Get sick, get well
Hang around a ink well
Ring bell, hard to tell
If anything is goin' to sell
-- Bob Dylan

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Fuller calls BAEO's collapse, 'a magical moment'. Really?

The collapse of The Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) raises some interesting questions. The right-wing funded, anti-union, pro-voucher group started 17 years ago by '70s civil rights activist turned Bush-supporter, Howard Fuller, has gone belly-up just at the moment in time when you'd think they would be rolling in dough.

With Trump-appointed Betsy DeVos sitting atop the DOE and billions of federal and foundation dollars flowing to astroturf  school "choice" groups, why does BAEO, the only such group specifically targeting African-Americans, suddenly find itself out in the cold?

Fuller started BAEO with heavy backing from the far right-wing groups, like the Bradley Foundation. Bradley became infamous for its underwriting of the racist "Bell Curve" book by Charles Murray. They hired Fuller as a token pitchman for school vouchers. He claimed them as an "underground railroad" freeing black students from the "slavery" of public education and teacher unions.

But with Trump in the White House, it appears the chickens have come home to roost so far as BAEO's foundation support is concerned.

Fuller is now offering muddled and confusing messages about his organization's demise. On his BAEO blog, Fuller tries to place the collapse in a positive light, calling it a "magical moment" and a "new path forward". But in an EdWeek interview, he complains that the school choice advocacy world has become too crowded, and that means more competition for visibility and funding.

According to EdWeek,
The writing has been on the wall. A year and a half ago, BAEO started shedding some of its state chapters and launched a national competition to reimagine and redesign the organization. But that fizzled out, said Fuller, when the effort didn't yield ideas that were "transformative" enough.
Aside from helping pass charter school laws in Alabama and Mississippi, and voucher laws in Louisiana and the District of Columbia, Fuller said BAEO's impact is seen in the pipeline of African-American talent it helped develop in the world of education reform advocacy.
Fuller talks about BAEO like it was a canned good or jar of peanut butter.
"Some organizations, and ours is one of them, have a shelf-life. And we just reached a point where we had done great work but didn't see the ability to continue to do that work going forward."
But that still doesn't really answer the question. Why has BAEO's funding dried up just at a time when school voucher and charter school advocates control the reins of power?

The answer may have something to do with...

  • The fear of many "choice" advocates and activists that they will be viewed as Trump/DeVos supporters and discredited if they back BAEO. This is especially true for black community activists and those tied to the Democratic Party, like Democrats for Education Reform (DFER).  
  • Support for charters is shrinking nationally in the wake of widespread financial scandal and more data showing that charters generally show little in the way of increased measurable student achievement. 
  • Pro-choice groups and think tanks have been thrown into a dither with some like BAIO endorsing DeVos while others, distance themselves for fear of being associated with the Alt-Right.
  •  An even wider divide in reaction to Trump/DeVos budget cuts for public education and shifting of resources over to charters and vouchers. 
  • Demoralizing power struggles within the organization itself, which may account for the mixed messaging. 

More food for thought...White, anti-union, charter and voucher supporters, from Nina Reese to Peter Cunningham are singing Fuller's praises and expressing sympathy over BAEO's fall from grace among the big funders. But none have offered to step up and offer the group financial support. 

No tears coming from me. I'm sure Fuller will have a soft landing somewhere in Trumplandia. 

Monday, October 9, 2017

DeVos had investments in cyber charter schools

Trump's Ed Secretary Betsy DeVos touts online learning and cyber charter schools as a viable alternative to public schools. But her support for these virtual schools and the private companies that run them, may have more to do with her and her husband's investment portfolio than with any positive results for students.

This from Politico:
K12 is the company DeVos and her husband had an “investment interest” in, according to paperwork released in 2006 by her husband’s unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign in Michigan. A DeVos spokeswoman did not respond to questions about the size of the investment, which is not listed as current in her federal disclosure forms. 
She and her husband invested in virtual school powerhouse K12 Inc. before she became secretary. At least two of the school choice groups DeVos helped found, Great Lakes Education Project and the American Federation for Children, pushed for virtual charters — including in DeVos’ home state of Michigan.

But while cyber school companies generally are reaping big profits, K12 Inc. stock has been a bust.

As for measurable student learning, the cyber schools' results in state after state, from Florida to Pennsylvania, have lagged far behind face-to-face public schools.

In Pennsylvania, where more than 30,000 kids are enrolled in virtual charter schools,  the graduation rate is a dismal 48 percent. Not one virtual charter school meets the state’s “passing” benchmark. And the founder of one of the state’s largest virtual schools pleaded guilty to a tax crime last year.

K12 Inc. in particular, has been a sewer of corruption since it was founded by former GOP education sec William Bennett. The company was forced to remove Bennett as chairman of its directors following a series of racist remarks and gambling scandals which threatened the company's marketability.

K12 Inc. has been under investigation by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, which has been looking into K12's involvement in a project that received an improper multimillion-dollar grant from the Department of Education during Bennett's tenure at the firm.

Friday, August 18, 2017

CPS buys into the Covey Hustle

Reposted from Fred Klonsky's Blog

A parent wants to know why an expensive corporate training program is being implemented at his neighborhood CPS school.

Logan Square’s Darwin Elementary School.

A few years ago there was some controversy over Steven Covey’s The Leader in Me program which was purchased by CPS. CPS had spent over a quarter of a million dollars on The Leader in Me by that the time.

Supporters of the program, started under former CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard before he resigned in October, say it fosters a disciplined approach to education and helps with so-called social emotional learning. But some critics say there is not enough proof it works and argue it is costly at a time when the district is facing financial woes.

The program, called “The Leader in Me,” was created by the Utah-based Franklin Covey, a publicly-traded company that CPS has paid more than $263,000 since 2005, including more than $111,000 this year.

This year’s spending was for The Leader in Me, the brainchild of the company’s founder, Stephen Covey.

Covey, who died last year, is the author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” the centerpiece of leadership training programs run by Franklin Covey that have been used by Fortune 500 companies.

The Leader in Me is a version of Covey’s book adapted for younger students and used by more than 1,000 schools worldwide, though company officials admit evidence that it works is mostly anecdotal and say it’s still too soon to fully measure the impact of the program on the schools where it’s used.

Offered to all CPS schools before the start of the 2012-2013 school year, Andrew Jackson, Walsh Elementary, Pershing West Elementary and South Loop Elementary were the only schools to sign on, a CPS spokesman said.

Brizard is long gone as CPS CEO.

But The Leader in Me is still around.

And a Logan Square’s Darwin Elementary School parent and LSC member, Jeff Young, wonders why?

