Archives for category: Broad Foundation

Joanne Barkan has written several important articles for Dissent magazine on the role of big foundations in shaping education policy. She spoke at the Network for Public Education conference in Austin on March 1-2 about how to criticize the role of big philanthropies in reforming our schools. She prepared this draft of her remarks:

How to Criticize “Big Philanthropy” Effectively

by Joanne Barkan

Criticizing philanthropy of any kind is tricky. To most people, a negative appraisal sounds off-base or churlish—just another instance of “No good deed goes unpunished.” Criticizing the immense private foundations that finance and shape the market-model “reform” of public education in the United States produces the same reaction. “You’re going after Bill Gates?” I’ve been asked incredulously. “Leave him alone. He’s doing great work in Africa.”

Actually, the Gates Foundation’s work in Africa has serious critics, but suppose, for the sake of argument, that the foundation does much good there. Or suppose that Bloomberg Philanthropies announces tomorrow that it will spend $1 billion over the next five years to promote gun control in the United States. Would those of us who oppose market-model ed-reform but support mosquito nets for Africa and gun control here still criticize the mega-foundations? Would we criticize them in the same way?

There are at least three approaches to criticizing the role of big philanthropy in ed-reform. Understanding how they differ makes for a more effective analysis and stronger arguments.

The first approach focuses on the failure of specific policies pushed by the foundations and the harm they do to teaching and learning. For example, an exposé of using value added modeling to measure the effectiveness of individual teachers would deal with the inherent unreliability of the calculations, the nonsensical use of faulty formulas to measure growth in learning, and the negative consequences of rating teachers with such a flawed tool.

The second approach examines how big philanthropy’s ed-reform activity undermines the democratic control of public education, an institution that is central to a functioning democracy. The questions to ask are these: Has the public’s voice in the governance of public education been strengthened or weakened? Are politicians more or less responsive? Is the press more or less free to inform them?

This approach pinpoints certain types of foundation activity: paying the salaries of high-level personnel to do ed reform work within government departments; making grants to education departments dependent on specific politicians remaining in office; promoting mayoral control and state control of school districts instead of control by elected school boards; financing scores of ed reform nonprofits to implement and advocate for the foundations’ pet policies—activity that has undermined the autonomy and creativity of the nonprofit sector in education; funding (thus influencing) the national professional associations of government officials, including the National Conference of State Legislatures, the United states Conference of Mayors, and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices; and funding media coverage of education.

The third approach examines large private foundations as peculiar and problematic institutions in a democracy. This approach considers big philanthropy in general and uses ed reform as one example of how mega-foundations undermine democratic governance  and civil society. The objections to wealthy private corporations dedicated to doing good (as they see it) have remained the same since the early twentieth-century when the first mega-foundations were created: they intervene in public life but aren’t accountable to the public; they are privately governed but publicly subsidized by being tax exempt; and in a country where money translates into political power, they reinforce the problem of plutocracy—the exercise of power derived from wealth.

Of course, all three approaches to criticizing big philanthropy can be part of the same discussion, but the distinctions help to create a more coherent point of view. They make answering the inevitable challenges easier. Here are some of those challenges and possible responses. Not everyone will agree with the responses. Consider them feasible options.

Challenge: You seem to believe that ed-reform philanthropy is some sort of nefarious conspiracy. Here we go again with conspiracy theories.

Response: By definition conspiracies are secret and illegal. The ed-reform movement isn’t a conspiracy. When people or organizations work together politically in a democracy, it’s a coalition or movement. This is true even when—as is the case with the ed-reform movement—huge amounts of money are being spent by mega-foundations and private meetings take place.

 

Challenge: You wrongly depict the ed-reform movement and the foundations involved as homogeneous with everyone marching in lockstep. The movement is actually very heterogeneous and rife with disagreements.

Response: Coalitions and movements are rarely, if ever, completely homogeneous. Yet their members agree generally on basic principles and goals. That’s how they make progress. The ed-reform movement is no different. The most significant policy difference among ed-reform foundations is on vouchers—the per-pupil funding that parents can move from a district public school to a private school, often including religious schools. Some foundations, for example, Walton, support vouchers; others, for example, Gates and Broad, do not.

Challenge: You constantly impugn the motives of the mega-foundations. Do you really think Melinda Gates or Eli Broad wants to hurt children?

Response: Of course, the philanthropists aim to do good, but they define “good.” It makes no sense to question their motives. The directors of the Walton Foundation believe that school vouchers will improve education. By supporting vouchers, they believe they are doing good. But when philanthropists enter the public policy fray, they—like everyone else—legitimately become fair game for criticism of their positions and activity. Tax-exemptions shouldn’t create sacred cows.

