Friday, November 6, 2015

Disaster Capitalism: Re-segregation of Schools and $1.2 Trillion in Student Debt

I predict that the legacy of President Obama and his multi-millionaire congress will be a stain on America for generations to come.  The American government looks more like a monarchy than a democratic republic.  One of the most shameful effects of the privileged group of millionaires in congress, and there are many, has been the re-segregation and militarization of our public schools.

This congress operates as a royal family unanswerable to the American people, enacting laws and rules that serve to enrich themselves at the expense of those who “elected” them.  For instance, today it was reported that ex-speaker of the House John Boehner and his staff will be on the taxpayer’s dole for the next five years.  From RollCall:


The former House speaker, whose resignation from Congress became effective over the weekend, is taking advantage of little-known perks and privileges taxpayers provide BY LAW to those vacating the chamber’s highest office. Boehner is setting up a government-funded office that may have as many as three aides with salaries of more than $100,000 each.

The Ohio Republican can maintain the outpost for up to five years, with taxpayers footing the bill for office operations, franked mail and personnel costs….

“No statutory restrictions exist on the cost, type, or location of a former Speaker’s office,” wrote Matthew E. Glassman in a Congressional Research Service report from May. Boehner could pay his three aides salaries of up to $158,000, $133,000 and $116,000 for 2015, Glassman noted…

Former Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., spent about $1.5 million running his post-speaker office between 2008 and 2012…

Hastert, who pleaded guilty last week to charges of evading federal bank reporting requirements, resigned from Congress in 2007. He maintained his post-speaker office while also acting as a registered federal lobbyist for clients such as Lorillard Tobacco and Bridgepoint Education, lobbying records show, while also spending federal funds for his wind-down office from 2009 to 2012.

Hmmm, Bridgepoint Education.  I wonder what that is that the taxpayers paid the criminal felon Hastert $1.5 million for his lobbying efforts?  And if the taxpayers paid for his office space and his staff’s salaries, what did Bridgepoint pay Hastert?  So here’s what has to say about Bridgepoint Education:



Bridgepoint Education, Inc. (“Bridgepoint”) was created as the result of the purchase of a small religious college in 2005, and now offers primarily online 4-year degrees. Bridgepoint has experienced some of the most dramatic increases in student enrollment, Federal funds, and profit of any company examined.

Along with this rapid growth, have come rapid increases in student withdrawal rates (the student withdrawal rates for the Associate programs is the highest of any company analyzed), student loan defaults, and spending on marketing and executive compensation. These outcomes call into question whether Bridgepoint’s students are receiving an education that affords them to the ability to repay the loan debt they incurred.

My, my, my.  So Bridgeport was created in 2005 after W. Bush along with Ted Kennedy pushed through “no child left behind” that started the mass privatization of public schools into private charters.  How else has Bridgepoint engorged themselves with taxpayer funds courtesy of ex-Speaker Hastert?

Bridgepoint Education, was formed in 2003 with the backing of Warburg Pincus, a Wall Street private equity firm. In 2005, the company purchased The Franciscan University of the Prairies in Clinton, IA.  Franciscan University was a small regionally accredited non-profit college facing serious financial troubles because of low enrollment.

At the time of purchase, Franciscan University enrolled 312 students.  Bridgepoint acquired the Colorado School of Professional Psychology in 2007 and renamed it University of the Rockies. At the time of acquisition, the school had 75 students and did not offer any online courses or programs.

Bridgepoint had its Initial Public Offering (IPO) on the New York Stock Exchange in 2009…. 

In July 2011 Warburg Pincus announced that it may, in the next 36 months, sell its entire share of the company.  At the company’s average share price over the past 12 months, Warburg would stand to earn $773.1 million from selling its holdings.

Since 2005, enrollment at Bridgepoint has grown over 7,800 percent from 968 (including both Ashford and University of the Rockies) students that year to 77,179 students in 2010.  Unlike many other for-profit education companies, Bridgepoint has not seen the same decrease in its 2011 and 2012 enrollment, and as of March 2012, the company enrolled approximately 95,000 students.

