The California Teachers Association created a useful graphic of the billionaires who are supporting charter schools and privatization of public schools. (There are many more billionaires supporting privatization, but this is a good start.)
Here are a few things you should know about the people on this site.
The Waltons are probably the richest family in America. Forbes estimates their family fortune at $130 billion. Privatizing public education is a family hobby or passion. Wherever there is a critical election, whether in Washington State or Georgia, you are likely to find that a Walton has put in big money to help those who want to replace public schools with private management. They don’t like unions. They boast that they have funded one of every four charters in the nation. I don’t know if any of them have a union, but I doubt it. Walmart is non-union, and it has thrived–for the Waltons, if not for its workers. Workers at Walmart had to fight to get minimum wages. Many qualify for food stamps. If the Waltons wanted to reduce poverty, they could do it by raising the wages of their workers to $15 an hour. They have 1 million low-wage workers. Imagine the good the Waltons could do if they gave their workers a living wage.
Arthur Rock not only gives generously to charters, he is a major contributor to Teach for America. He personally pays for its Washington, D.C., interns who work as Congressional staff and diligently protect TFA’s financial and political interests.
Reed Hastings owns Netflix. He told a meeting of the California Charter Schools Association that he looks forward to the day when there are no local school boards. Think of it. You would get to pick your charter but have no voice whatever in its decision making. Democracy is such a nuisance. Hastings contributed to a fund to oust the chief judge of Washington State this fall because she wrote the opinion saying that charter schools are not public schools. He established a $100 million fund to promote charter schools headed by the guy who ran New Schools for New Orleans.
Doris Fisher is the matriarch of the Fisher Family that owns the Gap and Old Navy. The family has heavily supported KIPP and TFA. The three Fisher children went to Phillips Exeter Academy.
Eli Broad pushes to eliminate public schools everywhere. His Broad superintendents have been strategically placed in key positions in school districts across the country after being carefully indoctrinated in his view that the best way to improve public schools is to replace them with charters. He likes to work with school districts where there is minimal public participation, preferably where the mayor has total control. He wants to put half the children in Los Angeles in privately managed charter schools. He is another reformer who doesn’t like democracy. The more autocratic control, the better the environment for his top-down management plans.
The Laura and John Arnold Foundation of Houston has made its mark beyond supporting charter schools in California. John Arnold tried, but failed, to turn Dallas into an all-charter district. He has a passion for eliminating defined-benefit public pensions and replacing them with 401Ks, which fluctuate with the market. When investigative reporter David Sirota discovered that Arnold was financing a PBS program on the “crisis” in public pensions, PBS was shamed into returning Arnold’s donation of $3.5 million.
What about in Maryland, who are the drivers behind charter schools Financing and the Spread of School Privatization? The union members needs to pause a challenge to Maryland State education Association to make a similar list.
Know your reformers!