Archives for category: Unions

 

 

This is the most curious news story of the week, written by the GoLocalProv News Team.”*

It says that the fate of the reform of the Providence public schools lies in the hands of the Providence Teachers Union, led by Maribeth Calabro; she, the story warns, may be able to veto the new state commissioner’s  plans to transform the Providence public schools. It does not mention that the state commissioner taught for two years in New York City as a fast-tracked Teach for America teacher, has no prior experience as either a school principal or superintendent and has kept her plans to transform the district a deep secret.

But here is where the article goes strange.

In 2011, newly-elected Providence Mayor Angel Taveras fired all the teachers in Providence — it was a big and bold decision, and it was reversed within days.

Not too many politicians, especially Democrats. will take on teachers unions in this country and especially in the heavily union-based Rhode Island.

The action in 2011 drew national attention. In a statement, the American Federation of Teachers national President Randi Weingarten called the decision “stunning,” especially given that the union and city “have been working collaboratively on a groundbreaking, nationally recognized school transformation model.”

“We looked up ‘flexibility’ in the dictionary, and it does not mean destabilizing education for all students in Providence or taking away workers’ voice or rights,” said Weingarten, whose organization includes 1.5 million teachers and staff. “Mass firings, whether in one school or an entire district, are not fiscally or educationally sound.”

Well, the teachers union claim that Providence Schools were a ‘transformational model’ did not prove to be correct. Providence Schools are considered to be among the worst in America.

Infante-Green has said she believes she has the power to “break contracts.” 

The News Team seems to believe that firing all the teachers in the district is a “big and bold” idea that is worth a try. The mayor wanted to do it in 2011, but the union got in his way.

Apparently the News Team wants the state commissioner to fire all the teachers now and is egging her on to do so.

Exactly how will that improve the district?

Exactly how will that affect morale?

Who will want to teach in a district where teachers are disposable, like tissues?

Will Teach for America supply the new teachers after the existing workforce has been fired? Will they agree to stay longer than two years?

Where is the evidence that firing all the teachers is good for students?

*The original version of this post misattributed the article to the Providence Journal, which is owned by Gatehouse Media.

 

Jennifer Berkshire writes in The Nation about the quandary of Democratic candidates. For years, charter schools had bipartisan support. Clinton and Obama both supported charter schools, and joined with Republicans to expand the federal Charter Schools Program, which is now the single biggest source of funding for charter schools at $440 million annually (the second biggest source is the Walton Family Foundation).

Then came the Trump administration and Betsy DeVos, with their full-throated advocacy for school choice, including vouchers. In red states like Ohio, voucher programs are exploding, and Democrats are pushing back against school choice. They are also pushing back against charter schools, as we saw in Kentucky and Virginia, where pro-public education governors were elected.

Meanwhile, the current crop of Democratic candidates are weaving and bobbing. Sanders and Warren have come out against charter schools and privatization. Other candidates are trying to thread the needle, not fully rejecting charter schools, but opposing “for-profit” charter schools (which are legal only in Arizona, but are found in almost every state with charters that are managed by for-profit EMO managers).

Berkshire begins:

When seven of the Democratic presidential candidates descended on Pittsburgh recently for a day-long forum on public education, one of Pennsylvania’s unlikeliest new political stars was on hand to greet them. Working Families Party candidate Kendra Brooks, a black single mom from North Philly, won an at-large seat on the Philadelphia City Council this fall, stunning the political establishment. At the heart of Brooks’s insurgent campaign was her resistance to Philadelphia’s two-decade-long experiment with school privatization, including the explosion of charter schools and the mass closure of neighborhood schools. “If we as community members don’t commit to this public institution that we fought so hard for generations ago, we’re going to lose control of it,” says Brooks.

Her message resonated with Philly’s voters, and thrilled the audience of teachers and activists who were on hand in Pittsburgh to hear a long list of presidential hopefuls weigh in on the future of the country’s schools. But just outside of the convention center, on a rain-slicked plaza, the resistance to the Democrats’ leftward swing on education was on vivid display. Over 100 charter school parents, part of the same school choice network that disrupted an Elizabeth Warren campaign event last month, came armed with a message of their own: Black Democrats support charter schools.

