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Update, October 31, 2013: Suzanne Estey has sent out a new flyer stating that Sue Peters’ and I have created some sort of theory out of the blue on the connection between big money and public school policy.

I don’t know where Estey’s been besides on the CCER Board, an organization solely funded by Bill Gates, but maybe she can’t see the forest for all those trees, or is it for all those bucks?

Estey is referring to our Lines of Influence post that went up three years ago and has been read and resonated with parents, teachers, students and concerned citizens around the country and put our blog on the map.

Read the post for yourself and make your own determination.

Dora Taylor

Lisa Macfarlane, Director of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) for Washington State, who received a $10,000 grant from the Walton’s as an “Education Reformer to Watch” for her work on pushing charter school initiative 1240 in the state of Washington and former Director of External Affairs with the League of Education Voters (LEV), just sent out an e-mail regarding the Seattle school board race.

In this e-mail, Ms. Macfarlane said that Sue Peters’ was a conspiracy theorist because of the connections that Sue and I made a few years back between Bill Gates and Eli Broad and their agenda regarding public education that was described in our post The Lines of Influence in Education Reform.

Funny thing is, Ms. Macfarlane is probably the only person in the US and beyond who thinks that the relationship between Gates, the Walton’s, members of ALEC and Eli Broad, et al, and the privatization push is some kind of theory and nothing more. It’s ironic that the same person who is living off of corporate money is the only individual so far that’s saying it’s all just some big story that the rest of us have made up.

Wow.

First, let’s consider the source of this accusation.

From my post, Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) candidates in Washington State

According to DFER Watch:

Democrats for Education Reform is a political action committee supported largely by hedge fund managers favoring charter schools, merit-pay tied to test scores, high-stakes testing, school choice (including vouchers and tuition tax credits in some cases), mayoral control, and alternative teacher preparation programs.

Diane Ravitch describes DFER in her post Follow the Money.

If you want to know why so many politicians think so highly of charters, there is a basic rule of  politics that explains it all: Follow the money.

The most visible organization promoting corporate reform is called Democrats for Education Reform, known as DFER (commonly pronounced “D-fer”). DFER is the Wall Street hedge fund managers’ group. It always has a few non-hedge funders on the board, especially one or two prominent African-Americans, to burnish its pretentious claim of leading the civil rights movement of our day. Kevin Chavous, a former council member from Washington, D.C., fills that role for now, along with the DFER stalwart, Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark. DFER has its own member of the U.S. Senate, Senator Michael Bennett of Colorado. It has also raised money generously for Congressman George Miller, the senior Democrat on the House Education and Labor Committee.

This group bankrolls politicians, woos them, raises campaign cash for them, and persuades them of the advantages of turning the children of their district over to privately managed schools. Watch their website to see which politician they favor this month and scan those they have recognized in the past.

In New York City, Hakeem Jeffries, DFERs’s candidate for U.S. Congress, announced his support for tax credits for religious schools on the day after he won the election. His support for charter schools was already well known.

And from The Daily Kos:

DFER and Education Policies

So, what happened and who were those “small but vocal younger, reform minded advocates that supported Obama” but hated Darling-Hammond? In August 2008 a pre-convention Democrats for Education Reform seminar, billed as “Ed Challenge for Change” previewed a coming attack from within the Democratic Party on teachers and especially their unions. David Goldstein of the American Prospect reported:

“It was sponsored by a coalition of foundations, nonprofits, and businesses supporting the charter-school movement, including Ed in ’08, the advocacy group founded by Bill Gates and real-estate mogul Eli Broad. The evening provided a truly unusual spectacle at a convention: A megawatt group of Democrats, including Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, Mayor Adrian Fenty of Washington, D.C., and former Gov. Ray Romer of Colorado, bashed teachers’ unions for an hour. Amid the approving audience were Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, an icon of the civil-rights movement; Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia, (in)famous as a high-profile African American Hillary Clinton endorser; and Mayor David Cicilline of Providence, the reformer of that once-Mob-ridden New England city. Cicilline took avid notes.” It was from this crowd that Darling-Hammond was receiving her harshest criticism and where the non-traditional (meaning no education background) leader of the Chicago school system, Arne Duncan, was championed as the next Secretary of Education. The loudest voices were those of a new organization calling themselves Democrats for Education reform (DFER), led by young extremely wealthy hedge fund operators from New York City.

