Archives for category: Billionaires

Ashley McCall is a bilingual third-grade teacher of English Language Arts in Chicago Public Schools. She asked in a recent post on her blog whether we might seize this opportunity to reimagine schooling for the future, to break free of a stale and oppressive status quo that stifles both children and teachers.

She writes:

“What if?” I thought. What if we did something different, on purpose? What if we refused to return to normal? Every week seems to introduce a new biblical plague and unsurprisingly, the nation is turning to schools to band-aid the situation and create a sense of “normalcy”–the same normalcy that has failed BIPOC communities for decades.

In her memoir, When They Call You a Terrorist, Patrisse Khan-Cullors states that “our nation [is] one big damn Survivor reality nightmare”. It always has been. America’s criminal navigation of the COVID-19 pandemic further highlights the ways we devalue the lives of the most vulnerable. We all deserve better than Survivor and I don’t want to help sustain this nightmare. I want to be a part of something better.

What If We Designed a School Year for Recovery?

“What if?” I thought. What if Chicago Public Schools (CPS) did something radical with this school year? What if this fastest-improving urban district courageously liberated itself from narrow and rigid quantitative measures of intelligence that have colonized the education space for generations, and instead blazed a trail for reimagining what qualifies as valuable knowledge?

What if we put our money, time and energy into what we say matters most? What if this school year celebrated imagination? In We Got This, Cornelius Minor reminds us that “education should function to change outcomes for whole communities.” What if we designed a school year that sought to radically shift how communities imagine, problem solve, heal, and connect?

What if this messy school year prioritized hard truths and accountability? What if social emotional instruction wasn’t optional or reduced to one cute poster? What if we focused on district wide capacity-building for, and facilitation of, restorative justice practices?

What if the CPS Office of Social Emotional Learning (OSEL) had more than about 15 restorative practice coaches to serve over 600 schools? What if we let students name conflicts and give them the space, tools, and support to address and resolve them? What if restorative justice was a central part of this year’s curricula?

What If We Really Listened?

What if we made space to acknowledge the fear, anxiety, frustration and confusion students, staff, and families are feeling? What if we listened? What if we made space to acknowledge the anger and demands of students? What if our priority was healing? Individual and collective. What if we respected and honored the work of healers and invested in healing justice?

What if our rising 8th-graders and seniors prepared for high school and post-secondary experiences by centering their humanity and the humanity of others? What if healthy, holistic, interconnected citizenship was a learning objective? What if we tracked executive functioning skills and habits of mind? What if for “homework” families had healing conversations?

What If We Made Life the Curriculum?

What if we recognized that life—our day-to-day circumstances and our response to them—is curricula? It’s the curricula students need, especially now as our country reckons with its identity. What if we remembered that reading, writing, social studies, mathematics, and science are built into our understanding of and response to events every day?

She goes on to describe how this reimagining could infuse the school and the curriculum and the way teachers teach.

School reformers and billionaire philanthropists say they want innovation. Do you think Bill Gates, the Waltons, Eli Broad, Reed Hastings, and their friends would fund districts that want genuine innovation of the kind Ashley McCall describes?

New York, like California, has a large cohort of billionaires. To be exact, there are 118 billionaire families in New York. Despite the desperate financial condition of the state, Andrew Cuomo refuses to raise the taxes on the top one-tenth of 1%. Cuomo says that if he raised taxes on the billionaires, they would move to another state.

Walker Bragman and David Sirota explain another reason why Cuomo won’t raise taxes on the billionaires: one-third of them are donors to Cuomo’s campaigns, and clearly he has aspirations to run again for higher office.

As that campaign to tax billionaires received a recent boost from Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and New York’s Democratic state legislative leaders, Cuomo has insisted that he fears that the tax initiative will prompt the super-rich to leave the state. On Wednesday, he doubled down, warning that if the state tried to balance its budget through billionaire tax hikes “you’d have no billionaires left”.

But in defending billionaires, Cuomo is protecting a group of his most important financial boosters. More than a third of New York’s billionaires have funneled cash to Cuomo’s political machine, according to a Too Much Information review of campaign finance data and the Forbes billionaire list.

So the people who can easily afford higher taxes to pay for public services should be protected from higher taxes, which for them is chump change.

