Archives for category: Corporate Reformers

Musk has sent mixed signals about whether Twitter will or will not screen out tweets that are racist and hateful and tweets that contain lies and propaganda. The NAACP, among other activist groups, has called on Elon Musk to take a clear stand against hate. Major advertisers have suspended their advertising until Musk clarifies his policies.

Musk responded by threatening to “name and shame” the advertisers who have pulled their ads. This is a curious position, since their names are already in public.

He held a live meeting on Wednesday, attended by 100,000 or so people including some of Twitter’s largest advertisers and marketing partners, hoping to reassure the biggest sources of Twitter’s revenues.

Elon Musk laid out more of his plans for Twitter in a publicly broadcast meeting Wednesday, assuring advertisers he had noted their concerns about hate speech and misinformation on the site while saying the platform would continue changing rapidly and that some of its new features would fail.


Musk took questions over the course of roughly an hour from two of his executives and a representative of the advertising industry during a Twitter Spaces meeting, which was broadcast live on the site midday. More than 100,000 people listened live….


He repeated that the company hasn’t made any changes to its content moderation policies — which attempt to keep rule-breaking content off the site — but said he believes requiring more people to pay to use Twitter through a new $8 verification program would lower the amount of hate speech overall.

The billionaire said the company’s progress would be much more freewheeling than in the past, with new ideas rapidly becoming features and then being cut quickly if they don’t work out. Mistakes will be made, he said.


“If nothing else I am a technologist and I can make technology go fast,” Musk said. “If we do not try bold moves, how will we make great improvements?”

The move comes days after Musk – who acquired the company in a $44 billion deal last month – threatened a “thermonuclear name & shame” campaign against advertisers that jilt his platform.

Musk last week said Twitter was facing a “massive drop in revenue” as advertisers paused campaigns on the platform. Since Musk completed his acquisition, reports of hate speech and abuse on Twitter have swelled.

NAACP President Derrick Johnson called on businesses to drop their advertisements on Twitter “until actions are taken to make Twitter a safe space.” Musk, a self-proclaimed “free speech absolutist,” accused businesses that participate in the boycott of “trying to destroy free speech in America.”

Automakers Ford, General Motors and Volkswagen have all pulled their Twitter ads, along with cereal and snack companies General Mills and Mondelez, the corporation behind Oreo cookies, Ritz crackers and Sour Patch Kids candy. International ad and consulting firm Interpublic, which represents American Express, Coca-Cola, Fitbit, Spotify and dozens of other major corporations, has also suspended its Twitter ad buys.

Back in 2014, a prominent charter school leader in Connecticut resigned after it was revealed that he had been convicted of felonies many years earlier, and that he did not have a doctorate, although he claimed he did. Michael Sharpe resigned as CEO of Jumoke Academy, which ran charter schools in Connecticut and planned to expand to Louisiana.

Sharpe was part of a management organization called Family Urban Schools of Excellence or FUSE, created in 2012. The state had given millions of dollars to Jumoke to take over low-performing schools and turn them around.

The controversy over Sharpe was embarrassing to Democratic Governor Dannell Malloy, who was a cheerleader for charter schools. Malloy chose Stefan Pryor to be the State Commissioner of Education. Pryor had no experience in the classroom but was a co-founder of the no-excuses charter chain Achievement First. Charter schools in the state were allowed to have only 30% of their staff with state certification. The charter industry was strong in Connecticut due to the financial power of hedge funders and the Sackler Family (of opioid fame), which launched Conn-CAN, a charter advocacy group, which became the national 50CAN.

But the biggest scandal of all came to light in the past week, when the same Michael Sharpe was convicted of breaking into the homes of four women in 1984, kidnapping them, threatening the women with a firearm, sexually assaulting them, then stealing money and valuables.

Sharpe was convicted of kidnapping and faces a sentence of 25-100 years in prison. The statute of limitations had expired on the sexual assault charges. Sharpe’s DNA was found at the four scenes. The case was solved by the state’s cold case unit.

