Archives for category: Broad Foundation

Thomas Ultican continues his investigation of the tentacles of billionaire reformers, this time focusing on the tumultuous career of John Deasy, who resigned as superintendent of the Stockton, California, school district.

Ultican shows how Deasy rose to become superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, how Justin tenure there was marked by controversy as he walked in lockstep with the Eli Broad-Bill Gates agenda of charter school expansion, high-stakes testing, and huge investments in technology. His controversial decision to spend $1.3 billion on iPads and tech curriculum led to the end of his tenure in L.A.

On to Stockton, where the Mayor and three school board members were closely allied with the billionaire agenda.

A sad and cautionary tale about the destructive billionaire-funded movement to gut public schools.

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?

Do you remember General Tata?

After a career in the military, retired Brigadier General Anthony Tata entered the Broad Academy in 2009, launching a new career. He was soon hired as Chief Operating Officer of the District of Columbia Public Schools, when Michelle Rhee was chancellor. Then on to become Superintendent of Schools in Wake County, North Carolina, where a new school board hired him to dismantle one of the nation’s most successfully integrated districts. He managed to alienate and offend enough people so that the board that hired him was soon swept out by voters.

Mike Klonsky picks up the story of General Tata’s career post-education. As a noted Islamophobe and Trumper, he soon caught the eye of Trump recruiters and is in line for a powerful position in the Defense Department.

Klonsky writes:

FAST FORWARD…So quite naturally, who should pop up yesterday as Trump’s proposed appointee to the third-highest post in the Pentagon? None other than Brig. Gen. Tata himself. The job includes managing policy decisions on everything from Afghanistan and the Middle East to China, North Korea, and Russia, as well as artificial intelligence, hypersonic weapons, and more.

Tata would succeed John Rood, who was ousted as undersecretary for policy in February after being viewed as insufficiently loyal to Trump. He could even be next in the line if the secretary of defense and the deputy resigned or were removed.

Only this time, the recommendation caused the shit to hit the fan.

Among his notorious remarks: He called President Obama “a terrorist leader.”

Another notable citizen-rightwing nut job for this itinerant administration.

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!

SomeDam Poet warns:

The trolls are waiting under bridge
To pounce upon the passing kids
Disguised as broads and billy goats
With candy and with diet kochs

In 1994, the Clinton administration started a small federal program and funded it with $4.5 million to help launch new charter schools. At the time, charter schools were a new idea, and there were not many of them. The first charter school had opened in Minnesota in 1991, and six states passed laws authorizing charters in 1992. In 1994, the idea was too new to have produced results or research. So Congress allocated a measly $4.5 million.

In the 26 years since the federal Charter Schools Program started, the charter idea has burgeoned into an industry with state charter school associations, lobbyists in D.C. and in state capitols, and support from numerous foundations, billionaires, corporations, and Wall Street. There is considerable research about charters as well as controversy surrounding their methods of selecting and retaining or excluding students. Charters now enroll 6% of the nation’s students.

Two things are clear:

1. The charter sector today is very well funded by billionaire patrons such as the Walton Family Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Eli and Edythe abroad Foundation, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, and Netflix founder Reed Hastings. It has no need of federal funding.

2. Some charters get high test scores (and are accused of skimming to get the “best” students), some get the worst scores in their states, and most get scores about the same as public schools with similar demographics. In the one all-charter district in the nation, New Orleans, about half the schools are rated D or F by the state. Although the charter industry sings their praises, it’s clear that charters have no secret sauce to lift up every child.

Yet despite the fact that charters have a huge number of financial angels with very deep pockets, despite the fact that they do not solve the deep-seated problems of American education, despite their spotty academic record, funding for the Federal Charter Schools Program has grown to $440 million per year.

Under Betsy DeVos, the CSP has become her personal slush fund to help The expansion of large corporate charter chains, like KIPP and IDEA. The original idea that the federal funds would launch entrepreneurial start-ups is long forgotten.

About two weeks ago, DeVos released the latest CSP funds and again favored the big corporate charter chains, which have many millions in reserve and long lists of billionaire patrons.

DeVos handed out the first $200 million to her favorite chain, IDEA, which has no financial need. IDEA won $72 million, having previously received more than $200 million from DeVos. IDEA, you may recall, is known for its lavish spending. Its board approved the lease of a private jet for nearly $2 million a year, but had to cancel the lease because of adverse publicity in Texas, where the chain is based. Its CEO hired a private jet to take him to meet with DeVos in Florida; he was the only passenger. The chain’s executives,lacking their own jet, are allowed to fly first class with their families, not exactly like public school employees on official travel.

The second biggest winner was Mater Academy, which won $57 million. It is affiliated with the for-profit (and very rich) Florida for-profit chain Academica.

The Network for Public Education published two reports about the CSP in 2019, documenting that the program is shot through with waste, fraud, and abuse. About 40% of the charters funded by CSP either never opened or closed not long after opening. The loss of federal funds was $1 billion. The first report—Asleep at the Wheel— is here. The second report—Still Asleep at the Wheel—is here.

