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TFA Exec Kira Orange-Jones As TIME “100 Most Influential” Material?

May 12, 2015

For some reason, TIME magazine has decided that Teach for America (TFA) Louisiana executive director Kira Orange-Jones is one of the most influential people in 2015.

I have been in the room with Orange-Jones at meetings of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE). Orange-Jones was elected to BESE in November 2011.

I have not heard her engage in any sustained or meaningful discussion on any subject. I have witnessed her consistently vote along with the majority of the BESE board.

I thought maybe I missed Orange-Jones’ meaningful discussion at BESE meetings, so I asked a colleague who attends the meetings regularly, retired teacher and BESE-2016 hopeful Lee Barrios, whether Orange-Jones engages in discussion at BESE meetings.

Barrios’ response: “Rarely.”

So, that TIME recognition for Orange-Jones “influence” is apparently not based on her involvement as evidenced in state board meetings.

But Orange-Jones was also appointed TFA executive director for the Greater New Orleans region in 2007, and she became TFA Louisiana executive director in 2013. So, maybe her renown comes from that her influence in that role. After all, according to the TFA page for Greater New Orleans and the Louisiana delta, TFA now boasts a total corps size of 340 recruits statewide and an “alumni base” of over 600.

A TFAer corps size of 340 might impress some, but is it enough to earn the title of being among the “100 most influential people?”

Not if one considers that TFA Chicago has almost as many coming in this year (310) as part of a total corps size of 600, and TFA New York notes a total corps size of 740 and 4,200 area alumni.

So, it can’t be the overwhelming number of TFAers that Orange-Jones is recruiting that makes her so “influential.”

How about the idyllic spiel that TFA’s emeritus leader, Walter Isaacson, writes about New Orleans’ post-Katrina charter-converted educational environment? Is Orange-Jones top-100 “influence” here? Let’s have a gander:

This year is the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and among the amazing aspects of the comeback of New Orleans is the reinvention of its school system. After an influx of charter nonprofits, the distinction between charter and public schools was virtually eliminated: all are empowered to run themselves and compete for students. Kira Orange Jones, a Bronx native, was one of the critical engines of innovation. As Teach for America’s executive director in New Orleans, she attracted educators from across the U.S. and developed ways for reformers, community members and veteran teachers to respect and learn from one another. To preserve the reforms, she ran for Louisiana’s board of education and upset an entrenched incumbent. The public-charter-choice model has been a success: since 2005, the on-time graduation rate has gone from over 50% to nearly 75%, the number going to college has more than doubled, and New Orleans now outperforms cities like Chicago, Denver and Miami on ACT tests. [Emphasis added.]

Allow me to note that Isaacson’s underdog portrait of Orange-Jones’ run for BESE fails to note the TFA-charter-voucher, billionaire Walton cash, and more:

Last fall (in 2011), a coterie of extremely wealthy billionaires, among them New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, turned the races for unpaid positions on the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) into some of the most expensive in the state’s history. Seven pro-education “reform” candidates for the BESE outraised eight candidates endorsed by the teacher’s unions by $2,386,768 to $199,878, a ratio of nearly twelve to one. In just one of these races, the executive director of Teach for America Greater New Orleans-Louisiana Delta, Kira Orange Jones, outspent attorney Louella Givens, who was endorsed by the state’s main teacher’s unions, by more than thirty-four to one: $472,382 to $13,815. [Emphasis added.]

Consider the following additional information regarding Orange-Jones’ fat-coffer, campaign funding of her race for a BESE seat:

Why has nearly 25 percent (almost $60,000) of the more than $241,000 in campaign contributions to BESE candidate Kira Orange Jones come from out-of-state contributors?  Why are more than one-third of her contributors from outside of LouisianaWho are these people and why are they so concerned about who represents the New Orleans area and other surrounding parishes on the LOUISIANA Board of Elementary and Secondary Education? The reality is that the list of Orange Jones’ major contributors reads like a who’s who of Teach for America top brass. [Emphasis added.]

Well-moneyed for the 2011 BESE election via her TFA connections, Orange-Jones says next to nothing in BESE meetings and consistently votes the same as the pro-privatization BESE majority.

Orange-Jones is less “influence” and more “privatization-agenda conduit.”

Even the Orange-Jones’ TIME-mag paragraph-in-the-sun only weaves her into the backdrop of a supposed New Orleans charter success narrative, where Orange-Jones is not accorded the title of “the” critical engine of innovation.

She is “one of” a nondescript group of supposed “critical engines.”