Challenge: Private foundations spend perhaps $1.5 or $2 billion annually on K-12 education in the United States. That’s minuscule compared to the more than $525 billion http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d12/tables/dt12_205.asp that government spends every year. You exaggerate the influence that private foundations exert with their drop-in-the-bucket donations.

Response: Government spending on public education goes to basic and fixed expenses. Most states and urban school districts can’t cover their costs—they run deficits and/or cut outlays. Sociologists have shown that discretionary spending—spending beyond what covers ordinary running costs—is where policy is shaped and changed. The mega-foundations use their grants as leverage: they give money to grantees who agree to adopt the foundations’ pet policies. Resource-starved states and school districts feel compelled to say yes to millions of dollars even when many strings are attached or they consider the policies unwise.

Challenge: Private foundations don’t weaken democracy. They add another voice to the democratic debate. This increases pluralism and actually strengthens democracy.

Response: Money translates too easily into political power in the United States, and the country is becoming increasingly plutocratic. Mega-foundations exacerbate this tendency. In the realm of public education policy, they have too much influence, and this undermines democracy.

Joanne Barkan’s writing on philanthropy, private foundations, and public education reform has appeared in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Nonprofit Quarterly, the Washington Post, Dissent magazine, and other publications. Many of her articles can be found at http://www.dissentmagazine.org/author/joannebarkan.

Half a century ago, as the civil rights movement grew in strength and intensity, “school choice” was understood to e a synonym for segregation. Leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., fought for a democratic and equitable public school system. But, oh, how times have changed. Now there are organizations led by African Americans who want vouchers and charters to escape the public schools. No matter that such schools promote segregation. These 21st century leaders want school choice.

Why?

Julian Vasquez Heilig explains here how billionaires have co-opted minority groups to join their campaign to fight unions, fight teachers, and demand privatization.

The answer will not surprise you.

“Under the mantra of civil rights, billionaires such as Eli Broad, Bill Gates and the Koch Brothers and the powerful corporate-funded lobby group the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are using venture philanthropy and the political process to press for school reforms in the United States.

“The ongoing Vergara law case in California in which nine students are suing the state over teacher tenure laws, is backed by Student Matters, a non-profit that has received donations from the Broad Foundation and the Walton Foundation, run by the Walton family that founded supermarket chain Wal-Mart.

“The driver behind the case is a campaign to loosen labour rules in order to make it easier to fire “bad” teachers, under the argument that their presence discriminates against disadvantaged children. Opponents of the case argue that it is a blatant attempt to change the conversation from the realities of California’s divestment in education — the state is 46th in the nation in spending per student in 2010-11, and 50th in the number of students per teacher.

“What these organisations and other others such as the the Koch brothers, Bradley Foundation, Heritage Foundation, Students First and Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education – all supposedly supporters of school reform – have as a common denominator is a vision of a profit-based market approach to education.

“School vouchers are one of the primary education reform policy approaches pressed by the billionaires and the business lobby. Voucher programs, which provide public funding for students to attend private schools, have become more popular in the US in the past several decades.”

He adds:

“….these special interests are supporting vouchers and other neoliberal reforms contrary to the interests of students of colour. In doing so they will shift the US education system to maximise corporate profits, while limiting democratic control of public schools.

“These same billionaire “reformers” have co-opted the equity discourse by offering a carrot to minority groups. This can sometimes be in the form of millions of dollars as in the case of the Black Alliance for Educational Options and Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina. But all this hides the inequity that profit-based approaches to education foment.”

The Los Angeles school district is making short-term and long-term decisions that are fiscally and educationally irresponsible. Having committed to spend $1 billion to give an iPad for Common Core testing to every student and staff member, the district is short changing or eliminating essential programs.

The money for the iPads is mostly from a bond issue intended for construction and facilities. Consequently, there is not enough money for necessary repairs.

As the previous post showed, the libraries in half the district’s elementary and middle schools are closed due to budget cuts.

A reader comments about the failure to plan ahead:

“The closure of libraries comes on the heels of the “Repairs not iPads” facebook page detailing the fiscal priorities of LAUSD.

“There are 55,000 outstanding repair orders at present, school libraries are shut down all over the city, and the district’s proposed arts plan suggests increasing “arts integration” as a cost savings measure instead of bringing back the hundreds of arts specialists let go over the last few years.

“All this while, Deasy still maintains that all students will receive their own device.

“While we now know that superintendents like Deasy believe in the “corporate-style” of education, the one gaping hole in this plan is that corporations want to stay solvent and make decisions that will ensure present and future financial viability. This is the one missing element in Deasy’s iPad project……no plan to pay for it beyond the first few years.

