Archives for category: Accountability

Michael Matsuda is Superintendent of the Anaheim Union High School District in California. He served on the board of the Network for Public Education.

Important Message Sent on Behalf of Superintendent Matsuda

Fifty years from now, when our students are old, when they have children and grandchildren of their own, they will look back and say, “Do you remember what happened?” I picture them pensively reflecting, staring silently, breathing deeply, perhaps tearing up, and then after reliving the experience to the very end, smiling, “Those were the times of amazing grace, when people came together with kindness and compassion to support each other, when they made sacrifices for complete strangers, when schools became beacons of hope for families who were food deprived, and when teachers transformed educational experiences through emotional connection, through affirming mental health, and through meaningful learning.”

It was a time when people realized that humanity has no barriers, and that love is limitless if we have the courage to embrace it and to share it near and far, with neighbors and strangers, with old and young, rich and poor, Christian, Hindu, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, LGBT, black, brown, yellow, and white. It was a time like no other, when the world came together, collaborated, communicated, created, thought critically, and acted with compassion to save humankind.

I know this will be true because I see it happening right now. I see it in our Food Service workers as they prepare and pass out food for thousands of our children. I see it in our teachers as they work tirelessly creating new curriculum and a new way of virtual learning through a completely transformed system. I see it in our students who connect and help each other virtually with enthusiasm and care. I see it in our IT workers who have refurbished thousands of laptop computers for kids to use. I see it in our counselors and social workers who reach out to young people suffering from depression, isolation, and emotional starvation. I see it in our administrators who work endlessly, filling all the gaps in a topsy turvy world. And I see it in total strangers, coming out of the woodwork, volunteering time and sometimes money to pitch in and to help heal a fractured world.

I am so proud and blessed to be surrounded by people in the AUHSD who are absolutely committed to our students, our families, and our communities.

But as we face this threat today, let us go forward knowing that things will likely get worse before they get better, that stress will mount and tempers will flare, and that we may take it out on those we love most – our children.

Remember that one day, our young people will become adults, and how we respond in these most traumatic times will forever imprint on them whether it was our darkest or our finest hour. It is up to us.

Let us take this journey by learning how to forgive, beginning with ourselves. Let us be gentle and kind to our loved ones. Let us practice mindfulness, self-compassion and prayer. Let us just love.

As we adjust our sails and hold fast to the rudder, I ask you to be comforted by the words of a great author of several parenting books, L. R. Knost:

Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break, and all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.

Michael Matsuda

Superintendent

Anaheim Union High School District

Washington State has experienced a long history of turmoil over charter schools.

It has held four state referenda over whether they should be allowed in the state. They are opposed by school boards, teachers’ unions, PTAs, and civil rights groups.

Bill Gates and his billionaire clique really wanted the state to have charter schools. So in 2012, they amassed a war chest and outspent the parents, teacher’s, and civil rights groups by a ratio of 17-1. The referendum passed by 1%.

Then the state’s highest court declared that charter schools are not public schools and can’t draw from the public school fund, because they don’t have elected school boards.

Next step, Gates and his friends spend big money to defeat the state court judges that opposed charter schools, but the justices won anyway.

So Gates’ surrogates go to the legislature and seek to get lottery money to support the charters that Bill wants so badly. Eager to please one of the state’s richest people (Bezos is the richest), the legislature dedicates the lottery to Bill’s charters.

After a few years, Gates commissions a CREDO evaluation of his charters, and CREDO says they don’t get different results than the state’s public schools.

Meanwhile, some of the charters close because of low enrollment.

But undaunted, Bill Gates presses forward.

Last week, Governor Jay Inslee signed bipartisan legislation to make sure that the Washington State Charter School Association could hire an e ecutive director and other staff.

Questions: since the charter schools serve no public purpose, why should the state pay for the employees of their lobby? Since the charters don’t get better results than public schools, why are they needed? Since the whole charter sector is tiny and ineffective, why doesn’t Gates pay for it himself?

Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill Wednesday that Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, sponsored to enhance administration capabilities at state charter schools.

House Bill 2853 will allow the Washington State Charter School Commission to hire an executive director and other employees.

The House and Senate approved the bill by large bipartisan majorities.

Harris did not attend Wednesday’s bill signing due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, but he put out a statement applauding the action.

