Who is Eli Broad and why is he trying to destroy public education?
by Ken Derstine
February 24, 2013
(Most recent update: July 19th, 2014)
(Click blue text for links.)
The historically unprecedented explosion of wealth in recent decades for the top one percent of the American populace is leading to a reshaping of the American economy in the interests of this one percent. Having more wealth than they know what to do with, many of the corporate leaders, hedge fund managers, and bankers are putting their wealth into “venture philanthropies”. They hope to advance an unregulated, free market economy which requires the destruction of the advances towards social equality made in American society during the 20th century due to the struggles of the civil rights movement in the sixties and the labor movement in the thirties. Incubated in the economic Wild West days of the G. W. Bush administration until the financial crisis of 2008, these “venture philanthropies” continue to seek to bring the business practices of the banking, corporate, and hedge fund manager world to all sectors of the U.S. economy through privatization.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the full-scale assault on public education that has been escalating for the last ten years since the Bush administration instituted the No Child Left Behind law in 2001. Basing itself on rating schools by high stakes testing, combined with declining federal support for education, NCLB has led to wide scale vilification of public school teachers for social conditions over which they have no control. This is being used all over the country as a pretext for closing schools in mostly urban school districts with large numbers of low-income families. As a result, we once again are faced with an increasingly segregated educational system where the children of middle class and slightly better off working class families are transferred into charters which are given advantages in student selection and funding, while the children of low income families are increasingly being left behind in deteriorating public schools. These ever worsening urban public school systems, which already having been inequitably funded for decades compared to wealthy suburban school districts, are being systematically starved of funding.
The promoters of the corporate reform of public education can be divided into two major groups, conservative and neoliberal political action committees which believe in an unregulated free enterprise market; and “venture philanthropies” which pour money into various causes that promote the free market and, not coincidently, the profits of the 1%.
Conservative corporate education reform
The major conservative political action committee is the American Legislative Executive Council (ALEC). ALEC’s membership is made up of rightwing politicians in legislatures all over the country who propose ALEC created legislation promoting tax benefits to corporations, banks, and the wealthy, and advance the privatization of public institutions such as public education, public transportation, public utilities, state lotteries, and other municipal and state services. In education funding, these legislators directly represent the interests of corporate and banking institutions, introducing legislation promoting the privatization of public schools through charters and vouchers.
Neoliberal corporate education reform
The neoliberal political action committees that support corporate education reform are various and ever changing. Wealthy philanthropists and hedge fund managers fund them. Here are just a few:
• Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst and state based affiliates, funders include New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and hedge fund managers David Tepper and Alan Fournier. The Laura and John Arnold Foundation, funded by hedge fund manager John Arnold, has also pledged $20 million to Rhee's organization over five years. The Broad Foundation provided $500,000 in start up funding.
• Democrats for Education Reform, funded by various hedge fund managers and investment groups.
• Black Alliance for Educational Options, funded by the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Institute for the Transformation of Learning, and the Walton Family Foundation.
• Teach for America, funded by dozens of corporations and hedge fund managers.
• The films “Waiting for Superman” and the recent box office dud "Won't Back Down" , directed by directors who are liberal Democrats, financed by conservative entrepreneur (oil, entertainment, newspapers) Philip Anschutz.
• Dozens of national charter management companies, funded by a combination of public funds and private donations.
Of the “venture philanthropies” there is a triumvirate that make up the major funders of the philanthropies of corporate education reform: the Bill Gates Foundation (Bill Gates is currently worth $59 billion), the Walton Family Foundation, established by the owners of Wal-Mart (The Walton family is currently worth $16.3 billion) (see Forbes for their ranking), and the Broad Foundation (Eli Broad is currently worth $6.3 billion) Of the three, the Broad Foundation is the smallest in financial assets, but it has had a far-reaching impact in the assault on public schools through a careful targeting of its resources. According to their website, the Broad Foundation claims to have spent $370 million on their “education philanthropy” since 1999. Based on their level of activity in local school districts, as this article will detail, it is probably much higher.
