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Monday, September 5, 2016

Lower Merion, wake up or forever hold your peace.


Make no mistake, the lawsuit against the Lower Merion School District is not by a lone, selfless attorney who wants to save tax payers a few bucks. This is as clear as can be in this Philly.com fluff piece about Arthur Allen Wolk and his new puppy. I love puppies, too, but his sweet puppy can't distract me from Mr. Wolk's actual goal, which seems to be to strip local control from Lower Merion tax payers. Here we go again. It is the same old story they used in Philadelphia, Camden, and many of America's other cities. And it happened to this wealthy, suburban school district in Brookline, Massachusetts, which is a lot like Lower Merion. Once the corporate education reformers are on our school board, all bets are off.


When education entrepreneurs (edupreneurs) want to make money off of our tax dollars, they find a way to belittle and discredit the officials, whom tax payers elected. Below, Mr. Wolk is clear about his agenda.

 "In the interview, Wolk called Copeland's letter 'inflammatory' and 'wrong,' and the district 'arrogant.' That was an opening salvo. He wants district administrators removed from office, he said, and plans to launch a 'Dump the Lower Merion School Directors' movement to run a slate of independent candidates.








I wrote about the sharks that are circling Lower Merion's school tax dollars here back in May. 




In the Philly.com piece, it is clear that Mr. Wolk's family is not invested in our community’s schools. With all due respect, if he does not want to pay the district’s school taxes, he can certainly afford to move somewhere else.


The article states that, "Wolk's two children did not attend Lower Merion schools; they graduated from Cheltenham High School and Abington Friends School. But 'he's got a large house and pays lots of taxes,' said Knauss, adding that he thinks Wolk viewed the suit as a 'civic service. 'Wolk said he thought it was 'worthy.' The median refund of $1,400 that Smyth said taxpayers might eventually receive is kibble compared with what he said he spent out-of-pocket on the case."




Should Lower Merion tax payers be grateful that Mr. Wolk is spending out-of-pocket to undo a democratic process? School boards are elected the old-fashioned way. The people who show up and vote make their voices heard. I respectfully suggest that Mr. Wolk put his money towards a campaign to get residents out to vote, instead of trying to buy his preferred school board.



Those of us who closely follow what is known as corporate education reform find the kind of attacks we are seeing in Lower Merion as cliché, except for the fact that this horrific treatment has been reserved for our cities... until now.  

In this Washington Post article, you can see how a businessman with his own agenda wants to get rid of locally elected school boards (so unoriginal, folks). Netflix's very own CEO, Reed Hastings spoke at a charter school conference to" ...advocate for the end of locally elected school boards. Hastings said the 'fundamental problem' with school districts is that they 'don't get to control their boards.' He suggested that the democratically elected school boards are the problem with public education and they should be replaced by privately held corporations."  Hastings is developing his own ideas for how public school children, our children, should be educated... and it will make him even richer. But first he has to get rid of those inconvenient local school boards who would reject his generic, low quality edu-business models.

As Lower Merion residents are trying to put the pieces of this puzzle together, I predict it won't take long before we connect the dots and realize that this attack on local control is really all about opening the education market to investors who want to profit off of our spending per student. After all, this is one of the few bipartisan ideas where so many politicians fill their glasses and toast together. Read more here and here


I am a recipient of Villanova University's Teacher of Courage and Conscience Award. I try my best to live with integrity and to educate my community about the corporate attack on our schools and the unethical (yet mostly legal) ways local control is stolen from communities in the attempt to pocket public school tax dollars.



Lower Merion and all suburban school districts, it is time to wake up. We are in the thick of it and it all happened while we were asleep. Maybe Kathy Boccella is trying to warn us when she writes, "As Boo, the golden retriever, said in the book Wolk wrote about her: 'Dad has been home with me after work every day and wrestles with me every chance he gets. He always wins even when I try to bite him.'" He always wins, which in this case would mean that the children of Lower Merion School District would be the losers.



Speak up now or forever hold your peace.


Sign this petition to show your support for Lower Merion and public education, in general.    
 

 

5 comments:

  1. Thanks for helping us see the bigger picture. This is not about a concerned citizen trying get some tax refunds for his neighbors, as some might think. Its clearly a group a people with a hidden agenda. Wolves dressed in sheep's clothing.

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    1. I certainly wish it weren't so, but the entire country is fighting the same type of attack on their local public schools in some way, shape or form.

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  2. What is the basis for your claim to know Mr. Wolk's motivation? Has he ever said it's as you describe? Has anyone produced evidence that he is colluding with the people you describe? Or are you just assuming this is part of a pattern because you're offended by the pattern?

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    1. This is what was reported. It is about taking away local control and the democratic process. "He wants district administrators removed from office, he said, and plans to launch a 'Dump the Lower Merion School Directors' movement to run a slate of independent candidates."

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    2. Electing an independent slate of candidates is not the same thing "strip[ping] local control from Lower Merion tax payers" or handing it to "corporate education reformers." You suggest that we "realize that this attack on local control is really all about opening the education market to investors who want to profit off of our spending per student." Where is your evidence that these are Wolk's purposes in seeking to replace the school board?

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