Thursday, May 13, 2010

An Aspire primer

Aspire Public Schools is a major California Educational Management Organization based in Oakland. The Gates Foundation just recently secured Aspire’s continued growth by backing its “efforts to secure $93 million in tax-exempt bonds to help them expand,” as well as providing “$8 million in unfunded guarantees to Aspire Public Schools to back the charter organization's bond financing for new school buildings.”

Of course, it didn’t hurt Aspire that its co-founder, Don Shalvey, started working for the Gates Foundation in March 2009.

So Bill Gates, a Washington state resident, is pumping his money into making my state get more and more charters. And he lives with his family in a state which won’t even permit them!

Here’s the piece about Aspire. Additional information about the EMO’s schools in Oakland is below:

Foundations help Aspire charter network expand (AP) – May 6, 2010

SEATTLE — The Gates and Schwab Foundations announced Thursday they will back a California charter school network's efforts to secure $93 million in tax-exempt bonds to help them expand and serve more than 4,000 new students. The unique financing arrangement is known as a Program Related Investment.

Both the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation have provided $8 million in unfunded guarantees to Aspire Public Schools to back the charter organization's bond financing for new school buildings.

The nonprofit charter school network operates 25 schools educating more than 7,600 students in grades K-12 in six California communities, East Palo Alto, Modesto, Oakland, Stockton, Sacramento, and Los Angeles By 2020, the organization hopes to have more than 60 public schools in its network.

Aspire was founded in 1998 and focuses on communities with a large percentage of low-income and minority students. In state test scores, Aspire schools went up 30 points on average this past year, the charter organization said. California's growth target for Aspire students is 3 points a year.

Aspire is one of five California-based charter management organizations that worked as a team to win a $60 million grant from the Gates Foundation for a new teacher training initiative.

Allan Golston, president of the U.S. Program at the Gates Foundation, notes that state and local governments do not provide buildings for public charter schools, so expansion was difficult even before the economic situation tightened credit markets.

"Access to facilities financing is a critical barrier for even the highest-performing, most creditworthy charter schools," Golston said in a statement.

The foundations' credit support helps Aspire access the bond market at more favorable terms.

Golston said the bond guarantee will deepen the impact of the foundation's investment in Aspire by lowering the cost of expansion.

NCB Capital Impact, a nonprofit lender to charter schools, will act as a financial intermediary and program facilitator for the Program Related Investment. The Gates Foundation is giving NCB a $959,000 three-year grant and the lender is contributing $1 million in a funded guarantee.

* * * * * *

More about Oakland’s Aspire-operated charter schools (currently enrolling nearly 2000 students)

Monarch Academy (K-5): Located at 1445 101st Avenue (site formerly ?)‎. Monarch opened in 2000 and was the first Aspire school in Oakland. Its charter expires in 2012.

Lionel Wilson College Preparatory Academy (6-12): Located at 400 105th Avenue (site formerly ?)‎. Lionel Wilson opened in 2002 and was the second Aspire school in Oakland. Its charter expires in 2012.

Millsmont Academy (K-5): Located at 3200 62nd Avenue (site formerly St. Cyril’s School)‎. Millsmont opened in 2004 and was the third Aspire school in Oakland. Its charter expires in 2014.

Berkley Maynard Academy (K-7 + expanding): Located at 6200 San Pablo Avenue (site formerly OUSD’s Golden Gate Elementary)‎. Berkley Maynard opened in 2005 and was the fourth Aspire school in Oakland. Its charter was renewed this year.

CA College Prep Academy (moved): CA College Prep was a middle school that opened in 2005 as the fifth Aspire school in Oakland. In 2008 it closed, moved over the border into Berkeley, and was granted a new charter by the Alameda County Office of Education. While in Oakland, it was co-located with the Berkley Maynard campus.

Millsmont Academy Secondary (6-11 + expanding): Located at 8030 Atherton Street (site formerly St. Benedict’s Academy)‎. Millsmont Secondary opened in 2008 and was the sixth Aspire school in Oakland. Its charter expires in 2013.

ERES Academy (K-8 + expanding): Located at 1936 Courtland Avenue, the site of the former Dolores Huerta Learning Academy charter school. Huerta surrendered its charter in February 2009 and the school closed in June 2009. Aspire submitted its petition for its school in March 2009 and it was approved in late May 2009. ERES’s charter expires in 2014.

