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Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City, announced yesterday that Bloomberg Philanthropies will spend $750 million to expand the charter school sector. Declaring that “the American public education system is tragically broken,” Bloomberg pledged to add 150,000 seats in “high-quality charter schools” over five years, with the intention of “closing the achievement gap.”

As mayor, Bloomberg had total control of the New York City public school system, which he reorganized and disrupted repeatedly. His first pick for chancellor of the schools was antitrust corporate lawyer Joel Klein, who distrusted experienced educators and turned to McKinsey and Goldman Sachs for advice. Bloomberg’s second pick for chancellor was a magazine publisher with no experience in education; she lasted just 90 days.

Bloomberg apparently decided that he couldn’t achieve sweeping change in the public schools, so he became a champion for outsourcing students to privately managed charter schools. As his press release shows, he continues to believe his own puffery. The NYC public schools continue to be plagued with crowded classrooms, while charter schools enjoy privileged status, such as co-locations inside public schools, depriving them of facilities, and rent in private spaces paid by the city.

Although the press release claims that Bloomberg’s decision is based on “evidence,” it completely ignores the large number of charter schools that close every year, the high attrition rates of charter students and teachers, and the multiple studies showing that charter schools are outperformed by public schools, except when the charters curate their enrollment to exclude students who are unlikely to succeed or conform.

One of the richest men in the world, Bloomberg loves market solutions to public problems. In his 12 years as mayor, he did not transform the public school system that he controlled. Evidently he has learned nothing about education in the eight years since he left office.

How does it help the 85-90% of students in public schools to invest in a privately run sector that, contrary to his claims, has not demonstrated success in closing the achievement gap and that poaches students and resources from public schools?

How will it “close the achievement gap” to spend $750 million to add 150,000 seats to the charter sector?

Arthur Goldstein has taught ESL for decades in New York City. He is tired of being lectured by billionaires like Michael Bloomberg about how to teach or what a slacker he is.

He writes in The New York Daily News:

There’s lots of talk about whether or not school buildings should be open. European school buildings recently shut over concerns that children do indeed spread the virus. Yet former Mayor Mike Bloomberg now says, “It’s time for Joe Biden to stand up and to say, the kids are the most important things and important players here. And the teachers just are going to have to suck it up and stand up and provide an education.”

In fact we’ve never stopped doing that, but Bloomberg seems not to have received the memo. Bloomberg says kids are most important. Twelve years of working in New York City schools under Mike Bloomberg tell me to him, that really means adults are not important at all.

It’s particularly galling, after having devoted your life to help children, to be told you don’t care about them because you question the wisdom of risking your life, the lives of the children, and the lives of all our families.

In fact, here in New York City, elementary and middle-school buildings are open. A distinct minority of students can come in, masked and socially distanced, and get tested regularly in order to ensure safety. I can’t read Bloomberg’s mind, but if he actually wants buildings to be safe, I have no idea how he wants to change that.

Regardless, Bloomberg’s views, shared by many in media and elsewhere, reflect an utter lack of respect for those of us who work in schools. This is beneficial to neither teachers nor students. Who is going to fight for better conditions in schools? Is it people like Bloomberg, who cavalierly threaten teacher layoffs in a city with exploding class sizes,  unreduced in 50 years? Do people really think young people would get the attention they need, or benefit in any viable fashion from the classes of up to 70 he proposed?

It doesn’t really matter. Mike Bloomberg, like Donald Trump, has more money than most and he knows things. When you have that much money, many accept your opinions. Publications of all stripes mirror them. And years of such treatment has had a distinct effect on those of us who work in schools. Many of us are afraid to speak out. It took an awful lot for the red-state strikes to happen. We’re more fortunate and better organized here, but we still face dire and deadly consequences of ill treatment. Many of us simply will not speak not speak out. It’s too risky.

Please open the link and read the rest of the article.