“I’m very happy for our charter schools,” he said. “I believe every school in Washington, whether it’s public, private or chartered, deserves the opportunity to be successful. When our schools are successful, our kids are successful.”

Makes sense. The public must fund the charter lobbyists so that charter schools get more money. Don’t expect Gates to pay for his hobby, even though his net worth is more than $100 billion.

In this recent article, Jeff Bryant examines Florida’s shameful response to the pandemic. As usual, legislators and Governor DeSanris took advantage of the crisis to add another voucher program, which will drain another $200 million from public schools to support for woefully inadequate voucher schools.

He writes:


“The COVID-19 crisis reveals the true intentions of people,” Kathleen Oropeza told me during a phone call. Oropeza is a public school mom in Orlando and founder of Fund Education Now, a non-partisan grassroots effort to advocate for public education in Florida.

Her remark was in the context of concerns about how state officials were governing schools as the coronavirus was spreading across the state and generating fears of how the disease would affect schools and families.

Days after the first victims tested positive in the state and the first deaths were reported, Florida lawmakers in the House seemed oblivious to the impending crisis and instead passed new legislation to expand the state’s voucher program, thus diverting an additional $200 million from the state’s public schools.

The bill passed despite evidence that many of the private schools that would receive the voucher money openly discriminate against LGBTQ children and families, are not required to hire certified teachers, and generally provide a subpar education.

But there is a bright side to the current crisis:

The rash of canceled tests across the country caused some knowledgeable observers to speculate on Twitter that the testing industry would not be able to withstand the financial difficulties of a nationwide cancelation. But what is also in danger is the whole policy imperative of the market-based education agenda.

Much in the same way that widespread teacher walkouts and the Red for Ed movement over the past two years revealed the overwhelming need for government officials to increase funding and support for frontline teachers, the mounting fallout of school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing politicians and policymakers to acknowledge the importance of schools as vital community institutions that need resources and support rather than fiscal austerity, privatization, and punitive accountability—the pillars of the market-based education movement.

Even amidst the avalanche of reported school closings, advocates of the market-based approach were lamenting the failure of their decades-long efforts.

“Neither standards and accountability nor charter schools have lived up to their promoters’ lofty aspirations. And there is much public unhappiness with school reform,” wrote Kevin Carey in an analysis for the Washington Post. Carey, a policy analyst for a Washington, D.C., think tank that favored the education reform agenda, worked for years in policy shops that pushed market-based agendas.

Carey noted a rising political opposition to market-based education advocates from the right and the left, including Tea Party Republicans who object to Common Core Standards and federal overreach in local decision-making and among progressive Democrats who are angered by the unfairness and inequities caused by market-based solutions.

But while he asserted that “School reform began with the civil rights movement,” he completely ignored the econometric principles that ended up driving privatization policies rather than the moral values of human rights and justice that powered the civil rights movement. Market-based education advocates have long obsessed over rigid standards, outcome measures, and competition from charter schools rather than providing schools and students with what they really needed, especially in communities that rely heavily on schools as anchor institutions.

Will elected officials and think tank analysts recognize the failure of standards, testing,
accountability, competition, and market-based policies to close achievement gaps, to reduce poverty, to lift up the neediest students, and to achieve any of their alleged goals?

Please: would the “reformers” acknowledge the failure of their prescriptions and stop claiming, without a shred of evidence, that annual standardized testing is a “civil right,” when it is actually stigmatizing children who are repeatedly labeled as “failures” by the testing indistry?

Politico Morning Education reported yesterday that the coronavirus legislation in Congress has been delayed because Republicans and Democrats disagree about including college student debt relief.

Of course, other issues between the parties have stymied an agreement, especially the $500 billion economic recovery fund that would be administered by Treasury Secretary Mnuchin. Republicans want him to have broad discretion over where the money goes; Democrats insist on oversight, to ensure that he is not favoring Republican donors and underwriting Trump family properties, like Mar-a-Lago and Trump hotels. The latest speculation in the media is that the parties may reach agreement later today. Keep your eye on the Mnuchin fund.

