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Part 2: The Parthenon Group? Is Your Child Profitable?

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Author: dianeravitch

Here is another citizen-educator, Rob Taylor, a teacher of special education in Tennessee, who researched the Parthenon Group. Here he shares what he learned by speaking to the Knox County Schools Board of Education in February 2014:

“Is Knox County Schools’ vision “Excellence for ALL Children”? Or only the ones who are “more profitable than others”?

“Are OUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS places where ALL students have equal access to the opportunities afforded to them by a quality, FREE public education for the purpose of furthering the public good, or are they places “where private investors can PLAY?”

“Those are shocking questions, but ones I was forced to ask myself when researching the Boston-based Parthenon Group, who as you know Knox County Schools is currently paying (with a grant from the Gates Foundation of over a million dollars combined with an additional $360,000 of local money) in order to conduct a “resource analysis” of our school systems assets.

“I have watched representatives from the Parthenon Group give multiple presentations before This Board as recently as this week, a hallmark of which has been exhaustive PowerPoint arrangements outlining various statistical analyses to support their upcoming recommendations. It is my concern that these recommendations will be little more than a justification for a predetermined outcome. Namely: the opening up of our School System’s resources to the interests of for-profit businesses and private investors.

“Members of this board have stated that teachers presenting concerns to The Board provide EVIDENCE that such concerns are valid, and I have provided each of you this evening with a hard copy of a DIFFERENT KIND of PowerPoint, created by Parthenon partner and member of Parthenon’s Education Practice, Robert Lytle, which was created a few years ago for presentation to potential investors.

“I invite you to review this at your leisure but also to notice a number of statements offered in this presentation:

“Page 2: Asks the question: “Where Can Financial Investors Play?”,

“Page 3: Promises “..big, high-profile deals” and “fertile ground for proprietary opportunities”.

“Page 4: States “deals are everywhere”, and describes the 23 Billion dollar per-year revenue streams available to investors from testing, assessment, and outsourced school management.

“And MOST DISTURBINGLY, on p. 13, the quote “All students are not equal; SOME ARE MORE PROFITABLE THAN OTHERS.”

“I wonder, which students are less-than- equal? My Special Education students in my Elementary classroom? Or maybe my own children and their first and fourth-grade classmates?

“I find it alarming that the quality of ANY CHILD would be determined by the amount of PROFIT their public-school education might generate for a third-party investor, and frightening that members of an organization which would make such a statement – in this case the Parthenon Group, would be involved in an advisory capacity or involved with ANY decision-making process at the highest levels of our district.

“Lest my concerns be dismissed on the basis that the PowerPoint I have provided you this evening may have been misconstrued or taken out of context, I would like to inform The Board of the content of the recommendations made by Parthenon in other school districts with which they have contracted.

“In Memphis / Shelby County Schools, the Parthenon Group recommended a reduction in educator salaries , retirement and health benefits, an increase in class sizes, and an expansion of so-called merit pay based upon standardized test scores.

“Similar recommendations were made by Parthenon for the Metro Nashville Public Schools, with the additional recommendation that certain student services, such as Special Education, be incrementally outsourced and privatized. Nashville began outsourcing special education functions in 2010 to the for-profit Spectrum Academy, a division of Educational Services of America.

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