I just read online that Eli Broad, the Los Angeles billionaire, might buy the Los Angeles Times. Broad’s book was published this week. My first thought, speaking just as an author, was: “Some people will do anything to get a good review in their hometown paper.” http://articles.latimes.com/2012/may/02/local/la-me-broad-20120503
My second thought, after a slight period of reflection (five minutes), was that it would be unfortunate if this comes to pass. Eli Broad is not shy about using his billions to advance his political agenda. I don’t know where he stands on most issues, but in education, he has been a force for distorted priorities that are harming American education. He has used his fortune to train a generation of school leaders devoted to imposing the business model onto education. Business values belong in the business office of the schools, but they don’t belong on the instructional side. Broad once told me quite frankly that he knows nothing about education, but he knows the importance of good management. I am not so sure that the graduates of his Superintendents Academy are good managers. Many have been run out of town after alienating the public. Of course, he prefers mayoral control, where the public can be ignored.
His acolytes are known for the closing and demolition of public schools in district after district. He has had a large hand in Detroit, which is now on the verge of total collapse and/or privatization. In Louisiana, a Broad-trained superintendent is leading the charge for privatization via a vast expansion of vouchers and charters. It seems that wherever a Broad graduate goes, the district or state starts closing public schools and expanding opportunities for privatization and for-profit operators. Along with their emphasis on privatization comes a devotion to high-stakes testing. The combination is not only toxic to public education but results in an approach that betrays a naive faith in the value of standardized testing. These policies are ultimately anti-intellectual, anti-education, and anti-child.
I hope he decides not to buy the Los Angeles Times. It is one of the few remaining independent dailies. I hope it stays that way.