The growth in enrollment has led to growth in revenue. Over the past 3 years, from $85.7 million in fiscal year 2007 to $713.2 million in 2010.

Well, well, well it sure pays to have an ex-Speaker of the House, paid by the taxpayers to lobby congress for on your behalf.   In the year 2009, Obama came into the Executive Office and appointed Arnie Duncan as Education Secretary,  with Duncan’s “Race to the Trough” er, I mean “Race to the Top”  program billions more were taken out of public schools to fund private for-profit charter schools.  From BlackAgenda Report:


Duncan was an old friend of the president-elect with a spotty resume who'd come to the Chicago Public Schools straight from the mayor's office where he'd been a budget guy, and had never taught a day in his life.

Duncan had closed dozens of Chicago schools and replaced them with charters, often in neighborhoods under pressure from gentrifiers, and fired hundreds of qualified, experienced and largely black teachers…

Duncan and Obama soon announced their intention to close and privatize (in their language “turn around”) what they called “5,000 underperforming public schools” across the country, with the “underperformance to be mostly indicated by low scores on standardized tests.

Using a pot of almost $4 billion in stimulus money, the Obama administration allowed consultants from pro-privatization foundations like Eli Broad, Gates, Walton Family and others to write the guidelines for its signature education program, Race To The Top…

In seven years, President Obama, his Secretary of Education, and their corporate funded allies and charter school sugar daddy contributors built upon the foundation laid by the No Child Left Behind Act, which first gave federal funding to the charter school and educational privatization industries…

It seems that after Hurricane Katrina the Bush Administration and then the Obama Administration completely privatized the New Orleans public school system.  From Dr. Margaret Kimberly at Black Agenda Report:


U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan could not contain his gratitude to Hurricane Katrina, which killed or permanently displaced much of New Orleans’ Black residents…Katrina was welcomed by millions of whites as an opportunity for economic and ethnic “renewal” – a rationale that would justify genocide…

On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, Louisiana, and the entire Gulf coast. More than 1,800 people died and thousands more were permanently displaced. In the years since, that city regained only two-thirds of its pre-hurricane population. But this tragedy for multitudes was a gift to powerful people who wanted to turn New Orleans into Exhibit A for neo-liberalism…

In 2005 the ruling elites were over overjoyed because nature gave them the chance to do what they could not get away with easily. Overnight, New Orleans lost a huge portion of its poor, black population. The state legislature used the crisis to arbitrarily declare public schools as “failing” and converted them into charters.

They fired 7,500 public school employees who won decisions in lower courts but were undone when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear their case. In short, New Orleans became the face of disaster capitalism and ethnic cleansing.

While millions of people watched in horror as the levees broke and homes were flooded, some watched with glee and, as Kristen McQueary of the Tribune editorial board admits, with envy too. They wondered why they could not have been fortunate enough to have a black population swept out of town in a matter of days.

In 2010 … Arne Duncan said that the hurricane was “the best thing to happen to education in New Orleans….” There is no public input, no permanent employment. This dystopian hell is perfect in their eyes.  “Post-Katrina New Orleans has provided no ‘rebirth’ for black people.”

Yes, where some see lemons others see lemonade, or as Obama’s first Chief of Staff, Chicago Mayor, Rahm Emanuel said “you never want a serious crisis to go to waste and what I mean by that is it’s an opportunity to do things you could not do before”. 

And what resulted when the Chicago bunch seized the opportunity that the crisis provided?   From


The resegregation of America’s schools

…Today, segregation — both racial and economic — remains the core organizational feature of American public education. In 1980, the typical black student attended a school where 36 percent of students were white. Today, the average black student attends a school where only 29 percent are. Many black and Latino students attend schools where nearly every other student is nonwhite — including in supposed liberal bastions such as New York and Chicago.

Indeed, New York State’s public schools are the most segregated in the nation, according to a March report from the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles. In New York City, 19 of 32 community school districts are less than 10 percent white. That includes all of the Bronx, two-thirds of Brooklyn and half of Manhattan.