PARTY’S OVER: 14 men arrested, eight guns seized from NYC birthday bus rolling through Brooklyn

Tim O’Brien, who wrote a book about Donald Trump, worked on the Bloomberg campaign and is now an advisor to Bloomberg. A few days ago, he appeared on the Joy Reid show on MSNBC and warned the GOP that if they dragged Hunter Biden into the presidential campaign, they would be subject to a “scorched earth” attack on the Trump family that would expose them as grifters. He warned that Ivanka, Donald Jr., Eric, and Jared Kushner would experience scrutiny “unlike anything they’ve experienced thus far in the media.”

A few days later, a GOP probe into Hunter Biden was canceled by a top Republican in the Senate, who implied it was temporary.

A top Senate Republican abruptly canceled plans to subpoena records and testimony from an official connected to a Ukrainian firm that once employed the son of former vice president Joe Biden.
The decision by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, comes as Democrats have attacked the probe as politically motivated, especially as Biden surges in his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination and the chance to face President Trump. Some have warned it could play into Russian efforts to spread disinformation ahead of the presidential election in November.

In a message Wednesday to members of the panel, sent roughly an hour before a planned vote, Johnson said he would indefinitely postpone the subpoena for documents and testimony from Andrii Telizhenko, a Ukrainian national who worked for a U.S. lobbying firm that acted on behalf of Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company that employed Hunter Biden as a board member.
Johnson said he was doing so “[o]ut of an abundance of caution and to allow time for [senators] to receive additional briefings.”

Coincidence? This could get interesting.

ProPublica published a stunning article about the relationship between Michael Bloomberg and the Sackler family, and how they reached out to him for advice about how to handle their poor public relations and the opprobrium they encountered because of their role in the opioid crisis.

The article also goes into detail about Bloomberg’s reluctance to let his reporters delve into the private lives of other very rich people, perhaps because he didn’t want anyone delving into his private life.

Mortimer Sackler and Michael Bloomberg met at the Bloomberg LP offices in New York, joined by Bloomberg Philanthropies CEO Patricia Harris. A spokesperson for Bloomberg said he took the meeting out of courtesy. Bloomberg told Sackler that the company should develop a list of 10 talking points, according to people familiar with the conversation. He also encouraged Sackler to have a conversation with Bloomberg Philanthropies, a spokesperson for Sackler said.

After the meeting, Sackler asked Purdue’s communications team to create a list of media messages and send it to him for review. One former Purdue executive said Sackler continued to repeat Bloomberg’s advice on conference calls and at meetings into 2019. “He’ll say, ‘When I met with Mike Bloomberg, he said we need to have messages, so what are they?’” the executive recalled.

Bloomberg also helped the Sacklers find a crisis communications manager. He recommended his longtime mayoral spokesman Stu Loeser, who was running a private firm that touted his “political instincts and deep connections.”

A Bloomberg Philanthropies spokesperson said it was a purely professional recommendation. ”If someone were to ask Mike for a recommendation for a doctor, he’d send you to his physician,” the spokesperson said.

Purdue then hired Loeser, who unsuccessfully recommended that Purdue announce a program to combat the opioid epidemic. “I went into this thinking this was a family that had such a massive need to change things that they were willing to take on a massive project to help people. Obviously, that didn’t happen,” Loeser said. A spokesperson for Sackler family members denied Loeser’s account, and said he didn’t propose such an initiative while working for the company.

Mortimer Sackler followed up with Harris about speaking with the head of public health initiatives at Bloomberg Philanthropies, Kelly Henning. Harris responded that Henning was “very eager to meet.” In February 2018, Sackler, Loeser and Purdue CEO Craig Landau discussed the opioid epidemic with Henning at the philanthropies’ offices.

There are conflicting accounts of the proposals Sackler made at that meeting. Henning said Sackler proposed that the two organizations collaborate on a media campaign. She said he implied that drug abusers were to blame for the opioid crisis. “He presented that it’s the people’s fault, not the industry’s fault,” she said.

OxyContin’s makers delayed the reckoning for their role in the opioid crisis by funding think tanks, placing friendly experts on leading outlets, and deterring or challenging negative coverage.
A spokesperson for Sackler said that he offered to team up with Bloomberg Philanthropies to help fight the opioid crisis, and that no media campaign was discussed. “The sole purpose of the meeting was to find ways to help find solutions to a serious health care problem,” the spokesperson said, adding that Sackler “does not now and never did believe or state that people suffering from addiction are to blame for their addiction.”

