Archives for category: Billionaires

Rob Reich and Mohit Mookim write in “Wired” about the efforts by Bill Gates, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and Chinese billionaire Jack Ma to step in and do what the federal government has failed to do in responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

They warn:

Public health is a paradigmatic public good. We should never be dependent on the whims of wealthy donors—as philanthropy is increasingly dominated by the wealthy—for our collective health and well-being.

That would be a betrayal of democracy. Rather than democratic processes determining our collective needs and how to address them, the wealthy would decide for us. We wanted rule by the many; we may get rule by the rich.

The coronavirus pandemic presents us with an immediate need for a response and it reminds us of the importance to invest so that we avoid preventable disasters in the future. At the moment, it’s all hands on deck for the emergency. But this is not what big philanthropy is built for. Or what it can sustain. The richest country in the world must step up to fund public health rather than relying on the richest people in the world to do it piecemeal.

Rob Reich is Professor of Political Science at Stanford University and author of Just Giving: Why Philanthropy is Failing Democracy and How It Can Do Better. He is the faculty codirector of The Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, which has received grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Mohit Mookim is a researcher at the Center for Ethics in Society at Stanford University.

Curiously, the co-author Rob Reich Of the article leads an organization funded by the Gates Foundation. Will Bill Gates listen to him?

Thomas Ultican has analyzed the billionaire funders behind the pro-Disruption, anti-democracy website “Education Post.”

The major funders are the usual members of the Billionaire Boys and Girls Club: Bloomberg, Waltons, Chan Zuckerberg, and Mrs. Jobs.

Please open and read his post.

If you thought the Disrupters might have softened their tone during the pandemic, like, as a show of decency, you will be disappointed. They are still attacking, vilifying, and mocking anyone daring to defend public education, which is a cornerstone of our democracy. It must really upset them that after all these years and billions spent on privatization, only 6% of American students enroll in charter schools.

For some reason, I am one of their prime targets. I suppose I should take it as a compliment.

I will never answer in kind.

They are swimming in cash, but what they cannot buy is civility, kindness, compassion, or dignity.

In Arkansas, the governor and the legislature does not want the citizens of Little Rock to have democratic control of their public schools. They took over the schools five years ago and were supposed to return it to the people but passed a hoax of a bill.

Now activists have filed a lawsuit to expose the hoax and demand a real return to democratic control of their schools.

Max Brantley, veteran journalist in Little Rock, explains how the state intends to clamp down on a new local board and hang on to the reins of power.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of three plaintiffs by Matthew Campbell, challenges the state Board’s order that prevents the School Board from filing lawsuits; from negotiating with the teachers union on a contract, and from firing the school superintendent.

The plaintiffs are a parent of a child in the district, Heather Speyer-Rainbolt; Jim Ross, a member of the School Board disbanded by the state five years ago on account of low standardized tests scores in a handful of the district’s almost four dozen schools, and Marshall Sladyen, a teacher at Hall High School.

The lawsuit argues that the state’s ability to control the district ended by law at the five-year trusteeship period in January. Then, the state had to consolidate, annex or reconstitute the district. The state contended that it had reconstituted the district by allowing the election of a new board at the end of this year. But it put three key limits on its powers. It has since acted in other ways to assert control — including in the naming of a school and designation of a principal and asserting that it could act in any way it found necessary to oversee practices in the district.

So, the hoax is exposed. The new locally elected board is not allow to file lawsuits; it is not allowed to restore the teachers’ union; it is not allowed to fire the superintendent hired by the state. The state board can do whatever it wants to intervene in the district and the local board is powerless to stop it. The state board, the state superintendent, the governor, and the legislature are determined to crush democracy in Little Rock, without regard to the law.

Behind the hoax are the Waltons, who treat the state as their private plantation. I asked a local parent about who was pulling the strings and she replied:

The Waltons are behind the efforts to maintain indefinite state control beyond the five years allowed in state law. The State Board of Ed member (Chad Pekron) who proposed the limitations on returning LRSD local control (no collective bargaining, and no filing lawsuits) was appointed by our governor just a few months ago, when Jay Barth’s term ended. Chad Pekron stayed on the board only long enough to implement these “guard rails” before the Waltons called him home to the Walmart home office as Lead Counsel – Appellate. https://twitter.com/chadpekron/status/1233402726832316421?s=21

This is not democracy. This is colonialism.

