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Juan Gonzalez, the crack investigative reporter for the New York Daily News, has written a stunning expose of the connection between hedge fund money and politicians’ support for privately managed charter schools.
He writes that parents demonstrated outside the Harvard Club, where equity investors were meeting to learn about “Bonds & Blackboards: Investing in Charter Schools.” The conference was sponsored by the Gates Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation.
Inside, the investors were learning about how to use their money to expand the charter sector.
Hedge fund executives have unleashed a tsunami of money the past few years aimed at getting New York’s politicians to close more public schools and expand charter schools.
They’ve done it through direct political contributions, through huge donations to a web of pro-charter lobbying groups, and through massive TV and radio commercials.
Since 2000, 570 hedge fund managers have shelled out nearly $40 million in political contributions in New York State, according to a recent report by Hedge Clippers, a union-backed research group.
The single biggest beneficiary has been Andrew Cuomo, who received $4.8 million from them.
Several of the governor’s big hedge fund donors, such as Carl Icahn, of Icahn Enterprises, Julian Robertson of Tiger Management, and Daniel Loeb, of Third Point LLC, are also longtime backers of charter schools.
Loeb is chairman of the board of the Success Academy network run by former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz. He’s given $62,000 to Cuomo, while 18 other members of the Success Academy board or their family members have given nearly $600,000 to the governor, according to state campaign records.
Gonzalez documents the showering of millions by hedge fund executives on other groups, such as New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany, Democrats for Education Reform, and Families for Excellent Schools. All of these names are ironic; the people who give to New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany don’t actually want “balance,” they want a corporate-friendly Legislature in which Republicans maintain control of the State Senate. Democrats for Education Reform includes many who are not Democrats, who have contempt for public schools and their teachers, and who are big supporters of charter schools and privatization. My favorite is “Families for Excellent Schools” because it implies that lots of poor and minority families joined together and raised $10 million overnight, when in fact the “families” are the families of billionaires who may never have set foot into a public school, except possibly when they were children, before they became Masters of the Universe on Wall Street.
Gonzalez concludes that all those millions invested in Cuomo’s campaign are paying off in his insistence on opening more charter schools.