Tom Ultican reviewed the two NPE reports and recounted Betsy DeVos’s unsurprising hostile response to them. Why would she relinquish control over $440 million, which helps corporate chains that divert money from public schools and advances DeVos’s long-term goal of wrecking the foundations of public education?

It is ironic that the Trump administration in its now forgotten budget for the coming year proposed to eliminate the federal Charter Schools Program by folding it and 28 other federal programs into a bloc grant to the states. At the same time, Trump and DeVos proposed The creation of a multi-billion dollar voucher program. The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives made clear that these proposals were Dead on Arrival. Nonetheless, the charter lobbyists were shocked to discover that charter schools are just a stepping-stone to vouchers for DeVos.

John Thompson, historian and retired teachers, sees signs of disaster in the policies adopted by Oklahoma’s two biggest cities: Tulsaand Oklahoma City. “reform” (aka Disruption) means closing schools. This is a good time to remind readers that SLAYING GOLIATH, to whic he refers, does not say that Go,oath is dead.it says that Goliath (federal policy, billionaires, Wall Street and other agents of disruption) are brain-dead. They continue to advocate for policies that have failed again and again. They have no expectation of making schools better or improving the lives of children. They exercise power and impose failed ideas because they can. Another point to be drawn from this and other accounts: Wherever there is a Broadie Superintendent, anticipate the hiring of other Broadies and a wave of school closings.

Thompson writes:

What’s up with Oklahoma schools? Whether we’re talking about arming teachers or sextupling funding for Education Savings Accounts (vouchers) for private schools, or the latest charter school malfeasance, the controversies surrounding today’s scandals are grounded in pretty predictable, rightwing politics, as well as the Billionaires Boys Club’s technocracy. But the crises in Tulsa and Oklahoma school system are rooted in education policy and they get less attention.

https://www.ocpathink.org/post/trump-stitt-both-support-tax-credit-scholarships

So, I’ll quickly cover the Oklahoma-grown messes, and then address the most serious threats to public education in our state’s biggest cities. I’ll start, however, by hinting at the common cause of our urban school debacles by citing Diane Ravitch’s Slaying Goliath, and her account of how corporate reformers “admire disruptive innovation, because high-tech businesses do it, so it must be good.”

The online, for-profit Epic charter chain got its fair share of 2019 headlines after an Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation affidavit alleged that Epic Charter Schools’ co-founders, David Chaney and Ben Harris, split at least $10 million in profits from 2013 to 2018. They were accused of aggressively recruiting “ghost students” in order to collect $800 per student from a state learning fund for homeschool students.

Epic recently made news when its lawsuit against State Sen. Ron Sharp, for allegedly making false statements against it, was dismissed.

But there was no need to worry about Epic dropping out of the limelight. In January, 2020, the State Education Department (SDE) fined Epic One-on-One virtual charter school $530,000 for excessive administrative spending.

And Epic just provided another nail in the coffin for the claim that charters don’t advance privatization. The Tulsa World explains, “On top of a 10% cut of every dollar of revenue, Epic Charter Schools is paying its for-profit management company millions more in taxpayer dollars every year for school expenditures that are never audited and which Epic claims are shielded from public scrutiny.” So, the World made another open records request.

Epic’s attorney responded, “Once the funds are paid to the management company, the dollars are no longer public funds and, therefore, the records of the expenditures of the learning fund dollars are not subject to the open records statute.”

Despite Epic’s refusal, the World obtained “other records that show the constant shifting of public dollars for the Learning Fund to Epic Youth Services, the private management company that law enforcement investigators say has made millionaires out of school co-founders David Chaney and Ben Harris.” It reports, “These transfers began at a rate of about $120,000 each, 10 to 13 times per year,” and they grew to “$20.3 million for the 2018-19 academic year.”

Not to be outdone, Dove Academy, which is associated with the Gulen charter chain, returned to the headlines. A 2016 audit by the state found that the foundation which manages Dove Charter School collected around $3.182 million more in lease payments for the Dove Science Academy-OKC school site than original purchase cost. Now, the Dove virtual school is being investigated by the OSBI after the SDE accused it of wrongfully obtaining records of 107,000 children who have never enrolled in Dove schools.

https://oklahoman.com/article/5655421/epic-charter-schools-lawsuit-against-sharp-dismissed

In The Know: The ‘Medicaid expansion showdown,’ Epic charter schools fined, and more


https://www.tulsaworld.com/news/local/education/epic-charter-schools-shielding-million-in-taxpayer-funds-from-public/article_445f6458-c147-5efa-ab29-781c72d64011.html
https://oklahoman.com/article/5655515/oklahoma-department-of-education-reports-dove-to-osbi?&utm_source=SFMC&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=The%20Oklahoman%20daily%202020-02-22&utm_content=GTDT_OKC&utm_term=022220

Moving from the eye-catching headlines to the policy role of “Goliath,” the decline of the Tulsa public schools has been more gradual. A decade ago, the TPS accepted a Gates Foundation “teacher quality” grant, which was followed by donations from local and national edu-philanthropists. Soon afterwards, Tulsa’s Project Schoolhouse was praised for its community meetings and “creative problem-solving” when closing 14 schools in order to save $7 to 10 million per year.