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.

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 parents and educators who created SOS Arizona blocked the last expansion plan for vouchers by getting a referendum on the state ballot in 2018. They had to fight the governor, the legislature, the Republican party, the Koch brothers, the DeVos family, and other monied interests, who wanted to keep expanding vouchers until every student in the state was eligible for a voucher.

The all-volunteer SOS Arizona group gathered over 100,000 signatures to put a referendum on the ballot, fought the efforts of the Koch brothers to kick them off the ballot, and the referendum went to the public, where voucher expansion was overwhelmingly defeated by a margin of 65-35%.

Now SOS Arizona needs your help to put another referendum on the state ballot, to end voucher expansion. Volunteers must collect 350,000 signatures to initiate this referendum. They need YOUR help!

Save Our Schools Arizona (SOSAZ), the grassroots group responsible for stopping universal voucher expansion in Arizona in 2018, has gone on offense. In spite of their overwhelming 2-to-1 defeat of Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) voucher expansion, the Arizona state legislature attempted to pass 6 different voucher bills in 2019–all killed by SOSAZ and in 2020 is working to allow ESA vouchers to expand vouchers across state lines. Save Our Schools, once again, said “Enough!”

On February 26, 2020, Save Our Schools Arizona filed a statewide citizens’ initiative (read it here). A critical next step in fighting the privatization movement, capping the program once and for all. The Save Our Schools Act:

Limits private school vouchers to 1% of the AZ student population, allowing current students to stay in the program while blocking ALL new voucher programs in AZ FOREVER

Prevents taxpayer dollars from going to out-of-state private schools

Prevents taxpayer dollars from being deposited into personal accounts to pay for college expenses (a recent public records request by the Arizona Republic uncovered $33 million sitting in unspent recipient accounts including 9 families with a balance of more than $100,000 and dozens of others with more than $50,000.

Prioritizes existing ESA vouchers for special needs students, for whom the program was originally designed

Creates a “Taxpayer Protection Fund” to sweep remaining ESA voucher funds at the end of the fiscal year to enforce the law and increase accountability; remaining funds will transfer to the Exceptional Special Needs public school fund

To successfully place the Save Our Schools Act on the November 2020 ballot, SOSAZ has launched a statewide effort to gather 350,000 signatures by July 2. Please help by donating to this critical cause at https://secure.everyaction.com/gTzwyTPPjU2EeS_rLATvZA2

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.

Voters favored candidates endorsed by the United Teachers of Los Angeles for all four contested seats on the Los Angeles Unified School District board.

Two of the UTLA candidates, both incumbents–Jackie Goldberg and George McKenna–won outright with a majority.

Two are leading their races but heading for a run-off.

To read the latest results, go to this website and scroll to the bottom for school board races.

George McKenna (pro-public education) ran unopposed and received 100% of the vote.

Jackie Goldberg (pro-public education) was the target of hate mail sent to voters in her district but she forcefully rebutted them and was leading with 55.62% of the vote.

Scott Schmerelson (pro-public education) was the target of vicious anti-Semitic flyers, was leading with 42.13%, compared to the runner-up with 20.258%. There will be a runoff.

Patricia Castellanos (pro-public education) held 26.21% of the vote, followed by Tanya Ortiz Franklin with 23.83% of the vote. There will be a runoff. There were three other candidates running for the seat in this district.

The final vote will not be released until all the absentee and mail-in ballots have been counted.

The pro-public education slate has a good chance of retaining a 4-3 majority on the board if they win the runoffs, despite the millions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of scurrilous flyers distributed by the charter industry. The biggest spender in the election was billionaire Bill Bloomfield, who lives in Manhattan Beach, not Los Angeles, and has frequently donated to Republican candidates.

