My last post was about the sneaky way the University of Memphis education school was being side-swiped by the Relay Graduate School, a faux education group of pretend-educators who will end professional teacher preparation as we know it. Now, Eastern Michigan University (EMU) has a similar, but slightly different, situation brewing.
Moveon.org has a petition circulating to “Preserve the Integrity of the University as a Leader in the Preparation of Educational Professionals” at Eastern after a state school takeover group called the Education Achievement Authority (EAA) slyly got their plan approved to run schools, with approval of EMU. This deceived educators and citizens in Michigan, and the students.
Like the University of Memphis, the faculty at Eastern were given little, if any, opportunity to provide input into the new ideological business-driven plan to essentially privatize public schools. The good thing is that, also like in Memphis, the education professors figured out they were duped and many are fighting back. These events have shown a disregard of the professionals who know children best and who support real public schools!
It also isn’t a coincidence that the Obama administration is talking tough about teacher ed. schools, threatening to get rid of the TEACH grants to students who would seek employment in poor schools. (HERE for the LA Times report) If the administration was about real improvement in teacher ed. schools, that would be one thing. But the push is to replace professional teachers with for-profits run by those with little experience working with, or background studying children. This lets us know that real public teaching programs, and their influence on schools in the community, will soon be a thing of the past.
In Michigan, the EAA is eerily similar to the Achievement School District in Tennessee, although in Michigan the takeover of public schools involves mostly online schools with software called BUZZ. Diane Ravitch has written much about Michigan’s schools. HERE.
The EAA is called the “new public schools,” which is deceptive. Michigan has had such severe economic problems that public schools were thrown under the bus a long time ago—especially in Detroit. And Gov. Rick Snyder has not been a friend to public schools by any means.
Dr. John Wm. Covington was the chancellor of the EAA, which runs 15 schools separately from the regular education program in Michigan, led by Michael P. Flannagan. I’m not sure what degrees Flannagan has, or if any are in education. Usually state or local superintendents do not fight very hard for public schools, and often they were never real educators themselves.
Covington worked in Kansas, Colorado and Alabama and is known for attending the Broad Foundation Class of Fellows. Surprise! Any administrator with the stamp of Eli Broad will be a part of the movement to privatize schools.
Oddly, Broad attended public school in Michigan and he graduated from Michigan State University. I still find this fact both fascinating and sad. The MSU business school is named after him. What made Broad turn on public schools and their teachers? One wonders.
But now the EAA has a new chancellor named Veronica Conforme, who has been the interim chancellor for a while. I had to check her bio on LinkedIn. Here it is:
Conforme is a former independent education consultant in New York City and spent nine months as vice president of The College Board. Before that, she was COO of the New York City Department of Education from 2011 to 2013. She is also the former CFO, deputy chief schools officer and deputy executive director of finance and operations for the department, according to her profile. She has a BA degree from Syracuse University and a Master of Public Administration from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. It does not look like she is a real educator by any means.
Conforme was under a $27,083.33-per-month temporary contract as EAA interim. She was chosen for the position with no public forum. Now she will get $325,000 a year under a new contract, and this will make her one of the highest paid school leaders in the country. How tough will her job be making sure the BUZZ online programs are running? Conforme must feel a bit guilty because she will donate $25,000 of her salary to a charity, although she will also get an extra $25,000 to cover relocation expenses. And of course she will get vehicle allowance and money for life insurance and security protection.
So with school leaders like Covington and Conforme, who needs real teachers? The next step towards privatization of public schools in Michigan and around the country, besides shutting down public schools and converting them to for-profit charters and online programs, is to get rid of any semblance of a teaching profession.
In addition, the goal of the Obama administration and previous administrations as well, has been to wipe out the teacher ed. schools. We saw it escalated with No Child Left Behind and the Gates’ backed National Council on Teacher Quality reports (Wendy Kopp from TFA was on the board), Teacher gibberish about Highly Qualified Teachers, and with the escalation of programs like Teach for America, The New Teacher Project, and fast-track diploma mills like ABCTE. They want to change the way teachers are prepared and the only way they can do that is by running down the current professional programs.
It is in the education speak they dish out everywhere. Listen for it. They use subtle, not so subtle, language to damn teacher education programs. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, in regard to teacher education recently stated, This is nothing short of a moral issue. All educators want to do a great job for their students, but too often they struggle at the beginning of their career and have to figure out too much by themselves.
So if you are a professor or a student in a teacher education program, in any major university, it isn’t a bad idea to be a little paranoid. Listen carefully to who it is that comes to provide in-service. Pay close attention to university administrators. Find out who is getting grant money, and for what. Probably these groups and individuals will push their ideology on the smaller colleges first.
It also wouldn’t hurt to watch for professors you know who may have jumped ship and bought into the new ideology. Because it seems like someone has to open the door from the inside.
Email me or let me know if your college is experiencing a takeover. I’ll make a list and keep everyone posted….
Sawchuk, Stephen. “U.S. Rules aim to Heighten Tracking of Ed. Schools’ Performance.” Education Week. 34 (13). Nov. 25, 2014.