Lisa Haver and Deborah Grill pose this question in an incisive article in the Philadelphia Inquirer. 

There was a national media flap when billionaire investor Stephen Schwarzman offered his alma mater in Abington, Pennsylvania, $25 million in exchange for renaming the school, putting his name over six entrances, and changing the curriculum to meet his demands. Ultimately, the board refused some but not all of his requirements.

Haver and Grill worked in the Philadelphia public schools. They say, “Welcome to our world,” where the Uber-rich have owned the public schools for years and run them into the ground.

”In November 2011, the state-imposed School Reform Commission (SRC), absent any public deliberation, approved a multimillion-dollar grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In return, the SRC agreed to several conditions, including yearly charter expansion, implementation of Common Core standards, more school “choice” and testing, and permanent school closures. No one elected Bill Gates, typically portrayed in the media as just a very generous rich guy, to make decisions about Philadelphia’s public schools. But his mandates have had devastating and lasting effects on the district, much more than renaming one school.”

No one elected Bill Gates. An unelected board outsourced control of the Philadelphia public schools to an unaccountable billionaire. Why? Money. No evidence. No research. No wisdom. Just money. Goal: Privatization. Means: Silence the public.

“Here in Philadelphia, the Gates Compact conferred authority upon the Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP) “to provide funding …to low-performing or developing schools.” PSP has since raised tens of millions from a stable of wealthy donors; most has gone to charter schools, in keeping with Gates’ pro-privatization ideology. PSP’s influence has grown in the last seven years: the group now funds and operates teacher and principal training programs, oversees a website rating all Philadelphia schools, and holds the district’s yearly high school fair. PSP’s money, like Schwarzman’s, always comes with strings attached, whether that means changing a school’s curriculum or a complete overhaul of faculty and staff, as its 2014 grant to two North Philadelphia schools mandated.”

The PSP meetings are closed to the public. Its board members are wealthy suburbanites.

There is something to be said for democracy. Why has Philadelphia prevented its citizens from having any role in the o ersight of the public schools? Could those who have a genuine stake in them do worse than the rich dilettantes who control them now?