“When asked, district officials provide answers like “we just can’t not do this”(Bernadette Lucas), “this is the cost of doing business in the 21st century” (Board member Tamar Galatzan) and “I can’t speak to that”(project leader Ron Chandler).

“Any business considers what it will take to stay in business, but not LAUSD. The bond funds will be gone, so the only other source of income is the general fund.

“Is the State of California going to bail out LAUSD? They have already demonstrated that they can’t or won’t even provide the basic needed services, like nurses, counselors, libraries, working bathrooms and water fountains, siesmic safety, etc., etc.????

“The problem is that Deasy won’t be around to be held accountable.

“But, we, the citizens of Los Angeles will be left with a totally bankrupt school system and no way to put the pieces back together.”

The Vergara trial in Los Angeles prompted this National Board Certified Teacher to reflect on the power dynamics in LAUSD. And how it affects the students. The trial is funded by a very wealthy tech entrepreneur whose legal team claims that due process rights for teachers denies the civil rights of minority students because it is harder to fire teachers if they get a hearing. Superintendent John Deasy testified for the plaintiffs who are suing his districts because he says he can’t fire ineffective teachers.

The classroom teacher wrote this commentary on the trial and the issues:

“The Vergara case is truly the epicenter of everything wrong with the direction of American public education.

“Sorry in advance for this long post, but this case connects a lot of dots…from my classroom in Los Angeles…to Wall Street…to The White House.

“The words in this case are twisted in Orwellian ways, where a term like “Civil Rights” gets to be used by the oppressors instead of those trying to liberate kids from their dictums.

“Teaching in the Los Angeles Unified School District is an exercise in futility these days. Watching this court case unfold with its Trojan Horse arguments about the best education for students is like hearing the 1% argue that what the financial system needs is less regulation so that the poor people of the country can be free to achieve their American Dream.

“Their words are all about “liberty” and “justice” and “equality”, but it is obvious who reaps the benefits of those terms.

“It is no coincidence that our District Superintendent John Deasy, was the first witness called to testify against the teachers of his own district.

“He knew that he had the backing of the very rich benefactors who have paved his life in education. He keeps winning because there is no realistic way to challenge his authority.

“The Editorial Board of the LA TIMES, like the Editorial Boards of papers like The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Chicago Tribune are enamored by this sort of superintendent–a man who is brought in to kick teachers’ whining butts and bring up test scores. The cosmetic nature of HOW they do it is apparent to anyone who looks at it.

“They have lowered graduation requirements and (as in our school) have brought in empty BS “Advisory” classes that the kids can get full credit for attending (that’s 40 additional credits after four years!!!) so that graduation rates can be boosted. No one is going to do an in depth analysis of this because the public wants results! Arne Duncan can give a big hooray for Deasy and company because the graduation figures are going up! Numbers don’t lie!

“Are our kids “smarter” because John Deasy is our superintendent? No. The pedagogy that Deasy believes in is small-minded and literal. If a teacher in LA is doing great things in his or her classroom, the chances are it’s IN SPITE of the District, not because of it. The only true education emphasis that Deasy champions is the same one that most of the 1% from Bill Gates to Barack Obama to Arne Duncan adhere to: Get the most kids through the education factory they oversee (and often profit from) towards the goal of making them somewhat competent in the world to not go out and steal. It is a very low bar. Very few schools and administrations treat education as a mind-blowing, explosive and subversive experience. That would be about the last thing on John Deasy’s agenda.

“For Deasy and those who back him, Education is defined by them alone, using their own, limited metrics about what they think constitutes “education”.

“For Deasy’s system, creative teaching is seen only as an added bonus–not a primary function. If it happens, great, but it is not the most important aspect of education. Creativity and the emphasis on a critical understanding of the world is not the thing the system values most. Deasy, Duncan, Gates and Pearson value kids responding to its metrics. Actually, if those metrics are achieved, then the Education System says the “product” is successfully educated.

“The truth is that the System will NEVER get the results from this urban population of kids (or for most others either) because they neglect to deal with a variety of factors: Poverty, environment, lack of parental wherewithal, economic forces that dictate a certain path for the working class that Deasy oversees.

“But Deasy’s route to “success” was vastly different from that likely of the students he oversees. In fact, ironically, his path was much more “American” in its orchestration of how the country actually works: Inheritance, privilege and obsequiousness. Although most people are tired of hearing about Deasy’s PhD “controversy” (http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/education/blog/2008/10/prince_georges_says_goodbye_to.html) it is always worth remembering because it is a perfect metaphor for how Deasy has always gotten his way throughout his entire education life. With the tremendous support of a financial power structure that has bolstered his career from Day One, Deasy has been the beneficiary of those whose interests he promotes. First it was the financial interests of billionaires Bill Gates and later Eli Broad which morph conveniently into the political interests of the neo-liberal Democrat agenda.

