Archives for category: Black Alliance for Educational Options

Larry Lee reports here about the departure of StudentsFirst and the Black Alliance for Educational Options from Alabama.

They set up camp in Alabama to advocate for charters and vouchers. Not to advocate for children, but to advocate for alternatives to public schools.

They met with some success. The appeal of charters and vouchers in the Deep South is a restoration of segregation, while claiming it is “all about the children.”

They left. They packed their bags and went away. They had no roots in Alabama. They didn’t stay to advocate for the children.

Jeff Bryant, a crack investigative journalist, writes on Bill Moyers’ blog about the big money that has chained many Democrats to the charter school industry, putting them in the bizarre position of defending privatization of public education.

Bryant cites evidence that the two big funders of political campaigns in California’s recent primaries were Big Oil and the Charter Industry.

The same dynamic is playing out in other states, where Big Money is buying Democratic candidates on the charter issue.

In California and beyond, charter-school advocates also team up with big finance to influence Democratic Party candidates in state and local elections.

According to a report from the Center for Media and Democracy, an organization calling itself Democrats for Education Reform has been effective in a number of states at getting Democratic candidates to team up with traditionally Republican-leaning financial interests to defeat any attempts to question rapid expansions of unregulated charter schools.

According to the CMD study, DEFR is a PAC “co-founded by hedge fund managers” to funnel “dark money” into “expenditures, like mass mailings or ads supporting particular politicians, that were ‘independent’ and not to be coordinated with the candidates’ campaigns.” The organization and its parent entity also have ties to FOX’s Rupert Murdoch and Charles and David Koch.

Colorado is another state where local elections often pit Democrat versus Democrat in campaigns where the interests of big money oppose progressive candidates who question the need to expand charter schools and exempt them from transparency laws.

In Tennessee also, the interests of right-wing organizations such as Americans for Prosperity often overlap with Democratic government officials intent on expanding charter schools.

Even in traditionally liberal states such as Massachusetts, progressive Democrats assailing the state’s conservative Republican governor for his push to “privatize” education with more charter schools are opposed by DEFR and other big money interests who declare support for charters, because these schools have had the backing of the Obama administration and, well, it’s about “kids.”

Will the public be hoaxed again by the Big Money interests?

As Matt Taibbi explains in Rolling Stone, this year’s presidential primary had the unusual turn of events where “the all-powerful Democratic Party ended up having to dig in for a furious rally to stave off a quirky Vermont socialist almost completely lacking big-dollar donors or institutional support.”

Taibbi sees many convincing signs that “[p]eople are sick of being thought of as faraway annoyances who only get whatever policy scraps are left over after pols have finished servicing the donors they hang out with.”

Clearly there are enough voters in the Democratic Party base who feel this way to convince some of their party’s candidates and current officials to challenge the wide leeway the charter school industry wants. So maybe more Democratic candidates who’ve tapped charter-school money will have some explaining to do.

The New York Times wrote  about the control of the mass media by billionaires, an issue that should concern us all. Not only do they own the media, some use it to promote their financial self-interest and political ideology.


This is is not an entirely new phenomenon, the story notes, mentioning William Randolph Hearst as an example. But Hearst co-existed with thousands of community newspapers. In this age of concentrated ownership of the media, a handful of moguls own the news.


Jim Rutenberg, the reporter, points out an ominous development. Billionaire Peter Thiel bankrolled a lawsuit by wrestler Hulk Hoganagainst, a gossip website, as payback for Gawker’s report that he was gay. Hogan won $140 million, which, if upheld on appeal, would put Gawker out of business.


This is an ingenious way to stifle dissent. If a billionaire doesn’t like a website, he or she can sue it into bankruptcy.

Mercedes Schneider, high school teacher, debates Common Core with a state representative and a representative of the pro-voucher group Black Alliance for Educational Options. Mercedes explains who BAEO is, then engages in 6 minutes of debate in which the two men were pro-Common Core and Mercedes was critical. Does 2 vs. 1 sound unbalanced? At least there was some disagreement. A few days ago, there was a well-publicized forum on Common Core that included Merryl Tisch, chair of the Board of Regents; John King, state commissioner; Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers; Carmen Farina, Chancellor of the New York City public schools; and one or two others. Every member of the panel supported Common Core. Some debate.

Kentucky is one of only eight states that have not passed a charter law. That means that the state has been unwilling to turn public money over to private entrepreneurs, who will operate schools with little or no oversight.

The privatizers can’t tolerate the possibility any state refuses their wares or their opportunity to operate in the dark with public dollars.

So now the full-court press is on. The National Alliance for Public (sic) Charter Schools reports: “A bill was introduced and passed the state Senate last session, but it died in the House. Republican Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul will join the National Alliance, Democrats for Education Reform, and the Black Alliance for Educational Options, for the kick-off event, which will feature a roundtable discussion with education, business, and faith community leaders in Louisville. Kentucky is one of only eight remaining states without a charter school law and is our top priority state for 2014.”