Back in the days of his charter fame, the Center for Education Reform identified him as a national leader.

Dr. Sharpe is president of the Connecticut Charter School Association and founding member of the Legacy Project and Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE). He also sits on the boards of the National Charter School Leadership Council, St. Agnes Home, Inc., the CT Chapter of Lupus Foundation of America and Connecticut Landmarks.

Dr. Sharpe began work at Jumoke Academy in 1998 and was appointed its CEO in 2003. Under his leadership, Jumoke Academy’s middle and elementary schools were cited for three consecutive years as one of the top ten performing urban schools in the State of Connecticut.

Jumoke Academy is committed to developing the whole child, and as such, offers programs that ensure our children become competent in the arts, humanities, civic and social responsibilities, and that they understand the value and importance of good character.

In 2015, after Sharpe had resigned, civil rights attorney Wendy Lecker wrote about the strange trajectory of Jumoke Academy, FUSE, and Michael Sharpe.

Earlier this month, the Connecticut Department of Education quietly distributed a scathing investigative report on the Jumoke/FUSE charter chain, conducted by a law firm the department retained. The report reads like a manual on how to break every rule of running a non-profit organization.

The investigators found that although FUSE and Jumoke were supposed to be two separate, tax-exempt organizations, both were run by Michael Sharpe alone. FUSE, formed in 2012, never held board of directors’ meetings until after the public revelations in the spring of 2014 of Michael Sharpe’s felony record for embezzlement and falsification of his academic credentials. FUSE entered into contracts with the state to run two public schools without approval by its board. In fact, it is unclear that FUSE even had a board of directors then. Jumoke, too, played fast and loose with board meetings. Jumoke’s board gave Sharpe “unfettered control” over every aspect of the organization. Even after he left Jumoke for FUSE, Sharpe still ran Jumoke, leaving day-to-day operations to his nephew, an intern there.

Hiring and background checks were in Sharpe’s sole discretion. He placed ex-convicts in the two public schools run by Jumoke, Hartford’s Milner and Bridgeport’s Dunbar. Dunbar’s principal, brought in by Sharpe, was recently arraigned on charges of stealing more than $10,000 from the school.

Nepotism was “rampant.” Sharpe’s mother founded Jumoke. Sharpe moved from paraprofessional to CEO in 2003, with no additional training. His unqualified daughter and nephew were hired, as well as his sister.

The investigation found extreme comingling of funds and of financial and accounting activities, noting that it “would be difficult to construct a less appropriate financial arrangement between two supposedly separate organizations.”

Jumoke/FUSE used state money to engage in aggressive real estate acquisition, some not even for educational purposes, and some inexplicably purchased above its appraised value. Properties were collateral and/or were mortgaged for one another. Loan rates were excessive. To date, loans are guaranteed by FUSE, which is not operational.

Jumoke leased Sharpe part of a building who, violating the lease, sublet it and collected rent. Sharpe hired Jumoke’s facilities director’s husband to perform costly renovations on the parts of the building, his bedroom and bathroom, paid by Jumoke.

These are just some of the misdeeds that occurred without oversight by the State Board of Education or the State Department of Education. The board approved contracts to run two public schools without verifying that FUSE had no board of directors. It approved millions to be paid to FUSE/Jumoke to buy non-educational buildings, charge excessive consulting fees to public schools and engage in possibly fraudulent activities. Worse still, the board allowed Jumoke/FUSE to run Milner schoolinto the ground, jeopardizing the education of Milner’s vulnerable students.

“Dr. Sharpe’s” Linked-In profile has not been updated. It’s very impressive.

Arthur Camins—teacher, scientist, technologist— argues in The Daily Kos that it’s time for Democrats to abandon their support for charter schools. Are you listening, Senator Corey Booker of New Jersey, Senator Michael Bennett of Colorado, Governor Jared Polis of Colorado, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries and other charter allies?

