What a sham. LIFT claims to be a grassroots group of parents advocating for schools. LIFT keeps saying they're not affiliated with the ASD or charter schools, but that is so not true.
LIFT is no way part of the ASD? Honey, it is a dad-gum family affair!!!
LIFT is generously funded by a group called Democrats for Education Reform. And just who is the State Director of DFER in Tennessee? Why, that would be Natasha Kamrani, the wife of Chris Barbic, who is the Superintendent of the ASD. Coincidence? Of course not. Keep connecting the dots, because it gets worse...
Who funds DFER and employs Mrs. Barbic? That would be rich, white hedge-fund investors who want to privatize public education and profit from poor people. In fact, the California Democratic Party passed a Resolution against DFER saying, "the political action committee, entitled Democrats for Education Reform is funded by corporations, Republican operatives and wealthy individuals dedicated to privatization and anti-educator initiatives... Whereas, the billionaires funding Students First and Democrats for Education Reform are supporting candidates and local programs that would dismantle a free public education for every student in California and replace it with company run charter schools, non-credentialed teachers and unproven untested so-called “reforms”."
Indeed, the lines are blurry, hoping the public won't look past the smoke and mirrors to realize that these LIFT parents are really just puppets getting a paycheck from the very people who stand to profit richly at the expense of their neighborhood school.
But wait, there's more... It isn't just Barbic's wife who has ties to the ASD and LIFT. Ian Buchanan works for LIFT, too. Guess where he worked before LIFT? Bingo. The ASD. He was the Director of Community Partnerships for the ASD. But, nooooo, there's absolutely nooo connection to the ASD and this astroturf community group whatsover (they say with their fingers crossed behind their backs and their wallets filled with money). At this point, only a naive person (or the gullible media) would believe that LIFT is grassroots, volunteer, and without ulterior motive.
That's one Expensive LIFT!
Those matching neon t-shirts, free food (we heard LIFTers dine weekly at Bosco's, a pricey restaurant/brewery in midtown Memphis), a highly-paid professional community organizer in Nashville, and paid stipends for LIFT parents ($15 an hour to canvas neighborhoods to promote charter schools and the ASD) may get strategic publicity to fool the public, but facts don't lie. The ASD controlled schools now have even worse test scores than when they were public schools. That's why the ASD needs paid parent puppets to provide publicity to support their profitable privatization plans. <--- That's a whole lot of P in that sentence, and yes, it does stink like a urinal when you think about it.
LIFTing Critical Thinking...
One LIFT parent told a local news source that Raleigh Egypt Middle should be taken over by the ASD because they need more buses and books. More buses? So the unaccountable ASD charter chain can bus your Raleigh kids an hour across town to Orange Mound to boost test scores in their other failing charter school (just like one ASD charter school did to the Coleman Elementary children just a few miles away from Raleigh Egypt Middle). More books? Yeah, they really mean test prep for English and Math because other subjects will be dropped to get those 2 all-important subject test scores up which are the only ones that count to the state. Just take a look at the library of this school that is now part of the ASD:
Interestingly, this LIFT "advocacy" group isn't advocating for adequate funding of public schools. They aren't outraged that the state isn't funding the BEP as it should be doing according to the law. LIFTers conveniently overlook the fact that the chronic underfunding of public schools has forced every school district in TN to make sacrifices in important areas (like textbooks and buses) while also paying for unfunded mandates from the State. LIFT isn't advocating for funding for smaller class sizes either, which would really, really help children in poor communities. LIFT isn't advocating for standardized testing transparency to even see the tests that hold so much power over their children and communities. Instead, LIFT is focusing on more charter "choice," which we all know means more "choice" for the charter schools to cherry-pick students and to profit at the expense of other students who get kicked out.
The ASD reality: Churn & Burn
The truth is that the ASD is a profit-making experiment, and it is failing miserably for students and communities. To keep the profits flowing, a massive amount of public relations and false advertising has to happen. It must be getting harder to keep up the facade. Just look at what has happened to the current ASD schools.... Beloved, hard-working teachers in those schools were let go. The ASD now has extremely high teacher turnover rates. Comparing ASD payrolls (links here and here), the 2-year turnover rates are 80%! That's 4 out of 5 teachers leaving every 2 years. That's a whole heck of a lot of "churning" and instability for children in communities that are already distressed. (Interestingly, this salary info for the ASD used to be on the State of Tennessee's website. Why it no longer lists the ASD salaries is suspicious).
To burn through all those teachers, the ASD charter schools rely on low-paid teachers with little or no experience, most with no teaching license or education degree, and have an obligation to do a mere 2 year-stint teaching so they can pay off student loans and move up their career ladder (Teach For America, The New Teacher Project, Memphis Teacher Residency). Poor kids are merely stepping stones on these young folks resumes. Even worse, those children will be guinea pigs as these brand new teachers learn how to teach and manage a classroom. Many of these ASD teachers have never taught before, and the 5 weeks of training in the summer doesn't prepare anyone adequately. Poor kids. No, this would never fly in a suburban school. Oh, and Music and Art may or may not be taught in your new ASD charter school, depending on what the charter chain decides to spend money on, and you as a parent or taxpayer have zero say over it.
Speaking of profit, this comment from "Tim" on the Edushyster article linked above is rather alarming, too.
Why Chris Barbic would leave such a cushy, high-paying job (that pays more than the State of TN Commissioner of Education, Candice McQueen, or even more than the Governor makes), says a lot about the failure of the ASD. Maybe he can't keep spinning the lies? An unqualified replacement has already been appointed to take his place, Malika Anderson, of the infamous, unaccredited Broad Academy. (Interestingly, as an African American female, she will make a smaller salary than Barbic did.) People across the state are flabbergasted that someone with so little experience in actually working with children is now in charge. Just check out the public comments section on this fluff piece article about her. Not good. She will be a stone wall to the concerns and protests from parents, teachers, and communities.
No thanks, we don't need a LIFT
Wake up, parents and teachers! Work to improve your public schools because they belong to you, not to a private charter chain. Elect school board members that represent the best interests of your children instead of corporate charter chains and campaign donors. Trust us, don't take a LIFT from those people. They will bleed you, your children, and your community dry, and you will get nowhere.