by David Safier
[I've written three posts about Brewer's Performance Funding plan: An explanation of how it rewards schools in wealthy neighborhoods and punishes schools in poor neighborhoods; an example of how three schools would fare under the inherently inequitable plan; and a way to make the plan more equitable.]
The question is, were the people who put together Brewer's Performance Funding plan too stupid to know it favors wealth and punishes poverty, or was that part of the plan? The answer is clearly the latter. Brewer's Performance Funding plan is classic "education reform" conservative-style, where No Child (except poor children) Is Left Behind.
Most likely, the brains behind the plan is Craig Barrett, the head of Brewer's Arizona Ready Education Council (AREC). In the section of Brewer's proposed budget on Performance Funding, it says she tasked AREC with improving education in Arizona, and "after nine months of collaborative deliberations, research and input from a broad selection of education stakeholders," they came up with this plan.
Who is Craig Barrett? He's the ex-CEO of Intel, a smart guy who knows how to get things done. These days, he's focused on education with a conservative, privatization bias.
Barrett is the president of BASIS Charter schools, which would get top dollar from his Performance Funding plan because its schools use a triple-selection process to make sure they have the top students in the state (1. Most of the applicants are high achieving students; 2. If students who are accepted do poorly on the pretest, they're either counseled out of attending or told they'll be put back a grade; 3. Students who don't succeed in the fast-paced, highly competitive atmosphere leave the school.) BASIS is a for-profit corporation, so the more extra funding it gets from the state, the more profit it makes from educating high achieving students from high income families on the taxpayers' dime. Every year, more BASIS schools are being started in Arizona and around the country, which means more profit for its founders and, if President Barrett has a paid position, more money for him.
Barrett is also on the national Board of Directors of K12 Inc., the for-profit, publicly traded corporation that specializes in online charter schools (Arizona Virtual Academy [AZVA] is a K12 school). The corporation is currently being sued by its stockholders for lying about student achievement, which is very low at most of its schools around the country. AZVA is currently on academic probation because of its consistently low AIMS scores. It isn't likely to see much extra money from the Performance Funding plan, but Barrett's connection with K12 Inc. as well as BASIS demonstrates how vested he is in the privatization and corporatization of education.
The fact that the inherent economic bias of the Performance Funding plan is so well thought out makes it very dangerous. If the people who created it actually wanted an equitable system, they might change the model once they saw its flaws. Unfortunately, the plan's bias isn't a bug, it's a feature. It's going to be very difficult to stop this plan from becoming law if it's pushed by powerful Republican legislators. The fact that it will need some extra funding is the only reason Republicans might not support it.