Here is UTLA’s reaction:

Huge night for UTLA: Goldberg & McKenna win; Schmerelson & Castellanos in first place, advance to runoffs

LOS ANGELES — Facing outsized spending by the charter lobby and billionaire privatizers, UTLA educators and parents scored big wins in the LAUSD School Board races by early Wednesday morning. Jackie Goldberg and George McKenna easily won reelection to their seats, and Scott Schmerelson and Patricia Castellanos placed first and fought off demeaning smear campaigns to advance to the November 2020 runoffs.

UTLA ran the most robust ground game in our history, proving the power of people versus money. While the charter lobby put hate ads in the mail, we put people in the streets, walking and talking to voters. Hundreds of UTLA members worked more than 1,000 neighborhood and precinct walks alongside our parent and community allies, reaching more than 20,000 voters. On average, when we talked to a voter, 8 out of 10 times they committed to supporting our candidates. Our member texting campaign reached an additional 100,000 people who vote by absentee ballot.

“We ran an impressive and positive ground game, fueled by the passion and enthusiasm of teachers and parents who believe in public education,” UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl said. “The charter lobby’s hateful, vitriolic attack ads can’t match the impact of a teacher at the door, talking one-on-one to a voter. Since our strike and through this election, our communities are waking up to the billionaire attacks on our democracy and our public schools.”

Fries Elementary parent Alicia Baltazar spent multiple weekends walking precincts and phone banking for Patricia Castellanos.

“Like with the strike, I felt the support of the community and I had great conversations with voters,” Baltazar said. “But it was really disturbing to watch the charter lobby and a few wealthy individuals spend millions to fight the candidates supported by teachers and parents. Why couldn’t they send that money to our schools instead?”

The California Charter Schools Association and billionaires like Bill Bloomfield funneled more than $6.2 million into the race against UTLA’s endorsed candidates, making it the most expensive primary school board race in US history. That money funded an aggressive mail campaign that hit new lows, including a series of racist, sexist, and ageist ads.

The charter industry came hard in this election because they suffered a series of losses in the aftermath of our strike, including increased public criticism of unregulated charter expansion and notable policy losses, such as our contract win on co-location and AB 1505, the first serious charter regulation in decades.

In the Democratic U.S. Presidential race, Bernie Sanders won the California primary. UTLA was an early supporter of his campaign, and this week Bernie weighed in on our School Board fight, tweeting support to his 10 million followers and endorsing Patricia Castellanos.

Now, the work continues to secure a general election win for Castellanos and Schmerelson in November. We will double down on the positive work from this campaign for the next election and beyond. The school board wins give us momentum in current reopener contract bargaining and propel us onto the next steps of our three-year path: protecting healthcare in bargaining to begin this fall and winning the School Board runoffs and the Schools & Communities First funding measure in November 2020.

“We continue our fight not just to reject the billionaire agenda — the politics of fear, hate and oppression — but to build a massive movement to reinvest in public education for the schools our students deserve, said UTLA President-Elect Cecily Myart-Cruz.”

###

UTLA, the nation’s second-largest teachers’ union local, is proud to represent more than 35,000 teachers and health & human services professionals in district and charter schools in LAUSD.

Thomas Ultican is a retired teacher of physics and advanced mathematics who has developed a passionate interest in the inner workings of the Privatization and Disruption Movement (also known as the Destroy Public Education Movement).

This is his account of the new and very well-funded plaything of the Billionaire Boys (and Girls) Club: the City Fund.

It sees itself as part of a movement, but it is not. It is merely a hobby for those who have so much money that they can”t find useful things to do with it, like feed the hungry, fight for a higher minimum wage, create health clinics for children and families, or even restore the arts and libraries in schools that have lost them to budget cuts.

There are a few things you need to know about this “movement.” It is a movement of the elite, the super-rich, the powerful. It has no troops, just well-paid minions. As long as the money keeps flowing, there will be takers, ready to sign on to the job of destroying democratically governed public schools and replacing them with privately managed schools. There is so much money available to them from billionaires like Reed Hastings and John Arnold that they can flood local school board elections with more cash than any of the other candidates and put anti-public school candidates on the board of the district.