Venture philanthropy treats schools as a “private consumable service and promotes business remedies, reforms, and assumptions with regard to public schooling. Some of the most significant projects involve promoting charter schools to inject market competition and “choice” into the public sector as well as using cash bonuses for merit pay for teachers and to “incentivize” students. (See “The Rise of Venture Philanthropy and the Ongoing Neoliberal Assault on Public Education", page 54
The Broad Mission Statement
The 2008 Mission Statement of the Broad Foundation (Page 4) states its goal is:
“Transforming K-12 urban public education through better governance, management, labor relations and competition.”
Note the targeting of “urban public education”. Eli Broad considers himself a liberal Democrat (view the slide show), as does Michelle Rhee of Students First, who has been on the Board of the Broad Foundation since at least 2008 (see below); and Bill Gates of the Gates Foundation. They claim their attempt to restructure American education is the next civil rights movement. They target urban school districts with the highest poverty by having Superintendents from their Broad Superintendents Academy appointed who are prepared to starve public schools in order to make charter schools appealing to parents. The hemorrhaging of students from public schools to charters has led to urban school districts closing public schools all over the country due to “under enrollment”.
Strong American Schools
In 2007, the Broad Foundation teamed with the Gates Foundation to create Strong American Schools. Founded by Eli Broad, the Gates Foundation contributed $60 million towards “a nonpartisan campaign aimed at elevating American education to the top of the presidential campaign agenda between now and November 2008. Strong American Schools is a public awareness and action campaign designed to give a voice to every American who demands strong leadership to improve our schools.”
With the 2008 election of President Barack Obama, Arne Duncan, until then a Broad Foundation Board member, was appointed Secretary of Education. The 2009/2010 Annual Report of the Broad Foundation (Page 5) states:
“The election of President Barack Obama and his appointment of Arne Duncan, former CEO of Chicago Public Schools, as the U.S. secretary of education, marked the pinnacle of hope for our work in education reform. In many ways, we feel the stars have finally aligned.
With an agenda that echoes our decade of investments—charter schools, performance pay for teachers, accountability, expanded learning time and national standards—the Obama administration is poised to cultivate and bring to fruition the seeds we and other reformers have planted.”
Of Arne Duncan, the 2009/2010 Broad Annual Report states (Page 10):
“Prior to becoming U.S. secretary of education, Arne Duncan was CEO of Chicago Public Schools, where he hosted 23 Broad Residents. Duncan now has five Broad Residents and alumni working with him in the U.S. Department of Education.”
Since becoming Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan continues his association with the Broad Foundation in venues such as, for several years, presenting the annual Broad Prize for Urban Education that awards $1 million to five urban districts to be used for college scholarships for graduating seniors. Prizes are awarded based on criteria set by the Broad Foundation based on its goal of privatizing public education. He is following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Margaret Spellings, who was Secretary of Education in the second G. W. Bush administration and also participated in the awarding of the Broad Prize for Urban Education. (See the 2008 Broad Foundation Annual Report, pages 13 - 15.)
The Board of the Broad Foundation
Members of the Board of the Broad Foundation have included a veritable Who’s Who of corporate education reform. According to the 2009/2010 Broad Annual Report (Page 25), at that time they included:
• Joel Klein, Chancellor of New York City Schools
• Barry Munitz, board chair, trustee professor, California State University, Los Angeles
• Arlene Ackerman, Superintendent of Philadelphia Public Schools
• Richard Barth, chief executive officer of the KIPP Foundation
• Henry Cisneros, former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Clinton Administration
• Arne Duncan, Chancellor of Chicago Schools until he became U.S. Secretary of Education in the Obama Administration
• Louis Gerstner, Jr., senior advisor to The Carlyle Group
• Maria Goodloe-Johnson, Superintendent of Seattle Public Schools
• Dan Katzir, board secretary/treasurer, managing director of the Broad Foundation
• Wendy Kopp, chief executive officer and founder of Teach for America
• Margaret Spellings, former U.S. Secretary of Education in the second George W. Bush Administration where she oversaw the implementation of No Child Left Behind
• Melissa Megliola Zaikos, Autonomous Management and Performance Schools Program Officer, Chicago Public Schools
• Michelle Rhee, Chancellor of the District of Columbia Schools
• Lawrence Summers, Chief economist for the World Bank 1991-1993; U.S. Secretary of the Treasury in the Clinton Administration, later on the Broad Board until he became the Director of the National Economic Council in the Obama Administration, rejoined the Broad Board on July 25, 2012. (See immediately below.)
