Monday, April 6, 2009

The Politics of Venture Philanthropy in Charter School Policy

Call it vulture philanthropy

From Sharon Higgins

Here’s a scholarly and informative article to share with you: "The Politics of Venture Philanthropy in Charter School Policy and Advocacy," by Janelle Scott (Associate Professor at UC Berkeley, formerly NYU) and published by SAGE. It will take a while to read (32 pages), but I believe it will be worth your time.

Scott explains the billionaires' strategy to push charter schools onto communities and how they are maneuvering their immense foundation-giving to achieve this result. She also describes the not-always-well-intentioned, and/or misguided, history of foundation "giving" which has targeted communities of color in the past.

The foundation-giving programs of today require an important trade-off from the local communities: namely, the relinquishment of interest and power over their own public schools to the public education notions of a few immensely wealthy oligarchs. What does it tell us that the communities where this is occurring necessitated first being placed under authoritarian rule?

Scott’s article explains how the "gifts" of these foundations are going to a broad range of charter advocacy groups, pro-charter research organizations, alternative teacher and principal training programs, charter school development organizations, etc. EdVoice, Center for Education Reform, TFA, NewSchools Venture Fund, NewLeaders for New Schools, KIPP, Green Dot, Democrats for Education Reform, and the EEP are just the teeny tiny tip of the you're-going-to-have-charter-schools-if-you-want-them-or-not iceberg.

Scott describes the flow of money to these organizations with the intent to have them work as a network in unison to further the billionaires' goal. Very few of the donations go directly to individual schools and their students, but just enough to make them look a lot better than their traditional school neighbors. The majority of the dollars go toward advocacy, propaganda, and the building of a national pro-charter school structure.

I've recently learned how Broad has bought off large, important portions of PBS, and how Ms. Gates is on the board of the Washington Post. The extent to which the media has been co-opted by this force would be a good topic for someone to track. We know how heavily they have influenced the White House.

I was especially interested to learn that one of the official techniques used to push charter schools, and described in a 2004 Philanthropy Roundtable donors guide, is "...the sponsorship of efforts that put parents of color out front instead of 'rich, white Republicans.' " The technique is exactly described here and here.

This general strategy may also explain why a deeply-in-debt-to-the-IRS Al Sharpton was persuaded to join the pro-charter force.

Another small item that may be of interest to some of you is that the Broad Foundation paid the Century Foundation $100,000 (in 2004) and $29,973 (in 2007) to "support research on the late union leader Albert Shanker." You may view The Broad Foundation 990's here.

Perhaps this is the "why" it has come about that pro-charter forces mention Albert Shanker so frequently for being responsible for the idea of charter schools. They use this statement to both justify the existence of charter schools, and to attempt to disarm the teachers' union complaints about them.

The details of these maneuvers are extensive, and won’t be easily grasped by the American public, not to mention the lesser educated parents in the communities now being targeted. The word about what is really going on desperately needs to get out more broadly.

Download the article here. But you have to register first. I have the pdf. Email me if you want a copy.


Susan Ohanian reports on Broad takeover of Phi Delta Kappan

Note: These are the people Weingarten and the UFT/AFT want to partner with.

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