Archives for category: Bloomberg, Michael

We keep reading this story in district after district, state after state, but we should not stop being outraged. There ought to be a law that prevents fabulously wealthy people from buying state and local school board elections. We know that their goal is not to improve the schools but to privatizatize them.

In Oakland, California, the privatizing organization is called Great Oakland public schools, and it has the chutzpah to call itself a “grassroots campaign.” It has raised half a million or so for pro-charter candidates. $300,000 came from billionaire Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City. Most of the rest came from two other billionaires, who have no interest in Oakland other than to support privatization and subvert democratic control of the schools.

Here is the story:

“If it were just a matter of raising money from parents, teachers, and community members, then school-board candidates James Harris, Huber Trenado, and Jumoke Hinton Hodge’s financial advantage over their opponents would be minimal. For example, the incumbent board chairman Harris has raised $11,836 from individual contributors for his re-election this year. That’s not much more than Chris Jackson, his challenger, who has scraped together $9,622.

“But Harris, Trenado, and Hinton Hodge benefit from two independent-expenditure committees funded by super-wealthy charter-school advocates, which have raised millions since 2014.

“These committees are on track to spend about half-a-million dollars to help Harris and Hinton Hodge keep their seats on the board, and to help Trenado unseat Roseann Torres.

“Critics worry, however, that this “outside money” distorts Oakland’s school-board races.

“It’s shocking to me how much they’re spending to get these specific candidates elected,” said Kim Davis, a parent whose kids attend Oakland public schools. “This is not a level playing field. More money means more mailers, more people knocking on doors, and more people making phone calls.”

“Gonzales, who was elected to the school board in 2014 to represent District Six, noted that a “typical school board race in years past was one where a candidate wouldn’t have to raise more than twenty-thousand, max.”

“But in 2012, Gonzales says the nonprofit organization Great Oakland Public Schools began raising and spending tens of thousands of dollars to support candidates who will advance its goals of growing the number of charters and providing them with greater access to publicly-funded resources. As a result, GO Public Schools changed the calculus of school-board elections and unleashed an avalanche of money, which other groups haven’t matched, and that dwarfs the sums that candidates can raise by themselves.

“They have relationships with corporate titans all over the country,” Gonzales said of GO Public Schools. “That’s why the school board has become a much more high-dollar affair.”

“According to campaign-finance records, the two committees supporting Harris, Trenado, and Hinton Hodge received most of their funding from a few billionaires, who have played key roles backing the charter-school industry.

“So far, the two committees — Families and Educators for Public Education, which was set up by GO Public Schools, and the Parent Teacher Alliance, run by the California Charter Schools Association — have spent $421,906 to support Harris, Trenado, and Hinton Hodge.

“The result is that, for every dollar spent to support Jackson, $17 have been spent to support Harris.”

Will the people of Oakland allow the billionaires to buy their school board? Or will they fight to keep their public schools public?

A loss for Bloomberg won’t hurt him. A donation of $300,000 from him is equivalent to one of us dropping a dollar in a Salvation Army bucket. But if he loses again and again, whether in Oakland or in Massachusetts, he might lose interest.

Robert Jackson is a great champion for public schools. He is running for State Senate in District 13 in New York City. In this post, parent activist Tory Frye explains why you should help him, work for him, and vote for him. Tory Frye is long-time public school parent activist in Upper Manhattan who served as an elected parent member of Community Education Council in District 6 and two School Leadership Teams. Robert Jackson is running for the Democratic nomination this tomorrow, September 13, in NY Senate District 31, which includes parts of the Upper West Side, Harlem, Inwood and Washington Heights. The New York Daily News reported just today that one of his opponents in the Democratic primary has received more than $100,000 from hedge fund managers who are Republicans and who support more charters. Isn’t it amazing that som many wealthy people, who don’t send their children to public schools, are so deeply committed to privatizing the public schools?

Tory Frye writes:

For weeks I have been getting glossy brochures from Micah Lasher who us running for NY State Senate. These tout his devotion to public education, in particular his aversion to high stakes standardized testing and his desire to direct money owed by New York State to NYC public school students.

Here’s the thing; actually it’s two things.

