Archives for category: Walton Foundation

The Walton Family Foundation is the fruit of the Walmart chain. It was created by the Waltons, one of the richest families in the world. The three senior members of the Walton family–Alice Walton, Jim Walton, and Rob Walton–have a collective net worth in excess of $150 billion. There is a younger generation of Waltons whose wealth is not included in that total. The Walton family increases its wealth by $4 million an hour, every hour of every day.

The Walton Foundation has a few causes in which it concentrates its giving. Reforming K-12 education is one of the major areas for giving.

The Walton Foundation is the biggest single private funder of charters schools and vouchers in the United States.

In 2018, it gave $210 million to a long list of grantees to promote its K-12 goals, especially privatization of public schools via charters and vouchers.

In the same year, it increased that giving by another $238.6 million, in a section of its website called “Special Projects,” many of which went to the same K-12 charters and vouchers, or advocacy for charters and vouchers.

I am leaving it to you to review the list of grants. What do you see that is interesting or surprising? Some years I read the entire list. Now I am asking you to do it and report back.

The only other source of funding at this scale is the U.S. Department of Education’s Charter Schools Program, which gave $440 million in 2018 to launch new charter schools, most of which went to large corporate charter chains like KIPP, IDEA, and Success Academy in New York City. The original federal program, created in 1994, was intended to launch start-up charters that needed a financial boost, not to build financial behemoths to replace public schools. Under DeVos, the CSP has become a juggernaut to disrupt communities and states, whether or not they want charters. New Hampshire, for example, got the largest single state grant of $46 million, and its Democratic-controlled legislature has thus far refused to accept the money, which would double the number of charters in the state and knock a huge hole in the financing of public schools.

 

 

Two of the best education bloggers in the nation weighed in on the nature and purpose of the new “National Parents Union,” which proudly announced that it would give parents’ “voice” in opposition to the teachers’ unions.

Peter Greene asks, “Do You Smell Astroturf?” 

He provides a detailed history of the well-established “ed reform” credentials of its founders, as well as a scathing letter by a parent who previously founded the New York City Parents Union, and found that she was pushed aside by the Walton-funded newcomers. He notes: I have heard the argument over and over and over again that philanthropist money and Walton and Gates and Broad and Jobs money is necessary to counterbalance the vast financial resources of the unions, but the union is a bb gun in a field of howitzers.

And quite by coincidence, Steven Singer wrote about the “National Parent Union” and issued an “Astroturf Alert: National Parents Union is Thinly Veiled Union Busting Backed by Billionaire Cash.” 

Actual classroom teachers, like Greene and Singer, upon whom actual schools depend for their survival, do not have a low opinion of teachers’ unions.

Singer begins:

How do you do something disgusting without hurting your image?

If you’re the Walton Family, you hide behind a mask.

That’s what their latest AstroTurf front group is – the so-called National Parents Union (NPU).

It’s a way to bust teachers unions, destroy public schools and profit off of students behind the guise of a friendly parents organization.

Oh, it’s all funded with oodles of cash from the Walton family and other billionairesbut they get to pretend to be nothing but supporters on the sidelines.

The people who bust unions before most of us have even had breakfast yet claim they have nothing to do with this anti-union movement. It is all the parents doing. The Walmart heirs just put up the money to let these parents live their dream of union free schools – as if schools where educators have no rights or intellectual freedom were somehow in the best interests of students.

In the world of ed reform (ed deform), billionaires must always wear masks, because parents and teachers don’t trust their motives. What are they after? What are they trying to do? What gives them the right to rearrange my local public school? Who elected them? Best to find a front group to carry their water for them. Or their spear.

 

 

 

 

Maurice Cunningham is a professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts who specializes in shining a bright light on Dark Money, the money insidiously inserted into political campaigns under false pretenses, where the donors try to hide their identity. In the instance described below, the identities of the donors are mostly known, so technically it is not Dark Money, but the purposes of the donors are hidden. The Waltons are part of the hard rightwing. They  oppose higher taxes, unions, or anything that might diminish their fortune of $150 billion. They advocate for vouchers and charters, never public schools. They employ one million low-wage workers. They have launched lawsuits to lower the property taxes of their Walmarts, which reduce state and local funding for public services. Their entry into Democratic politics is intended to boost conservative candidates who support their preference for low taxes on the richest. It’s actually a brilliant strategy, like DFER: the billionaires already own the Republican Party and benefit from its tax cuts and deregulation, time to use their money to gain influence in the Democratic Party too.