A group called Americans for Tax Fairness has tracked the remarkable increase in the wealth of billionaires during the rise of the pandemic.

Shouldn’t billionaires pay higher taxes to help the children of their state? What profiteth a man to gain additional billions if the society he lives in is overrun with starving, unfed, uneducated children?

WASHINGTON—New York has 118 billionaires who collectively saw their wealth increase by $77.3 billion or 14.8% during the first three months of the COVID-19 pandemic even as the state’s economy was reeling from a huge spike in joblessness and a collapse in taxes collected, a new report by Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) and Health Care for America Now (HCAN) shows. One new billionaire joined the list during the three-month period bringing the total to 119 billionaires, of whom 113 are U.S. citizens and 6 are foreigners with residences in the state.

New York State is projecting a $13.3 billion revenue shortfall in FY2021, or a 14% decline.

Between March 18—the rough start date of the pandemic shutdown, when most federal and state economic restrictions were in place—and June 17, the total net worth of the state’s 119 billionaires rose from $521.5 billion to $600.7 billion, based on an analysis of Forbes data. Forbes’ annual billionaires report was published March 18, 2020, and the most recent real-time data was collected June 17 from the Forbes website.

Three New York billionaires—Michael Bloomberg, Julia Koch and Stephen Schwarzman—saw their wealth grow by 25%, 26% and 27%, respectively. During about the same period of the pandemic, 2,594,000 of the state’s residents lost their jobs, 387,000 fell ill with the virus and 31,000 died from it.

Would it be too much to ask them to pay taxes to support our children and our schools?

 

 

 

 

 

A group called Americans for Tax Fairness reported that the state’s billionaires saw a dramatic increase in their wealth during the pandemic.

Shouldn’t billionaires pay higher taxes to help the children of their state? What profiteth a man to gain additional billions if the society he lives in is overrun with starving, unfed, uneducated children?

California’s 154 Billionaires Saw Net Worth Jump $175.4 Billion— 25.5% in First Three Months of COVID-19 Pandemic

 Growth in Billionaire Wealth a Stark Contrast to Recently Passed CA Budget Which Cuts Health & Vital Services of Vulnerable Californians in Absence of Federal Revenue, and Congress Stalls on New COVID-19 Financial Aid Package.

 Along with Federal Funds, Taxing the Windfall of the Ultra-Rich Could Raise Revenues Needed to Prevent Billions in Scheduled & Trigger Cuts to Medi-Cal & Many Other Programs.

 New Report Lists All 154 Billionaires and Their Profits in Just Three Months While Over 5 Million Californians Lost Jobs, and 5,000 Have Died from COVID-19.

 Grassroots Surge of Support for Budget Equity in California, With Many Events Planned for this Week

WASHINGTON/CALIFORNIA—At the same time that the California Legislature was debating billions of dollars of budget cuts to health and other vital services during a pandemic and an economic downturn, California’s 154 billionaires collectively saw their wealth increase by $175.4 billion or 25.5% during the first three months of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report by Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF), Health Care for America Now (HCAN) and Health Access California. Another 11 Californians were newly minted billionaires during the same period.

Coming on the heels of a new California state budget that has billions of cuts deferred, scheduled, and subject to triggers, unless needed federal aid comes through, the new data provides a powerful argument for health, education, and other advocates seeking new federal funds and new state revenues, including taxes on the wealthiest, in order to prevent cuts and make needed investments in a time of great need.

Grassroots energy for the concept of budget equity in California is driving multiple events throughout the state this week and throughout the summer.

While the top five California billionaires made $70 billion in just three months, Governor Newsom proposed $14 billion in “trigger” budget cuts to key education, health, and human services needed in this public health and economic emergency. While most cuts were deferred in the final budget deal (the health care portions detailed on this scorecard), some cuts are still scheduled, unless federal aid materializes, like $1.2 billion in cuts to Medi-Cal providers. Still others, like denying health coverage to tens of thousands of low-income seniors—will be back on the table without federal aid or new state tax revenues.