The City Fund uses billionaire cash to undermine democracy. It does nothing to alleviate poverty or reduce segregation. Such things are not important to them, other than dreaming that changes in the ownership of schools from public to private will someday, somehow reduce poverty.

Here is the other interesting fact about the staff of the City Fund. Nothing they have done has ever improved education. All of their endeavors have failed. They exist to disrupt and destroy communities and their attachment to their local public schools. As one surveys the disaster of the Tennessee “Achievement School District,” the pathetic results of the New Orleans all-charter district (where nearly half the charters are failing schools), one wonders why the billionaires pay them to sow more chaos. The billionaires sit back and watch the fun from afar.

Ultican has created a sociogram of the main actors. None of them can point to a district that has “closed the achievement gap.” None of them can point to a success story that vaulted an entire district to the peak of excellence. Yet there they are, sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars, primed to impose their will on the people and deprive them of their right to elect their representatives.

How long will the billionaires continue to fund failure?

There is something in the City Fund that is strangely detached from the lives of children and families, something completely indifferent to the importance of communities, something soulless in the work they do to rearrange the lives of other people. It as though they are looking at cities where they never lived from a height of 30,000 feet, deciding the fate of people they never met, people who are not on the payroll of billionaires.

They exist in a luxurious, air-conditioned bubble, remote from the cares of families who worry about feeding their children, paying their rent or mortgage, having a decent job, planning for the future.

They are the outsiders who land in a community to tear it apart, then exit to do the same to another community.

Strange what some people will do for money, a lot of money. Power is intoxicating. So is money.

As every reader of this blog knows, Mercedes Schneider is a relentless, dogged, and accurate researcher. She has the skills to dig through IRS reports and other online data that connect the dots and reveal how big money and Dark Money are controlling organizations and elections, thus endangering our democracy. In addition to teaching high school English in Louisiana, she has a doctorate in research methods and statistics. She’s good at taking a complicated subject and teaching it.

In 2018, Mercedes was invited to do a workshop at the annual conference of the Network for Public Education in Indianapolis with Andrea Gabor and Darcie Cimarusti about digging for data. The session was packed.

So many people wanted to learn more that Mercedes decided to write a book sharing her knowledge.

This is the book, published by Garn Press.

Mercedes announced the book.

My latest book, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, is now available for purchase on Amazon.

Garn Press will have the book available for purchase on March 03, 2020.

About the book:

In A Practical Guide to Digital Research, Schneider draws on her years of experience as an educational researcher to offer an easy-to-read, easy-to-digest, concise tutorial for equipping both novice and more experienced researchers in navigating numerous research sources. These include nonprofit tax form search engines, newspaper archives, social media sites, internet archives, campaign filings/ethics disclosures, teaching credential search engines, and legal filings. Also covered are tips on conducting both email and in-person interviews, filing public records requests, and conducting pointed, fruitful Google searches.This powerful, practical text is built upon a foundation of actual examples from Schneider’s own research in education—examples that she dissects and explains as a means of teaching her readers how to effectively make these valuable lessons their own. Though Schneider’s own research is chiefly in the education reform arena, the resources, skills and techniques offered in A Practical Guide to Digital Research transcend any single research field and are indispensable for confronting a variety of research queries. Useful as a classroom text or for independent research study, the book provides foundational learning for those new to research investigation as well as surprising, valuable lessons for more experienced researchers challenging themselves to learn even more.

For those interested, Amazon allows readers to view the book, including its table of contents.

The the idea for this book stems from a presentation I participated in with colleagues Andres Gabor and Darcie Cimarusti on tracking the funding related to the promotion of market-based education reform titled, “Where Did All This Money Come From??: Locating and Following the Dark Money Trail” at the 2018 Network for Public Education (NPE) conference in Indianapolis.

I know you will love this book. I predict that Bill Gates, John Arnold, Betsy DeVos and Charles Koch will not.

And a reminder: there are still a few openings at the 2020 annual conference of the Network for Public Education in Philadelphia on March 28-29. It will be at the Doubletree Hilton.It is a great opportunity to meet your allies from a rossthe nation. Please register now!