Skip to content

My Interview with Counterpunch

May 14, 2014

Sacramento jounralist Seth Sandronsky learned of the release of my book, A Chronicle of Echoes, and requested an interview on the book and other issues, including questions about my personal history and varied education reform topics.

His interview is posted in the online publication, Counterpunch

May 14, 2014

 An Interview With Mercedes K. Schneider

Bill Gates and the Push to Privatize Public Education


Mercedes K. Schneider holds degrees in secondary education (English and German), guidance and counseling, and applied statistics and research methods. She is finishing her 19th full-time year of teaching, 14 of which have been as a certified teacher in the traditional public school classroom. Schneider lives in her native southern Louisiana and blogs on education issues at Information Age Publishing just released Schneider’s first book, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education, which is climbing in popularity on Amazon. Her book unpacks the whys and wherefores of the groups and people propelling the corporate assault on the nation’s public K-12 schools. She and I conducted this interview via email.

Seth Sandronsky: Talk about who you are and the actors (family influences) and factors (class interests) that produced Mercedes K. Schneider today.

Mercedes K. Schneider: One major influence on my development was my father. He thought I was smart and strong, and he told people so in front of me. He also enjoyed conversing with me about history and politics (he served in World War II under Army General George Patton). He died when I was only 12 (today happens to be the 34th anniversary of his funeral), but his influence on me during my formative years was undeniable. He allowed me to work part time at an early age (11 years). He also allowed me to pursue my varied interests despite their unusualness. For example, I had a Honda CT 70 minibike, and I remember sitting on our patio cleaning the carburetor as he watched. I also rebuilt bicycles and sold them and repaired appliances. He was clearly proud of me.

Another major influence was my teachers. I am a product of public schools and state universities. So many of my teachers took obvious pleasure in my abilities. I am able to function well in both math and English. I did not know until I was an adult that functioning well in both is unusual.

SS: In A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education, you investigate and reveal the corporate actors and factors driving school reform: “The primary motivation behind this destruction is greed.” How does that motive work in politics?

MKS: One of the best examples of greed driving the political process is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Corporations pay thousands of dollars annually to belong to ALEC, but legislators pay $100. Legislators are then “scholarshipped” to attend conventions that second as appealing vacations.

ALEC’s corporate members foot the bill in exchange for legislators’ taking corporate-benefiting “model legislation”—including education legislation—back to their districts. All are happy: ALEC’s corporate members increase profits via legislation designed to protect the profit motive; legislators receive”perks” such as nice vacations called “conventions” and they get to take credit for the model legislation. Thus begins a cycle of corporations and legislators “helping” each other to serve their own selfish purposes in a twisted mockery of democracy.


To read the rest of the interview, click here.


  1. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    Literally and figuratively on the money. Enjoyed the amplified personal history.

  2. jo ann permalink

    Dear Mercedes,
    I enjoy reading yor columns every day. I am a retired teacher and at times you have given me some advice on various educational issues. I was wondering if you have any data on NECAP the test that RI uses for their graduation requirements and it’s been in the news now for a while…It is not an appropriate exit test and now the new speaker (the old one will soon be allegedly indicted for possible campaign fund embezzlement!) who is not an educator but a supporter of ALEC and privitization and tonight this cam eout. Do you have any sources or data I can tap into to challenge this moron’s decision on not folloing what the senate side did…have a moratorium on NECAP
    thank you
    jo ann You’ve helped me before and gave me some data/sources. I want to write back with substantiating research to prove this guy really is doing this because he is a Debbie Gist supporter.


    Senate passes NECAP moratorium: Speaker Mattiello opposed

    Rhode Island has moved one step closer to tabling its controversial high school graduation requirement, but House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello said Wednesday he opposes making any changes to the policy.

    Mattiello’s comments came shortly before the state Senate voted 29-5 to approve a moratorium on the use of standardized testing when determining a student’s graduation eligibility until 2017, a bill that would effectively end the use of the NECAP exam for that purpose.

    “The speaker doesn’t believe it is necessary to pass a NECAP bill considering the broad range of waivers available at the superintendents’ discretion,” House spokesman Larry Berman told

    Education Commissioner Deborah Gist and state Board of Education Chairwoman Eva-Marie Mancuso also oppose the moratorium.

    Beginning with the current crop of high school seniors, students are required to score at least a 2 (of 4) on the math and English sections of the NECAP – short for New England Common Assessment Program – in order to be eligible for a diploma. Those who fail to earn a qualifying score during their junior year have the opportunity to retake the exam twice during their senior year and are eligible to take several alternate tests in order to meet the requirement.

    Students only need to show improvement when they retake the exam, meaning they could still graduate without showing partial proficiency on the test. Gist has also recommended that school districts adopt graduation waiver policies for students who are accepted to a four-year college even if they do not earn a qualifying score on the NECAP.

    As it stands now, 93% of the class of 2014 has either met the NECAP requirement, passed an alternate test or received a graduation waiver, according to the Rhode Island Department of Education.

    But critics say any number of students deemed ineligible to receive a diploma based on the results of a standardized test is too many. Providence mayor and gubernatorial candidate Angel Taveras, Superintendent Dr. Susan Lusi and School Board President Keith Oliveira have all publicly opposed the graduation requirement. The presidents of the state’s two major teachers’ unions have also advocated for the moratorium.

    Rhode Island has had a graduation policy in place for 11 years, but the testing component of the requirements has been in place since 2008.

    In 2003, the board of regents approved regulations that required students to complete course work as well as performance assessments such as a portfolio or senior project and take the state’s standardized test. In 2008, the board revised its policy to require that students score at least a 2 on the math and English NECAP assessments beginning with the class of 2012.

    Three years later, the board approved the state’s current graduation policy, establishing a provision that allows individual school districts to grant waivers to students who prove they should be eligible to graduate even if they haven’t improved their NECAP score. The board also moved the start date for the requirement back to the class of 2014.

    Beginning next year, Rhode Island will move to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), a standardized test that has been adopted by 17 states and Washington D.C. The PARCC won’t be used toward the state’s high school graduation policy until the class of 2017.

    Mattiello’s decision to oppose the testing moratorium is a major blow for supporters of the bill, particularly considering he was among 53 House members who backed a resolution asking the Board of Education to reconsider the graduation requirement on the final day of the legislative session in 2013.

    Without the speaker’s endorsement, it is unlikely the legislation will make it to the House floor for a vote.

    Dan McGowan ( ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for Follow him on Twitter: @danmcgowan

  3. Harlan Underhill permalink

    Well, at least there is considerable democratic, i.e. individual parent, push back against the CCSS.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: