In his blog today, Steve Buttry asks
“What are today’s historic stories that we will look back on and say that we missed the real story or the importance of the story?”
Buttry cites Robert G. Kaiser’s story in the Washington Post Sunday: The Post nearly ignored Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech and his historic “I have a dream …” theme in its coverage of the march on Washington 50 years ago.
My answer to a big historic story we’re missing? The death of the public schools. Reporting is in the weeds on government subsidy of big money’s goal of replacing public schools with charters and schools run as for-profit businesses. A story here, a story there is lifting the veil on the role of big money — businesses like Pearson and philanthropies like the Broad Foundation — in “education reform.” There’s plenty of string to follow in the blogs of Diane Ravitch and countless others and articles like this one by Joanne Barkan that follows private philantropies involvment in K-12 education:
Hundreds of private philanthropies together spend almost $4 billion annually to support or transform K–12 education, most of it directed to schools that serve low-income children (only religious organizations receive more money). But three funders—the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Eli and Edythe Broad (rhymes with road) Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation—working in sync, command the field.
“(Investment banker Michael) Moe ticked through the various reasons education is the next big “undercapitalized” sector of the economy, like healthcare in the 1990s, he also read through a list of notable venture investment firms that recently completed deals relating to the education-technology sector, including Sequoia and Benchmark Capital. Kleiner Perkins, a major venture capital firm and one of the first to back Amazon.com and Google, is now investing in education technology, Moe noted.
Like the subprime mortgage/Wall Street CDO scam, this Big Money story is complicated, serpentine systemic effort that could use an army of full-time reporters working it.
The big question for me is: Where’s the public dialogue? While cutbacks in schools nationwide send parents and teachers onto the streets to protest, our politicians and public officials are mum on the big picture of how they are working with big money on education reform.
It’s big stories like these that are so expensive to follow and to report that we are missing and will continue to miss until we find a way to pay more reporters a living wage telling the stories that are at the core of our Democracy. It won’t be historic until we look back and say, “Gee! Where did the public schools go?”