* * * * * *

Aspire’s Board of Directors

Since Aspire is privately-operated using public money and foundation grants, positions on its board are acquired via personal connections (rather than as with public schools where the board members are elected by the community). Therefore, Aspire’s board members are not necessarily members of the communities in which their schools are located.

Don Shalvey: Co-Founder and Board Co-Chair, Aspire Public Schools. Prior to starting Aspire with Reed Hastings (CEO of NetFlix and major supporter of Green Dot), Shalvey was Superintendent of the San Carlos School District (approximately 2,600 students and six elementary schools). Shalvey also worked in the Merced School District, a rural district of approximately 11,000 students, and in the Lodi Unified School District, a district of approximately 28,000 students that includes a portion of Stockton. Shalvey co-founded Californians for Public School Excellence, the organization that sponsored the California Charter School Initiative that raised the cap on the number of charter schools.

Bill Hughson: CEO of Noah’s Bagels, President of AG Ferrari Foods, President of and his current position as President of DaVita Rx. He is also a Director of two medical technology firms, Sensurtec and Fulfillium, and is Managing Member of Silicon Valley Investment Partners.

Beth Hunkapiller: President, San Carlos School District Board of Trustees. She’s probably Shalvey’s friend from Shalvey’s San Carlos days.

Bill Huyett: Superintendent, Lodi Unified School District. He’s probably Shalvey’s friend from Shalvey’s Lodi days.

Melvin J. Kaplan: CEO of Wellington Financial Group, an entity that invests in commercial real estate nationally.

Steven L. Merrill: Venture Capitalist, most recently Partner with Benchmark Capital. Currently, Steven is devoting more time to civic and non-profit activities as well as his private investments. Steven is also a past president of the Western Association of Venture Capitalists and a past director of the National Venture Capital Association, and has been a director of numerous privately held companies.

Louise Muhlfeld Patterson: HR executive and trustee of college-preparatory schools. She was Vice President of Human Resources for American Express.

Richard C. Spalding: Founder, Thomas Weisel Healthcare Venture Partners. This company focuses on life science investing. Prior to joining ABS Ventures, Dick was a Chief Financial Officer of public and private companies, an investment banker with Alex Brown, and a co-founder of the Palo Alto office of Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison.

NOTE: Joanne Weiss, former Partner and COO of the NewSchools Venture Fund and another business person/non-educator , was on Aspire’s Board of Directors until Duncan tapped her to be his senior staff person as Director of Race to the Top.

* * * * * *

A story

My teacher-friend visited an Oakland Aspire school as part of a school assignment. She told me the kids were on task filling in worksheets, and that from room to room to room the teachers (almost all young, white females) were using the exact same curriculum and behavioral approach. Also, the principal complained to her about having high teacher turnover.

My friend told me the environment felt to her like something out of the Stepford Wives and couldn't imagine herself, or any middle-class parents, wanting to subject their children to such bland instruction.

Along with KIPP, this seems to be the cutting edge model of education that's now emerging as being best for low income kids.

* * * * * *

Just a little extra funding to give the Aspire schools that extra competitive edge...

Broad Foundation

NewSchools Venture Fund

Gates Foundation

Walton Family Foundation







$1,800,000 (part of the Foundation’s $4,680,000 commitment)







$1.75 million






















$2.9 million over three years

see article above

In 2003-04, Aspire’s total enrollment was 2294 students. By this time the EMO had received $7,685,295 from the above four foundations. This works out to be an extra $3350 per pupil. Aspire also receives additional funding from other sources.

To me this seems like an awful lot of money to give an EMO that’s serving so few students (at this point estimated at about 7,600 kids). Where’s it all going?

As you can see, the plutocrats’ main interest is investing a lot of start-up money in their pet charters, so a critical mass of families get wooed away from the chronically-underfunded less sparkly, more financially-stressed public schools. They sometimes refer to this as “whole systems change” and it is a strategy to bring about the demise of the public school system. It is very telling that the venture philanthropists, all of whom exited the public system long ago, express no serious vision of a bigger picture that would help the 5,966,394 remaining non-charter/public school students in California.


caroline said...

There was a fatal shooting at a party at one of Aspire's schools in November 2006, which got almost no press at all. I'm convinced that if this had happened at a regular public school, it would have been Page 1-- jeez, the press links violence to public schools if it even happens down the block. If it's a charter school, all seems to be hush-hush.
Police say they also responded to a fatal shooting Saturday at around 11 p.m. at a birthday party in the multipurpose room of a charter school in East Oakland.