“Brought in and imposed upon the city by former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Deasy consolidated his support by having Eli Broad pony up millions into LAUSD to “buy” support for him. Deasy has enjoyed the unfaltering support of The United Way, the Chamber of Commerce, multi-millionaire Jamie Alter-Lynton’s LA SCHOOL REPORT and The LA Times…behind these entities are all men and women of great wealth who have thrown their considerable influence backing Deasy’s “Reform” Agenda but do not send their own kids to LAUSD. Our current Mayor Eric Garcetti is a product of the UCLA Lab School and the tony Harvard Westlake Prep (as Mayor Emmanuel sends his kids to University of Chicago Lab where the Obama kids also attended).

“No matter.

“Like many other inner cities with very separate education agendas for other people’s children, these socially-liberal Titans of LA Power pull the strings for a school system that is both racist and classist. The type of education that Deasy prescribes for the kids of LAUSD would never go over in his former school district of Santa Monica. Educated, mostly white and financially secure parents would not tolerate the low bar for their own kids. They would not tolerate the class size that our students endure and are supposed to “buck up” and learn in, nor the pitiful lack of electives, art, drama or field trip opportunities.

“As for LAUSD teachers? Most suffer in silence. Our system’s teachers are cowed and intimidated. Where do they look for support? How did they become the enemy? Hundreds of teachers in “jail” in LA. Deasy gets a 91% disapproval rating from the very people he leads and it doesn’t garner a shrug. Imagine if the Secretary of Defense got that rating from the troops or any municipal Police Chief from the officers on the street? There would be calls for firing immediately, but teachers are demonized and can be ignored. Everyone from Obama to Bill Gates to Arne Duncan gives lip service to “WE LOVE TEACHERS!” but it is in much the same way as Colonel Sanders LOVES his chickens.

“Only a neo-liberal, corporatist agenda could get a piece of agitprop like the anti-union teacher film WON’T BACK DOWN at the last Democratic Convention. Wall Street loves people like Arne Duncan and John Deasy and Barack Obama. No matter that these people never had any experience in public urban education before they rose to power, they have sought to undermine teachers and student opportunities at every level.

“They have no shame of putting my students in a real-life movie that actually SUBVERTS their interests. They will back law suits like Vergara v. California stating its “for the kids”. Deasy will claim that his teachers are the problem, instead of the social issues that hold students’ lives in their sway. Ghastly, Deasy then claims that its HIS OWN self-serving, self-aggrandizing, self-benefiting educational policies (and those of Gates, Broad, Pearson, et. al) that are the life preservers for the kids.

“Our kids are afloat in a desperate sea and the “rescue” ship they send is manned by cannibals.

“The LAUSD School Board is a feckless lot. It is too much inside baseball to go into the individual psychologies of the seven members. Suffice to say they read the newspapers and are always VERY concerned how they appear to the editorial boards who keep them in line. Education is political and its big business. To say otherwise is ignorant at best and downright disingenuous at worst. I do not hold out much hope for this sorry lot because they are all in over their heads.

“Without rehashing the iPad story, LA’s citizens got upset because they saw it as a ridiculous waste of their money–while teachers saw it as horrifying waste of resources and priorities. We were told by our leader, Deasy, that iPads were a Civil Rights issue which was met with universal derision. We are now forced to figure out some way of threading the needle of asking the public to actually give MORE to public education which actually IS a Civil Rights issue, but it has been polluted by Deasy’s “version” of Civil Rights. When our own district stabs us in the back, undercutting our desire to make the public understand what the system truly needs, then what hope do we have to actually do right by our kids?

“John Deasy, Bill Gates, Arne Duncan and Barack Obama have miserably failed all urban kids. Their education is a disaster for my students. But the people who have the influence and power to change it don’t realize it (charitably?) or they simply BELIEVE the “philanthropists” when they say something is true and necessary because they also NEED those people for their political survival. And they get their backing because they back them. And so on and so on and so on….

“To connect the dots even further in this depressing spirit, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) has announced that Bill Gates will be a keynote speaker at their 2014 Teaching and Learning conference next month. As a National Board teacher, I am horrified by this entity that is supposed to recognize the excellence in teaching is becoming just a shill front. Education is political and the National Board steadfastly refuses to acknowledge the destruction of public education. In fact, Gates has given so much money to this organization that it has created a toxic influence in the organization, reducing the “reliability” of what National Board constitutes great teaching.

“My disenfranchised classroom loses out simply because we can’t buy our way into a seat at the table.

“My kids can’t “buy” their way into a PhD.

“My kids have to accept what Deasy and The LA Times tells them is necessary for them.