First, the whole reason the state owes NYC public school students money is because his opponent in this senate race, ROBERT JACKSON, led the lawsuit in the 1990s (!!!) that established that the state was denying our kids the money they needed to get a decent public education. The settlement of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity established that the state owed our children billions; in fact, New York state STILL owes city students 2.2 (maybe 3) BILLION dollars! And it is all because Robert Jackson sued the State back then.

Second, Micah Lasher built his career promoting policies that totally UNDERMINE public education in NYC! He was the chief lobbyist for Joel Klein at the NYC Department of Education and then for Mayor Bloomberg when their approach to improving education included: 1) closing schools (labeling them and their students “failures”); 2) using standardized tests to hold children back and evaluate/fire teachers (despite ZERO evidence of efficacy); 3) cutting school budgets and threatening teacher lay-offs; 4) co-locating charter schools with public schools (using a flawed formula for space allocation that had students getting services in closets and hallways) and 5) pushing for a version of mayoral control over our schools that vested all power in one man, Mayor Bloomberg, and none for parents or community members

Lasher then went on to lead StudentsFirstNY, the state affiliate of a national organization (started by none other than Michelle Rhee) that sought to increase the numbers of charter schools, demand space in already crowded public schools, evaluate teachers, students and schools primarily by means of standardized test scores and all sort of corporate education “reforms” that act only to undermine actual public schools and open the “industry” to privatization.

And Lasher has left ALL of this off his campaign literature. Indeed, he has scrubbed any mention of his year running StudentsFirstNY as its first executive director from his biography in LinkedIn.

And what was Robert Jackson doing during these five years? What was he speaking out for ALL that time? Well, I went through my District 6 public school records and my Facebook feed and can attest to the fact that Robert Jackson stood by and actively advocated on behalf of Washington Heights and Inwood public schools – but more importantly for all NYC public school students and families; for example:

• June 2011: fighting against Mayor Bloomberg’s threatened school-based budget cuts and teacher lay-offs.

• June 2012: addressing and trying to limit the damage done by high-stakes standardized testing

• October 2012: fighting Bloomberg’s plan to close PS 132, the Juan Pablo Duarte school in District 6.

• May 2013: advocating for protections of student data, including private health and disability information, that would have been sold and monetized via inBloom.

• June 2013: questioning why the Bloomberg administration was pushing to remove school attendance zones in District 6, a nearly 100 block district, making it likely that many parents would no longer have a neighborhood public school within walking distance that their children had a right to attend;

• May 2014: demanding that the Mother Cabrini Educational Complex be rented to house Mott Hall, the ONLY middle school for gifted students in District 6 currently occupying a dilapidated and antiquated building.

• June 2014: demanding that the DOE remove trailers from PS 48 in District 6.

• October 2014: educating parents about their children’s constitutional rights to a sound, basic education including equitable funding and smaller classes.

In short, Robert Jackson has been a strong and consistent advocate for fighting with parents so that our public schools will be preserved and strengthened, while Lasher has advocated for closing them and turning them into corporate-led charters.

There is another candidate in the race, Marisol Alcantara, who also supports the expansion of charter schools and whose campaign has been funded almost exclusively from the IDC, the renegade breakaway group of Democratic Senators who consistently vote with the Republicans, allowing them to keep control of the State Senate. The Republicans running the State Senate (whose campaigns are ironically now being funded by the hedge-fund billionaires behind StudentsFirstNY) have consistently voted against fairly funding NYC public schools and voted for encouraging unlimited charter school expansion, which are already draining more than a billion dollars from the DOE budget and taking previous space from our overcrowded public schools.

The choice is clear: if you care about our public schools and our children’s right to a quality education, you must support Robert Jackson in Tuesday’s primaries.

–Tory Frye is long-time public school parent activist in in Upper Manhattan who served as an elected parent member of Community Education Council Six and two School Leadership Teams in District Six. Robert Jackson is running for the Democratic nomination this Tuesday, September 13 in NY Senate District 31, which includes parts of the Upper West Side, Harlem, Inwood and Washington Heights.