REPUBLICANS, DEMOCRATS SPAR OVER STUDENT DEBT RELIEF IN STIMULUS BILL: Republicans and Democrats are fighting over how to structure relief for the nation’s tens of millions of student loan borrowers as part of the massive stimulus plan to address the economic havoc caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

— At the core of the student debt dispute: Republicans have largely embraced the idea that borrowers should immediately be able to put their payments on hold without accruing interest; Democrats say that’s an insufficient half-measure and want to see some amount of debt cancellation.

— The latest Senate GOP stimulus bill circulated on Sunday would require the Education Department to suspend payments on federally held student loans for six months without interest accruing — a modest expansion from an earlier bill that called for a three-month mandatory suspension with an additional three-month pause at the discretion of the department.

— Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was unable to advance the bill through a procedural vote on Sunday evening as Democrats objected. Among the many “major problems” with the bill, according to a senior Democratic aide, was that it doesn’t “provide adequate relief for the 44 million federal student loan borrowers.”

— The GOP plan follows the Trump administration’s executive actions to halt interest on federally held student loans and give borrowers a new forbearance option to pause their payments for the next two months. (Sen. Mitt Romney on Friday also proposed a longer forbearance of up to three years for recent graduates entering the job market.)

— But Senate Democrats, led by Chuck Schumer, are pushing a counter proposal: They want to cancel the monthly payments owed during the national emergency and guarantee each borrower receive at least $10,000 in loan forgiveness. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who campaigned on sweeping student debt cancellation, has pressed the issue with Schumer personally, including during phone calls last week, according to a Huffington Post report on Sunday.

— Biden, who has resisted calling for widespread student debt cancellation in his education plans, on Sunday backed the plan to forgive at least $10,000 in debt per borrower as part of the stimulus bill. “Young people and other student debt holders bore the brunt of the last crisis,” Biden tweeted. “It shouldn’t happen again.”

— In the House, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi has indicated she may start drafting her own stimulus bill, there’s growing pressure from progressives to include student loan forgiveness. A group of progressive lawmakers, led by Reps. Ayanna Pressley and Ilhan Omar, urged House leadership to include loan forgiveness in the bill. The letter was signed by Rep. Jim Clyburn, the No. 3 Democrat in the House, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). Rep. Maxine Waters, the chair of the House Financial Services Committee, has also separately called for including $10,000 in student debt forgiveness in a coronavirus stimulus plan.

— Rep. Bobby Scott, the chair of the House education committee, hasn’t publicly backed any student loan forgiveness plan and it wasn’t included as part of his $3 billion coronavirus bill to address education rolled out last week. But a Democratic committee aide told POLITICO: “The Senate Democrats proposal is a step in the right direction.”

— Republicans, meanwhile, say Democrats are exploiting a crisis to enact their policy agenda. “Democrats are trying to reduce student loans by $10,000. What the hell has that got to do with the virus,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on Fox News on Sunday. “I’m sure everybody could use more money, but I don’t want to give money to people who have a paycheck. I want to give money to people who have lost their jobs.”

Jan Resseger writes here about gridlock in the Ohio State Senate. The Senate is supposed to review its dramatic expansion of the state voucher program by April 1, but action has been stalled by the coronavirus crisis. Based on faulty data, the state is over-identifying good public schools as “failing” in order to divert public funds to religious schools.

Why don’t public education advocates organize a referendum on vouchers? If Ohio is like every other state that has held a referendum, vouchers would be rejected by at least 65% of voters. In the last state referendum on 2018, voters in Arizona rejected vouchers by 65%-35%. The governor (a Koch stooge) and klegislatire are trying for more vouchers again (this time to give vouchers to students who go to school in other states!), and public education allies are organizing another referendum, using people power to stop money power.

Why not do the same in Ohio?

Kevin Kumashiro, leader of a Deans for Justice and Equity, has written an appeal addressed to Educators and Scholars of Color. It invites their endorsement of a statement opposing failed “reforms” that have stigmatized and harmed children of color and other vulnerable students. Please share this statement with your friends and colleagues. Invite them to sign to demonstrate that they do not believe that failed “reforms” should be foisted on students who need experienced teachers and well-funded classrooms.

Dear Friends and Colleagues: All educators of color and educational scholars of color in the United States are invited to sign onto a statement (“This Must End Now: Educators and Scholars of Color Against Failed Educational “Reforms”) that calls for an end to billionaire-backed, so-called “reforms” that are devastating schools, particularly for students of color and low-income students.