“Who is our court of appeal in this system?

“Vergara v. California is the rich’s power grab. American public education is on trial not by “the people” but by the oligarchs who use it as a punching board to misdirect the culpability of many of these elites in creating the societal pathologies these kids navigate everyday.

“The true enemy of the nine students whose names are cynically being used in the suit are not their teachers–but those who exploit their desire for a true education–and will replace their trust with fat bank accounts in someone else’s name at a desk very far away (and with a much better window view) than theirs at the school’s they originally came from.”

This was written by Kipp Dawson, an experienced teacher of English and social studies in middle school in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh won a large grant from the Gates Foundation to apply its ideas about evaluating teachers by the test scores of their students. Things have not gone well, as Dawson reporters here, especially since the city schools have a Broad superintendent who is a true believer in test scores as the measure of one’s worth.

Before becoming a teacher, Kipp Dawson spent ten years as a coal miner. She knows the importance of collaboration with colleagues. In the mines, her life depended on it every day.

She writes:

Education “reformers” are pointing their “effective teaching” arrows in precisely the wrong direction. In real life, anyone who wants to see really bad teaching can walk into any “highly effective” teacher’s classroom in public school in any Broad-trained-superintendent’s district infested by any Gates-type teacher “evaluation” system and see what fear has turned “effective teaching” into.

The day begins with an administrator’s announcement over the PA system of how many days are left until the BIG test.

Children, our precious children, then go from room to room (or the little ones stay in one room) led by a teacher who fears every moment for her/his job, and “knows” the way to keep it is to get those high test scores from those actual real children from the real world who are going to make or break her/his employment by which circles they fill in on those answer sheets during all of those days. So fear guides her/him as lessons are planned, as letters are sent home to parents, and as children’s time in school is more and more frenziedly taken up with frenzied, fear-inspired “teaching” of how to fill in those bubbles, by golly, we’re gonna make this happen, aren’t we, kids. And if any parent of a “high achieving” child dares mention opting out of these tests, fear guides the teacher’s response — fear based on real possibilities that in and of themselves make this whole scene draconian.

This is what classrooms across this country are becoming/have become for our beautiful kids — kids who come to us to get away from the growing poverty and violence which in too many cases controls their lives outside of school.

Fear.

Fear is coloring the days of children and teachers alike. THIS is what “education reform” ala Broad and Gates hath wrought. This is what we teachers and our organizations need to recognize, stand up against, and fight. Alongside our real allies. Along with parents who are telling the truth about what is going on even as they do all they can to stop the attacks on us teachers, too many of whom have been pushed into being agents of this horror.

Let us raise high again, out of the dust this mess is creating, the images of what real teaching and learning can be like (for a quick refresher, go back to chapter 9 of Diane Ravitch’s “Death and Life of the Great American Schopl System” — “What Would Mrs. Ratliff Do?”). We have to stop this madness.

In the aftermath of David Sirota’s exposé of PBS accepting $3.5 million for a series about pension reform, funded by the Arnold Foundation (and since returned), another question naturally arises: why has PBS shown little or no interest in the corporate takeover of and turmoil in public education?

I appeared on Charlie Rose last year for about 15-20 minutes. But otherwise the viewers of PBS have not had any in-depth investigation of the corporate-funded assault on one of our nation’s most crucial democratic institutions. Why isn’t PUBLIC television interested in PUBLIC education?

Here is one lead, sent to me by blogger Jonathan Pelto, who received it from Oakland parent activist Sharon Higgins. This was a letter she wrote in 2009:

It begins like this:

“Last summer you initiated a series of conversations, underwritten by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, about the “crisis” in our public schools.

“In the past nine months, it appears you have had three of these full-hour conversations: Wendy Kopp (with Bob Wise on 7/1/08), Michelle Rhee (7/14/08), and Arne Duncan (3/11/09). Have I missed anyone?

“As a longtime viewer, I am extremely disturbed that you are now limiting your education interviews to pro-charter school forces only. This clearly reveals a problem with your journalistic standards.

“I am even more disturbed, but sadly not surprised, to find that the funding for these interviews is being provided by a pro-charter school organization, The Broad Foundation. Either you have not researched how this organization is influencing the public’s view of charter schools, or you are intentionally delivering their propaganda to the American public.”

Since Higgins wrote, Charlie Rose has interviewed Bill Gates, Joel Klein, and other leaders of the corporate takeover.

Clearly, balance is needed.

University of Washington scholars Wayne Au and Joseph J. Ferrare have written an excellent analysis of the big money that flooded the state of Washington to pass charter legislation in 2012. Although defeated three times before by voters, this time the proposal passed by a tiny margin. Its major funders were Bill Gates, who has no children in public school, and Walmart heiress Alice Walton,who lives in Arkansas. Substantial help was provided by other members of the Billionaire Boys Club and their claque (such as Stand for Children).