Why didn’t the other “critical engines” earn the title of a TIME mag “100 most influential”?

A Google search of “Kira Orange Jones Recovery School District” comes up pretty close to empty. There are some hits on her offering a quote to the press here and there, and some on the questionable ethics issues related to being a TFA executive and serving on a state board that clearly favors TFA. But there is nothing mountain-moving about Orange-Jones influence over the “success” of New Orleans schools.

I was surprised to see Isaacson bring up the issue of New Orleans’ ACT scores, which I released to the public in January 2015.

What does it really mean for Isaacson to write that “New Orleans now outperforms cities like Chicago, Denver and Miami on ACT tests”?

Not much.

According to the ACT information system, the Recovery School District in New Orleans (RSD) Class of 2014 ACT composite was 15.7.

Moreover, very few of those state-run, now-all-charter RSD grads even qualify for in-state tuition scholarships to community college.

Will Orange-Jones and her TFAers take credit for these stellar outcomes almost ten years following Katrina?

I’m thinking, not a chance.

All of the above leads me to conclude that there is no reason for Orange-Jones to be listed among the 100 most influential people in 2015 based upon Orange-Jones’ actual influence over the New Orleans educational landscape.

Nevertheless, from the pro-privatizing perspective, there are two clear benefits to having Orange-Jones featured among the TIME magazine 100. First, featuring TFAer Orange-Jones helps TFA counter its image as predominately white organization. (In July 2012,, TFA acknowledged its 2012 corps to be 62 percent white; in March 2015, TFA noted that its 2014 corps was 49 percent “people of color”, with 18 percent African American and 13 percent Latino. Note that the pages linked are archived; as of this writing, TFA has killed this “diversity” page.)

The second benefit of featuring Orange-Jones among TIME’s 100 Most Influential is that doing so offers an opportunity before a major national audience to plug privatized New Orleans schools as a success. The timing for selling this New Orleans school success image is all the more important given that the image has taken some fissure-revealing hits in 2015– and will likely take more. (Read here and here about how proponents of New Orleans school privatization have begun writing in “disclaimers.”)

In short, Orange-Jones’ “influence” is in how her presence serves the agendas of both TFA and so-called New Orleans charter “choice.”

That’s about it.

puppet strings

________________________________________________

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has her second book available on pre-order, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, due for publication June 12, 2015.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Comments
  1. The numbers of TFAs reported in Louisiana fluctuates as much as John White’s school performance score formula. If all the TFA recruits paid for in these contracts listed on LaTRAC actually made it here there would be thousands. It is obviously too much to ask for the appropriate agency to investigate these contract performance. I have.

    http://www.geauxteacher.net/2014/05/will-louisiana-legislature-fund-teach.html

    EDUC – MANAGEMENT & FINANCE TEACH FOR AMERICA INC CONSULTING CONTRACT-CFMS $1,000,000.00
    EDUC – QUALITY EDUCATORS TEACH FOR AMERICA INC CONSULTING CONTRACT-CFMS $968,468.00
    EDUC-SUBGRANTEE ASSISTANCE TEACH FOR AMERICA INC SOCIAL SERVICES CONTRACT-CFMS $968,468.00
    EDUC-SUBGRANTEE ASSISTANCE TEACH FOR AMERICA INC SOCIAL SERVICES CONTRACT-CFMS $968,468.00
    EDUC-SUBGRANTEE ASSISTANCE TEACH FOR AMERICA INC SOCIAL SERVICES CONTRACT-CFMS $968,468.00
    EDUC-SUBGRANTEE ASSISTANCE TEACH FOR AMERICA INC SOCIAL SERVICES CONTRACT-CFMS $968,468.00
    EDUC-SUBGRANTEE ASSISTANCE TEACH FOR AMERICA INC COOPERATIVE AGREEMENT-CFMS $468,468.00
    EDUC-SUBGRANTEE ASSISTANCE TEACH FOR AMERICA INC COOPERATIVE AGREEMENT-CFMS $468,468.00
    EDUC-SUBGRANTEE ASSISTANCE TEACH FOR AMERICA INC COOPERATIVE AGREEMENT-CFMS $468,468.00
    EDUC-SUBGRANTEE ASSISTANCE TEACH FOR AMERICA INC COOPERATIVE AGREEMENT-CFMS $468,468.00
    EDUC-SUBGRANTEE ASSISTANCE TEACH FOR AMERICA INC SOCIAL SERVICES CONTRACT-CFMS $468,468.00
    EDUC-SUBGRANTEE ASSISTANCE TEACH FOR AMERICA INC COOPERATIVE AGREEMENT-CFMS $375,000.00
    EDUC-SUBGRANTEE ASSISTANCE TEACH FOR AMERICA INC COOPERATIVE AGREEMENT-CFMS $300,000.00
    EDUC-SUBGRANTEE ASSISTANCE TEACH FOR AMERICA INC COOPERATIVE AGREEMENT-CFMS $300,000.00
    EDUC-SUBGRANTEE ASSISTANCE TEACH FOR AMERICA INC COOPERATIVE AGREEMENT-CFMS $300,000.00
    LDOE,RECOVERY SCHOOL DISTRICT TEACH FOR AMERICA INC OTHER CONTRACT – CFMS $1,452,500.00
    LDOE,RECOVERY SCHOOL DISTRICT TEACH FOR AMERICA INC OTHER CONTRACT – CFMS $560,000.00
    LDOE,RECOVERY SCHOOL DISTRICT TEACH FOR AMERICA INC OTHER CONTRACT – CFMS $400,000.00
    LDOE,RECOVERY SCHOOL DISTRICT TEACH FOR AMERICA INC OTHER CONTRACT – CFMS $188,750.00
    LDOE,RECOVERY SCHOOL DISTRICT TEACH FOR AMERICA INC OTHER CONTRACT – CFMS $165,000.00
    20 Records Found