In the May 31, 2007 issue of New York Sun there was a report about one of the first victories of DFER: “A money manager recently sent an e-mail to some partners, congratulating them on an investment of $1 million that yielded an estimated $400 million. The reasoning was that $1 million spent on trying to lift a cap on the number of charter schools in New York State yielded a change in the law that will bring $400 million a year in funding to new charter schools. The money managers who were among the main investors in this law — three Harvard MBAs and a Wharton graduate named Whitney Tilson, Ravenel Boykin Curry IV, Charles Ledley, and John Petry — are moving education-oriented volunteerism beyond championing a single school.

Before joining DFER in our great state, Ms. Macfarlane represented the League of Education Voters (LEV) in Seattle, another favorite organization of mine that doesn’t have members, just one big sponsor, guess who.

Regarding LEV during Macfarlane’s tenure as Director of External Affairs, from A Look Back at the League of Education Voters:

In 2007, LEV started to receive serious money from Gates, $835K “to support capacity building for education advocacy programs”. In October of 2009 LEV received $1.5M “to support the research, public engagement, policy development and coalition work in early learning, college ready and postsecondary”.

In June of 2010, the Gates Foundation gave $40,000 to the League of Education Voters “to support a series of education-related speakers in Seattle” and the same year received another $105K “to support raising awareness of educational attainment issues in King County”. In 2011 LEV received a total of $215K from the Gates Foundation. All of this information can be found at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation website. (Note: The Gates Foundation has taken down this information on their website after this article was posted.)

In the fall of  2010 the League of Education Voters offered up a who’s who of charter school franchise CEO’s  to speak as part of LEV’s imaginary “revolution”, “Voices from the Education Revolution Speakers Series“ featuring:

Richard Barth, CEO of the KIPP Foundation which does not hire union teachers, Steve Barr, Founder & Emeritus Chair of Green Dot charter Schools another charter franchise that does not hire union teachers and moderated by Don Shalvey, former CEO and founder of Aspire Charter Schools and Board member of the Greendot charter franchise neither of which hires union teachers.

Also arriving in town that year complements of LEV was Kevin Johnson, Sacramento mayor and backer of a charter school in his state.

For more on LEV, see A Look Back at the League of Education Voters.

I'm not cynical

In Ms. Macfarlane’s e-mail, she also mentions school board candidate Stephan Blanford, another big business favorite. Blanford’s and Estey’s campaigns are being funded by the Great Seattle Schools PAC which has received money from the usual cast of characters including DFER, who has contributed $10,000 to the PAC. See A vote for Sue Peters is a vote for the rest of us for the details on who is funding DFER’s favorite candidates.

For more on Estey, see The Road Map Project, Race to the Top, Bill Gates, a national data bank, Wireless Gen…and FERPA?

The gloves are coming off with these corporate reformers and they’re showing their true colors.

Let’s not allow them to take over our schools in Seattle.

A vote for Sue Peters is a vote for the rest of us.

Diane Ravitch calls Sue “A champion for public education”.

For more on Sue Peters and her campaign, go to Sue Peters for Seattle School Board.

For further reading on Bill Gates, big money and how it’s influencing education policy, see Bill Gates tells us why *his* high school was a great learning environment, a compilation of all things ALEC in education, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a compilation of articles regarding Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation, the awesome website ALEC Exposed, from The Nation: Why Do Some of America’s Wealthiest Individuals Have Fingers in Louisiana’s Education System? and Diane Ravith’s latest book Reign of Error which describes Gates’ influence in detail.

For additional information on the Walton’s and their influence on education policy see:

Why are the Walton’s spending so much money on charter school Initiative 1240?
More information on the Walmart Walton’s and charter school initiative 1240
Walmart Walton’s: The movie

Submitted by Dora Taylor

corporate capitolism