“It’s incomprehensible that California Lawmakers have to make the choice to cut health care for seniors, low-income communities, and Black and brown Californians most at risk in the middle of a pandemic—without first asking more from our richest billionaires who are experiencing massive windfalls of additional wealth,” said Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “A modest tax on those with the most can preserve health and other vital services for those with the least, and all that are struggling in this economic and public health crisis. If we don’t have significant federal aid and

In recent days, the public learned that Jeff Bezos’ net worth has soared to more than $170 billion. Bill Gates trails Bezos at “only” $114 billion. The Walton family is in the same range ($150 billion among three of them). This vast accumulation of wealth by a very tiny number of people distorts the entire economy, especially since it contrasts with millions of people who are unemployed, homeless, and living in deep poverty. Is this the America we love? Is this the America that we want?

G.F. Brandenburg has reposted an essay here about the “looting of America” by the super-rich.

To change this imbalance which eats away at the soul of our society, we need the courage to write a new tax code. I don’t know how to write a tax code but I know what inequity looks like. It looks like what we have today.

Time to recommend an important book: The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger.

Readers of this blog know that Betsy DeVos decoded, against federal law and precedent, that CARES coronavirus funding should be divided among all students, rich, middle-income, and poor. She stuck to this decision even after her fellow Republican, Senator Lamar Alexander, pointed out that the money was for the neediest students, not all students. Betsy ignored him.

It’s heartening to see that Newsweek referred to this brazen action as “looting.”

If DeVos knew anything about the history of the federal role in education, she would know that the Elementary and a Secondary Education Act of 1965 was passed specifically to fund the schools of the poorest children.

While we chastise looting, let’s chastise billionaire Betsy for looting millions from poor kids in defiance of Congressional intent.

VOX reports on billionaire Reed Hastings’ grandiose plans to build a fabulous resort in Colorado for teachers, where they will learn to love charter schools, high-stakes testing, test-based accountability for teachers, and other failed reform strategies.

Hastings has $5 billion and he doesn’t seem to know what to do with it, even though California has many people who are homeless and many hotbeds of racism and injustice. So, he decided to keep spending on privatization, no doubt gladdening the heart of Betsy DeVos, and high-stakes testing.

Every one of Hastings’s favorite ideas has failed but he plans to convert teachers to follow his path by immersing them in luxurious surroundings.

If only he would read SLAYING GOLIATH, he would realize that he is wasting his money and undermining an essential democratic institution, the American public school, which nearly 90% of American families choose.

Theodore Schleifer writes in VOX:

Reed Hastings, the billionaire founder of Netflix, is quietly building a mysterious 2,100-acre luxury retreat ranch nestled in the elk-filled foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Recode has learned.

Hastings has been one of the country’s biggest donors to the education reform movement that’s trying to reshape America’s struggling school system. And now public records reveal that Hastings is personally financing a new foundation that will operate this training ground for American public school teachers, a passion project shrouded in secrecy that will expand the billionaire’s political influence.

Hastings is one of many Silicon Valley billionaires who have deployed their fortunes in the education reform movement, which calls for a greater focus on testing, tougher accountability for teachers, and the expansion of alternative schools like charters to close America’s achievement gaps and better train its future workforce. Those tech leaders, though, have had uncertain results, with the very biggest of them — Microsoft founder Bill Gates — having admitted earlier this year that he was “not yet seeing the kind of bottom-line impact we expected.” Opponents, including teachers’ unions, charge that these reformers are blaming educators for factors beyond their control, such as poverty.

The new training center, called the Retreat Land at Lone Rock, seems to be a priority for the Netflix CEO, at least based on Hastings’s level of personal involvement: He and his wife have been visiting the area since at least 2017, when they went so far as to request a face-to-face meeting with a local fire chief at his Colorado firehouse to try and smooth over any looming permitting concerns.

Hastings, whose involvement hasn’t previously been reported, declined to comment on his plans through a spokesperson.

But public records filed with the government of Park County, Colorado, and reviewed by Recode offer a glimpse at the ambitious plans for the center, which local officials expect to open as early as March 2021.

“The proposed Conference and Retreat Facility will be run as a nonprofit institute serving the public education community’s development of teachers and leadership,” a Hastings aide says in one prospectus.