If you are eligible, please review the statement and consider joining this nationwide collective; and whether or not you are eligible, please help to spread the word to other educators/scholars of color (including academics, K-12 educators and leaders, etc.) to join us as we build and leverage our collective voices in reframing the public narrative, speaking out against failed initiatives, and putting forth a more just vision for our schools and communities.

The deadline to sign is March 31st, and the statement will be released publicly soon after. Here’s the statement and the form to sign on:

https://forms.gle/dLdE5raLnx2Z7SJz7

We are particularly eager to move this forward in the midst of a public health crisis, which is significantly impacting schools, and which we cannot imagine will not lead to more devastating reforms being foisted upon us in the name of managing crisis.

Thank you, and in solidarity,
Kevin Kumashiro

***
Kevin Kumashiro, Ph.D.
https://www.kevinkumashiro.com
Movement building for equity and justice in education

Here is the statement, which has been signed by 301 educators and scholars of color as of March 22.

THIS MUST END NOW:

Educators & Scholars of Color Against Failed Educational “Reforms”

The public is being misled. Billionaire philanthropists are increasingly foisting so-called “reform” initiatives upon the schools that serve predominantly students of color and low-income students, and are using black and brown voices to echo claims of improving schools or advancing civil rights in order to rally community support. However, the evidence to the contrary is clear: these initiatives have not systematically improved student success, are faulty by design, and have already proven to widen racial and economic disparities. Therefore, we must heed the growing body of research and support communities and civil-rights organizations in their calls for a more accurate and nuanced understanding of the problems facing our schools, for a retreat from failed “reforms,” and for better solutions:

• Our school systems need more public investment, not philanthropic experimentation; more democratic governance, not disenfranchisement; more guidance from the profession, the community, and researchers, not from those looking to privatize and profiteer; and more attention to legacies of systemic injustice, racism, and poverty, not neoliberal, market-based initiatives that function merely to incentivize, blame, and punish.

• Our teachers and leaders need more, better, and ongoing preparation and support, more professional experience and community connections, and more involvement in shared governance and collective bargaining for the common good, not less.

• Our vision should be that every student receives the very best that our country has to offer as a fundamental right and a public good; not be forced to compete in a marketplace where some have and some have not, and where some win and many others lose.

The offer for “help” is alluring, and is reinforced by Hollywood’s long history of deficit-oriented films about white teachers saving poorer black and brown students from suffering, as if the solution consisted merely of uplifting and inspiring individuals, rather than of tackling the broader system of stratification that functions to fail them in the first place. Today, more than ever before, the “help” comes in the form of contingent financing for education, and the pressure to accept is intense: shrinking public resources, resounding claims of scarcity, and urgent calls for austerity make it seem negligent to turn down sizable financial incentives, even when such aid is tied to problematic reforms.

The growing number of funders includes high-profile foundations and obscure new funders (including but not limited to the Arnold Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Bradley Foundation, Broad Foundation, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, City Fund, DeVos family foundations, Gates Foundation, Koch family foundations, and Walton Family Foundation), and for the most part, have converged on what counts as worthwhile and fundable, whether leaning conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat (see, for example, the platform of Democrats for Education Reform). Such funders may be supporting some grassroots initiatives, but overall, mega-philanthropy in public education exemplifies the 21st-century shift from traditional donating that supported others’ initiatives with relatively smaller grants, to venture financing that offers funding pools of unprecedented size and scale but only to those who agree to implement the funders’ experiments. Belying the rhetoric of improving schools is the reality that such experiments are making struggling schools look less and less like the top performing schools for the elite, and do so by design, as with the following:

• The Portfolio Model. 



Exemplified in the early 2000s by the turnaround-school reforms in Chicago Public Schools and Race to the Top, and increasingly shaping urban districts across the country today, the “portfolio model” decentralizes decision making, expands school choice, holds schools accountable through performance measures like student testing, and sanctions failing schools with restructuring or closure, incentivizing their replacements in the form of charter schools. This model purports that marketizing school systems will lead to system improvement, and that student testing carries both validity and reliability for high-stakes decisions, neither of which is true.