Camins writes:

It is time for Democrats–voters and the politicians who represent them–to abandon charter schools as a strategy for education improvement or to advance equity. Charter schools, whether for- or non-profit, drain funds from public schools that serve all students, increase segregation, and by design only serve the few. Continuation of tax generated funds for charter schools, all of which are privately governed, support the current broader assault on democracy. That should not be the way forward for democracy loving Democrats. In addition, public support for private alternatives to public education suborns the lie that government cannot be the agency for solving problems.

The United States is tilting sharply toward, if not rushing headlong into, a less equitable, less democratic, more authoritarian, more racially divided, and meaner way of governing and living together. Out-for-youselfism is alarmingly rampant. Sadly, continued bipartisan state and federal support for charter schools that pit parents against one another for limited student slots reflects those tendencies.

We have been heading in that direction for decades, led by pro-wealth, anti-regulation billionaires and corporations allied with Christian religious extremists and ideological libertarians. Exacerbating extant racist, xenophobic, and misogynistic resentment is their core strategy. It is represented by a Republican Party whose only moral compass is power and for whom democracy is an expendable inconvenience.

Republican opposition to equity advances for all people, such as the National Labor Relations Act, Unemployment Insurance, Social Security, and Medicare, is nothing new. However, until the emergence of the Republican-light Democratic Leadership Council, there was a strong pro-government, pro-worker, if frequently inconsistent, opposition political party. In the absence of an explicit effort by Democrats to articulate a rationale for a multi-racial, working-class coalition, resentment flourished. Instead, many Democrats embraced deregulation and campaign cash, including contributions from the charter school industry.

This Republican-light Democratic shift could not have come at a worse time, as globalization and automation threatened the livelihood of many Americans, shaking the foundations of post-WWII perception of security, especially for many white working- and middle-class Americans. As scarcity and inequity came to be accepted as the unalterable norm, advances for some–left-out people of color, recent immigrants, and women–came to seen as coming at the expense of others. In that context, charter schools appealed social and economic insecurity.

Nonetheless, Democratic politicians from Bill Clinton to Barrack Obama embraced charter schools. The essential notion was that take-all-comers schools governed by locally elected school boards for the common good were an old-school failure. The supposed evidence was the failure to close the achievement gaps between kids from poor and well-off households. The fact that family socio-economic status explains most of the achievement gaps was ignored in favor of a blame-the-teacher and their unions ethos and test-driven blame. In supporting charter schools Democrats implicitly endorsed a competitive watch–out-for-my-own kid ethos. It is time for a new direction.

Even with substantial evidence of rampant corruption and increased segregation, national Democratic leadership has yet to fully abandon the belief in charter schools as an improvement strategy. In doing so, they abet the ongoing Republican claim that government and democracy are incapable of effective problem solving. Opposition to for-profit charter school and vouchers is insufficient. Increased oversight and rejection of for-profit charter schools is, of course, a positive step. However, the notion of schools as primarily a personal rather than a social benefit and that market-competition as an improvement driver remains intact.

Step away from charter schools, Democrats. Instead, embrace full equitable funding for all schools. Embrace professional salaries, respect, and working conditions for teachers. Embrace union protection. Embrace community schools to meet the needs of children and their families. Embrace small class size so every child can get the academic, social, and emotional supportthey need. Embrace schools to develop socially responsible citizens for a democratic equitable society.

That is the way forward for Democrats and Democracy!

Tom Ultican has been following the Destroy Pubkic Education movement closely. He is encouraged by the energy behind the community schools movement. But he’s also concerned that the corporate reformers and profiteers might find a way to undermine it or take it over.

He writes:

Community school developments are surging in jurisdictions across the country. Since 2014, more the 300 community schools have been established in New York and this month Education Secretary Miguel Cardona was touting them at an event in Pennsylvania. In May, the California State Board of Education announced $635 million in grants for the development of these schools and in July, California disclosed a $4.1 billion commitment to community schools over the next seven years. However, some critiques are concerned about a lurking vulnerability to profiteering created by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

What are Community Schools?

