Vicki Phillips has them Wowed at Education Week

by Steve, September 5th, 2007

Try not to gag when you read this. Ed Week’s Eric Robelen didn’t have to look any farther than the good ol’ Portland Business Alliance to kick off the hagiography.

“Vicki is very focused on creating opportunities for all kids, and reaching out to less advantaged populations,” said Sandra McDonough, who heads the Portland Business Alliance, which advocates for the city’s business community. “It’s in her DNA.”

Robelen did manage to get a couple sound bites from Portland Association of Teachers president Jeff Miller, who called Phillips’ approach “trendy and shallow” and dinged her for “lip service” to the idea of collaboration without any follow through. He also put in a call to Portland Schools Alliance president Martin Gonzalez who took Phillips to task for not taking public input seriously and not sticking around to finish what she started.

But not a word from the Neighborhood Schools Alliance, the most important and visible grass roots group to rise up in opposition to Phillips’ devastating policies, which often exacerbated the very problems they were supposed to solve.

Robelen had no problem finding someone from the much less visible (and much less challenging) Community and Parents for Public Schools, the group that founded the annual school choice fair. President Doug Wells calls Phillips “action-oriented” (ooh!) and “found her style refreshing” (ah!). He also notes “some found it challenging.” (Those of us who live in the red zone found it especially “challenging”.)

Robelen seems bent on assuring his readers that Phillips is actually quite mainstream. First he quotes Eugene Hickok, former deputy U.S. secretary of education under President Bush, who naturally doesn’t think she goes far enough: “I don’t think she’s a dramatically different thinker.”

Then he turns to Jeanne Allen, president of the charter school advocacy group Center for Education Reform, who also doesn’t find Phillips’ privatization efforts bold enough: “She’s pretty much ‘in the box’ and representing a conventional way of thinking.”

Lost in all of this (as it was in Portland), is that Vicki Phillips is an ideologue, who fits perfectly with the Gates Foundation’s market-oriented schools reform agenda. The biggest tool in her shed is “School Choice”, and with this hammer in hand, every problem that she sees looks an awful lot like a nail.

She bludgeoned the hell out of Portland Public Schools with it, and left a segregated, two-tiered school system in her wake. Too bad Education Week couldn’t sniff out the real story here.

5 Responses to “Vicki Phillips has them Wowed at Education Week”

  1. Comment from Steve Buel:

    “reaching out to the disadvantaged” I can’t stand it.

  2. Comment from Himself:

    As far as the disadvantaged students in the Jefferson cluster go, she did reach out… to smack them in the face. (Figuratively, people, figuratively!)

    I thought it was pretty telling that Robelen couldn’t find any parents or community leaders (other than Wells) to say something — anything — nice about Phillips.

  3. Comment from Zarwen:

    Has anyone ever tried to verify her story of living in a shack without running water and being bussed 35 miles to school every day? I’ve been suspicious about that from the get-go. (I might add that I spent a number of summers in rural Tennessee during my childhood. Kentucky couldn’t have been that different. And I am only slightly younger than VP.) My suspicion increased exponentially when I watched how differently she treated schools (and the people in them) in upper-income neighborhoods vs. lower-income neighborhoods.

  4. Comment from Himself:

    Hey, that’s nuthin’. My dad walked 20 miles each way to school in the snow in Pittsburgh. And it was uphill both ways! Also, candy bars were a nickel. (“You see this quarter, Reg? It used to be a nickel.” Sorry, I’ve got to work in a Slap Shot reference now and then.)

    Seriously, it would be a good story to check out. There’s probably a grain of truth to it, mixed up with some hyperbole and whole-cloth lies.

    But hell, even if it’s true, who gives a rip? It doesn’t change the fact that she’s a tool for the obscenely rich.

  5. Comment from marcia:

    Regardless if she lived in a shack with no bathroom facilities, she’s forgotten where she came from. My dad grew up on a dirt farm in Georgia, and he never forgot his roots. He was true human being who cared about equality, and he taught his kids to think the same way. VP is an asskisser climbing that ladder to success if you ask me.