Back then, the TPS was a better school system than the OKCPS. Last year, however, Oklahoma City borrowed from Tulsa’s methods and language in order to close and consolidate schools to fund “trade-ups” or ways to expand equity.

https://www.publicradiotulsa.org/post/project-school-house-released
https://www.publicradiotulsa.org/post/project-school-house-0

Tulsa had lost 5,000 students and faced a shortfall of over $40 million. The latest headlines have focused on this year’s $20 million in cuts. Schools were closed, janitors lost their jobs, class sizes in elementary schools are to be increased, and the administration reorganized. Since the TPS central office has had 13 Broad Academy graduates, and since patrons have recommended cuts the district’s teacher leadership and central office staff, that plan received more attention than before.

The Hit and Miss of Education Reforms


https://dianeravitch.net/2019/11/10/john-thompson-how-billionaire-reformers-messed-up-the-public-schools-of-tulsa/

Ever since NCLB used school closures as an accountability tool, some reformers have been devoted to that disruptive policy. Mass closures are often seen as praiseworthy examples of running schools in a businesslike manner. And they provide opportunities for major administrative reorganizations. So, it should be no surprise that Superintendent Deborah Gist chose to save $5 million by cutting 90 jobs, but not in a straightforward manner. One would ordinarily think that budget cuts, closures, and staff reductions would be enough of an “extraordinarily difficult” challenge. However, Gist described her plan as a path to “dramatic progress” and “transforming outcomes.”

National readers don’t need to dwell on Gist’s details but they should note the way she summarized a large part of her plan:

Delete 55 district office positions and 124 school support positions; and … create 51 district office, 136 school support and 20 school-embedded positions. The potential changes, if approved by our board, would impact our Information Technology, Innovation and Design, Finance, Bond, Campus Police, Talent Management and Teaching and Learning teams, and, most particularly, our Exceptional Student Support Services team.

https://www.tulsaworld.com/opinion/columnists/deborah-gist-school-services-must-evolve-to-help-schools-in/article_b2fe5183-1b18-5a7a-8ecd-d906c47a2578.html

A couple of years ago, as the OKCPS rid itself of a Broad-trained superintendent, our district leaders praised Project Schoolhouse’s community conversations, while noting that Tulsa faced a worse mess than we did. Newly elected OKC board members seemed to understand that they had inherited a crisis created by reformers’ commitment to “transformational change.” They focused on building partnerships to provide trauma-informed and holistic instruction; restore counselors, science, music, and art, while moving away from teach-to-the-test; and started towards wraparound student services.

The OKCPS had been saved by immigration, but as it slowed and charters grew, the district lost 700 students per year. It was widely agreed that some schools needed to be closed.

But in a dramatic surprise, the goal of disruptive transformational change took over. The OKCPS used a school closure process, known as Pathways to Greatness (P2G), to “reinvent” schools. It closed 15 buildings and reorganized most of the rest. Again, national readers will be less interested in the details than the impossible length of the “to do” list that the district adopted.

It was supposed to be a virtue of P2G that it will:

Will impact every student, staff member and family in OKCPS … Our plans would likely include big changes such as new school boundaries, school consolidations or closures, the way grades are structured for Elementary, Middle and High School, as well as school buildings being repurposed to meet other needs in the community.

It also required structural changes in reconfigured buildings, the transfer of teachers to staff-reorganized schools, the reorganization of bus routes and hiring additional drivers by the first week of school. The third task proved impossible and resulted in students waiting for hours at bus stops. The district also chose to add to its list by changing application procedures for magnet schools, and reorganizing administrative services for “creating strategic systems and processes that will bring stronger support and accountability at the school level.”

Responding to the widespread backlash that P2G prompted, Superintendent Sean McDaniel said, “This was radical change that upset the apple cart for thousands of people, so we know that there was and still is heartburn and anxiety, and people are upset,”

McDaniel also summarized the additional changes:

We’re invested in this new ILD structure to allow for that additional instructional support. Our new consistent grade bands will provide support, collaboration opportunities. New feeder patterns will allow our students to stay together longer and feel more connected as they move through high school.

OKCPS acting superintendent: ‘We need to talk about feelings’

This year’s OKCPS to-do list has at least 30 big items


https://www.okgazette.com/oklahoma/summer-of-change/Content?oid=6442542

This year’s OKCPS to-do list has at least 30 big items

So, how did P2G turn out?

The disruption almost certainly contributed to an increase in fights and suspensions. The rate of student population decline has doubled. If the district is correct, after P2G, the rate of student loss increased to an average of 1,000 per year over seven years. But the decline could become much worse. A district spokesperson cited research indicating that P2G could follow the pattern in other districts’ reorganizations, possibly resulting in a 10 to 15% drop in student enrollment.

According to the numbers the spokesperson provided, the price tag for such a decline could be about $20 to $30 million in state funding, not including lost federal funds. It would be unclear how much of those costs would be attributable to P2G. But, they would add to $32 million of transition costs which the district acknowledged near the end of P2G FAQ Update in February, 2019.