Hilmon Haydon, 23, was shot and killed and a 20-year-old man was wounded when someone opened fire during the party for an 18-year-old woman in the room of Lionel Wilson College Preparatory Academy at 400 105th Avenue in East Oakland's Sobrante Park neighborhood, Nolan said.

Officials at the charter school, which opened in 2002 and serves grades 6 through 12, said they had rented the room out for the birthday party, which was held for a woman who was not a student.

nikto said...

Thank you for the informative post,Caroline.

America---Land of Corporate CoverUps.

Unknown said...

Sharon, great job!

I'm guessing that New Schools Venture Fund is running out of funds. How do we find out?

Anonymous said...

charters are terrible and there aren't enough of them!

maybe we can use your blog as an enrichment activity for these poor, stepford children on logical fallacies

Anonymous said...

"So Bill Gates, a Washington state resident, is pumping his money into making my state get more and more charters."

Why piss and moan about this?

The Perimeter Primate said...

Cuz it bugs me, Arkansas person.

Anonymous said...

Now you think there's a conspiracy from Arkansas? Why call someone's question out based on the state they come from?

The Perimeter Primate said...

Howdy Arkansas: Why on earth do you think it is such a great thing for complete outsiders to come in with their megadollars and stealthily manipulate the weakening of a public school district like my own? And that's just the beginning of their sneakiness. I've done enough research to realize it's happening at the state and federal levels.

It sounds, and feels, like total untrustworthy meddling, with an ulterior motive, to me.

Why don't these people who are forcing, buying, bribing, etc. all these changes, make themselves available to the public for a little democratic discourse?

They never do, and that sounds and feels very undemocratic to me.

By the way, it's my family, not Gates' nor probably yours, who is paying the annual taxes for these/my daughters' public schools.

Here's something to read that might help you understand my point of view, or maybe not. Whatever.

nikto said...

Arkansas Person just needs accurate information, as well as the capacity to *believe* accurate information.

Anything is possible for the individual who chooses REALITY
over MYTH.

C'mon, Arkansas Person, I'm pulling for ya'.

You can do it!!

The Perimeter Primate said...

Arkansas person might not be from Arkansas after all. But no matter, it's more interesting to say that phrase than yet another "Anonymous."

The Perimeter Primate said...

Here are a few more specifics about EdVoice, the education lobbying group.

EdVoice was founded in 2001 by Reed Hastings (CEO of Netflix, Microsoft board member, Green Dot founding funder) and John Doerr (venture capitalist, investment banker), along with and former CA state Assembly members Ted Lempert and Steve Poizner. Eli Broad and Don Fisher (deceased CEO of The Gap and major KIPP supporter) once served on EdVoice's board.

EdVoice has received a ton of money from all of the above as well as from Carrie Walton Penner and Fisher's widow, Doris. Penner lives in the Bay Area and is a Walton Family Foundation trustee. She also sits on KIPP's board, as does Reed Hastings, and the Fishers' son, John.

Back in 1998, Hastings also co-founded Californians for Public School Excellence with Don Shalvey. This is the organization that pushed for the Charter Schools Act of 1998, the law that lifted the cap on the number of charter schools in the state.

Don Shalvey was involved with starting the first charter school in California, just after the passage of the California Charter School Act of 1992 (CA was the second state to pass a law). He is also founder and former CEO of Aspire Public Schools. Reed Hastings has been a major source of Aspire's financial backing, including its launch. In 2009, Shalvey stepped down from his post at Aspire and went to work for the Gates Foundation, but for a while he stayed on Aspire's board. The Gates Foundation has given generously to Aspire.

In 2011, Hastings and Doerr pumped $11M into DreamBox Learning, an online education company started by a former Microsoft executive and the CEO of a software company. It was acquired by Hastings with help from the Charter School Growth Fund.

BTW, EdVoice co-founder Lempert is currently president of an Oakland-based org called Children Now; he occasionally teaches at Cal. Poizner, a conservative Republican and wealthy Silicon Valley high tech entrepreneur, was defeated by Meg Whitman in the June 2010 gubernatorial primary, and is now the State Insurance Commissioner. For several years he worked for Boston Consulting Group as a management consultant.