Search results for: "hedge funds"

 

The Los Angeles Times reports that CalPERS, the state’s biggest pension fund, holding the pensions of state workers and taxpayers, was a major investor in the National Enquirer.

“The National Enquirer has been one of President Trump’s most controversial allies, delivering scathing coverage of his opponents to supermarket checkout lines and funneling $150,000 to one of his alleged mistresses to buy her silence.

“So it will probably come as a surprise to many California state employees and taxpayers to learn they were helping fund those efforts.

”During the 2016 presidential campaign, California’s massive public pension fund, CalPERS, was one of the biggest investors in the debt-laden owner of the National Enquirer, according to public records reviewed by the Los Angeles Times.

“Through an investment managed by a New Jersey hedge fund, California’s public pension fund appears to have owned as much as one-third of American Media Inc., the National Enquirer’s parent company, in 2016. It is not clear whether CalPERS continues to hold a major stake in the tabloid publisher.

”Fewer than a third of California voters cast their ballots for Trump, who remains deeply unpopular in the state.

”Informed of the investment, Jeremy Bulow, a professor of economics at Stanford University, laughed in disbelief.

“I’m sure lots of CalPERS [plan holders] will be happy to know they were paying hush money to help get Trump elected,” he said. “That’s going to make them feel real good about their pension fund managers!”

”The news organization Maplight reported last year that California was one of three states whose pension funds had invested in the privately held publisher, although it did not detail how much of the company the state fund controlled.

”California’s pension fund, the largest in the nation, runs on contributions from taxpayer-funded state agencies and their employees. It has long drawn scrutiny over whether its mandate of seeking strong returns meshes with liberal Californians’ expectations of ethical investment. Some of its investments drawing recent scrutiny have included oil pipelines, retailers that sell semiautomatic rifles, Russian sovereign debt and coal-producing companies.”

Forbes reports on the investment strategy of billionaire hedge fund manager William Ackman. He makes money investing in charter schools and thinks he is “doing good” by undermining public education.

“It turns out that Bill Ackman is making good money in the most unexpected of places: financing charter schools for low-income kids.

“Since 2011, the billionaire hedge fund manager has invested $20 million of his own money in the Turner-Agassi Charter School Facilities Fund, which was started by former tennis star Andre Agassi and has built 79 new charter schools in poor neighborhoods around the country. The impact investment, which Ackman made via his charitable foundation, has netted annual returns north of 10%.

“Meanwhile, performance at his hedge fund has been languishing. Ackman has lost money for the past three years running, largely because of disastrous bets on two companies: Valeant and Herbalife. During that time, his net worth has dropped by more than half, to an estimated $1.1 billion. Recently he’s managed to turn things in the right direction, with his Pershing Square Holdings posting gains of 15.8% through September 30, according to the firm.

“Ackman’s foray into impact investing began in 2011 when Agassi, a tennis champ with eight Grand Slams under his belt, pitched him on his new fund, the Turner-Agassi Charter School Facilities Fund. Agassi, who had teamed up with professional impact investor Bobby Turner, promised Ackman that his capital would go toward the construction of 100 new charter schools for low-income children by 2020 in areas like the Bronx and Southwest Detroit—and that he would see double-digit returns, to boot. Ackman put in $10 million and agreed to take calls from other potential investors who were deciding whether to plunk down their own money. (Ackman, who began playing tennis at age 7, says he managed to beat Agassi in a doubles match—sometime after the two first met in 2011).

“With that, Ackman became a vocal and early proponent of impact investments, which are designed to reap a financial return as well as some positive social or environmental impact. His foundation has put a total of $42 million toward these investments in recent years, in areas ranging from affordable housing to financial inclusion to education…

“His largest impact investment to date is in the Turner-Agassi Charter School Facilities Fund, which has financed construction for 79 new charter schools that have served over 41,000 students since 2011. It generates returns for investors by leasing or selling new schools to charter school operators like KIPP at a profit. Ackman has put a combined $20 million into two funds. (Stewart Rahr, another U.S. billionaire and a Forbes 400 member, has put in $10 million.)..