In other words, the OKCPS followed Tulsa down the path of transformational and disruptive change. Both exemplify the destructive feature which Ravitch documents in Slaying Goliath. My sense is that Goliath chose that path for Tulsa, while the OKCPS is inadvertently stumbling towards that outcome.

In her two previous, ground-breaking books, Ravitch changed the terms of debate over public education. She previously reframed the battle over the “Billionaires Boys Club” which drove “corporate reform,” and “privatization.”

Ravitch once said that her favorite line in my book manuscript was, “Inner-city schools need more disruption like they need another gang war.” (But that was years before editors could have read her full indictment of corporate disruption, and I couldn’t keep the phrase from being deleted.)

Ravitch now characterizes data-driven, choice-driven reformers as “Disrupters.” Across the nation, as well as in Oklahoma, “The most important lesson of the past few decades is that “Reform doesn’t mean reform. It means mass demoralization, chaos, and turmoil. Disruption does not produce better education.”

The second most important lesson for Oklahomans, who had seemed to have beaten back the worst of Goliath, is that we’re like the guy who killed a rattlesnake, but nearly died after being bitten by the decapitated head. In Oklahoma, the future looks much better for most public schools, but the TPS and the OKCPS could become the last casualties of our reform wars.

The complexity of seeking safe and orderly schools

Oklahoma City Public School District announces drop in enrollment


https://www.okcps.org/Page/3746

This is an astonishing report about the destruction and privatization of public schools in Oakland, California, and the billionaires who facilitated the looting of that city. The article by Eugene Stovall appeared in “Black Agenda Report.” The audacity of this attack on public education is astonishing. The mechanism for the destroyers were graduates of the Broad Academy, known as Broadies. Since billionaire Eli Broad gave Yale University $100 million to take charge of his program, someone should warn Yale about its record.

Read it all. It will take your breath away.

Stovall writes:

Eli Broad (rhymes with “toad”) conconcted a scheme to privatize Oakland’s public schools and produce a revenue stream for his billionaire cronies.

Operating unethically and illegally, Broad managers used their training to cripple and plunder Oakland’s schools.”

Eli Broad is a liberal Democrat. He opposes Trump’s Muslim ban, immigration policies and withdrawal from the climate change treaty. In fact, like Democratic billionaires Tom Steyer and Michael Blloomberg, Broad opposes Trump’s entire right wing agenda. However, just as the Trump Foundation created the Trump University scam, the Eli Broad Foundation created the Broad Superintendent Academy, an educational enterprise that has become so successful that it is now associated with the home of the Skull and Bones Society, Yale University. But despite its aura of respectability, the Broad Superintendent Academy is no less a scam than Trump University.

Billionaires Want More

Eli Broad created two Fortune 500  companies, Kaufmann-Broad Homes and SunAmerica Bank. With an estimated net worth of $6.7 billion, Eli Broad ranks as Forbes  Magazine’s 78th wealthiest man in the United States. But like many billionaires who create mechanisms to increase their wealth, Broad created a “non-profit” academy as his entré into the private education market. The Broad Superintendent Academy attracts applicants who willingly pay exorbitant tuition fees for the chance to get placed in a top management public education position. Broad academy applicants do not need educational degrees or teaching certificates. Neither are they experienced teachers or successful school administrators. The Broad academy is uninterested in strategies for improving student achievement and does not teach its students about fundamental educational issues, pedagogies and methodologies. The Broad academy only indoctrinates and commits its students to the privatization of public education and the generation of revenues for private corporations. Broad Academy attendees are taught the disruptive management tactics needed to ignore “best educational practices.” They are taught how to overcome objections when mandating school closures and school property sell offs to the billionaire-owners of private schools. When Broad placed his academy graduates in management positions at the Oakland Unified School District, they left a trail of fiscal mismanagement, budget overruns and demoralized staff, students and teachers. Operating unethically and illegally, Broad managers used their training to cripple and plunder Oakland’s schools.

The Broadies Who Plundered Oakland’s Schools

In 1998, Eli Broad recruited Jerry Brown, the former Governor of California and a former presidential contender, to become mayor of Oakland. Broad needed someone with Brown’s political clout with the Democratic Party to implement his plan to privatize Oakland’s schools. Broad had been a close personal friend of Jerry Brown’s father, Pat Brown, and had financed all of Jerry Brown’s political campaigns. Now Broad realized California’s top Democrat and his control over the statewide Democratic Party machine gave him a unique opportunity to make money from private education.