A Purdue Pharma spokesperson said Landau attended the meeting “to explore potential partnerships for the purpose of combating the abuse and diversion of prescription opioids.” It is “completely false” to suggest that there was any discussion of blaming the epidemic on drug abusers, the spokesperson said.

As public opinion turned against the family, Mortimer, the last remaining Sackler on the Purdue board, stepped down in January 2019. Two months later, the billionaires team finally measured the Sacklers’ wealth. It found that the family, despite its recent woes, was worth $13 billion. In April, the Serpentine Sackler Gallery said it has “no future plans to accept funding from the Sacklers.” Purdue filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September.

Loeser no longer works for Purdue; he’s back with Bloomberg, serving as a spokesman for his presidential campaign. To focus on the campaign, Bloomberg has taken a temporary leave from chairing the Serpentine and Serpentine Sackler Galleries.

One of the themes of my new book SLAYING GOLIATH is that billionaires are disrupting education by buying control of school districts and states. That, in conjunction with the federal government’s mean-spirited and useless mandate for annual standardized testing (no high-performing nation tests every child every year in grades 3-8), has posed a mortal threat to public schools.

TIME magazine published an article showing how one of our best known billionaires, Michael Bloomberg, has undermined democracy by buying local school board races and making it impossible for local people to compete with his spending.

The article begins:

School board elections are usually local affairs, with candidates soliciting money from neighbors at pizza parties and dragging along friends to knock on doors and ask for votes.

That’s what Chris Jackson expected when he decided to run for the school board in Oakland, Calif., in 2016. He’d previously been elected to the board of the City College of San Francisco and thought he knew how to build the ground game to win in Oakland. He started gathering endorsements—from the state superintendent of public schools and city council members and the Alameda County Democratic Party—and began raising money, feeling optimistic about his chances. By October, he’d raised almost $12,000. But Jackson did not plan for Michael Bloomberg.

In October of 2016, a few weeks before the election, Bloomberg gave $300,000 to the political action committee sponsored by Go Public Schools Advocates, an Oakland-based nonprofit that supports charter schools. The committee, Families and Educators for Public Education, then spent $153,000 in support of James Harris, Jackson’s opponent. Dwarfed by funding, Jackson watched as the PAC paid for web ads and campaign literature and phone banking for Harris, and then as it posted an attack ad about Jackson on Facebook. “It’s so disappointing to work hard, gather volunteers, and then see an out-of-towner like Bloomberg drop hundreds of thousands of dollars and just win through no effort but money,” Jackson, a special-education teacher in Oakland, says.

Bloomberg was not the only donor to Families and Educators for Public Education, but his $300,000 stands out. In the campaign-finance records, there are pages upon pages of donors who gave $10 or $25 apiece; the second-biggest contribution on the filing in which Bloomberg’s donation was disclosed was $250 from a retiree. “There’s no way outsiders should have more speech in Oakland than the actual residents and voters do,” Jackson says.

A couple of years ago, the Network for Public Education Action published a report documenting how billionaires are hijacking local and state school board elections. They flood the races with money, making it impossible for a local person to compete. In most cases, they buy elections in districts and states where they are not residents. There are also organizations like Democrats for Education Reform (hedge fund managers) who bundle money and make huge donations from their members who also do not live in the districts.

Bloomberg is not the only billionaire playing this anti-democratic game. There are also the Walton family, Eli Broad, Bill Gates, Doris Fisher (Banana Republic and the GAP), John Arnold (ex-Enron), and Reed Hastings (Netflix).

What is the goal of all this money? Electing school board members who are committed to opening new charters and fighting any accountability for existing charters.

Say it for what it is: It is an attack on our democracy by the monied elite. It allows them to buy what they want, instead of respecting voters’ wishes.

The principle of one man, one vote dies when money swamps elections.

As a postscript, may I express my delight to see the new TIME coverage of education. We used to get adoring portraits of Michelle Rhee and attacks on teachers from TIME. No more. Now they are looking at the attack on democracy by billionaires.