• Mortimer Zuckerman, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of the U.S. News and World Report; Publisher of the New York Daily News
Added to the Board in July, 2012 were:
• Andy Stern, former President of the Service Employees International Union
• Representative Harold Ford, five-term Congressman and former chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council
• Paul Pastorek, former Louisiana state superintendent of education and former president of the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education who oversaw the post-Hurricane Katrina privatization of New Orleans public schools.
As can be seen from this list, top management of the Broad Foundation is overwhelmingly made up of people from the political community, the business community, labor leaders, and only a very few from the administrative end of education; who are reaching the end of their career path. They take highly paid positions and bring their expertise and connections from their prior careers into the world of corporate education reform. Only a few have any actual teaching experience in K-12 public schools.
The Broad Residency program
The Broad Residency Program is part of the management of the day-to-day operations of the Foundation that is carried out by the Broad Center for the Management of School Systems. Broad employees are trained at the Broad Residency in Urban Education which is a two-year management development program that trains recent graduate students, primarily with business and law degrees, who have several years of work experience in the business world and places them immediately into managerial positions in the central operations of urban school districts. As on the Board, almost all have no training in pedagogy or child development, and no classroom experience. Most are people in their 20’s and 30’s who see promoting the corporate education reform agenda as a stepping stone in a career path which they began in the business world. Some come from such organizations as the Boston Consulting Group, a leader in corporate downsizing, and Harvard's Strategic Data Project that is heavily involved, along with The Gates Foundation and Murdoch’s Wireless Generation (headed by Broad Board member Joel Klein), in the collection of student and teacher data.
According to the 2011-2012 Broad Foundation Annual Report (Page 34)
“Since 2003, the program has recruited and placed early-career executives with private and civic sector experience and advanced degrees into two-year, full-time paid positions in urban school districts, state and federal departments of education and top charter management organizations. More than 250 Broad Residents have been placed in 39 school districts, 30 public charter school management organizations, seven state departments of education and the U.S. Department of Education.”
The Broad Superintendents Academy
The other part of the Broad Center for the Management of School Systems is the Broad Superintendents Academy, begun in 2002. It trains eight to twenty-five candidates per year in six intensive four-day sessions spread over 10 months. According to the 2011-2012 Annual Report (Page 24), from 2002 through 2011 there have been 144 Broad superintendent graduates.
A key part of corporate education reform is to reshape public schooling on the market model that involves remaking administrator preparation for education like the corporate model. Of the Superintendents, about half come from education, the other half come from business and the military. The Broad Foundation frequently pays cash-strapped school districts part of the new superintendent’s salary if the districts select a Broad Superintendent Graduate.
Looking at the toolkit of resources for trainees on their website, you find such things as their 2009 "School Closure Guide: Closing Schools as a Means for Addressing Budgetary Challenges". This 83 page Guide gives a detailed breakdown and timelines of how to manage school closures and community opposition to the closing of community schools. A favored tactic in various cities has been to announce a proposal for closing a large number of schools; hold community meetings to give the appearance of democracy, but actually for the purpose of using the information gained to hone their tactics for carrying out a list of community schools to be closed despite community opposition. Then they take a few schools off the closing list to give the appearance that they are listening to the community. This is a form of the common practice in labor negotiations where management proposes some draconian cuts, and then, when a compromise is reached with the union leaders, the rank-and-file is relieved that the cuts are not as drastic as first proposed and votes to accept the contract even though it is less than they deserve and need. The difference with school closures is that there is no relief for the majority of communities where schools will be closed if just a few schools are taken off the closure list. This school closure method has been used in New York, Chicago, and Detroit, where large numbers of community schools have already been closed. The closings are done in phases to transform large numbers of public schools into a private system run by charter management companies over a period of years.
