Archives for category: Broad Foundation

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.



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?

As I read the story in the New York Times about the overturning of the infamous Vergara decision, I realized that the article presented an opportunity for “close reading” and for critical thinking. Unlike the Common Core standards, which asks the reader to stick to the four corners of the text, I expect readers to draw upon their background knowledge to interpret the text, authors’ intentions, and missing information or context. In the end, however, we must recognized that it is a newspaper article, and space is limited. Nonetheless, what is written and what is omitted is left out matters, because the Times is a national newspaper, read by the public and the media, few of whom will ever read the decision or understand the background.



Why do philanthropists want to end teachers’ job protections? Why do billionaires like Eli Broad and the Walton family want to get rid of job protections? Did the plaintiffs prove that the children’s teachers were ineffective? Or did they just use test scores as “evidence”? Which states allow teachers to have due process rights? Which do not? Does the latter group of states–which have no job protections–have better schools than the former group? What is the Partnership for Educational Justice? What is its goal? Does a district attract better teachers when it does not have job protections? Why has recruitment of new teachers plummeted in recent years?


These are just a few questions that come to mind. What are yours?




Why is the media so excited about school choice and so indifferent to the defunding of public education?

How did telegenic Campbell Brown, with no experience or background in education, become the face of teacher-bashing, anti-union, anti-public school advocacy? Why is she obsessed with the idea that public schools (but not charter schools or voucher schools) are filled with sexual predators, who prey on “our children” (not hers, actually, because they don’t attend a public school)?


Who pays for the attacks on public education and teachers? The linked article digs deep and answers almost all these questions. I say “almost” because it does not explain why Campbell Brown is obsessed with sexual predators in the public schools.

Peter Greene made a discovery. He unraveled a secret that puzzled those who watch the career trajectories of Broad superintendents. Why did Briadie Superintendent John Covington leave the Kansas City school district that he promised to “save” before it was saved? He abruptly left, surprising many in Kansas City who thought he had made a commitment to stay.


Was it the higher salary for the leader of Michigan’s new Educational Achievement Authority? No.


Peter found the answer: Covington left Kansas City for the EAA because Eli Broad told him to.


When Eli calls, his disciples listen.


The EAA was supposed to be the proof point for Broad’s educational theories. No school board. Total control. It failed. Covington bailed out, amidst complaints about his expense account.


After more than a dozen years of “training” urban superintendents in his unaccredited program, Eli  has no successes. Yet he is pushing to take control of half the children in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Maybe he will put John Deasy in charge. No, wait, he tried that already.


Caveat emptor.


Let educators educate, not billionaires who think they know everything just because they are rich.

A few days ago, John Thompson wrote a post about the Broadie superintendents, referring both to the one in Oklahoma City and to a story in the New York Times about the new gun in town in Oakland, California.


Now comes this story from Oakland about the turmoil in the district as the Broadie superintendent goes into disruption mode, threatening to close schools, fire principals, and lay off teachers. Why? Those low test scores.


Seventeen principals have received warning letters that they may be removed or reassigned. A number of schools have learned that they may have to move for charter schools to “co-locate” onto their campuses and a large number of new teachers have just learned they will be fired at the end of June.


Staff at Place@Prescott in West Oakland are fearful about what will happen to their elementary school if they lose their principal, Enomwoyi Booker, who is one of the principals who received a March 15 warning letter, according to a teacher at the school who spoke on condition of anonymity.


The teacher said the principal, who has been at Prescott for over a decade, “is building rapport with the community. She is popular with the staff and the community. We have spent years building a (community) core that comes together and helps out.”


“We’re fragile,” a poor school in a poor community, the teacher said. “We are partial to our leadership from the years of being deprived of materials. We (finally) get some money and some inkling of materials, and then they take the leadership away.”


“The district administration says one thing, but the next thing you know, they shut you down or throw schools together. We don’t know what’s really going on.”


The teacher said she did not want Prescott to have to share its campus with a charter school.


“If we have to share it with another school, that will kill it,” she said. “With all the gentrification that is going on (in West Oakland), we feel kind of threatened.”



Sixty teachers have been warned that they are on the list to be released without right of appeal.


Oakland has been under Broadie control for about 13 years. When does the transformation happen? How many children’s lives and adult careers will be ruined by Broad-trained disciples before this “reign of error” ends? When will common sense return in California? Must be wait for Eli Broad to move on to his next hobby or to another dimension?

John Thompson, historian and teacher in Oklahoma City, read Motoko Rich’s report in the New York Times on the travails of Antwan Wilson, the Broad-trained superintendent in Oakland, California, and thought of the negative reputation that these “Broadies” have acquired. What is a Broadie? It is someone, with or without an education background, who attended a series of weekend seminars sponsored by the Eli Broad Superintendents Academy. This “academy” has no accreditation. It focuses on management style, not education. The Broad Foundation picks people to learn its autocratic management style and places them in a district where Broad has influence and might even supplement the leader’s salary. Once placed, you may surround yourself with other Broadies to push decisions on unwilling teachers and principals who know more than you do about the local schools and students. The list of failed Broadies is long, including Mike Miles in Dallas, General Anthony Tata in Wake County, N.C., John Covington in Kansas City and Michigan’s Educational Achievement Authority.


Thompson was reminded of the Broadie who took charge of the Oklahoma City public schools and sowed racial antagonism and division when he read Rich’s article about Wilson and his problems.


