Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Here's some interesting privatization connections in regards to the LAUSD District 1 race

There is No Immoral Depth They Won't Go In Pursuit of Their Agenda — Celes King IV

Photo credit: Crenshaw Cougars Fighting Reconstitution. Stop Deasy from destroying any more school communitiesI have a piece coming out in the LA Progressive about the District 1 Special Election. They said it should run tonight or tomorrow. In it I endorse Sherlett Hendy Newbill and I also lend my political support to the other three educators in the race. Moreover, I address the three opportunists who are being financed by the billionaire privatizers and their Nonprofit Industrial Complex (NPIC). The privatizers are crafty. They're running three candidates simultaneously, without letting on that they're all being backed by the same organizations.

Here are some new facts that I didn't know when I wrote the article, but may be of use.

Regarding the Alex Johnson Campaign an ally sent me the following (I'm keeping them anonymous for now):

Curious why no one is mentioning how the same brigade that was pushing for an election is now pushing for Alex Johnson - their Facebook page has even morphed from demanding an election to exclusively covering the Johnson campaign:

Bear in mind that it was the usual NPIC suspects who pushed for the Special Election: Urban League, Inner City Struggle, United Way Greater Los Angeles, and Parent Revolution. Given what I've already uncovered about Johnson, It's no wonder that he's their candidate of choice, while Hayes is their backup candidate. Parent Revolution was an early backer of Hayes, but has since shifted to the frontrunner, Johnson.

However, don't think that Reality TV's Omarosa Manigault isn't also in their circle. I know many of you have had the unpleasant experience of coming across the California Charter Schools Association's (CCSA) K. W. Tulloss at various events. He works for the CCSA's Families That Can division. He also works for FBI snitch and corporate charter school cash cow Al Sharpton. I was looking up some information on him and came across this quote in the Los Angeles Wave:

Tulloss also brought reality show personality Omarosa Manigault into the fold, making her one of his assistant ministers. [emphasis mine]

The crooked charter "minister" is also quite close to school privatization advocate Mark Ridley-Thomas—Alex Johnson's patron. The late African American Civil Rights leader, Celes King IV, called Tulloss the "The Leading Local Black Face of the Charter Schools/Corporatize Public Education Forces". While King's entire OpEd is worth reading, this excerpt describes Tulloss' duplicity and deceptiveness best:

When Tulloss spoke before the school board and the media Tuesday he never once identified himself as a paid organizer of the California Charter School Association. Instead he identified himself as the president of National Action Network, with popular black activist Najee Ali standing beside him. Using civil rights groups like NAN-LA to provide a black face for their corporate agenda is a textbook tactic of the privatization forces. It allows them to wrap their agenda, which is not in the best interest of students or communities of color, in the language and image of the civil rights movement.

The sums of money the neoliberal corporate school privatizers are throwing into this race have already outpaced anything the community can keep up with. All we have is truth to speak to their power!

Robert D. Skeels is a social justice writer, public education advocate, and immigrant rights activist. He lives, works, writes, and organizes in Los Angeles with his wife and cats. Robert is a U.S. Navy Veteran, and a proud member of Veterans for Peace. He attended Glendale Community College and graduated from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) with a BA in Classical Civilization. Robert is a committed member of CEJ, PESJA, SCIC, and the Trinational Coalition To Defend Public Education. A student of Liberation Theology and Paulo Freire's work, he devotes much time towards volunteer work for 12 step, church, and homeless advocacy. Robert's articles and essays have appeared in publications including Schools Matter, CounterPunch, Dissident Voice, Daily Censored, Echo Park Patch, K12NN, LA Progressive, and The Los Angeles Daily News. In 2013 Robert ran for the LAUSD School Board against a billionaire funded corporate reform candidate, finishing second in a field of five, with over 5,200 votes.

cavete tyrannis
qui doecet in doctrina

Koch Brothers Are Pulling Out the Stops to Turn Our Schools Into Their Lucrative Test Factories

ALEC develops "model" legislation for the mostly Republican legislators who are wined and dined at its indoctrination camps, the most recent of which was a "K-12 Education Reform Academy" at the Ritz-Carlton in Amelia Island Feb. 3-4. The press, teachers and students were excluded from the highly secret meeting. However, the agenda at all ALEC meetings is clear.