One group that is expected to use the “state-of-the-art” facility is the Pahara Institute, which operates a well-known networking group and training program for activists and teachers aligned with the education-reform movement. Hastings heavily funds and serves on the board of the Pahara Institute, which currently hosts its retreats at different locations around the country rather than at a single place.

It was Pahara that initially contacted local landowners to buy the acreage before Hastings personally stepped in and decided to do it himself, said Dave Crane, a real estate broker who did the deal and gave a tour of the property to Hastings before the firehouse meeting in 2017. Pahara’s founder serves on the board of Hastings’s new foundation as well.

Retreat Land at Lone Rock will effectively function as the grounds for leadership retreats like these for teachers, principals, and nonprofit heads, according to a person close to Hastings. It will be open to both educators at traditional district public schools and those at charter schools, a favorite cause of the Netflix founder, the person said.

The center will nevertheless extend Hastings’s influence in the American education system. Although it remains unknown whether the leaders that are brought to Lone Rock will be the key people to fix America’s schools, Hastings, a private citizen, will now have the ability to choose a few leaders who agree with him and support them with his bank account and his center, giving him an outsized voice in one of America’s most fraught public policy debates.

Overlapping groups of about 30 educators at a time from across the United States are expected to enjoy the 270-room retreat center at once, staying for four days each and playing team sports, using its classrooms, and enjoying its pristine hiking trails — “maybe with pack llamas,” says another document.

Yes, poverty is the essential problem that afflicts the lives of large numbers of children. Ignore it at your peril, Mr. Hastings. Keep pursuing your vanity projects while teachers and students cry out for smaller classes, bemoan the lack of resources, weep for the loss of the arts and play, and plead for social workers, psychologists, librarians and nurses.

Mr. Hastings, you have made a lot of money–billions–but you are a foolish man.

Just think what you might do instead: fund medical centers in schools across California; fund the arts in schools; fund libraries and librarians. There are so many ways you could bring joy to children and their families. Why don’t you do something to spread goodness instead of disruption?

This is one of the most important posts you will read today, this week, this month. If you want to understand the hoax of so-called “education reform,” read this post. Share it with your friends. Tweet it. Put it in Facebook. It rips the veil away from the wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Thomas Ultican has found the beating heart of the Disruption movement, the organization where plans are hatched and funded to destroy public schools. He tells the story of the NewSchools Venture Fund, where very wealthy people collaborate to undermine and privatize one of our most essential democratic institutions: our public schools.

He begins this important post:


The New Schools Venture Fund (NSVF) is the Swiss army knife of public school privatization. It promotes education technology development, bankrolls charter school creation, develops charter management organizations and sponsors school leadership training groups. Since its founding in 1998, a small group of people with extraordinary wealth have been munificent in their support. NSVF is a significant asset in the billionaire funded drive to end democratically run public schools and replace them with privatized corporate structures.

Read this remarkable account that ties together the masters of the universe, who have decided to rearrange the lives of lesser mortals, that is, people who lack their vast wealth and political connections.

Thomas Ultican, retired teacher of advanced math and physics, has been analyzing the depredations of the privatization movement, which dares to call itself a “reform” movement, thus debasing the plain meaning of reform.

In this post, he digs into the machinations of the billionaire privatizers and their plans to buy and privatize the public schools of Oakland, California. Their tentacles reach far, and they have paid for seats on the school board as well as a panoply of organizations, who have a common purpose.

They don’t care that they have failed and failed and failed to improve the education of the children of Oakland. Their goal is power, and they have always been able to pay people to do their bidding.

Ultican writes:

Community based schools run under the authority of an elected school board have served as the foundation for American democracy for two centuries. Feckless billionaires operating from hubris or theological commitment or a desire to avoid taxes or a pursuit of more wealth are sundering those foundations.

Will activists of good will be able to throw off the yoke of billionaire financed tyranny and defend their public schools in Oakland?

Amy Frogge is one of the heroes of my book SLAYING GOLIATH. A lawyer, she ran for the Metro Nashville school board with no foreknowledge of the privatization movement. She ran as a concerned citizen and a mother of children in the public schools of Nashville. The privatizers outspent her 5-1, but she won. When she got on the board, she realized that there was a sustained and well-funded campaign to replace public schools with charters. She became a truth-teller, motivated by her deep concern for the common good.