The criteria for the selection of schools to be closed is a mystery to the community that is trying to find what must be done to the keep their community school open so their children do not have to walk or travel long distances to school. Parents are told their schools are not cost effective because of under enrollment (which are largely due to student transfers to charters), the building is too old, or they are given no clear reason for the community school being closed. At some point in the process, charter schools are offered as an option to distressed parents.
In cities where this process has begun, vacant closed schools are blight in already impoverished communities, or they are turned over to charters, or they are sold to real estate interests at bargain basement prices. This is the script being followed by graduates of the Broad Superintendents Academy all over the country.
You will not find the word "charter" in the "School Closure Guide". For that you must look at other guides and toolkits which have been created by and “for school districts and charter management organizations with support from The Broad Foundation to help with some of the most pressing and complicated issues facing school systems.” Most were written in 2009 and 2010.
These include Administrative Career Path and Performance Evaluation Guide:“This guide will help charter management organizations (CMOs) and school districts – and their human resources staff and line managers in particular – that are looking to develop a systematic approach to evaluating and promoting employees.”, Rubrics for Charter Evaluations, "Bain Chicago charter school involvement summary: 2007-2009", and more.
In 2011, Parents Across America described the management method of Broad Superintendents like this:
“Broad and his foundation believe that public schools should be run like a business. One of the tenets of his philosophy is to produce system change by “investing in disruptive force”. Continual reorganizations, firings of staff, and experimentation to create chaos or “churn” is believed to be productive and beneficial, as it weakens the ability of communities to resist change.”
Many of their Superintendents last only a few years in their highly paid positions until communities that want to be rid of them give them six figure buyouts which the Broad candidates are careful to have written into their initial contract. Frequently, other graduates of the Broad Superintendents Academy replace them. The Broad Foundation does not see the termination of a contract as a defeat for its overall objective of privatization of public schools, but part of “churn.”
True to the Broad Superintendent Academies undemocratic nature, the Broad Superintendents prefer to operate in secrecy and stealth. Candidates' graduation from the uncertified Broad Superintendents Academy is not listed on resumes. Usually only an inner circle of politicians and school administrators know of their promotion of the Broad agenda. In Philadelphia, for example, Dr. Arlene Ackerman sat on the board of directors of the Broad Foundation while she was Superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia from 2008-2011. Ackerman had been appointed head of the Broad Superintendents Academy in 2007. Her affiliation with the Broad Foundation was not known to the general public and only came out after she came into conflict with local politicians over the disputed selection of a charter operator for Martin Luther King High School. Having poured money into charters and Renaissance Schools while starving public schools, she left the District with a $1 billion deficit over the next five years. On August 25th, 2011, she was given a $1 million buyout of her contract after threatening to reveal “secrets”. Her replacement, Dr. William Hite (Broad Superintendents Academy Class of 2005) took office in September 5th, 2012. (For more details about Ackerman's conflict with the Nutter Administration, see "More about Broad in Philadelphia" on this website.)
During the year long interim between Ackerman and Hite’s administration, private philanthropies hired the Boston Consulting Group to develop the plans for the reorganization of the School District. On July 18th, 2012, the School Reform Commission, the state agency that has run the School District for ten years, allocated $139 million for 5,416 new "seats" in existing charters. On December 12th, 2012, Hite announced the proposed closing of 37 schools due to “under enrollment” at a “savings” of $28 million.
On February 19, 2013 this school closing list was revised taking off ten schools, and adding two more which means 29 schools are now slated for closure. However, it was announced a few days later that nine schools, including two schools that had just been taken off of the closing list, will be “transformed” into Renaissance charter schools, three to be run by outside charter management companies.
In it's 2009-2010 Annual Report (Page 5) the Broad Foundation said this:
Not all of our education investments have panned out the way we hoped or expected. One of our biggest disappointments was in principal training. Over the course of eight years, we invested $45 million to train principals in reform-minded districts across the country. We expected that intensive training would lead to notable and measurable student achievement gains in those principals' schools. It didn't in many cases, and we're not sure why.