For decades America has turned a blind eye to the embarrassing reality that in many of our poorest communities the only functioning governmental organization or commercial enterprise is the local public school. No grocery stores, no pharmacies, no police stations, no fire stations, no libraries, no medical offices and so on leaves these communities bereft of services for basic human needs and opportunities for childhood development. Community schools are promoted as a possible remedy for some of this neighborhood damage.

The first priority for being a community school is being a public school that opens its doors to all students in the community…

There has been some encouraging anecdotal evidence from several of the original community schools. In March, Jeff Bryant wrote an article profiling two such schools for the Progressive, but there are also bad harbingers circling these schools. In the same paper from Brookings quoted above, there is a call to scale the “Next Generation Community Schools” nationally. They advocate engaging charter school networks and expanding ArmeriCorps. Brookings also counsels us, “Within the Department of Education, use Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) guidance and regulations to advance a next generation of community schools.”

Brookings was not through promoting a clearly neoliberal agenda for community schools. Their latest paper about them notes,

“There is a significant and growing interest in the community schools strategy among federal, state, and local governments seeking to advance educational and economic opportunities and address historic educational inequities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Building off this momentum and with support from Ballmer Group, four national partners—the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution (CUE), the Children’s Aid National Center for Community Schools (NCCS), the Coalition for Community Schools (CCS) at IEL, and the Learning Policy Institute (LPI)—are collaborating with education practitioners, researchers, and leaders across the country to strengthen the community schools field in a joint project called Community Schools Forward.” (Emphasis added)

Steve Ballmer was Bill Gates financial guy at Microsoft and is the billionaire owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. His Ballmer Group recently gifted $25,000,000 to the City Fund to advance privatization of public education in America. This is the group that funded the supposedly “unbiased” report from Brookings.

John Adam Klyczek is an educator and author of School World Order: The Technocratic Globalization of Corporatized Education. New Politics published his article “Community Schools and the Dangers of Ed Tech Privatization” in their Winter 2021 Journal. Klyczek declares,

“Bottom-up democracy through community schools sounds like a great idea. However, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the federal legislation funding pre-K-12 schools that replaced “No Child Left Behind,” requires ‘full-service’ community schools to incorporate public-private partnerships that facilitate ‘wrap-around services’ managed by data analytics. Consequently, ESSA incentivizes the corporatization of community schools through ‘surveillance capitalism.”’

He contends that ESSA’s mandate for “full-service” public-private partnerships creates “structured corporatization” paths similar to those in charter schools.

There is more about the perils facing community schools. The corporate data hawks are circling.

In a stunning turn of events, the charter schools affiliated with ultra-conservative Hillsdale College withdrew their applications in three counties. The counties rejected them, but the state charter commission had the power to override the local school boards. The charters stirred controversy in the rural counties, and the president of Hillsdale College made matters worse by insulting teachers.

American Classical Education — a group set up to create a network of charter schools affiliated with Hillsdale College across Tennessee — has withdrawn its applications to open schools in Madison, Montgomery and Rutherford counties.

This follows months of controversy since Gov. Bill Lee announced a “partnership” with the ultraconservative Michigan college during his State of the State Address in January.

ACE’s application had been rejected in all three counties, and they faced a contentious appeal next week before the Tennessee Public Charter School Commission, which could have overruled the local school boards.

“We made this decision because of the limited time to resolve the concerns raised by the commission staff and our concerns that the meeting structure and timing on Oct. 5 will not allow commissioners to hear directly from the community members whose interests lie at the heart of the commission’s work,” board chair Dolores Gresham wrote in a letter delivered Thursday to the commission….

Lee had praised Hillsdale’s “patriotic” approach to education and asked Hillsdale president Larry Arnn to open as many as 100 of the taxpayer-funded schools across the state.

But a NewsChannel 5 investigation had highlighted issues with Hillsdale’s curriculum, including a rewriting of the history of the civil rights movement.

