Home > Uncategorized > Confidential Memo Describes Billionaire Charter Cabal in LA

Confidential Memo Describes Billionaire Charter Cabal in LA

An article by Dierdre Fulton in yesterday’s Common Dreams described the fall out from a confidential 44-page memo written by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation staff and other charter advocates delineating a plan that would result in the privatization of half of Los Angeles’ schools and substantial profits for the investors in the plan. The LA Times uncovered the memo, titled the “Great Schools Now” initiative that has a long list of celebrity billionaires who are likely supporters of the plan to takeover the schools. As the LA Times reports: 

Organizers of the effort have declined to publicly release details of the plan. But the memo lays out a strategy for moving forward, including how to raise money, recruit and train teachers, provide outreach to parents and navigate the political battle that will probably ensue.

The document cites numerous foundations and individuals who could be tapped for funding. In addition to the Broad Foundation, the list includes the Gates, Bloomberg, Annenberg and Hewlett foundations. Among the billionaires cited as potential donors are Stewart and Lynda Resnick, major producers of mandarin oranges, pistachios and pomegranates; Irvine Co. head Donald Bren; entertainment mogul David Geffen; and Tesla Motors’ Elon Musk.

Fulton describes the reaction from education bloggers like Peter Greene and Diane Ravitch who were appalled and infuriated at the blatant proposal to make a profit from the operation of schools that were specifically designed to serve those students whose parents were engaged in the lives of their children while leaving the others behind. She also described the reaction of board members, who, astonishingly, were split on the concept. One Board member, Steve Zimmer, who was strongly opposed to the concept, was quoted at length, and his reasoning resonated with me: 

Among the plan’s sharpest critics is LA Unified school board president Steve Zimmer, who characterized it to LA School Report as a destructive strategy that would ignore the needs of thousands of children “living in isolation, segregation and extreme poverty.”

“This is not an all-kids plan or an all-kids strategy,” he told the online news site. “It’s very explicitly a some-kids strategy, a strategy that some kids will have a better education at a publicly-funded school that assumes that other kids will be injured by that opportunity. It’s not appropriate in terms of what the conversation should be in Los Angeles. The conversation should be better public education options and quality public schools for all kids, not some kids.”

He added: “To submit a business plan that focuses on market share is tantamount to commodifying our children.”

And in an interview with the LA Times, Zimmer called Broad’s plan “an outline for a hostile takeover.”

Those wishing to run schools like a business would see no problem with a “hostile takeover”, because that’s the way capitalism works: the fit corporations survive and the weak noes get bought out or go bankrupt. Implicit in the whole test-and-punish model is the fact that a “failing school” will be closed whether it is a charter or a traditional school or a for-profit or a non-profit school. If you don’t pass muster, as measured by test scores, you close up shop. If you do well and expand your market share, you reap profits for your shareholders and thrive. 

One positive outcome of this discovery of the billionaires battle plan is that a comprehensive public debate over the concept of privatization will now play out in Los Angeles and the public will gain a better understanding of the consequences of privatization. As a run up to the debate, expect to see a raft of op ed articles declaiming the virtues of for-profit charters and denying the loss of public input into their operation…. because that is clearly part of the “outreach to parents” and a MAJOR element of political battle the billionaires will need to win. The problem for those of us who think like Steve Zimmer is that none of us can buy ink by the barrel. 

 

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