The Broad Foundation has gone on to set up The SUPES Academy in many urban districts which specifically target principals to find compliant principals who will carry out its attack on public school teachers.
The Broad Foundation and the unions
The Broad Foundation Mission Statement states that one of its goals is the transformation of labor relations. The Broad Foundation is not anti-union. Rather, it seeks to transform unions into a form of company union. A company union is a union located within and run by a company or a national government, and the union bureaucracy is incorporated into the company’s management. This opens up the workforce to unfettered exploitation for profits of the owners. Many right-wing governments internationally use company unions to suppress worker struggles against low living standards. In 1935, during the labor struggles of the Depression, the National Labor Relations Act was passed which outlawed company unions in the United States.
Broad has found no shortage of former or current union leaders who are willing to be bought and join his venture philanthropy to foster labor/management “collaboration”. Former President of the Service Employees International Union, Andy Stern, is just the most visible on the board. In education, the Teacher Union Reform Network (TURN) fosters this collaboration.
American Federation of Teachers President Helen Bernstein started TURN in 1996 with a grant from the PEW Charitable Trust. Leadership of TURN was taken over by current AFT Vice President Adam Urbanski, when he was head of the Rochester, New York local in1999. By 2001, TURN had formed a partnership with the Broad Foundation. According to the Los Angeles Times, on April 5, 2001, Eli Broad announced his Foundation was donating $10 million to TURN to foster labor/management “collaboration”. In 2009, Broad invested $2 million in TURN, “a network of National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers locals”. (Broad's 2009 Annual Report, Page 15) (For more details about TURN's affiliation with corporate education reform see Schools Matter, "Paul Toner and the TURNcoats", July 24, 2012.)
In the early days of this collaboration, labor leaders joined leaders in politics, business and non-profit organizations in staffing the faculty at the Broad Superintendents Academy, training the future Broad Superintendents. According a 2002 Broad press release (Page 2) participants included:
• Rod Paige, U.S. Secretary of Education in the G.W. Bush Administration
• Henry Cisneros, Secretary of HUD in the first Clinton Administration and now CEO of American CityVista
• William Cox, Managing Director of Broad, School Evaluation Services
• Chris Cross, Senior Fellow, Center on Education Policy
• Chester E. Finn, Jr., President, Thomas B. Fordham Foundation
• Frances Hesselbein, Chairman, The Drucker Foundation
• Don McAdams, Founder, Center for Reform of School Systems
• Donald Nielsen, President, Hazelton Corporation, Chairman of the 2WAY Corporation
• Hugh B. Price, President and CEO, National Urban League
• Paul Ruiz, Principal Partner, Education Trust
• Adam Urbanski, Director of Teacher Union Reform Network
• Randi Weingarten, President, United Federation of Teachers.
On November 8th and 9th, 2002, Randi Weingarten participated in a retreat at the Eli Broad's home which included corporate and education leaders. The Press Release said this about the Broad Foundation Summit:
"The recent launch of several initiatives incubated at previous retreats and the Foundation's increase in assets to $400 million prompted the Foundation to convene this strategic planning session. Previously, the Foundation hosted retreats in May of 1999 and February of 2000. The Broad Foundation's mission is to dramatically improve K-12 public education through better governance, management and labor relations. The Foundation's investments are designed to transform large urban school districts from lackluster bureaucracies into high-performing public enterprises."
In 2005 the Broad Foundation made a $1 million grant to help the United Federation of Teachers in New York City, at that time headed by Randi Weingarten, to open two union-run charter schools in Brooklyn, the first such schools in the country. In October, 2012, it was announced these schools are in academic and enrollment trouble and will probably close at the end of the school year. This became another opportunity for another round of teacher bashing by the right-wing media. (Note: This column is written by Micah Lasher, executive director of StudentsFirstNY.)
On September 18, 2007, the Broad Foundation awarded New York City public schools the Broad Prize for Urban Education. Joining Eli Broad on stage at the ceremony were U.S. Secretary of Education in the Bush administration Margaret Spellings, New York City Education Chancellor Joel Klein, and Randi Weingarten, President of the United Federation of Teachers.