When she ran for re-election, she again faced a well-financed opponent, backed by Gates-funded Stand for Children and DFER. Frogge scored an overwhelming victory.

Amy Frogge is still fighting the fake reformers.

Every school board needs an Amy Frogge, who sees clearly and is not afraid to speak truth to power.

She recently wrote an open letter denouncing Eli Broad and his Broadies.

She wrote:

Dear Nashville (and others),

Please pay attention to those with whom you choose to align yourself on education issues. If you are supporting anyone funded or trained by California billionaire Eli Broad, you can bet you’ll end up on the wrong side of history.

Eli Broad created and funds a blog called Education Post. The folks who run it would like for you to believe they are just activists for low-income families and minority children- but in reality, they are dripping with dirty money. Education Post’s first CEO, Peter Cunningham, was paid $1 million for 2 1/2 years of blogging. Board member Chris Stewart, known online as “Citizen Stewart,” was paid $422,925 for 40 hours a week across 30 months as “outreach and external affairs director.” As author/blogger Mercedes Schneider concludes, “In ed reform, blogging pays juicy salaries.” (For the record, I have never earned a penny for any of my social media posts, of course.)

Paid Education Post leaders regularly try to infiltrate online Nashville education discussions (Nashville is a national target for charter expansion), and Education Post also pays local bloggers to write posts. Local bloggers Zack Barnes and Vesia Hawkins are both listed as network members on the Education Post blog.

Many of the big players in Tennessee were “trained” by Eli Broad through his Broad Superintendents Academy, which recruits business leaders with no background in education to be superintendents- with the purpose of privatizing schools (closing existing schools and opening more charter schools). The current Tennessee Commissioner of Education, Penny Schwinn, is a “Broadie.” Two former heads of Tennessee’s failed Achievement School District (a ploy to expand charter schools without local approval) were Broadies: Chris Barbic and Malika Anderson. Former superintendents Jim McIntyre (of Knoxville) and Shawn Joseph (of Nashville) were also affiliated with the Broad network. Shawn Joseph claimed both McIntyre and former Baltimore superintendent Dallas Dance, a member of Education Post’s network, as his mentors.

The school “reforms” pushed by Broadies all center around profit-making through public education: standardized testing (money for private test companies), computer learning (money for IT companies and cost-savings on hiring teachers), charter schools, vouchers, scripted curriculum that can be monetized, etc. Broadies typically see teachers as expendable and believe teaching can be mechanized.

Since charters and vouchers have become an increasingly unpopular cause, the latest angle is for Broadies to increase the number of (sometimes rigged) vendor contracts for programs and services, as well as consultants, with school districts. Former Baltimore superintendent Dallas Dance went to federal prison for rigging no-bid contracts in a kick-back scheme. In a similar scheme, his mentee (Nashville superintendent) Shawn Joseph was caught inflating no-bid contract prices (in violation of state law) for vendors connected with the recruiter and Broadies who placed him in Nashville through a rigged superintendent search. (See comments for further information.)

Billionaires like Eli Broad who fund school profiteering efforts like to hire/fund people of color to act as front-men for their efforts. This provides the appearance that the push for “school choice” (i.e., charters and vouchers) is grassroots. When these folks are questioned or caught in the midst of wrong-doing, they are able to cry racism. Meanwhile, everyone has their hands in the cookie jar of funding meant to serve children.

The ploys used in school profiteering are particularly nasty- the worst of dirty politics. The goal is usually to smear, humiliate, shame and discredit anyone who is an effective critic of the school privatization agenda. Lots of money is spent on PR for this purpose. (I’ve even been attacked on this Facebook page by a paid “social media specialist” for my opposition to charter schools.)

You’ll notice that the atmosphere tends to become particularly dysfunctional and circus-like when Broadies are in charge or involved. You’ll also notice that Broadies like to push the narrative that locally-elected school boards are too dysfunctional to lead (even when the Broadie in charge is causing all the dysfunction!). This is because Eli Broad and those affiliated with him want no public oversight of public education spending.

So- when you witness education conversations on social media, be sure to figure out who is funding those claiming to promote “school choice” or to advocate for children in poverty. Follow the money, y’all. Always!