Foundations: New form of public corruption

Foundations: New form of Corruption
By Shea Howell

Michigan  Citizen, May 8-14, 2011

          We need a moratorium on corporate charter schools.

 This week the Center for Public Integrity and Newsweek published an analysis of the effectiveness of philanthropy in improving education. They conclude that  these efforts have failed. Evidence does not support the idea that corporate charter schools will do anything to improve the education of our children.

 The report raises serious questions about the vision for public education that is being forced on us through the manipulations of the Emergency Financial Manager.

 EFM Bobb needs to slow down before he destroys many of the most loved, supported, visionary and needed public schools in Detroit.

 The drive  to charterize schools  appears to stem from  the egos of men with money, none of whom has any experience in education. Newsweek explains that “the billionaires boys club” of Bill Gates, Michael Dell, Eli Broad and the Walton Family have directed $4.4 billion tax-free foundation dollars at public education.

 What have they achieved?  According to the new study, “The results, though mixed, are dispiriting proof that money alone can’t repair the desperate state of urban education. For all the millions spent on reforms, nine of the 10 school districts studied substantially trailed their state’s proficiency and graduation rates—often by 10 points or more.”

 The article documents the $900 million tax-free dollars spent on charter schools by these four foundations and concludes, “The charters failed to outperform traditional schools.” In Milwaukee “reading scores were mostly flat over the past five years…in math, elementary and middle-school gains were stronger than in the rest of Wisconsin, but high school proficiency dropped 2 points.”

 This is one more study informing us  that the relentless drive to charterize schools by foundations and  Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb is an ill thought-out move. It is a move based on bad reasoning and is not supported by any evidence.

 There is a more sinister reason than ego for the push to charterize.  Money. Corporations are using foundations to expand their businesses. Gates and Dell have found new markets in the charter schools they use foundations to push.

 A few days before the Center for Public Integrity/Newsweek study was released questioning the effectiveness of charters, the New York Times reported on a Gates Foundation partnership with the Pearson Foundation, related to Prentice Hall textbooks.

Together they are creating “online reading and math courses aligned with the new academic standards that some 40 states have adopted.”  These new standards are called the “common core” and were heavily promoted by Gates. Now he is developing digital materials that have the potential to “fundamentally change the way students and teachers interact in the classroom.”

 So we see a future of computer-based classes set up in charter schools, where public money is used to buy Microsoft software and Dell computers for every child, so they can advance on their standardized tests, also provided by foundation partners. The decisions to use the software and computers are being made by people who are paid by the Broad Foundation, in schools endorsed by them. And the Broad Foundation is supported by the Gates Foundation.

             All of this is especially important in Detroit because Broad-paid EFM Bobb has hired the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA). This so called non-profit organization will decide who gets charters in Detroit. NACSA is funded by Gates, Dell, Walton and Robertson Foundations.

This is a new form of public corruption. It makes the robber barons of old seem benign. In the guise of educating our children, these new robber barons have found a way to use tax free money to capture public dollars to fuel corporate profits. 

Shea Howell

Foundations: New form of public corruption