National charter school fascism: Corporate P-20 council governance and the public-private merger of education, criminal justice, health and human services

When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, the eminent “free market” economist, Milton Friedman, referred to the tragedy as “an opportunity to radically reform the educational system” into a privatized system of “school choice” competition. Heeding Friedman’s call, education reformers have converted approximately 90% of the New Orleans school system into a network of for-profit and nonprofit charter school corporations that are integrated through Louisiana’s two P(K)-16/20 workforce development councils: the College and Career Readiness Commission and the Blue Ribbon Commission for Educational Excellence [1]. Now, nearly ten years later, this 90% privatization overhaul is being touted as a model for a total charter privatization takeover of the United States national education system through P(K)-16/20 workforce development councils.

This fascistic merger of America’s national school system and the corporate economy for public-private workforce planning is bad enough. But there is a more pernicious endgame to the “cradle-to-career” charter school movement: corporate governance over all public/civic spheres of the United States political-economy.

Incentivized by the current era of contrived economic depression, the unelected councils of corporate charter school governance are integrating “cost-effective” public-private partnerships with other fiscally starved public institutions, including health and human services and criminal justice departments. The corporate interlocking of these three public/civic spheres under regional and state P(K)-16/20 council governance is setting the precedent for the erosion of civil process until democratic governance and Constitutional protections are ostensibly usurped by corporate charter bylaws enforced through unelected public-private councils.

Taxation without representation

This is the Trojan Horse behind the charter school reform movement: to subordinate American educational policy solely to the “jurisdiction” of publicly unaccountable private corporations that syphon tax dollars to subsidize the executive decisions of their unelected councils—in other words, “taxation without representation.”

In “The True Goal of School Choice,” former Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of Educational Research and Improvement for the US Department of Education, Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt, exposes the threat of tax-funded charter schools that are governed by unelected councils, rather than elected school boards: “unlike in the past, when we had locally elected school boards to which we could register our complaints, there will be nowhere to go to complain since charter schools are run by unelected councils.” Because charter councils do not have to worry about getting re-elected, appointed council members are not beholden to redress the grievances of parents and other local taxpayers who subsidize their corporate salaries. Rather, council officials can secure their corporate tenure by simply appeasing the executive decisions of school CEOs.

This use of public tax revenues to allocate corporate welfare to unelected charter council committees qualifies as “taxation without representation.” In “Heritage Foundation, NAFTA, School Choice, and the Destruction of Traditional Education,” Iserbyt warns that “[t]he most lethal form of education choice is tax-supported public schools (charter schools) which have no elected school boards resulting in ‘taxation without representation.’ This is an oppressive system which caused our nation to revolt and declare war against the British (the American Revolution, 1776).”

Iserbyt’s analysis of charter council tax codes has been corroborated by “Washington state’s Supreme Court [which] has become the first in the nation [in 2015] to decide that taxpayer-funded charter schools are unconstitutional, reasoning that charters are not truly public schools because they aren’t governed by elected boards and therefore not accountable to voters,” according to the Washington Post. In a similar 2011 court decision, the Georgia Charter School Commission, which authorized statewide public financing of corporate charter schools, was ruled unlawful by the State Supreme Court of Georgia. According to the New York Times, “[i]n a 24-page ruling, Chief Justice Carol W. Hunstein said that only local boards of education were empowered by Georgia’s Constitution to open and finance public schools.”

From regional to national P-20 council fascism

Governance agencies like the unconstitutional Georgia Charter School Commission manage statewide charter school planning that is facilitated through regional P-16/20 council networks such as the Georgia Regional P-20 Partnerships Collaboratives. These regional P-16/20 councils provide the institutional infrastructure for the state-level establishment of nationwide chains of corporate charter schools such as the National Academy Foundation (NAF) and the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), which are overseen by corporate councils such as the NAF Central Florida Advisory Council and the KIPP Associate Council.

The regional P-20 councils of California and Illinois provide two illustrative case study examples of statewide regional council governance that facilitates nationwide territorial expansion of corporate charter school chains, such as the NAF and KIPP, for the purposes of fascistic public-private workforce planning:

California University’s SAPEP P(K)-20 Regional Intersegmental Alliances: In 2013, California State Assembly Bill (AB) 646 was introduced under the subtitle “Public Education Governance: Regional P-20 Councils: Advisory Committee.” This bill was authored to “express the intent of the Legislature to affirm the employer-education partnership model of a regional P-20 council . . . to advance strategic educational and economic outcomes.”