He writes:


It would be easier to sympathize with Wilson’s feelings if Broad and the rest of the Billionaires Boys Club’s public relations teams didn’t have such a long and disgusting record of using racial taunts against those (regardless of our race) who disagree with them. More importantly, the Broadie’s pain is dwarfed by that of poor children of color who increasingly find themselves in “apartheid schools” after competition-driven reformers (illogically) try to use resegregation of schools as a method for undoing the damage done by Jim Crow.
As explained in my book, A Teacher’s Tale, I first encountered the Broad mentality in 2007 when Oklahoma City hired a Broad Academy graduate as superintendent. Hoping to get off to a good, collaborative start, I introduced myself to the mentor that the academy assigned to him. She was sitting with several of my old friends and civil rights allies, African-American women with decades of administrative experience that they also would have gladly shared with the rookie superintendent. The Broad Academy mentor wiped the smiles off our faces when her first words to me were, “Why don’t you in Oklahoma City teach our African-American boys to read?”
At first, I thought we could have better luck communicating with the new superintendent. He was a good enough sport to compete in my school’s “Buffalo Chip Throwing Championship.” (Dressed in a fine business suit, the superintendent finished second, behind me, but unlike the champion buffalo feces thrower, he wore a plastic glove.) The superintendent enjoyed talking with my students, but he never seemed comfortable listening to teenagers when they disagreed with his policies. In one such meeting, the superintendent explained that he wanted an aligned and paced curriculum where every class covered the same material at the same time, and where he could supervise classroom instruction by video, throughout the district, from his office. Afterwards, my students were blunt, saying that the superintendent had no idea of what he was rushing into….


Across the nation, Broad and other market-driven reformers are stepping up the use of mass school closures to defeat teachers, unions, and parents who oppose them. Even as the Billionaires Boys Club proclaims that their goal is a 21st century civil rights crusade, they impose a brutal policy where the highest-challenge students are crammed into the schools that were already the most segregated, under-resourced and low-performing. In other words, they sabotage the highest-challenge neighborhood schools in order to discredit educators in them who seek win-win school improvement policies.
The Broad Academy and their allies are thus willing to sacrifice the welfare of the most vulnerable children and to inflame racial tensions in order to defeat educators who disagree with them. Whether they do so in Oakland or Oklahoma City – in Los Angeles, Dallas, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Denver, Washington D.C. or New Orleans – they are playing with fire. Whether we are talking about race, poverty, or special education, we must recognize the complexity of these issues and the need for nuanced conversations. As long as corporate reformers continue to vilify educators, complicated and interconnected problems will get worse. If Broad-trained superintendents had the knowledge about education that is necessary to improve schools, they would also understand why inflaming racial tensions is so dangerous.





The New York Times today has an article about the new Broad-trained superintendent in Oakland, California. Antwan Wilson was recruited from Denver, which has been under control by corporate reformers for over a decade. Oakland has been under control by Broad superintendents since 2003. The article describes Wilson’s plans to “transform” Oakland by merging the application process for charter schools and public schools. The Broad superintendents have been promising transformative results for more than a decade. Years ago, Oakland was seen as an ideal petri dish for corporate reform because it was under state control, with no meddlesome school board. Now it has a school board again, and the promises continue. There is always next year.


The article gives an overview of the trajectory of Broad-trained superintendents. It is not a pretty picture.


Broad-trained superintendents currently run districts in two dozen communities, including Boston, Broward County, Fla., and Philadelphia. They have lasted an average of four and three-quarter years, delivering incremental academic progress at best. Like others in the field, they have run up against the complexities of trying to improve schools bedeviled by poverty, racial disparities, unequal funding and contentious local politics.


Some prominent academy alumni have resigned after tumultuous terms. Mike Miles, the Dallas schools superintendent, quit last June after just three years, during which he battled teachers over new evaluation criteria and performance-based pay.


In Los Angeles, John Deasy stepped down as superintendent in the fall of 2014 after a turbulent tenure in which he testified against teachers’ unions during a landmark trial involving tenure and job protections, and presided over a botched rollout of a $1.3 billion plan to give all students iPads. That same year, John Covington abruptly resigned as chancellor of a state-operated district for the lowest performing schools in Detroit. Two years earlier, Jean-Claude Brizard resigned from the Chicago Public Schools after 17 months on the job and a bruising teachers’ strike.


Still, Mr. Broad said his money is well spent. “When I look at how many students are educated in public school systems where our alumni are and have worked,” he wrote in an email, “there is no question that this has been a worthwhile investment.”


Oakland is the kind of place where philanthropists hope to make a difference. Here, across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco, close to three-quarters of the 37,000 students in district-run schools come from low-income families. About 30 percent of the students are African-Americans, and more than 40 percent are Latino.


Why Mr. Broad is satisfied is not at all clear. There is an even longer list of failed superintendencies than is listed here, and in some cases Broadies were run out of town by the local citizenry. In Wake County, a Broadie was put in charge of resegregation the district after the Tea Party won control of the school board; when the majority was ousted in the next school board election, the superintendent left with them.


There is no doubt that Eli Broad “hopes to make a difference” in Oakland, as he does wherever he invests. But someone should remind him that Broad-trained superintendents have controlled the districts for more than a dozen years. When should we start seeing the “difference” that they have made?