When Frank Bruni wrote a column saying that American students are too “coddled,” he added a gratuitous swipe at “leftwing paranoiacs” who “imagine some conspiracy to ultimately privatize education and create a new frontier of profits for money-mad plutocrats.”

Well, here is another point of view, called “Wall Street is Designing the Future of Public Education.” It appears on Salon.com.

I think Bruni has not heard about the investors’ conferences where hedge funders and entrepreneurs gather to learn about the opportunities to make a profit in public education. Stephanie Simon, then at Reuters (now at politico.com), wrote an article about this called “Private Firms Eyeing Profits from U.S. Public Schools.”

Why are so many hedge fund managers so interested in funding charter chains?

Why is the tech industry so devoted to Common Core and charters like Rocketship?

Why are billionaires and other wealthy individuals sending money to local school board races in districts where they do not live?

Anna Simonton, who wrote this post for Alternet, has done a herculean task trying to disentangle the web of connections among advocacy groups and entrepreneurs:

She writes:

The Education Reform Industrial Complex is a dizzying house of mirrors, with money ricocheting back and forth between many more players. To outline all of the connections would be a Herculean task.

Suffice it to say, their investments are paying off. National charter school enrollment has increased from 340,000 students in 1999 to 1.8 million in 2011. As of 2009, President Obama’s Race to the Top fund rewards states for tying teacher compensation to test scores. Teach for America boasts over 19,000 corps members and alumni teachers in 36 states and the District of Columbia, and has nearly doubled the number of alumni in school system leadership in the past two years. As a result, business is booming for education companies like K12 Inc., the country’s largest operator of full-time virtual schools, whose CEO received a compensation package of $6 million in 2011.

Most of this change has taken place as the result of campaigning and lobbying at the state and federal levels. But as the Atlanta school board election shows, no race is too small for the millionaires behind the education “reform” movement.

Last year these same millionaires bought school boards in New Orleans, Indianapolis, Memphis, and a little town in New Jersey called Perth Amboy. (The money in that purchase came from a man who made his fortune selling Bank of America shares to the government for twice what he paid, while stroking a pair of brass testicles he keeps on his desk for good luck.) This year Denver and Los Angeles were also sites of the onslaught, with reformer candidates collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions.

As regular readers of this blog know, there is a silver lining: An informed public.

Simonton writes:

In Seattle, Wash. and Bridgeport, Conn., the same script concluded with very different results. Last year, Bridgeport voters rejected a measure that would have ended school board elections for good by authorizing the mayor to choose board members. The referendum was backed by Michelle Rhee and Michael Bloomberg, but real grassroots organizing efforts shot it down.

This year, in Seattle, blogger and activist Sue Peters ran for school board on a platform critical of corporate education reform. She was outspent 4 to 1 by her billionaire-backed opponent, but squeaked by with 52% of the vote.

These cases offer hope that when voters are made aware of the money trail, they turn out and vote in their community’s interest.