Who is Tom Vander Ark?
By Kelly Ann Braun, Ohio BATs Leadership
I have for fifteen months now, tried to find a way to condense the reply to this question. Viciously I find myself overwhelmed with the information I would need to give in order to answer fully.
And, yet, I feel compelled to find a way.
I believe that he is all that is EDUCATION REFORM.
He is the Father of this Era in Education when we see so many billions upon billions of dollars being stolen from the public sectors and stored in greedy private sector lofts high above the true needs of the children and their communities.
He is a finance engineer. (In my eyes the greediest prick ever, and that is with great refraining that I type.) He has engineered the end of education in an obsessed, almost militant, and yes, intelligent manner.
He landed an opportunity to be the Superintendent of Federal Way Schools in Washington State for five years in 1994. Thus, his claim to be one of, if not the first, businessman to run a school district. That half of a decade of experience evidently was enough education experience for Bill Gates to place him in charge of his newly formed Gates Education Foundation in 1999. He did that for about 5 years also. From there he diabolically disrupted and destroyed forever, public education as we know it.
He is the corrupt Charter movement. He is the online education movement. He is NASCA. He is Next Generation Learning. He is MindTrust. He is iNACOL (the education policy-making arm of ALEC). He is the teacher exodus. He is VAM. He is school closings. He is #SmartParents, #SmartCities, #SmartStates and author of the book and blog Getting Smart. He is Competency Based Education. He is RTTT. He is DFER. He is Blended Learning. He is personalized portfolios. He is digitalized backpacks. He is small schools within schools. He is the fight against unions. He is the fight against local school boards. He is software companies galore under non-profit headings everywhere (see Learn, LLC pic below for some of such)! He is the (expensive) professional development pushes. He is the lobbying. He is the dreadful data-collection surge. Local school boards to State and National level boards and even unto International heights, he is pervasively present and prolifically pandering.
I could go on and on and every word I have typed so far could be a link.
I stumbled upon his name with a seemingly insignificant tweet from one public school in Ohio. And from that point I fell into the deepest radioactive rabbit hole I have ever seen. I currently have three dozen pages in OneNote, each filled with up to a hundred links and it never seems to end. I made a (what now seems like a lame attempt) to write 50 blogs in a row about Tom Vander Ark, but I only made it to #18. The timing could not possibly have been worse, as a slew of attacks on education threw my city and state, Youngstown, Ohio into a nasty tailspin.
Nearly every single time something comes up in a conference, during face-to-face discussions, on activist group social media pages, in child-minded advocacy sectors, in our Ohio (Kasich-controlled) education policies, in other states’ education legislation, or in news articles that report yet another terrible turn in all the privatization plots, I successfully find Tom Vander Ark attached, perpetuating it all.
And, fearfully, and unfortunately, he is twenty years ahead of us.
I know not truly where to start to try and get folks to understand that he is foundation to all we fight.
He is Sauron.
I want people to know and understand mostly that his ‘innovative’ ideas are WRONG!
He has wronged the public for two full decades plus.
HE IS WRONG in all that he has wrought.