Like the billionaire Koch brothers who've been its most prominent benefactors, ALEC wants taxpayer dollars (yes, they like taxpayer dollars) steered from public schools toward charter schools, school vouchers, and other measures that ultimately lead to privatization. An ideal ALEC school would preach the glories of unregulated capitalism and the evils of government and particularly labor unions.

The $6.8 Billion Question: Who Should Control School Funding? | Ama Nyamekye

This year's newly released LA Unified School District draft budget is the first in years that is not an exercise in how to cut programs, positions and services. It is a rare opportunity to make a renewed investment in our highest need students. Thanks to the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), LAUSD has an unprecedented ability, and imperative, to invest in the things that will most drive student achievement, particularly for our English Language Learners, foster youth, and help students living in poverty. At the same time, United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), the teachers union of LA Unified, is electing a new leader who will be tasked with bargaining these expenditures and leading teachers in ensuring school and student needs remain the priority.

With its first draft of the 2014-15 LCFF budget, the district leadership has laid out its vision for the coming year. As part of CLASS, a coalition of education, community and civil rights groups, E4E has been calling for the vast majority of these funds to be spent at the local school site. The district's initial budget proposal does not meet that requirement -- less than 15 percent of LCFF dollars are slated to be spent at the local school level. While the district does aim to create a plan for shifting to full school budget autonomy over the next few years, E4E would like to see the district move harder and faster to empower schools with more control over these critical decisions. Given the importance of this issue and the ongoing election of our next UTLA president, it's critical that both candidates declare their position so that teachers have a clear picture of their next union leader's vision for school funding, particularly his thoughts on the balance between centralized and local decision making.

In the first round of voting for this election, Educators 4 Excellence asked the candidates to put down in writing their plans for several policy issues, including LCFF. We published their responses, along with information on the process for voting, in "Your Union, Your Voice," the first independent voter guide for the 2014 UTLA Presidential election. Starting last week, I began highlighting the responses of the two run-off candidates -- Alex Caputo-Pearl and current President Warren Fletcher -- as well as perspectives from our members at Educators 4 Excellence, and community leaders working toward education justice. Find the first entry, on union-district collaboration, here. I'll be presenting perspectives on a topic that is impacting all of California: How do we fund our schools? Here is the actual question we posed to our UTLA presidential candidates as well as a community leader and a teacher leader.

The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) provides an opportunity for LAUSD to invest differently in students and schools. Should the majority of those dollars be spent locally by staff and parents at schools, or centrally by UTLA and LAUSD leadership? Please explain your selection. Over 70 percent of E4E teacher-leaders identified this as an important or critical policy issue for the next UTLA president to undertake.

What President Fletcher Said...
Current UTLA President Fletcher declined to answer the first part of the question due to his position as acting President of UTLA, but did write that he believes, "distribution must be balanced between local funding and central funding." He first wants to see a restoration of services and positions that were cut during the tight budgets of the last few years. "There must be a District-wide guaranteed baseline of services, like Arts instruction, libraries and nursing, that every student, at every school, has access to, regardless of local budgetary decisions," he explained. "Autonomy is important, but it cannot trump student needs." Read this candidate's full response at the E4E UTLA Presidential Election hub.

What Presidential Contender Alex Caputo-Pearl Said...
Candidate Caputo-Pearl believes that the majority of LCFF dollars should be spent centrally for "baseline class size reductions, Health and Human Service staffing, existence of classes and programs and educator salaries." He wants to see "an ongoing discussion between educators, parents, communities, and LAUSD, with UTLA "providing leadership" to make decisions around balancing centralized and localized expenditures. Read this candidate's full response at the E4E UTLA Presidential Election hub.

What UTLA Committee Chair and E4E member Bianca Sanchez, said...
Bianca wants to see LCFF seized as an opportunity to change the way we think and talk about school funding. "The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) presents an exciting new opportunity to think about how we can allocate that funding in a different way - and fund based on student need, rather than adult bureaucracy...There is potential here for transformative change." She believes the shift to school-based decision-making presents the best possibility for innovative and student-focused expenditures. "LCFF should mean that schools are empowered to make decisions that work for them, for their campuses, and for their student populations. Cookie cutter approaches to education funding cannot be successful when the recipe for success is so different from school district to school district." To read more about Bianca's views on school funding from a classroom perspective, read her OpEd here.

