Archives for category: Education Industry

Ever wonder who is the supplying the money behind the privatization of public schools?

It is a long list, and it starts with the U.S. Department of Education. Every year since 1994, your taxpayer dollars have been used to open schools that drain resources from your public schools while selecting the students they want. If your state has charters, you can expect that they will lobby the legislature for more charters. They will close their schools, hire buses, and send students, teachers, and parents to the State Capitol, all dressed in matching T-shirts, to demand more charters. Since the children are already enrolled in a charter and can’t attend more than one, they are being used to advance the financial interests of charter chains, which want to expand.

The big foundations support the growth of the charter industry: the Walton Family Foundation has put more than $1 billion into charters and vouchers; the Gates Foundation and the Eli Broad Foundation also put millions into charters, often partnering with the Far-right Walton Foundation.

There is a long list of other foundations that fund the assault on public education, including the John Arnold Foundation (ex-Enron trader), the Dell Foundation, the Helmsley Foundation, the Fisher Family Foundation (Gap and Old Navy), the Michael Bloomberg Foundation, and many more.

Here is a list of the funders of 50CAN, which started in Connecticut as ConnCAN, created by billionaires, corporate executives, and hedge fund managers, led by Jonathan Sackler, uber-rich Big Pharma.

Here is an example of a foundation that is very active in support of privatization. Check out where their money goes.

ALEC uses its clout with far-right legislators to promote charters and vouchers, as well as to negate local control over charters.

To see where the Walton Family Foundation spread over $202 million to advance privatization, look here.

The money trail is so large, that it is hard to know where to begin. Certain recipients do collect large sums with frequency, including KIPP, Teach for America, Education Trust, to name just a few.

As we say at the Network for Public Education, we are many, they are few. They have money, we have votes. Out ideas for children and education are sound, their ideas fail every time, everywhere.

Because the government of the Phillipines has not invested in public education, multinational corporations are moving in to supply private education for the poor. Pearson and another corporation called the Ayala Group have moved in to fill the vacuum.


Curtis Riep, a doctoral student at the University of Alberta in Canada writes:


Corporate-led privatisations in Philippine education are taking shape in the form of a for-profit chain of low-cost private schools – known as APEC (Affordable Private Education Centers). APEC is a new corporate entity established through a joint venture between two major multinational corporations: Pearson Plc and the Ayala Group. APEC, and its corporate shareholders, intend to capitalise on an overburdened and under-resourced system by selling for-profit education services at nominally low-fees -more than $500 per year- on a massive scale. The vast number of ‘economically disadvantaged’ Filipino youth underserved by public and other private schools represents the target market for APEC.
Low-cost, low quality
Profits accumulated by APEC are the difference in price paid by consumers in the form of user fees and the cost to produce those services, or the cost to educate each student. In an effort to minimise production costs, while increasing profit margins, APEC has implemented a number of cost-cutting techniques. These include a low-cost rent model that involves short-term leases in unused commercial buildings that lack adequate space for libraries, gymnasiums, science and/or computer laboratories.
Although this low-cost rent scheme is drastically cheaper than purchasing land and constructing proper school facilities, quality learning environments are sacrificed. Teachers hired by APEC are also typically unlicensed and, therefore, paid severely low wages. These cost-cutting techniques are intended to minimise operational costs so the corporation can remain financially sustainable and profitable. Therefore, in the business of low-cost private schooling, as one APEC school manger remarked: “sometimes quality is compromised because of the companies’ concern for making a profit.”
Further problematic is the Department of Education’s complicity in this for-profit arrangement, since it has relaxed a number of regulations that govern the provision of basic education so that APEC can implement its low-cost, for-profit schooling experiment with limited governmental restriction.
Students: cogs in the corporate machine
APEC also represents a corporate strategy designed to manufacture cheap and flexible labour required by Ayala and other multinational companies through its provision of privatised basic education that aligns with the labour needs of industry. By reverse-engineering its curriculum, APEC intends to produce graduates of a particular disposition with specific skills, values, and knowledge that can be employed in the global labour market.