Broad’s scheme to privatize Oakland’s public education resources required the support of other billionaires capitalizing on the private education market. Netflix founder, Reed Hastings, a Bay Area resident with a net worth of $3.7 billion, was associated with the multi-million dollar Rocketship Charter Schools. The late founder of The Gap, Don Fisher, with a net worth of $3.3 billion, was associated with the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP), one of the largest chains of charter schools in the country. With a net worth of $3.5 billion, John Doerr, partner in the investment firm, Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers, the firm that brought Google and Amazon to the market, cofounded the New Schools Venture Fund which sucks public school resources into for-profit K-12 corporations. Another critical partner in Broad’s clique of billionaires was the bishop of Oakland’s catholic diocese, a representative of the multi-billion dollar, worldwide Vatican empire. With its profound interest in co-opting public funds and real estate for its own network of parochial schools, Oakland’s catholic bishop gave Broad’s unholy coalition a solid block of votes that not only put Jerry Brown in City Hall, but changed Oakland’s charter into the ‘strong mayor” form of government, that gave “Boss” Brown the power function as Eli Broad’s “bag man.” In return for its electoral support, the diocese of Oakland received a multi-million dollar cathedral on the downtown shore of Lake Merritt.

Once “Boss” Brown controlled City Hall, Reed Hastings went into action. Hastings funded another charter amendment that gave the mayor the authority to pack the school board with his own unelected appointees. Greasing the wheels of the Democratic machine, Hastings financed the passage of a State Assembly bill that permitted charter schools to operate without  accreditation and to hire teachers without  teaching credentials. Then Hastings funded the Proposition 39 campaign to force local school districts to share revenues with charter schools. “Boss” Brown’s buddy, Democratic Governor Gray Davis, who later was recalled on corruption charges, put Reed Hastings on the State Board of Education. In the meantime, Don Fisher gave Jerry Brown’s wife, Gust Brown, the position of CEO over The Gap Corporation.

Getting Control Of The Schools … And The Money

In 2001, the Oakland Unified School District had a $37 million budget deficit. The district’s fiscal managers decided to resolve the shortfall by borrowing from its construction fund, a practice other California school districts in similar situations routinely used. But Brown and Broad saw the school deficit as an opportunity to advance their scheme.

Brown contacted Tom Henry, CEO of the Fiscal Crisis and Management Team (FCMAT), a firm located in Sacramento and staffed by lobbyists and political hacks. Brown used Henry’s services, on occasion, when he was governor. FCMAT did “hit” jobs for anyone willing to pay. Brown paid Tom Henry to prevent Oakland from solving its fiscal problem. FCMAT lobbied the State Attorney General, Bill Lockyer, the former Democratic Assemblyman from Alameda, to rule that Oakland’s plan to borrow construction funds was a violation of state and local law. Then Henry worked with Don Perata, the State Senator for Alameda County, to lobby a bill through the state legislature that forced the Oakland school district to accept a $100 million loan to cover its $37 million shortfall. In addition, the bill put the Oakland school district under the control of a state administrator to be appointed by Jack O’Connell, the State Superintendent of Public Education. When Jack O’Connell campaigned for state superintendent, he received financial support from Eli Broad’s billionaire cabal. Reed Hastings contributed $250,000, John Doerr $205,000 and Eli Broad, himself, contributed $100,000 to O’Connell’s campaign. With the state takeover of Oakland’s schools, O’Connell agreed to appoint anyone “Boss” Brown wanted. Thus Eli Broad and his cronies got complete control over the $63 million slush fund  forced on the Alameda County tax payers. Jerry Brown described the state takeover as a “total win” for Oakland’s schools. In reality, the state takeover was a total win for Eli Broad and his billionaire cronies. For the tax payers forced to repay the loan and for the Oakland school children whose schools were plundered by malicious billionaires, the state takeover was a disaster.

The Table Was Set And The Feasting Began

The Democratic state superintendent of education, Jack O’Connell, appointed Randolph Ward, a graduate of Broad’s superintendent academy, as Oakland’s state administrator. Ward appointed Arnold Carter, another Broad academy graduate, to serve as his chief of staff. Both state administrators appointed a bevy of Broadies  to fill the Oakland school district’s top management positions. Then Ward implemented Broad’s privatization agenda. He closed public schools and opened charter schools. He created additional management positions for Broad academy graduates and issued multi-million dollar consultation and construction contracts to private corporations. Randolph Ward gave Broad’s billionaire cronies complete access to the $63 million slush fund created by top Democrats, Jerry Brown, Bill Lockyer, Don Perata, Jack O’Connell, Tom Henry as well as other members of “Boss” Brown’s Democratic machine.

When the state took over the Oakland schools in 2002, Randolph Ward fired the superintendent, Dennis Chaconas. When Ward resigned in 2006, Broadie Kimberly Statham replaced him. A year later, Statham left and her chief of staff, Vincent Matthews, another Broadie, took her place.

In 2008, Oakland Assemblyman Sandre Swanson broke with “Boss” Brown and introduced a bill to force the state to relinquish its control over Oakland schools. Eli Broad gave a Sacramento lobbyist $350,000 to oppose Swanson’s legislation, but Swanson’s bill passed and local control was returned to the Oakland School Board. In July 2009, the school board hired Anthony “Tony” Smith as the district’s superintendent.

Smith was not associated with Eli Broad. However, even though local school board resumed control over the schools, Eli Broad was not finished, He funded a front group, Greater Oakland [GO], which financed the election of five Broadies to the Oakland school board. In 2014, the Broadie school board forced school superintendent Tony Smith to resign and appointed another graduate from Broad’s academy, Antwan Wilson , Oakland’s next school superintendent, resuming Broad’s decade-long privatization scheme.