“Ackman, who signed the Giving Pledge in 2012 and promised to donate more than half his wealth, has pledged or donated over $400 million to organizations like Teach for America and Human Rights Watch through his foundation.”

Someone should tell Mr. A koan that his investments and gifts are undermining a basic democratic institution and harming the teaching profession by sending inexperienced amateurs into classrooms to replace professional teachers. At the same time, he is helping to kill unions.

Maybe that, plus return on investment, is exactly what he wants.

Today, the Network for Public Education and the Schott Foundation for Public Education released the first ever state-by-state report card on privatization of public funds intended for public schools.

It is titled: “Grading the States: A Report Card on Our Nation’s Commitment to Public Schools.”

Where does your state rank?

Is your state diverting public funds for privately managed charter schools?

Does your state offer vouchers for unregulated, unaccountable religious and private schools?

Does your state have neovoucher schools that encourage corporations and wealthy individuals to underwrite the cost of religious and private education instead of paying taxes to support public schools?

Billions of dollars are being diverted from public schools to pay for tuition in nonpublic schools, some of which hire uncertified teachers and some of which enroll students who were previously enrolled in private schools.

The big takeaway from this report is that every dollar that goes to a charter school or a religious or private school is a dollar taken away from public schools whose doors are open to all, regardless of race, religion, gender, language. Disability, or LGBT status.

In reading the report, you will notice that the overwhelming majority of parents choose public schools in every state.

No matter how many programs are created to promote private alternatives, the public chooses their democratically controlled public schools.

This is a landmark report that identifies the states that fully support their public schools. Inform yourself so you are prepared to fight privatization and defend public education—of, by, and for the people. Not the billionaires. Not the hedge fund managers. Not the entrepreneurs. Not the religious zealots. Not the profiteers. Not Betsy DeVos.

For the people.

Norm Scott, retired NYC teacher and active fighter against corporate reformers, posted a four-year-old article by Matt Taibbi about billionaire Dan Loeb, whose hedge fund solicits money from pension funds. Dan Loeb is the guy who recently made headlines by slandering a black legislator as worse than the KKK.

He is the chair of Success Academy Network. He hates teachers’ unions, but he loves their pensions.

TAIBBI’s article is a must-read. Taibbi reminds us that Randi Weingarten took the lead in removing from his fund any pension funds she has anything to do with.

Does your pension fund invest with Loeb’s hedge fund?

Hedge Clippers, a group of political activists who work to reveal the unprincipled use of hedge fund money to influence politics and education, have posted the names of the billionaires (and millionaires) who have sunk large sums into the Los Angeles school board race in hopes of electing their favorites, Nick Melvoin and Kelly Fitzpatrick-Gonez.

Many of their financial backers are major Republican donors and allies of Trump and DeVos.

The California Charter School Association (CCSA), directly and through its network of entities, has been the biggest spender in the 2017 election for Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) school board members to represent Districts 4 and 6, having spent over $4 million to-date. Nearly all of CCSA’s political campaign funding comes from millionaires and billionaires. Out-of-town billionaires make up the bulk of this funding.

Between July 2016 – December 2016, out-of-town billionaires like Doris Fisher, Co-Founder of The Gap, Alice Walton, heiress to the WalMart fortune, and Michael Bloomberg, New York financier and former Mayor, all made big political contributions to the California Charter School Association Advocates (CCSAA) Independent Expenditure Committee.

The combined net worth of these three out-of-town billionaires is $125.5 BILLION. Doris Fisher lives in San Francisco, Alice Walton lives in Bentonville, Arkansas and Michael Bloomberg lives in New York City.

Additionally, numerous contributors to the CCSAA political fund are Trump supporters, a position that puts them out-of-sync with the majority of Los Angeles voters.

Alice Walton and the WalMart family, for example, donated to the Super PAC that worked to elect Trump, donated to Mike Pence, Jeff Sessions, and to the Alliance for School Choice, an organization that Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos helped to lead. Richard Riordan, who gave $1 milion to CCSAA to then launch an independent expenditure committee working to elect Melvoin and Gonez, is a Trump supporter and donor. [i] Many other CCSAA donors are as well.

CCSA has poured money into these school board races directly through its Independent Expenditure Committee, [ii] and has also acting as a pass through for three other independent expenditure committees that are involved in the race.