In late night negotiations, rushing to finish the legislative session, the New York Legislature reached a package deal to extend mayoral control by only one year. Part of the package creates a parallel system for charter schools, which can switch authorizers and choose one (either the State University of New York or the Board of Regents) that will give them freedom from any regulations and standards that apply to public schools. In other words, there will be one set of rules for public schools, and no rules for charter schools. This will be the first time in New York state’s history that the Legislature has officially established a publicly-funded dual school system: One sector is subject to democratic control, the other is not. One must accept (or take responsibility for) all students, the other is free to accept and reject whichever students it wants.

A one-year extension, with few or no caveats, had seemed all but cemented when lawmakers went to bed on Thursday evening. But the morning found Mr. Flanagan pushing for the funding transparency requirement, followed by the charter-school provision in the afternoon. It would effectively create a parallel system of charter schools within the city, allowing “high-performing charter schools in good standing” to switch to join the State University of New York umbrella or the Board of Regents of the State Educational Department.

Not since the era preceding the Brown decision of 1954 has a state legislature so brazenly established a two-tier system of K-12 schools.

The leader of the State Senate, John Flanagan, has made no secret of his contempt for Mayor Bill de Blasio. De Blasio helped to raise money for Democrats running for the State Senate; had they won, the State Senate would be controlled by Democrats, not Republicans. Governor Cuomo has stabbed the mayor in the back repeatedly, because he doesn’t like to share the stage with any other prominent Democrat in the state. So, the mayor had a losing hand when he asked for a three-year extension of mayoral control.

When Mike Bloomberg asked for a six-year extension in 2009, the Legislature granted it. The State Senate loved Mayor Bloomberg, because he often contributed to individual Republicans running for re-election (three years later, in 2012, the Mayor gave $1 million to the Republican campaign fund for the state senate). When Mayor Bloomberg asked for a renewal of his unlimited power over the schools in 2009, he boasted of the dramatic increase in test scores that were a direct result of his control. However, a year later, the New York Board of Regents commissioned an independent study, which concluded that the New York State Education Department had lowered the passing mark every year and test scores across the state were inflated. When they were adjusted after this revelation, the dramatic gains disappeared. NAEP scores never confirmed the boasts by Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein about “historic gains.”

If anyone remembers what all these political maneuvers over control have to do with educating one million children, please remind me.

Harold Meyerson, editor of The American Prospect, writes in the Los Angeles Times that progressives in California should stay involved in state politics and join to defeat the power of big money.

As he shows, the big money interests have combined to elect conservative Democrats and defeat progressive Democrats. Because of the state’s “top-two” primaries, regardless of party, the big-money guys are picking malleable conservative Democrats and pouring millions into their campaigns to pick off progressive campaigns.

Bernie Sanders’ keystone issue was to limit the role of money in politics. In California, the moneyed interests are saturating legislative races with donations that their opponents can’t match.

Over the past two years, oil companies and “education reform” billionaires have been funding campaigns for obliging Democratic candidates running against their more progressive co-partisans under the state’s “top-two” election process. In this week’s primary, independent committees spent at least $24 million, with most of that money flowing to Democrats who opposed Gov. Jerry Brown’s effort to halve motorists’ use of fossil fuels by 2030, and a substantial sum going to Democrats who support expanding charter schools.

Six years ago, according to the Associated Press, just one legislative primary race had more than $1 million in outside spending, and four had more than $500,000. This year, eight races saw more than $1 million in such spending, and 15 more than $500,000.

In a heavily Democratic district outside Sacramento, a November state Senate runoff will pit Democratic Assemblyman Bill Dodd, who opposed Brown’s legislation, against former Democratic Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada. Dodd has already benefited from one independent campaign funded by Chevron and other energy companies to the tune of more than $270,000, and from an education reform campaign funded by charter school proponents such as billionaire Eli Broad in the amount of $1.68 million.

Since progressives can’t match their millions, they should do their best to expose them and their surrogates as the puppets they are.

Public education in California is a plum for the billionaires. They want to privatize it. Who are the biggest spenders in the self-named “education reform movement”? Eli Broad, Michael Bloomberg, Reed Hastings, and Alice Walton. None is a parent in public schools. None has children in public schools. Two do not even live in California.