Welcome to the Democrats’ school choice wars. For the last three decades, charter schools have attracted bipartisan love, amassing an unlikely—and unwieldy—amalgam of supporters along the way: GOP free marketeers, civil rights advocates, ‘third way’ Democrats, and hedge fund billionaires. But in an era of fierce political partisanship, that coalition is now unraveling.

Progressive Democrats recognize that charters are a step towards vouchers and are fully a part of the DeVos crusade to eliminate public schools. We will watch to see what happens to the other candidates.

And we will also watch as DeVos hands out yet another $440 million to corporate charter chains, charter advocacy organizations, and even to states that don’t want the money (see New Hampshire and Michigan, both of which said they did not want more money for charter schools).

We now know that the core constituency for charters and vouchers are Wall Street financiers, hedge fund managers, billionaires, libertarians, right-wingers, ALEC, and the far-right. Where do Democrats fit into this coalition?

 

Jesse Sharkey is president of the Chicago Teachers Union.

 

Diane-

Last week, schools across the country sat through the most recent episode of a show that jumped the shark years ago: “Test Score Blues.” This particular episode featured the release of Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) scores showing that the U.S. wasn’t at the top (again) of national rankings. Of course, the test itself doesn’t matter. The performative outrage that follows is the main event, headlined by predictable hand-wringing editorials about how schools need to do better.

Those editorials don’t address the massive increase in student poverty across the country, or discuss any history since the Coleman Report in 1966 showed that poverty and segregation have horrific negative impacts. They also don’t examine the more recent history of constant educational social experiments in places like Englewood’s Hope High School, which Chicago Public Schools plans to close after years of neglect.

CPS has, in fact, been ground zero for testing mania. The district labels schools according to those tests via the School Quality Rating Policy (SQRP), the so-called standard of school comparisons that is the basis for principal evaluations and is two-thirds based on test scores in elementary schools. Poverty isn’t included. A school’s suite of art offerings isn’t included. A school’s curriculum, debate program or robotics team isn’t included. Faulty school “quality” metrics like the SQRP reinforce continued tests through perverse incentives that legitimize gaming of the system to goose test scores, but lose focus on things that matter.

It’s clear why teachers across the country have gone on strike after strike after strike, and that’s to save one of our country’s hallmark institutions: public education. The way forward is to invest in public education. Ensure that schools have sufficient revenue and distribute it to those most in need; ensure that every school has a social worker and a nurse; ensure that students with special needs have appropriate staff to meet those needs; ensure that class sizes are developmentally appropriate; and ensure that students have arts curriculum and sports and other extracurricular programs that teach creativity and collaboration.

Teaching to the test does not work. Well-rounded curriculum, hands-on experiential learning, proper nutrition and exercise, and positive and loving schools do work, but they aren’t counted so they don’t count, according to CPS. The district instead looks to SQRP, which relies on metrics like test scores, attendance and school culture surveys that directly harm our most vulnerable students—including students in poverty, students in unstable housing arrangements, students with disabilities and students learning English as a second language.

The fact that test scores are stagnant, or growing in some places, is incredible given that students—especially those in Chicago—come to school with more challenges: language, trauma, malnutrition, and a lack of physical and mental health care. We accept sports teams that intentionally lose so they can improve in the future, but schools that give their all for students in the face of great obstacles are punished for not churning out the same student “product” as schools with fewer challenges. This is backwards, and presents an obstacle to school districts making better decisions.

Our union will continue to push the district to abolish the SQRP system, and abolish all measures that have adverse affects on students in high-poverty school communities, special education students, homeless students and refugee/recent immigrant students.

In the end, why does any of this matter? How does an analysis of our PISA scores explain anything? Why is a test score the barometer as opposed to the elimination of illiteracy and poverty, eradication of communicable diseases, and an end to sexual and physical violence?What is this country really doing to help lower-achieving students?