Cunningham writes:

Waltons Dive into Democratic Primaries Behind National Parents United

The Walton family, heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune, are trying to deal themselves in to Democratic primary politics. It isn’t any mystery why. Conservative billionaires feel gravely threatened by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Their vehicle is yet another new privatization front posing as a parents group, National Parents Union.

National Parents Union appears to be an umbrella for groups working in their states on privatization of public goods, primarily schools. It’s hard to tell since they haven’t published their membership list, just a claim that groups from all 50 states will meet in New Orleans. Since the headquarters is listed as Malden, MA and the co-founder is Massachusetts Parents United’s Keri Rodrigues Lorenzo, we can take that operation as representative. Here’s how I introduced Massachusetts Parents United: Old Win in an Empty Bottle last year: “Massachusetts Parents United claims to be ‘the independent voice of parents.’ But it’s entirely dependent on funding from the Walton Family’s (tax deductible) political operations.” Since then I’ve learned there are some other givers—two $100,000 checks in 2018, etc.— but the Waltons are still the chief underwriters, giving $366,000 in 2017 and $500,000 in 2018.

So we’ll await the list of member organizations but it is most likely they will be fronts for privatization interests funded by the Waltons, Eli Broad, and other billionaire privatizers. When I first wrote about NPU in Keri Rodrigues Goes Coastal with Plans for National Parents Union I wrote “Funding! There is nothing in it about who would be bankrolling this operation. There is a list of advisors (in formation) and wouldn’t some of them want to know who is funding such an ambitious proposal? Enough suspense: it will be the WalMart legatees.” In other words, this is the kind of faux Fortune 500 grassroots operation I wrote about in Massachusetts Parents United: Grassroots or AstroTurf?

The pitch Rodrigues made to the Waltons to fund NPU was calculated to activate the Walton check writing glands. It leaned heavily on positioning NPU as a voice in the Democratic Party primary season that would attack unions. Labor is anathema to the Waltons because it advocates for a livable wage and decent benefits (against the Wal-Mart business plan) and for public goods that require taxation of the rich and rich companies (see The Waltons: From Dark Money to Dark Store Theory, It’s All About Taxes).

To linger on the union question for a moment, how many corporations are big, powerful, and awful enough to get trashed by Human Rights Watch, as Wal-Mart was in Discounting Rights: Wal-Mart’s Violation of US Workers’ Rights to Freedom of Association.

One fascinating aspect of NPU’s corporate public debut has been its Right Wing Rollout. A PR firm sent out a press availability and in the past week NPU has been featured on SiriusXM Patriot (featuring Breitbart News Daily and Sean Hannity), the conservative Washington Examiner, and FoxNews. Not your typical progressive outlets but a good clue as to where the Waltons’ new operation has appeal.

In recent years the Waltons have also heavily backed Democrats for Education Reform, which has promoted itself as seeking school privatization as an “inside job” within the Democratic Party. There is evidence that younger Waltons are donating more to Democrats, as Leslie K. Finger and Sarah Reckhow wrote in Walmart Heirs Shift From Red to Purple: The Evolving Political Contributions of the Nation’s Richest Family. Partisan labels don’t matter as much as does the shared interest among the extremely wealthy to protect their incomes and wealth and to keep their public obligations (taxes) minimal, as Jeffrey A. Winters explains in Oligarchy.

So NPU is another extension of the Waltons effort to use various vehicles to protect the Waltons and increase what goes into their own bank accounts. This has already been evident during the Democratic primary season, as I wrote in Walton Family Political Front Disrupts Elizabeth Warren Speech. In that one I included a tweet by CNN’s Ryan Grim, who was covering the event: “So the nut of what happened tonight in ATL is that a pro-charter group funded by the Waltons protested a Warren speech about a pioneering union led by black women. And, bc it’s all so on the nose, Warren had been talking about corrupt systems are designed to exploit ppl in pain.”

At the end of the NPU media advisory there is this: “At the conclusion of the summit, delegates will vote in a straw poll assessing the education proposals and policies of the 2020 Presidential Candidates.” (bold in original). Bernie and Elizabeth, do not wait up late at night for a big puff of white smoke coming from the local Wal-Mart. This could be a big night for privatization champion Michael Bloomberg (any chance he’s among the NPU financial backers?).  I can’t wait for the endorsement advertisement.

Wal-Mart’s workplace practices include “a vociferous anti-unionism, embedded gender discrimination, compulsive cost cutting, and near-comprehensive control over workers and the workplace.”—Prof. Thomas Jensen Adams

[Full disclosure: as an educator in the UMass system, I am a union member. I write about dark money, not education.]