The more than $10 million they amassed was sufficient to buy what they wanted.

The moral of the story: a small number of very wealthy individuals and organizations bought a policy of their choosing. This subverts democracy. It subverts the principle of one man, one vote.

These are not reformers. They are plutocrats who use their vast wealth to buy what they want.

Here are a few choice quotes:

“Conclusions/Recommendations: This study concludes that, compared to the average voter in Washington, an elite group of wealthy individuals, either directly through individual donations or indirectly through their affiliated philanthropic organizations, wielded disproportionate influence over the outcome of the charter school initiative in the state, thereby raising serious concerns about the democratic underpinnings of an education policy that impacts all of the children in Washington State. This study also concludes that elite individuals make use of local nonprofit organizations as a mechanism to advance their education policy agenda by funding those nonprofits through the philanthropic organizations affiliated with those same wealthy elites. In light of these conclusions, the authors recommend that a mechanism for more democratic accountability be developed relative to education policy campaigns, initiatives, and legislation.

“INTRODUCTION

“To paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald, today’s plutocrats are not like you and I; nor do they resemble the politicians we elect. Even when they assume the authority to set public policies, they are, I fear, not sackable. (Bosworth, 2011, p. 386)

“With the backing of both major political parties, billionaire philanthropists, venture capitalists, business leaders, and a growing network of nonprofit organizations and research centers, charter school policy has evolved into a major component of the current education reform movement in the United States (Fabricant & Fine, 2012; Rawls, 2013). As of 2012, all but nine U.S. states allowed charter schools (National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, 2013), and in one of those nine, Washington State, charter school legislation was passed by popular vote in November 2012 (Reed, 2012)…..”

And more:

In this section we present the findings of our network analysis in two phases. First, through two tables, we present data on cash and in-kind contributions to the Yes On 1240 campaign and funding relationships between campaign donors, affiliated philanthropies, and organizational campaign supporters (Tables 1 and 2). Second, we visualize these relationships through a simple directed graph that traces the flows of sponsorship (material and symbolic) among policy actors (Figure 1).

YES ON 1240 CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS

Several important findings arise when we analyze the contributions to the Yes On 1240 campaign.

Table 1: Yes On I-1240 Campaign Cash and In-kind Contributions of $50k and More

Yes On 1240 Donor
Donation Amount
1.
Bill Gates Jr. – Microsoft cofounder and current chairman
$3,053,000.00
2.
Alice Walton – heiress; daughter of Walmart founder, Sam Walton
$1,700,000.00
3.
Vulcan Inc. – founded by Paul Allen, Microsoft cofounder
$1,600,000.00
4.
Nicolas Hanauer – venture capitalist
$1,000,000.00
5.
Mike Bezos – father of Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos
$500,000.00
6.
Jackie Bezos – mother of Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos
$500,000.00
7.
Connie Ballmer – wife of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer
$500,000.00
8.
Anne Dinning – managing director D.E. Shaw Investments
$250,000.00
9.
Michael Wolf – Yahoo! Inc. board of directors
$250,000.00
10.
Katherine Binder – EMFCO Holdings chairwoman
$250,000.00
11.
Eli Broad – real estate mogul
$200,000.00
12.
Benjamin Slivka – formerly Microsoft; DreamBox Learning cofounder
$124,200.00
13.
Reed Hastings – Netflix cofounder and CEO
$100,000.00
14.
Microsoft Corporation
$100,000.00
15.
Gabe Newell – formerly Microsoft; Valve Corporation cofounder
$100,000.00
16.
Doris Fisher – Gap Inc. cofounder
$100,000.00
17.
Kemper Holdings LLC – local Puget Sound developer
$110,000.00
18.
CSG Channels
$60,000.00
19.
Education Reform Now
$50,000.00
20.
Bruce McCaw –McCaw Cellular founder
$50,000.00
21.
Jolene McCaw – spouse of Bruce McCaw
$50,000.00
Source: Washington State Public Disclosure Commission (2012a)

Table 1 highlights that $10.65 million in total, or almost 98% of the $10.9 million raised for the Yes On 1240 campaign, was funded by 21 individuals and organizations who each donated more than $50,000 to the campaign (Washington State Public Disclosure Commission, 2012a).