Mike Bloomberg knows there are many ways to buy an election. Such as flooding airwaves with campaign commercials.

Then there is hiring the vice-chair of the state Democratic Parties in Texas and California. In addition to their influence in the party, they just happen to be superdelegates who will get to cast a vote if no candidate wins a majority of votes on the first round. Have any other candidates thought of putting superdelegates on their campaign payroll? Doesn’t it appear kind of like a conflict of interest or a bribe?

Why not hire all the superdelegates to guarantee their second ballot vote at the convention?

FORMER NEW YORK City Mayor Mike Bloomberg has hired two state Democratic party vice chairs in Super Tuesday states with two of the top three highest number of pledged delegates. Bloomberg hired Texas Democratic Party Vice Chair Carla Brailey as a senior adviser to his campaign in December, and he hired California State Democratic Party Vice Chair Alexandra Rooker for a similar role in January.

Both Brailey and Rooker are superdelegates who will likely vote for the Democratic presidential nominee at the party’s national convention this summer. Hiring the leadership of a state party doesn’t appear to break any campaign laws, but it indicates Bloomberg’s intent to effectively purchase political support, said Brendan Fischer, the federal reform program director at the Campaign Legal Center. “This does seem to fit a longstanding pattern of Bloomberg using his billions to help generate support among political elites,” he said.

Rooker is one of two members of Bloomberg’s campaign staff who also sits on the Democratic National Committee’s rules committee, which recommends rules for the convention, the convention agenda, the convention’s permanent officers, amendments to the party’s charter, and other resolutions. In November, the month he entered the presidential race, Bloomberg gave $320,000 to the DNC, his first contributions to the committee since 1998. (He was a registered Republican from 2001 to 2007, after which he became an independent. He registered as a Democrat in 2018.) He also donated $10,000 to the Texas Democratic Party, where Brailey has been vice chair since June 2018, as well as $10,000 to the California Democratic Party. Brailey, Rooker, and the Bloomberg campaign did not respond to requests for comment on their hiring.

Brailey rose through the local Washington Democratic Party structure, as a protege of former Mayor Adrian Fenty, who was himself the patron of current D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, a high-profile backer of Bloomberg.

Bloomberg will appear on the ballot for the first time on Super Tuesday, March 3. His campaign has poured tens of millions of dollars into both Texas and California where there are 228 and 416 delegates up for grabs, respectively.

In California, Bloomberg has hired a number of party alums in addition to Rooker, who was also previously a vice president and shop steward for the Communication Workers Association Local 9400. Former state Democratic Party executive director Chris Masami Myers is leading Bloomberg’s California strategy, and Courtni Pugh is a senior adviser focusing on outreach to black and Latino voters; Pugh previously led Sen. Kamala Harris’s California strategy before she dropped out of the presidential race in December. Bloomberg has spent at least $46.3 million on television ads in California so far, has dozens of offices there, and his campaign has said they planned to hire at least 800 staffers in the state. (They had hired around 300 staffers by the first week of February.)

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During the last Democratic debate, billionaire MIchael Bloomberg boasted about his education record as mayor of New York City. None of the other candidates knew enough about the details—or the other side of the story—to challenge him.

Jan Resseger tells the other side of the story here. If you love Republican policies of high-stakes testing, school choice, and accountability (i.e., punishing students, teachers, principals, and schools for low scores), he’s your guy. If you loved No Child Left Behind, his approach is for you.

If you like Campbell’s Law, where the measure (be it test scores or graduation rates) becomes corrupted by turning it into a goal, Bloomberg’s reign proves the law. Test scores were king, and they miraculously rose (although NYC showed less progress on NAEP than most other cities); when graduation rates were the goal, the dubious practice of “credit recovery” became widespread.

Jan Resseger reviews Bloomberg’s legacy, based on her long experience as a social justice warrior.