Michael Kohlhaas, the blogger who has used the California Public Records Act to obtain emails among charter leaders, the California Charter Schools Association, and their enablers, reveals here what happened when protestors shut down a charter board meeting last March, accusing the charter school of taking money from the nefarious Eli Broad and the Waltons. Broad and Walton have a shell takeover corporation deceptively titled “Great Public Schools Now,” whose goal is to turn public schools into privately managed charter schools. The leader of the Extera Charter School did not directly answer the question, but Kohlhaas answers it now. Yes, the charter did take money from the Waltons and Broad.

The public is getting wise to the deceptive tactics of the charter lobby. Public schools are accountable and transparent. Charter schools are not. Public schools are audited and overseen by public officials. Charter schools answer to no one but their self-selected private boards.

Kohlhaas writes:

So you probably heard about how activists from Centro CSO and the United Teachers of Los Angeles and Eastside Padres Unidos Contra la Privatizacion protested vigorously and shut down the March 19, 2019 meeting of the Extera Charter Conspiracy Board of Directors to express their opposition to Extera’s colonial co-location at Eastman Avenue Elementary School in Boyle Heights.

And one of the key exchanges was between a protester, whose name I don’t know, and self-proclaimed doctor and supreme Extera commander Jim Kennedy, and you can watch it here.1 The backstory is that Corri Ravare had been talking previously about how Extera was getting some money from famous Walton/Broad privatizing front organization Great Public Schools Now, which, as the protester notes, is extraordinarily revealing with respect to which team Extera plays for.2

The protester called Dr. Jim Kennedy out on this and he denied that they had taken any money from GPSN: “At this point we have not …” But the truth, as the protester said, is that Corri Ravare had already “said we pretty much have the money.” And the problem with this? Well, clearly, it is that “Great Public Schools Now have declared themselves an enemy of public education. Those are the people we have to work against because they are selling out our public schools to Eli Broad and the Walton Foundation.”

She’s absolutely right about that, of course, and Doctor Jim Kennedy seems to understand that, or at least to realize that Extera’s association with GPSN doesn’t look so good. No doubt this is why he went on to tell her straight out that “[Extera has] not yet accepted that money.” But, as you may already have guessed, Doctor JK is being extraordinarily deceptive here with his mumbled half-denials. In fact Extera had been actively pursuing money from GPSN since December 2018, four months before the date of this meeting.

And the money they were pursuing was not innocuous. Not meant for important things like supplies, textbooks, instructional materials, anything at all to be used to actually educate actual children. They were seeking money from GPSN’s charter school expansion funding program for a planning grant to support their continued colonial charter conspiracy expansion, this time into the majority-Latino Montebello Unified School District. In other words, the protester’s criticism was right on target.

Things are going badly for the charter industry when their mask of beneficence is stripped away and behind it are the same voracious billionaires, eager to strip democratic control away and privatize public schools.

If you believe that any genuine parent organization is funded by the Waltons, Eli Broad, and the City Fund (which was funded by the Reed Hastings, John Arnold, and other billionaires), please contact me at once, as I have a bridge in Brooklyn that I can sell you for a reasonable fee. Really! I’ll even print up a gen-u-wine bill of sale!

One of the leaders of the National Parents Union, Keri Rodrigues, runs the Massachusetts Parents Union, which was also bankrolled by the Waltons. Her group was one of the prominent voices demanding more charters in a state referendum in 2016, which was overwhelmingly defeated. The Waltons invested a few million in that referendum. Keri’s MPU reported revenues of $957,683 in 2018, half from the Waltons. Her salary at MPU, that grassroots parent group, is $172,500, according to Dark Money specialist Maurice Cunningham, a political science professor at U Mass. Just an average parent.

Many grassroots parents groups belong to the Network for Public Education. None of them have bank accounts with six figures or nearly seven figures. All are powered by volunteers.

New Orleans is an apt place for the big launch of NPU. It is the first (and thus far the only) school district that has eliminated all public schools and the teachers’ union. According to the latest reports, 49% of its highly segregated schools received a D or an F from the state. The selection of NOLA suggests the goal of this faux “parent union”: the elimination of public schools.

Here is an announcement of the organizing event of the new Walton-funded NPU:

 

NPU is launching on the streets of New Orleans (1/16-/18) with delegates from all 50 states with parents of color, low-income parents, special needs parents, single moms and dads, grandparents, formerly incarcerated parents, and parents in recovery. Led by Alma Marquez and Keri Rodrigues, National Parents Union co-founders, Ilyasah Shabazz, Community Organizer and daughter of Malcolm X and Sharif El Mekki, Black Male Educators for Social Justice. 

