Posts Tagged ‘Bill Gates’

Are secret donors trying to buy voucher/charter support?

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown wrote last week about a campaign fundraising group, For A Better Chicago PAC, which has made generous donations to 16 aldermanic candidates (list below) while refusing to disclose where their money came from. They claim an exemption under a loophole for non-profits, though that claim is being challenged by the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform in a formal complaint with the State Board of Elections.

Brown has written about this group before. Their leader, Gary Goldner, ran Mayor Daley’s 2003 re-election bid and Rahm Emanuel’s successful bid for Congress in 2002.

Brown reports that it is unclear what FABC-PAC wants, “although most say it is a pro-business group with a particular interest in charter schools.”

Here’s the group’s education “platform,” which uses all the buzz words of voucher/charter and pay-teachers-for-test score promoters without specifically mentioning that agenda:

Since mayoral control of the Chicago Public Schools system was restored in 1995, many schools have made tremendous progress. At the same time, parents in many neighborhoods still do not have viable options for sending their children to a school that provides a world-class education, whether it is a public, neighborhood, magnet, selective enrollment, charter or specialized school.

For a Better Chicago PAC advocates that during these dire times, while more and more children are failing to make adequate progress in the classroom, nothing can be considered, ‘off the table.’ If Chicago is to maintain its position as a truly world-class city, we must provide our children with a world-class education. We cannot have a world-class education system without teachers who are supported, well-trained and compensated fairly for student growth. Now is the time for bold and innovative reforms that reward teachers and schools that show significant progress while holding failures accountable.

Receiving FABC-PAC funds are candidates Carrie Austin (34th), Anthony Beale (9th), Howard B. Brookins Jr. (21st), Will Burns (4th), Willie Cochran (20th), Tim Cullerton (38th), Deborah Graham (29th), Michelle Harris (8th), Lona Lane (18th), Fredrenna Lyle (6th), Roberto Maldonado (26th), Emma Mitts (37th), Genita Robinson (2nd), Debra Silverstein (50th), Latasha Thomas (17th), and JoAnn Thompson (16th).

Each of them reported receiving $10,000, except for Maldonado, who got $25,000.

Stand for Children cousin?

FABC-PAC sounds like a cousin to Stand for Children, the Oregon-based, Bill Gates-funded group that gave more than half a million dollars to state legislative candidates, which almost immediately bought them a place at the grown-ups table at the “Education Reform” hearings last December out in Aurora.

But at least we know who supplied a lot of that half million, the Crown and Pritzker families, who are also big donors to Rahm Emanuel’s mayoral campaign

Fashion victims no more?

Monday, January 24th, 2011

Fashion modelIn case you haven’t been reading/hearing about California governor redux Jerry Brown, it’s not just the governorship he’s revisiting. In education, he’s calling himself a “reformed reformer.”

One of Brown’s first acts as governor was to replace seven members of the state board  of education — including Ben “Parent Trigger” Austin — with people with broader, more impressive education credentials.

Fashion in education

An essay by Peter Schrag in the Sacramento Bee describes Brown’s “skepticism about grand educational ideas. ‘There’s a lot of fashion in education,’ he said at the state board meeting the other day. ‘I don’t expect any silver bullets.’ ”

Schrag believes that these changes “point to a gradual shift away from the narrow focus on fact-based testing in math and reading, on creating many more charter schools, on ‘reconstituting’ or closing sub-par schools, and on other business-model schemes that school reformers have pushed for during the past couple of decades…. That shift reflects a slowly growing realization both in California and nationally that the rigid reform formulas pursued both by the Bush and Obama administrations and by the nation’s influential foundations and business leaders have created as many problems as they’ve solved.”

Tune in to tomorrow night’s State of the Union address to find out if President Obama’s advisors have picked up on a shift in education fashion trends (here’s one writer who isn’t optimistic). You might also want to watch Thursday night’s WGN-TV debate to see if Chicago mayoral front-runner Rahm Emanuel will continue to wear the tired Gates-Broad-Walton line or if Carol Moseley Braun and Miguel Del Valle steal the show with their cutting-edge approach.

Elite schools and small class size

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Sidwell Friends School has a history of small class sizes

Don’t miss this debate on CNN between a class size researcher and the co-founder of Parents Across America and head of NYC’s Class Size Matters, Leonie Haimson. She’s so good she quickly gets him arguing on her side and has time left to go after the hypocrisy of Bill Gates and Mayor Bloomberg in sending their children to private schools with class sizes of 15 or less, while forcing low-income urban schools into a position of having to raise class sizes every year.

The Obamas don’t escape this charge, either. Class sizes at the Sidwell Friends School, which Malia and Sasha attend, range from one teacher for every ten students in the lower grades to one teacher for every 16 students in some fourth grade classes.

In a thoughtful essay, “Mr. President, we want your children’s education, too,” D. C. public schools graduate Rachel Levy expresses her disappointment with comments President Obama made recently on the choice he and the First Lady made about where to send their daughters to school.

In response to a Today Show question about whether he would send his daughters to a D.C. public school, he said that the D. C. schools were still struggling, that they had made great strides (presumably under scary education broom-wielder Michelle Rhee) and that parents with less clout than the Obamas should still have similar choices. In other words, Levy says, “the president subtly plugged his own administration’s plans for education reform while using the coded language of the urban neoliberal elite.”

If the new school reformers’ policies, which you and your administration support, are the right ones, why don’t you send your own children to the very schools where such policies are being implemented? If that is not possible, why send them to a school that is in many ways the mirror opposite of your revolutionary reforms?…Mr. President, if we should all have your healthcare, as you have said we should, then shouldn’t we all have your children’s quality education, too?

Good questions, ones that the president ought to answer.

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About the PURE Thoughts blogger
Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.