Over the weekend I read "The Politics of Venture Philanthropy in Charter School Policy and Advocacy," by Janelle Scott (Associate Professor at UC Berkeley, formerly NYU). It is published by SAGE which gives free access to their publications until April 30, 2009.
Scott explains the billionaires' strategy to push charter schools onto communities by careful maneuvering of their immense foundation-giving. She also describes the not-always-well-intentioned, and/or misguided, history of foundation "giving" which has targeted communities of color in the past.
The outcome of the foundation-giving programs of today requires an important trade-off from the local communities, namely, the relinquishment of interest and power over their own public schools to the public education notions of a few immensely wealthy oligarchs. What does it tell us that the communities where this is occurring necessitated first being placed under authoritarian rule (a.k.a. wealthy oligarch/billionaire-influenced mayoral &/or state control)?
[The backroom deals are being made in every city where pro-charter school forces have gained a foothold. The parent informant of one of my associates explained that the Federal City Council, a group of business leaders who really run
Scott’s article explains how the "gifts" of these foundations are going to a broad range of charter advocacy groups, pro-charter research organizations, alternative teacher, principal, and superintendent training programs, charter school development organizations, etc. EdVoice, Center for Education Reform, TFA, NewSchools Venture Fund, NewLeaders for New Schools, KIPP, Green Dot, Democrats for Education Reform, and the EEP are just the teeny tiny tip of the you're-going-to-have-charter-schools-whether-you-want-them-or-not iceberg.
Scott describes the flow of money to these organizations with the intent to have them work as a network in unison to further the billionaires' goal. Very few of the donations go directly to individual schools and their students (just enough to make them look a lot better initially than their traditional school neighbors – read here and here). Their many, many dollars mostly go toward advocacy, propaganda, and the building of a national pro-charter school structure.
Speaking of propaganda, I've recently learned how Broad has bought off large, important portions of PBS, and how M. Gates, a major supporter of the KIPP organization, is on the board of the Washington Post, home to Jay Mathews, the staff writer with an education column who perpetually praises and promotes KIPP schools.
The extent to which the media has been co-opted by this force would be a good topic for someone to track. We know how heavily they have influenced the White House (just one person being John Doerr).
Be aware that there is little objective information coming from the media anymore, and that only the wealthy, top business elite (certainly not educators, scholars, or any other highly knowledgeable people) are determining the future of our nation's public educational system; any other input is being blocked.
The masses are also being used. For instance, Scott's article tells how the 2004 Philanthropy Roundtable donors guide describes a technique to push charter schools. It is "...the sponsorship of efforts that put parents of color out front instead of 'rich, white Republicans.' " The technique is exactly described here and here. This general strategy, which turns out to be bipartisan, may also explain why a deeply-in-debt-to-the-IRS Al Sharpton was persuaded to join the pro-charter force.
Another small item that may be of interest to some of you is that the Broad Foundation paid the Century Foundation $100,000 (in 2004) and $29,973 (in 2007) to "support research on the late union leader Albert Shanker." View the Broad Foundation 990's here. This interest of theirs is certainly connected to how much pro-charter forces like to mention that Albert Shanker was responsible for the idea of charter schools (as if to brush off any responsibility for them!). They use this statement frequently to both justify the existence of charter schools, and to attempt to disarm the teachers' union complaints about them. Of course, they don't tell the whole story.
In a speech to the National Press Club in 1988, he [Shanker] proposed the idea of teacher-led "charter schools" where rules could be bent if the great majority of teachers in a small school approved. He called on districts to "create joint school board-union panels that would review preliminary proposals and help find seed money for the teachers to develop final proposals."
So Shanker's vision was for teachers to have more control over their schools, not the fringe others. Kahlenberg states:
Shanker "watched with alarm as the concept he put forward began to move away from a public-school reform effort to look more like a private-school voucher plan. Shanker came to believe that the charter school movement was largely hijacked by conservatives who made many charter schools vulnerable to the same groups that made voucher schools so dangerous: for-profit corporations, racial separatists, the religious right, and anti-union activists...Shanker watched with dismay as 'those who had tremendous contempt for public education' jumped on to the charter school bandwagon."
The breadth of the billionaires' maneuvers is extensive, and the details which confirm it are many. It is going to take a little more time to help the American public grasp the diabolical, anti-democratic nature of their strategy.
It's crystal clear that a set of this nation's upper business elite has overstepped its boundaries in too many ways, and for too long, from the managing of our nation's finances to its public education system. They have been forcing us with well-financed trickery to go down the wrong track. Even a not-too-long-ago politically mild-mannered person (myself) can see that when The People realize the degree of selfish, arrogant scheming that's been done, their response may be strong and accompanied by outrage, and possibly violence.