Bill Gates: The Fox in the Henhouse

The fox is in the henhouse.

When the Missouri State Department of Education issued a press release earlier this week announcing it had hired the CEE Trust to devise a plan to deal with the state's failing school districts, you did not see anything about Teach for America or Stand for Children, but they have been integral parts of the trust's operations the past few years.

In other words, the reform groups that have been at the heart of tearing down teachers and turning public schools into standardized test factories will be the ones in charge of coming up with a system to save our troubled schools.

The state of Missouri, thanks to the Board of Education, has fallen into bed with those who want to privatize education and allow business to come in and milk every cent out of the system.

The CEE Trust is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Need I say more? We already have one billionaire, Rex Sinquefield, in the state of Missouri who thinks that just because he is fortunate enough to have money that he should be able to reshape the state in his own warped image. And now we bring in someone with even more money. It is not a recipe for success.

From the CEE Trust website:

Convening: We gather the full CEE-Trust network annually and lead smaller working groups to explore specific topics and multi-city collaborations. Through our various convenings we share lessons learned, foster communication, document best practices, and identify new trends in education reform.

Collaborating: We help Members and Affiliates explore new reform strategies, develop and execute collaborative projects, and leverage the national network to inform local projects.

Consulting: We provide members with consulting support as they explore or implement new reform projects. We also offer consulting services to city-focused groups that are interested in developing education reform strategies informed by lessons learned through CEE-Trust's work with our Members and Affiliates.

Throughout this description, I see words and phrases that set the alarm bells off in my mind:

Best practices -- Best practices in education are nearly always defined by people who left the classroom as soon as they had a couple of years of success (or what appeared to be success) and began making a mint giving seminars to gullible administrators and school boards who hear the words "best practices" and immediately do spot-on impressions of Pavlov's pets.

Drive the education reform agenda forward -- Do I even need to explain this one? The reform agenda-that means everything from charter schools, virtual schools, merit pay, and the introduction of hordes of idealistic, inexperienced Teach for America graduates in place of experienced teachers.

Partner with education innovators looking for opportunities to expand their programs -- Take a look at CEE's list of partners. You will find two with Missouri connections -- the Kauffman Foundation of Kansas City and Mayor Francis Slay of St. Louis. But you will also find New Schools of New Orleans (and we all know how that has worked out) and Mayor Kevin Johnson of Sacramento, Calif. Johnson is perhaps better known as a former NBA player with the Phoenix Suns, but he is also the husband of the notorious opponent of public education and classroom teachers Michelle Rhee, founder of the misnamed StudentsFirst.

The Missouri State Board of Education could do much more for those who are stuck in failing schools if they abandoned this pursuit of best practices that have only worked in affluent neighborhoods and in schools that are allowed to select their clientele and started lobbying the state legislature to stop cutting funding for programs designed to attack poverty and demagoguing health programs that could make a difference in the quality of the students' lives.

Certainly, there are ways in which the education in Missouri's failing schools can improve, but any such plan that does not include improvements in the conditions faced by children when they are not on school property is destined to fail.

And now, instead of spending money on tackling the problems that most affect the children in Missouri's failing school districts, the state will be pouring thousands into yet another think tank designed to enrich its corporate partners and continue the process of dismantling public education.