In a letter sent by Jeff Young to the other members of the Darwin LSC following a school walk-through.

I am concerned about a video we were shown, prior to the walk, in which students and teachers from Darwin appeared. This video, as it was explained to us, was produced by the FranklinCovey company for use with it’s “Leader In Me” program.

In a later letter Jeff Young lays out his objections to a corporate training tool being used at a public elementary school:

1) There is no objective, 3rd party analysis as to whether Leader In Me is any more effective than any other program with similar goals that doesn’t cost as much nor require as much from our school (see 3).

2) Principals in Kentucky and Missouri have been disciplined by their districts for consulting for Franklin Covey while implementing Leader In Me at their schools. Links to articles discussing these situations are below. It concerns me that this program has a financial incentive for it’s adoption with no proven, verifiable academic benefit.

3) Leader In Me contractually obligates our school to share student absenteeism and disciplinary data with Franklin Covey, as well as hold Leadership Day annually. Federal laws tightly controls the disclosure of student data outside of the school; I’m not certain the data we are providing is publicly available or not. By hosting Leadership Day at Darwin, we are essentially holding a sales event at our school for Franklin Covey during which our children help sell their product.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Confirms my critique of power philanthropy

I'm certainly not against philanthropic giving. I think the super-wealthy should do more of it. Not to get a tax break, they already get that just by being rich in a climate of regressive taxation. Not to increase their own unrestricted political influence over society. You already need millions or billions to get elected to higher political office. But simply because it's the morally and ethically right thing to do.

But the rise of what I call, muscle or power philanthropy has only served to increase social and economic inequality and weaken what's left our our democratic institutions.

A recent article in Quartz, quotes Rob Reich, director of the Center for Ethics in Society at Stanford University, who pretty much confirms my apprehensions about the giant foundations.

Reich says:
A philanthropic foundation is a form of unaccountable power quite unlike any other organization in society. Government is at least somewhat beholden to voters, and private companies must contend with marketplace competition and the demands of shareholders. 
 Undemocratic philanthropy is a misuse of power, even if it is power attempting to do good. “At the very least, we should not provide tax benefits to further augment the private pursuit through philanthropic mechanisms of private means,” adds Reich.
After all, those very tax breaks afforded to philanthropists are depriving the public sector of further funds that should be used to provide public services.
What I've been arguing for years.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017


I'm remembering back to 2015 when Arne Duncan's SUV took a wrong turn on the way to Ariel Community Academy in Chicago, and he was forced to get out and walk through a large group of anti-PARCC protesters, who were there to express their opposition to the new common-core-aligned exams. Duncan did not stop to speak to them.

Duncan had already launched tirades against parents who wanted their kids to opt-out of PARCC. Remember this one?
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told a group of state schools superintendents Friday that he found it “fascinating” that some of the opposition to the Common Core State Standards has come from “white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were.” -- Washington Post
Fast-forward to today. Duncan's gone and apparently so is PARCC -- at least from most states. The PARCC consortium, apparently feeling the burn, has chosen a new nonprofit to manage the business of maintaining and administering its test: New Meridian Corp., a brand-new organization led by people from various strands of the assessment world.

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, has lost most of its original state members. Only six states and the District of Columbia are using the test this year, and that number will drop by one more next year.

EdWeek reports: 
Its president and CEO, Arthur VanderVeen, who has spent the past 14 years at Compass Learning, the New York City Department of Education, and the College Board, told Education Week that he and his team interviewed the leaders of 14 states—current and former PARCC states, some who use Smarter Balanced, and some who haven't used either consortium test—to get a sense of their testing priorities.
 Sustainability has been an issue for both consortia as the end of their federal funding near drew. That $360 million was meant only to support the design of the tests. Once they made their operational debut, in 2014-15, financial responsibility for sustaining the tests shifted to the states. Both consortia have lost membership, but Smarter Balanced has maintained a larger stable of states using its test—14 this year—than has PARCC.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Billionaire hedge-fund fraud and charter school patron gave $1M to Trump inaug

Steven Cohen, chairman and CEO of Point72 Asset Management, big Trump donor.
Scandal-ridden billionaire hedge-funder and charter-school bank-roller Steven A. Cohen is back in the news again. Turns out Cohen was among the million-dollar donors to the Trump inauguration, according to a federal filing. He wasn't the biggest donor. That honor belongs to right-wing creep Sheldon Adelson.

While he has been a big contributor to conservative super PACs like Chris Christie's America Leads, Cohen has also been a big backer of Dem. candidates, including Connecticut Gov. Malloy.

Cohen is not in jail. But he should be. Federal prosecutors in New York decided against criminally charging Cohen for fraud. Instead, they charged his investment firm (remember, corporations are people now) SAC Capital. SAC Capital pled guilty and paid a total of $1.8 billion in fines.

Cohen is one of the major underwriters of privately-run charter schools. The couple's Steven and Alexandra Cohen Foundation is a top donor to the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN), Achievement First, Families for Excellent Schools.

He has also given $40 million to support his six charter schools operating in the Bronx. The Cohen's are sponsors of the Amistad Academy in New Haven, which is described here as, "a charter school serving minority students...using chants, rewards, and consequences."

I'm not sure what it is about hedge-funders like Boykin Curry of Eagle Capital, Whitney Tilson of T2 Partners, David Einhorn of Greenlight Capital, Michael Novogratz of Fortress Investment Group, Carl Icahn and the rest that attracts them to the charter world. But I suspect it has more to do with free-market ideology than anything to do with teaching and learning.

According to the Hartford Courant:
Wall Street billionaires who have invested heavily in the expansion of charter schools contributed more than $200,000 to Democrats in the 2013-14 election cycle, helping Gov. Dannel P. Malloy secure re-election.
The campaign contributors earned their fortunes as hedge fund managers and private equity investors before earning reputations as "education philanthropists." They have helped bankroll charter school movements throughout the country, spending to influence elections and to support advocacy movements.
If you want to know more about Cohen, read New Yorker writer Sheelah Kolhatkar's book, Black Edge: Inside Information, Dirty Money and the Quest to Bring Down the Most Wanted Man on Wall Street (Random House, 2017).

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Rahm's Infrastructure Trust, a failed privatization scam.

Rahm Emanuel flew in Randi Weingarten  to support the Infrastructure Trust. 

The BGA's Alejandra Cancino writes in Crain's, that Rahm Emanuel's grand PR stunt, known as the Infrastructure Trust, has done nothing to rebuild Chicago's infrastructure nor to build any trust. In short, it was a sham and a humbug, a facade under which to carry out even more failed privatization deals.