McConnell and Paul are singing the praises of charters. The far-right Black Alliance for Education Options–handsomely funded by the Walton Foundation–has descended on Kentucky to claim that public education must be demolished to “save” minority children. The Wall Street hedge fund managers’ group Democrats for Education Reform is on the case, hoping to turn Kentucky away from public schools. And the National Alliance for Public (sic) Charter Schools is leading the charge against community-based public schools.

Before Kentucky buys the snake oil, its policymakers should review the state’s NAEP performance and compare it to its neighbor, charter-happy Tennessee. Kentucky educators could give lessons to Tennessee about the importance of strong community schools.

On the NAEP, Kentucky consistently outperforms Tennessee.

Stay strong, Kentucky. Snake oil cures nothing. You don’t need a dual school system of publicly-funded schools. The one you have is good and getting better.

Julian Vasquez Heilig has been posting an illuminating series of posts that he calls “The Teat.”

Each of his posts follows the connection between advocacy groups and their funders. Some of these advocacy groups appear to do research, studies, and surveys, but they invariably reflect the priorities of those who supply the money.

In this post, Heilig inquires into the activities of the Black Alliance for Educational Options. This is an organization that advocates for school choice, whether charters or vouchers. The group is politically important because it provides cover for the conservative white men (and they are mostly men) who are pushing privatization.

Historically, disadvantaged minorities have benefited by the protection of the federal government and the courts. Privatization has not been good for those who are poor. Minorities understood that privatization was not their friend. The role of the BAEO is to demonstrate to conservative white politicians and a gullible liberal media that blacks are clamoring for charters and vouchers. With charters and vouchers, that troublesome issue of desegregation may be forgotten, no longer relevant to our day.

Who is funding BAEO? You will not be surprised to learn it is Walton and Gates.

I received a desperate message on Facebook from Tarrey Banks, the founder of The Project School in Indianapolis. TPS is a charter school started with a grant from the Walton Foundation. Greg Ballard, the mayor of Indianapolis, is the authorizer. TPS has low test scores, after four years, and the mayor has decided to close it. Banks and TPS parents are outraged. They went to court, blocked the mayor in a lower court, but then lost when a federal judge upheld the closure. TPS is losing the battle.

To get the big picture of what is happening in Indianapolis, read here. You will encounter a familiar cast of characters, including, of course, Bill Gates and Stand for Children.

What is happening in Indianapolis is terrifying if you believe that public education belongs to the public, not to private corporations. .

Here comes a scary future. First, the “blueprint” for Indianapolis, confidently predicting a future of perfection and excellence, but without any meaningful road map. Just promises. And here come the charters, opening with high hopes and closing when judged by scores.

Open, close. Open, close. Open, close.

Below is Banks’ letter. Read it. Read Mayor Ballard’s Blueprint for Utopia. But if you read nothing else today, read this article about the grand plan to privatize the schools of Indianapolis.

This is the Mind Trust / Mayor Ballard (TFA Deputy Mayor Jason Kloth) take-over blueprint. This will literally be the end of public education in the urban core of Indianapolis.

We need help. It’s all but over. The 10th most populated city in the country is about to be one of the biggest systems of educational apartheid in the nation.

My name is Tarrey Banks and I’m the founding school leader of the Indianapolis Project School. I am a lifelong public school educator who made the decision to start a charter school with a group of passionate educators. We are the only truly progressive public school in our city. We take and teach all kids…we don’t push out, kick out, expel, etc. My daughter is a 7 year old student at our school…I made it for her because I know that all kids deserve what she deserves. We are four years old and this week we were the victim of a conservative political strategic attack. Just 3 weeks our mayor has decided to close our doors. The process was corrupt and the information they used was false and/or inaccurate. We are fighting the good fight, but I firmly believe our school will be shut down by the close of business on Monday. I truly believe this is the death of progressive public education in our city if we do not use this as a catalyst to attack the corporate reform agenda.

I know you are busy…you must be. I intend to use the closing of our school as the beginning of a rebellion. Will you help? How can I get you to Indianapolis to push this force back and make folks wake up and see what is happening? Our city is doomed if I can’t move this conversation in a different direction. We have 100’s of families, students, community members, educators ready to protest…to really blow it up…but I need more…I need a national presence…

Will you? What can I do?

Tarrey Banks

The Center for Education Reform in Washington, D.C., is one of the nation’s leading advocates for privatization of public education. Its leader, Jeanne Allen, was an education policy analyst at the rightwing think tank, the Heritage Foundation, before she founded CER in 1993:

The Center for Education Reform has long advocated for charters and vouchers. It has nothing to say about improving public schools, only that they should be replaced by private management or vouchers.

