Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Like lambs being led to the slaughter

Newsflash! Bill Gates has now been publicly heckled. Watch the July 9 video here.

And just three days after being subjected to that humiliation in his hometown of Seattle, the Washington Post rushed in to his defense. Bright and early on the morning of Monday, July 12, WaPo readers opened their papers to find the following: “Gates Foundation playing pivotal role in changes for education system.”

Of course, it is especially important to note that both Melinda Gates and Warren E. Buffett, who is a major donor to the Gates Foundation, sit on the board of directors of The Washington Post Co.

The reason Bill Gates was heckled by a group of teacher protesters during his appearance at the AFT convention is because they oppose the enormous role which the Gates Foundation is playing re the privatization of public education and the weakening of the teachers' unions. Among other efforts, the foundation has poured millions of dollars into supporting mayoral control, dismantling neighborhood schools, and expanding charter schools. These teachers labeled Gates as a "Trojan Horse in the AFT House.”

The day following his AFT appearance, Leonie Haimson called Gates “The most dangerous man in America,” a Huffington Post piece which widely circulated in the edu-blogosphere.

A Monday post by Norm Scott (a retired teacher, reporter, and activist in NYC) discussed AFT President Randi Weingarten’s reaction to the anti-Gates protest, as well as the way in which other teachers at the convention ridiculed and shunned the protesters.

I placed a comment on Norm’s post which contained the following:

If the teachers at the convention had any idea how much money Gates has put into developing non-unionized charter schools, and that his vision includes an extreme reduction in the membership -- and power -- of their union, they might not have been so willing to cheer for him…

As a follow-up to that comment, I've collected a few facts that might help to enlighten some of those Gates teacher-fans. I think they should be aware that, as a direct consequence of Bill Gates' decisions, a number of them who were cheering for him will likely be saying goodbye to their jobs in the not-too-distant future. If they're lucky and not too old, they might get re-hired by some non-unionized charter school.

The Washington Post article informs us that the Gates Foundation gave “More than $81 million to charter schools and related initiatives” in the 29-months between January 2008 through May 2010.

This figure does not include the $4 million dollars that Gates secretly paid to Learn-NY from his own pocket to bankroll the campaign to extend Michael Bloomberg’s mayoral control. From the NY Post, August 2009:

“The donation helped pay for Learn-NY's extensive public-relations, media and lobbying efforts in Albany and the city. The effort include [sic] advertisements, parent organizing and canvassing -- including a five-borough bus tour and trips to the state capital.”

Michael Bloomberg is strongly pro-charter and anti-union. As the Gotham Gazette explained in February 2010, “Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his Schools Chancellor Joel Klein envision doubling the number of charters in the city to 200 schools accommodating for 10 percent of city students --more than 100,000 kids.” Learn about the master plan to eliminate public school districts at the end of this piece (as outlined in 2008 by Andy Smarick of the Fordham Foundation).*

It is important to realize that the big venture philanthropists like Bill Gates and Eli Broad are using their wealth to advance charter schools on a number of different levels simultaneously; it’s a collective strategy where efforts potentiate each other. Janelle Scott describes the strategy in her paper, "The Politics of Venture Philanthropy in Charter School Policy and Advocacy", and informs us that foundations are being used as the philanthropists' vehicle in order to fund a wide range of:

  1. charter advocacy groups
  2. pro-charter research organizations
  3. alternative teacher, principal, and superintendent training programs
  4. charter school development organizations

If you study the Gates Foundation grants, you’ll notice that many of them can be categorized into one of the four above groups. Read more about Scott’s investigation here.

Now for a quick, but incomplete, look at the destinations to which Bill Gates is funneling his money.

“The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation provided The Washington Post with this spreadsheet of its grants since January 2008 related to elementary and secondary education.” Here are some examples relating to the expansion of charter schools:

  • $75,300 to the New York City Center for Charter School Excellence (City Based Proposal for What Works Fund - NYC Charter Center)
  • $224,030 to the President and Fellows of Harvard College (Charter School Initiative)
  • $500,000 to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (General Operating Support)
  • $950,000 to the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (PRI Guaranty To Unlock Facilities Financing for High Quality Charter Schools)
  • $2,605,527 to the National Alliance For Public Charter Schools (NAPCS Industry Development)
  • $2,979,186 to the National Association Of Charter School Authorizers (National Impact Initiative grant)
  • $1,891,265 to the New Schools Fund dba NewSchools Venture Fund (CMO Research Study Project Management) Note for newbies: CMO means Charter Management Organization
  • $246,070 to the New Schools Fund dba NewSchools Venture Fund (Support access to ARRA funds for strong CMOs)

That sub-total comes to $9,471,378. Without any doubt, the Gates Foundation is a primary supporter of a wide range of organizations which are working in unison to replace unionized public schools with non-unionized charter schools.This effort has been going on for some time.