Writes Cancino:
...the infrastructure trust that Mayor Rahm Emanuel once hailed as a model of out-of-the-box thinking to jumpstart public works has proved anything but.
 Launched five years ago this month, the Chicago Infrastructure Trust has accomplished little and done so at a snail's pace. None of the $800 million in financing that Emanuel claimed he had lined up from institutional investors to bankroll city projects ever materialized, with resources so tight that the trust on several occasions has been late by more than a month in paying staff and once by several months.
What's more, city records reviewed by the Better Government Association show trust operations and projects have been largely dependent on public financing even though Emanuel sold the idea as an innovative financing scheme to free taxpayers from cost and risk.
As of October, the trust still owed money to some former employees, consultants and contractors, according to its most recent audit report.
Sounds like one of Trump's deals. Doesn't it? And there were more. Like the the failed privatization of Midway Airport.

I warned about the Trust back in 2012 when Rahm first touted it as a model for other cities to follow and claimed that it would bring thousands of jobs to Chicago. And I wasn't alone.

Ald. Scott Waguespack, 32nd, (yes, there are a few honest ones on the council) opposed the trust's creation pushed for more transparency and City Council oversight.

Ben Joravsky, writing in the Reader, called Rahm the "trust fund mayor" and warned of the lack of transparency around IT.

But warnings fell on deaf ears. Why? Because there were the big banks, like Citibank and big Democratic Party backers singing the Trust's praises. Namely, Bill Clinton who stood shoulder to shoulder with Rahm when IT was rolled out. .

And then there was AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten who Rahm flew to Chicago so she could offer her union's support of the Infrastructure Trust at Bill Clinton's Global Initiative Conference.
“People want to work,” Weingarten said. “And what we’re seeing, whether it’s the mayor’s infrastructure program here in Chicago or everything else we’re doing around the country, is that when labor and business start working good together on trying to put people back to work with good jobs, when we start building things again, it builds huge hope around the country.”
To her credit, Randi had been in town a few weeks earlier to support and march with thousands of rallying union teachers. If you followed my blog at the time, you know that I gave her props for that.  But now, here she was rallying support for Rahm's great privatization scheme, cheering it on with the very forces that were attacking the CTU in a massive media campaign.

She wasn't alone among union leaders either. The Mayor had put Jorge Ramirez, president of the Chicago Federation of Labor, on the board of the Trust. The promise of jobs, no matter how illusory, is pretty enticing. Just ask the sell-out union leaders who have drunk Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" kool-aid.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Former CPS Liar-in-Chief lands on her feet at Midway

I doubt you are, but if you're worrying about the fate of former CPS Liar-in-Chief, Becky Carroll,  you can stop now.

After serving as J.C. Brizard's and prison-bound Barbara Byrd-Bennett's Kellyanne Conway and then as the head of Rahm Emanuel's Super PAC, "Chicago Forward", Carroll has hit it big as a Midway Airport contractor. In other words, she's landed (see what I did there?) on her feet. Take heart Kellyanne. There's life (and profit) even after a failed career of mendacity and prevarication.

The Sun-Times reports:
A 15-year, $75 million makeover of Midway Airport concessions was cleared for takeoff Wednesday on a runway crowded with clout-heavy contractors. The contract with a group known as Midway Partnership LLC was approved at an action-packed City Council meeting dominated by business legislation.
 The $248 million Midway overhaul will give the Southwest Side airport 1,400 more premium parking spaces, a Taste of Chicago-style concession makeover with more space, and 27 security lanes — up from 17 — to unclog a notorious passenger bottleneck.
Did you know that "broke Chicago", where school budgets are being slashed to ribbons, had $248M laying around to put at the service of wealthy airport concessionaires? This, after years of failed Rahm attempts to sell off poorly-run Midway to any taker who wanted it.

And as I scroll through the article, I come upon Becky's name. She's hit the jackpot as a member of the "winning team" of contractors -- all Rahm political loyalists of course.

And here, I thought Becky's area of expertise lie in school closings and CPS corruption cover-ups. How was I too know she was an airport food concession maven as well?

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Billionaire charter backers clash. Broad vs. DeVos

Billionaires DeVos vs. Broad
Power philanthropist Eli Broad is urging senators to vote against confirming fellow billionaire and right-wing school "choice" advocate, Betsy DeVos.

The growing grassroots resistance to Trump's choice for Ed Secretary has split the charter/voucher movement and its wealthy backers. Pro-choice groups and think tanks have been thrown into a dither with some like BAIO's Howard Fuller endorsing DeVos while others, distance themselves for fear of being associated with Trump and the Alt-Right.

According to EdWeek:
In comparison to DeVos' philanthropic work, the Broads belong to a class of donors that prefer a much more managed approach to school choice, investing in charter school models that can scale up and measure their performance. They are strong supporters of charter management organizations—nonprofit networks of charter schools (think KIPP)—whose rapid growth has been propelled by the federal government and a handful of wealthy donors. 
Eli and his wife Edythe Broad are among some of the most influential backers of charter schools nationwide. Their foundation has given over $150 million to charter schools nationally. Of that, $79 million has gone to charters in Los Angeles. He's also used his money to influence local school board elections in favor of pro-choice, anti-union candidates.

He's also a big Democratic Party campaign donor who personally bankrolled many of Arne Duncan's ed initiatives and currently is underwriting Education Post, the pro-charter, anti-teacher union project run by Duncan's former assistant, Peter Cunningham.

But Broad has no real problems with Trump or the Republicans. In 2013 he was exposed for secretly funding a right-wing, anti-union group connected with the Koch Bros. He formerly helped run the failed giant AIG Corp., once the world's biggest insurer, into the ground.

DeVos and her husband Richard on the other hand, are free-market evangelical conservatives who favor vouchers and for-profit charters as opposed to, what she calls, "government schools". Her appointment has far less to do with her competencies or lack thereof as a department head, but rather as an ideologue and an important piece of the Trump/Bannon move to take over and demolish the institutions of government, including the Dept. of Education.

Broad's letter to McConnell and Schumer urging them to dump DeVos, came on the same day as two Republican senators announced that they plan to vote against DeVos' confirmation. Both Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska hail from rural states. Both raised concerns over DeVos' hyper-focus on school choice and her overall knowledge of public schools.

Only one more Republican needs to break with the party to sink DeVos' nomination, but GOP leaders say they are confident DeVos will ultimately be confirmed as the next secretary of education.

We'll soon see if Broad has enough juice to swing one-more Republican vote away from DeVos. I doubt it.

Monday, January 23, 2017

The language of reform. Corporate 'Collectives' for the Elite.

Collective Pres. Laurene Powell Jobs
Over the years I've gotten used to the way corporate reformers appropriate the language of radical social change to give themselves a progressive facade.