  2. I Think the Waltons and/or their allies bought her the election and the title from Time.

  3. Jack Covey permalink

    In its “100 Most Influential List,” TIME Magazine has all the credibility of O.J. Simpson or Melvin Dumnar (look it up).

    When it put Michelle Rhee on this list, TIME editors enlisted WAITING FOR SUPERMAN director Davis Guggenheim to pen the gush-fest portrait of Rhee.

    NOTE: Guggenheim was paid a multi-million-dollar sum to make the union-busting, pro-privatization propaganda screed WAITING FOR SUPERMAN. In WfS, Guggenheim portrayed Harlem-based Charter guru Geoffrey Canada as a noble and self-less, Albert Schweitzer-in-the-Harlem-ghetto hero dedicating his lives to uplifting and educating vulnerable and neglected urban poor.

    A quote from Canada even gave WfS its title. As a little boy, he despaired of the the problems of the inner city and its schools, and thought maybe Superman—Canada loved watching the old SUPERMAN TV show as a boy—could come and fix schools. Alas, his mother told him, Superman was not real… so urban poor children are still “waiting for Superman” like Canada—and others—to fix their schools.

    Sheesh!

    However, just as in his Guggenheim’s loving portrait of Ms. Rhee in TIME—BELOW—Guggenheim failed to include in WfS that (at the time—2010), Geoffrey Canada pulled down a whopping $ 550,000 annually as compensation—a number sure to have increased since then. Guggenheim was fully aware of this fact—as Canada’s critics in NYC had brought it up relentlessly during and before the time frame when WfS was made… but hey, let’s not facts get in the way of some good propaganda.

    Canada’s a poverty pimp, and a useful idiot doing the bidding of the profiteers who want to privatize education, essentially eliminating public education.

    Any-hoo, Davis knowingly gave the same treatment to Ms. Rhee in his “TIME’s 100 Most Influential List” hagiography, as well as in WfS.

    Here’s a post from the Ravitch blog that I made on this topic on this article:

    http://dianeravitch.net/2014/08/14/stephanie-simon-the-inside-story-on-why-michelle-rhee-johnson-stepped-down/

    Here’s the comment:
    ————————————————————
    ————————————————————

    Michelle Rhee makes more in an hour of bashing public school teachers & their
    unions as the average starting teacher makes in a year—while we have to
    read the outrageous stuff that her supporters claim about how self-less
    and noble she is..

    However, before considering her sky-high speaking fees,
    first read as one of her backers blathers about how Rhee is
    now “shunning high salaries” to “improve the lot of our nation’s
    students,” and how she was targeted and victimized in D.C.
    all because she “put students first.”

    Check out what WAITING FOR SUPERMAN director Davis Guggenheim wrote
    in his blurb accompanying her page in TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Important
    People list:

    (CAPS are mine… Jack… it’s in the last paragraph)

    http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2066367_2066369_2066128,00.html

    —————————————

    DAVIS GUGGENHEIM:

    “She (Michelle Rhee) SET A GOAL TO IMPROVE THE LOT OF THE NATION’S
    STUDENTS, and she has stuck to that. And she PAID DEARLY FOR IT,
    stepping down from her D.C. post in 2010 after Mayor Adrian Fenty lost
    his bid for re-election, a public rejection that some saw as A
    REPUDIATION OF THE TOUGH STEPS to raise the standards of the city’s
    public schools.

