Archives for category: Broad Foundation

Doug Garnett is a communications specialist and a regular reader of the blog. He writes here about reading “Policy Patrons,” by Megan Tomkins-Stange.

Been reading Policy Patrons. And it’s given me a different insight.

We all feel like Gates, Broad and others are “dictating” what happens. It’s hard – because they aren’t. What they’re doing is far more subtle but with similar results.

What they’ve done is create a “walled garden” of groups that are all paid to support their position. The list in this article is an example of creating that walled garden – a range of community organizations, researchers, university credibility, etc…

THEN, with the walled garden created, the foundations themselves never have to “tell the government what to do”. They are able to say “well, I know somebody who deals with that – you should talk with them”. Except the foundations have ensured that this “somebody” is somebody who will give the answer they want.

It’s incredibly deceptive – but politicians and press seem incapable of detecting when they’ve been had in this way. Because the “walled garden” of true “ed reform believers” are the only people they end up talking to. In a sense, Gates, Broad, et. al. deliver answers on a silver platter so that state education departments, school districts, politicians, and press don’t have to work hard.

This informal (but massive) walled garden they’ve build believes in testing as management, believes in CCSS, believes in charter schools, and believes that privatizing government services is always good.

As a result, state education bureaucrats NEVER have to wander outside the garden – so they never have to confront uncomfortable truths. (It’s dangerous outside those walls and that threatens one’s career.)

But this also explains why politicians are so shocked when citizens confront them with dissatisfaction with their policies – they’ve been blissfully living inside the Eden of Reform – unaware that they aren’t in touch with reality. I’ve seen this in Oregon. Our legislators cannot believe it when someone rational challenges what they’ve been doing.

It’s a HUGE problem for those of us who believe in public schools and believe in the value of researched answers. Because it’s not illegal what they’ve done. They believe it’s entirely moral. And they think they’re being “good people” by doing it. And it spreads blame by breaking it into tiny bits so no single organization can be blamed for much. Kind of a guaranteed “plausible deniability” clause.

Yet the result is entirely immoral – because it’s the future of our children.

Mercedes Schneider describes here the billionaire-funded plan to disrupt and privatize public education in Los Angeles, while deceiving the public and hiding the men behind the curtain.

Mercedes uses her superb investigative talents to follow the money and show the tight collaboration be tween the faux-Democrat Eli Broad and the far-right, union-hating Waltons of Arkansas.

She writes:

“It seems that the Walton-funded writing on the Los Angeles wall might well entail expanding charters as the answer to making all Los Angeles schools better. It also believes in bringing traditional school districts around to its market-driven-reform thinking via corporate-reform-group infiltration. Too, it seems that the Walton Foundation believes that grass roots support for its effort is a matter of getting the public mind in line with the Walton charter expansion priorities.

“The Walton intentions in incubating and expanding corporate reform fit hand-in-glove with the Broad intentions for Los Angeles. On its website, the Broad Foundation generously tosses around the term “public schools” even as it features KIPP, Success Academies, and Teach for America among its handful of “key grantees.” Furthermore, the Broad listing of current grantees is for the most part a corporate reform festival:

4.0 Schools
Achievement First
Achievement School District
Bellwether Education Partners
Bright Star Schools
Broad Center for the Management of School Systems
Building Excellent Schools
Center for American Progress
Central Michigan University Foundation
Charter School Growth Fund
Common Sense Media
Education Reform Now
Education Week
Great Public Schools Now
Green Dot Public Schools
Harvard University
IDEA Public Schools
Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP)
Leadership for Educational Equity
Michigan Education Excellence Foundation
Michigan State University – College of Education
National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
National Center on Education and the Economy
National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ)
Noble Network of Charter Schools
Orange County Public Schools
Partnership for Los Angeles Schools
Policy Innovators in Education Network
Progressive Policy Institute
Results in Education (RIE) Foundation
Scholarship Management Services
School of Visual and Performing Arts
Silicon Schools Fund, Inc.
Success Academy Charter Schools
Teach For America

“Note that Broad is currently funding ExED, and that Great Public Schools Now has two ExED reps on its board/team: William Siart and Anita Landecker. What this illustrates is the all-too-common corporate reform funding incest. (According to the Walton 2013 tax form, Walton has also given ExED $50,000, and the Waltons loaned ExED $5 million for Los Angeles charter school facility financing.)”