Educators have the answers. Fortunately, for those who get tired of the same old tropes, we are actually good at facilitating learning, and many people—from parents to presidential candidates—are joining us in standing up for what truly matters.

In solidarity,


Jesse Sharkey
CTU President

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Steven Singer participated in the Public Education Forum in Pittsburgh, where the leading Democratic candidates (and a few not-leading candidates) spoke to an audience of teachers, members of civil rights groups, and teacher unionists.

These are his ten take-aways from the day. 

A few highlights:

 

The fact that it happened at all is almost miraculous.

 

Who would have thought Presidential hopefuls would care enough about public schools to address education issues and answer our questions?

 

Who would have thought it would be broadcast live on TV and the Internet?

 

And – come to think of it – who would have EVER thought it would happen in my hometown of Pittsburgh!?
But it did.

 

I was there – along with about 1,500 other education activists, stakeholders and public school warriors from around the country.

 

It was an amazing day which I will never forget.

 

Perhaps the best part was getting to see so many amazing people in one place – and I’m not talking about the candidates.

 

There were members of the Badass Teachers Association, the Network for Public Education, Journey for Justice, One Pennsylvania, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, and so many more!

 

I wish I could bottle up that feeling of commitment to our children and hope in the future…

 

Here’s my top 10 most important lessons:

 

1) Charter School Support is Weak

 

When the forum was announced, Jeanne Allen of the Center for Education Reform wrote a blistering memoabout how the charter school community would not put up with politicians listening to constituents critical of their industry. Allen is a far right Republican with close ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) who even used Donald Trump’s public relations firm to publicize her protest. But when we got to the forum, all it amounted to were a dozen folks with matching yellow signs trudging through the rainwho didn’t even stay for the duration of the forum. YAWN! Silly school privatizers, that’s not how you protest!

 

2) Michael Bennet Doesn’t Understand Much About Public Education

 

The Colorado Senator and former school superintendent really doesn’t get a lot of the important issues – even when they intersect his life. As superintendent, he enacted a merit pay initiative for teachers that resulted in a teachers strike. He still doesn’t comprehend why this was a bad idea – that tying teachers salaries to student test scores makes for educators who only teach to the test, that it demands teachers be responsible for things beyond their control, etc. Moreover, he thinks there’s a difference between public and private charter schools – there isn’t. They’re all bankrolled by tax dollars and can be privately operated.

 

But I suppose that doesn’t matter so much because few people know who Michael Bennet is anyway.

 

3) Pete Buttigeig is Too Smart Not to Understand Education – Unless He’s Paid Not to Understand

 

Mayor Pete came off as a very well spoken and intelligent guy. But he also seemed about as credible as wet tissue. He said a bunch of wrongheaded things. For instance, he said that “separate has never, ever been equal,” but he supports charter schools. Separate but equal is their business model.

 

It’s the kind of misunderstanding that only happens on purpose, and it’s not hard to see why. He’s taken so much money from anti-education billionaires like Netflix Founder Reed Hastings, no one else can trust him. How are we supposed to think he works for us when his salary comes from the super rich? You never recover from ignorance when it’s your job to be ignorant.

 

Read the rest of his post to see what he wrote about Warren, Sanders, Steyer, Klobuchar, and Biden.

 

 

 

Hats off to Randi Weingarten and Lily Eskelsen Garcia for organizing today’s MSNBC Public Education Forum!

It was a wonderful event, and it was thrilling to see all of the major Democratic candidates competing to win the support of America’s millions of teachers, vowing their love for teachers and their dedication to public schools.

Best of all was that they all recognized that the United States has been underinvesting in education for years, and they pledged to reverse that policy.

It was wonderful to hear the candidates speak about the importance of public education.

It was good to hear Joe Biden attack standardized testing (he forgot all about Race to the Top, as did everyone else).

I was disappointed that Rehema Ellis of NBC asked almost every candidate about NAEP scores, distorting what they meant. She said that only 1/3 of American students are “proficient” in reading, which is true, but NAEP proficiency is not grade level, it represents mastery. It would be wonderful if every student reached mastery, but that has never happened. As long as she threw it out there, she should have followed it up (or candidates should have followed up) by saying, “Doesn’t this statistic show the failure of No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and Common Core? Doesn’t it show that two decades of federally mandated reforms have failed? Where do we go from here?”