What Community Leader Arun Ramanathan Said...
Arun Ramanathan, Executive Director of the Education Trust - West, said spending decisions should be focused on providing equitable resources for all children. "The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) is premised on the idea that communities and districts should work together to develop a plan for how to help all students achieve at high levels," he explained. "Regardless of where the spending decision is actually made, the most important thing is that supplemental and concentration funds benefit the students who generated them and are not diverted away from kids."

At the end of the day, budget decisions are policy decisions. The Local Control Funding Formula can be an opportunity for both the district and union to put real dollars into the promises we've made to our children and our community. It's an opportunity to define, in real funding terms, what we mean by "equity." The next UTLA President will help form this definition, and teachers must be proactive in letting their leader know what their students and communities need and want to see next year. As this article goes to print, ballots for the second round of voting are out to teachers, and due back April 29. Visit our "Your Union, Your Voice," a voter guide for the 2014 UTLA Presidential Election to uncover the full perspectives of UTLA presidential candidates Warren Fletcher and Alex Caputo-Pearl.

Ed Notes : How convenient.  E4E is negotiating this like a court mediator.  

Teachers: A Call to Battle for Reluctant Warriors - Living in Dialogue - Education Week Teacher

We just wanted to teach.

When I was drawn to teach in Oakland, I saw a chance to give students the chance to do hands-on experiments, to answer their own questions, and explore the natural world. On field trips to the tide pools I found out some had never even been to the Pacific Ocean, an hour's drive from their homes.  I did not enter teaching to prepare students for tests. I wanted my students to think and reason for themselves.

We teach the children of the middle class, the wealthy and the poor. We teach the damaged and disabled, the whole and the gifted. We teach the immigrants and the dispossessed natives, the transients and even the incarcerated.

In years past we formed unions and professional organizations to get fair pay, so women would get the same pay as men. We got due process so we could not be fired at an administrator's whim. We got pensions so we could retire after many years of service.

But career teachers are not convenient or necessary any more. We cost too much. We expect our hard-won expertise to be recognized with respect and autonomy. We talk back at staff meetings, and object when we are told we must follow mindless scripts, and prepare for tests that have little value to our students.

No need for teachers to think for themselves, to design unique challenges to engage their students.  The educational devices will be the new source of innovation. The tests will measure which devices work best, and the market will make sure they improve every year. Teachers are guides on the side, making sure the children and devices are plugged in properly to their sockets.

The children will be more competitive with students in China, who already know that the test is all that matters. The test is a trial in which your challenge is to please an invisible master. It is important to succeed because our lives will be a series of such challenges - where we must do well to enter college, to get a job, and to continually please our employer, who will then value our work enough to pay us.

Meanwhile the economy provides fewer jobs, and pay and benefits diminish, as corporations look to maximize profits. The nation has more wealth than ever, but corporations avoid taxes, so schools and universities make classes bigger, more automated and computerized, and this is called "personalization."  And 21st century college graduates are finding the middle class jobs to which they aspire elusive, while their debt is inescapable. 

Schools of the poor were the first targets. It was easy to stigmatize schools attended by African Americans and Latinos, by English learners and the children of the disempowered. Use test scores to label them failures, dropout factories, close them down, turn them over to privatizers. But this was just the beginning. And now, as Arne Duncan made clear with his dismissal of "white suburban moms," they want all the schools, and are prepared to use poor performance on the Common Core tests to fuel the "schools are failing" narrative. 

Teacher unions are under ruthless attack by billionaires, who conveniently own the media, and provide the very "facts" to guide public discourse. Due process is maligned and destroyed under the guise of "increasing professionalism." Democratic control of local schools is undermined by mayoral control and the expansion of privately managed charter schools.Congress and state legislatures have been purchased wholesale through bribes legalized by the Supreme Court, which has given superhuman power to corporate "citizens."

Teachers, by our nature cooperators respectful of authority, are slow to react. Can the destruction of public education truly be anyone's goal? The people responsible for this erosion rarely state their intentions. With smiles and praise for teachers, they remove our autonomy and make our jobs depend on test scores. With calls for choice and civil rights, they re-segregate our schools, and institute zero-tolerance discipline policies in their no-excuses charter schools. They push for larger classes in public schools but send their own children to schools with no more than 16 students in a room. Corporate philanthropies anoint teacher "leaders" who are willing to echo reform themes - sometimes even endorsed by our national teacher unions. 