CCSAA sponsors and funds[iii] the deceptively named Parent Teacher Alliance (PTA), also a big electoral spender.

The PTA, CCSAA helps fund[iv] the Students for Education Reform (SFER) Action Network, which also spent money on this election.

LA Students for Change Opposing Steve Zimmer for School Board 2017 is funded by a $1,000,000 donation[v] from former LA Mayor Richard Riordan that was received through CCSAA

According to available filings,[vi] CCSAA and the groups it funds have provided almost all the independent electoral spending on behalf of Nick Melvoin and Kelly Gonez in the hotly contested District 4 and 6 races.

To see the footnotes and the specific contributions attributed to donors, as well as their political affiliations, read the link.

It is shocking to see the combination of rightwing Republicans and Democrats-in-name-only who have gathered behind Melvoin solely to advance the cause of privatizing public school students and funding.

The only way to stop them is to be informed, inform your friends and neighbors, and if you live in the contested districts in Los Angeles, get out and vote for Steve Zimmer and Imelda Padilla. Bring your friends and neighbors out to vote. Stop the hijacking of the LAUSD.

Most people who are active in school board elections never heard of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), know nothing of the duplicity of Stand for Children, and are unaware of the privatization agenda of corporate reformers.

This article by Justin Miller in the American Prospect seeks to demystify the strange confluence between hedge fund managers and the charter school movement.

Miller tells the story of the transformation of school board elections, once a sleepy affair, now attracting large sums of money from out of district and out of state organizations. The key organization in the race to control local school boards is Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), the hedge fund managers’ group.

He gives illustration of how they operate by focusing on school board elections in Indianapolis, and to a lesser extent, Minneapolis and Denver.

Flying under the radar, DFER bundled money to put their allies in charge.

The list of original funders is chock-full of Wall Street A-listers. There was Joel Greenblatt, head of Gotham Asset Management and author of the seminal high-finance book You Can Be a Stock Market Genius. There were Charles Ledley and James Mai of Cornwall Capital, perhaps most well known for betting big against the subprime-mortgage market, which was depicted in the book-turned-blockbuster The Big Short. There was David Einhorn, head of Greenlight Capital, who has drawn scrutiny on more than one occasion for financial wrongdoing.

Basically, if you were anybody who was anybody in hedge funds, you probably chipped in. [Whitney] Tilson called the group Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), and set it with a mission “to break the teacher unions’ stranglehold over the Democratic Party.”

Early on, DFER identified then-Senator Barack Obama and then–Newark Mayor Cory Booker as promising politicians willing to break with teachers unions. DFER was instrumental in convincing Obama to appoint charter-friendly Chicago Superintendent Arne Duncan as secretary of education, and it spent a lot of time and money lobbying the administration to pursue reformist education policies like Race to the Top and Common Core. Tied to Obama’s coattails, DFER was now one of the most influential political players in the ascendant education-reform movement.

Who is involved in DFER? Miller answers:

The list of original funders is chock-full of Wall Street A-listers. There was Joel Greenblatt, head of Gotham Asset Management and author of the seminal high-finance book You Can Be a Stock Market Genius. There were Charles Ledley and James Mai of Cornwall Capital, perhaps most well known for betting big against the subprime-mortgage market, which was depicted in the book-turned-blockbuster The Big Short. There was David Einhorn, head of Greenlight Capital, who has drawn scrutiny on more than one occasion for financial wrongdoing.

Basically, if you were anybody who was anybody in hedge funds, you probably chipped in. Tilson called the group Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), and set it with a mission “to break the teacher unions’ stranglehold over the Democratic Party.”

Early on, DFER identified then-Senator Barack Obama and then–Newark Mayor Cory Booker as promising politicians willing to break with teachers unions. DFER was instrumental in convincing Obama to appoint charter-friendly Chicago Superintendent Arne Duncan as secretary of education, and it spent a lot of time and money lobbying the administration to pursue reformist education policies like Race to the Top and Common Core. Tied to Obama’s coattails, DFER was now one of the most influential political players in the ascendant education-reform movement.