Take the word, collective, for example, as in socialist collectivism, collective bargaining, collective farming, anarchist or Marxist collectives, which is usually associated with the left-wing, labor movements. In the late 60s and early 70s you also had the rise of feminist collectives and so on. In other words, grassroots organizations synonymous with social change.

Can top-down, corporate reformers now take ownership of the terminology? You bet they can.

Sign of the times... Crain's Chicago Business recently launched its CEO Collective. No, it has nothing to do with socialism, street-protest affinity groups, or going off the the country to start a commune.

Listen to the way they describe it to potential recruits, using lots of ed reform jargon.
An exclusive year-long program for Chicago CEOs and founders, Crain’s CEO Collective offers participants an opportunity to work alongside their new professional network and dive deep into their most pressing challenges – empowering them to transform their organization.
This facilitated peer-learning program will include modules on issue resolution, leadership development, strategic thinking and innovation. Plus, members will be introduced to guest speakers that will enrich, inspire and energize their journey. CEOs will also gain a renewed awareness of issues and opportunities in Chicago.
Wow, peer-coaching, professional development, innovation -- this sounds like it came directly out of the school reform movement of the 1990s.

What they don't offer in their ads, but I'm sure is included in the Collective's membership fee, are workshops of how to undermine unions and get rid of, or around collective bargaining.

Another new corporate collective that caught my eye is the so-called Emerson Collective, started by Laurene Powell Jobs, the billionaire widow of Apple founder, Steve Jobs. After reading the Collective's mission statement, I'm ready to join up, if they'll have me as a collective member. But I doubt it.
We are an organization dedicated to removing barriers to opportunity so people can live to their full potential. Established by Laurene Powell Jobs, we center our work on education, immigration reform, the environment and other social justice initiatives. We use a wide range of tools and strategies—partnering with entrepreneurs and experts, parents and policymakers, advocates and administrators—to spur change and promote equality.
Unlike her husband Steve, who didn't believe in philanthropy, Powell Jobs is president of the Collective, which doubles as an LLC of course. That means, instead of a tax-exempt 501(c)(3), like the Gates or Walton Foundations which bankroll privately-run charter schools, the Emerson Collective can make grants, for-profit investments and political donations — and does not have to publicly report its donations as a foundation does.

Get the picture. If you call your personal tax shelter a "collective" and give it social -justice window dressing, you can operate free from public accountability or oversight.

Yes, better to operate in the shadows, or as the collectivists might say, "with flexibility".

Duncan joins the Collective
Latest to join the Collective is none other than the king of corporate school reform, Arne Duncan. Well maybe join isn't the proper term. He's not called a collective member but rather, a "managing partner". Duncan will oversee the XQ Institute and the XQ Super School Project, a $50 million national grant competition  that proposes to "re-imagine" high school.

One can only imagine what he and his collective are re-imagining. A new race to the top, perhaps? More testing madness? Unregulated and re-segregated charters?

I couldn't find out Duncan's salary at the Collective or how much Jobs pays in taxes. No public accountability, remember?

Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Pricilla Chan, have done something similar. Except that they don't call their power philanthropy a collective. Rather, it's the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Yes, it's an initiative rather than a collective. And their LLC focuses on --wait for it-- "personalized learning and underserved communities".

Zuckerberg's version of Duncan is former U.S. Education Department deputy secretary and Gates Foundation refugee Jim Shelton.

Among the missing from these top-down reform collectives, initiatives, innovators, and school re-imaginers, are the teachers themselves. After all, what would they know about personalized learning in underserved communities?

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

From Davos to DeVos

As the world's super-wealthy and super-powerful gather this week in Davos for the World Economic Forum, the spotlight is once again on the widening chasm of wealth inequality. It's virtually impossible to talk meaningfully about education reform, privatization, charter schools, testing, deseg, etc... without taking the growing wealth gap into consideration.

Oxfam reports that the gap between the super-rich and the poorest half of the global population is starker than previously thought, with just eight men, from Bill Gates to Michael Bloomberg, owning as much wealth as 3.6 billion people, or half the world.
Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International, says:
“It is obscene for so much wealth to be held in the hands of so few when 1 in 10 people survive on less than $2 a day.  Inequality is trapping hundreds of millions in poverty; it is fracturing our societies and undermining democracy.  
“Across the world, people are being left behind. Their wages are stagnating yet corporate bosses take home million dollar bonuses; their health and education services are cut while corporations and the super-rich dodge their taxes; their voices are ignored as governments sing to the tune of big business and a wealthy elite.”
Public anger with inequality is already creating political shockwaves across the globe. Inequality has been cited as a significant factor in the election of neo-fascists and populists like Donald Trump in the US, President Duterte in the Philippines, and Brexit in the UK.
The world’s 8 richest people are, in order of net worth:    
  1. Bill Gates: America founder of Microsoft (net worth $75 billion)
  2. Amancio Ortega: Spanish founder of Inditex which owns the Zara fashion chain (net worth $67 billion)
  3. Warren Buffett: American CEO and largest shareholder in Berkshire Hathaway (net worth $60.8 billion)
  4. Carlos Slim Helu: Mexican owner of Grupo Carso (net worth: $50 billion)
  5. Jeff Bezos: American founder, chairman and chief executive of Amazon (net worth: $45.2 billion)
  6. Mark Zuckerberg: American chairman, chief executive officer, and co-founder of Facebook (net worth $44.6 billion)
  7. Larry Ellison: American co-founder and CEO of Oracle (net worth $43.6 billion)
  8. Michael Bloomberg: American founder, owner and CEO of Bloomberg LP (net worth: $40 billion)
To make the point about wealth inequality and public education, consider this. Except for the Spaniard Ortega and Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, all are directly or indirectly involved in U.S. corporate-style school reform, charter schools, and in various projects and in policy setting. All have graced the pages of this blog. 

Ironically, one of the strongest voices on education at Davos, comes not from the mighty 8, but from singer Shakira, suggesting an antidote for violent conflict and divisive populism: Get more kids in pre-school.

The Colombian singer is using her distinctive voice to lobby the world's rich and powerful at the World Economic Forum for more spending on early childhood education.

Asked if she had a message for U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, she urged solid education policies that instill "inclusiveness and tolerance" for future generations.

Recalling a childhood in Colombia marred by war, she said: "If we really want peace, we need to invest in education."

While the high and mighty gather in Davos, the Senate is holding hearings to consider the appointment of billionaire Betsy DeVos.

If you're confused about DeVos and Davos, this, from brother Fred, might help...