But the truth leaks out. Reed Hastings reveals his aspiration to use the expansion of charter schools to sideline elected school boards across the country. Charter schools, sold on the basis that traditional schools are broken, rarely do better, and in many cases do worse than the schools they replace. Teach For America novices turn over at such high rates that they promote instability wherever they go.  The destruction of due process feeds high turnover, as is already seen at many charter schools where it is absent or weak.  And the instability and churn that is the hallmark of corporate reform is damaging to students and their communities. 

Teachers are beginning to react. We have known all along that test-based accountability would yield data by the truckload, but data is blind without wisdom.  Our unions have become accustomed to serving members who are largely uninvolved and deactivated. A union with an inactive membership is like a sleeping athlete. Until the athlete is awoken and in motion, the body is inert. We need to get the adrenaline flowing, so our unions can engage in movement once again. Our colleagues in Chicago showed us how this can be done - and they are still at work, organizing.TEST Hearings Now Info Graphic jpg orig.jpg

Teachers are lending support to the Opt Out movement. Teachers in Seattle showed that tests can be boycotted last year, and their solidarity and support from the community meant they carried the day. This year, tens of thousands of students are opting out in New York and across the country, and teachers at some schools are risking their jobs by opting out as well. When the data-hungry machine is not fed tests, it is starved and will die. The Washington teachers union just voted to support families who opt out. When the data-hungry machine is not fed tests, it is starved and will die. The folks at United Opt Out have recovered from a cyber attack and are rebuilding their web site, sharing lots of great information.

The Network for Public Education has issued a call for Congressional hearings this spring. After more than a decade of NCLB, isn't it time we had some true accountability for all these tests that have been running our schools? Letters are being collected now to be sent to members of Congress. [Disclosure: I co-founded the Network for Public Education and serve as treasurer.]

Some teachers are even declaring themselves Badasses, and expressing outright defiance. There will be protests this summer - mark your calendar. Teachers are organizing for a protest at the Gates Foundation in Seattle on June 26.  And the Badass Teachers (BATs) will be rallying in Washington, DC, on July 28.

We just wanted to teach, to make a difference in the lives of our students. But when that is made impossible, then we have no choice but to get organized and fight, for ourselves, and for the students we serve. 

Update: There is also a petition to the White House that asks President Obama to "Direct the Department of Education & Congress to Remove Annual Standardized Testing Mandates of NCLB and RttT. Please add your name. 

What do you think? Are you seeing teachers making the shift from frustration to action?

Continue the dialogue with Anthony on Twitter. 

Image provided by Network for Public Education, used by permission.

Matt Taibbi and David Sirota: Why Is Your Pension in Jeopardy?
dianeravitch posted: "We hear the same refrain across the nation: public sector pensions are destroying our economy. The modest pensions paid to teachers, police officers, firefighters, and social workers are a threat to our future. Matt Taibbi examined these claims in this"


JOIN US ON Wednesday, April 16, at CSUN, to do some pushback at the seemingly rigged panel called a "parents' forum" which CSUN is holding at Oviatt Library in the Presentation Room from 5:30 - 7:30.
The professor who set this up refused me twice when I requested she have a responder on the panel to counter the featured speaker, Gabe Rose, of Parent Revolution who will be speaking on the great success of the parent trigger law.  Gabe is the highly paid PR guy who works for the infamous Ben Austin in trying to rid LAUSD of inner city schools in favor of charters. He is funded mainly by the Waltons and Eli Broad.
It is imperative that we present a presence at this meeting. Media coverage will be there, so the believers in public education must have a show of force and be prepared to make succinct statements before asking questions at Q and A.  I have been assured there will be open mics, and not written questions.
Ellen Lubic
Director, Joining Forces for Education

Monday, April 14, 2014

Corporate Reformers in L.A. Try for Mayoral Control
dianeravitch posted: "A commission by a group called Los Angeles 2020 called for mayoral control of the public schools, blaming low test scores on the elected school board. The commission seems to think that getting rid of democracy will solve the children's academic problems."

Devaluing Teachers in the Age of Value-Added | the becoming radical

Devaluing Teachers in the Age of Value-Added | the becoming radical


"We teach the children of the middle class, the wealthy and the poor," explains Anthony Cody, continuing:

We teach the damaged and disabled, the whole and the gifted. We teach the immigrants and the dispossessed natives, the transients and even the incarcerated.

In years past we formed unions and professional organizations to get fair pay, so women would get the same pay as men. We got due process so we could not be fired at an administrator's whim. We got pensions so we could retire after many years of service.