In its 2009 Annual Report (Page 10), the Broad Foundation said,
“Teacher unions have always been a formidable voice in public education. We decided at the onset of our work to invest in smart, progressive labor leaders like Randi Weingarten, head of the United Federation of Teachers in New York City for more than a decade and now president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). We partnered with Weingarten to fund two union-run charter schools in Brooklyn and to fund New York City’s first incentive-based compensation program for schools, as well as the AFT’s Innovation Fund. We had previously helped advance pay for performance programs in Denver and Houston, but we were particularly encouraged to see New York City embrace the plan.” (See the picture in the 2008 Broad Foundation Annual Report, page 14 and a featured Weingarten quote on page 15.)
On the same page (Page 10) of the 2009 Annual Report the Report boasted of being one of the earliest funders of Teach For America stating “our investment in this innovative teaching corps has grown to more than $41 million.” The same page also says, “Since 2000, our CMO (charter management organization) investments have swelled to nearly $100 million, creating 54,474 charter seats in 16 cities. We provided early start-up capital for charter operators like KIPP, Aspire, Green Dot and Uncommon Schools. They have since become the models for other CMOs to emulate.”
In April, 2009, the AFT teamed with four venture philanthropies: the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation—to create the Innovation Fund. The private-foundation contributions, in addition to the AFT's down payment of $1 million, brought the fund's total to $2.8 million. Weingarten said its funds were made available for local affiliates to "incubate promising ideas to improve schools."
In an April 28, 2009 article, Education Week’s Teacher Beat described the purpose of the Innovation Fund this way: “Both Weingarten and the foundation folks spoke a lot about the importance of working together and collaboration...Both she and Adam Urbanski, the president of the Rochester, N.Y., affiliate who will serve as the fund's executive director, were quick to minimize the fact that AFT's education-reform objectives haven't always been in line with those of the private foundations. (Broad and Gates, for instance, were said to be primed to offer financial support behind D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee's two-tiered pay proposal, although as far as I know, neither foundation ever confirmed that on the record.)”
On June 3, 2010, at their union leader’s urging, the Washington D.C. teachers Union ratified a contract with the Washington D.C. School District, headed by Chancellor Michelle Rhee, which included performance pay linked to test score growth, and a weakening of seniority and tenure. Weingarten had interfered in the Union's election to ensure it would be held after the contract ratification. Rhee got most of what she wanted in terms of merit pay for teachers and loss of seniority. Union President George Parker called the ratification of the contract “a great day for teachers and students.”
When the union election was finally held on November 10, 2010, Parker was voted out of office by the union rank-and-file. On May 20, 2011, Michelle Rhee announced that Parker was joining her corporate reform organization StudentsFirst. Rhee had resigned as Chancellor of Washington D.C. schools on October 13, 2010, and started StudentsFirst soon after when the Mayor who supported her was not reelcted. Rhee’s Deputy Chancellor and chief negotiator of the 2010 teachers’ contract, Kaya Henderson, replaced her. Henderson recently announced the proposed closing of 20 schools due to “under enrollment”.
On July 8th, 2010, Randi Weingarten welcomed Bill Gates as the keynote speaker at the national AFT convention. Subsequently, in April 17th, 2012, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded $2 million to five of the AFT’s TURN regional networks through the Consortium for Educational Change, “an Illinois-based network of teacher unions, school districts, and professional organizations that work to make school systems more collaborative, high-performing organizations.” Of the grant, Mary Jane Morris, executive director of CEC said, “There is clear evidence that policies and programs that truly impact teaching effectiveness result when teacher unions and management collaborate as equal partners. Each stakeholder brings a unique understanding and knowledge-base that must be considered.”
On June 7, 2012 the Chicago Teachers Union was holding a strike authoirzation vote. (90 percent of the teachers' union, and 98 percent of those voting called for a strike.) Randi Weingarten flew into Chicago the same day, not to support the teachers, but to attend the Clinton Global Initiative Conference. She participated on a panel with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to praise him for his Chicago Infrastructure Trust. Speaking on the panel, she supported the neoliberal agenda of labor and management collaboration which historically has been to the advantage of capital against labor. Weingarten left town without speaking to the teachers. She did join the picket line near the end of the strike. (It has not been disclosed if she was there to support the CTU or to end the strike.)