EduShyster interviewed author Megan Tompkins-Stange about her new book “Policy Patrons,” which reports on the five years she spent working inside the big foundations that fund corporate-style reform: Gates and Broad, who pursue top-down reforms, and Ford and Kellogg, which are likelier to be “field-oriented.”

EduShyster says at the outset that the book shows the foundations to be “heavy with hubris,” certain that they have all the right answers. The Gates Foundation was giddy with joy to see how closely their goals meshed with those of the Obama administration.

EduShyster says, “We overhear the Broad folks reveling in their success in New Orleans and the failure of the opt out movement, and Team Gates crowing over, well, everything. But both have ended up getting some comeuppance of late—Gates over the Common Core and Broad over Eli Broad’s charter expansion plan in Los Angeles.

Tompkins-Stange responds:

I think what we’re seeing, with Gates and Broad in particular, is that they started from the point of view that *If you apply capital to X problem then Y solution will happen.* For example, if you make a vaccine available, disease will be eradicated. But that worldview hasn’t translated well to education, and the challenge for them now is how do they change their culture and their values in order to better operate within this context? Because what they’ve done up to this point is based on a very strategic, very technical way of looking at the world. You’re starting to see a real normative concern emerging in the field about not including people in public education reform, and not having the voices of these underrepresented groups that are going to be affected. Maybe now that we’re having this national conversation about power, race and oppression, that’s coming to the fore more as a topic of discussion within foundations.

One point that comes through loud and clear is that Gates and Broad find democracy to be a “hindrance,” an obstacle to the strategic plans that they have concocted with minimal interaction with those who will be affected.

We were told when “Great Public Schools Now” began functioning, it would support all schools, whether they were public schools or charter schools. This is the group funded by Eli Broad and his friends that intends to take over half the student population in the Los Angeles public schools and put them into privately managed charters.

But Great Public Schools Now made its first grants, and none of the money went to public schools.

A group that has vowed to start high-quality schools across Los Angeles on Thursday announced its first grant recipients: a charter school that is expanding, an after-school and summer enrichment program for children, and an organization that recruits recent college graduates for two-year teaching stints.

None of the money went to the Los Angeles Unified School District, although it’s likely to benefit from the teacher-recruitment effort.

Of course, it is doubtful that the public schools will benefit from a program that recruits more inexperienced, ill-prepared Teach for America recruits. Why not fund a program that recruits experienced teachers or creates a pipeline to develop career teachers?

What has logic got to do with it?

We knew all along that Eli Broad and his fellow billionaires don’t want public schools in Los Angeles, except as a dumping ground for kids kicked out of charters.

My bet is that the group will make a contribution to a public school to maintain the illusion of even-handedness. But we know where its heart is. Privatization.

Today, the Broad Prize for the nation’s best charter schools will be announced in Nashville at the annual meeting of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. The finalists are IDEA Public Schools, Success Academy Charter Schools and YES Prep Public Schools.

John Merrow laments here that the Broad Foundation–and its billionaire leader Eli Broad–has given up on public schools and has decided to drop some money into charter schools. There was no Broad Prize for urban districts either last year or in 2016. This is only right and just, because Eli Broad favors charter schools over public schools.

Eli Broad launched his Broad Prize for Excellence in Urban Education in 2002, when the first award of $1 million went to the Houston Independent School District. Houston must have been an unusually stellar district because it improved so much that it won the Broad Prize again in 2013. The next year, 2014, was the last year that the prize was awarded, and it went not to a big urban district but to Gwinnett County Public Schools in Georgia and to Orange County Public Schools in Florida. Eli Broad, mastermind of American education (a title shared with Bill Gates) decided that urban districts were no longer improving fast enough to satisfy him, and he suspended the Broad Prize for Urban Education. After all, how many times can you give the prize to Houston?