But career teachers are not convenient or necessary any more. We cost too much. We expect our hard-won expertise to be recognized with respect and autonomy. We talk back at staff meetings, and object when we are told we must follow mindless scripts, and prepare for tests that have little value to our students.

During the 1980s and 1990s, U.S. public schools and the students they serve felt the weight of standards- and test-based accountability—a bureaucratic process that has wasted huge amounts of tax-payers' money and incalculable time and energy assigning labels, rankings, and blame. The Reagan-era launching of accountability has lulled the U.S. into a sort of complacency that rests on maintaining a gaze on schools, students, and test data so that no one must look at the true source of educational failure: poverty and social inequity, including the lingering corrosive influences of racism, classism, and sexism.

The George W. Bush and Barack Obama eras—resting on intensified commitments to accountability such as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Race to the Top (RTTT)—have continued that misguided gaze and battering, but during the past decade-plus, teachers have been added to the agenda.

As Cody notes above, however, simultaneously political leaders, the media, and the public claim that teachers are the most valuable part of any student's learning (a factually untrue claim), but that high-poverty and minority students can be taught by those without any degree or experience in education (Teach for America) and that career teachers no longer deserve their profession—no tenure, no professional wages, no autonomy, no voice in what or how they teach.

And while the media and political leaders maintain these contradictory narratives and support these contradictory policies, value-added methods (VAM) of evaluating and compensating U.S. public teachers are being adopted, again simultaneously, as the research base repeatedly reveals that VAM is yet another flawed use of high-stake accountability and testing.

When Raj Chetty, John N. Friedman, and Jonah E. Rockoff released (and re-released) reports claiming that teacher quality equates to significant earning power for students, the media and political leaders tripped over themselves to cite (and cite) those reports.

What do we know about the Chetty, et al., assertions?

From 2012:

[T]hose using the results of this paper to argue forcefully for specific policies are drawing unsupported conclusions from otherwise very important empirical findings. (Di Carlo)

These are interesting findings. It's a really cool academic study. It's a freakin' amazing data set! But these findings cannot be immediately translated into what the headlines have suggested – that immediate use of value-added metrics to reshape the teacher workforce can lift the economy, and increase wages across the board! The headlines and media spin have been dreadfully overstated and deceptive. Other headlines and editorial commentary has been simply ignorant and irresponsible. (No Mr. Moran, this one study did not, does not, cannot negate  the vast array of concerns that have been raised about using value-added estimates as blunt, heavily weighted instruments in personnel policy in school systems.) (Baker)

And now, a thorough review concludes:

Can the quality of teachers be measured the way that a person's weight or height is measured? Some economists have tried, but the "value-added" they have attempted to measure has proven elusive. The results have not been consistent over tests or over time. Nevertheless, a two-part report by Raj Chetty and his colleagues claims that higher value-added scores for teachers lead to greater economic success for their students later in life. This review of the methods of Chetty et al. focuses on their most important result: that teacher value-added affects income in adulthood. Five key problems with the research emerge. First, their own results show that the calculation of teacher value-added is unreliable. Second, their own research also generated a result that contradicts their main claim—but the report pushed that inconvenient result aside. Third, the trumpeted result is based on an erroneous calculation. Fourth, the report incorrectly assumes that the (miscalculated) result holds across students' lifetimes despite the authors' own research indicating otherwise. Fifth, the report cites studies as support for the authors' methodology, even though they don't provide that support. Despite widespread references to this study in policy circles, the shortcomings and shaky extrapolations make this report misleading and unreliable for determining educational policy.

Similar to the findings in Edward H. Haertel's analysis of VAM, Reliability and validity of inferences about teachers based on student test scores (ETS, 2013), the American Statistical Association has issued ASA Statement on Using Value-Added Models for Educational Assessment, emphasizing:

Research on VAMs has been fairly consistent that aspects of educational effectiveness that are measurable and within teacher control represent a small part of the total variation in student test scores or growth; most estimates in the literature attribute between 1% and 14% of the total variability to teachers. This is not saying that teachers have little effect on students, but that variation among teachers accounts for a small part of the variation in scores. The majority of the variation in test scores is attributable to factors outside of the teacher's control such as student and family background, poverty, curriculum, and unmeasured influences.