Instead of improving struggling schools, what results are growing racial disparities that fuel gentrification for the richer alongside disinvestment from the poorer. The racially disparate outcomes should not be surprising, given the historical ties between mass standardized testing and eugenics, and even today, given the ways that “norm referencing” in test construction guarantees the perpetuation of a racialized achievement curve. Yet, the hallmarks of the portfolio model are taught in the Broad Superintendents Academy that prepares an increasingly steady flow of new leaders for urban districts, and not surprisingly, that has produced the leaders that have been ousted in some of the highest profile protests by parents and teachers in recent years. This is the model that propels the funding and incubation of school-choice expansion, particularly via charter schools, through such organizations as the NewSchools Venture Fund and various charter networks whose leaders are among the trainers in the Broad Academy. Imposing this model on poorer communities of color is nefarious, disingenuous, and must end.


• Choice, Vouchers, Charters. 



The expansion of school choice, including vouchers (and neo-voucher initiatives, like tax credits) and charter schools, purports to give children and parents the freedom to leave a “failing” school. However, the research on decades of such programs does not give any compelling evidence that such reforms lead to system improvement, instead showing increased racial segregation, diversion of public funding from the neediest of communities, neglect of students with disabilities and English-language learners, and more racial disparities in educational opportunity. This should not be surprising: choice emerged during the Civil Rights Movement as a way to resist desegregation; vouchers also emerged during this time, when the federal government was growing its investment into public education, as a way to privatize public school systems and divert funding to private schools for the elite; and charter schools emerged in the 1990s as laboratories for communities to shape their own schools, but have become the primary tool to privatize school systems.



Yes, choice and vouchers give some students a better education, but in many areas, students of color and low-income students are in the minority of those using vouchers. Yes, some charters are high performing, but overall, the under-regulation of and disproportionate funding for charter schools has resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in waste (and even more in corporate profits) that could otherwise have gone to traditional public schools. The NAACP was right when it resolved that privatization is a threat to public education, and in particular, called for a moratorium on charter-school expansion; and the NAACP, MALDEF, ACLU, and other national civil-rights organizations have opposed voucher expansion. Diverting funds towards vouchers, neo-vouchers, and charters must end.


• Teacher Deprofessionalization. 



The deprofessionalization of teaching—including the undermining of collective bargaining and shared governance, and the preferential hiring of underprepared teachers—is foregrounded in charter schools (which often prohibit unionization and hire a disproportionate number of Teach for America teachers), but affects the teaching force in public schools, writ large. The mega-philanthropies are not only anti-union, having supported (sometimes rhetorically, sometimes resourcefully) the recent wave of anti-union bills across the states; but more broadly, are anti-shared governance, supporting the shift toward top-down management forms (including by for-profit management at the school level, and unelected, mayor-appointed boards at the district level). 



The weakening of the profession is also apparent in the philanthropies’ funding of fast-track routes to certification, not only for leaders (like with New Leaders for New Schools), but also for classroom teachers, like with the American Board for Certification of Teaching Excellence, and more notably, Teach for America (TFA). TFA accelerates the revolving door of teachers by turning teaching into a brief service obligation, justified by a redefining of quality teacher away from preparedness, experience, and community connectedness to merely being knowledgeable of subject matter (and notably, after the courts found that TFA teachers did not meet the definition of “highly qualified,” Congress would remove the requirement that every student have a “highly qualified” teacher in its 2015 reauthorization of ESEA, thus authorizing the placement of underprepared teachers in the neediest of schools). 



Parents are being lied to when told that these “reforms” of weakening unions and lessening professional preparation will raise the quality of teachers for their children. Yes, some teachers and leaders from alternative routes are effective and well-intended, but outliers should not drive policy. Students are being lied to when told that choosing such pathways is akin to joining the legacy of civil-rights struggles for poorer communities of color. Not surprisingly, the NAACP and the Movement for Black Lives have called out how initiatives like TFA appeal to our desire to serve and help, but shortchange the students who need and deserve more.

We, as a nationwide collective of educators of color and educational scholars of color, oppose the failed reforms that are being forced by wealthy philanthropists onto our communities with problematic and often devastating results. These must end now. We support reforms that better serve our students, particularly in poorer communities of color, and we stand ready to work with lawmakers, leaders, school systems, and the public to make such goals a reality.