If you go to the Broad Foundation website, linked in John Merrow’s post, you may gag on some of its “beliefs.”

Like the first one: We believe public schools must remain public. Nothing about charter schools is public, except the money they get from government. Otherwise, they are managed by private boards, which do not hold open meetings, with finances that are neither transparent nor accountable, and with disciplinary rules that do not comply with state requirements for public schools. In short, they are not transparent, they are not democratically controlled, they are not accountable, and they are thus NOT public schools.

One would hope to believe that the Broad Foundation actually does believe that teachers deserve to be treated with respect as professionals, but you learn on this website that Broad is a major funder of StudentsMatter, the group promoting lawsuits to strip teachers of their right to tenure and seniority, both of which protect academic freedom.

Merrow writes that it is not surprising that Eli Broad has dropped the award for urban districts:

But that’s not really new news, as the Foundation’s own pie chart reveals. Since 1999, the Foundation has made $589,500,000 in education-related grants, and 24% of the money, $144,000,000, has gone directly to public charter schools. No doubt some of the ‘leadership’ and ‘governance’ dollars have gone to public charter schools, which at best make up 5% of all schools. Over that same time period, 3% of the money, $16,000,000, went to winners of the Urban Education Broad Prize (for college scholarships).

In other words, the Foundation’s pro-charter tilt has been evident for a long time. Now it’s getting steeper and more pronounced.

Mr. Broad hoped that urban districts could improve “if given the right models or if political roadblocks” (such as those he believes are presented by teachers unions) “could be overcome,” said Jeffrey Henig, professor of political science and education at Teachers College, Columbia University.

The suspension of the prize for urban education could signal a “highly public step” toward the view that traditional districts “are incapable of reform,” Henig said. Mr. Broad seems to have already taken that step in his home city of Los Angeles, where he is backing an effort to greatly expand the charter sector.

Apparently it’s pretty simple for the folks administering the Broad Prize in Urban Education: Successful School Reform boils down to higher test scores. I see no public sign that anyone at the Foundation is questioning whether living and dying by test scores is sensible pedagogy that benefits students. And no public evidence that they’ve considered what might happen if poor urban students were exposed to a rich curriculum and veteran teachers. If poor kids got what is the birthright of students in wealthy districts!

In the mind of Eli Broad, higher test scores means great schools. Period. He doesn’t believe that public schools are capable of improving because they are hobbled by such things as teachers’ unions, and job protections for teachers.

Are you waiting with bated breath to learn which charter chain wins the Broad Prize? I’m not. He is a dilettante whose money has convinced him that he deserves to privatize the public schools of America. He has forgotten that he was educated in public schools. Like other billionaires, he doesn’t trust democracy. Privatization suits him. Like the rest of us, his days on this earth are limited. He may be remembered for his gifts to the art world, for the museum he built and named for himself, for his contributions to medical research. But in education, his name will be reviled for his contempt for a democratic institution on which tens of millions of children depend.

The Eli Broad-funded group “Great Public Schools Now” (sic) has released its plan for the destruction of democratically controlled public education in Los Angeles.

Despite the failure of charter schools to improve the education of low-income students unless they are free to choose the students they want and kick out the ones they don’t want, billionaire Eli Broad wants to put 160,000 children who are now in public schools into privately managed charters. The twist in this plan is that Broad and his allies have promised to take control of public schools, magnet schools, and other schools as well as their own charters. It seems that the billionaires and their minions know how to create successful schools. One wonders if this means that even the public schools will adopt “no excuses” discipline and kick out the kids who refuse to conform. To do this, the corporate reformers have to retain some public schools where they can drop the kids they don’t want.

The goal is to expand access for 160,000 students GPSN has identified as attending failing schools in 10 low-income Los Angeles neighborhoods to successful schools it wants to help replicate or expand.