The fundamental objective of AB 646 is to legalize corporate-fascist workforce planning statewide through regional public-private partnerships that are governed by P-20 council networks, which are coordinated between the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, the State Department of Education, the Department of Industrial Relations, the California Community Colleges, and “representatives of private sector employers.”

According to the 2013–2014 “End of Session Report Including a Summary of Legislation” by the California Assembly Committee on Jobs, Economic Development, and the Economy, AB 646 was “[h]eld on the Suspense File in Assembly Committee on Appropriations.” Nevertheless, regional P-20 council governance in California has advanced through California University’s Student Academic Preparation and Educational Partnerships (SAPEP) P(K)-20 Regional Intersegmental Alliances, which is tied to partnerships with the NAF.

A 2014–2015 Annual Report of SAPEP Program Outcomes records that the P(K)-20 Regional Intersegmental Alliances incorporate “ten regional alliances . . . aiming to create ties between campuses, schools, local communities and business organizations.” The University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) branch of these ten regional P(K)-20 alliances is “comprised of local and regional educational partnerships serving students in selected schools and districts in Santa Barbara, Ventura, and Kern Counties,” according to another SAPEP Annual Performance Report. In the Ventura region of the UCSB alliances, the Ventura County (VC) P-20 Council was awarded grants from the Alliance for Regional Collaboration to Heighten Educational Success (ARCHES). The VC P-20 Council used the ARCHES grant moneys to establish the Engineering Design Career Pathways (EDCP) Linked-Learning California Partnership Academy (CPA) learning community programs at Hueneme High School that have evolved into NAF learning community programs throughout Oxnard Union High School District.

The nonprofit NAF Corporation, which specializes in technical and vocational “career pathways” curriculums as alternatives to traditional scholarly academics, operates 716 corporate learning community academies and 487 corporate high schools throughout 34 of the United States. As such, the links between NAF charter school corporations and California’s regional P-20 council governance agencies demonstrate the national implications of P-20 regional council planning for public-private workforce development.

Northern Illinois University’s Regional P-20 Network: Under the auspices of Illinois State Statute 105 ILCS 5/22–45, the Illinois P-20 Council has been instituted to legalize public-private workforce planning statewide through a bureaucracy of council governance agencies. For a detailed analysis of the corporate-fascist administration of P-20 council workforce planning policies that are stipulated in 105 ILCS 5/22–45, see my article titled “Corporate-Fascist Workforce Training for the Hegelian State.”

In accordance with subsection (e) of the legislation, the Illinois P-20 Council has amalgamated with Northern Illinois University’s Center for P-20 Engagement, which has instituted the Northern Illinois Regional P-20 Network. NIU’s Regional P-20 Network is further conglomerated into five regional “Work Groups,” including Workforce Development Group that is delegated to “[c]oordinate the Regional P-20 Network’s workforce development activities with local, state, and national initiatives in order to more closely align academic offerings and student preparation with workforce needs,” according to the NIU P-20 Network website.

To broaden the regional influence of the Northern Illinois Regional P-20 Network to a national scale, NIU President Douglas Baker led a delegation of P-20 Network representatives to the 2014 White House College Opportunity Summit to convene with “colleges and universities, business leaders, nonprofits and others committed to supporting more college opportunities” and more regional workforce development planning, according to NIU Today.

Douglas’s P-20 delegation emphasized that “[r]ecent studies show a strong correlation between the educational attainment of a state’s workforce and median wages in the state, meaning that increasing access to high quality education expands economic opportunity for residents and helps to strengthen the regional economy.” Accompanying the P-20 Network delegation, John Rico, who is a Co-Chair of the Illinois Workforce Investment Board, stated that “[a]s a business owner, I believe that the P-20 and workforce are joined at the hip. Businesses depend on the K-12 and higher ed institutions to create the proper programs that offer students the required soft skills, training, degrees and certifications necessary for all students to thrive and prosper in their career development.”