Arthur Camins writes about the importance of voting Democratic in November. He says he supports Senator Sanders but recognizes that he is unlikely to win the nomination, given the double-digit losses sustained by his personal choice. The stakes are high, he writes, and he’s prepared to support former Vice President Joe Biden.

https://www.dailykos.com/story/2020/3/19/1929172/-A-Time-to-Every-Purpose-Vote-for-the-Democrat-in-November

He begins:

“Short of some unexpected dramatic development, there is a high potential for Joe Biden’s nomination. I want Bernie to win, but the delegate numbers are not just media hype. It is real.

“I see a lot of non-voting, 3rd party and write- in sentiment. I have no idea if this is widespread or just a feature of a few websites or bots out to suppress the vote. Either way, I find it alarming. I hope it is in-the-moment anger and disappointment rather than long-term resolve.

“I have supported Bernie. I’m furious and frustrated too. So, I’m writing to persuade, not condemn.

“To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven ….

“A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing

“To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)

“And a time to every purpose, under heaven

“A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late (Peter Seeger)

“Now is not the time to count on an alternative progressive 3rd party win, never done before in a substantive way at the national level. That takes years of grassroots organizing at the local level. It cannot be done in time to prevent Trump from being elected.

“Now is not the time for a symbolic protest vote. Stopping Trump’s reelection is essential. Lives depend on it.

“For me, a lifelong progressive, that means that anyone who cares about human and political rights must vote for whoever is the Democratic nominee. There is no moral equivalence between Trump and Biden. Even if Bernie wins the nomination, that organizing would be essential for him to implement his agenda. That is what “political revolution” means. If Trump wins– the assured result of non-voting, 3rd party, or write-in votes– his authoritarian impulses will be unleashed and uncontrolled.”

Please read on.

Take five minutes and watch this excellent video about the startling advance of privatization, not only in schools, but in the military, in prisons, and in other sectors that used to be public. The video was made by Lawrence Baines, who wrote a short and excellent book with the same title as the video.

You will consider this five minutes well spent. Send it to your friends. It is an well-made brief statement about privatization warps our priorities.

Here’s the link on YOUTUBE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQc-KmJ_5ms

VIMEO: https://vimeo.com/397303390

Dr. Lawrence A. Baines
Director, Oklahoma Writing Project, http://www.okwp.org

Mailing address: University of Oklahoma, 820 Van Vleet Oval, room 114, Norman, OK 73019. (405) 325-3752. lbaines@ou.edu
http://www.lawrencebaines.com http://www.americansellout.org

In this must-read article, Tim Schwab reports his investigative journalism into the charities favored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He asks, who benefits?

He begins by discussing a three-part Netflix documentary called Inside Bill’s Brain. The film was directed by Davis Guggenheim, who also directed Waiting for “Superman,” the anti-public school, pro-charter school documentary.

Schwab writes:

In the first episode, director Davis Guggenheim underlines Gates’s expansive intellect by interviewing Bernie Noe, described as a friend of Gates.

“That’s a gift, to read 150 pages an hour,” says Noe. “I’m going to say it’s 90 percent retention. Kind of extraordinary.”

Guggenheim doesn’t tell audiences that Noe is the principal of Lakeside School, a private institution to which the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has given $80 million. The filmmaker also doesn’t mention the extraordinary conflict of interest this presents: The Gateses used their charitable foundation to enrich the private school their children attend, which charges students $35,000 a year.

The documentary’s blind spots are all the more striking in light of the timing of its release, just as news was trickling out that Bill Gates met multiple times with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein to discuss collaborating on charitable activities, from which Epstein stood to generate millions of dollars in management fees. Though the collaboration never materialized, it nonetheless illustrates the moral hazards surrounding the Gates Foundation’s $50 billion charitable enterprise, whose sprawling activities over the last two decades have been subject to remarkably little government oversight or public scrutiny.

While the efforts of fellow billionaire philanthropist Michael Bloomberg to use his wealth to win the presidency foundered amid intense media criticism, Gates has proved there is a far easier path to political power, one that allows unelected billionaires to shape public policy in ways that almost always generate favorable headlines: charity….

Describing his approach by turns as “creative capitalism” and “catalytic philanthropy,” Gates oversaw a shift at his foundation to leverage “all the tools of capitalism” to “connect the promise of philanthropy with the power of private enterprise.”

