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The Cartel

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Teachers punished for speaking out. Principals fired for trying to do the right thing. Union leaders defending the indefensible. Bureaucrats blocking new charter schools. These are just some of the people we meet in The Cartel. The film also introduces us to teens who can’t read, parents desperate for change, and teachers struggling to launch stable alternative schools for inner city kids who want to learn. We witness the tears of a little girl denied a coveted charter school spot, and we share the triumph of a Camden homeschool’s first graduating class.Together, these people and their stories offer an unforgettable look at how a widespread national crisis manifests itself in the educational failures and frustrations of individual communities. They also underscore what happens when our schools don’t do their job. “These are real children whose lives are being destroyed,” director Bob Bowdon explains.The Cartel shows us our educational system like we’ve never seen it before. Behind every dropout factory, we discover, lurks a powerful, entrenched, and self-serving cartel. But The Cartel doesn’t just describe the problem. Balancing local storylines against interviews with education experts such as Clint Bolick (former president of Alliance for School Choice), Gerard Robinson (president of Black Alliance for Educational Options), and Chester Finn (president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute), The Cartel explores what dedicated parents, committed teachers, clear-eyed officials, and tireless reformers are doing to make our schools better for our kids.This movie will force the scales to fall from the eyes of policymakers, education officials, reformers, intellectuals, teachers, and taxpayers. Putting a human face on the harm done by the educational cartel, The Cartel takes us beyond the statistics, generalizations, and abstractions that typically frame our debates about education-and draws an unequivocal bottom line: If we care about our children’s futures, we must insist upon far-reaching and immediate reform. And we must do it now. –© Official Site

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One Review for “The Cartel”

  1. Fini Goodman says:

    The movie this week is , made by Bob Bowdon. It is a documentary about why the highest funded school system in the country (with up to 400,000/classroom) the New Jersey public school system is among the worst in the country, suffering from abysmal test scores and schools that are falling apart. The Cartel, picks up where Waiting for Superman lets off. It hits hardest on the issues that Waiting for Superman dances around.

    The key question in the movie is, “where is the money going?” Not to the teachers: in a $400,000/year classroom, $55,000 goes to the teachers. That leaves $350,000 that goes where? Not to the student’s educations: their test scores are abysmal. Basically, what Bowdon finds is that the money is going to the unions, the bureaucracy, the janitors and the administrators. He has a scene where he drives through the parking lots of different administrative offices and finds tons of Mercedes, Lexi, and BMW’s. He has also uncovered a very disturbing kickback to the mafia when it comes to the construction of the schools. Bowden uncovers documents that show that payments of school budget money and construction contracts were given to people convicted in organized crime rings.

    The teachers who speak out against the atrocities being committed against the student’s interests by the administrators for financial gain are edged out or fired. A few have found phantom employees being paid high salaries. One found a scam with a speech therapy teacher and one found out that 10 9th graders who passed into the 10th grade were held back and made to repeat the 9th grade for the sole purpose of keeping the funding alive for a program for children who were held back (there would have been no students otherwise).

    One wonders how much of this is being done in the California schools. They make the point in the movie that if you ask questions about the schools or the unions or administrators, you are villianized because they reframe the argument that you are against teachers or students or schools and they control a huge PR machine to guarantee that this messaging gets out. Any enemy of their system is publicly destroyed.

    The documentary also explores how the unions and really good advertising campaigns have shut down the voucher systems and charter school systems. They went on the street and asked people about vouchers: the people were against them. Then they asked the same person if they’d be open to a scholarship system where their kids got a certain amount of money to go to the school of their choice: everyone was into that. To really seal the argument Bowden has experts from Rutgers University who points out that all college level scholarship systems are voucher systems.

    This school problem is not only a problem in our schools but a problem in our society since Waiting for Superman showed how bad schools create blighted neighborhoods, The Cartel broadened the scope of the issue so that the viewer gets a perspective of the truly gargantuan scale of the problem and the challenge to fix it.

    The Cartel is far less slickly done than Waiting for Superman because Bob Bowdon is not the filmmaker that Davis Guggenheim is and made the film with a much smaller budget but the film is gripping and tragic. Bowden is a hero for making this film and I give it a perfect rating for 5+ Finis! See this movie now and tell everyone you know.

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