“Black children are more racially and socioeconomically isolated today than at any time” since data became available in 1970, Richard Rothstein, a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute, wrote in a recent report.

What’s more, schools attended primarily by nonwhite and poor children are often woefully underfunded.

Take Philadelphia, where, as a reporter for the Philadelphia City Paper, I cover a largely poor and nonwhite school district that, after years of underfunding, is going through a spectacular collapse in the wake of budget cuts implemented by Republican Gov. Tom Corbett.

Many high schools here are more than 90 percent black. Among the many things city schools lack are sufficient nurses, counselors, music and art teachers and libraries. Things are rather different a few miles over the city line at Lower Merion High School in Ardmore, a leafy suburban town with a median household income of nearly $69,000. There, the funding is stellar. The student body: 8 percent black…

Today’s version of segregation is enforced not through “whites only” signage or a governor blocking the schoolhouse door, but through disparate property-tax bases….

A self-described reform movement, which calls for expanded charter schools and evaluating teacher effectiveness based on test scores, now dominates American public-education policy debates.   It has largely abandoned the civil rights movement’s dream of integrated schools and instead blames public management and teachers’ unions for poor students’ troubles.

Notably, the Civil Rights Project study found THAT 73 PERCENT OF NEW YORK CITY CHARTERS ARE “APARTHEID SCHOOLS,” with less than 1 percent white enrollment.

That’s shocking “73 Percent of New York Charters are Apartheid Schools with less than 1 percent white enrollment.”  That reminded me that recently I had seen Campbell Brown, who previously was a “journalist” at CNN, making the circuit stumping for expanded charter schools in New York.  Here is the appearance she made on The Colbert Report:

According to Mother Jones it appears Campbell Brown has a conflict of interest:

Before founding PTP, Brown raised this issue in a Wall Street Journal op-ed in July 2012. But what she failed to disclose was that her husband, Dan Senor, sits on the board of the New York affiliate of StudentsFirst, an education lobbying group founded by Michelle Rhee, the controversial former Washington, DC, chancellor.

Rhee made a name for herself as public enemy No. 1 of the teachers' unions and has become the torchbearer of the charter school movement. In 2012, her "bipartisan grassroots organization" backed 105 candidates in state races, 88 percent of them Republicans. (Senor was also the spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority following the invasion of Iraq and served as a foreign policy adviser to Mitt Romney in 2012.)…

But there is much more about PTP that is less than transparent, including its sources of funding and its overall agenda. As a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, PTP may keep its donors' identities secret and spend money in electoral campaigns, so long as political activity doesn't consume the majority of its time and money.

And if you are fortunate enough, as a poor or middle class student, to graduate and pursue a college or secondary education you are likely to spiral into and unending vortex of debt that unlike any other debt, can never be forgiven.  From International BusinessTimes:


Joe Biden Backed Bills To Make It Harder For Americans To Reduce Their Student Debt

Jennifer Ryan did not love the idea of taking on debt, but she figured she was investing in her future. Eager to further her teaching career, she took out loans to gain certification and later pursued an advanced degree. But her studies came at a massive cost, leaving her confronting $192,000 in student loan debt.

“It’s overwhelming,” Ryan told International Business Times of her debts. “I can’t pay it back on the schedule the lenders have demanded."

In the past, debtors in her position could have used bankruptcy court to shield them from some of their creditors. But a provision slipped into federal law in 2005 effectively bars most Americans from accessing bankruptcy protections for their PRIVATE STUDENT LOANS.

In recent months, Democrats have touted legislation to roll back that law, as Americans now face more than $1.2 trillion in total outstanding debt from their government and private student loans....  Yet one of the lawmakers most responsible for limiting the legal options of Ryan and students like her is the man who some Democrats hope will be their party's standard-bearer in 2016: Vice President Joe Biden.