Notably, Bill Gates Jr. is the biggest contributor ($3M) to the campaign, nearly doubling the next biggest contributions coming from Walmart heiress Alice Walton ($1.7M) and Vulcan Inc. ($1.6M),2 Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen’s company. As a more general finding, these amounts indicate that a number of select wealthy individuals with no immediate connection to Washington State (e.g., Eli Broad and Alice Walton) demonstrated a vested interest in charter school policy in the state. Another finding that emerges from the data is that wealthy individuals who are connected to the technology sector also demonstrated a vested interest in promoting charter school policy in Washington State (12 of the top 21 contributors to Yes On 1240 are strongly connected to the technology sector). Additionally, as might be expected given the interconnectedness of any sector of industry, several of these individuals have historical and industry-related connections to Microsoft Inc. and Microsoft Inc. cofounder and chairman, Bill Gates Jr.

It is also of value to highlight the $50,000.00 donation to the Yes On 1240 campaign from Education Reform Now Advocacy Committee because it illustrates the tightly woven interconnectedness of organizations and funding structures associated with education policy reform advocacy. New York State tax records from 2006 explicitly indicate that Education Reform Now, Inc., Education Reform Now Advocacy Committee, and DFER all share officers, personnel, office space, and paymasters (Libby, 2012). Tax records from 2007 further indicate that Education Reform Now Inc. and Education Reform Now Advocacy Committee share these same resources (New York State Office of the Attorney General, 2013). Thus, it is difficult to determine where DFER, Education Reform Now Inc., and Education Reform Now Advocacy Committee begin and end individually because, in essence, they represent a financially intertwined cluster of three organizations that seem to operate as a single organization with overlapping staff and resources. Consequently, even though tax records do not allow us to fully understand the exact relationship, the $50,000.00 donation to the Yes On 1240 campaign from Education Reform Now Advocacy Committee is functionally also a donation from Education Reform Now Inc. and DFER.

YES ON 1240 CONNECTED ORGANIZATIONS

As discussed above, four organizations, LEV, DFER, Stand for Children, and Partnership for Learning, publicly claimed credit for leading and coordinating the Yes On 1240 WA Coalition for Public Charter Schools (Yes On 1240, 2012a). An analysis of the in-kind donations to the Yes On 1240 campaign (that is, donations of labor or other services that are given cash value and added to the campaign donation total) supports this claim: Those four organizations predominate the in-kind donations database and are the only organizations listing “staff time” as donated in kind to the campaign (Washington State Public Disclosure Commission, 2012c). Further, as a university-based research center, they cannot be listed as having provided in-kind donations (or any donations) directly to a political campaign in the state. Because of their active role in providing direct, nonmonetary support for the Yes On 1240 campaign vis-à-vis being highlighted prominently in a campaign video (Yes On 1240, 2012b) and authoring a research report explicitly in support of I-1240 (Lake et al., 2012), we have included the CRPE here as a “connected organization” for their symbolic contribution to the campaign through the lending of their expertise.

PHILANTHROPIC CONNECTIONS TO THE YES ON 1240 CAMPAIGN

Cross referencing information gathered from the Google search engine, philanthropy websites, and available tax records (Foundation Center, 2013) produced the following 11 foundations directly connected to major donors to the Yes On 1240 campaign (in alphabetical order): Apex Foundation (formerly the Bruce & Jolene McCaw Foundation), Bezos Family Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Corabelle Lumps Foundation (formerly the Anne Dinning and Michael Wolf Foundation), the Doris & Donald Fisher Fund, The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the Goldman Sachs Philanthropy Fund (connected through the Connie and Steve Ballmer advised Biel Fund),3 Lochland Foundation (Katherine Binder, cofounder, officer, and contributor), The Walton Family Foundation, and Wissner-Slivka Foundation. Using foundation databases, foundation reports, available tax records, organizational websites, and institutional reports, we then looked for whether or not these foundations provided funding to the Yes On 1240 campaign-related organizations.

Table 2: Philanthropic Support for Yes On 1240 Connected Organizations

Organization

Amount

Foundation

Center on Reinventing Public Education
$8,578,000
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
$701,000
The Walton Family Foundation
$512,813
The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation
Education Reform Now (Democrats for Education Reform)
$2,925,000
The Walton Family Foundation
$2,481,716
The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation
$600,000
Doris & Donald Fisher Fund
$500,000
Corabelle Lumps Foundation
$15,000
Bezos Family Foundation
League of Education Voters
$4,790,000
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
$257,000
Lochland Foundation
$160,139
Bezos Family Foundation
$1,000
Apex Foundation
Partnership for Learning
$4,700,000
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Stand for Children™
$9,000,000
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
$2,857,945
The Walton Family Foundation
$350,000
Goldman Sachs Philanthropy Fund
$120,304
Bezos Family Foundation
$55,000
Wissner-Slivka Foundation
$25,000
Lochland Foundation
$1,000
Apex Foundation
(Sources: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 2013; Foundation Center, 2013; Libby, 2012; New York State Office of the Attorney General, 2013; Stand for Children, 2013; University of Washington Bothell Office of Research, 2013; University of Washington Bothell Office of Sponsored Programs, 2013)

