Speaking Of Odd–Or Is The Word “Conflicted”?

The other day, the Post ran a column on Paul Kihn, the new appointee for deputy mayor for education (DME). The title of the piece was “D.C. Mayor Bowser sends an odd message with her pick for new deputy for education.”

But the choice of Kihn–an education reformer and private school parent–to head up a powerful position with control of our system of by right public schools (DCPS, for the record) is not odd at all.

The DME position has been occupied by people who, like Kihn, have had strong charter and education reform ties and who are not career teachers. The fact that Kihn sends his children to a private school could even be considered par for that course!

Indeed, it would have been truly odd if our mayor had selected as DME a career educator from DCPS–or any education advocates from the last decade or so who have advocated (and sued!) for a variety of things regarding securing the right to education in our by right public schools. (See here and here and here for starters.)

Also odd is how the Post article did not mention a few things about Kihn that are, well, downright strange–if you believe in public schools BY, FOR, and OF the public:

–Kihn apparently made changes in a teacher contract in Philadelphia to eliminate guarantees about water fountains–because teachers wanted to ensure every school would have functional water fountains. (Not to mention what we know this means for kids’ developing brains.)

–Kihn also was apparently behind an idea to increase public engagement in Philadelphia’s public schools by allowing parents at a few underfunded district schools to vote to turn their schools into charters–or accept no additional funding. Now that’s school choice–with teeth!

[Confidential to Paul Kihn: As a DCPS parent, I really don’t wake up at night thinking about how I need to have even less engagement in my kids’ schools by turning them into charter schools that are not subject to FOIA; that can use annual facilities allocations for anything without any public accountability; and whose plans are not a matter of public knowledge until after the fact. But I do think about stranded costs and empty seats and civil rights violations created by the uncontrolled growth of charter schools in our city. Do you?]

–The wife of Scott Pearson (head of the charter board) is the boss of Kihn’s wife–at a think tank started by Pearson’s wife, called JPMorgan Chase Institute (associated with the financial institution of the same name).

JPMorgan Chase Institute provides think tanky economic analyses for government agencies and very well-connected folks (see here)–all without publishing the data on which its conclusions are based.

(Wait, why does that sound familiar? Oh: because Paul Kihn isn’t telling us who he consulted for as an education consultant!)

Anyhoo, Pearson’s wife is also on the board of the Urban Institute–which is vying for the (apparently secret) business of heading a research practice partnership crafted by the DME. And Urban is also in the midst of a partnership with JPMorgan Chase to analyze that institution’s philanthropy, particularly with respect to poor urban areas and their communities and institutions. Which would naturally include JPMorgan Chase’s interest in promoting charter schools–to the tune of $325 million in 2010 alone.

(Uh, did I just type the same sentence three times?)

Turns out, there’s yet more connection between Paul Kihn and Scott Pearson: Paul Kihn, his wife, and Pearson’s wife at various times worked at McKinsey (possibly at the same time–have not been able to verify the timelines).

McKinsey is a consulting firm that does, among other things, very big business with school districts on “improvements”–which inevitably work to ensure that private actors get a bit of the action of public education dollars. Check this out.

[Confidential to my fellow public school parents: Don’tcha just love when your kids are investments and “products” to be mined again and again by private actors in public schools? This is either very environmentally friendly (think 12+ years of resource recovery per child!) or possibly a bit vampirish–but it’s always good for adults’ bottom lines.]

It also turns out that as leaders in DC public education, both Kihn and Pearson have sent their kids to Washington International School, a private school.

Hmm: Who knew “odd” meant “conflicted”?

(Or: maybe “odd” here means “smart,” inasmuch as they are choosing to not subject their own children to the disenfranchisement that DC public school families experience as a result of the education policies and practices they espouse? In that case, yay choice!)

3 thoughts on “Speaking Of Odd–Or Is The Word “Conflicted”?

  1. Mayor Bowser is far too enamored of the private sector, her introduction while the Ward 4 Council member of a bill that’s now a law allowing the government to enter into public-private partnerships being one example, for her pick of a former employee of a private consulting firm albeit also with experience as a public school deputy superintendent as her new DME to strike me as odd.

    There is a major conflict in all this though and that is the one between the public as a whole and the portion of it that protects its private interests above all else. That pursuit has led them to see public education as just another way to ensure big bucks keep rolling in for them, a pursuit that has nothing to do with any kind of real improvement in our schools, no matter how much they say so.

    Enron, by the way, is one of the companies that Mc Kinsey & Company “consulted” and we all know how that ended.


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