Monday, April 6, 2009

The Scheming Called "Venture Philanthropy"

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 Washington D.C., met with Mayor Fenty immediately after he took office. As the D.C native describes it, Fenty emerged from the meeting and immediately announced the mayoral takeover of the D.C. schools; this is the circumstance that brought in Michelle Rhee in June 2007. The D.C. native says Fenty never hinted about this scenario during his campaign.]

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.

Shanker's real views are revealed in Tough Liberal, Richard Kahlenberg's biography. Mike Klonsky’s review of the book states:

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.


The Perimeter Primate said...

Diane Ravitch just responded to my email message about this and wrote, "Al Shanker was one of the first supporters of charter schools, in 1988. However, five years later, he turned against them and wrote column after column treating charters as the same as vouchers. Both harmful to public education."

The pro-charter forces don't ever mention this, however.

KitchenSink said...

I'd like to see those Al Shanker columns. Can you dig those out please?

The NYS Charter Law specifically cites a pathway for teachers to create new school communities. It envisioned schools started entirely by teachers and parents - which is the profile of most of the "rank and file" charter schools (as opposed to the big networks).

The state legislature made it very difficult for teachers and parents to start charter schools by eliminating any facilities funding for charter schools. Guess who can start charter schools now? Only rich people or those connected with foundations, so they can pay for facilities. The state teachers union fought against charters having facility funding, and they have therefore created this Broad/Gates monster in New York State.

Chancellor Klein has reversed this policy in NYC, allowing for the proliferation of community-based charter schools by providing facilities funding and removing the need for massive fundraising. The big networks get all of the attention, but the lion's share of charter schools in NYC are still teacher-led schools that believe in public education.

Unfortunately, NYSUT has put up another barrier by nixing the funding formula and unfairly freezing charter school state aid, amounting to a huge cut to charter school budgets.

Which charters will survive? The ones with big fundraising backing them. Goodbye mom and pops - and if those teachers who started those schools want to continue to contribute to education, they have no choice but to sign up again for the union's monopoly. Like a virus, NYSUT is doing nothing right now to actually help teachers or further educational reform in this arena (and it could be doing so, so much), but just propagating itself at the expense of the poor students who attend the rank and file charter schools.

The Perimeter Primate said...

KitchenSink: The existence of the Shanker columns (comment #1) was brought to my attention by Ravitch, the public schools historian, and I don't have them at hand.

I probably won't have the time to hunt them down, so please let me know if you are able to turn them up elsewhere.

caroline said...

One issue regarding the "mom and pop" charters, though, is that their chartering authority is required (to the extent possible) to ensure that they have a workable financial setup, and a structure in other areas that meets the basic requirements (such as curriculum).

It's really difficult to run a school, and very often, small grassroots operators don't have a clear idea of what it really takes.

An example here in San Francisco was a charter high school called Urban Pioneer. At the time it was closed down, it was in financial chaos, unable to pay its employees, and committing open academic fraud, graduating students with far fewer than the required credits. (It made the news because two of its students were killed on an unsupervised school wilderness outing, but that was why it came under closer scrutiny, not why it closed.)

Anyway, that's an example of the kind of things that can beset "grassroots" operators. The difficulty of running a school seems just as likely to be the reason that the Venture Philanthropists' projects dominate the charter school landscape.

The Perimeter Primate said...

At 8:35 p.m. on 4/7/09 this is something I picked up on Twitter via the referral feature of my hit counter:

Picked up from
* Name sharonschneider
* Location Chicago, IL
* Web http://thephilant...
* Bio Philanthropic Advisor and author of

It was said: "Reactions like this one (that would be this posting) are the reason truly strategic private foundations don't talk--they just work quietly coordinating) about 11 hours ago from twhirl

Also, "Role of private foundations in setting a pro-charter school agenda seen as "misguided...wealthy oligarchs...authoritarian" 11 hours ago from twhirl

Hello twhirl. I see you, too.

The Perimeter Primate said...

Hit from:

April 7, 2009 4:14 PM IP: ( Windows XP Windows XP
Los Angeles, CA, United States


The Perimeter Primate said...