Monday, December 26, 2016

New for-profit ed management company won't pull Ohio charters out of the muck.

Few states rely so heavily on for-profit management companies as does Ohio. Lately, corporate reformers at the Cambridge Education Group, have formed a new charter school network in to try and clean up the mess created by their former notorious company, for-profit White Hat charters. But Cambridge's new name is not enough to pull them from the muck and corruption of "free market" education.

The company was formed in 2012, founded by Marcus May, a former White Hat executive.

Beacon Journal staff writer, Doug Livingston writes:
The Akron company and the 20 Ohio charter schools it manages are seeking to disentangle themselves from the likes of White Hat Management, a primordial force in Ohio’s charter school movement.
 But Cambridge claims to be different. It has no interest in owning school assets or signing property leases that make it hard for school boards to fire the management companies they hire.
But, writes Livingston, "Cambridge, for all its promise, can’t shake a past rife with questionable business relationships."

Summit Academy, White Hat, Concept Schools of Illinois and Imagine Schools of Virginia and other for-profit charter networks, all like to buy the school buildings they manage, drawing revenue from rent and putting school boards at a disadvantage if they wish to shop around for a new operator. Cambridge school boards — starting with Towpath Trail High School on Market Street — are collecting property deeds, eliminating their use as bargaining chips.


Ohio’s charter schools ...
Drawing state dollars from local school districts, charter schools presented a cheaper, market-driven alternative to government-run schools.
■ Ohio law allowed for the first charter schools in 1998.
■ Nearly 40 percent of the 595 charter schools that ever opened in Ohio have closed. Financial difficulty is cited three times as often as academic failure. More than half the time, closure is voluntary, according to a state directory of shuttered charter schools.
■ Ohio’s charter schools rank among the lowest in the nation in advancing student learning.

May founded Rearden Capital and d’Anconia Development to provide financing and line up private investors to purchase school property, often with an option for the schools to buy the property later. “Rearden” and “d’Anconia” are the neoliberal protagonists in Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand’s ode to an unfettered free-market capitalism. Such is the philosophy May and others bring to public education.

A grand jury in Florida indicted School Warehouse and Newpoint Education Partners, May’s version of Cambridge in Florida, on charges of grand theft, money laundering and aggravated white-collar crime.

And so it goes. It's White Hat without the hat.

THE FALLOUT... The Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools, one of Ohio’s leading charter-school lobbying and advocacy organizations is disbanding after a decade of shaping the state’s charter-school policy. Some say its demise stems from Ohio’s poor charter-school record, which is causing national funders to pull their support.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Did Moskowitz cut a deal with Trump?

Last month, charter schools' biggest hustler, Eva Moskowitz, who pulls down a half-million/year as the operator of N.Y. Success Academies, was in the running for Trump's Sec. of Ed post. She didn't get the job. Trump gave it to fellow plutocrat and religious zealot Betsy DeVos instead.

The Trump transition team may have been frightened off by the spate of negative press about her schools' discipline practices and internal workings and the ongoing federal investigation conducted by the Office of Civil Rights, as well as mounting criticism from local elected officials. It is unclear whether Moskowitz could have even been confirmed as a cabinet official of an agency that is investigating her schools.

But that didn't stop Moskowitz, a Clinton supporter, from swearing loyalty to Trump and his plan for market-driven public schools.

Moscowitz bought space here for $68M.
Then, no sooner had she plopped down $68M in school money for the purchase of ground-floor classroom space in a glitzy Midtown tower, when the auditors caught up with her.

Today she is under fire for financial mismanagement and allegedly ripping off the taxpayers and even her own Success Academy schools for millions of dollars, including thousands that were supposed to have been spent on services that were never delivered to students with special needs.

The Observer reports: 
An audit  by city Comptroller Scott Stringer discovered rampant inaccuracies in the financial reports of Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy charter school chain—including internal assessments that created the appearance of lower administrative costs, bills to the city for special education services the company could not prove it ever provided and duplicative payments that the chain’s management arm collected from its schools.
 The audit found that in fiscal year 2015, Success Academy schools paid the Success Academy Network an extra $624,342 for services that the Network should have provided in exchange for its $18.3 million management fee. Those services include staff training and professional development, printing, copying and student assessments.
All this has me wondering if this was the real purpose of the Moskowitz's flirtation with Trump. Was she running to him for cover, offering fealty and rendering unto Caesar in exchange for protection? Was she looking at a possible job in the Trump administration as an escape route from the arms of city prosecutors?

We'll soon find out if her gambit worked.

Cross-posted at Mike Klonsky's SmallTalk blog.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Bill Gates is the perfect partner for Trump. No billionaire left behind.

“But in the same way President Kennedy talked about the space mission and got the country behind that... whether it’s education or stopping epidemics … [or] in this energy space, there can be a very upbeat message that [Trump’s] administration [is] going to organize things, get rid of regulatory barriers, and have American leadership through innovation.” -- Bill Gates
Okay, so now that Bill Gates has jumped aboard the Trump train, that means no billionaire is left behind. Right? (Bloomberg??).  Gates' comparison of Trump to JFK may sound like a stretch to some. To me too. But Gates claims it's all about innovation. JFK did champion the Cold War space race with the Russians while Trump seems to have joined the other side. But maybe Gates means they both pushed war with Cuba. I don't know. The world's a much different place now. I'm pretty sure Gates wants no part of a trade war with China.

What I do know is that Trump is a perfect fit for the world's richest man and his muscle-foundation. For one thing, Gates is all for deregulation of industry, a promoter of nukes and is one of the world's great all-time polluters. The Gates Foundation's record in Africa (no Virginia, he wasn't just about vaccines) is criminal and the foundation was also one of the biggest stockholders in BP Oil when the great Gulf oil spill happened.

For another, like Trump he's a great believer in strong-man, autocratic leadership and finds democratic processes messy and too expensive and time consuming for someone with his economic leverage.

As an example, Gates was forced to spend millions on a referendum in Washington State authorizing charter schools. It failed three times before winning in 2012 by 1 percent of the vote. Voting is much to stressful and expensive a process for the world's richest man.

As for the rest of the Gates Foundation's education reform initiatives, they won't have to change much under Trump rule. I doubt the Gates' will be dumping any more funds into Common Core Standards, even though Betsy DeVos has been a supporter of CCSS in the past. Gates was already starting to back away from the standards back in August and DeVos is not likely to pursue them given the influence of the anti-common core Alt-right's influence in the regime. On the campaign trail, Trump referred to Common Core as a “disaster” and Trump voters are generally wildly anti-Common Core as well as anything even faintly federal.