In particular, APEC aims to address the skill shortage in the business process outsourcing and call center industry in the Philippines by focusing on English communication skills. In turn, APEC schools involve two forms of privatisation: de facto privatisation, in the form of user fees paid for by students in exchange for basic education, and privatisation that exists because of the increasing private control and influence in the social relations of production. This is demonstrated by the joint venture between Ayala and Pearson that aims to produce a repository of labour with the skills, knowledge and values in demand by industry.
Education corporations increasingly participate in various aspects of educational governance and provision, including the sale and provision of for-profit education services, which undermines the right to free quality education, (re)produces social inequalities, undercuts the working conditions of teachers, and erodes democratic decision-making and public accountability in education.

Since Eva Moskowitz explained in the Wall Street Journal that the iron discipline at her school was devised by a veteran teacher named Paul Fucaloro, I decided to google him.


The first thing that popped up was this reference to him in an article about the high test scores of Success Academy charter schools:


Because the state’s exams are predictable, they’re deemed easy to game with test prep. But in contrast to their drill-and-kill competition, Moskowitz says her teachers prepped their third-graders a mere ten minutes per day … plus some added time over winter break, she confides upon reflection, when the children had but two days off: Christmas and New Year’s. But the holiday push wasn’t the only extra step that Success took to succeed last year. After some red-flag internal assessments, Paul Fucaloro kept “the bottom 25 percent” an hour past their normal 4:30 p.m. dismissal—four days a week, six weeks before each test. “The real slow ones,” he says, stayed an additional 30 minutes, till six o’clock: a ten-hour-plus day for 8- and 9-year-olds. Meanwhile, much of the class convened on Saturday mornings from September on. Fourth-grader Ashley Wilder thought this “terrible” at first: “I missed Flapjack on the Cartoon Network. But education is more important than sitting back and eating junk food all day.” By working the children off-hours, Moskowitz could boost her numbers without impinging on curricular “specials” like Ashley’s beloved art class.


The day before the scheduled math test, the city got socked with eight inches of snow. Of 1,499 schools in the city, 1,498 were closed. But at Harlem Success Academy 1, 50-odd third-graders trudged through 35-mile-per-hour gusts for a four-hour session over Subway sandwiches. As Moskowitz told the Times, “I was ready to come in this morning and crank the heating boilers myself if I had to.”


“We have a gap to close, so I want the kids on edge, constantly,” Fucaloro adds. “By the time test day came, they were like little test-taking machines.”



Then came Juan Gonzalez’s article in 2014 describing Eva’s move from Central Harlem to Wall Street offices, where the rent will be $31 million over a 15-year period. We learn too that Paul’s salary as director of pedagogy jumped from $100,000 to $246,000.


Then I read an article about the “miraculous” transformation of an elementary school in Queens, financed by Wall Street hedge fund manager Joel Greenblatt, working with the same Paul Fucaloro; the key to the dramatic rise in test scores was adoption of the scripted Success for All curriculum. That was in 2002. I searched some more and found that on the latest state tests, the same school did not do very well. Despite the hype, it was ranked 20th among 36 schools in the same district in New York City. Virtually 100% of the children are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. The school is struggling. Greenblatt and Fucaloro have moved on to Success Academy charters.


(The original name of the chain, which is a category on the blog, was Harlem Success Academies; the word “Harlem” was dropped as the chain moved into other neighborhoods across the city, like Cobble Hill in Brooklyn, a solid middle-class community.)

The new frontier for so-called reformers: monetizing public education. That is, making a profit from the classrooms, skimming off money that should go to children, to reducing class size, to the arts.


Reader Chiara describes the latest reformer plan:


“Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of Apple Inc co-founder Steve Jobs, is the lead investor who funded the buyout of News Corp’s money losing digital education business Amplify earlier this year.

A representative for Powell Jobs’ organization, the Emerson Collective, confirmed the investment in Amplify but would not specify how much of the company Powell Jobs would own or the amount paid for it.

The company’s top management, including its new Chief Executive Larry Berger, picked up a minority position in the Brooklyn-based company as part of the deal.

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp said Sept. 30 that it had sold Amplify to a management team backed by a group of private investors for an undisclosed sum. The identity of the investors was not revealed at the time.”