Douglas’s and Rico’s pitch to the White House for regional integration of corporate business and P-20 education councils is evidence of the trend towards nationwide assimilation of public-private P-16/20 council governance across the business and educational sectors of the United States’ planned economy.

This cradle-to-career collaboration between corporate business, the Northern Illinois Regional P-20 Network, and the federal government is paralleled by the cradle-to-career collaboration between corporate business, the California SAPEP P-20 Regional Intersegmental Alliances, and the NAF. Meanwhile, these regional-national council networks are complemented by the proliferation of several other state-level P-20 councils across the country, including the P-20 Council of Connecticut, the Delaware P-20 Council, the P-20 Leadership Council of Maryland, the Missouri P-20 Council, and the Governor’s P-20 Council of Arizona. According to the Education Commission of the States, a total of “38 states have established a P-16 or P-20 council. Two states (Louisiana and Pennsylvania) have two councils convening P-16/P-20 stakeholders, for a total of 40 P-16 or P-20 councils nationwide. An additional five states do not have a P-16 or P-20 council, but have consolidated most or all governance of public education in one or two agencies or boards who essentially perform the function of a P-16 or P-20 council.” At least nine state-level P-16/20 councils are thoroughly incorporated with “local and/or regional P-16/P-20 councils.”

Fueling this national-fascist proliferation of P-16/20 workforce planning councils, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has financed public-private P-16 and P-20 council projects with at least $8,007,834 in grants between the years 2003 and 2010. In fact, the Gates Foundation Senior Policy Officer for Education is designated as an administrative member of the Superintendent’s California P-16 Council, which thus puts a Gates Foundation official directly in charge of educational governance in California.

In sum, these P-16/20 council networks form the nationwide institutional and statutory infrastructure necessary to facilitate mass charter privatization at both the state and federal levels by monolithic education corporations such as the NAF and KIPP. Consider the nonprofit KIPP corporation as a case study of how educational megacorporations utilize regional and state P-16/20 council planning to dominate the national education market for workforce development through “career pathways” and “career readiness” programs such as KIPP Future Focus:

The Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP): KIPP operates 200 corporate charter schools that currently span twenty US states, which KIPP subdivides into thirty-one corporate regions. The KIPP website states that the company’s corporate “regions are supported by a central office, governed by a common [unelected] local board, and led by a local executive director. . . . [A] central office provides services across multiple schools, such as human resources, recruiting, facilities management, technology, food service, procurement, and transportation, as well as alumni services.”

KIPP coordinates three corporate regions in California and one corporate region in Illinois, which are thereby linked with the regional P-20 council networks that facilitate public-private charter school incorporation across both of those states.

Furthermore, the Chief Research, Design, and Innovation Officer of the KIPP Foundation, Jonathan Cowan, collaborated with Illinois P-20 Council officials and the Boston Consulting Group to conduct a study titled “Illinois Report Cards: Project Update to the P-20 Council,” which charts data compiled to streamline P-20 outcomes. Personnel from KIPP and the Illinois P-20 Council are also partnered through Advance Illinois, which is a 501(c)3 corporation managed by a “group of philanthropic, education, political, business, and community leaders” who provide support for various workforce development educational reforms such as House Bill (HB) 5729: the Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness (PWR) Act. According to the Advance Illinois website, the Project Director of Advance Illinois is “the founding principal at KIPP Ascend Charter School in Chicago,” Jim O’Connor, while the Deputy Director of Advance Illinois is Benjamin Boer, who “sits on the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council for the Illinois State Board of Education and supports the work of a number of Illinois P-20 Council committees.”

To bolster national P-20 workforce training through KIPP’s unelected corporate councils, KIPP is funded by the tax-exempt foundations of several megalithic corporations including the Walton Family Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Citi Foundation, Goldman Sachs Foundation, Prudential Foundation, and the JP Morgan Chase Foundation. KIPP is also bankrolled by Google Corporation and billionaire Reed Hastings, who is the founder, president, CEO, and Chairman of the Board of Netflix.

Hastings, a former member of the California State Board of Education, also sits on the KIPP Board of Directors, along with Walmart Baroness, Carrie Walton Penner, who is a Trustee of the Walton Family Foundation; Philippe Dauman, who is the President and CEO of Viacom; and Emma Bloomberg, the daughter of billionaire corporatist-politician Michael Bloomberg.