But the follow-up never happened.

What did happen, though, was that every candidate vied to demonstrate their love for public schools and for teachers and their determination to establish equal opportunity and excellent schools for all.

This was a wonderful balm for the soul after years of nay-saying, nitpicking, and teacher-bashing.

No teacher-bashing today.

Just teacher love.

Respect for the mission of public schools.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

And it sounded wonderful.

 

On November 26, the New York Times published an article that had this headline: ‘Minority Voters Chafe As Democratic Candidates Abandon Charter Schools.’

The point of the article was that many black and Latino families are very disappointed that all the Democratic candidates have turned their backs on charter schools, excepting Cory Booker, currently polling around 1-2%. The article was especially critical of Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who have, as the article put it, “vowed to curb charter school growth.”

The article implied that the shift was due to the candidates’ pursuit of the support of the teachers’ unions, and charter schools are mostly non-union. Thus, if you want the union vote, you oppose non-union charters. (In my experience, neither the AFT nor the NEA is anti-charter, since they seek to organize charters to join their unions and have had some modest success; still, about 90% of charters are non-union.)

The article was prompted by an organized disruption of a speech in Atlanta by Elizabeth Warren, who was talking about a washerwomen’s strike in Atlanta in 1881, led by black women. The disruption was led by Howard Fuller, who, as the article notes, has received many millions from rightwing foundations, not only the Waltons but the Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee, to sell vouchers and charters to black families.

Not until paragraph 25 does the article mention that the national NAACP, the nation’s largest organization representing black families, called for a charter moratorium in 2016. That fact alone should raise the question of how representative the protestors are.

I wrote this post about the article. The gist of my complaint was that the Times’ article gave the impression that black and Latino families are clamoring for more charters, when in reality there are many cities in which black and Hispanic families are protesting the destruction of their public schools and the loss of democratic control of their schools.

I questioned why the article relied on a five-year-old press release from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools as evidence for its claim that the “wait list” for charter schools was in the “hundreds of thousands.” Actually, the 2014 press release from the charter advocacy group said the “wait list” topped one million students. My comment was that “wait lists” have never been audited or verified and that a claim by a lobbying group is not evidence.

I added to my post a commentary by Robert Kuttner, the editor of the American Prospect,  who was also critical of the article.

Both Kuttner and I heard from a reporter from the New York Times. In the response posted below, he acknowledges he made an error in citing poll data in the article, without reading the underlying poll.

I heard from one of the writers of the Times article. She said my post had many inaccuracies. I invited her to write a response and promised I would post it in full. I pleaded with her to identify any inaccuracies in my post and said I would issue a correction. She did not send a response that I could post nor a list of my “inaccuracies.”

The Times posted an article last July about the growing backlash against charter schools. But I do not think the Times has exhausted the question of why the charter “movement” is in decline.  It would surely be interesting if the Times wrote a story about why the NAACP took a strong stand against charter expansion, despite the funding behind charters. Or why Black Lives Matter opposes privatization and supports democratic control of schools. Or why black families in Little Rock, Chicago, Houston, and other cities are fighting charter expansion. None of those families are funded by the Waltons, Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Charles Koch, or Michael Bloomberg, so they don’t organize buses to take hundreds or thousands of people to demonstrations.

The Times should take note of the fact that white Southern Republicans have made the charter issue their own, and they are using it to recreate segregated schools. Indeed, the Republican party has made charter schools and vouchers the centerpiece of their education agenda, and Democrats in most state legislatures have resisted that agenda and support public schools. There is also the fact that DeVos and Trump are pushing charters and school choice even as they dismantle civil rights protections.

I wish the Times had noticed a court decision in Mississippi a few months ago that upheld the right of the state to take tax money away from the predominantly black public schools of Jackson, Mississippi (which are 96-97% black), and give it to charter schools authorized by the state, not the district. They might note that the sole black justice on the Mississippi Supreme Court, Justice Leslie King, dissented from that decision. The district, under black leadership, fought that decision and lost. The black parents of Jackson, Mississippi, are fighting for adequate funding of their public schools, while the white Republicans in state government are imposing charter schools.