    “Subsequently, SHE SHUNNED ANY HIGH-SALARY OFFERS that resulted from
    her high-profile tenure and INSTEAD FOUNDED HER OWN ORGANIZATION.

    ” ‘PUTTING KIDS FIRST’ could be a pithy slogan. For many it is.FOR RHEE, IT’S A LIFELONG COMMITMENT.”

    —————————————

    Hey Davis, you know who else has to “pay dearly”? The folks who have to pay to have this woman speak for an hour or two!

    Ms. Rhee may have “shunned any high salary offers” after the voters
    of D.C. ran her out of town, but she sure isn’t shy about lapping up her
    $50K / hour speaking fees!

    (NOTE: her 2013 STUDENTS FIRST tax forms indicate she currently makes $350,000 annually… isn’t that “a high salary?)

    It’s nice that her “lifelong commitment” to “putting kids first” pays so well.

    Here’s Hollywood agency CAA’s promo blurb for her:

    http://caaspeakers.com/michelle-rhee/

    ——————————————————————-

    “In the ever-evolving landscape of education in America, Michelle
    Rhee has been working tirelessly for the past two decades to give
    children the skills and knowledge they will need to compete in a
    changing world.

    “From adding instructional time after school and visiting students’
    homes as a third grade teacher in Baltimore, to hosting hundreds of
    community meetings and creating a Youth Cabinet to bring students’
    voices into reforming the DC Public Schools, Michelle has always been
    guided by one core principle: put students first.”

    ——————————————————————

    Wow, Rhee has “been guided by one core principle: put students first.”

    How touching and noble of her. Given that moving statement, I’m sure
    that—like, say, Dr. Diane Ravitch—Ms. Rhee probably donates her time to give
    speeches and make appearances… at most only asking to have her expenses
    covered.

    Wait a sec. I just found something on-line. It says that… Ms. Rhee…
    NO, I DON’T BELIEVE IT… SOMEBODY’S LYING OR MAKING THIS UP TO HARM HER REPUTATION…

    No… it says that… she actually CHARGES MONEY (???!!!) for her speeches?

    Say it ain’t so!

    And that, when giving speeches, she is represented by the top Hollywood agency C.A.A., Creative Artists Agency?

    Well, I’m sure her pay is just a small honorarium… as, like you, Dr.
    Ravitch, her true motives are to improve the educational lives of
    children, and to make sure every child has a great teacher at the front
    of his or her classroom, and, as Davis Guggenheim puts it, her mission
    to “put students first,” while “shunning high salaries.”

    What’s that? It’s NOT just a token honorarium. Let me guess…

    $1,000?

    $2,000?

    Higher? You gotta be kidding!

    $5,000?

    $10,000?

    Get outta town!

    $15,000?

    $20,000?

    What? She gets more than that just for an hour or two of speaking and answering questions?

    Really? It’s actually higher?

    $25,000?

    $30,000?

    Okay, someone’s just winding me up here. There’s NO WAY she charges more than THAT!!!

    $50,000!

    BINGO!!!!!

    $50,000???!!! I don’t believe it.

    Somebody’s gotta be making that up to discredit Ms. Rhee. It’s
    probably some evil, corrupt defenders-of-a-failed-status-quo teachers
    union thugs who put adult teachers’ interests ahead of
    children/students’ interest that hacked into C.A.A.’s website and
    created this… yeah, it’s probably them who are making up and spreading these
    lies in an effort to harm Ms. Rhee’s reputation, and protect those
    teachers’ own selfish interest and cushy jobs-for-life.

    Apparently not.

    Some enterprising writer named Molly Bloom at the on-line publication
    STATE IMPACT actually got a copy of the contract that Rhee uses for her
    personal appearances and posted it on-line.

    Oh, will you just shut up and gimme that link!

    http://stateimpact.npr.org/ohio/2011/10/10/michelle-rhee-to-speak-at-kent-statestark-prompts-faculty-to-organize-counter-event/

    What’s that? Just scroll down and you can see

    a scanned copy of Rhee’s boilerplate contract? Hmmm….

    Yep! There it is… In the contract posted, $35,000 is indeed what
    she’s getting paid to speak at Kent State, plus a bunch o’ FIRST CLASS
    expenses. .. (She claims here that she was discounting her usual $50,000
    / hour fee because the venue, Kent State, was “a school.”)