Hidden-camera video also revealed Arnn making derogatory comments about public school teachers coming from “the dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges.”

More recently, NewsChannel 5 Investigateshad uncovered video of a Hillsdale College professor, who teaches part of an online course about the civil rights movement, questioning the achievements of famous Black Americans.

Early on, Governor Lee asked Hillsdale to open 100 charters in Tennessee, and Hillsdale College scaled the number back to 50. At the moment, Hillsdale has none. Governor Lee underestimated the close ties between rural communities and their public schools. The people of Tennessee were unwilling to toss aside the teachers they know and the schools that are the hub of their communities.

Please open the link to read the rest of the story. Hillsdale might try again.

C

Kathryn Joyce of Salon has written one dynamite article after another about the movement to destroy public education. In this post, she writes that Florida was ranked # 1 in “educational freedom” by the far-right Heritage Foundation, which wants to privatize all schools. This is a brilliant, must-read article!

Arizona, which has pushed hard to expand charters and vouchers, came in a close second.

That claim, along with the fact that the list’s top 20 states are mostly deep “red” and its bottom 10 are almost all dark “blue,” might come as a surprise to education watchers who are familiar with more traditional assessments of education performance. But in the Heritage Foundation’s inaugural “Education Freedom Report Card,” the think tank is grading according to a different metric entirely: not things like average student funding, teacher salary or classroom size, but how easily state legislatures enable students to leave public schools; how lightly private schools and homeschooling are regulated; how active and welcome conservative parent-advocacy groups are; and how frequently or loudly those groups claim that schools are indoctrinating students….

In the category of education choice, Heritage’s primary focus is on education savings accounts(ESAs), a form of school voucher that allows parents to opt out of public schools and use a set amount of state funding (sometimes delivered via debit card) on almost any educational expenses they see fit. ESAs can be used towards charter schools, private schools, parochial schools and low-cost (and typically low-quality) “voucher schools,” as well as online schools, homeschooling expenses, unregulated “microschools” (where a group of parents pool resources to hire a private teacher) or tutoring. The report’s methodology also notes that the percentage of children in a state who attend these alternatives to public schools figures into its rankings, implying that families who choose traditional public schools are not considered examples of educational “freedom.” The “choice” category also awards points based on how non-public schools are regulated, docking states that require accreditation or the same level of testing mandated for public schools.

States can lose points if they have credentialed teachers and gain points if they let anyone without any credentials teach. They also lose points if they have good pension plans and unions. They gain points by having strong bans on “critical race theory” and gain points for teaching patriotic history.

What’s especially noteworthy about this report — which Heritage says it will release on an annual basis — is how closely most of its ranking criteria track with the right’s broader education agenda. Over the last few months, almost all the issues addressed in this report have been highlighted as key action items for conservative education reformers, from the promotion of ESAs, as a preferred pathway to universal school vouchers, to alternative teacher credentialing to the expansion of the anti-CRT movement, which now encompasses anything related to “diversity, equity and inclusion…”

Framing the report by invoking the libertarian economist [Milton] Friedman — who, over the course of his controversial career, proposed eliminating Social Security, the Food and Drug Administration, the licensing of doctors and more — is a telling choice. In a foundational 1955 essay, as Heritage notes, Friedman famously argued that “government-administered schooling” was incompatible with a freedom-loving society, and that public funding of education should be severed from public administration of it — which would end public education as the country had known it for generations…

“Friedman may have been an accomplished number-cruncher, but when it came to social issues, he was a crackpot,” said Carol Corbett Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education. He claimed that “vouchers ‘would solve all of the critical problems’ faced by schools,” from discipline, to busing to segregation, Burris continued. “He presented no evidence, just claims based on his disdain for any government regulation….”

By 1980, Friedman was declaring that vouchers were merely a useful waypoint on the road to true education freedom, which would include revoking compulsory education laws. In 2006, shortly before his death, Friedman told an ALEC audience that it would be “ideal” to “abolish the public school system and eliminate all the taxes that pay for it.”