The result has been a new model of charity in which the most direct beneficiaries are sometimes not the world’s poor but the world’s wealthiest, in which the goal is not to help the needy but to help the rich help the needy.

Through an investigation of more than 19,000 charitable grants the Gates Foundation has made over the last two decades, The Nation has uncovered close to $2 billion in tax-deductible charitable donations to private companies—including some of the largest businesses in the world, such as GlaxoSmithKline, Unilever, IBM, and NBC Universal Media—which are tasked with developing new drugs, improving sanitation in the developing world, developing financial products for Muslim consumers, and spreading the good news about this work.

The Gates Foundation even gave $2 million to Participant Media to promote Davis Guggenheim’s previous documentary film Waiting for Superman, which pushes one of the foundation’s signature charity efforts, charter schools—privately managed public schools. This charitable donation is a small part of the $250 million the foundation has given to media companies and other groups to influence the news.

“It’s been a quite unprecedented development, the amount that the Gates Foundation is gifting to corporations…. I find that flabbergasting, frankly,” says Linsey McGoey, a professor of sociology at the University of Essex and author of the book No Such Thing as a Free Gift. “They’ve created one of the most problematic precedents in the history of foundation giving by essentially opening the door for corporations to see themselves as deserving charity claimants at a time when corporate profits are at an all-time high.”

McGoey’s research has anecdotally highlighted charitable grants the Gates Foundation has made to private companies, such as a $19 million donation to a Mastercard affiliate in 2014 to “increase usage of digital financial products by poor adults” in Kenya. The credit card giant had already articulated its keen business interest in cultivating new clients from the developing world’s 2.5 billion unbanked people, McGoey says, so why did it need a wealthy philanthropist to subsidize its work? And why are Bill and Melinda Gates getting a tax break for this donation?

As I wrote, this article is a must-read.

The National Center for Research on Education Access and Choice (REACH), formerly known as the Education Research Alliance, released its first report after having been funded by Betsy DeVos with $10 million to study the effects of choice in schools. REACH used value-added methodology (judging teachers by the test score gains of their students to determine that those who got the highest VAM scores were likeliest to stay. It is safe to assume that these teachers were in the highest-scoring charter schools. On the other hand, the teachers with the lowest scores (no doubt, in the lowest-performing schools) were turning over at a high rate. The study’s conclusion is that (some) charters are keeping their best teachers (those with the highest VAM ratings) but (some) charters are not, which since they don’t get high VAM scores, is not a big deal.

We are excited to announce the release of the first study from the National Center for Research on Education Access and Choice (REACH). Naturally, the subject of this study is one that’s considered the most important factor in school success: teachers.

New Orleans is the first all-charter school district in the country. This makes the city the first where schools are held strictly accountable for performance, where many employers in close proximity compete for teachers, and where schools have the ability to respond to these pressures with almost complete autonomy over school personnel. If school reform advocates are right, we would expect these policy changes to produce major change in the teacher labor market. Did this happen?

To answer this question, researchers Nathan Barrett, Deven Carlson, Douglas N. Harris, and Jane Arnold Lincove compared New Orleans to similar neighboring districts from 2010 to 2015, using student test score growth to measure teacher performance. They drew the following conclusions:

Teacher retention is more closely related to teacher performance in New Orleans than in traditional public school districts. Lower performing teachers in New Orleans are 2.5 times more likely to leave their school than high-performing teachers, compared with only 1.9 times in similar neighboring districts.
The stronger link between retention and performance might imply that teacher quality would improve faster in New Orleans than in similar districts. However, this is not the case. The difference in average teacher performance between New Orleans and comparison districts remained essentially unchanged between 2010 and 2015. This is apparently because of the larger share of new teachers in New Orleans, whose lower quality roughly offsets the city’s advantages in retaining higher performing teachers.
The stronger retention-performance link in New Orleans is somewhat related to financial rewards, though not in a way that is likely to increase the overall quality of teaching. We find that higher performing teachers only receive pay increases when they switch schools, which may increase teacher turnover. High-performing teachers do not receive raises for performance when they stay in the same school.
These findings highlight the complexities of policies intended to increase the quality of teaching. Future studies will build on this work by examining how performance-based school closures affect the teacher labor market.

Read the policy brief here or the full technical report here.