In Justice Leslie King’s dissenting opinion, which Justice James Kitchens joined, he wrote “This Court should not be a rubber stamp for Legislative policies it agrees with when those policies are unconstitutional.”

Public school districts in Mississippi receive local funding from ad valorem tax receipts. When a student enrolls in a charter school, which is a free public school, money that would have gone to the district follows the student to the charter school instead.

My view is that we need a great public school in every neighborhood, with experienced teachers, a full curriculum, a vibrant arts program, a nurse, and all the resources they need for the students they enroll. I think that charter schools should be authorized by districts to meet their needs and supervised by district officials to be sure that there is full transparency and accountability for the academic program, the discipline policies, and the finances. Charter schools should complement public schools, not compete with them or supplant them.

Here is Robert Kuttner’s second commentary on the article:

americanprospect

 

DECEMBER 2, 2019

Kuttner on TAP

Charter Schools and the Times: a Correction and Further Reflections. I made an error in my On Tap post last week on the New York Times feature piece on black public opinion and charter schools.

My post criticized the Times for publishing a page-one story with an exaggerated headline, “Minority Voters Feel Betrayed Over Schools.”

The Times piece cited a poll showing black support for charter schools at 47 percent. My mistake was to infer from this figure that black support and opposition were about equally divided. As one of the story’s authors pointed out in an email, the actual poll showed support at 47 percent, opposition at 29 percent, and no opinion or similar for the rest.

That 29 percent opposed figure was not mentioned in the Times piece. Nonetheless, I should have pursued the underlying poll and reported it, and not just made assumptions. I regret the error.

That said, polling results vary widely depending on the wording and framing of the question, the sponsor of the poll, and the context. For instance, a poll by the Public Policy Institute of California, in a state that has more charters than any other, reverses the finding of the Education Next poll cited by the Times. In California, blacks, with just 36 percent support, were far less likely to support charters than whites.

One of the two polls that the Times linked to used the phrase “public charter schools.” Most charter schools are public only in their taxpayer funding; their actual accountability to public systems varies widely. Many are for-profit, or nominally nonprofit but managed by for-profit management companies.

Another poll, which my post cited, by Peter Hart Associates (for the American Federation of Teachers), finds that black parents are strongly opposed to the idea of reducing funds for public schools and redirecting them to charters, which is often the practical impact of increased spending on charters. As this study shows, the practical effect of charters, in a climate of fiscal scarcity, is often precisely to divert funds from public schools.

I owe our readers a much deeper look at the charter school controversy, as well as error-free reading of polls. Both will be forthcoming. ~ ROBERT KUTTNER

Robert Kuttners new book is The Stakes: 2020 and the Survival of American Democracy.

Follow Robert Kuttner on Twitter

Angie Sullivan regularly writes blast emails to every member of the state legislature and to the state’s journalists. Here is her latest:

CCEA members voted at a General Meeting yesterday to raise dues.  
Those teacher union dues will be used to campaign for a billion dollars.  
Yes, billion. 
Yes, dollars.  
We need to think big to win big.  
Teachers need those funds to fund class-size reduction.   We need additional teachers.   We need additional classrooms. 
Nevada teachers have the largest class-sizes in the nation.  
It is not reasonable to keep piling more and more students into small spaces.  
Our eye is on the 2021 Nevada Legislative Session.  We will get a billion dollars for kids.   
We demand political will to take care of kids.  
Here we come. 
#Fight4Kids #Billion4Kids
#NVed #NVTeach #Nevada #Vegas
The Teacher MotherJonesing,
Angie. 

This is one reason why unions are valuable for teachers and public schools. Unions have the resources to go to the courts to fight capricious actions, like the pending takeover of the Houston Independent School District based on the low test scores of one school.

