New England Patriots’ Martellus Bennett seems like a good guy to me. The big Tight End is smiling and relaxed whenever I see him interviewed on TV, and, for me, it helps that he’s picked up some of the slack created by the season-ending injury to the best player in the NFL, Rob Gronkowski. For all you Patriots-haters out there (and I know who you are), we’ll just concentrate on his Good Works for now.
He wrote a children’s book, “Hey A.J, it’s Saturday!” based on his own family with the title character being his daughter. It is the first of a planned “Hey A.J.” series.
He described the book this way, “The stories are just adventures we have around the house that I recreated through stories. A.J. is this girl who ends up making a mess all the time, you know, but everything comes to life. She uses her imagination in several different scenarios, so it’s pretty cool.”
In June, he went to the Tobin school in Roxbury to read his book to the kids there, and they were thrilled.
The school doesn’t have enough books and no budget for them. They tried an on-line fundraiser, but it hasn’t really gone anywhere. Out of desperation, the teacher of the class Bennett had read to tweeted him this week asking for help. She was hoping he’d re-tweet the plea and maybe raise some money that way. He asked her what they needed and she told him $2500. He reached into his own pocket and gave them $3000. Problem solved. What a guy!
Let’s take a step back, though. We have a public school here, where the teachers are very poorly paid and often used their own meager resources to buy supplies for the kids. They tried raising money online. They reached out to friends and got lucky in this case. It’s so unusual, it made the news. What about all the other cases with no happy ending? Isn’t this something our Department of Education should be working on?
Not in the Trump era. Betsy DeVos will be our new Education Secretary if she gets confirmed, and you can bet she will. DeVos has a very complex financial picture that, in the now-forgotten era of pre-Trump ethics, would be subject to time-consuming scrutiny by the Office of Government Ethics for potential conflicts prior to confirmation hearings.
But the O.G.E. is being pressured to forget all that. They’ve written an unprecedented letter to the Senate committee they report to, saying the review is far from complete. They accused the GOP of rushing Trump cabinet confirmations.
A tempest in a teapot, right? Not for the kids of the Tobin School. Betsy DeVos is a billionaire political operative who has used her family’s vast Amway fortune (a huge pyramid scheme, BTW) to influence education in Michigan. She doesn’t like public schools. She would like to privatize education through Charter Schools and religious education. She will undermine public education programs and further dilute a limited pool of federal education dollars by funding school choice voucher programs.
And, apart from her ideological inappropriateness, DeVos has real conflict of interest issues. She owns shares of K12 Inc., a company whose core business is the management of public for-profit online charter schools.
Her operation feels a little bit like Trump University to me – profits first and the Hell with substance. The New York Times wrote a piece in 2011 about a school managed by the company:
By almost every educational measure, the Agora Cyber Charter School is failing.
Nearly 60 percent of its students are behind grade level in math. Nearly 50 percent trail in reading. A third do not graduate on time. And hundreds of children, from kindergartners to seniors, withdraw within months after they enroll.
By Wall Street standards, though, Agora is a remarkable success that has helped enrich K12 Inc., the publicly traded company that manages the school. And the entire enterprise is paid for by taxpayers.
Education Week also wrote about a K12 Inc school just a couple of months ago:
“for five years in a row, the Hoosier Academies Virtual School had been failing.”
“It had been assigned an ‘F’ grade from the state of Indiana every year it had been open except its first, when it had garnered a ‘C.’”
Despite more than a decade of state investigations, news media reports, and research that have documented startling failures and gross mismanagement in full-time online schools, the sector—dominated by two for-profit companies—continues to expand, spreading into new states and enrolling more students.
Betsy DeVos is personally invested in this failure and was at the end of a funnel that took tax dollars dedicated to public schools and transferred them to Wall Street.
Martellus Bennett took money out of his own pocket to put it where Betsy DeVos would like to take it right back out to put it in hers.
Still feeling good?