, Bill Gates, Eli Broad, New York City Mayor Bloomberg and his appointed school chancellor Joel Klein – are all on record as being anti-union. The Walton family’s hiring practices at Wal-Mart are infamous for creating precisely the class of working poor that Borosage discusses above:

The Walton Family Foundation of Wal-Mart is the single biggest investor in charter schools in the United States, giving $50 million a year to support them. The Waltons specialize in giving money to opponents of public education.

“Empowering parents to choose among competing schools,” said John Walton, son of Wal-Mart’s founder, “will catalyze improvement across the entire K–12 education system.” According to a National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy report, “Some critics argue that it is the beginning of the ‘Wal-Martization’ of education, and a move to for-profit schooling, from which the family could potentially financially benefit. John Walton owned 240,000 shares of Tesseract Group Inc. (formerly known as Education Alternatives Inc.), which is a for-profit company that develops/manages charter and private schools as well as public schools.”

Wal-Mart is a notorious union-busting firm, famous for keeping its health-care costs down by discouraging unhealthy people from working at its stores, paying extremely low wages with poor benefits, and violating child labor laws. The company has reportedly looted more than $1 billion in economic development subsidies from state and local governments.

Its so-called philanthropy seems also to be geared to the looting of public treasuries.

I was taken to task recently for suggesting that Mike Duke’s alleged support of an Arkansas bill prohibiting homosexuals from fostering or adopting children was an infringement upon Duke’s free speech.

But when we’re dealing with millions and millions and millions of dollars, we must exercise our own rights to free speech to question just what others intend to do and ask, do we really want to go there?

Jeff Hess: Have Coffee Will Write.

8 Responses to “WALMART, CHARTER SCHOOLS AND UNIONS…”

  1. UncleBob says:

    I hear (and occasionally see) the same examples of educational malpractice that charter school advocates trot out whenever they can.

    But when “my” kid is abused at a private school, I can yank the kid out and stop giving that school money.

    When “my” kid is abused at a government school, when do I get to choose to stop giving them money?

  2. Jeff:
    A bit of bibliography for you, if you are interested.

    New book: Intelligence and How to Get It – Richard E. Nisbett

    All of them confirm the relationship between socio-economic status and educational achievement.

    UncleBob:

    If you don’t like how your local schools are performing you can run for the school board and then work to change things. Local school elections are one of the few places where ordinary people can get elected without investing huge sums of money.

    In my education-focused and high spending district, election winners usually end up with 5-600 votes. This out of a population of over 30K.

  3. UncleBob says:

    But what happens when I’m not “qualified” to be on the school board? What happens when no one who is “qualified” is interested in the position? The school goes to crap and I still get forced to pay for crap.

    Here’s one way to look at it. Food is far more important that education, right?

    So, let’s pretend that the government is going to control our food distribution in the same way they control the educational distribution.

    There will be government ran super markets. They will be funded by the tax payers and anyone within a certain area gets to use the local Government store. The food is free, but you only get what you’re allotted. Individual stores get to make up their own rules like “You have to use *this* shopping cart. You cannot rent it from us either, you must purchase one on your own. Also, everyone has to bring in rolls of toilet paper for the bathroom, even if you’re not going to actually ever use our disgusting bathrooms.” Now, the selection at your local store could be great, it could be mediocre. Got one really good store and one really crappy store in your town? Better hope you live on the right side of the line – you don’t get to choose which one you’re eligible to pick up your food at.

    Each citizen will get $X taken out of their income to fund these stores. Regardless if you actually ever go to the store. You can choose to shop elsewhere, but you still have to pay taxes into the store. You can grow your own veggies, but you’ll still be paying the veggie tax.

    Also, non-government owned stores will now be in competition with the “free” stores. Since they won’t have the support of the government, their prices will be higher than those that do (obviously, higher than free). Since many people will opt for the “free” stores, the private stores will have less foot traffic and will have a harder time making it.

    Now, the government stores pay *decent*, but nothing exciting. The real money is elsewhere. And the store manager is “elected” by the people – and held to their whims, instead of doing what’s best for the community store, you have to focus on making everyone happy so you can keep your position. You might run up crazy bills via budgets that you’ll eventually have to go crawling back to the government to pay off (via taxpayer funds). Who knows?

    It doesn’t sound like a good plan to me.

  4. UB:
    There are no qualifications to being on the school board. In many places you don’t even have to be a citizen, just a resident.

    The rest of your comment is just babbling. Enough with the strawmen.

  5. UncleBob says:

    Interesting article I was linked to.

    As per your comment about not needing qualifications, that’s why I put it in quotes. I know *anyone* can generally be on on the school board. It’s painfully obvious that’s how our schools got in the condition they are today.

  6. So 0.7 percent of teachers in LA are in the midst of some sort of administrative review, what are we supposed to deduce from this? From the tone of the article I suspect we are supposed to blame this on the unions.

    However, it is well known in management theory that getting rid of employees (even unionized ones) is generally on a timetable set by employers. It seems that the school district wants to pressure workers into leaving voluntarily. This has many benefits: they don’t have to prove their case, and they don’t have to pay severance or penalties for improper firing of workers.

    There are many tasks that teachers not in classrooms can do, including curriculum development, test preparation, test grading, preparing reports and attending administrative hearings about students. These would all fall under the “professional” duties and not violate contracts.

    I’m willing to bet that more that 7/10% of employees at Walmart are under performing in some respect. Just the 50% turnover seems to indicate this.

  7. Jeff Hess says:

    Shalom Robert and Bob,

    Robert, thank you for the links.

    Bob, you continue to speak of the government as if it were some separate entity to which we have no contact, responsibility or recourse. To paraphrase Marlon Brando in The Fomula:

    Bob, you’re, ah, missing the point, we are the government.

    B’shalom,

    Jeff

  8. UncleBob says:

    To steal a quote from Walt Kelly: “We have met the enemy – and he is us.” :)

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