So is this something that should be revealed when Jobs new ed org travels the country promoting “transformed” high schools? Is there already a model in mind for US high schools, one that involves extensive use of technology and online learning?


This is really cozy, these private sector/public sector relationships:


“Ms. Powell Jobs has assembled a team of advisers led by Russlynn H. Ali, who worked in the Obama administration’s Education Department as the assistant secretary for civil rights. Ms. Ali, who for the last several years has overseen education grants at Emerson, will serve as the primary public face of the campaign. Michelle Cahill, who has spent more than three decades in education, including as a senior adviser to Joel I. Klein when he was the New York City schools chancellor, has culled much of the research used on the website. ”


How much lobbying of former colleagues goes on between the private sector ed reformers and the public sector ed reformers based on this revolving door? Does this influence have anything to do with the fact that we’re seeing a huge marketing push for online learning among ed reformers in punditry and the government?


Leonie Haimson is a fearless advocate for students, parents, and public schools. She runs a small but mighty organization called Class Size Matters (I am one of its six board members), she led the fight for student privacy that killed inBloom (the Gates’ data mining agency), and she is a board member of the Network for Public Education. None of these are paid positions. Passion beats profits.


In this post on the New York City parent blog, she takes a close look at a new report that lauds the Bloomberg policy of closing public schools as a “reform” strategy. The report was prepared by the Research Alliance at New York University, which was launched with the full cooperation of the by the New York City Department of Education during the Bloomberg years (Joel Klein was a member of its board when it started).


Haimson takes strong exception to the report’s central finding–that closing schools is good for students–and she cites a study conducted by the New School for Social Research that reached a different conclusion. (All links are in the post.)


Furthermore, she follows the money–who paid for the study: Gates and Ford, then Carnegie. Gates, of course, put many millions into the small schools strategy, and Carnegie employs the leader of the small schools strategy.


Haimson writes:


“The Research Alliance was founded with $3 million in Gates Foundation funds and is maintained with Carnegie Corporation funding, which help pay for this report. These two foundations promoted and helped subsidize the closing of large schools and their replacement with small schools; although the Gates Foundation has now renounced the efficacy of this policy. Michele Cahill, for many years the Vice President of the Carnegie Corporation, led this effort when she worked at DOE.


“The Research Alliance has also been staffed with an abundance of former DOE employees from the Bloomberg era. In the acknowledgements, the author of this new study, Jim Kemple, effusively thanks one such individual, Saskia Levy Thompson:


[He wrote:] ‘The author is especially grateful for the innumerable discussions with Saskia Levy Thompson about the broader context of high school reform in New York City over the past decade. Saskia’s extraordinary insights were drawn from her more than 15 years of work with the City’s schools as a practitioner at the Urban Assembly, a Research Fellow at MDRC, a Deputy Chancellor at the Department of Education and Deputy Director for the Research Alliance.’


Levy Thompson was Executive Director of the Urban Assembly, which supplied many of the small schools that replaced the large schools, leading to better outcomes according to this report — though one of these schools, the Urban Assembly for Civic Engagement, is now on the Renewal list.


After she left Urban Assembly, Levy Thompson joined MDRC as a “Research Fellow,” despite the fact that her LinkedIn profile indicates no relevant academic background or research skills. At MRDC, she “helped lead a study on the effectiveness of NYC’s small high schools,” confirming the efficacy of some of the very schools that she helped start. Here is the first of the controversial MRDC studies she co-authored in 2010, funded by the Gates Foundation, that unsurprisingly found improved outcomes at the small schools. Here is my critique of the follow-up MRDC report.


“In 2010, Levy Thompson left MRDC to head the DOE Portfolio Planning office, tasked with creating more small schools and finding space for them within existing buildings, which required that the large schools contract or better yet, close.


“And where is she now? Starting Oct. 5, Saskia Levy Thompson now runs the Carnegie Corporation’s Program for “New Designs for Schools and Systems,” under LaVerne Evans Srinivasan, another former DOE Deputy Chancellor from the Bloomberg era Here is the press release from Carnegie’s President, Vartan Gregorian:


“‘We are delighted that Saskia, who has played an important role in reforming America’s largest school system, is now joining the outstanding leader of Carnegie Corporation’s Education Program, LaVerne Evans Srinivasan, in overseeing our many investments in U.S. urban education.'”