The VAM scores themselves have large standard errors, even when calculated using several years of data. These large standard errors make rankings unstable, even under the best scenarios for modeling. Combining VAMs across multiple years decreases the standard error of VAM scores. Multiple years of data, however, do not help problems caused when a model systematically undervalues teachers who work in specific contexts or with specific types of students, since that systematic undervaluation would be present in every year of data.

Among DiCarlo, Baker, Haertel and the ASA, several key patterns emerge regarding VAM: (1) VAM remains an experimental statistical model, (2) VAM is unstable and significantly impacted by factors beyond a teacher's control and beyond the scope of that statistical model to control, and (3) implementing VAM in high-stakes policies exaggerates the flaws of VAM.

The rhetoric about valuing teachers rings hollow more and more as teaching continues to be dismantled and teachers continue to be devalued by misguided commitments to VAM and other efforts to reduce teaching to a service industry.

VAM as reform policy, like NCLB, is sham-science being used to serve a corporate need for cheap and interchangeable labor. VAM, ironically, proves that evidence does not matter in education policy.

Like all workers in the U.S., we simply do not value teachers.

Political leaders, the media, and the public call for more tests for schools, teachers, and students, but they continue to fail themselves to acknowledge the mounting evidence against test-based accountability.

And thus, we don't need numbers to prove what Cody states directly: "But career teachers are not convenient or necessary any more."

How to Criticize “Big Philanthropy” Effectively | Dissent Magazine

How to Criticize "Big Philanthropy" Effectively | Dissent Magazine

How to Criticize "Big Philanthropy" Effectively

Bill Gates (DFID, 2010, Wikimedia Commons)

By Joanne Barkan - April 9, 2014

Criticizing philanthropy (or philanthropists) of any kind is tricky. To most people, a negative appraisal sounds off-base and churlish—yet another instance of "No good deed goes unpunished." Criticizing the immense private foundations that finance and shape the market-model "reform" of public education in the United States produces the same incredulity and indignation. "You're going after Bill Gates?" I've been asked many times. "He's doing good work in Africa. Leave him alone."

Actually, the Gates Foundation's work in Africa has some serious critics, but suppose, for the sake of argument, that the foundation does much good there. Suppose that Bloomberg Philanthropies announces tomorrow that it will spend $1 billion over the next five years to promote gun control in the United States. Would those of us who oppose market-model ed reform but support mosquito nets in Africa and gun control here still criticize the mega-foundations? Would we do it in the same way?

There are at least three approaches to evaluating the role of big philanthropy in ed reform. Understanding how they differ makes for a more effective analysis and stronger arguments.

The first approach focuses on the failure of specific policies pushed by the foundations and the harm they do to teaching and learning. For example, a critique of using value-added modeling to measure the effectiveness of individual teachers would deal with the inherent unreliability of the calculations, the nonsensical use of faulty formulas to measure growth in learning, and the negative consequences of rating teachers with such a flawed tool.

The second approach examines how big philanthropy's ed-reform activity undermines the democratic control of public education, an institution that is central to a functioning democracy. The questions to ask are these: Has the public's voice in the governance of public education been strengthened or weakened? Are politicians more or less responsive? Is the press more or less free to inform them?

This approach pinpoints certain types of foundation activity: paying the salaries of high-level personnel to do ed-reform work within government departments; making grants to education departments dependent on specific politicians remaining in office; promoting mayoral control and state control of school districts instead of control by elected school boards; financing scores of ed-reform nonprofits to implement and advocate for the foundations' pet policies—activity that has undermined the autonomy and creativity of the nonprofit sector in education; funding (and thus influencing) the national professional associations of government officials, including the National Conference of State Legislatures, the United States Conference of Mayors, and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices; and funding media coverage of education.

The third approach examines large private foundations as peculiar and problematic institutions in a democracy. This approach considers big philanthropy in general and uses ed reform as one example of how mega-foundations undermine democratic governance and civil society. The objections to wealthy private corporations dedicated to doing good (as they see it) have remained the same since the early twentieth century when the first mega-foundations were created: they intervene in public life but aren't accountable to the public; they are privately governed but publicly subsidized by being tax exempt; and in a country where money translates into political power, they reinforce the problem of plutocracy—the exercise of power derived from wealth.

Of course, all three approaches to criticizing big philanthropy can be part of the same discussion, but the distinctions help to create a more coherent point of view. They make answering the inevitable challenges easier. Here are some of those challenges and possible responses.