This is NOT what democracy looks like.

Arthur Goldstein has taught in the New York City public schools for more than 30 years. His blog is NYC Educator. He has been a frequent critic of the disruption and turmoil of the past fifteen years in the schools.


Michael Bloomberg is everywhere I look. A few weeks ago I went to see NYS Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa at George Washington Campus, nee George Washington High School. “Campus” means it’s been broken up into four smaller schools. If your test scores weren’t high enough for Mayor Mike, you got broken up. If they were good, like in my school, you got filled to 300% capacity.



Two miles south of my school is the Jamaica Campus, a building that looks exactly like the George Washington Campus. It used to be Jamaica High School, and it had, for my money, the smartest and best UFT chapter leader in New York City, James Eterno. It had a long history, and photos in the halls of the doughboys who’d attended, of the bowtie clad principal on the David Susskind Show, and a million things in between. Michael Bloomberg closed it based on false stats. James sent the corrected stats to then-Chancellor Joel Klein, and as far as I know, they’ve never even been disputed.



Michael Bloomberg renamed the Board of Education the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP). He controlled the majority of votes on the PEP, and when a couple of his appointees disagreed with him, he simply replaced them. Despite Patrick Sullivan’s persistent voice of sanity, they approved every school closing, every new school, every charter that Michael Bloomberg wanted. Mayoral Control is very much favored by prominent reformies like Bill Gates because it sidesteps all that messy, time-consuming democracy stuff.



Bill de Blasio wants mayoral control too, though I have no idea why. At first I was glad to see mayoral control in the hands of someone who appeared not to be insane, but I was quickly disappointed. Once de Blasio decided not to approve a few Moskowitz Academies, Andrew Cuomo moved to change the law. Now de Blasio had to pay Eva’s rent even if he doesn’t want her school. It was like the spirit of Michael Bloomberg had taken over Andrew Cuomo, who took to calling himself a “student lobbyist.” (Curiously, he hasn’t bothered lobbying for the billions of dollars the state owes NYC from the CFE lawsuit.)



Every time I look at the car I bought in May 2014 I think about Michael Bloomberg. By 2009, just about every union but teachers got an 8% raise. After a few years it adds up. In fact, by that time that raise would have more than paid for that car. But Mayor Mike passed it off to Bill de Blasio, who isn’t paying until 2020. The Mazda dealer was a nice guy, but would not agree to wait that long.



Many of Michael Bloomberg’s friends and cronies still sit at Tweed. Even Chancellor Carmen Fariña once worked for him. In fact, her predecessor, Dennis Walcott, was an alumni of my school. Our principal named our college office for him and now I feel like I have to wash my whole body with Brillo pad every time I set foot in there.



Mayor Bloomberg, with what was in effect mayoral dictatorship, used our city as a laboratory for reforminess, and used our children as guinea pigs. He gave no-bid contracts to all his pals, and if they left young children outside waiting hours for buses freezing days, well, too bad for them. He spent 95 million dollars on a computer system no one used. He boasted of being a regular guy, taking the subway to work, but had two SUVs pick him up at his townhouse because he didn’t like the stop closest to it.



But where we really feel his presence is in the tests. They are everywhere, and they mean everything. And though much of the state is rebelling against them, NYC lags far behind. Why? Because Michael Bloomberg set up a system, and this system has everything to do with Michael Bloomberg and nothing to do with community.



In Michael Bloomberg’s NYC, if you want to send your kid to a particular middle school, it may use test grades as criteria for admission. So if you opt your kid out of a test, too bad for you, and too bad for your kid. The city turns the wheel of fortune, and wherever your kid lands, that’s it.



This is in stark contrast to the rest of the state. Where I live, in Freeport NY, my kid goes to the same middle school no matter what grade she gets and whether or not she takes the test. We have a community, and we have a community school. Not only that, but we, the community, elect our school board and have genuine input into how it is run.



Michael Bloomberg wanted what he wanted, and he had all that money, so he was entitled to it. Old-fashioned democracy wasn’t efficient enough for him. Better that he should make all decisions, and if the voters twice voiced their preference for term limits, he’d change the law and buy himself another term anyway.