An article in Reuters, right after the 2012 AFT convention reelected Weingarten to a third term, began: “In the maelstrom of criticism surrounding America's unionized public school teachers, the woman running the second-largest educator union says time has come to collaborate on public school reform rather than resist.” "U.S. teacher union boss bends to school reform winds", Reuters, July 31, 2012
The Chicago teachers' strike in September, 2012, to which the AFT gave tepid financial and verbal support (not rallying locals nationally to support the CTU), ended on September 19th, 2012. On September 22nd, Weingarten joined Secretary of Education Duncan, who was on a bus tour through the Midwest to promote Race to the Top as part of the President Obama's reelection campaign.
On the tour she joined Gayle Manchin, wife of West Virginia U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, on a panel to discuss “how to build public-private partnerships to support educational improvement as the path to a brighter future.” Weingarten had praised this program as an example of business/labor collarboration at the Clinton Global Initiative conference. The state-run McDowell County, West Virginia school system and the AFT had created the philanthropy organization "Reconnecting McDowell” in 2011 to foster “collaboration between business, government and nonprofit organizations to establish programs that address the challenges faced by this community.” The AFT has given the fund millions of dollars from the dues of the AFT rank-and-file to this corporate organization. The AFT is now teaming with Teach for America and businesses in McDowell County to build low income teacher housing for low income teachers. (For more on the use of union pension funds to invest in infrastructure projects see Which Side Are You On? on this blog.)
On November 17th, 2012, Weingarten teamed with New Jersey Education Secretary Chris Cerf (Broad Academy Class of 2004) to successfully promote the ratification of a contract for Newark teachers that included merit pay based on performance (including high-stakes test scores). The merit pay scheme was subsequently deemed to be a witout merit.
On December 13, 2012, the New Jersey Education Law Center announced it had found that Eli Broad was offering a $430,000 grant to New Jersey contingent on the reelection of Governor Chris Christie. Terms of the grant include a requirement that the number of charters be increased by 50%, requiring that all public announcements of the program by the state have to be cleared with the Broad Foundation, and it contained a lengthy provision about making documents, files, and records associated with the grant the property of the Foundation. New Jersey bloggers speculated that Broad’s real concern was the keeping Cerf as the New Jersey Secretary of Education.
On December 13th, 2012, Weingarten held a press conference with Bill Clinton and Obama’s housing secretary Shaun Donovan to announce the AFT would invest $1 billion from the NYC teachers pension fund for Hurricane Sandy relief for the NYC area. NYC Mayor Bloomburg criticized the investment because taxpayers would have to bail out the pension fund if the investment failed. One month later the U.S. Congress allocated $50.5 billion dollars for Hurricane Sandy relief.
Weingarten had explained her belief in the investment of the teacher pension fund in infrastructure projects around the country at the June 19th, 2012 Clinton Global Initiative Conference. She has never explained what gives her the right to use the pensions of millions of teachers for this purpose.
On January 29, 2013, Weingarten was interviewed on NPR’s All Things Considered. She continued her campaign for a teacher’s “Bar Exam”. This year long campaign is an endorsement of the corporate education reformers campaign against teachers that says the problem with schools is “bad teachers” and tenure. Arne Duncan and New York Governor Cuomo have been aggressively supporting this proposal. Weingarten did this NPR interview at the same time as New York City teachers are in a battle against an unfair and flawed teacher evaluation system which Cuomo was threatening to impose through drastic cuts in state funding for NYC public schools if not agreed to or dictatorially imposing the teacher evaluation system outright.
On March 11, 2009, in an article in the NYC education website Gotham News, in the article "Eli Broad describes close ties to Klein, Weingarten, Duncan", Broad described his education philosophy and his collaboration with Klein, Weingarten, and Duncan. The article did not state that Weingarten’s relationship with Broad dates back to at least 2002.
Who is Eli Broad?
So who is Eli Broad and why does he want to destroy public education?
