Part 2: Preparing your kids for market

Those predictions I promised last week:

• As legislators gather in Boise, many of them will have already received their education reform marching orders from the American Legislative Exchange Council, the secretive policy hothouse that has been germinating corporate-friendly legislation for compliant lawmakers since the 1970s. None of Idaho's legislators will admit to being little more than waterboys for ALEC's predigested efforts to privatize everything involving taxpayer money, but public education proponents across the country will point out the striking similarities between what is being proposed in state after state, particularly states with Republican-controlled legislatures.

Newly-elected "Chief of Schools" Sherri Ybarra will be largely left out of the loop on most of the preparations, at least up until that time when she has to be told what it is she's going to propose.

• There will be a push to elevate computers even more to the center stage of learning, beyond even certified teachers as the primary source of instruction in the classroom. This effort to make the computer screen the predominant focus of students' attentions will make it easier to cut staff, ignore professional educators and gut the teachers unions—thereby decreasing expenditures while maximizing profits—all while pretending to hold the students' best interests as their biggest concern. There may be questions raised about who is being contracted to provide all this technology—especially after the shenanigans of the governor and his associates on the broadband arrangements have been exposed—but among the GOP faithful, none of that will matter any more than the CCA prison scandal mattered in Otter's re-election, or Sherri Ybarra's dearth of qualifications mattered in hers.

While the legislative faction of the privatization coup is doing its assigned part, the Albertson Foundation—that institute so dedicated to convincing Idahoans their only purpose is improving prospects for youth—will continue inundating Idaho television with slickly-produced propaganda appealing to Idaho parents to go along with whatever they and their allies in the Legislature propose, as it will determine the futures of their youngsters. Few Idaho journalists will question why this non-government foundation is so well coordinated with the actions the Legislature is taking, nor will they bother to mention that the Albertson Foundation's leaders are heavily invested in online education companies. But even if it were publicized that they just might be in it for the money, the faithful wouldn't hear about it, as that would be exactly the sort of relevant information they spend so much of their energies trying to avoid.

When Sherri Ybarra is told to speak out for more technology in the classrooms of Idaho, she will.

• In spite of ample evidence that charter schools are not living up to the promises their supporters make for them, Idaho will see a proliferation of such schools. Facts—such as the fact that only 29 percent of charters produce better results than public schools with a comparable student body, while 31 percent do worse; or that since Tom Luna opened the floodgates wide to charter schools, Idaho has compiled a dismal record of failure in such institutions—won't play a part in the decision.

Not only will there come another spike in the number of charter schools, more and more of those schools will be opened and operated by out-of-state, for-profit businesses. And the curriculum (much if not most of it online) will be exactly the same for students from one end of the country to the other, a reality which conservatives will ignore even though they have bitched about the loss of local control ever since the establishment of the U.S. Department of Education 35 years ago.

When Sherri Ybarra is told to promote more charter schools in Idaho, she will.

• An ever-growing number of Idaho students will be denied the opportunity to partake in music art, drama, debate, languages, school newspapers, school politics, etc.—virtually all electives that have traditionally been avenues of personal expression—because school budgets will continue to shrink, and because an ever greater portion of the school day will be allocated to math, reading and computer skills, leaving few resources for making education an enjoyable experience.

When Sherri Ybarra is told to announce Idaho's schools must focus on math, reading and computer skills, she will.

• As more and more of Idaho's education dollars go to further the privatization of Idaho's schools, and more and more of those dollars leave the state and enter the accounts of wealthy investors, not one reporter, legislator or Republican voter will ask whether the children of those investors attend school in classrooms with more students crammed into a space with less teachers, or if their children are in the sort of private school with fewer students per classrooms led by highly-qualified teachers.

When Sherri Ybarra is told not to mention that rich people would never think about sending their children to the sort of schools she was told to promote, she won't.

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