 

Keri is an education activist (and a Democrat) who is launching a new organization, the National Parents Union, which will heed the call to organize otherwise independent and uncoordinated parent organizing efforts into a national voice and movement to ensure teacher unions no longer have a stranglehold on the education system in America. She’s a former labor activist who plans to use the tactics that make unions so powerful and apply them to this movement led by parents.

 

MEDIA ADVISORY 
FOR PLANNING PURPOSES ONLY

Contact: NPU@mercuryllc.com 

 

THE REVOLUTION IS COMING… NATIONAL PARENTS UNION TO OFFICIALLY LAUNCH AT PARENT POWER 2020 IN NEW ORLEANS 

Kick-off summit will bring parent activists and organizations to New Orleans to define a national K-12 agenda and make education equity a reality for all children 

 

New Orleans, LA – The National Parents Union (NPU), an intersectional, parent-led organization, will hold its inaugural summit in New Orleans to advance education reform and define a new K-12 national agenda. 

Parent Power 2020 (January 16-18) will bring over 100 delegates and organizations from all 50 states for a series of skills-building workshops, campaign clinics and activations designed to provide parents with the tools and infrastructure to effect change in their own communities and exert greater influence on the national conservation around education reform.  Parent Power 2020 will feature several notable speakers, including keynotes from journalist and activist Felipe Luciano, and author and activistIlyasah Shabazz, the daughter of the late Malcom X. 

The summit will also include a Jazz Funeral through the French Quarter in New Orleans on January 17, to officially bury the status quo that has been plaguing education in America for decades and commemorate the dawn of a new day in our schools.

The convening will conclude with a vote and ratification of NPU’s Statement of Values that lays out the goals and objectives of parent activists ahead of the 2020 Presidential election. At the conclusion of the summit, delegates will vote in a straw poll assessing the education proposals and policies of the 2020 Presidential Candidates. 

 

Parent Power 2020 is open to press. Please contact Dan Bank npu@mercuryllc.com to register for credentials.    

 

Click here to learn more about NPU’s mission. 

                          

WHO: 

Featured speakers at Parent Power 2020 will include: 

·        Alma Marquez and Keri Rodrigues, National Parents Union co-founders

·        Ilyasah Shabazz, Community Organizer and daughter of Malcolm X

·        Antonio Villaraigosa, Former Mayor of Los Angeles 

·        Felipe Luciano, The Young Lords 

·        Colleen Cook, National Coalition for Public School Options 

·        Gerard Robinson, Center for Advancing Opportunity  

·        Sharif El Mekki, Black Male Educators for Social Justice 

 

WHEN: 

Parent Power 2020

January 16 –January 18, 2020

 

Jazz Funeral 

Friday, January 17

6:30pm-7:00pm local time

Additional details will be provided 

 

WHERE:

Parent Power 2020 will be held in New Orleans. The exact location will be shared during the registration process. 

 

About National Parents Union:

The National Parents Union is a network of parent organizations and grassroots activists across the country committed to improving the quality of life for children and families in the United States. NPU unites these organizations behind a common set of principles that put children and families at the center of education politics and policy. With delegates representing each of the 50 states, NPU disrupts the traditional role of parent voice in policy spaces and develops a new narrative that is inclusive of families from a wide variety of intersectional perspectives.

Uber-reformer John White announced that he is resigning as superintendent of Louisiana.

He has sterling disrupter credentials.

Teach for America. Broad Academy. Joel Klein’s inner circle. Briefly leader of New Orleans’ charter district.

Mercedes Schneider has the story here. She thinks the next state superintendent might actually be an experienced educator.

Under White’s leadership, Louisiana dropped to nearly the very bottom of NAEP.

Watch to see which disruption group or leader picks him up next: the Waltons? The City Fund? John Arnold? Charles Koch? Bill Gates? Jeb Bush?

 

 

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?

 

Matt Barnum and Gabrielle LaMarr LeMee wrote a provocative article  about the way that a private school rating agency rates schools and steers patents toward white affluent schools and away from schools where children of color predominate. Larry Cuban reposted the article on his blog.

GreatSchools ratings effectively penalize schools that serve largely low-income students and those serving largely black and Hispanic students, generally giving them significantly lower ratings than schools serving more affluent and more white and Asian students, a Chalkbeat analysis found.

And yet, according to GreatSchools’ own data, many schools serving low-income, black, and Hispanic populations are doing a good job helping students learn math and English. But those schools still face long odds of getting an above-average rating on GreatSchools — likely because their students are arriving far behind.

The result is a ubiquitous, privately run school ratings system that is steering people toward whiter, more affluent schools. A recent preliminary study found that as the site rolled out an earlier version of its ratings, areas with highly rated schools saw increases in home prices and rises in the number of white, Asian, and better-educated families. After three years, the study found, property values in those areas increased by nearly $7,000, making it more difficult for low-income families to buy into the areas.

