On the malign influence of Eli Broad in education

This is a good summary by Wendy Lecker on the results of billionaire Eli Broad’s strenuous efforts to reshape American education. Even though Broad’s rhetoric is a lot more progressive than that of the Koch brothers, Broad’s results have not been good at all – not only in human terms, but even on his own terms and using his own benchmarks. I might add that in terms of Broad’s failures, Lecker could have included the Broad-financed reform effort under Michelle Rhee here in Washington DC had a 98% failure rate in reaching its own goals. (See here for a link to my analysis thereof.)

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Putting a price tag on public schools

By Wendy Lecker|January 5, 2020

When it comes to using one’s fortune to influence American policy, billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch stand out.

The Kochs have spent a fortune pushing American politics and policy to the right. Their secretive organization, Americans for Prosperity, is a major player in anti-labor activities, such as Wisconsin’s slashing of union rights, and fighting minimum wage increases nationwide. The Kochs poured money into the American Legislative Exchange Council (“ALEC”) a stealth lobby organization that writes bills that advance Koch industries’ interests specifically and the Koch’s extreme free market ideology in general, and then gets legislators all over the country to introduce them.

They have also donated millions of dollars to establish research centers at universities to push their brand of unregulated capitalism. They impose conditions and performance obligations on the donations, interfere in hiring decisions, and make curriculum and programming decisions. The Kochs often demand pre-approval of any public statements and include anti-transparency provisions in donor agreements. This research is then cited as the scholarly basis for Congressional decisions favoring the Kochs’ interests. The Kochs are proud of their integrated strategy to build a pipeline of influence. The president of the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation boasted that “(n)o one else has this infrastructure.”

Eli Broad, a billionaire who made his fortune through real estate and insurance, seeks to build a Koch-style infrastructure to push his education reform ideology. Broad recently announced that, with a $100 million donation, he is bringing his Broad Center to Yale’s School of Management (“SOM”).

The Broad Center trains school district leaders and those who seek to influence education policy. The center emphasizes applying business principles to running school districts and de-emphasizes education. In seeking candidates, the Broad Center prioritizes “a strong and direct alignment with specific (Broad Center) reform priorities” — which include school privatization and weakening labor protections. The Center openly aims to reshape American public education according to Broad’s ideology.

Eli Broad is a major player in some of the most aggressive — and controversial- education reform policies in America. Like the Kochs, Broad employs an integrated strategy of influence. For example, he bankrolled the education reform slate in the Los Angeles 2018 school board election. His star beneficiary, charter operator Ref Rodriguez, later resigned from the board and pled guilty to felony election fraud conspiracy. Broad also poured millions into Broad alumnus and charter operator Marshall Tuck’s 2018 unsuccessful campaign for California State Superintendent.

Broad used his money and influence to push the Education Achievement Authority (EAA) to run Detroit’s public schools. He provided significant funding and even summoned Broad alumnus and then Kansas City superintendent, John Covington, to be its first chancellor. Covington had wreaked havoc on Kansas City, firing hundreds of teachers and replacing them with inexperienced Teach for America members, and imposing other disruptive reforms. After his chaotic departure, Kansas City’s school district lost its accreditation. It then abandoned Covington’s reforms to regain its footing.

Covington left the EAA abruptly after charges of questionable spending, and the Broad Center hired him. The EAA was a devastating failure, plagued by financial mismanagement and abysmal academic failures.

A succession of Broad alumni ran Tennessee’s failed Achievement School District, which was also plagued by financial mismanagement and poor student achievement — worse than in schools under local district control.

Broad alumni were forced out of Seattle and Los Angeles amid financial impropriety, and Barbara Byrd Bennett, a Broad executive coach, is in federal prison after pleading guilty to a bribery scandal in which she engaged while head of Chicago Public Schools.

These scandals reflect poorly on Broad’s emphasis on applying business practices to school districts.