    The contract posted is the actual one used for Ms. Rhee’s appearance at at Kent State University,

    Why, that’s SECOND worst atrocity ever associated with that school’s
    history. (“Tin soldiers and Nixon’s coming… Four dead in O – hi – o… “)

    (Watch this whole video… it’s pretty well done.)

    I like how the “Purchaser”—the entity or person who hires Michelle Rhee to
    give an anti-union speech— sends the payment to:

    “Rhee Enterprises, LLC” (PAGE 2)

    Helping improve the education of children and “putting students first” is a lucrative Big Business, apparently.

    There’s more on PAGE 3:

    ——————————————————————

    “a. Purchaser shall provide the Artist with one (1) First Class
    round-trip, unrestricted, fully-refundable airplane tickets, or cash
    equivalent, at Artist’s election;

    “b. Purchaser shall one (1) VIP hotel suite; Purchaser to make and
    confirm reservations in consultation with the Artist; Artist reserves
    the right to choose hotel;

    “c. Purchaser to provide the Artist with meals and all reasonable incidentals;

    “d. Purchase shall provide Artist with a towncar and Professional
    Driver for round-trip transportation from the Artist’s home to the
    airport, airport to hotel, hotel to engagement, or any combination
    thereof;”

    ——————————————————————

    Yes, that’s right… Rhee demands not just a hotel room, but a “VIP
    hotel suite” at a hotel approved by her, as well as a towncar with a
    chauffer to drive her around???!!!

    Come one. Be fair. Don’t beat up on Rhee because of this. You need all that if you’re going to be “putting students first.”

    Item 6 is telling. Michelle or her agent crosses out the following:

    ——————————————————————

    (CROSSED OUT WITH A PEN)

    “6. RESPONSIBILITY for EVENT-RELATED TAXES. Purchase agrees to pay
    any and all local, State, and/or Federal rental, amusement, sales or
    other taxes as required by law.”

    ——————————————————————

    Next to the crossing out, Michelle or her agent scrawls,

    “TAX EXEMPT”…

    … as Students First is a non-profit organization.

    Awww, that’s too bad. That money would have gone to the state’s
    general fund for education, as Ohio schools are hurting for cash right
    now.

    Item 9 is interesting:

    ——————————————————————

    “9. ARTIST’S MERCHANDISING RIGHTS. Artist shall have the right, but
    not the obligation, to sell souvenir programs and other merchandising
    items on the premises on the place of the presentation without
    participation by the Purchaser, subject to local venue’s contract
    requirements, if any, of which the Artist is notified in writing.”

    ——————————————————————

    (INSERT JOKE HERE… it’s too easy… i.e. Michelle Rhee T-shirts, action figures, etc.)

    There’s also a pay-or-play clause, which means that if the event is
    cancelled for any reason, you have to pay Michelle her $35K anyway

    (or $50 K, which is her regular quote… she charged $35 K in this case
    because Kent State is “an educational institution.)

    Reading this I feel like I’m watching a final scene of “THE WOLF OF
    WALL STREET”, where the slimebucket and convicted Wall Street felon
    Jordan Belfort now makes a cushy living as a “motivational speaker.”

    God save us all!

    • TIME magazine has been a propaganda rag sheet for as long as it has been in print. The Chinese Communist Party could learn a lot from TIME magazine on how to manipulate public opinion through lies and get away with it. I’ve been aware of this for some time but now I’m reading a book called “The China Mirage” and it reveals how TIME was creating its own truths (whatever Henry Luce wanted it to be) well before World War II. History now reveals TIME and most of the media back then was heavily into propaganda that supported one ideology over another and truth be damned.

      Freedom of the press doesn’t equal honesty. And when the feds tried to slip in honesty with the Fairness Doctrine, Reagan and Bush got rid of that under the guise that the Fairness Doctrine limited freedom of speech. The only thing the Fairness Doctrine did was hamper the ability to lie without restriction. Soon after Reagan got rid of the Fairness Doctrine, hate media was born and grew like a malignant cancer and today, studies show that 91% of elections are won by the most money spent and winning elections has little to do with the truth based on honesty and solid evidence and facts.

      Honesty is an endangered species in the private sector media that is free to lie all its wants all in the name of profit. and/or ideology.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Mercedes Schneider: Why Is Kira Orange-Jones on TIME List of 100 Most Influential? | Diane Ravitch's blog

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