Concludes Haimson:


“How cozy! In this way, a revolving door ensures that the very same DOE officials who helped close these schools continue to control the narrative, enabling them to fund — and even staff — the organizations that produce the reports that retroactively justify and help them perpetuate their policies.”



Ann O’Leary, who advises Hillary Clinton on education policy, wrote an article in which she corrected the impression that Hillary does not support charter schools. O’Leary explains that Hillary does support charter schools, so long as they meet their obligation to include students with disabilities and English language learners and stop suspending kids they don’t want.


O’Leary takes the tack that charters are public schools, and Hillary has always supported public school choice.


She writes:


Hillary believes that every public school should be serving our students and supporting our teachers. And when charter schools are producing results, she believes we should double down on their success by scaling the model and ensure that their innovations are widely disseminated throughout our traditional public schools. That was the original bargain of charter schools.
At the same time, we must also have the courage to shut down charters that are failing our kids. And don’t just take this from me, or Hillary, for that matter. Take it from Geoffrey Canada:
“You know, people tell me, ‘Yeah, those charter schools, a lot of them don’t work.’ A lot of them don’t. They should be closed. I mean, I really believe they should be closed.”


Geoffrey Canada (who stepped down last year as leader of the Harlem Children’s Zone and now spends a large part of his time lecturing about the glories of charter schools) was the star of the anti-teacher, anti-union, anti-public school propaganda film “Waiting for ‘Superman.'” He had two billionaires on the board of his Harlem Children’s Zone and $200 million in the bank. According to the New York Times, there are 15 students in a class with two licensed teachers, and individual tutors. His charter schools never lacked for money or whatever they wanted. Even so, their test scores were nothing to brag about. When his entering class failed to get high scores (according to Paul Tough’s book about Canada called “Whatever It Takes,“) Canada simply kicked the entire class out in May, when it was too late for them to get into a high school of choice. When I confronted Canada with Tough’s account on national television (“Education Nation”), he denied it and claimed he closed the whole school. But it wasn’t true. He kicked out the entering ninth grade class, everyone of them.  A public school can’t do that.


In Ohio, Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania, Arizona, and other states, charter school founders (all non-educators) have collected tens of millions of dollars in profit by running charter schools. No public school superintendent or principal can do that. In Chicago, 50 public schools were closed in a single day, to be replaced by privately managed charter schools where the citizenry has no voice. Eli Broad has proposed putting half the students in Los Angeles in privately managed charter schools; how many members of UTLA will be replaced by temps willing to work 60-hour weeks? Tennis star Andre Agassi (a high-school dropout) and his partner, investor Bobby Turner, are building charter schools for profit, and they are currently raising another $1 billion to profit from the taxpayers’ largesse. Does Hillary want to see more profiteers fatten from the taxpayers’ dollars?


I take issue with the claim that charter schools are public schools. When they have been brought to federal courts for violating the rights of employees under state law, their defense is that they are not public schools. When they have been hauled before the NLRB for fighting efforts to form a union, their defense is that they are not public schools. When charter operators in California were tried for embezzlement, the California Charter Schools Association defended them on grounds that they are not public schools and therefore not subject to the same laws. When Eva Moskowitz did not want to be audited, she went to court and insisted that the state had no right to audit her school (what public school can do that?); when she feels like holding a  political rally in Albany or at City Hall, she closes her schools for half a day (what public schools can do that?).


Another point about Hillary and charters. 93% of charters are non-union. How can she simultaneously court the millions of teachers who belong to the NEA and AFT while praising a sector that is proudly, defiantly non-union? Almost all charters are non-union, and their owners fight to keep them non-union. That’s why the far-right Walton Family Foundation has invested $1 billion in expanding the charter sector: to eliminate teachers’ unions. That’s why charters are applauded by ALEC and the likes of Scott Walker, John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Rick Snyder, Rick Scott, and other rightwing governors. Is this the crowd that Hillary should be hanging with?