Much like the Koch’s foray into higher education, Broad’s move to SOM seems like an effort to profit from Yale’s name and perhaps sanitize the questionable track record of Broad alumni. Since Yale has no school of education — unlike other universities in New Haven — Broad’s interest is not to bolster any knowledge of how children can learn successfully.

In an effort to discern how much of the Koch playbook Broad is employing at Yale, I asked SOM about Broad’s involvement in the governance, curriculum, programming and hiring at SOM’s new center. After first indicating they would run these questions by SOM’s dean, SOM now fails to respond, despite my request for follow-up. Apparently, SOM’s Broad Center is adopting the Koch’s lack of transparency.

It is disturbing that a major university is helping enlarge the Broad pipeline, which has funneled scandal and upheaval across American public schools.

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Wendy Lecker is a columnist for the Hearst Connecticut Media Group and is senior attorney at the Education Law Center

Two more promises by Rhee et al: were they kept?

Part Four of Many

To get a grant of about $64 million dollars, ex-Chancellor of DC Public Schools Michelle Rhee promised that DCPS would be in the top half of all NAEP TUDA urban districts by 2013. So far, in math at the 4th and 8th grade, she and her successors have failed.

How did they do in reading?

See for yourself. This first chart is from the NAEP TUDA website concerning fourth grade math:

dcps vs all naep tuda 4th grade reading 2013

There were 21 school districts in the “Trial Urban District Assessment’ of the National Assessment of Educational Progress in 2013, and it appears that number 11, the median school district, if you measure that by percentages of students at or above proficient, is Albuquerque, with 24% of its students in those categories. DCPS appears to have a small edge on Albuuerque, with 25% of its students proficient or advanced, so if you measure things that way, DCPS is technically in the top half.

However, if you compare average scores on the test, then Albuquerque actually beat DC, since the average scores were 207 and 205 — with DC getting the lower score. In that case, DCPS is technically in the bottom half.

And if you say that being in the ‘top half’ would mean beating the average score for all large cities, then DCPS definitely did NOT succeed.

Or if you go by the categories that the officials at NAEP actually used, namely ‘Percentage at or above proficient is significantly higher than large city’, and ‘Percentage at or above proficient is NOT significantly different than large city’, and ‘Percentage at or above proficient is lower than large city’, then DCPS is firmly in the middle group.

I think I will score this one as an ‘almost met’.

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How about 8th grade reading?

Here things are a lot more cut-and-dried:

dcps vs all naep tuda 8th grade reading 2013

It is very clear that DCPS did NOT meet the goal of being in the top half of the Trial Urban District Assessment. The average score is well below that for Chicago, the median school district (245 vs 253), and even further behind all large cities (245 vs 258), and the percentages of students deemed proficient or advanced on this test in DCPS, namely 17%, also places DCPS in the bottom half, not the top half.

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So out of four different categories measured so far (being in the top half of NAEP TUDA districts in reading and math at the 4th and 8th grade levels), DCPS got an “almost” in one category (fourth grade reading) and clearly failed in the other three.

Recall that if DCPS did not meet its goals, the Arnold, Broad, Roberts and Walton foundations were supposed to withhold the grant monies.

Did they?

And out of the other 74 goals, how many did DCPS actually meet?

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The saga so far:

  1.  https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2014/09/02/did-any-of-michelle-rhees-promises-actually-work-in-dc/
  2. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2014/09/02/more-on-michelle-rhees-promises-concerning-dcps/
  3. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2014/09/04/what-rhee-promised-to-the-billionaires-walton-gates-et-al-but-didnt-deliver/
  4. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2014/09/04/two-more-promises-by-rhee-et-al-were-they-kept/ (this one)
  5. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/ten-more-promises-from-rhee-henderson-company-were-any-of-them-kept/
  6. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/33-6-for-nearly-all-values-of-3-not-5/
  7. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/5281/
  8. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2014/09/07/more-failures-to-deliver-on-promises-by-michelle-rhee-and-her-acolytes/
  9. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2014/09/08/another-day-another-bunch-of-failures-from-rhee-henderson/
  10. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2014/09/09/even-more-missed-targets-dc-cas-proficiency-in-2010-and-2011/
  11. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2014/09/13/rhees-failures-in-dc-the-continuing-saga-2012-dc-cas/
  12. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2014/09/21/the-long-list-of-failures-by-rhee-and-henderson-continued/

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Once again, let me credit my colleague Erich Martel for coming up with the idea of going back to the original promises and seeing if they were kept or not, and sharing his findings with me. These calculations are generally my own, so if you find any mistakes, don’t blame him. Blame me.