Readers of this blog will not be surprised to learn that this rating service is funded in part by rightwing foundations that want to promote school choice and destroy neighborhood schools.  Most notable among the funders is the Walton Family Foundation, which despises public schools and eagerly promote charter schools and vouchers.

Ed Johnson, a close observer and frequent critic of the Atlanta public schools, writes here about the superintendent’s plans to adopt models developed by Eli Broad and the Waltons to transform the public schools into a business.

Johnson is a believer in the collaborative philosophy of W. Edwards Deming.

 

December 2019

Journey of Transformation: Atlanta schools to “buy” teachers by “price tag”

  • “Thinking about human beings as interchangeable commodities for sale, or abstract units of labor power, would lead merchants and planters to see human capital in much the same way that they saw animals.  And, by the time a young apprentice became a partner, he would feel ‘no more remorse in fitting out a ship for the purpose of trading in human flesh, than he would have done in sending her to catch whales or seals.’”
  • —Caitlin Rosenthal. Accounting for Slavery: Masters and Management. Kindle Edition, location 1153.
Last month, Atlanta superintendent Meria Carstarphen, Ed.D., gave a presentation to the Atlanta Board of Education Budget Commission on FY 2021 budgeting for what she calls “Student Success Funding,” or SSF.  The Budget Commission is a standing committee of the Board that meets monthly.

At one point during the presentation, Dr. Carstarphen invited the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the Atlanta Public Schools system (APS) to more adequately explain a matter that see, Dr. Carstarphen, suggested to enquiring commission members she had already explained well enough (my insertions):

  • (50:30-51:00) “… the way the schools purchase back their positions … we allocate the dollars and they buy their teachers back.  The price tag we put on those teachers is an average salary … and all schools buy back [teachers] at that rate.  What we know, what we’ve seen is that the schools that have the highest needs … have teachers that have either less experience or they don’t have the high degrees and, for whatever reason, they are ‘cheaper.’  … So what we would like to propose is … allowing those schools to buy their positions back at the actual average [value of the price tags we put on teachers] for their school.”
Despite the Board’s decision to non-renew her employment contract beyond the current school year, Carstarphen, by her presentation, makes clear she continues to advance her Journey of Transformation of APS.

When finished—and it can be finished, we must now understand—the journey will have brought APS to a permanent state of being “run like a business” and, in that state,  destroyed as the democratically governed public good is it supposed to be.

Thus the word “finish” must now be understood as signifying something real and consequential.  To continue thinking the word means something rhetorical or non-specific poses a grave risk to ever reclaiming and restoring APS as the public good it is supposed to be.

Entangled actors

In their joint report, The Strategic CFO: A Guide for School Districts, billionaire Eli Broad’s The Broad Center and Education Resource Strategies (ERS) lay out the essence of the matter as related to SSF.

So, too, does the partnership of ERS and APS, in the joint presentation, Student Success Funding: [APS] A District in Transformation.

Moreover, the APS CFO talks about student-based budgeting in the ERS Q&A, Student-Based Budgeting Takes Root in Atlanta.

ERS is a consultancy that says it helps clients to maximize—operative word, “maximize”—usage of capital resources, including “human capital.”  But as the Taguchi Loss Function teaches, maximal usage of a resource that is a system rapidly drives down the value and usefulness of the resource to point of it becoming a great source of waste.  In what follows, remain mindful that an individual “human capital” (e.g., an individual teacher) is a system.

And then there is the Walton Family Foundation’s 2017 grant of $350,000 to APS “To support research related to student[-]based budgeting” (my emphasis).  Research?  For what purpose, as related to student-based budgeting?  Maybe to establish the effectiveness of student-based budgeting and to use APS as a guinea pig in experiments to do that?  Was not the effectiveness of student-based budgeting a given?  Again, the APS CFO talks about student-based budgeting in the ERS Q&A noted above.

Thus we have Eli Broad, a private actor, in partnership with ERS, a private actor.  And we have ERS, a private actor, in partnership with APS Leadership, a public actor.  And we have APS Leadership, a public actor, in partnership with the Waltons and Eli Broad, both private actors.  This then means the public cannot know and trust the motives and behavior of any of the actors independently of each other; the actors are entangled.

Innately born systems thinking children learning to picture entanglement

So, how might we model and think about APS Leadership, ERS, Eli Broad, and the Waltons being entangled on the matter of student-based budgeting or, more relevantly, what Carstarphen calls Student Success Funding, or SSF?