A Decade of Corruption

Under Randolph Ward, Oakland Schools struggled with the overwhelming debt imposed by the Democratic Party machine. When Ward left Oakland, millions of dollars went missing with him. Though FCMAT received a multi-year contract to help manage the debt, Tom Henry provided little substantive support, financial or operational. In 2007, Jerry Brown left Oakland for his cattle ranch in Northern California. In its 2007-08 report, an Alameda County grand jury investigation found that the Oakland Unified School District had been looted.

Between 2003 and 2006, Ward shut down 14 public schools and opened 13 charter schools. He increased the district’s shortfall by nearly $15 million. Ward’s successor, Kimberly Statham, another Broadie, opened 4 charter schools and Broadie Vincent Matthews, who followed Stratham as state administrator, opened 9 charter schools. Under state control, the district’s debt ballooned from $37 million to $89 million while school enrollment, the district’s primary source of funding, dropped from 55,000 in 2002 to 38,000 in 2009. When Assemblyman Sandré Swanson forced the state to return local control, Oakland’s schools had $5.6 million less than what was reported and a total of $9 million unaccounted for and completely missing. But with the return of local control, the district’s fiscal mismanagement problems only worsened. Eli Broad now directed his Broadie school board to support his schemes. 

Antwan Wilson: The Most Corrupt Broadie Of Them All 

When the Broadie school board replaced Tony Smith with Antwan Wilson, it hired a thoroughly corrupt, incompetent and morally reprehensible superintendent to run the Oakland Unified School District. Ignoring all budgetary, ethical and legal constraints, Wilson zealously implemented Broad’sprivatization plan. Wilson overspent the school district budget by overpaying Broadie administrators and conniving with Broadie consultants. In 2015, though the school board authorized only $10.4 million, Wilson paid consultants $22.6 million. The board approved only $7.1 million for administrators and supervisors, but Wilson spent $22.3 million. From July 2014 to January 2015, Wilson spent $22.3 million on district office managers while Smith spent only $13.1 million the entire previous year. From 2013-2014, Tony Smith spent $10 million on classified managers, but in 2015-2016, Antwan Wilson spent $22.3 million. Under Wilson, the number of students shrunk, but spending for administrators and supervisors with teaching certificates grew from $13.9 million in 2013-2014 to $20 million in 2015-2016. Wilson increased spending on outside consultants from $22.7 million in 2013-2014 to $28.3 million in 2016-2017. In Wilson’s last year with Oakland schools, he exceeded the budget for consultants by 32 percent.

These revelations galvanized Tom Henry’s FCMAT into action. Henry immediately lobbied for another state take over even as he collaborated with the Broadie school board to close even more schools and make even more valuable real estate available to billionaire-owned charter schools. But without Boss Brown’s backing, Henry was unsuccessful in getting Governor Gavin Newson’s support for another state takeover.

Open the article and read the ending. It doesn’t get better for the students of Oakland. Eli Broad, Jerry Brown, and their allies used Oakland as their Petri dish. Oakland was raided and looted. Antwan Wilson left Oakland to become chancellor of the D.C.schools, where he was booted out after seeking preferential treatment for his own child. Upon Wilson’s abrupt departure, the mayor of D.C. replaced him with Lewis Ferebee, superintendent of Indianapolis, who is also a graduate of the Broad Academy.

 

This is a very engaging video interview of Tom Ultican, an expert on corporate education reform, explaining the federal takeover of public schools via No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. Ultican goes into detail about the corporate assault on public schools in the Dallas Independent School District. He names names, starting with the misguided superintendency of Mike Miles, a Broadie who managed to drive out large numbers of experienced teachers. He identifies the funders of corporate funders, both billionaires and the Dallas Chamber of Commerce.

He gives a concise analysis of the money behind the “portfolio model,” charters, and privatization in Texas and Dallas.

Oklahoma is famous for underfunding it’s schools. The legislature is under the thumb of the oil and gas and fracking industry, which wants low taxes and no regulations. Teachers revolted and went on strike in 2018 but the legislature continues to starve its schools, opting to satisfy its funders and forget about its children and its future.

The superintendent of Tulsa, Deborah Gist, is a Broadie who previously served as State Superintendent of Rhode Island, where she made her mark by threatening to fire everyone who worked for the Central Falls School District, a high-poverty district that was and remains the lowest performing district in the state.

As superintendent of Tulsa, she has worked with business leaders to cut the deficit by cutting the budget. Apparently the legislature’s neglect is just a given that Tulsa’s civic and business elite don’t want to bother by asking for more funding.

 

A parent sent me this analysis of the surgery Gist is performing on the schools—closing schools and laying off staff. To protect his children, he requested anonymity. Since I know his credentials, I agreed.