A few comments about education in DC & elsewhere

(1) The US tax code gives extremely wealthy people the opportunity (at the expense of other taxpayers) to intervene in public policy in all kinds of ways. It is not an exaggeration to say that many obnoxious, predatory (criminal?) businessmen have been able to purchase the good will of the public by putting their wealth into things that appear to benefit the public. When we think these days of the names Rockefeller, Frick, Morgan, Carnegie, Yerkes, and Ford, we tend to think of the nice foundations, museums, telescopes, and research that their monies funded. Of course, that was OUR money that these robbers stole. No-one remembers today, for example, what an evil anti-semite and racist Henry Ford was, or how Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay suppressed steel workers’ totally legitimate desire for safer and less brutal working conditions, the right to collective bargaining, and much more. When these wealth individuals donate to charities or set up trusts, it is precisely because the tax code gives them huge benefits for doing so. Either they can pay this money to the federal or state treasuries, or they can spend it on anything they want – almost. In the case of Gates and Broad and the rest of the current handful of billionaires, they may think that they know what to do about public education, but the most charitable thing one can say, so far, is that they are consistently wrong. (If you want to accuse me of favoring some sort of socialism, that’s fine – I plead guilty.)

(2) As a 3rd-generation Washingtonian, a 30-year veteran teacher in DCPS, a former DCPS student myself (starting 50 years ago this fall), a child of a former DCPS art teacher, and the parent of two young recently-married adults who went K-12 through DCPS, I have never been impressed by the superintendents and school boards we have had. (Janey and McKenzie weren’t too bad; the rest were appallingly dreadful. Vance reminded me of old, tottering, semi-fossilized Soviet leaders like Brezhnev, who were periodically propped up to give a TV broadcast about how everything was just hunky-dory.) I only had one principal who was any good (in my opinion). But of all of these DCPS leaders, I would have to say that Michelle Rhee takes the cake for being the most dishonest and mean-spirited, as well as the most clueless about what constitutes good teaching and learning. Which is precisely why I started this blog and retired earlier than I might have.

(3) I agree that teachers are not saints, and that our two main unions (AFT and NEA) often make mistakes or just do the wrong thing. Some teachers (like some of those employed in *any* profession or line of work) need to be in a different job altogether. (And, contrary to the lies of Michelle Rhee, it’s never been all that hard for a principal who cares about education to get rid of a really bad teacher.) The interests of teachers in the public schools, those of the children in their care, and those of the parents of those students, should basically be at least on the same page. The (evil) genius of people like Rhee and Gates is that they have done an outstanding job in demonizing public school teachers and making the case that we deserve no due process, no pensions, and no respect. They have been quite successful in driving a wedge between teachers and parents. It’s really too bad.

(4) I’ve been getting more and more disillusioned by Obama, too. But unlike you, one of my reasons is that I think he’s just about 100% wrong on how to improve public education.

 

Not Waiting for Superman

A couple of excellent articles on how we should NOT be waiting for Superman, and how the Broads, Gateses, Waltons, and so on really do NOT have our interests at heart, and also about the whole ‘Superman’ garbage.

Here is one of them: http://www.notwaitingforsuperman.org/Articles/MinerUltimateSuperpower?action=download&upname=TheUltimateSuperpower_Miner.pdf or click here.

Here is another one:  http://www.notwaitingforsuperman.org/Articles/20101101-FineLoisLaneMemo?action=download&upname=LoisLaneMemo_Fine.pdf or click here.

Published in: on November 4, 2010 at 1:40 am  Comments (1)  
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