For Heritage to use Friedman as its ideological lodestar, public education advocates observe, makes clear what the report values most in the state education systems it’s ranking….

“The fact that the Heritage Foundation ranks Arizona second in the country, when our schools are funded nearly last in the nation, only underscores the depraved lens with which they view the world,” said Beth Lewis, director of the advocacy group Save Our Schools Arizona, which is currently leading a citizen ballot referendumagainst the state’s new universal ESA law. “Heritage boasting about realizing Milton Friedman’s dream reveals the agenda — to abolish public schools and put every child on a voucher in segregated schools….”

“With this report,” added Burris, “the Heritage Foundation puts its values front and forward — that schooling should be a free-for-all marketplace where states spend the least possible on educating the future generation of Americans, with no regulations to preserve quality.” It’s no accident, Burris added, that Heritage’s top two states, Florida and Arizona, were ranked as the worst on the Network for Public Education’s own report card this year.

Perhaps you thought the voucher fight was over in Arizona in 2018 when voters rejected vouchers by a decisive margin of 65-35%.

But no, the clear and overwhelming decision of the state’s voters did not deter the Christofascists who are determined to destroy public schools by transferring funding away from them to any form of non public schooling, be it religious, private, homeschooling or a business run by a fraudster.

Governor Doug Ducey signed a law creating a universal voucher plan on July 6. The new law will subtract $1 billion from the state’s public schools.

SOS Arizona is once again leading the fight against universal vouchers, led by Governor Ducey and championed by the Republican legislators. The dark money behind the voucher campaign comes from the usual suspects: the Koch machine and the Betsy DeVos combine.

If Save Our Schools Arizona and its supporters can secure 118,823 valid signatures before September 24, the voucher expansion law will be placed on hold until November 2024, when voters get a chance to express their views, as they did in 2018.

The stakes could not be higher – this is a referendum to decide the future of education in Arizona and across the nation.

You can see more about the SOS Arizona signature drive here: teamsosarizona.com.

Beth Lewis, the director of SOS Arizona, wrote to provide the context for the battle over vouchers:

Universal voucher expansion is the KEY issue driving right-wing politics in the US, and hardly anyone is talking about the well-moneyed, dangerous forces driving it. The AZ legislature’s myopic focus on pushing private school voucher expansion over any other piece of legislation for the past 6 years is enough to tell us that — not to mention the massive focus FOX News has placed on vouchers since the bill’s passage here in Arizona. Recently, Christopher Rufo admitted he created the CRT furor in order to advance universal vouchers.

We desperately need folks to plug in – people all over the state can get petitions at our hubs: teamsosarizona.com or sign up to volunteer: bit.ly/SVEvolunteer.

As you know, we are truly the tip of the spear when it comes to privatization. Betsy DeVos’ American Federation for Children is mobilizing (somewhat ineffectively) against our efforts, and the battle lines are drawn. It is evident that universal voucher expansion will become a pattern across the US, as Republican Governors are all declaring that every red state should adopt this policy. We have seen the dangers of private school vouchers first-hand here in Arizona, and our public school system has been starved in order to give credence to those who wish to privatize our public education system.

Charlie Kirk is partnering with an incredibly rightwing Evangelical church (Dream City Church) to open Turning Point Academies across Arizona. Here is the June article from Newsweek describing their plans to proliferate campuses across AZ and then the nation. It is no coincidence this plan was announced the same month the AZ state legislature passed universal vouchers.

Kirk recently spoke at Freedom Night hosted by Dream City Church, and this expose in the AZ Republic shows the hateful ideology against LGBTQ and trans youth Kirk and the Church spread. It’s terrifying – and infuriating to think this is where our taxpayer dollars are headed.

It is abundantly clear that special interests who favor extremist Christian Nationalism are driving the bus on these issues – and it makes sense. Private school vouchers are the perfect solution for building a long-term, endlessly replenishing base of voters who also favor Christian Nationalism.