He writes:

How To Create A Zombie Public School District And What That Means For Tulsa Parents

Last week at the Tulsa Public Schools board meeting, Superintendent Deborah Gist and her administration laid out part of their plan to resolve a questionable $20 million budget deficit for the 2020-21 school year due to a declining enrollment.  Most of the attention has been focused on the four school closings (actually five), and little attention has been made of the other hits that are occurring.

Last fall, the administration held so-called community meetings to take input on what parents, teachers and students thought was most important for the district. These meetings mirrored the process in 2016 when the district was reeling from nearly a decade of budget cuts to education from the state. Both in 2016 and for the most recent cuts, the district listed identical items to absorb the loss, and asked people at community meetings to prioritize what they felt was important to save from cuts. The surveys included the following recommendations: reduce transportation by changing bell times; reduce costs through efficient use of buildings and operations; reduce central officeservices; increase class sizes; provide less professional development; reduce athletics and on and on.

The 2016 budget reduction outcome results were the following: Close three elementary schools and consolidate them into a fourth, consolidate a middle school and high school, eliminateover 142 teaching positions, increase class sizes, reducecustodial services and a create a supposed $1M savings in district office reorganization, among other items.

The survey results from the community meetings for this year’s(2020-21) budget reduction showed that respondents were leastwilling to: reduce teacher compensation; increase class sizes;reduce social emotional learning and supports. Respondents were most willing to save money in the following areas: change student transportation and bell times; reduce teacher leadership opportunities; provide more efficient building utilization and district office services.

After collecting and ostensibly reviewing the community survey results, the district recommendations for the 2020-21 school year were to: reduce district office services ($13-14 million); close and consolidate schools ($2-3Million); and change the elementary staffing plan, i.e. increase class sizes ($3 million)

Wait a minute. Didn’t the community just say they were least willing to increase class sizes?  Not only is Superintendent Gist recommending increasing the class size, she is also calculating it based on SITE totals rather than GRADE level totals.  What does this mean?  

Say you have a school with 400 students and one grade level has 66 students. A 24/1 ratio gets you 2.75 allocations or 3 allocations. Do this for every grade and you end up being allocated 18 teachers based on grade level counts. However, when teachers are allocated to schools based on the school total rather than the grade level total, a school with 400 students at the site will be allocated only 17 teachers (16.66).  So who gets the extra-large class? Principals are normally reluctant to have large classrooms, so they look to cut other allocations such as art teachers, music teachers, librarians, councilors, gifted & talented teachers and on and on.

And what does “office services” mean? No more school supplies? No more copies?  No more textbooks? Reducing social and emotional services?  So far, the district administration has not shared what “reducing district office services” means.

While TPS was having a “budget crisis” in 2016, what nobody was taking notice of at that time was the district’s declining enrollment (which puts the most pressure on the budget) at the same time that charter schools were quickly expanding. In 2015,enrollment in TPS stood at 39,451 and enrollment in charterschools stood at 1402. In 2019-20, enrollment in TPS is 35,390, a decline of nearly 10%, and enrollment in charters stands at3,119, a 120% increase.  In addition, in December of 2018, the TPS Board approved the expansion of an additional 875 seats for charter schools.

At the same time TPS is scheduled to close four elementary schools, the district is also poised to expand a so-called “partnership” school called Greenwood Leadership Academy(GLA).

The Founder and Chairman is Dr. Ray Owens, Pastor of the MET Church and GLA was supported by the usual charter-loving foundations and organizations: George Kaiser Family Foundation, Schusterman, Zarrow, Walton, Loebeck/Taylor and the Oklahoma Public School Resource Center.  

Greenwood Leadership Academy has been a train wreck since it opened in 2017.

In May of 2018: “Greenwood Leadership Academy staff member no longer employed after allegedly leaving student in locker.”  

A few months later, the principal who was a part of the Tulsa TFA cohort of 2013, unexpectedly resigned:  

TPS partner Greenwood Leadership Academy to replace principal”    “I am resigning from my role as principal because I feel led by God to do so. I am, unashamedly, a man of faith,” Asamoa-Caesar.

But, fear not, he landed at 36 Degrees North, an entrepreneurial incubation organization, also supported by George Kaiser Family Foundation and the Loebeck/Taylor Foundation. Asamoa-Caesar has now decided to run for congress.

Despite GLA’s questionable past, an article in the Tulsa World reported on the intent of the TPS administration to expand GLA. “Tulsa school board to vote on accelerating Academy Central Elementary’s conversion into Greenwood Leadership Academy”  

Tulsa School Board Member Jennettie Marshall, district 3,expressed concern about closing a public school to expand Greenwood Leadership Academy, a partnership school, which, arguably, is a failing school.

The article states: Marshall said she’d rather vote on the proposal after the final testing cycle is completed and noted the board typically doesn’t vote to renew GLA until the summer. Her concern stems from a history of underwhelming proficiency rates and disciplinary issues at the school.

She cited a recent data report showing a steep decline in third-grade proficiency. The report states 6% of GLA’s original student cohort, who now are in third grade, were proficient in math during the fall semester, compared to 31% in fall 2018. Their reading proficiency also declined from 27% to 13% during that time.