Bill and Melinda will likely embrace Betsy DeVos' choice (charter and voucher) mania as they always have. As for DeVos' penchant for blurring the lines between public and private, and between state and religion, Gates has never had a problem with either. I remember the foundation once giving millions to the Discovery Institute, a group pushing the teaching of Intelligent Design.

Gates is big on using student test results as a basis for evaluating teachers. We'll have to wait and see how DeVos falls out on that.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

My investment tip for the DeVos era. Charter school real estate.

Clockwise from top left: the Coral Springs – Imagine School, Imagine At South Vero, Plantation – Renaissance Charter School, Championship Academy of Distinction Davie Campus, and Charter School Capital CEO Stuart Ellis

I'm thinking back to the time when hedge-fund school reformer Whitney Tilson mocked me for suggesting that he and his investment group were profiteering from privately-run charter schools.
"Trying to make a killing in the charter school business"?! Yeah, that's right, the charter school business is so profitable that I'm telling all my friends in the hedge fund business that they're in the wrong business. My message: "If you really want to make a lot of money, start a charter school!" LOL!
Turns out I was spot-on and he was covering up. 

So this is the time of year I like to hand out more free investment advice to my readers. You're welcome. 

With the appointment of Betsy DeVos as Trump's education chief, charter school real estate profiteers and corporate reformers like Tilson are rubbing their hands together with glee. This is a great time to get into that market while stock prices are still relatively low. 

Charter School Capital, an academic investment group based in Portland, just scooped up five charter schools spread throughout Florida for $71.74 million. The sellers were MG3 Development Group and ESJ Capital Partners, a pair of local real estate companies. The deal illustrates how investing in nontraditional real estate like schools can be lucrative, especially when other markets like residential and commercial properties appear to be cooling down. 
The deal breaks down to $17,935 per enrolled student. Not bad.

More from the Real Deal...
Despite their controversial status among educators, charter schools have become hot commodities in the real estate community, with a slew of new speculative projects breaking ground in South Florida over the past year. Notably, the W.P. Carey investment trust bought a Broward County preparatory school for $68.6 million in June as part of a larger $167 million deal to acquire three U.S. private academies.
Of course, if profiteering off of the lives of primarily poor, black and Latino students makes you puke or keeps you from facing yourself in the mirror, I would suggest you find another area of investment.  

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Gwen Ifill interviewed George Bush in 2004 about the 'ownership society'

We are deeply saddened by the loss of one of the great, path-breaking journalist, Gwen Ifill, who died yesterday at the age of 61. Much too soon.

I'm happy I got to meet Gwen once in D.C. and tell her personally how much I thought of and respected her.

She appears in our book, Small Schools: Public School Reform Meets the Ownership Society which highlights her 2004 give-and-take with Pres. George W. Bush on the Jim Lehrer Newshour, in which Ifill credits Bush and V.P. Dick Cheney with coming up with the term, Ownership Society. 
GWEN IFILL: During the campaign, President Bush and Vice President Cheney coined a new phrase to describe the economic promise of a second term. They said they would create an “ownership society,” one that would lower taxes and shift more of government’s burden to individuals.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I believe our country can and must become an ownership society. When you own something, you care about it. When you own something, you have a vital stake in the future of your country. 
The ownership society terminology was coined to reassure Bush's relatively small, but single-minded Republican base that "free market" reforms, including the privatization of public space, would be pushed aggressively in the 2004 election campaign.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Pritzker gives Hillary a pat on the head and wants her to move into ed philanthropy.

Chicago Billionaire J.B. Pritzker was the chair and chief money bungler bundler for the Clinton campaign. He's the heir to the Hyatt Hotel fortune and hotel union-buster supreme. He told Crain's that his aim, "isn't ego gratification; it's all about making money". I suspect it's both.

Last month I called him out on his special-ed hustle with Goldman Sachs. It allows private firms to foot the initial bill for public education services and then be repaid with interest if those services reduce the number of kids in special ed. They call it "social impact" investing. I call it a plot to reduce services for needy kids -- or public education meets the Ownership Society.

Chicago Mag calls him, "the other mayor of Chicago" even though he's lost every political election in which he's run (I think it's one). He's even got a Chicago charter school named after him.

In this morning's Sun Times, Pritzker hands out the party line on the election postmortem. Like the rest of the Democratic leadership, Pritzker takes no responsibility for the defeat and puts all the blame on Comey, the pollsters, and men. He forgot about the Russians and the electoral college for some reason.

So the story goes,
 He praised Clinton for running “a campaign of substance” and made up of “the best statisticians and data analytics people in the world.”
If any of that were true, H.C. would have won by a landslide. What were the substantive issues of her campaign? Basically, "I'm not as bad as Trump and the Russians are rigging the election." Certainly nothing young potential voters or much of anyone else could get excited about. She barely mentioned the education.

And if her statisticians and data analysts were so great, couldn't they at least have told her to visit Wisconsin at once during the entire campaign, instead of spending silly time in Arizona a week before doomsday? Or maybe they did and she just wanted to hang out with her pal, McCain.
“She ran the campaign while Republican bullets were flying and with a media that gave him (Donald Trump) more airtime and enjoyed following his antics more than they did talking about the qualifications and experience of what it would take to be president,” Pritzker says.
Republican bullets flying? Really? Well yeah, it's an election campaign. Unless of course, he's not being metaphorical and mean real bullets, like the kind supposedly fired at her in that cockamamie story about her landing "under sniper fire" in Bosnia.

But the thing that really got me in the Pritzker interview was this...
Looking ahead, Pritzker expects Clinton, now “a statesperson of historic importance,” to advise leaders. And he hopes she’ll become a force in philanthropy — ideally in early childhood education. That issue is especially important to Pritzker, who was co-chair of Clinton’s Education Policy Working Group. Clinton’s view of education is a “big reason” Pritzker supported her.
No mas, please. Hands off public ed. We've been philanthro-peed enough. No more school-closers and privatizers needed. Just pay your damn taxes Mr. Pritzker and leave the schools alone.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Crooked pol Calderon, tied to Michelle Rhee, finally going to jail

Michelle Rhee, former D.C. school chancellor and darling of the far-right and corporate reformers, used Students First money to buy politicians like former CA State Sen. Ron Calderon. Now it looks like Calderon is finally on his way to prison while Rhee has ended up at a fertilizer company. 