We only have 42 more days to collect the signatures to put this bill on the 2024 ballot. We expect massive legal battles, as dark money will pour in and the usual suspects will challenge every signature. We are confident we will push back successfully and get the measure on the ballot – we must, as goes Arizona, so goes the nation.

You can help these fearless, intrepid volunteers by sending a contribution to: sosarizona.org/donate.

Tom Ultican, retired teacher of advanced mathematics and physics in California, is now a significant chronicler of the Destroy Public Education movement. He attended the recent national conference of the Network for Public Education in Philadelphia and recapitulates the excitement we shared at being in person after a 2-year hiatus.

After every conference, attendees say, “This was the best one yet.” They enjoy meeting people who are doing the same work to fight privatization of their public schools. By the end of the conference, attendees say they feel energized, hopeful, and happy to know that they are not alone.

I urge you to read Tom’s post. You will get a sense of the embarrassment of riches available to attendees.

I should add that the Nebraska Save Our Schools group shared the Phyllis Bush Award for Grassroots Activism. Nebraska is one of the few states that has managed to protect its public schools and keep out both charters and vouchers, despite being a Red State.

The Pastors for Texas Children, a co-winner of the award, has repeatedly blocked vouchers in the Texas Legislature and has consistently fought for funding for public schools. PTC has opened chapters in other Red states, where they mobilize clergy to support public schools.

A high point for me was interviewing “Little Stevie” Van Zandt, a legendary rock star and actor (“The Sopranos”), who is dedicated to getting the arts into schools, not as an extra, but across the curriculum. we had a wonderful conversation. He has funded lesson plans based on rock and roll, available free at his website TeachRock.

All of the general sessions were taped. I will post them when they become available.

Mercedes Schneider describes a new consulting team that is selling its services to states and districts. Most of its partners are protégés of Jeb Bush and learned his strategies of high-stakes testing, school choice, test-based accountability, and harsh treatment of teachers.

She writes:

Need help with your public or private business venture? Well, NY- and DC-based Ridge-Lane Limited Partners (LP) offers “venture development at the apex of public and private sector…”

Schneider reviews the bios of the firm’s principal actors, which are not reassuring.

She writes:

So, if you want to dip into some of this Ridge-Lane LP K12 “significant experience” (not in the classroom, mind you, but in Jeb Bush reforms, such as school grading, and Common Core, and PARCC, and pension funneling), then get your (or the taxpayer’s) proverbial checkbook ready so that these once state-ed superintendents can spin an income advising you out of those edu-dollars.

The Boss of bosses

Tom Ultican, retired teacher of advanced mathematics and physics, is an expert on the “Destroy Public Education” movement. In this post, he explores the oligarch money behind The City Fund and the cities it has targeted for privatization of their public schools.

He writes:

Born in 2018, The City Fund (TCF) is a concentration of oligarch wealth crushing democracy and privatizing the commons. John Arnold (infamous ENRON energy trader) and Reed Hastings (Netflix CEO and former California Charter Schools Association board member) claimed to be investing $100 million each to establish TCF. Their July 2018 announcement was delivered on Neerav Kingsland’s blog “Relinquishment” which recently started requiring approval to access.

The TCF goal is to implement the portfolio school management model into 40 cities by 2028. At present TCF says it is “serving” 14 cities: Oakland, Ca; Stockton, Ca; Denver, Co; Camden, NJ; Washington, DC: Memphis, Tenn; Nashville, Tenn; New Orleans, La; Indianapolis, Ind.; Atlanta, Ga; Fort Worth, Tx; San Antonio, Tx; Baton Rouge, La; and Newark, NJ.

The operating structure of the fund is modeled after a law firm. Six of the fourteen founding members are lawyers. They constitute the core of the team being paid to execute the oligarch financed attack on public education….