The neighborhoods are in South LA, East LA and the northeast San Fernando Valley, chosen because they have “chronically underperforming schools and few high-quality school choices for struggling families,” the plan states.

GPSN says it will provide funding and support to high-performing schools no matter what type of school — charter, traditional, pilot, magnet or partnership — so they can be replicated and expanded. It will also support proposed schools with the potential to be high quality.

The widening focus is a shift from an early plan leaked last year that was developed by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation to expand charter schools in LA.

“This is a different kind of initiative, very different than has been attempted in Los Angeles before,” said Myrna Castrejon, GPSN’s executive director. “I am particularly excited about the opportunity to really work across sectors to really strengthen all of public education.”

GPSN also is revealing today the makeup of its seven-person board, all of whom boast decades of experience in education. In addition to Siart and Flores, who is also a senior fellow at the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, the board members are Gregory McGinity, executive director of the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation; Maria Casillas, founder of Families in Schools; Virgil Roberts, chairman of the board of Families in Schools; Marc Sternberg, K-12 education program director for the Walton Family Foundation, and Allison Keller, senior vice president and chief financial officer and executive director of the W.M. Keck Foundation.

All of these are corporate reformers with “decades” of privatizing public schools.

Bear in mind that in California, charter schools are not only deregulated, they operate without any supervision. There have been numerous charter scandals involving fraud and misappropriation of funds.

This is a disgrace. Eli Broad was educated in the public schools of Michigan, and he has become–along with the rightwing Walton Family Foundation–the major destroyer of public education in the nation. Naturally, the Walton Family Foundation’s education director Marc Sternberg is on the board of Eli Broad’s latest venture, bringing together the two most powerful and union-hating, public school-hating organizations in the US.

Expect a billionaire-funded drive to take control of the Los Angeles school board in the spring of 2017, to pave the way for the end of democratic public education in Los Angeles.

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.

This is a remarkable editorial that appears in the Los Angeles Times, of all places. The headline tells a story we did not expect to read on this newspaper’s editorial page:

Gates Foundation failures show philanthropists shouldn’t be setting America’s public school agenda

Read that again. Slowly.

The editorial recaps the serial failures of the Gates Foundation in education: Small high schools (abandoned); evaluating teachers by test scores (not yet abandoned but clearly a failure, as witnessed by the disasterous, costly experience in Hillsborough County, Florida); Common Core (not abandoned, but facing a massive public rejection).

But it’s not all bad, says the editorial:

It was a remarkable admission for a foundation that had often acted as though it did have all the answers. Today, the Gates Foundation is clearly rethinking its bust-the-walls-down strategy on education — as it should. And so should the politicians and policymakers, from the federal level to the local, who have given the educational wishes of Bill and Melinda Gates and other well-meaning philanthropists and foundations too much sway in recent years over how schools are run.

That’s not to say wealthy reformers have nothing to offer public schools. They’ve funded some outstanding charter schools for low-income students. They’ve helped bring healthcare to schools. They’ve funded arts programs.

This is not the whole story, of course. They have funded a movement to privatize public education, which drains resources and the students the charters want from public schools, leaving them in worse shape for the vast majority of students. And they have insisted on high-stakes testing, thus leading schools to eliminate or curtail their arts programs. As for healthcare in the schools, there should be more of it, but it should not depend on philanthropic largesse. Two children in the Philadelphia public schools died because the school nurses were cut back to only two days a week, and there were no philanthropists filling the gap.

Knowing how destructive the venture philanthropists have been–not only Gates, but also Eli Broad and the Walton Family, and a dozen or two other big philanthropies–one could wish that they would fund healthcare and arts programs, and perhaps experimental schools that demonstrated what public schools with ample resources could accomplish.

Still we must be grateful when the Los Angeles Times writes words like these:

Philanthropists are not generally education experts, and even if they hire scholars and experts, public officials shouldn’t be allowing them to set the policy agenda for the nation’s public schools. The Gates experience teaches once again that educational silver bullets are in short supply and that some educational trends live only a little longer than mayflies.