She begins:

One of NYC’s best known public school advocates, Leonie Haimson explains, “When I heard that he was running for president, it felt like the return of a bad dream.” Haimson personally lived through the decade when Bloomberg brought technocratic, corporate style disruption and marketplace policy to the NYC schools. She watched the process from the inside. But even from far away, I will never forget learning about Bloomberg’s radical experiment: Bloomberg obliterated the city’s institutional infrastructure of regional and neighborhood high schools. Although overall the high school graduation rate rose, the high school closures, intensifying racial and economic segregation, and the school choice disruption undermined the whole endeavor. And once such an experiment is launched there is no going back.

At a Children’s Defense Fund conference eight or nine years ago, I found myself eating lunch with several NYC middle school guidance counselors, who described the impossible task of trying to help dozens of eighth graders—middle school students without any experience outside of their immediate neighborhoods—sort through a telephone book-sized high school choice guidebook to look for the best high school fit. These counselors told me that they believed NYC high school choice had been, in reality, designed to favor the children of savvy parents who knew how to get their children on the right track beginning in Kindergarten. These counselors were exhausted, overwhelmed, and worried about the effect on vulnerable thirteen-year-olds of losing a stacked school choice competition. They suspected that the new high school choice plan would prove to NYC’s poorest young people that they are losers who can’t possibly triumph…

Bloomberg broke up the comprehensive high schools across the city into small high school programs and charter schools co-located into the old high school buildings, but the new smaller schools did not all offer a comprehensive curriculum. In a 2015 report for the Center for New York City Affairs at the New School, Clara Hemphill, Nicole Mader and Bruce Cory explain: “While the graduation rate has steadily increased over the past decade, the proportion of students receiving an Advanced Regents diploma—one commonly used measure of college readiness—has stagnated… Today 39 percent of the city’s high schools do not offer a standard college-prep curriculum in math and science, that is, algebra 2, physics and chemistry. More than half of the schools do not offer a single Advanced Placement course in math and about half do not offer a single Advanced Placement course in science… Roughly 21 percent of New York City high school students attend schools that don’t offer courses in both chemistry and physics. Many of these are the new small high schools that proliferated during the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg… (Three years of science is a graduation requirement in all city high schools. Students at schools that don’t offer the full complement of college-prep sciences meet that requirement by taking one of these sciences, usually biology—or as it’s known in New York schools, ‘living environment’—and supplementing that with courses such as forensics or general science.) The result is an intense bifurcation of the city’s public high school system…. Looking at statistics from August 2014, the Center for New York City Affairs found that 48 percent of the New York City public high school students receiving Advanced Regents diplomas are clustered in just 25 schools. At 100 other schools, on the other hand, not a single student received an Advanced Regents diploma…”

My intense concern reflects the moral flaw in the scheme Bloomberg introduced into NYC’s public schools. The Rev. Jesse Jackson named the problem with school choice competitions: Competitions always create losers as well as winners, and the losers of school choice arrangements are almost always poor children of color. At a 2011 Schott Foundation for Public Education town hall, the Rev. Jackson declared: “There are those who make the case for a race to the top for those who can run. But ‘lift from the bottom’ is the moral imperative because it includes everybody. ”

We need to continue improving access and opportunity in the public schools, for no set of institutions can possibly be utopian. In contrast to neoliberal, disruptive plans featuring the closure of comprehensive high schools, school choice and charter school expansion, however, a system of traditional public schools provides the best chance of balancing the needs of each particular child and family with a system that secures the rights and addresses the needs of all children.

On Super Tuesday, we will find out whether the huge cash spent by Mike Bloomberg is enough to win any primaries. Current national polls show him number two, behind Senator Sanders. There is no reason for him to be polling high other than the many millions he has lavished on advertising and staff, outspending all the other candidates combined. The best we can say for Bloomberg is that he is not propelled forward by billionaire cash. He is one of the richest men in the world and he doesn’t need any contributions from others.

As mayor, Bloomberg tried to run the public schools like a business. He showered favor on the charter sector, because he believed that private management was superior to public management, even though he had total control of the schools. He is the quintessential corporate reformer, focused on data (testing) and the bottom line. Schools with high scores were good, schools with low scores were closed, regardless of the challenges they faced.