Well, on a recent tour of Beecher Hills Elementary School, an Atlanta public school, goosebumps popped up when I noticed on a wall a display showing children were learning to “Organize our thinking using Venn Diagrams.”  (I regret I failed to take a snapshot.)

So let’s take the children’s lead, here, and make and use a simple Venn diagram to organize seeing and thinking about SSF being a common motive of the entangled actors as well as to represent a “finish”-able end to the superintendent’s Journey of Transformation of APS.

We might also recognize that thinking about SSF begs also thinking about a situation like that of Carstarphen having been superintendent in Austin, Texas, but all over again here in Atlanta.

Fortunately, a seemingly democracy-practiced Hispanic citizenry of Austin lead putting an end to her machinations and operating in cahoots with Eli Broad and the charter schools industry, soon enough.

In contrast, however, an apparent consumer-craving Black Atlanta citizenry, intersecting, Venn diagram-wise, with a paternalistic White Atlanta citizenry, is demanding destruction of APS as a public good, both actively and passively, as by silence.  Such Black and White behaviors continue to intersect as Atlanta elites’ old fashioned but still functioning Atlanta Compromise, which lets Eli Broad, et al., know Atlanta is an easy mark, I suggest.

  • “The leading figures in the actual Civil Rights Movement explicitly challenged the idea that the free market could deliver Black people from racism.” (p. 82) …
  • “Corporate education reform favors privatization and ‘free market’ solutions to school governance (‘running schools like a business’ and so on) and is, therefore, necessarily antithetical to the ethos of trade unions and of collective bargaining.” (p. 83)
  • –Brian Jones, Keys to the Schoolhouse: Black Teachers, Privatization, and the Future of Teacher Unions, Academia; accessed 4 Dec 2019.
Similarly, persons that preach a selfish, free market, “by any means necessary” ideology of education for children labeled Black–for example, as do the people of the Black organization known as BOOK (Better Options for OUR Kids), with funding by the Walton Family Foundation, support by the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), and now propaganda distribution by The 74–are so horribly racially insular as to pose a real and present existential threat to the human development and dignity of the very children they so loudly profess to care about.

But then such racially insular people show it’s not the human development of the children they care that much about.  Rather, such racially insular people show they care mostly about the children developing as a race, a race to forever believe and perpetuate it is oppressed, and a race to forever believe and perpetuate “white supremacy” is something real.  Such racially insular people show they care about developing the children just as Eli Broad and the Waltons and similar others would have it.

Anticipating intended effects

Whether the matter is framed to be about student-based budgeting or Carstarphen’s euphemistically named Student Success Funding, or SSF, some essential effects to anticipate from the superintendent’s Journey of Transformation of APS are:
  • schools turned into and managed as free market performance centers
  • principals turned into and managed as free market schoolhouse CEOs and marketers
  • teachers turned into and managed as free market fungibles to be bought and sold, as needed
  • schools and school facilities opened, closed, and sold off, as needed, to maximize usage of capital; alternatively, the portfolio model by the marketing name, “Excellent Schools”
Thus we might now understand Carstarphen’s response to non-renewal of her employment contract that she has yet to “finish the work” she was hired to do.  We might now understand her Journey of Transformation of APS can indeed reach the state of being “finished,” taking a total of about 15 years, she now says.  And when finished, all schools—public, partner, charter—will be running not just like an ordinary business but running like a conglomerate of businesses on the style of Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate, for example, capable to generate its own internal market.

APS central office will function as the conglomerate business controlling all other businesses and each individual school will have the ballyhooed “freedom and autonomy in exchange for accountability” to function like a specialized business or branch (i.e., theme school, academy, whatever).  Still, each specialized business (i.e., each school) will be subject to certain common business management practices (think again about the Beecher Hills kids learning to make and use Venn diagrams) that originate with the controlling business (i.e., APS central office) for maximizing performance at that level.

For example, individual businesses (i.e., schools) will be subject to being opened, closed, and sold off, as needed, so as to continually maximize any or all of their financial performance, customer traffic (i.e., school enrollment), consumer satisfaction (i.e., illusory parental school choice), and other matters.  Teachers will be reduced to fungible commodities to be bought and sold at the cheapest, competitive price the internal market will pay, so different specialized businesses (i.e., schools) can also continually work at maximizing usage of the human capital they have bought—all the while generating enormous amounts of squander as well as waste of human potential.

Good, effective business marketing (i.e., lying) required

What the Walton Family Foundation calls “student-based budgeting” is also know by other conceptually accurate names, including student-based allocation, weighted student funding, and fair student funding.  But now comes Carstarphen’s marketing name, Student Success Funding, which gives no conceptual clue about the reality of the matter.

