LISTEN TO ALLAN ASSARSSON HERE:
Allan Assarsson is still a DCPS parent, but barely. While one child remains in D.C.’s public schools, Assarsson has pulled his oldest son from Hardy Middle School after Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee “promoted” the popular principal Patrick Pope to a school that doesn’t exist, leading to instability at Hardy.
Assarsson has closely followed Rhee’s so-called “school reform” very closely. One component of the “education reform” which has not received sufficient attention is the increase in testing which it calls for. Education testing has become big business.
The Washington Post should be covering this critical issue of huge sums of public money meant for public education instead ending up in private hands. But instead of covering it, the Post is profiting from it. The Washington Post Co. owns the testing company Kaplan. In 2009, Kaplan’s brought in $2.6 billion, accounting for more than 60 percent of the Washington Post Co.’s revenue. Kaplan’s 2010 revenue was projected to be more than $3 billion, although the company may earn substantially less than that because of a federal investigation.
In an article in The Examiner (“Post hit as feds target for-profit colleges,” 8/16/10), Leah Fabel reported:
“The Washington Post Co. took a hit Monday on news that for-profit colleges run by the company’s cash cow, Kaplan Inc., would face severe restrictions under new rules from the Department of Education. Kaplan, responsible for 67 percent of the Post Co.’s $92 million in second-quarter earnings, runs dozens of for-profit colleges nationwide, as well as pricey test-preparation classes and books. The company’s colleges — as well as hundreds of others throughout the nation — are under fire from the Department of Education for saddling students with debt loads without concern about whether they will be able to pay it back.
“Shares of the Post tumbled 8 percent to $315.65 on the news as stocks of for-profit colleges nationwide plunged… The Department of Education estimated that only 28 percent of former Kaplan students are repaying their loans, compared with 36 percent at for-profit colleges nationwide and 54 percent at public universities nationwide… Under the new rules, most schools that fail to have 45 percent of their former students in repayment would not be fully eligible for federal funds. They would be subject to limits on enrollment growth and would need to demonstrate employer support for their academic programs.”
How did the Washington Post Co. respond to this threat to its profitability? In its newspaper, it placed a prominent editorial which warned President Obama agaist attempting to bring tough – and badly needed – reforms to the for-profit college industry (“How to discourage college students”).
The editorial disclosed the Post’s conflict of interest: “Readers should know that we have a conflict of interest regarding this subject. The Washington Post Co., which owns the Post newspaper and washingtonpost.com, also owns Kaplan University and other for-profit schools of higher education that, according to company officials, could be harmed by the proposed regulations.”
In a column on the prior page, Andrew Alexander, the Post’s ombudsman, praised the Post for its commitment to disclose possible conflicts of interest (“From Kaplan to Buffet, The Post hides little”). Despite Alexander’s claims, readers of the Post – who are often subjected to several pieces a week on “education reform” – hardly ever read these all-important words: “Readers should know that we have a conflict of interest regarding this subject.”
(See below for an earlier interview with Allan Assarsson which aired April 30, 2010 on “Spectrum Today” on WPFW 89.3 FM)
LISTEN TO ALLAN ASSARSSON HERE:
DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s anti-union efforts are consistently called “reform,” particularly by the Washington Post (which owns the educational testing company Kaplan: In 2009, Kaplan brought in $2.6 billion in revenue and $300 million in profit). What does it feel like to be at the target end of Rhee’s so-called “reforms”? According to Allan Assarsson, a Hardy Middle School parent, it doesn’t feel very good.
Today, Michelle Rhee testified before the DC Council. Among the issues discussed was how Rhee plans to pay for the proposed Washington Teachers Union (WTU) contract. Rhee says that DCPS has the money, but it was just a few months ago in October that Rhee fired 266 teachers because of a what she described as a severe budget shortfall.
The proposed WTU contract is partially funded by an unprecendented $64.5 million from private foundations, including from the Walton Foundation (the Walton family owns the anti-union Wal-Mart). An additional issue raised was the clause in the WTU/DCPS contract which states that the foundations “reserve the right to reconsider their support for this initiative if there is material change in DCPS’ leadership.” This means that if either Michelle Rhee or Adrian Fenty leave office (voluntarily or otherwise), the foundations may withhold their money.
Today, at the DC Council, Allan Assarsson responded to Michelle Rhee’s testimony and laid out what the Hardy Middle School community has had to endure thanks to Rhee’s “reforms.”