As a senator from Delaware -- a corporate tax haven where the financial industry is one of the state’s largest employers -- Biden was one of the key proponents of the 2005 legislation…  That bill effectively prevents the $150 billion worth OF PRIVATE STUDENT DEBT from being discharged, rescheduled or renegotiated as other debt can be in bankruptcy court.

Biden's efforts in 2005 were no anomaly. Though the vice president has long portrayed himself as a champion of the struggling middle class -- a man who famously commutes on Amtrak and mixes enthusiastically with blue-collar workers -- the Delaware lawmaker has played a consistent and pivotal role in the financial industry's four-decade campaign to make it harder for students to shield themselves and their families from creditors, according to an IBT review of bankruptcy legislation going back to the 1970s.

Biden's political fortunes rose in tandem with the financial industry's. At 29, he won the first of seven elections to the U.S. Senate, rising to chairman of the powerful Judiciary Committee, which vets bankruptcy legislation.

On that committee, Biden helped lenders make it more difficult for Americans to reduce debt through bankruptcy -- a trend that experts say encouraged banks to loan more freely with less fear that courts could erase their customers’ repayment obligations. At the same time, with more debtors barred from bankruptcy protections, the average American’s debt load went up by two-thirds over the last 40 years. Today, there is more than $10,000 of personal debt for every person in the country, as compared to roughly $6,000 in the early 1970s.

That increase -- and its attendant interest payments -- have generated huge profits for a financial industry that delivered more than $1.9 million of campaign contributions to Biden over his career, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Student debt, which grew as Biden climbed the Senate ladder and helped lenders tighten bankruptcy laws, spiked from $24 billion issued annually in 1990-91 to $110 billion in 2012-13, according to data from the Pew Research Center.

According to the Institute for College Access and Success, as of 2012, roughly one-fifth of recent graduates’ student debt was from private loans that “are typically more costly” than government loans.

And another consequence of turning education over to for-profit, privately owned charters is the school to prison pipeline.  From


“Every day in communities across the United States, children and adolescents spend the majority of their waking hours in schools that have increasingly come to resemble places of detention more than places of learning. From metal detectors to drug tests, from increased policing to all-seeing electronic surveillance, the public schools of the twenty-first century reflect a society that has become fixated on crime, security and violence.”—Investigative journalist Annette Fuentes…

Unfortunately, when you’re a child in the American police state, life is that much worse.  Microcosms of the police state, America’s public schools contain almost every aspect of the militarized, intolerant, senseless, over criminalized, legalistic, surveillance-riddled, totalitarian landscape that plagues those of us on the “outside…”

Funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, these school resource officers (SROs) have become de facto wardens in the elementary, middle and high schools, doling out their own brand of justice to the so-called “criminals” in their midst with the help of tasers, pepperspray, batons and brute force….

In their zeal to crack down on guns and lock down the schools, these cheerleaders for police state tactics in the schools might also fail to mention the lucrative, multi-million dollar deals being cut with military contractors such as Taser International to equip these school cops with tasers, tanks, rifles and $100,000 shooting detection systems.

According to one law review article on the school-to-prison pipeline, “Many school districts have formed their own police departments, some so large they rival the forces of major United States cities in size. For example, the safety division in New York City’s public schools is so large that if it were a local police department, it would be the fifth-largest police force in the country.”

The term “school-to-prison pipeline” refers to a phenomenon in which children who are suspended or expelled from school have a greater likelihood of ending up in jail. One study found that “being suspended or expelled made a student nearly three times more likely to come into contact with the juvenile justice system within the next year.”

So John Boehner ex-Speaker of the House, is taking advantage of the “little-known perks and privileges taxpayers provide BY LAW” to those member of the “royal family” or maybe I should say “crime family.” After all, a royal family has limited control over their people, whereas the American government creates a dangerous atmosphere and demands protection money from their citizens. 

We’ll keep you safe from our actions as long as you pay the price and the price can be your property, your life, your home, your health and your children’s future.

And that is Part I of the legacy of Obama and the Millionaire Congress the “Re-segregation of Schools and $1.2 Trillion in Student Debt."  School’s out.

By Patricia Baeten

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