This is becoming a familiar story: billionaires and millionaires are choosing a school board member in New Orleans. One of the city’s leading charter advocates, Sarah Newell Usdin, is the recipient of more than $110,000, way more than her opponents. Usdin was executive director of New Schools for New Orleans, which received nearly $30 million from the federal government to open charter schools. she also worked for the New Teacher Project and is an alumna of Teach for America. Among her contributors: Joel Klein and hedge fund manager Boykin Curry, both residents of New York City, not New Orleans.
According to the National School Boards Association, 87% of school board members spend less than $5,000 to run for office.
In the most recent state board election, Kira Orange Jones, the director of Teach for America in New Orleans, raised $450,000 in her successful effort to oust an incumbent. She had the support of the Wall Street hedge fund managers’ organization called Democrats for Education Reform. Among her generous contributors: Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Eli Broad, both billionaires who don’t live in Louisiana. Jones’ opponent raised $9,000.
There seems to be a concerted program by DFER and its allies to pour money into local and state school races and issues. The number of contributors is small, but they swamp the local races. The same names pop up again and again. Their agenda is always the same: testing, union-busting, TFA, and privatization.