Do you happen to know a billionaire? Or maybe someone with lots of millions?
Not just any old billionaire, but one who cares about supporting public education. One who thinks it is wrong to hand out children over to entrepreneurs. One who knows the difference between the free market and the commons.
I ask because of this comment that I received from a teacher in a northeastern state. I have edited it to obscure the identities of all involved, which was the condition for using it:
As part of research for my master’s degree, I interviewed [XX], whom I had gotten to “know” over Facebook. XX leads a local branch of StudentsFirst, funded by David Tepper and Allen Fournier, the billionaire hedge fund boys. By his own admission, XX fell into ed reform when he was unemployed.
He’s not in this because of any deep abiding conviction to make schools better (though he may have developed an interest). He’s in this because he needed a job, is a private-school educated African American who speaks well and now controls a SuperPAC. It’s a chess game for him, and is quite addictive. He hangs out with Rhee and has addressed ALEC on several occasions.
He said two interesting things to me in our meeting. “I’m here because you’re not.” Translation – if the education establishment had taken on the issues, or at least been less complacent about messaging (the REAL problem in my opinion) there’d be no market for the “reforms.” The second thing he said was, and I’m paraphrasing here, “Reform 1.0 was school choice. Reform 2.0 was tenure (for NJ). Reform 3.0 is we have a SuperPAC – we can elect candidates.
As I said, he’s developed an interest in education but he’s hanging with the wrong guys, and i told him as much. His real interest is in the chess game of politics, which is fascinating, especially when you have the resources to play for real.
Between the AFT and NEA we have millions of people on street level. Save Our Schools has thousands more folks. Where do we find super rich folks who can help us pay for someone like James Carville to craft our multi-level consistent message and actually get it out there? I’m asking you because I’m hoping you’ve run across them in your travels.