Naming the matter “Student Success Funding” makes for good business marketing.  The nature of such business marketing—and all that such business marketing implies, including manipulating consumers to believe they need something when they don’t, to consume something when they shouldn’t, to not consume something when they should, etc.—keeps with Atlanta school board chairman Jason Esteves marketing The City Fund’s truthfully named “portfolio model” by the catchy name, “Excellent Schools.”

Carstarphen’s apparent jovial easiness with business marketing leaves no doubt of it harkening back to even when “human capital” was sold at auction based on the financial accounting value, or “price tag,” owners and managers of the human capital had recorded in their “price lists.”  Carstarphen has been repeatedly advised, in public Board meetings, to let go the “human capital” language and remove it from strategic planning.  But she refuses to do that, and now we might see that the entangled SSF actors suggest why she refuses: they all stand to benefit from destroying APS as a public good.

It is also obvious that the superintendent’s carefree morals and ethics about marketing allow her to effectively be okay with the management of schools as free market performance centers, to be okay with teachers as buyable and sellable commodities, to be okay with students as customers, and to be okay with parents as consumers of schools they would choose as if choosing a Happy Meal from a McDonald’s menu price list.

And, most disturbingly, to be okay with continuing to manipulate children into marketing the “APS brand” as entrants in the Superintendent’s Annual Winter Card Contest.  Why any parents would allow their child to be used in this way is puzzling.

Similarly, perhaps following Carstarphen’s lead or command, some Atlanta public school principals have taken to talking about their school as a competitive “brand,” as if doing that is necessary to compete with the KIPP brand, the Kindezi brand, the Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School brand, etc.

  • “Two years ago I realized ANCS was a direct competition.  I had to figure out how to make parents see my school as a viable option for parents.  I don’t want it to be a competition about which is better but what fits best for my kid.  How can we make sure that Parkside is a viable neighborhood school of choice?”
  • —Principal, Parkside Elementary School, 29 Aug 2019

Funding Atlanta public schools to improve

However, funding APS as the public good it is supposed to be and budgeting for that is immaterial to the entangled SSF actors—APS Leadership, ERS, Eli Broad, the Waltons.  And let’s not forget Bill Gates.  “What about Bill Gates?,” Carstarphen once asked me in a meeting in the midst of my trying to help her understand the golden opportunity her becoming Atlanta superintendent held for her to not do in Atlanta as she had tried to do in Austin.  To understand that APS needs, has always needed, and always will need, improvement, not one-off turnaround.  Fool’s errand on my part because, obviously, Eli Broad, et al., came to Atlanta with her.

The Austin Chronicle put it this way about Austin’s citizenry seeing her to the exit door:

“[Carstarphen] never understood or cared for the public mood.”
The table below lists and gives a short description of so-called “ERS Principles” the APS Leadership have apparently adopted, as given.  However, not one reference so far discovered even suggests that any ERS Principle represents a fundamental truth or proposition based in reality.  Rather, each principle inscribes, arguably, a statement of belief about free market ideology suitable for marketing SSF.

References about SSF, variously named, warn:
  • SSF is complex (e.g., this by ERS, itself)
  • SSF is fraught with implementation challenges (e.g., this)
  • SSF lacks research-based evidence that it works (e.g., this, which references APS)
  • SSF reproduces racial inequality that undermines funding equity (e.g., this and this)
  • SSF requires principals to be competently burdened “school CEOs” more so than knowledgeable leaders of educational practice and improvement

Open a window onto morals and ethics of SSF

To bring clarity and transparency to SSF in a way that exposes it for what it is, Carstarphen might engage her Accountability and Information Technology Division to model SSF as either or both a data model, so as to expose, as MLK Jr put it, the “interrelated structure of reality” SSF portends; and, a process model, possibly dynamic, so as to expose the interrelated behaviors SSF portends and to have a basis for predicting those behaviors, over time.

Structure and behavior are like opposite sides of the same coin; there cannot be one side without the other side.  An essential component of an SSF Model will be unambiguous and hype- and marketing-free definitions of things and relationships between things modeled.

(My post, Lexical Conventions for Enterprise Data Modeling, is freely available to the superintendent and her administration to draw from, as have some folk at major corporations even in faraway places such as the U.K.  So is my article, Enterprise Modeling: Checking with Reality, as published by Business Process Trends.)

Then, with either or both SSF Models in hand, people might be helped to see the complexity, inequality, absurdity, and various kinds of squander to come from implementing SSF, and then decide to reject SSF before it can be implemented and the damage done.

