Chicago teacher, activist, writer, media strategist
In order to promote market stability, the treasury department has proposed that the federal government buy up to $700 billion in “troubled” assets from securities firms. Although the bill that would make this possible was not passed in its first attempt through Congress, lawmakers are making changes to garner more support for the “bailout bill.” This bill, if passed into law, will effectively increase the role of the federal government, which has been the modus operandi of the Bush administration.
I would like to invite Wall Street into a world that educators have known since the signing of the No Child Left Behind Act. This was when the Feds stepped up the regulation game in the schools. It hasn’t been an easy journey for educators, but all students are expected to be functioning at grade level by 2014. That’s nothing to scoff at, considering teachers, administrators and educational bureaucrats are addressing the issue of the “achievement gap.” All students, including those who are poor, have special needs, and those who have only been speaking English for a short period of time will have equal access to the American dream by 2014. Of course, to make it fair, all of the students in a given state are evaluated using the same assessments. To achieve its goal, the federal government has granted schools money, just like they are about to give to these securities firms.
The bad news is, if the federal government gives investment bankers the same deal as it gave educators, there will be some heavy strings attached. This means a lot of oversight and attention to accountability. These firms shouldn’t start counting their monies before they have been hatched.
If this program is implemented as it was with the “failing schools” under No Child Left Behind, the firms can’t bank on the entire $700 billion. They should feel fortunate to receive half of it. If a particular operation’s clientele is mainly poor or minority, then its piece of the pie will actually be much smaller. No Child Left Behind has taught us some possible stipulations that the Feds may impose.
First, all of the investments are to make extremely high yields by 2020. Congress will give 12 years to turn this debacle around. This should be easy because there are benchmarks to be met at every year in the interim. Although the market has “natural fluctuations,” every single investment made must make some sizeable gains each year, or the Fed will sell back some of the “troubled assets” at their value at the time of purchase. Offsetting this should be no problem — just start firing associates. If all of the investments aren’t making gains each year, it must be the fault of the associates anyway, so their inability to invest wisely makes them dead weight. Also, their salaries will be taxing on the firms’ budgets. It’s never the CEO’s fault. There just needs to be a plan in action to know who to fire first. Without the setback of unions and the tenure system, this is will be easy. The CEO can just increase the workload of his or her best investors, since they do so well anyway.
Sub-prime loans can continue to be sold. Every client has the ability to own a mansion. This goal will be dubbed “closing the McMansion gap.” If a broker cannot get every client into a mansion, regardless of his credit history or income, that banker is not doing his or her job. It will cut costs if the “not highly qualified” associates are replaced with fresh-out-of-business-school neophytes. If there is a shortage of these workers, “alternative certifications” can be made for college grads of any discipline. All they need is a crash-course internship and some night school. Remember, all of the investments need to have made benchmarks by 2020, regardless of any extenuating circumstances.
If implementing these changes proves to be too difficult for these managers, there will be bureaucrats in place to design ad hoc programs that will make this transition smooth. If these programs are shown ineffective, they will be discontinued immediately and replaced with new programs. Don’t forget, all investments are to be highly profitable by 2020. If these changes are shown to be too drastic for the bankers, perhaps teachers who lost their jobs under the parochial constraints of No Child Left Behind can be hired on as consultants.
For a primer in what the investment bankers can expect, one must not look any further than Chicago. The Chicago Public Schools’ “Turnaround” program may be a good fit for these securities firms. This school year, students at six CPS schools (Orr and Harper high schools, and Fulton, Howe, Copernicus and Morton elementary schools) were welcomed back with an entirely new teaching staff. These schools were dubbed “chronically underperforming” by the Chicago Public Schools, based upon standardized test scores. The Academy of Urban School Leadership (AUSL) will manage these schools with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Under AUSL’s management, the entire faculties were fired and replaced with new teachers. There were no parachutes for these teachers; golden or otherwise. The students, many of whom knew their teachers for years, were faced with having to adjust to what were basically brand new schools within the confines of their old ones. In theory, this program will be another vehicle to bring all students up to speed by 2014. If the common business sector practice of “turnarounds” works in the public sector, why shouldn’t it work for in the world of the MBAs who invented it?