It is important for reports like Miller’s story to be circulated widely, among school board members across the nation. They need to understand where the “dark money” is coming from. They need to know why a race that once could be self-financed now requires large sums of money. They need to know who DFER is, who Stand for Children is, and know that their agenda is privatization of public schools. As the recent election in Nashville showed, outside money poured in but it was not enough to defeat the candidates who were fighting to improve the public schools, not to replace them. Since the “reformers” always fly under a false flag, promising to improve public schools and to save children from “failing schools,” democracy requires that voters know who they are and what they seek.

Alan Singer writes here that John Paulson, whose worth is in the neighborhood of $11 billion, is raising funds for the Trump campaign. Paulson gave $8.5 million to Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy charter chain last July.

Trump is a strong supporter of charter schools. Singer says he also endorses vouchers. Trump said during one of the debates “I love charter schools.” Of course, he does.

It is clear that very rightwing Republicans and very wealthy individuals love privatization. On this blog, we often hear from charter school supporters about school choice as “the civil rights issue of our time.” They never explain why every single rightwing governor also favors charters. They never explain why they are in the same chorus with Scott Walker, Jeb Bush, and the rest of the Republican glitterati.

The great deception of our time is the propaganda campaign waged by billionaires to persuade the public that privatization advances civil rights.

HANY is High Achievement New York. It has mounted a very costly campaign to oppose the opt out movement and to support high-stakes testing and the Common Core.

 

Who is funding their expensive campaign to maintain the status quo?

 

Fortunately, blogger and former teacher Deb Escobar has done the research and provides the answers. This will come as no surprise to readers of this blog. HANY is funded by the Billionaire Boys Club.

 

Who is the Man Behind the Curtain? Why, it is Bill Gates!

 

But he is not alone.

 

The purpose of this post is to pull back the curtain and let you know who is funding this massive campaign that aims to fix our “broken” system. Because, you know, it’s all for the children. Let’s start with their coalition members, beginning with Arva Rice, President and CEO of the New York Urban League, who previously was affiliated with Paul Tudor Jones (yes the hedge fund guy) and his Robin Hood Foundation.

 

Then there is New York Campaign for Achievement Now (NYCAN), part of the larger 50-state education reform group. The funding stream for 50CAN includes Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bush Foundation, JP Morgan Chase, and the Walton Foundation, among others. A veritable who’s-who of big money in the education reform game. The NY chapter adds more money from Gates, along with Bloomberg Philanthrophies, Kenneth M. Hirsch and William E. Simon.

 

Include Association for a Better New York, founded by real estate tycoon Bill Rudin. Their self-stated goal is to “promote neighborhood revitalization.” AKA gentrification. AKA keeping their fingers on the real estate prize in NY.

 

Coalition member Parents for Excellence in Bethlehem has bought the Common Core Gates funded spin. Co-President Kim Namkoong is a parent, also a mathematician and computer programmer. She is a face for the “How is My Kid Doing?” campaign that is funded by – you guessed it – the Council for a Strong America folks and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The Bethlehem Parents for Excellence has a lackluster website (a surprise considering Namkoong’s stated occupation) that does not list its donors. They advocate for common core and testing.

 

Membership includes reformy groups Educators4Excellence and StudentsFirstNY. Educators4Excellence, also funded by the Gates Foundation, is comprised of anti-union young teachers, many of whom are alumni of Teach For America. See ed blogger Jonathan Pelto’s research on the group here. StudentsFirstNY is that pro-charter, pro-voucher group that shares its physical address with New York Charter queen Eva Moskowitz’ organization. NYS Families for Excellent Schools also shares that same address and is a hedge-funded PAC for education reforms.

 

The corporate reformers are a cozy group. There are not many of them, but they have so much money that they pop up again and again, singing the same tired old song. Test your children (not mine); put your children in “no excuses” charters (not mine); testing will make everyone smarter; the harder the tests, the smarter everyone will be and the more the achievement gap will close.

 

Evidence has nothing to do with their campaign. They do what the Man (or Men) Behind the Curtain want them to do.

