Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Private Funding For Public Testing

Earlier this year, the New York State Regents canceled the January 2012 Regents exams.

You see, there was no money in the state piggy bank for the January Regents exams.

Not after the Regents needed to implement all those other state tests as part of the Race to the Top program that requires students be tested in all subjects at every grade level and teachers be evaluated using these scores.

Not after the austerity budget Tea Party Democrat Andrew Cuomo had passed in New York State.

Now the January Regents exams really don't cost all that much - just $1.4 million dollars.

Hell, that's less than half what NYCDOE computer consultant Willard Lanham stole from the City of New York as part of a technology upgrade to wire classrooms for computerized testing ($3.6 million.)

It's also a lot less than what Wireless Generation is going to see as part of the no-bid contract NY State has handed it's owner, scandal-plagued Rupert Murdoch, to track student test data using the extremely crappy and roundly despised ARIS system ($27 million).

And surely it's a whole lot less than Bloomberg is spending on technology upgrades to classrooms again this year after just upgrading the classroom wiring a few years ago with crooked consultants like Willard Lanham doing the job ($542 million) or the amount that he allowed the City Time crooks to steal as part of a city payroll project ($600 million as reported by the NY Times in June, 2011.)

Yet the state just couldn't find the $1.4 million for the January Regents and this made Mayor Moneybags here in New York City very, very sad.

Now what's a billionaire who has seen his personal net worth sky-rocket since he took office in NYC to do when he wants state tests in order to use the scores to grade teachers but the state cannot afford them?

Why, go to "private donors" for the money, of course!

Over the last several weeks, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg made a series of unusual fund-raising calls to a handful of wealthy New Yorkers. Would they be willing, he asked, to chip in $250,000 each to save some standardized tests?

The state, he told them, had canceled the January administration of the high school Regents exams, endangering the graduation of thousands of city students. Principals were warning of disastrous consequences and more dropouts. To reinstate the exams for next year, the state needed $1.4 million the State Legislature did not provide.

He placed five calls, and all of the donors said yes. Mr. Bloomberg then pitched in $250,000 from his own private philanthropy. So now January exams are back on across the state in what may be the nation’s first private effort to pay for standardized testing.

Gee, how "generous" of these private donors to pony up the money for the January Regents exams.

But just who are these "private donors"?

Other than explaining that he contributed $250,000 himself, the mayor won't say who these wonderful "private donors" are except to say this:

“They are not trying to court favor with anybody,” he said on Wednesday, announcing the gift and explaining why all the donors, with the exception of the mayor, were anonymous. “They just understand that this is the future of our country, our kids, the future of our city.”

Oh, sure they're not trying to court favor with anybody, they have no agenda to promote and no business angle in this, they just happen to be on Moneybags' iPad 2 and they were all happy to pony up the dough.

Funny how Moneybags didn't make these calls when he was claiming he needed to lay thousands of teachers off to save millions in the city budget.

Maybe a few of them would have ponied up some money then too?

Well, we'll never know the answer to that now, but I guess we do know what the mayor's priorities are - tests over teachers.

Now I for one am glad the January Regents exams are back since it gives many students two chances to pass the tests they will need to pass in order to graduate.

I know that there were some seniors this year who failed to graduate in June because they failed the June U.S. History Regents exam after the January exam was canceled due to snow.

Had there been a January Regents exam, they perhaps would have gotten the wake-up call to prepare better for the June exam rather than now having to sit through summer school test prep classes to take the exam again.

And I know in my school that we test the overwhelming majority of juniors on the ELA Regents exam in January so that we can focus on just a few who need additional preparation and tutoring to pass the exam in June.

So having the January Regents exams back is very helpful.

Nonetheless I am disturbed that Moneybags himself, Oligarch Extraordinaire, has put the money up for these tests, along with some other nameless oligarchs who Bloomberg assures us are just in this because they love the kids.

More and more, you can see how the states and the country as a whole are abdicating their public responsibilities on things like public education and transportation and ceding them to private enterprise or philanthropists.

The United States is becoming a Third World country where the oligarchs get all the tax cuts and tax subsidies they want, the corporations pay nothing in taxes, the starved government has to cut all sorts of programs, and then "private donors" are found to fund the programs they want to fund.

You see, the Tea Party Republicans like Cantor and McConnell and Christie and the Tea Party Democrats like Obama and Cuomo all insist there is just no money to provide any domestic services anymore.

We're just that broke.

And that's where Bloomberg and his "private donors" step in.

Maybe they can make up the shortfall.

And of course, like Bloomberg says, these private donors won't have any agenda to push at all or receive anything in return for their "gifts."


Except for all those paper tests with the WALMART logo on 'em and all those computerized tests and test prep programs that can only be run on MICROSOFT products, of course...
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