Allowing Bill Gates or Eli Broad or the Walton Family to set the nation’s education is not only unwise, it is undemocratic. The schools belong to the public, not to the 1%.

Since the editorial mentioned Bill Gates’ devout belief that teachers could be evaluated by the test scores of their students, it is appropriate to recall that the Los Angeles Times was the first newspaper in the nation to publish ratings for teachers based on test scores; it even had hopes of winning a Pulitzer Prize for this ugly intervention by non-educators who thought that teaching could be reduced to a number and splashed in headlines. Let us never forget Rigoberto Ruelas, a fifth-grade teacher who committed suicide shortly after the evaluations were published by the Los Angeles Times, and he was declared by the Times to be among the “least effective” teachers. There followed a heated debate about the methodology used by the Times to rate teachers. That was before the American Statistical Association warned against using test scores to evaluate individual teachers. But the Los Angeles Times was taking Gates’ lead and running with it. It was not worth the life of this good man.

Katherine Stewart and Matthew Stewart, parents in the renowned Brookline school district in Massachusetts, are concerned about their school board’s ties to Bill Gates and  other corporate reformers. Katherine Stewart is the author of “The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children.”

They write:

“In the ongoing standoff between the Brookline Educators Union and the Brookline School Committee, the School Committee has framed the dispute as one of making do with limited resources and ensuring equity for all students. But in fact, fundamental choices about how we educate our children are also at stake. The teachers are asking for more time to spend with students and more control over their own teaching. The School Committee, on the other hand, appears intent on investing teacher time and town funds in a management system aimed at top-down control of educators through data collection and high-stakes, standardized testing. The differences are not about the value of equity but how best to achieve it….”

The Stewarts go on to detail the connections between at least three members of the board and corporate reform. They implicitly raise the question: Is the board working for the children of Brookline or for Bill Gates and other corporate reformers?



“The Chairman of the School Committee, Susan Wolf Ditkoff, is a partner at The Bridgespan Group, a management consulting firm specializing in the philanthropy sector. Another member, Beth Jackson Stram, is also an associate at the same firm. A third member, Lisa Jackson, operates a consulting company that lists Bridgespan as one of its founders. In 2010, Bridgespan played an instrumental role in bringing Common Core to Massachusetts. The firm was hired to assist the state in its application for Race-to-the-Top funds from the federal government. Bridgespan reportedly received a $500,000 fee for that project, half of which was paid by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation….


“According to its tax filings, the Gates Foundation disbursed more than $5.5 million to The Bridgespan Group between 2010 and 2014. To judge from flattering material posted on its website, Bridgespan is also closely involved with The Broad Foundation and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, both of which promote similar education reform agendas. Tax filings from Bridgespan show that Susan Ditkoff’s total compensation in 2014 was just short of $300,000.”


Transparency would be a good start.

Mercedes Schneider received a copy of the Media Matters report on the corporate rightwing assault on public education, as did I and many others. She had the same reaction that I did. How can you list the rightwing think tanks, corporate groups, and foundations that are promoting privatization and forget to mention the three biggest funders of rightwing attacks on public education: Gates, Walton, and Broad?


There were some other glaring omissions. Stand for Children and Parent Revolution were there, but not Democrats for Education Reform, which funds candidates who support the rightwing agenda.


It seemed fishy. Mercedes did some digging and learned that Media Matters is led by journalist David Brock. Brock is active in the Clinton campaign. It must have been a political decision to omit the three biggest funders of privatization and anti-union policies. More than 90% of the nation’s 7,000 or so charter schools are non-union. The expansion of charters is an effective way to break the nation’s largest public unions. The funders know that.


After more digging, Mercedes concluded that the omissions were not accidental. I decided to trash the post I had written. But I was glad to see some acknowledgement–even if partial–for the struggle we are engaged in to save public education.