Mary Butz worked in the Néw York City public schools for 35 years. She was a teacher of social studies; an assistant principal; founded her own small high school, which was part of Deborah Meier’s group and Ted Sizer’s Coalition of Essential Schools. After seven years as principal, she stepped down and became a mentor to other principals. Chancellor Harold Levy asked her to take charge of a program to help 500 new principals. She created a group of 50 highly accomplished principals who were called the Distinguished Faculty. This group mentored new principals. In the summers, all the principals attended a “Principals’ University,” where they chose the practical workshops that met their needs. Many of the principals praised the program as the best professional development they ever had.

I mention all this detail because I know Mary well. She has been my partner for 30 years. While I was traveling in Waco and Dallas, she was glued to the TV, watching Pope Francis. She has her differences with the Church, but she loves the nuns who educated her, and she loves this Pope. I am Jewish, and I love this Pope too.

I have a principle: public money for public schools; private money for nonpublic schools. As readers of the blog know, I do not consider charters to be public schools; whenever they are sued for violating a state law, they say they are private corporations, not state actors. I agree with them.

Mary writes:

I am a product of Catholic education. I went to Catholic school, then to a Catholic college. I spent my career working in the New York City public schools. I deeply love each of these institutions down to my toes. Each serve the children in their care with dedication, love and concern.

Yesterday while watching the Pope’s visit a Catholic school in East Harlem, I watched Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senator Chuck Schumer, and Mayor Bill de Blasio hovering around the children. I was struck with a simple truth that this city is not facing. THEY (our influential leaders in government, business leaders, and philanthropists) are allowing Catholic schools to be closed and disappear. I am not advocating for vouchers – I am advocating for funding from the philanthropies and hedge fund managers who shower millions of dollars on charter schools that try to imitate Catholic schools.

Why is our governor opening more and more charter schools that receive extra millions from wealthy hedge fund managers? Why are these hedge fund managers pumping their money into the unknown? Why are we taking taxpayer funds away from public schools to support these schools? Why are they speculating that charter schools will succeed? Some will, some won’t.

The billionaires behind “Families for Excellent Schools” are spending millions of dollars on a television campaign to demand more charter schools. That same money would save many Catholic schools without undermining public education.

Can they not see the light before them? If they care about poor children, why don’t they fund Catholic schools? Why are they using their millions to drain students and resources from public schools? Why don’t they use their money as donations to Catholic schools, instead on spending it on political attack ads? The business community should help to sustain and grow schools with a long history of service while simultaneously allowing our public school to survive.

Catholic education has been and continues to be hugely successful. Children who come from poverty-stressed homes blossom in Catholic schools. Why is that? Is it because they are strict and orderly? Yes. Is it because their expectations are clear and defined? Yes. Is it because they require parents to participate in the education of their children? Yes. So, don’t charters do the same? Well . . not necessarily.

Charter schools have adopted the trappings of Catholic education: uniforms, neat and orderly buildings, defined objectives, parent involvement. It all sounds good and looks good on paper but they lack the genuine ingredient for student success. SOUL.

Charter schools focus on test scores; Catholic schools focus on character. Honesty, integrity, compassion, social justice.

Catholic schools care for the whole child. Catholic education fosters, teaches and preaches a body of belief that embraces service, gratitude and love. Children learn because they are loved. They learn because they are safe. These children learn because their principals, their teachers, their fellow students all adhere to a higher code.

Hedge fund managers, corporate leader, and foundations: Put your money where it will make a lifelong difference. It is such a simple, honest solution. It is clear and obvious. Catholic education works. It should not die. Stop funding imitations when the real thing is right before you.

Steve Cohen, educator from Long Island, writes:

“One of our favorite quotes: Einstein: Not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts.

“That which counts that cannot be counted is the historical process by which young human beings act to shape their own potential. Genuine teaching is the task of guiding these young people to complete this fundamental task of becoming an adult with the most care, grace, intelligence and wisdom.

“I would bet that everyone of us who learned from a great teacher knows exactly what I’m talking about. Count what you will, but this uncountable experience is essential in real education of the young.

“Do we really want hedge fund overlords in charge of this basic part of childhood and adolescence?

“I’ll also bet that these hedge funds folks send their kids to schools that embrace what I’m saying to the fullest. Their kids’ education shall not be subjected to foolish accountability–which wastes kids’ precious time growing up.”