 

HFT_release_VOCUS 2018 new.jpg

For Immediate Release
November 19, 2019

 

CONTACT:
Zeph Capo
713-670-4348

Zcapo@hft2415.org
   
HFT Files Federal Lawsuit over Proposed State Takeover of School District
HOUSTON—The Houston Federation of Teachers filed a federal lawsuit in Austin today, stating the proposed state takeover of the Houston Independent School District is unconstitutional under U.S. and Texas law because it disenfranchises and discriminates against people based on race and national origin.   

Gov. Greg Abbott and Education Commissioner Mike Morath claim the state takeover of the entire Houston school district, which earned an 88 (out of 100) academic accountability rating, was triggered due to one chronically failing school, Wheatley High School, which is attended by predominantly black and brown students. The takeover decision was made just days after voters elected new school board members in Houston, who would not be able to take their seats under the takeover, effectively silencing the democratic electoral process.

“The state’s action to take over the HISD is flagrantly unconstitutional and has nothing to do with giving kids a strong public education,” said Zeph Capo, president of HFT and Texas AFT.

“Gov. Abbott and Education Commissioner Mike Morath will do just about anything to give private charter operators a chance to get their hands on our schools—even violate the state and U.S. constitutions. We can’t allow our government officials to unconstitutionally marginalize black and brown children, deny them their right to a quality public education, or defy the voice of voters who have just elected new school board members,” he said.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in Austin.

The suit, which seeks injunctive relief, alleges that the proposed takeover violates the 14th and 15th amendments of the U.S. Constitution because it disenfranchises minority voters and discriminates against the plaintiffs (three educators, one of whom is a parent of children in the district) on the basis of race and national origin and deprives people, no matter their race, color or ethnicity, of participating in the political process or electing representatives of their own choice. Further, the suit states the proposed takeover violates Texas’ Equal Rights Amendment, which states: “Equality under the law shall not be denied or abridged because of sex, race, color, creed or national origin.”

The educator plaintiffs explained why they are participating in the lawsuit:

Jackie Anderson, a special education teacher at Ortiz Middle School, said the takeover would erase citizens’ legitimate votes. “Growing up, my parents instilled the value of civic responsibility. I voted for the first time with my mother. I was taught the value of my vote. Voting is something that you have an obligation to do. Everyone’s vote should count. My choice should be respected. To say that it doesn’t matter is a violation of my right as a citizen,” Anderson said.

Maxie Hollingsworth, a math teacher at Red Elementary and parent of HISD students, said her experience growing up in Little Rock, Ark., cemented her strong feelings about the sanctity of voting rights. “I was raised with the idea of the importance of equitable education and every person’s right to vote. It offends me to my core that people of privilege and power truly don’t care about communities of color and poor people. This takeover is a very targeted and intentional process and amounts to illegal disenfranchisement. It would take away my vote and everyone else’s who voted in the school board election. I can’t look at myself in the mirror and say this is OK. It’s not OK,” Hollingsworth said.

She added that she believes a takeover would result in fewer resources available to students and a greater turnover of educators. “All the progress HISD has made will all be for naught,” Hollingsworth said.

Daniel Santos, a social studies teacher at Navarro Middle School, said he became a naturalized citizen in 2008, when he voted for the first time in his life. “Through voting, I am holding policymakers accountable and making sure that minorities are not disenfranchised. I view the takeover of our recently elected school board as unconstitutional. It’s a serious violation of my civil rights that prevents me as a citizen from holding our policymakers accountable,” Santos said.

Following a state takeover, Santos predicted, “We will see market-based reforms that have failed to improve student achievement in other cities. We cannot let that happen.”

The HFT believes the state’s clear goal is to convert Houston’s public schools to privately operated charter schools, which the previously elected Houston school board had refused to do. However, Capo noted, several Houston charter schools are doing worse than Wheatley but are still being allowed to continue operating and are not being singled out in the takeover. Morath is justifying the takeover using a rule he enacted in 2018 that allows the Texas Education Agency to downgrade a school’s rating if it did not pass three of four measures, even if it would have passed otherwise. Wheatley had a passing 63 grade, or a D, but was curved down to a 59, or an F.