In this article, Jake Jacobs writes about what he experienced as an art teacher in New York City during Bloomberg’s mayoralty, which lasted 12 years, despite the City Charter’s term limit of two four-year terms.

He writes:

Read the whole article. It is very instructive.

Leonie Haimson, one of New York City’s leading people-public education advocates, has written a comprehensive appraisal of Mike Bloomberg’s education record as mayor. You will not read a more deeply knowledgeable article anywhere.

In his multimillion dollar ad campaign, Bloomberg presents himself as a champion of children. If you read Haimson’s article, you will see that he was a champion of charter schools. You will also see that he was autocratic, condescending towards parents, and disrespected educators.

Please read it.

Mark Green was a young, vigorous, popular progressive who won the Democratic primary for mayor in 2001. New York City is overwhelmingly Democratic, and usually the Democratic nomination is enough to assure election.

But Mark Green faced an unusual Republican opponent, billionaire MIchael Bloomberg. No one knew much about Bloomberg, but he had the endorsement of Republican Mayor Rudy Guiliani, who had turned into a symbol of resilience and heroism after the devastating attack of September 11, 2001.

Green is now supporting Elizabeth Warren.

Mark Green writes here about what happened next in 2001.

Three weeks before the New York mayoral election in November of 2001, I got a call from Mark Mellman, the pollster working on my race against Michael Bloomberg.

“Well, I have good and bad news. The good news is that I’ve never had a client 20 points ahead this late in a campaign who lost. The bad news is that Bloomberg is spending a million dollars a day — not a month but a day — and gaining a point a day.” I quickly did the math and shuddered.

I lost the race by a margin of 50% to 48%, after being outspent $73.9 million to $16.3 million. Ironically, I raised more money than any other U.S. mayoral candidate in history, making 30,000 phone calls and receiving 11,000 contributions. But Mike, who didn’t have to make phone calls, spent the most money ever on a mayoral campaign. He simply wrote checks.

It’s no great surprise that after buying the mayoralty, Bloomberg decided to see if he could do the same with the presidency. There have been other self-funded candidates, of course, and they have all failed. Ross Perot spent $79 million in 1992 and Steve Forbes $60 million in 2000.

But if Mike gets the nomination, his spending already has dwarfed what they spent. He is a bank posing as a person.

I know what that looks like. In the closing weeks of our 2001 race, I had the helpless feeling that there was no strategy that could counter his spending. Everywhere I went I saw or heard a Bloomberg ad: in between innings during the Yankees’ World Series games, on hip-hop stations, on walls in Chinatown, on the rotating billboard at a Knicks game, on mailings that piled up in the lobbies of buildings across the city. He even sent small radios with his name on them….

Bloomberg does have some solid liberal credibility — on climate, guns and public health — but on many core issues his record is a liability. He has called Social Security “a Ponzi Scheme.” He opposed raising the minimum wage. He blamed the 2008 Great Recession, in part, on laws against predatory lending. He denounced Obamacare and Dodd-Frank. He enthusiastically endorsed the Bush-Cheney ticket in 2004, was an apologist for the Russian takeover of Crimea and has a long record of making demeaning comments about women. And, as late as last year, he was still advocating a “stop-and-frisk” approach and defending his record on the practice.

Given Bloomberg’s shaky performance in the Nevada debate, it’s hard to feel confident he can reassure liberal Democrats on those issues.

Based on my knowledge of him from our own two debates, as well as his record as mayor and now presidential candidate, I have three questions about his prospects for 2020:

First, will his ability to carpet-bomb the country with ads be enough to overcome the liabilities of his record in the minds of millions of Democrats? Maybe. That certainly worked in New York City in 2001.

Second, if no candidate wins enough delegates to secure a majority, will Bloomberg have a large enough bloc of convention delegates to influence who the party’s choice of a nominee will be on a second or third ballot? Again, the answer is maybe.

Finally, in the event that Bloomberg secured the nomination, would liberals embrace him if Trump is the alternative? Here, there’s no maybe, even for a Warren supporter like me. After four years of watching Trump try to destroy democracy, the answer is yes.