I do hope that Hillary thinks some more about her views of charter schools. We are hurtling towards mass privatization of public education in our urban districts. Some of these charters are for-profit or run by incompetent non-educators. For-profit charters should not get a penny of public money, not a penny. Charter chains that exclude students with severe disabilities and students who don’t speak English and students with low scores should not receive public funding. Charter chains run by foreign nationals should not get public funding. At present, charters are neither equitable nor accountable.  And there is nothing in the law that would make them so.


Why should we eliminate public schools and replace them with privately managed, unaccountable charter schools? No high-performing nation in the world has charter schools.


Please, Hillary, think about it some more. Or better yet, meet with me so I can walk you through the issue.


Denis Smith used to work for the Ohio Department of Education, where he oversaw the charter schools. Now that he has retired, he can speak freely.


In this post, he reflects on the recall of faulty cars and airbags. And he wonders, what if faulty charters could be recalled?


The post is priceless for the number of links to industry malfeasance.


He includes a long list of charter industry failures, suggesting that embezzlement and cooking the books is not a one-off phenomenon, but a systemic failure.



Here are some examples of problems in that other, non-automotive, non-manufacturing industry:


A record 17 industry locations in one city – Columbus – closed in just one year.
One of the industry’s treasurers embezzled nearly $500,000 from several locations, earning a two-year prison sentence.
An executive in the industry, operating under a phony consulting contract, also embezzled about a half-million dollars, while employee salaries had to be cut in an economy move.
In Cleveland, five industry executives were charged with stealing nearly $2 million in a scheme that saw the creation of five shell companies to receive public funds. Even the board chairman, who owned the building in which the industry operated, was part of the fraud that was detailed in a 32-count indictment.
Three industry treasurers were singled out several years ago for their responsibility with more than $1 million in “questionable spending,” according to audit findings.

This is a must-read article by Linsey McGoey in Jacobin magazine about the big foundations–especially Gates–and how they use their alms for for-profit companies and start-ups.


McGoey of the University of Essex has written a book on the influence wielded by Gates and other big philanthropies. It’s title: “No Such Thing as a Free Gift: The Gates Foundation and the Price of Philanthropy”  (Verso).


“In 2010, the Gates Foundation offered $1.5 million to ABC News and a little over $1.1 million to NBC in 2011 “to support the national education summit.” The following year, the Gates Foundation gave another million to NBC, this time for the more vague purpose of “inform[ing] and engag[ing] communities.” Other for-profit media companies receiving Gates Foundation money in 2012 included Univision — a Spanish language broadcaster whose parent company, Univision Communications pulled in revenues of $2.6 billion in 2014.


“Traditionally, philanthropic grants to for-profits were rare, but this is no longer the case. The Gates Foundation has offered dozens of grants to for-profit companies around the world, including beneficiaries poised to profit from the Common Core standards…


“Indeed, the Gates Foundation makes similar donations all the time. Scholastic, a company that, like Pearson, is a for-profit education publisher, has received over $6 million in grant money from the foundation. A November 2011 grant of $4,463,541 was designed to support “teachers’ implementation of the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics.”


“What’s not clear is why this counts as charity. Doesn’t Scholastic stand to gain from the expansion of textbook and testing materials accompanying the Common Core standards?”


She goes on to describe other for-profits that Gates has supported, such as


“Indeed, numerous for-profit education start-ups are indebted to the foundation. Another example, BetterLesson Inc., billed as the “Facebook for educators,” circulates free online lesson plans to teachers but charges schools a service fee. It has received over $3.5 million in grant money from the Gates Foundation. BetterLesson may well prove to be a useful tool for teachers.


“But it also charges a premium for that service — a cost borne by taxpayer-funded public education institutions. At a time of growing anger over dwindling educational resources in public schools, at a time when extreme poverty is on the rise in the United States — does yet another tech start-up deserve Gates’ charity?….


“Contrary to the conventional wealth-creation narrative, large multinationals are increasingly assuming less financial risk when it comes to investing their own capital — even as they reap excessive financial rewards by exploiting subsidies from the public sector and philanthropic foundations. Companies like Mastercard are just as bullish and self-satisfied about the charity they receive as the charity they give away.