108 Referring URL:
April 7, 2009 11:32 AM IP: ( Windows XP Windows XP
Washington, DC, United States

Someone from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools glanced at this website, too.

Their board of directors is here:

The Perimeter Primate said...

Direct Hit
April 7, 2009 7:52 AM IP: ( Mac OS X Mac OS X
Cambridge, MA, United States

This is a hit from someone at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard - A collaboration of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University.

The Perimeter Primate said...

Donations to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) from The Walton Family Foundation

2007: $776,144
2006: $50,000
2005: $1,470,000

The Perimeter Primate said...

Another hit from a philanthropy organization:

Direct Hit
April 8, 2009 1:49 PM IP: ( Windows XP Windows XP
Seattle, WA, United States
Social Venture Partners International M

Mission and Principles
Social Venture Partners share a dual mission. They seek to catalyze significant, long-term positive social change in their communities by:

* Educating individuals to be well informed, effective, and engaged philanthropists;
* Investing time, expertise, and money in innovative nonprofits to strengthen these organizations.

Partners are committed to six shared principles:

Engaged Venture Philanthropy. Partners invest time, expertise and money in nonprofits. They seek collaborative relationships with nonprofits that last for at least three years.

Entrepreneurial Spirit. Partners use innovative approaches to achieve leveraged results in their nonprofit partnerships and communities. They delegate decisions, resources, and authority to those closest to the work.

Philanthropic Education. Partners educate themselves and become informed, effective, lifetime philanthropists. Ongoing individual philanthropy is catalyzed through hands-on experience and education.

Community & Collaborative Action. Partners believe in the power of collective, self-organized effort. They encourage and maintain highly participatory, Partner-driven organizations that use non-hierarchical communications and operating practices. SVPs support an open exchange of knowledge and lessons learned, and avoid partisan, religious or political activities.

Mutual Respect. Partners respect the expertise of community nonprofit organizations. They form close working relationships with organizations where Social Venture Partners are mutually vested in the nonprofit’s success.

Accountability & Results. Partners are mutually accountable to each other, their Investees (grant recipients) and community. They achieve and document measurable results, both in their own work and through their nonprofit partnerships.

The Perimeter Primate said...

Referring URL:
April 8, 2009 1:04 PM IP: ( Windows XP Windows XP
Basking Ridge, NJ, United States

Is this John E. Chubb?

"Terry Moe and John Chubb, two long-time, astute observers of educational reform, see technology as the way to reverse decades of failed efforts. Technology will facilitate significantly more individualized student learning--and perhaps most importantly, technology will make it harder and harder for the entrenched adult interests to block the reforms that are right for our kids. This is a provocative, informative and, ultimately, optimistic read, something we badly need in public education." --Joel Klein, Chancellor of the New York City schools (

PeopleFinders reports that there is a 55 y/o John E. Chubb with possible residences in

If this is you, John, then hello from Oakland!

caroline said...

John Chubb was one of the principals in Edison Schools, the for-profit education "miracle" that has fizzled, embarrassing its former cheerleaders by proving to be hype and snake oil.

Chubb has apparently managed, surprisingly, to salvage some shreds of credibility as a supposed education scholar despite getting involved in pushing this scam. (Another formerly respected educator, ex-Yale President Benno Schmidt, badly tarnished his good name and reputation with his involvement as a top Edison honcho. Chris Whittle, the guy behind it all, was already known as a huckster, so no harm to HIS rep.)

Anonymous said...

What a slime-bag phony Chubb is!!

John Chubb has now been
officially PWNED.

Or is it, PWN3D?

Good work, PP!

You are awesome!


caroline said...

I have to share that during the Edison Schools battle in San Francisco, a friend of mine who's a respected community leader nearly got in a shoving match at a public meeting with Benno Schmidt (she's a woman, and a very short one, too). She described him as an "oily thug." That was the former president of Yale!

Anonymous said...

I must give you credit also for the
PWNRship of Chubb.

The ancdote about the public meeting
shoving match is also another little piece of a bigger picture.

Truly, We are all just windows
on the world.

Sharing is good.