CER is closely allied with other conservative groups committed to privatization, like ALEC, the Heartland Institute, Democrats for Education Reform, and Black Alliance for Educational Options. CER claimed credit for helping to write the Heartland Institute’s version of the parent trigger law, which served as a model for ALEC.

If you want to track the advance of privatization, keep your eye on the Center for Education Reform.

This is CER’s take on the 2012 elections (to see the links, go to the CER website):

The Center for Education Reform Analysis:
How Education Reform Fared on Election Day

WASHINGTON, DC – The Center for Education Reform analyzed Tuesday’s results through the prism of education reform. Our EDlection Roundup provides our analysis on races up and down the ballots, including:

The White House: The Center congratulated President Obama and offered thoughts about how he could refocus education issues in his second term.

Governors: Two states, North Carolina and Indiana, will be inaugurating reform-minded Governors. They join the 23 other states who are also led by reformers. Is yours one of them? See our Governor grades.

Senate Races: We take a look at the results of four Senate races where candidates were strong reformers, and where two – Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) – were victorious.

Ballot Initiatives: There were education reform ballot initiatives in Georgia, Idaho, and Washington. We look at the results, which included a decisive victory in Georgia.

Superintendents: We examine the results of Superintendent races, with a special look at the disappointing defeat of Tony Bennett, a stalwart reformer.


CER, since 1993, is the leading voice and advocate for lasting, substantive and structural education reform in the U.S. Additional information about the Center and its activities can be found at

The Center for Education Reform
(tel) 800-521-2118 • 301-986-8088 • (fax) 301-986-1826

I had a great visit to Chattanooga and met many dedicated, civic-minded people. I was invited to visit by the Benwood Foundation, which has done an amazing job helping local public schools and supporting environmental improvement.

Chattanooga is a beautiful city of about 170,000 people. It has a lovely, historic central city. Everything is within walking distance or a short ride.

First, I met the local editorial board and had a spirited conversation with them. They literally had a columnist on the left (who sat to my left) and a columnist on the right (who sat to my right). We had a great conversation about what is happening nationally and in Tennessee.

Then I talked to civic and business leaders, and we had a good question-and-answer session about the ingredients needed for a community to improve its schools and how the business community could play a constructive role. I talked about the need for collaboration around children and families; the importance of prenatal care for every woman; early childhood education; the arts in every school; and how vital it is to treasure our educators. I hope that conversations like this will encourage people to ignore those who disrespect and demean educators. Our public schools are vital community institutions. I think the people of Chattanooga understand that.

Before my lecture, there was a reception where I met some old friends that I did not anticipate. One was Henry Shulson, the director of the Chattanooga Children’s Museum. I knew him when he lived next door and was about 8 years old. That was about 50 years ago!

At the same reception, I met a local state senator who told me that Michelle Rhee has been pouring lots of money into political campaigns in Tennessee. Most of the candidates she supports are Republicans, he said. But she pumped $105,000 into a Democratic primary fight. On one side was a liberal Democrat who supports public education; on the other was a very conservative Democrat who wants vouchers. She supported the latter, who won. He said to me, “You have to understand that legislators will work hard to raise $1,000. Can you imagine what it means to have someone give you $105,000?” He said she is going from state to state, knocking off good people who care about public education and support her Republican views.

The lecture went really well. The room at the University of Tennessee was animated. What amazed me was that on several occasions I made statements that caused the audience literally to gasp. I recall saying that states should never cut education to give tax breaks to corporation–which seems like a truism to me–and I heard an audible gasp. Tennessee has been so eager to lure corporations to the state that I think what I said was heresy, yet music to the ears of educated people.

Chattanooga is a city that has enormous potential. There is a real hunger to build a community, to have a city that takes care of its own. That’s a great beginning for the revitalization of public education.

When I first read that The Mind Trust had proposed a sweeping reorganization of the Indianapolis public schools, I assumed it was another reform scheme to dismantle and privatize public education.

But I didn’t want to jump to conclusions, so I held my tongue. I decided to wait and see.

Today I received an invitation from The Mind Trust to hear one of the nation’s leading voucher advocates and all doubt was dispelled.

When I saw that the event was co-sponsored by the anti-teacher, anti-public school group “Stand for Children,” as well as Education Reform Now (the Wall Street hedge fund managers’ front-group), no further question remained.

Something tells me that Howard Fuller, the speaker, won’t acknowledge that the children in voucher schools do no better than those in public schools. Nor will he admit that black children in Milwaukee schools, whether public, charter or voucher, have NAEP scores about the same as black children in Mississippi. That’s the result of 21 years of competition, with public dollars divided three ways.

Indiana, once so proud of its tradition of public schooling, is now the playground for privatization, for-profit charters, TFA, and entrepreneurs of all stripes.

Time for Hoosiers to wake up before the reformers sell off or give away the public sector.