Now, backed by the administration and financing of such corporate giants, the unelected council governance of KIPP schools is being pushed as a model for nationwide education reform by corporatists such as Hastings.

In his keynote speech at the 21st Annual California Charter Schools Conference, Hastings lauded the “self-perpetuating governance” of unelected corporate charter school councils, and he called for the institution of self-perpetuating council governance throughout a 90% charter school education system across the fifty states: “the work ahead is really hard because we’re at 8% of students in California whereas in New Orleans there’re 90%. So we’ve got a lot of catch-up to do. We’ve got a lot of work of adding more schools . . . And if we succeed over the next twenty or thirty years, that will be one of the fastest rates of change ever seen around the world for a large system.”

The Deweyan-Hegelian conglomeration of education, healthcare, and law enforcement:

Considering the extensiveness of this already widespread charter council expansion, backed with the monumental corporate sponsorship of the Gates Foundation and billionaires like Hastings, Charlotte Iserbyt investigates an imperative question in her article “School Choice Is America’s Trojan Horse”: “[w]hat is to keep Americans from accepting the unelected council form of government at all levels of government once one of the major sections of our economy (education) is being run by unelected councils?”

Iserbyt is not begging the question here. P-16 and P-20 councils are not only spreading their tentacles across the field of education alone. Already, the health and human services sectors of the public economy are likewise being assimilated into privatized P-16/20 councils. In fact, several P-16 and P-20 councilmembers are appointed from various health and human services agencies, thereby interlocking the managerial personnel and administrative positions of both public education and public health and human services.

According to the Education Commission of the States:

  • One member of the Governor’s P-16 Council of Arizona is likewise a member from the Early Childhood Development and Health Board.
  • A seat on the North Carolina P-16 Council is held by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
  • A member of the Arkansas P-16 Council is simultaneously the Director (or a designee) of the Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education of the Department of Human Services.
  • In Rhode Island, the Chair of the Human Resources Investment Council sits on the Statewide P-16 Council.
  • In Colorado, the Governor’s P-20 Education Coordinating Council designates a council seat to the Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Services of the University of Colorado at Denver Health Sciences Center.
  • In Montana, the P-16 Council delegates a council seat to the Director (or designee) of the Department of Public Health and Human Services (as an ex-officio member).
  • The Nebraska P-16 Leadership Council, which is funded by the Nebraska Health and Human Services Commission, assigns the CEO of the Department of Health and Human Services as a councilmember.

Moreover, in my article titled “Corporate-Fascist Workforce Training for the Hegelian State,” I document how Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner is manipulating Hegelian-dialectical crisis management over Illinois’s demolished state economy in order to crash-land insolvent public human services agencies into P-20 council receivership under the auspices of 105 ILCS 5/22–45 and Executive Order 2016–03.

In addition, Rauner’s “Executive Order Establishing the Governor’s Cabinet on Children and Youth” also integrates the criminal justice system into Illinois’s public-private P-20 partnerships through the cabinet appointment of The Director of the Department of Juvenile Justice.

Similar state-level public-private partnerships between charter schools and police agencies are recommended by an article in the Community Policing Dispatch Newsletter of the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) of the US Department of Justice. The article, “A Role for Officers in Schools,” reports that the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center Project of the Law Enforcement Advisory Group, which advocates for “school/law enforcement partnerships, . . . is supported by a public/private partnership that includes the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention” as well as three philanthropies that are invested in charter schools: The NoVo Foundation, The California Endowment, and Atlantic Philanthropies.

At the national level, other public-private partnerships between charter schools and police agencies are recommended by the National Resource Center on Charter School Finance in a 2008 report entitled A Guide for Policy Makers: Partnerships Between Charter Schools and Other Organizations. Likewise, the Final Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing advocates for the federalization of similar “public-private partnership[s]” between police forces and “public health, education, mental health, and other programs not traditionally part of the criminal justice system.”

As a direct response to this Task Force report, the architectural firm Studio Gang has launched the Polis research project for redesigning police stations as “community centers” that are structured to facilitate the public-private fusion of law enforcement, healthcare, and learning services all at one complex. Jeanne Gang, who is the founding principle of Studio Gang, describes one of her Chicago Polis stations as featuring an information learning center with “a computer lab in the [police] station; free Wi-Fi was a great amenity. We thought about city services, and offering mental health services. . . . We thought services could be bundled. . . . We tried to associate design ideas with different recommendations from the [Task Force] report.”

