So where will all this money go- directly to the schools? No, not one penny of the $1.2 million will make it to classrooms. $950,000 of it will go to The Parthenon Group. (Knox County Schools will funnel grant monies to Parthenon in monthly amounts ranging from $140k to $168k over the next year.) The remaining $250,000 will go to Education Resource Strategies (ERS).
The Parthenon Group, a Boston-based (and international) organization, will be paid to “assist with data collection, and resource and return on investment analysis.” Parthenon helped sponsor a conference on January 15, 2013 to teach investors how to make money from public education. The conference was entitled “Private Equity Investing in For-Profit Education Companies– How Breakdowns in Traditional Models & Applications of New Technologies Are Driving Change.” The standard fee to attend this event was $1395. Here is a brochure description: “Private equity investing in for-profit education is soaring, and for good reason — the public and non-profit models are profoundly broken. This is why for-profit education is one of the largest U.S. investment markets, currently topping $1.3 trillion in value.” (This conference was co-sponsored by the law firm Drinker Biddle & Reath and chaired by Harold Levy, former Chancellor of the NYC public schools and now a partner in the Connecticut venture capital firm Palm Ventures that invests in for-profit education.)
According to its website, Education Resource Strategies is a Massachusetts-based non-profit organization “dedicated to transforming how urban school systems organize resources." Although ERS operates as a non-profit organization, its 2011 Form 990 lists six full-time (40 hour/week) employees who are paid salaries ranging from $117,000 to $172,398. It also lists a seventh employee who worked 16 hours per week in 2011 and made $61,400.
Parthenon and ERS support such things as larger class sizes, moving away from class size mandates, and “revamped teacher evaluations” (which I gather would include TN’s current flawed model). These organizations are manned not by education or education policy experts, as one might expect, but by business people, including MBAs, economists, and lawyers.
So in summary, Knox County Schools will receive a one-year grant to analyze “return on investment" that will ultimately cost them $360,000. Although $1.2 million will be generated for this purpose, none of this money will go toward classrooms. The money will go to business consultants (with no particular training in education or education policy) making six-figure-plus salaries and to companies that train “investors” on how to turn a profit from public education. These people will fly in, rake up their money, and then disappear. Meanwhile, our teachers will continue to earn only $46,000 per year on average, and our schools will continue to struggle financially for such necessities as computers for the new state-mandated online testing.
And that is how you turn a profit off public schools.
(This was written by a smart school board member in Tennessee)
Tennessee parents aren't fooled... and neither are smart legislators and smart school board members.