TCF has spent heavily to develop a local ground game in the communities of targeted cities. On their web site, they provide a list of major grants made by 12/31/2019; defining major grants as being more than $200,000. Many of these grants are to other privatization focused organizations like TFA and Chiefs for Change, but most of them are for developing local organizations like the $5,500,000 to Opportunity Trust in Saint Louis another TFA related business. The TFA developed asset, founder and CEO Eric Scroggins, worked in various leadership positions at TFA for 14 years. Table-1 below lists this nationwide spending.

In many ways, The Mind Trust in Indianapolis, Indiana was the model for this kind of development. A 2016 articlefrom the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) which is quite school privatization friendly covers its development from the 2006 founding by Democratic Mayor Bart Peterson and his right hand man David Harris until 2016. PPI noted,

“The Mind Trust convinced Teach For America (TFA), The New Teacher Project (now TNTP), and Stand for Children to come to Indianapolis, in part by raising money for them. Since then TFA has brought in more than 500 teachers and 39 school leaders (the latter through its Indianapolis Principal Fellowship); TNTP’s Indianapolis Teaching Fellows Program has trained 498 teachers; and Stand for Children has worked to engage the community, to educate parents about school reform, and to spearhead fundraising for school board candidates.”

The Mind Trust became a successful example of implementing all of the important strategies for privatizing public schools. As a result, the Indianapolis Public School system is the second most privatized system in America with over 60% of its students attending schools no longer controlled by the elected school board.

Stand for Children which the PPI referenced is almost entirely about funneling dark money into local school board races. These nationwide efforts are now being bolstered by the political action organization staffers at TCF created, Public School Allies. Public School Allies was founded as a 501 C4 organization meaning it can contribute to politicians; however contributions to it are not tax exempt.

Billionaire funded organizations like Public School Allies can overwhelm local elections. For example, in 2019 they provided $80,000 to the independent expenditure committeeCampaign for Great Camden Schools. In the first school board election since the 2013 state takeover of Camden’s public schools, the three oligarch supported candidates won with vote totals of 1208, 1283 and 1455 votes.

Gary Borden was the Executive Directorof the California Charter School Association 501 C4 organization before he became a Partner at TCF. Now he is the director of Public School Allies.

A TCF Partner sits on the board of many of the local political organizations they fund. Kevin Huffman is on the board of The Memphis Education Fundand Atlanta’s RedefinED. Partner Ken Bubp is on the board of New Schools for Baton Rouge. Gary Borden is on the board of The Mind Trust. He replaced David Harris who appears to have resigned from TCF. Harris was also on the board of San Antonio’s City Education Partners. Unfortunately, their new web page no longer lists the board members.

Ultican goes on to describe the philosophy of The City Fund and its spin-offs: “…democracy is bad and privatization is good.”

Modern “school choice” ideology promoted by many white billionaires is little different from the strategies of southern segregationist in the 1950s and 60s. It still increases segregation and creates an “inherently unequal”and racist education system…

Ultican concludes:

The giant quantities of money concentrated in such few hands are destroying democracy. How is a citizen of an impoverished neighborhood who is opposed to having her public schools privatized going to politically compete with oligarchs from San Francisco or Seattle or Bentonville? Organizations like Public School Allies regularly come in and monetarily swamp any political opposition. That is not democracy.

I am convinced that John Arnold who is opposed to people receiving pensions sincerely believes charter schools are better than public schools. Likewise his partner, Reed Hastings, truly believes that elected school boards are bad. And Alice Walton really does think that vouchers are a good idea. However, I believe they are wrong and that the idea of offloading some of their tax burden is much more important to their beliefs than they will admit.

Witnessing the oligarch fueled attacks on the commons; I am convinced that billionaires need to be taxed out of existence if we are to have a healthy democracy of the people, by the people and for the people.

It may seem easy to criticize billionaires because of the First Amendment. It’s not. Several years ago, I wrote a post about John Arnold, mentioning the fact that he had been a high-flying energy trader at Enron. A few days later, I got notice from an Arnold spokesperson that he would sue me if I didn’t delete the post. Not wanting to fight a billionaire in court, I backed down. Good luck to Tom Ultican.