“But challenging the new corporate charity claimants will not, alone, mitigate the unrivalled power of large philanthropic funders to frame the terms of debate in the fields of education, health and global poverty or shape the policies of institutions such as the WHO.


“Over a century ago, when Andrew Carnegie published his first “Wealth” essay suggesting that private philanthropy would solve the problem of rich and poor, he was met with fierce rebuke. “I can conceive of no greater mistake,” commented William Jewett Tucker, a theologian who went on to become president of Dartmouth College, “than that of trying to make charity do the work of justice.”


“Today’s philanthrocrats share Carnegie’s gospel of wealth. To take back the mantle of justice and equality, the Left must delegitimize private foundations and refute the centrality of charity in solving the world’s most pressing problems.”

Bruce Dixon of the Black Agenda Report writes a scathing commentary on Arne Duncan and John King. 


Unlike his underqualified predecessor, John King is highly qualified to nail down the gains of educational privatizers. For the last ten months, King has been Arne Duncan’s deputy, and before that he headed the New York State Department of Education. Like Duncan, he’s never taught in or administered a public school in his life. King started out as a charter school teacher and administrator, and eventually headed a chain of charter schools with exceptionally onerous disciplinary policies.

As commissioner of NY State Department of Education King was instrumental in forcing Common Core, a standard curriculum developed by non-educators and corporate consultants from the Gates Foundation, the testing industry and others, upon parents and schools while his own children attended a local Montessori school, which of course did not administer standardized testing. In New York King distinguished himself as a thin-skinned, tone-deaf bully, insisting in the face of widespread public opposition that cutting recreation, music, literature and real teaching in favor of Common Core’s “teach to the test” and other “run-the-school-like-a-business” practices were good for children and good for education.

There are two pieces of good news here. The first is that the $4 billion in stimulus funds the administration had under Duncan to coerce states and school districts into compliance is gone, and provisions of the successor to No Child Left Behind, which of course will institutionalize as much of the privatization regime as possible, are not yet finalized. The second is that like Arne Duncan, John King is no charmer, no persuader, and no salesman. He’s an arrogant autocrat in a highly public, highly visible position, committed to enforcing a set of massively unpopular policies. There’s a serious political opportunity here to galvanize and make visible a movement of national resistance to the juggernaut of school privatization. The Obama administration is well aware of this, and is transparently seeking to buy time with empty declarations of intent to reduce emphasis on standardized testing.


Emily Talmage writes a letter to the reformers. It is civil. It is polite. It is strong and clear.


She knows that every “I Quit” letter makes them happy. That is what they want. They want to get rid of career teachers. They don’t want people with experience. They want enthusiastic young college graduates who will work a 70-hour week and then leave. Who won’t complain if they are replaced by technology.


But Talmage has news for the reformers. She is not leaving. She plans to stay and fight. And she is not alone.


I am here to tell you that there is a growing army of us – yes, army – who are refusing to quit, despite the havoc you are wreaking on our profession.


I am here to tell you that not only have we vowed not to quit – we have also vowed to fight.


We are getting organized, and are rapidly growing in our ranks.


So let it be clear that just as you have declared war on us, we have declared war on you.


Yes, you have your freakish amounts of money and the political power you’ve bought with it.


You have your strategically formed foundations and your consultants with their arsenal of devious, deceitful tricks.


You have your wickedly distorted narratives that you have spent years crafting.


You have your egos and your algorithms and your data that means whatever you want it to mean.


But we have more than that.


We have families – parents, grandparents, sisters and brothers – and the unthinkable amount of love they generate each day.


We have momma bears whose claws are out and fangs are bared.


We have whole communities who will not stand idly by as their schools go under due to your business plans.


We have deep, fiery anger at the way we, as professionals, have been treated over the last decade, and even deeper anger over the way our children have been used as guinea pigs in your covert experiments.


We also have the truth.


So be prepared.


We are not quitting, and will not be surrendering.




Teachers (and mothers, and fathers, and grandparents, and communities…) Everywhere


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 163,103 other followers