Even so, and essentially without expense, moral and ethical concerns alone should give pause and reason enough to reject Student Success Funding and instead commit to funding the Atlanta Public Schools system with the aim of starting the system off on a never-ending, unfinishable Journey of Continual Improvement and, along the way, detoxify APS of accumulated charter school industry squander, so the system can get back to being the wholly public good it is supposed to be.

My insertion, original emphasis:
  • “Planters strove for rationalization, standardization, and fungibility when it served their interests. Their ownership of capital [including human capital] gave them the power to commodify as they chose.”
  • —Caitlin Rosenthal, Accounting for Slavery: Masters and Management. Kindle Edition, Location 3511.

Ed Johnson
Advocate for Quality in Public Education
Atlanta GA | (404) 505-8176 | edwjohnson@aol.com

Andre Perry led a charter chain in New Orleans. He became disillusioned. As a black scholar, he questions the Walton-funded effort to portray black support for charters as monolithic, which it is not. 

Perry wrote in response to the controversy that occurred when pro-charter demonstrators disrupted a speech by Elizabeth Warren in Atlanta. He is aware of the white Republican money behind the demand for more charters.

He wrote:

Warren needs to learn from black voices — but the charter school movement is not ours to defend.

Organizations such as the charter school advocacy group Families for Excellent Schools have orchestrated statewide campaigns using dark money to influence state ballots to increase the number of charter schools, hiding who’s actually behind the movement. The Associated Press reported in December 2018 that an advocacy group that received $1.5 million from the Walton Family Foundation, one of the biggest funders of education reform, paid for 150, mostly black parents from Memphis to travel to Cincinnati two years prior to protest at a meeting of the NAACP. The parents sought to lobby against an NAACP proposal — which the organization passed despite the protests — to call for a moratorium on charter schools. They denied that the Walton Family Foundation asked them to carry out the protest.

This political season, black people cannot afford to be human shields for white leaders who don’t have the legitimacy to enter black communities on their own.

Perry notes that most Democratic candidates, notably Sanders and Warren, have abandoned charters.

He writes:

This reversal of position by Democrats is a sign that members of the party are listening to black communities….

Over the course of more than two decades, charter school expansion resulted in a significant loss in black-held jobs and a reduction in black political power in several black-majority cities. Black teachers were fired en masse in New Orleans, Washington D.C., and Newark, N.J., decimating the black middle class there.

Hundreds of millions of dollars directed towards electing pro-charter candidates ultimately empowered Republicans in many states. The pro-charter group Students First realized that its funding of Republican candidates had backfired. The association of the charter cause with the Republic party lead to the defeat of pro-charter proposals. Democratic voters showed they will not support movements that bolster the Republican Party — the same party that refuses to check Trump’s blatant racism. Democrats who support the idea of charter schools should make it clear to Republicansthat they will not tolerate a charter system that offers improved academic performance for some black students only by harming the communities in which those students live.

However, Democrat reformers developed a bad habit of accepting this Faustian bargain, and staying silent in red states on issues like jail expansion, cuts to higher education and attacks on organized labor because dissent ran the risk of slowing the proliferation of charters. Yes, black families want and need choice, but the current charter school movement is too tightly braided with Republican causes; a defense of one is a defense of the other.

To embrace charter schools in 2020 is to embrace Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump and other Republicans who stand to gain more politically from charter support than black communities have gained in jobs and educational benefits. Black kids lose when Democratic educational reformers act like Republicans.

Perry quotes the EdNext poll, noting that the publication is “pro-reform.” It is more accurate to acknowledge that EdNext (on whose board I once served) is a very conservative, pro-charter, pro-voucher publication funded by rightwing foundations. Frankly, polls about charters are worthless because most people admit when asked that they aren’t sure what a “charter school” is. If they don’t know what a charter school is, how can their view—positive or negative—signify anything?

Perry is right to point out that the Dark Money behind charters has a different agenda than most black parents. The Waltons and DeVos and their allies in ALEC want to bust teachers’ unions and privatize public schools. Perry is right to peer behind the curtain and see whose interest is served by the well-funded attacks on public schools.

He writes:

The funders of charter schools continuously put black parents and teachers in the position of fighting against their own interests. White-led philanthropy and education groups will eventually abandon public policy experiments when it is no longer popular, politically expedient or, in some cases, lucrative. For-profit charters are in education ostensibly for the money.

Some black charter leaders feel they must defend the schools because black children attend them. But we don’t need to fall into that trap. We can defend black children and workers without defending charter schools. Black people need systemic change. We can’t allow the cry for charters to drown out the demands for school financing reform, better work conditions, higher teacher pay, universal pre-K, free college, teachers’ training and recruitment programs, stronger labor protections and workforce housing initiatives.