Challenge: You seem to believe that ed-reform philanthropy is some sort of nefarious conspiracy. Here we go again with conspiracy theories.

Response: By definition conspiracies are secret and illegal. The ed-reform movement isn't a conspiracy. When people or organizations work together politically in a democracy, it's a coalition or movement. This is true even when—as is the case with the ed-reform movement—huge amounts of money are being spent by mega-foundations and private meetings take place.

Challenge: You wrongly depict the ed-reform movement and the foundations involved as homogeneous, with everyone marching in lockstep. The movement is actually very heterogeneous and rife with disagreements.

Response: Coalitions and movements are rarely, if ever, completely homogeneous. Yet their members agree generally on basic principles and goals. That's how they make progress. The ed-reform movement is no different. The most significant policy difference among ed-reform foundations is on vouchers—the per-pupil funding that parents can transfer from a district public school to a private school, often including religious schools. Some foundations, for example, Walton, support vouchers; others, for example, Gates and Broad, do not. Aside from vouchers, there's much agreement among the ed reformers on broad policy questions as well as principles and goals.

Challenge: You constantly impugn the motives of the mega-foundations. Do you really think Melinda Gates or Eli Broad wants to hurt children?

Response: Of course, the philanthropists aim to do good, but they define "good" for themselves and others. The directors of the Walton Foundation, for example, believe that school vouchers will improve education. By supporting vouchers, they believe, and claim, they are doing good. So it's not productive to question their motives. But that doesn't mean that their positions and activity are above reproach. When philanthropists enter the public policy fray, they—like everyone else—legitimately become fair game for criticism and opposition. Tax-exempt status shouldn't create sacred cows.

Challenge: Private foundations spend perhaps $1.5 or $2 billion annually on K–12 education in the United States. That's minuscule compared to the more than $525 billion that government spends every year. You exaggerate the influence that private foundations exert with their drop-in-the-bucket donations.

Response: Government spending on public education goes to basic and fixed expenses. Most states and urban school districts can't cover their costs—they run deficits and/or cut outlays. Sociologists have shown that discretionary spending—spending beyond what covers ordinary running costs—is where policy is shaped and changed. The mega-foundations use their grants as leverage: they give money to grantees who agree to adopt the foundations' pet policies. Resource-starved states and school districts feel compelled to say yes to millions of dollars even when many strings are attached or they consider the policies unwise.

Challenge: Private foundations don't weaken democracy. They add another voice to the democratic debate. This increases pluralism and actually strengthens democracy.

Response: Money translates too easily into political power in the United States, and the country is becoming increasingly plutocratic. Mega-foundations exacerbate this tendency. In the realm of public education policy, they have too much influence, and this undermines democracy.

Joanne Barkan's writing on philanthropy, private foundations, and public education reform has appeared in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Nonprofit Quarterly, the Washington Post, Dissent, and other publications.

A version of this post appeared on Diane Ravitch's blog on March 28, 2014.

Warren Fletcher's Concession Provokes Commentary from Betrayed Members


Fletcher has decided to call it quits. 
L.A. teachers union president ready to step aside for challenger
L.A. teachers union president ready to step aside for ch...
Los Angeles teachers' union president Warren Fletcher said he will no longer actively campaign for reelection, clearing the path for challenger Alex Caputo-Pearl to...
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After presiding over the decimation of our numbers and remaining silent as we have been abused and fired, it's hard to feel more than bewilderment and contempt for him.  His brand of unionism is not what I signed up for and it now remains for us to create a militant union that fights for our profession and our students - our interests are the same.
At last Wednesday's Harbor Area meeting I asked him directly and in front of the whole congregation if he was promised money or a job for his inaction.  He said no and tried to make it seem that UTLA's contractual obligation was fulfilled by having Carl Joseph sit in a seat during my skelly.
I also emailed Dean Vogel today and told him that we would consider it a grave insult if he were given a job with CTA or CFT.
I'd like to think that I had something to do with his withdrawal. 


Citizen Mike

I reread and do not interpret Fletcher's comments in the same way.  When about 7,000 of about  32,000 vote, and the near winners get about 10% of total members endorsement combined with an unprecedented number of election challenges of the slate due to a  dysfuctional process, labor law violations, etc., that creates a facade of democracy.  But let's blame non-voters as much or more than any other cause....well, on 2nd thought, less than UTLA corruption