Kenneth Libby tracked destinations of the foundation’s largess and reports some of his findings at the Gates Education Report. Among other things, there we learn that the Gates Foundation gave:

  • $22 million to the NewSchools Venture Fund in 2003 for charter school expansion
  • $30 million to the NewSchools Venture Fund in 2006 for charter school expansion

Diane Ravitch writes about the venture philanthropists like Bill Gates in her now-famous chapter “The Billionaire Boys’ Club” (Chapter 10 of “The Death and Life of the Great American School System”). In discussing how the Gates Foundation has blanketed think tanks and education advocacy groups with its wealth, she writes (p. 210):

In the fall of 2006, Erik W. Robelen reported in Education Week that the foundation had increased its giving to advocacy groups from $276,000 in 2002 to nearly $57,000,000 in 2005. Writing about the foundation's efforts to "broaden and deepen its reach," Robelen noted that almost everyone he interviewed was getting Gates money…Beginning in 2000, Gates supplied nearly $100 million to charter management organizations…

Ravitch points out the immense and publicly unaccountable power of the Gates Foundation to which those cheering AFT teachers stood on chairs, snapped photos and applauded:

But never in the history of the United States was there a foundation as rich and powerful as the Gates Foundation. Never was there one that sought to steer state and national policy in education. And never before was there a foundation that gave grants to almost every major think tank and advocacy group in the field of education, leaving almost no one willing to criticize its vast power and unchecked influence.

The teacher protesters in Seattle and a few assorted individuals aren't the only ones alarmed by the power and influence of Bill Gates and his foundation. A number of people involved with world health are also deeply concerned about the nature of the impact which the Gates Foundation is having in their arena. It would behoove those who pooh-pooh and ridicule the Gates' critics to read the 2008 report by Global Health Watch.

Occasionally I’ve mentioned these types of issues to teachers I know, most recently on a morning last April as I joined them on a picket line in front of my daughter’s school for a one-day OEA strike. I must confess that I'm consistently stunned at teachers' lack of awareness and interest in these matters, even those who are more heavily involved with the union. The reaction of those AFT members to the Gates' protesters in Seattle only confirms that, at this point, there is no reason to think that teachersunless they do some cramming to learn about the issues will catch on to what's happening and rise up to become the primary voice that speaks out in defense of public education.

Our public education system, its schools, and the profession of public K-12 teaching are intentionally being eroded by Bill Gates and others, in the name of "helping" children. And, as as far as the teachers go, a huge group of them has no good reason to believe that their leader is protecting them.


*The Master Plan to eliminate urban public school districts, as clearly outlined by the Fordham Institute's Andy Smarick in "Wave of the Future" (Winter 2008):

First, commit to drastically increasing the charter market share in a few select communities until it is the dominant system and the district is reduced to a secondary provider. The target should be 75 percent.

Second, choose the target communities wisely. Each should begin with a solid charter base (at least 5 percent market share), a policy environment that will enable growth (fair funding, nondistrict authorizers, and no legislated caps), and a favorable political environment (friendly elected officials and editorial boards, a positive experience with charters to date, and unorganized opposition). [Smarick's suggests the "potentially fertile districts" of Albany, Buffalo, Denver, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Oakland, and Washington, D.C.]

Third, secure proven operators to open new schools. To the greatest extent possible, growth should be driven by replicating successful local charters and recruiting high-performing operators from other areas.

Fourth, engage key allies like Teach For America, New Leaders for New Schools, and national and local foundation to ensure the effort has the human and financial capital needed.

Last, commit to rigorously assessing charter performance in each community and working with authorizers to close the charters that fail to significantly improve student achievement.

Video added on June 17, 2010


Leonie Haimson said...

Is it a coincidence that the Fordham Institute is also one of the Gates' grantees? thanks for this, Sharon!

Michael Fiorillo said...

Excellent work, as usual.

It also needs to be pointed out that, not only is gates busy funding the privatization of the schools, but he is also helping to privatize the gene pool.

Through his foundations work with Monsanto, Gates is also insuring that African agriculture becomes captive to the use of genetically-altered seeds.

As Leonie has so rightfully written, a dangerous, dangerous man

SandintheWheels said...

Good work, keep it up. The same things are happening in other areas of philanthropy too though not with the same hoo-hah as in public education. See "Small Change: Why Business Won't Save the World" by Michael Edwards, which Diane Ravitch recommended on her blog last week and is an easy quick read.