Good riddance to both.
More than three years after FBI agents raided the Capitol office of former state Sen. Ron Calderon, the corruption case against the Montebello Democrat finally comes to an end.
Calderon, who pleaded guilty in June to one count of mail fraud for accepting tens of thousands of dollars and jobs for his children in exchange for official acts, is set to be sentenced at noon in federal court in Los Angeles. Originally charged with 24 counts, including bribery, money laundering and aiding in the filing of false tax returns – allegations that could have netted Calderon a maximum 396-year sentence – prosecutors are now requesting that he serve five years in prison. -- Sacramento Bee
Calderon would never have been elected in the first place were it not for Michelle Rhee. She funneled $371,000 to him, which helped put his losing campaign over the top. In exchange, he agreed to sponsor anti-union, charter school legislation, SB441.

He went on to make similar quid pro quo deals with payday loan companies, the fireworks industry and others, until finally taking a bribe from an undercover FBI agent posing as a filmmaker calling himself, "Rocky Patel".

Okay, so he's not the brightest bulb on the tree.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Billionaire pipeline investor Hamm is also a big charter school backer

Billionaire Hamm is Trump's main energy advisor. 
Billionaire Harold Hamm is the founder CEO of energy giant, Continental Resources. Continental is the largest leaseholder in the nation’s premier oil play, the Bakken Play of North Dakota and Montana. Based in Oklahoma City, the company also has a leading presence in the Anadarko Woodford Play of Oklahoma and the Red River Units Play of North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana.

Hamm recently announced to investors that oil it obtains via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) from North Dakota’s Bakken Shale basin is destined for transport through Standing Rock Sioux territory via the Dakota Access pipeline.

MORE ABOUT HAMM... He's Donald Trump's energy adviser and a likely pick for U.S. Energy Sec. should Trump be elected.

As you might have already guessed, Philanthro-capitalist Hamm is also a big player in the world of school privatization and charter schools. His favorite seems to be ASTEC charters, the first charter in Oklahoma.

He's also appealing his divorce settlement which called for him paying out $1B to ex-wife Sue Ann. He claims a drop in oil prices negatively affected his finances. It seems that $18 billion doesn't go as far as it used to.

Will ASTEC be next on the chopping block?

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Wall St. investors make a killing at CPS

The Chicago public school system needed money—fast. Never letting a good crisis go to waste, Wall St. investors stepped in to save the day -- and make their day.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Chicago-based Nuveen Asset Management have made realized and paper profits exceeding $110 million on purchases this year of $763 million in Chicago Public Schools bonds. The school system has said it needed the money to replenish its dwindling coffers before the new school year and to build and repair facilities.

The terms of the bond sales highlight the choices the school district faces after years of pension shortfalls and relying heavily on borrowing. The 397,000-student school district struggled to sell municipal bonds in February until Nuveen bought about one-third, and the district decided in July to borrow directly from J.P. Morgan for fear that investors might balk again, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Board of Education said.

J.P. Morgan, the country’s largest bank by assets, made a 9.5% profit on $150 million in bonds it bought in July and sold in September, or 82% annualized. Nuveen, an investment firm managing $160 billion, has bought $613 million in bonds since February for a total return, including price gains and interest payments, of about 25%. That is almost 50% on an annualized basis, an especially large gain at a time of near-zero interest rates.

The school system’s bonds are a favorite for John Miller, Nuveen’s co-head of fixed income, who said the firm bought when the market feared a default, a concern he called overblown.
“At the end of day, this school system is critically important to Chicago—to the whole country really,” he said.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Another 'shift' at the Gates Foundation. More mea culpas.

“I want the foundation to be the neutral broker...” -- Melinda Gates

I suppose this means that the power philanthropists are now projecting themselves as disinterested reform partners rather than who they are -- the most powerful, top-down, non-governmental (unelected) shapers of global social/economic policies in history. Not to mention, being a shell for tax avoidance for the world's richest man. 

Melinda's quote comes from yesterday's Washington Post, supposedly signaling some introspection and a strategic adjustment of Gates Foundation investments in Common Core. The changes come in the face of mounting criticisms of corporate-style school reform and of the foundation itself. Much of that criticism is coming from black community organizations, the opt-out movement, and from within oppositional forces within the Democratic Party as election time draws near.  

Some are anticipating a shift away from current reform policies with the election of Hillary Clinton. I'm not counting on it. 

It seems like every five years or so, faced with stinging criticism from those most affected by their reform interventions, Gates Foundation leaders go through similar self-adjustments while sticking to their same overall theory of change.They tweak their top-down reform funding strategies, admit they've bet on the wrong horse, leave old projects hanging, and promise next time, to be "better listeners". But how real is their self-crit? It's usually limited being "too impatient" or "too naive" about great amount of time it takes to bring the uninsightful, unwashed masses to buy into their interventions. 

And here's the latest:
CHICAGO — Melinda Gates said she and her husband, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, learned an important lesson from the fierce pushback against the Common Core State Standards in recent years. Not that they made the wrong bet when they poured hundreds of millions of dollars into supporting the education standards, but that such a massive initiative will not be successful unless teachers and parents believe in it.
“Community buy-in is huge,” Melinda Gates said in an interview here on Wednesday, adding that cultivating such support for big cultural shifts in education takes time. “It means that in some ways, you have to go more slowly.”
 That does not mean the foundation has any plans to back off the Common Core or its other priorities, including its long-held belief that improving teacher quality is the key to transforming public education. “I would say stay the course. We’re not even close to finished,” Gates said.
In the past, some within the philanthropy community have charged that Gates has effectively bought the silence of would-be critics. 

“The danger isn’t in what people do tell you—it’s in what they don’t,” departing foundation CEO Patty Stonesifer warned in the 2007 annual report.
In other words, Stonesifer says, the Gates Foundation needs honest feedback and criticism to help it figure out how best to improve the health of the world’s poor, boost food production in Africa and improve schools in the U.S.
Honesty can be hard to come by, though, when you’re handing out staggering amounts of cash. And some question how sincere the foundation is about listening to critics.
“They’re not really fostering tough debate,” said Pablo Eisenberg, a columnist for The Chronicle of Philanthropy and senior fellow at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute. “They have not solicited and gone after people who will tell them the truth.”
Last year, Bill Gates himself acknowledged the foundation’s struggles in a speech at an event in Seattle, marking the 20th anniversary of its Global Health initiative. He said, that on the measure of “which of these inventions would go on over time to actually save lives, I have to say at the time I was pretty naive about how long that process would take”. 

Gates pushing Common Core in Honduras.
Faced with increasing criticism of their health investments in third-world countries, Gates copped to "underestimating the effort required to implement new technologies in countries without basic services, including clean water and reasonable medical care".

But that hasn't stopped the foundation from pushing Common Core in underdeveloped countries like Honduras. 

Naive? Really?

