Strategy and Analysis to Defend and Transform Public Education
The hijacking of local school board elections by corporate funders pushing their education “reform” policies continues unabated across the country. This pattern has already been seen in our elections in Oakland last November which we analyzed here. November was when the PAC for GO Public Schools collected $185,000 to be donated to their three candidates Jumoke Hodge, James Harris, and Rosie Torres. This doesn’t mean GO doesn’t also support other corporate “reformers” on the board such as Jody London who also ran in November, but it seems they were more worried about the potential for losing in the districts of Hodge, Harris, and Torres. So to defend their policies at all costs they collected $50,000 each from such luminaries as Arthur Rock, a San Francisco hedge fund capitalist, Gary Rogers, millionaire founder of Dreyer’s Ice Cream and seed funder of GO Public Schools, and the California Charter Schools Association. Compared to the next largest source of money, the OEA, GO spent 9 times as much.
The money doesn’t stop in Oakland. Last week’s Los Angeles school board elections saw millions of dollars in corporate money, again ridiculously outspending the non-corporate aligned candidates. Donations included $1 million from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, about $340,000 from the California Charter Schools Assn., $250,000 from an organization led by former District of Columbia schools chancellor Michelle Rhee and $250,000 from a New York-based subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. All of this was funneled through Mayor Villaraigosa’s campaign PAC. Let this be another lesson of where the Democrats stand when it comes to corporate “reform” of education. For more info on Los Angeles check out: this LA Times article and Diane Ravitch posts.
And beyond California, in Indianapolis, the money rolls in with a lot coming from local Bay Area millionaires. Check out this Schools Matter article for the full scoop. Here are some takeaways though. Commissioner Cosby collected $78, 326, of which $59, 358 was from Democrats for Education Reform (a group bankrolled by hedge fund investors) and Stand for Children (Michelle Rhee’s astro-turf deform group). Commissioner Hannon meanwhile received $67,438. And when we break down the numbers we see the Bay Area connections, including Arthur Rock reappear:
Most of these names are connected to venture capital funds investing in education companies. Why? Because $600 billion is invested in public education, meaning this is a huge sector for corporate profits. Capitalism seeks to privatize everything it can and it is taking huge bites out of public schools, one of the last remaining free, public services in the US. It should also be noted, though, that corporate profiteering is not the only goal for these corporate deformers. Education serves a huge role in US capitalism as the first job training program for future workers. As capitalism restructures itself in the globalized economy, corporations must restructure schools. This is another major reason behind the increasing attacks and changes in public schools.
Furthermore, we should see a pattern in this recent surge of money into local school board elections–normally low-key, neighborhood affairs. On the heels of the Citizens United ruling we can see just how much corporations are trying to restrict our few remaining democratic rights. To be able to privatize such a huge public service, corporations need to use all the tools at their disposal. They throw money, media, and think tanks at local communities. We should be especially wary of astro-turf organizations like Stand for Children and GO Public Schools that masquerade as grassroot organizations representing the best interests of children. They are in reality corporate funded organizations pushing corporate policies. So keep your eyes open. Study these attacks on democracy. And let’s get organized in real grassroot networks before our democracy and public schools are fully eviscerated.