People, Politics & Business

Scoundrels, Educrats, Rogues and Champions

"The Cartel" Movie Follows The Money Trail In Education PLUS Charter School Clash on "Morning Joe"

CJ Westerberg, August 18, 2010 9:01 AM


"The noble sounding goal of helping children might have given the most powerful players a sense of impunity - a kind of moral cover to corruption"
   --   "The Cartel"

"Corruption Is Rampant, Pervasive and Institutionalized"
Education As Big Business:  Where Does The Money Go?

"The Cartel", a documentary exposing the money trail in education, opened this weekend in theaters across the country.  Bob Bowdon, a New Jersey based television producer and news anchor/commentator, decided to take on the education "cartel" in one of the country's highest spending states - New Jersey - as an illustration for other states to take notice and take action.

Bowdon is asking parents, teachers and other concerned citizens to ask questions about where their taxpayer money is going, claiming as much as 90% of the money pouring into schools goes to everything BUT teacher salaries.  For example, if a classroom is receiving $350,000 per typical N.J. classroom and a typical teacher salary is $55,000., where does the remaining $295,000. per classroom go???

"The Cartel" website encapsulates the purpose of this two year journey and investigation:

" . . .The conventional wisdom says that our schools could be dramatically improved with better funding. If we would only "invest in education," the argument goes, our children would have a better future - particularly in urban areas, where leaky roofs, under-qualified teachers, and outdated textbooks are all too common.

And so the last few decades have brought an explosion of education spending, enthusiastically approved by local school boards and state legislatures and generally supported by taxpayers. That's the moral cover under which our public school system wastes and steals billions of dollars every year.
. ."

During an episode last week on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Bowdon also made his pitch for charter schools (see video below), a hugely controversial topic, by making a convincing case that monies in charter schools are spent in the classroom, as opposed to going down the administrative "black holes" in non-charter classrooms.  (Charter schools are public schools not subject to many of the same rules and regulations as non-charter schools.  There are  excellent and effective charter schools and there are also bad and ineffective charter schools.  Critics of charter schools essentially claim that choice will skim the better kids and teachers, will be run by greedy capitalists, and destroy the public school system.  Pro-charter
advocates believe charters, with greater autonomy and accountability, allow for innovation, flexibility and effectiveness since they do not have to follow ancient rules and rigid regulations of unions and the education bureaucracies.  This is a very broad brush stroke summation. More here from NYT).
See also related story "N.J. Governor Chris Christie Whacks Teachers Union" on "Morning Joe" HERE on The Daily Riff.

Whichever camp you are in, the following videos below make for compelling viewing:

#1 -  CHARTER SCHOOL CLASH:  "Morning Joe" with Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski and Bob Bowdon

#2 -  LOCAL SPENDING:  Eye-Opening Price Tags Per Student & Class.  Skip the first minute
introduction to go straight to the numbers.

"We can get away with anything.  We help children"

#4 - N.J. CHARTER SCHOOLS - Bowdon's comparison of charter vs. non-charter spending

#5 -  MOVIE TRAILER for "The Cartel" : A pro-teacher, anti-union, student advocate message.  

Previously Published by The Daily Riff 5/3/10

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