“As Table 2 indicates, the philanthropic foundations connected to major contributors to the Yes On 1240 campaign provided a range of support directly to three of the four campaign-coordinating organizations and the CRPE: the Apex Foundation’s $1,000.00 contributions to each LEV and Stand for Children were the smallest, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s total contribution of $9,000,000.00 to Stand for Children was the largest. Further, while DFER received no direct philanthropic support, its sister organization Education Reform Now received ample support from campaign-connected philanthropies, and, as detailed above, the overlap of resources between the cluster of Education Reform Now Inc., Education Reform Now Advocacy, and DFER, is very fluid. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is the most prominent here, haven given over $27 million total to Yes On 1240 campaign-connected organizations across multiple years, grants, and contracts. The Walton Foundation is second-most prominent, having contributed $6.48 million to campaign-connected organizations, followed by the Broad Foundation at $2.99 million in support for campaign-connected organizations. There is a precipitous drop in total support after these three, potentially indicating smaller amounts of financial support originating from smaller foundations (e.g., Lochland Foundation or the Bezos Family Foundation). Regardless of the amount, foundation support of the organizations directly involved in the Yes On 1240 campaign is indicative of ideological alignment around specific education reforms (in this case, charter schools) between funders and grantees/contractors.”

Peter Greene, a high school English teacher in Pennsylvania, here reviews Arne Duncan’s friendly chat with two teachers. In this chat, he assures them that Bill Gates does not have a seat at the table. Just look at that table! Do you see Bill Gates? No, all you see is Arne and two teachers. Proof! Bill Gates definitely does not have a seat at that table.

Peter reminds us that there are people–like you and me–who see the world as it is, and not as the masters of the universe want us too.

Were you fooled by Arne’s guileless reassurances.

Or did your spleen explode, like Peter Greene’s?

The Eli Broad Foundation gave Néw Jersey $430,000 for Broad-style corporate reform. There was one strange string attached: the money would keep flowing only if Chris Christie remained governor.

This is how Rick Cohen of the Non-Profit Quarterly described this cozy deal:

“The Broad Foundation grant is in support of various educational reforms in the state, with performance benchmarks such as a 50 percent increase in the number of charter schools or the number of high quality charter schools, depending on which way one reads the grant language. It is not the first Broad grant to New Jersey, having been preceded by extensive support to the state’s Department of Education aimed at “’accelerat(ing)’ the pace of ‘disruptive’ and ‘transformational’” change. The Christie-contingent Broad Foundation grant raises so many troubling questions that one hardly knows where to start.

“To begin with, Broad included conditions in this current grant that are astonishing, requiring that all public announcements of the program by the state have to be cleared with the Broad Foundation. The grant contains a lengthy provision about making documents, files, and records associated with the grant the property of the Foundation. Are these materials, generated and used by the government as a result of the grant, not to be disclosed to the public? Is the foundation telling government—and the legislature and the voters—what they should accept as public versus private? A foundation spokesperson’s contention that this only applies to a sliver of files containing “personal information” doesn’t seem to fit with the fact that Sciarra [David Sciarra of the Education Law Center] and his Center only found out about the terms of this Broad grant at all, much like other Broad funding in the state, by pressing for disclosure through the state’s Open Public Records Act. Giving some definition to the Foundation’s narrow commitment to transparency, the grant agreement adds, “If the state is legally required to make any of these materials public — either through subpoenas or other legal process — it must give the foundation advance notice of such disclosure so that TBF may contest the disclosure and or/seek a protective order.”

Who knew that one could buy education policy in New Jersey for so little? What a bargain!

The indefinite suspension (firing) of five principals in Newark–who spoke out against the closure of their schools– by Chris Christie’s appointee Cami Anderson is going viral! Time for an anti-bullying program in New Jersey.

Jersey Jazzman shows in this post that the bullying agenda of Governor Chris Christie is advancing in many New Jersey towns, but it is no longer hidden.

Veteran journalist exposed it, I used Bob Braun’s expert reporting on the national “The Ed Show” on MSNBC, and the fight is on for the future of public education is on in New Jersey. Legislators from affected cities in NJ have introduced a proposal requiring that school closings have not only state, but local, approval. Call it the reverse-ALEC bill, since ALEC pushes legislation to override local control regarding school closings, charter schools, and privatization.

One other amazing fact: the NJ agenda of school closings and charterizing was underwritten by the ELI Broad Foundation in Los Angeles. The Broad money went to NJ with one restriction: it is contingent on Chris Christie remaining as governor. The bully foundation supporting the bully governor.

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