Remember when they ditched their $2B investment in high-school reform and small schools, claiming that their pet projects didn't produce fast enough results (standardized test scores)? Bill Gates' 2009 letter, which was posed as a self-critical evaluation, actually blamed the Gates-funded schools themselves for not being "radical" enough and indirectly, the teacher unions for not being faithful to his top-down model. 
These tended to be the schools that did not take radical steps to change the culture, such as allowing the principal to pick the team of teachers or change the curriculum. We had less success trying to change an existing school than helping to create a new school.
The letter marked the foundation's shift away from public school reform to a one-track strategy of underwriting privately-run charters and the management organizations that run them. It's a strategy that ultimately helped widened educational inequality and accelerated school re-segregation.

After that it was on to "teacher quality" and the pushing teacher evals based mainly on test scores. But then...
The foundation... publicly acknowledged pitfalls in overemphasizing test scores and argues that while test scores should play a role in teacher evaluations, those evaluations must also give teachers the feedback they need to improve through classroom observations, student surveys or other subjective methods.
It seems that now the foundation is trying to adapt it's investment strategies to the new reform environment under the new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) which shifts more decision-making power from the federal level, back to the states. Now, along with pouring dollars into national Common Core efforts and placing foundation people inside the D.O.E., Gates will have to push reform interventions state by state making it that much tougher to gain quick results.
Gates said the foundation also will work to persuade states to invest in databases that gather information about students, tracking their backgrounds, experiences and performance from preschool to college and career.
But Gates self-critique misses the mark. It's not about you going more slowly so that school community folks can finally get it. It's not about teachers and parents "believing" in Gates' initiatives. Gates-ism is not a religion. Neither is it about getting a "buy-in" for reform products -- in this case the aforementioned "big cultural shift". BTW, the term buy-in should be banished forever from reform lexicon along with every other cliche that sees reform as a commodity.

But are they betting on the right horse?
Not buying-in is Black Lives Matter

This from EdWeek:
Organized under the Movement for Black Lives, the agenda also targets some of the most powerful philanthropic backers of the charter school sector—the Walton Family Foundation, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation—for bankrolling what it calls "an international education privatization agenda".
According to WaPo:
Last week, the Movement for Black Lives — a coalition of dozens of black-led organizations, including the Black Lives Matter Network — released a policy platform that decried the Gates Foundation as part of a “systematic attack” on public schools that “strips Black people of the right to self-determine the kind of education their children receive.” It called for an effort to invest in, not close, struggling schools serving black children, and it accused education policymakers of listening to unelected philanthropists instead of students, teachers and parents.
That critique will be a tough one for Gates to tweak.

For more background, take a look at this WaPo piece by Lindsey Layton from 2014: "How Bill Gates pulled off the swift Common Core revolution." Here my favorite line from Layton's piece...
Gates grew irritated in the interview when the political backlash against the standards was mentioned. “These are not political things,” he said. “These are where people are trying to apply expertise to say, ‘Is this a way of making education better?’ ”
The one thing you don't want to do is get this man "irritated".

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Charter patron, union basher Whitman buys into the Clinton campaign

An actress dressed as union basher, "Queen Meg" greets members of the California Nurses Association (CNA) during a rally at the CNA offices in Oakland.

I may live to regret these words, but I will unabashedly be voting for Hillary Clinton in November. Having said that, let me point out that many fellow Clinton supporters give me the creeps. Oh well. Strange bedfellows and all that.

If Hillary loses to neo-fascist Trump in November, it won't be because she ran out of cash. Lately, in a backlash against Trump's continued spewing of disgusting anti-immigrant and anti-woman garbage, there's a growing group of conservative Republican Wall Streeters throwing their money behind Clinton.

The latest GOP billionaire to endorse HC is former eBay and Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman who revealed that Clinton, had reached out to her in a phone call about a month ago, one of the first indications that HC was aggressively courting Republican leaders.

Whitman has called Trump a "fascist", a "demagogue" and "a threat to American democracy" (she's obviously been paying attention) and tells NYT:
“I will vote for Hillary, I will talk to my Republican friends about helping her, and I will donate to her campaign and try to raise money for her.” 
Hillary getting millions in Wall St. cash comes as no surprise to anyone. Bernie Sanders made it a central issue in his primary run. But for Californians, who overwhelming voted against her in her own run for governor, and for educators in particular, any Whitman influence in the Clinton campaign or a position in a Clinton regime, would especially odorous. 

Whitman, who backed Romney in 2012, has spent millions and much of the past decade pushing for expansion of privately-run charter schools and other privatization initiatives. In her losing run (paid for with $144M of her own money) for governor against Jerry Brown, she made lifting the cap on charter school expansion a centerpiece of her campaign. 

In 2011, she bankrolled Silicon Valley charter schools to the tune of $5 million through her Whitman-Harsh Family Foundation. One of those schools, Summit Preparatory Charter High School, was featured in the anti-public-school 2010 documentary “Waiting for Superman.” 

Whitman also sits on the board of Teach for America (TFA). 

She is virulently anti-union. Her position on immigration is more closely aligned with Trump than with Clinton. And Whitman has been a leading voice for abolishing the state's capital-gains tax which accounts for more than $11 billion in state revenue. 

Now $11B may not sound much these days, but to put it in context, the estimated cost to CA taxpayers for free UC tuition for every in-state student (Bernie's much maligned campaign centerpiece) is $3B. 

Should this make Clinton supporters uncomfortable and vigilant? Yes indeed. Should it keep us from voting against Trump in November. Absolutely not.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Charter billionaires invade WA to attack supreme court justice

Chief Justice Barbara Madsen
In September, WA's state supreme court ruled that charter schools are unconstitutional because they are governed by appointed — rather than elected — boards and therefore are not “common schools” eligible for state education funds. The chief justice, Barbara Madsen, wrote that “money that is dedicated to common schools is unconstitutionally diverted to charter schools.”

Now, charter supporters, including billionaires like Eli Broad, Paul Allen, Connie Ballmer, Ken Fisher and Alice and Jim Walton, are backing a campaign to oust Madsen.

Much of the money is flowing in from outside the state. The political arm of an organization called Stand for Children is backing Madsen's pro-charter opponent, with some $116,000 in July alone.

Most of the cash is coming from Connie Ballmer, a philanthropist married to former Microsoft chief executive officer Steve Ballmer, who gave $500,000. Others include Vulcan Inc. and Netflix founder and Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings.

Fisher funded a new political action committee called Judicial Integrity Washington. In recent weeks, the PAC has spent $100,000 on radio ads for Madsen's pro-charter opponent, Greg Zempel.

In 2011, Stand for Children’s Jonah Edelman, co-founder and chief executive officer, was caught on video, bragging about how he manipulated people to get reform legislation passed in Illinois.