Thank God his polling must have revealed all his money couldn’t buy the presidency. Only one question remains.



What on earth do we have to do to exorcise his reformy ghost from New York City once and for all?

Experienced educator Arthur Goldstein recently visited the George Washington Campus in Manhatttan. It used to be the George Washington High School and had some famous graduates, but those days are gone. Now it is the G.W. Campus, containing multiple small schools, all schools of choice.


All high schools are now schools of choice, and there are hundreds of them. The student ranks 12 schools in order of his choice, and the school decides which students it wants. The middle schools are also schools of choice. You are not likely to get into your school of choice unless you can show your test scores.

The effect, of course, was to downplay any notion of community schools (thus downplaying any notion of community, valued by neither Gates nor Bloomberg). Parents now had “choice.” They could go to the Academy of Basket Weaving, the Academy of Coffee Drinking, or the Academy of Doing Really Good Stuff. Of course by the time they got there the principals who envisioned basket weaving, coffee drinking, or doing good stuff were often gone, and it was Just Another School, or more likely Just Another Floor of a School, as there were those three other schools to contend with. (Unless of course Moskowitz got in, in which case it was A Renovated Space Better Than Your Space.)


Last night I learned that middle schools in NYC also are Schools of Choice. I don’t know exactly why I learned this last night, because my friend Paul Rubin told me this months ago. I think I need to hear things more than once before they register with me, though. Anyway last night I heard from someone who told me that one of the schools her daughter might attend required test scores as a prerequisite. So if her family had decided to send their kid there, opt-out may not have been a good option.


I live in a little town in Long Island. My daughter went to our middle school, as did every public school student in our town. We are a community, and our community’s kids go to our community’s schools. If I opt my kid out, she goes to that school. If she scores high, low, or anywhere in between, she goes to that school.


Goldstein realized that the choice policy is an effective deterrent against opting out of tests. If you opt out, you won’t get into your school of choice. You might rank 12 schools, and get into your last choice, or end up with no school assignment and get sent wherever there is an opening, which might be an hour or more from your home, with a theme that has no interest for you.

This is a fascinating post by Mercedes Schneider. You could call her a “follow the money” expert. She began wondering who was funding Education Post, the blog run by Peter Cunningham that celebrates corporate reform. Cunningham was assistant secretary for communications in the U.S. Department of Education, when Arne Duncan was Secretary of Education. We know from reports in the press that Education Post received $12 million from the Walton Family Foundation, the Eli Broad Foundation, and Michael Bloomberg. The press also noted “an anonymous donor.” Mercedes wondered about that anonymous donor, and she did some digging and found out who it is.


I won’t spoil the pleasure of reading this post. It reads like a detective story. Suffice it to say that almost everyone involved is deeply embedded in corporate reform, and most of the links in the web lead to the Obama administration and to the U.S. Department of Education. It seems clear that the latter was taken over by the corporate reform movement. The question is why. Why would a Democratic president front for the corporate takeover of public education?

Mercedes Schneider enjoyed the exchange between Jennifer Berkshire and Peter Cunningham. But she wondered who was funding Cunningham’s “Education Post.”


Read how she investigated the money flow.  It is a model of research and creative digging. She knew that money was coming from Walton, Broad, and Bloomberg. But guess who else funds Peter and his $12 million blog?

Billionaire Michael Bloomberg is thinking about an independent run for the Presidency, according to the Néw York Times.

He is annoyed that fellow billionaire Donald Trump is leading the GOP pack. He is disappointed in Hillary because she is not enthusiastic about charter schools. He disdains Sanders as a socialist.

He has a campaign staff ready to go and will announce his decision in March.

If he should be president, prepare for mass privatization of public education.

Michael Massing, former executive editor of the Columbia Journalism Review, has a fabulous article in the current Néw York Review of Books about the media’s failure to cover the political activities of the 1%.

In the middle of the article, he goes into detail about the millions of dollars that billionaires and hedge fund managers have poured into charter schools and into the campaigns of politicians who support charter schools.

Massing chides the media for its failure to follow the money.

It is great is to see the issues we are familiar with getting attention in a highly respected national publication.