That’s right, Gist is recommending that those same third graders now enter the fourth and fifth grades under this “partnership” school. But what isn’t mentioned is that TPS promised the North Tulsa Community Task Force a moratorium on its school closures. Greenwood Leadership Academy is co-located in Academy Central Elementary’s building. Apparently TPS doesn’t consider a school closed if they transfer all the students out of it and let a privately run “partnership” school take over the building.   Why not allow Academy Central Elementary to “absorb” GLA, and then work to improve Academy Central Elementary?  

To further complicate the matter, TPS School Board Vice President Suzanne Schreiber works for the George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF)/Tulsa Community Foundation.  One would think if your boss was a major donor to the school (GLA) that is before the board for approval (or for that matter any of the other seven charter schools that have received GKFFdonations), you would have some sort of conflict of interest. Schreiber spoke in support of GLA at the January school board meeting:

These are our partners,” Schreiber said. “We need to trust and support them. We’ve seen really robust data and a trajectory going (upward). So I support this recommendation. I’m excited for Greenwood to accelerate to fifth grade, and I just expect that they’re not going to do anything but continue to provide a high-quality education for our kids.”

Let’s rewind:  

5.56% of GLA’s third graders are proficient in math – that’s three students out of 53.  THREE!

13.21% of GLA third graders are proficient in reading.  That makes 7 students.

Who in their right mind thinks that is providing a high-quality education and an upward trajectory?

Shouldn’t the Board Member Schreiber be trusting and supporting the public school, Academy Central Elementary, in the community she works for, or is she working on the school board for GKFF? Where is her first responsibility?

In addition, school board member Jania Wester works for Community in Schools and shares an office with her husband who is the Executive Director of Growing Together, a GLA partner which has also received millions of dollars from the George Kaiser Family Foundation.  No possible conflict of interest there.

And in the category of “You just can’t make this stuff up,” over the winter break Dr. Gist married Ronnie Jobe.  Congratulations!   The groom is Senior Vice President and Manager – Institutional Markets for Bank of Oklahoma.  BOK is the largest bank in Oklahoma and its majority shareholder is one George Kaiser.

And speaking of transfers, what also isn’t being talked about is TPS’s new open enrollment, or as they explain it to their charter partners, “Unified Enrollment.”  This is where anyone can go down to the TPS Enrollment Center and enroll their child in any school if there is an open seat. That’s right, TPS will assist you in enrolling your student in any public school or private charter school merely for the asking as long as there are seats available.  

Do you remember at the beginning of this article when I mentioned the budget deficit was due to declining enrollment?  Does anyone else see a problem here?

To make the process even easier, TPS administrators are also recommending a re-alignment of schools so all elementary schools are configured the same.  That way if you want to leave your public school, you will fit right in to the private charter schools.

To top it off, the charter schools now need space to expand.  Where are they going to get it?  The closed school buildings of course.  And just to make sure those spaces are nice, at the end of December the TPS Board voted to spend $1.6M not for the benefit of TPS students, but to benefit the private Legacy Charter School to improve its building. Simultaneously, one of the public elementary schools slated for closure has plenty of students, but the district plans to shutter it because the building is in need of repair and that would be too costly. Maybe they want those students to move to Legacy Charter School since it’s getting a nice refurbishment.

Tulsa Collegiate Hall has its eye on Wright Elementary, one of the schools slated to close at the end of this year.  Crossover Preparatory Academy wants the Gilcrease school building, which was recently closed in north Tulsa.    Crossover Preparatory Academy was recently visited by governor Kevin Stitt to tout the so-called benefits of the Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship Act which primarily grants scholarships to Christian schools .  Tulsa Honor Academy has reached out to the Walton Foundation for a $1 million donationto apparently go at it alone through Level Field Partners.  Does anyone else see a transfer of public dollars to private schools and real estate LLC’s in the future?

Nobody is talking about the costs associated with closing the schools. It isn’t zero. Nobody is talking about what an utter nightmare it is going to be to bus the students who under open enrollment can supposedly go to any school, with district transportation provided. TPS has enough problems trying to get students to school on time, now imagine buses taking any student to any school.

This last Friday it was announced that employees had been notified of the intent to eliminate their positions.  While Gist repeatedly assured the community that her staff would do everything they could to transfer teachers to other schools within the district once the schools were closed, the process is the equivalent of being fired and then having to re-apply for a job as if you had never been with the district.  I can only imagine the high morale of employees who have that to endure.

In five years, Superintendent Gist’s merry band of Broadies haveclosed at least eight schools, lost 10% of the enrollment, expanded charter schools by over 120%, re-aligned all the schools to make it easier for students to leave the district, helped them fill out the paperwork to do so, spent Bond dollars meant for TPS students for private charter schools and are cutting central office services while increasing class sizes.

If you’re a parent like me and are interested in saving public schools, you might want to look at two truly grassroots organizations that take no funding from reformer foundations or those who wish to privatize public schools: Network for Public Education and the Badass Teachers Association.

 

Addendum: The Oklahoma City School Board approved Superintendent Gist’s school closings and budget cuts.