by Max Brantley
Word went out today that immediately after Arkansas decided to make Little Rock Schools non-public, the Walton family called a "focus group" meeting "in conjunction with the Boston Consulting Group. This is worse than finding the slender man in the back of your family portrait. For a public school system, this is finding the grim reaper at your front door. And he's not selling cookies.
…...BCG's arrival in Little Rock is unsurprising; they've been around the education block several times. They were in the news just last week when Parents United finally won a long court case to be allowed to see BCG's super-duper secret plans for Philadelphia schools, drawn up way back when Philly was first turned into one of the nation's largest non-public school systems, run by state-appointed executives rather than an elected board.
A major feature of BCG's plan for Philly seems to be standard for them— close this bunch of schools, and open up some nifty charters. In other words, cut off resources to the dogs. As a top consulting group, BCG doesn't come cheap— their consulting fee in Philly was reportedly $230,000 per week. That's just under $33,000 per day. That's a little less than the starting salary for a teacher in Philly. Per day.
BCG has proposed a similar program in Memphis. Reportedly Cleveland, Seattle, Arizona, and New Orleans have also felt the loving BCG touch. BCG also has close friends in the charter world, with several folks hopping back and forth between BCG and the board of KIPP. BCG joined up with many of the big players (Gates, Joyce) to form Advance Illionois. And they helped write North Carolina's Race to the Top bid (all these painful details and more can be found in this 2012 article at The Common Errant). Strive in Cincinnati— that's BCG, too. And last fall, they were spotted doing development planning for Connecticut's education sector.
Bottom line? Say a little prayer for the formerly public schools of Little Rock, because BCG is in town and they're sharpening their axe.
"In terms of reach, Penner knows that even when performing at their very best, these schools teach less than 6% of public school children. Her new strategy will be to take on entire cities. There’s already been an emphasis on places like New Orleans and Washington, D.C., where almost half the kids are in charters. The new five-year-plan will go further – expect the Waltons to soon announce two to four midsize 'proof point' cities with high poverty rates where they will work with on-the-ground partners to support students in and out of the school setting."