The public-private unification of these three public services under multiplex “urban planning” construction projects is the quintessence of the Deweyan-Hegelian “cradle-to-career” philosophy that underpins both the charter school movement generally and the P-16/20 council movement specifically. Indeed, the odd admixture of leftist communitarian social philosophy with rightwing corporate-fascist political-economics could only be the product of a neo-Hegelian ideology. As historicized by former Research Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, Antony C. Sutton, “both Marx and Hitler, the extremes of ‘left’ and ‘right’ presented as textbook enemies, evolved out of the same philosophical system: Hegelianism” (34).

Such public-private multiplex schools also embody John Dewey’s Hegelianist educational philosophy as stated in My Pedagogic Creed: “[t]he school is primarily a social institution. Education being a social process, the school is simply that form of community life in which all those agencies are concentrated that will be most effective in bringing the child to share in the inherited resources of the race, and to use his own powers for social ends” (qtd. in Sutton 102). Quite literally, Polis community centers and P-16/20 schools concentrate the integral public services and corporate agencies of a regional community into singular governance institutions that facilitate public-private political-economic planning. For a detailed analysis of the Deweyan-Hegelian roots of cradle-to-career charter school methodology and P-16/20 council governance, see my article: “Corporate-Fascist Workforce Training for the Hegelian State.”

These privatized amalgamations of public learning resources, public health services, and “community policing” are exemplary of the ubiquitous public-private administrative governance that is being advocated on a national scale by corporatists such as media-technology tycoon Reed Hastings. According to Hastings in his keynote speech at the 2014 California Charter Schools Conference, “self-perpetuating” public-private governance should be adopted as a standard model of bureaucracy across all sectors of America’s planned political-economy because it has proven to be a more efficient form of governance than democracy.

Idealizing the self-perpetuating bureaucracies of corporations, military branches, papal churches, and partisan political organizations, Hastings believes that public schools, and all other public institutions, should be managed autocratically through privatized councils, rather than democratically through town halls and electoral processes. Hence, Hastings concludes that, “the importance of the charter school movement is to evolve America from a system where governance is constantly changing [because of elections], and you can’t do long-term planning, to a system of large nonprofits that . . . look like the breadth of say military branches, churches, universities, nonprofits, all trying to outdo each other to serve the children.”

It is keen to note how Hastings is showing his hand here: for Hastings, the ultimate goal of mass charter school incorporation is to “evolve America”—not just the school system, but the entire political-economic structure of the country. Hastings is aiming to “evolve America” from an elected republican democracy that separates political and economic powers, and to mutate it into a corporate-fascist autocracy that controls every sector of the nation’s planned political-economy.

Perhaps Hastings would like to sit on the P-16/20 councils that govern corporate charter school chains across the nation, since he currently also sits on the Board of Directors of KIPP, Netflix, Facebook, and Microsoft Corporations.

Footnotes

[1] For primary-source evidence that describes the P-20 council governance of the College and Career Readiness Commission, the High School Redesign Commission, and the Blue Ribbon Commission for Educational Excellence, consult the three government documents listed in the References section at the end of this article.

References:

Louisiana, Board of Regents (BoR). Master Plan for Public Postsecondary Education in Louisiana: 2011. BoR, 2012.

Sutton, Antony C. America’s Secret Establishment: An Introduction to the Order of Skull and Bones. Updated Reprint. Walterville, OR: Trine Day, 2002. Print.

United States, Department of Education. Louisiana’s ESEA Flexibility Request. US Department of Education, 2012. <https://www2.ed.gov/policy/eseaflex/approved-requests/la.pdf>.

White, John. Louisiana, Department of Education (LDOE). Louisiana Annual Performance Report—Part B: July 1, 2010—June 30, 2011. LDOE, 2012.

John Klyczek has an MA in English and is a college English instructor, concentrating on the history of global eugenics and Aldous Huxley’s dystopic novel, Brave New World. He is a contributor to the Dissident Voice, OpEdNews, News With Views, and Natural News. He is also the Director of Writing and Editing at Black Freighter Productions (BFP) Books.

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