“The real shame is that the focus is on a scheme to charterize the district, not to get Wheatley the resources it needs to improve student achievement. Experience shows that charters do not produce the improvements their supporters claim,” Capo said.

 

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Watch these stirring videos that show the huge crowd of teachers and their allies amassed in Indianapolis in a demonstration for public education!

See the dramatic and inspiring gathering of #Red4Ed in Indiana!

After years of being mistreated by the Republican governor and legislature in the Hoosier State, teachers are rising up and saying “Enough is enough!”

#Red4Ed is on the march!

LilSis (also known as the Public Accountability Project) pays careful attention to the networks and money behind nefarious efforts to destroy the public sector.

In this report, LilSis describes the corporate backers of school privatization against whom Little Rock teachers went on strike. The money behind this network of interlinking organizations and individuals is the Walton family, whose wealth clocked in at $163 Billion (that’s Billion with a B) in 2018.

LilSis writes:

A major backer of the anti-union, pro-charter agenda in Arkansas is the Walton family, whose foundation is a huge funder of the school privatization infrastructure that exists across the state. In addition to the Waltons, corporate elites from Murphy Oil, the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, the Arkansas Democrat Gazetteand others are backers of the school privatization efforts. These corporate interests are close to Governor Hutchinson, who supports their agenda, and they have close ties to the state Board of Education. In addition, they are also interlocked with a host of lobbyists and academics that push their agenda…

The Waltons are major advocate of charter schools nationally, and they carry out their school privatization agenda through their Walton Family Foundation, which showers hundreds of millions on pro-charter groups and schools. The foundation claims it has invested a whopping $407 million into pushing charter schools since 1997.According to a recent report put out by the Arkansas Education Association, the Waltons pump millions into propping up the state’s school privatization infrastructure – or what the report calls the “Arkansas’s School Privatization Empire.” 

It’s not just that the Waltons give big money to a few groups – it’s also that these groups then distribute that money to other organizations, lobbyists, consultants, and academics, creating a vast network of billionaire-funded activity to attack unionized teachers and push charter schools. 

For example, the Walton family Foundation gave $350,000 to the Arkansans for Education Reform Foundation (AERF) in 2017 – around 80% of all the contributions the organization took in that year. 

The AERF board includes other powerful funders and advocates of school privatization in the state, such as Claiborne Deming, the former CEO of Murphy Oil, a big backer of charter schools in Arkansas; William Dillard III, part of the Dilliard family that owns the Dilliard’s department stores; and Walter Hussman, publisher of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the state’s flagship newspaper. Jim Walton is also on the board.

In addition to the $350,000 that the Walton donated to the AERF in 2017, Deming gave $60,000 and Dilliard III gave $10,000, while the National Christian Foundation gave $15,000, according the the group’s 2017 990 form.

AERF has in turn used the money it receives from the Walton billionaire fortune and other Arkansas elites to fund other school privatization efforts. For example, it gave $115,000 to Arkansas Learns, which describesitself as “the Voice of Business for excellent education options – including industry-relevant career pathways…” The CEO of Arkansas Learns, Gary Newton, is also the Executive Director of the AERF (for which he earned $189,639 in compensation in 2017). 

In turn, Arkansas Learns has the same board members as AERF, and Randy Zook, the CEO of the Arkansas Chamber of Commerce, whose wife Dianne Zook is on the state Board of Education that decided to end recognition of the Little Rock teachers’ union, is also a board member. Dianne Zook is also the aunt of Gary Newton.

What a cozy and mutually beneficial arrangement: The Waltons have a lot of money to hand out to achieve their goal of privatizing public schools and breaking unions, and the recipients take the money and carry out the Waltons’ wishes.

Any time you see a group called “XXXXXXX for Education Reform,” you can be sure it is committed to charter schools, union-busting, and privatization, and the odds are high that there is Walton money behind it.

The Waltons have claimed credit for subsidizing one of every four charter schools in the nation.

LilSis creates wonderful graphical depictions of networks.

Here is the LilSis graphic of the Little Rock school privatization network.