Saturday, July 20, 2013

Gotham Schools Funders: You Get What You Pay For

Yesterday I posted hits from my fellow bloggers to Gotham Schools' increasingly pro ed deform agenda (NYC Teacher Bloggers on the Loose: Slam Gotham Schools Coverage) -- they don't even bother defending themselves against these charges. NYC Educator hit them hard:
when an astroturf group like Students First NY holds a rally to announce something that's not actually going to happen, there's a picture right there so everyone can see. Gotham Schools readers can ask one another, "Gee, what is Michelle Rhee's NY branch going to not do next? Are they going to not tape kids' mouths shut? After all, Rhee found it hilarious when she herself did it." But no, the [UFT] rally itself did not make the Gotham cut. Perhaps it was because the UFT is actually going to go through with this. Or maybe it was due to the vital nature of covering every little thing reformy, real, imaginary, or whatever. This notion is supported by the fact that, while Gotham didn't bother to cover the UFT/ parent rally, they saw fit to cover how charter supporters felt about the UFT lawsuit. There are extensive quotes from astroturf folks, but not a single one from any of the varied speakers at yesterday's rally.
Gotham headline: Charter advocates criticize UFT’s lawsuit against city’s planning.

NYC just doesn't get it. Come up with the bucks like Students First NY to buy coverage and you have a shot. 

I once gave $50 and Randi also gave and when the ed deform funding issue came up they said something like, "Oh, lookie here, we get funding from all sides. See that makes us impartial."

So what if they get funding from the Walton Family Foundation, well known for its support for privatization, vouchers & charter expansion, all relevant to the co-location UFT rally Gotham didn't cover?

Gotham is part of Education News Network. Here are the announcements about the Denver-based ENN and Gotham itself.

The group has received funding from some foundations, including the Walton Family Foundation, SeaChange Capital Partners and the New York-based Arabella Advisors.  

Elizabeth Green left this comment in response to the funding question:
Updated March 3: I’ve already responded to one question, about ENN’s funding sources, in the comments section. Leonie Haimson asked whether our grants, including one from the Walton Foundation mentioned in this news story about ENN, come with strings attached.  She also asked, “even if not, how will you insulate yourself from the fear of losing funding” if we write critically about causes the Walton Foundation supports?
I responded in this comment, explaining that, in brief, the answers are “No and Carefully.” The comment elaborates further so please read it if you are interested! And bring on more questions as you have them.
When a comment raised the question about the influence of the funding ("I'm bit worried about that you might lose some of that quality in a larger "corporate" model", Elizabeth responded:
I don't mean to minimize the challenge here. Business matters (in particular, how much money a news organization has, from where, and with what conditions) will always influence editorial decisions; that is the unavoidable reality. (See this great essay on how this relationship has played out throughout the history of the American press: ) Given that reality, we have two options: (1) Cease to exist, proclaiming any funding source polluted or (2) Do our best to create a business that supports editorial independence and reporting of the sort we believe is important, rather than threatening it. Obviously, we are choosing (2).
 Actually, I'm getting closer to choosing (1). I know I am a hard liner but we are in a war and it can be disingenuous to claim impartiality in covering stories while the important thing it what stories you choose to cover. I barely skim GS now while getting much more info from other bloggers.

A funder of Gotham Schools expansion is SeaChange Capital Partners.
SeaChange makes loans to charters including the New York City Montessori Charter School, and organized a fund to expand Uncommon Charters in NYC and beyond.
“SeaChange arranged a $6.5 million Expansion Fund, to provide the necessary financial foundation for Uncommon’s planned growth over the next five years, which will allow the organization to educate thousands more low-income students, while demonstrating the viability of a scaled solution for improving urban education. We committed $2 million from our own Catalyst Fund toward this effort.”
Here is a 2010  “confidential memo” by SeaChange for “investors” to lure them to contribute to their fund to expand Uncommon Charters and grow in size 5X w/ public funding leveraged 7-10X.  There’s a lot in this document about the need to secure facilities to ensure this expansion; very relevant to the co-location issue.

Only 48% grad rate?

Also a funder: New York-based Arabella Advisors.  Very pro-charter issue brief for potential investors here:

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