Accountability Charter Schools Corporate Reformers Education Industry Failure Privatization Tennessee

City Fund: Another Billionaire-Funded Phony Scheme to Steal Public Schools from the Public

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You first read about “City Fund” when Tom Ultican wrote about it on August 18. Then four days later, Chalkbeat got the “leaked memo” and told the story that Tom had already broken.

Two billionaires, unhappy with the slow and slowing pace of privatization, have created another organization to spread the gospel of school choice, following in the venerable tradition established by racist Southern governors and senators following the Brown Decision of 1954. In the late 1950s (as Mercedes Schneider wrote in detail in her fine book School Choice), white southerners were mad for choice. They saw choice as the best way to stop racial integration.

Now, under the unesteemed leadership of rightwing zealot Betsy DeVos, the mask of benevolence has been stripped away from the choice movement.

But that doesn’t stop billionaires Reed Hastings (Netflix) and John Arnold (Enron). Education is their game, their hobby, and they are not ready to abandon their dream of privatizing every school in America.

They have hired a “dream team” of failed Reformers, who bring together in one place a long history of stealing democracy and public schools from poor African Americans.

The Reformers tell us that up until now, nothing in reform has worked. But they seem convinced that charter schools work (think Detroit, think Milwaukee). If NOLA is the model, start by closing all the public schools, firing all the teachers, then replacing them with charters and TFA. Crucial to the plan is to add hundreds of millions of dollars in new spending (they forgot that part of the formula).

Peter Greene takes a crack at explaining the grand plan for transforming public schools into a business–and failing as Kevin Huffman and Chris Barbic did in Tennessee’s Achievement School District, where they blew $100 million trying to turn “failing schools” into high-performing schools by handing them over to private operators. Say this for Huffman and Barbic: It was failure on a grand scale!

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