The son of Lithuanian immigrants, Eli Broad was born in 1933 in the Bronx and raised in Detroit where he attended the Detroit Public Schools. He graduated in 1954 from Michigan State University, where he majored in accounting with a minor in economics. He became the youngest Certified Public Accountant in Michigan, which was his occupation for two years before entering the home building business. He bought his first plot of land at the age of 20.
In 1957, he co-founded Kaufman & Broad with Donald Kaufman, a homebuilder related to his wife. They borrowed $25,000 from Broad’s in-laws and became one of the nation's biggest homebuilders, supplying baby boomers with affordable housing.
In 1971 he bought Sun Life Insurance, a family owned insurance company for $52 million. This became the retirement savings powerhouse Sun America. In 1999, he sold Sun America to American International Group for $18 billion. He was CEO of Sun America, which is now a subsidiary of AIG, until 2000.
Now largely dedicated to their venture philanthropies, he and his wife Edythe Broad live in Los Angeles and oversee The Broad Foundation. The foundation is not only dedicated to “reforming” public education, but has used their fortune in the arts world and in medical research. They have given an estimated $3.5 billion (more than 50% of his current net worth) to their philanthropies, including $600 million to set up The Broad Institute for biomedical research at Harvard and MIT. He and wife Edythe created the Broad Art Foundation in 1984, which now holds more than $2.4 billion worth of art that is lent to art institutions around the world. Their influence in the Los Angeles arts community has been as controversial as their role in American education.
For more on Eli Broad and the arts, see Eli Broad and the Arts Community on this website.
Eli Broad sold Sun Life Insurance for $18 billion in 1999. He is currently worth approximately $6.3 billion. Allowing for substantial losses in the housing market collapse after the 2008 financial crisis, there is still a large amount of money unaccounted for which makes the claim of only $370 million to their “education philanthropy” since 1999, as claimed on their website, highly suspect.
In 2012, Broad’s book "The Art of Being Unreasonable: Lessons in Unconventional Thinking" was published. The inside flap of the book has this quote from George Bernard Shaw: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to him self. Therefore, all progress depends upon the unreasonable man.” George Bernard Shaw was speaking of fighting for social justice. As always, Eli Broad is speaking about what makes a good businessman.
The Broad fortune is based on the speculative capital made possible during the deregulation that began under the Reagan administration. Taking public controls off of private capital set the stage for the wealthiest one per cent in American society to amass enormous personal wealth and use that wealth to lobby and legislate the radical redistribution upward of wealth and income over the next thirty years. It is this ideal of deregulation that Broad holds up as a metaphor for public education. The only way to do that is to hand over public institutions to the private sector. As is being seen with the unfolding disaster of school closures, applying private sector methods to public institutions ignores economic and social reality. Downsizing a corporation to please Wall Street investors is not the same thing as downsizing a public school district because it is not turning out enough students ready for college. (For further analysis see "The Rise of Venture Philanthropy and the Ongoing Neoliberal Assault on Public Education: The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation"
The freewheeling deregulated market accelerated during the Bush years, putting the financial sector on steroids, and leading to the financial crisis of October 2008 for which Congress allocated $700 billion of taxpayer dollars to hedge funds, corporations and banks to prevent them from defaulting on huge debts. Despite this lesson, venture philanthropists like Eli Broad continue to try to use venture capitalist methods to create an educational system after their own image. They believe that privatizing schools will turn out a select number of students for their business needs and also give them another huge source of profit.
Just as the people of the world continue to suffer from the economic tremors of the 2008 financial bailout, just like the collapse of the housing bubble, the tremors created by corporate education reform will cause an economic and social earthquake that will collapse corporate education reform like the house of cards that it is. If corporate educational reform is not making a big enough return in profit, they will move on. Corporate education reform opens up the educational system to the instability of the market place. The public schools are not going anywhere, even when they are grossly underfunded, because they are not in education to make a profit.
If supporters of public education mobilize to support it, left standing, though battered and wounded, will be the U.S. public school system that began after the American Revolution…but what about the children growing up in this war?
Links to articles which update information in this article since its February 24th, 2013 publication.