From Washington D.C. to Sacramento school districts, California politicians are influencing education policy. California is such a blue state, that many a person espousing views once formerly held only by Republicans, claims membership in the Democratic party. Some of these so-called Democrats are pushing the corporate "ed reform" agenda. From billionaire benefactor to local politician, they are working to end public education as we know it.
Billionaire Eli Broad (KB Homes) has created the Broad Foundation which trains business people with no education experience to run school districts. Broad was recently revealed as a secret contributor to the No on 30 and Yes on 32 initiatives here in California. While pretending to be a supporter of schools he donated money against the tax measure to fund schools and for the anti union measure. David Fischer (The Gap) and Reed Hastings(NetFlicks) are major supporters for charters schools and other "ed reform" goals.
These wealthy individuals are also big supporters of politicians. These billionaires and lobbying groups like StudentsFirst are funding campaigns. They are a major new source of campaign funding that doesn't depend on the support of unions. Arnold Schwarzenegger pushed California to compete for RTTT and got the willing cooperation of Supt of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell. Former Democratic State Senator Gloria Romero, who headed the senate Education Committee, helped push the application through the legislature. Now the state is spending billions to implement the Common Core. She also authored the "Parent Trigger" that allows parent to petition to take over a school or give it to a charter operator. State Sen. Ron Calderon, now under investigation for corruption, introduced legislation supported by StudentsFirst. This followed a last minute infusion of over $350,000 to his nephew Ian's campaign for Assembly from that organization. It's play to play with "ed reform".
"Ed reformers" aren't just undemocratic in their support of charter schools, which aren't accountable to taxpayers for the dollars they spend. They also support mayoral control of schools and the abolishing of local school board authority. Nationwide several so-called Democratic mayors have seized control of their cities' schools including Chicago and Washington DC. Former mayor of Los Angeles Anthony Villagarosa sought to take over LA schools and succeeded in getting a bill through the legislature giving him control of the schools. It was later ruled to be unconstitutional in the California courts.
Self-proclaimed Democrat Kevin Johnson left the board of St. HOPE Public Schools when he became Sacramento mayor, but he turned around and started a series of non-profits to influence public policy. His education non-profit is Stand up Sacramento. It received $500,000 from the Walton Foundation in 2012. This was followed in 2013 by a vote by Johnson in favor of relaxing Sacramento's ordinance governing big box stores. Although it has been declared unconstitutional that hasn't stopped Johnson from expressing a desire to control Sacramento schools. Is that what's really behind the push for a city charter change? The education czar can't share power with the rest of the City Council. You have to be a strong mayor to control the schools. If the measure passes on the November 2014 election, can a bid for the city's schools be far behind? However, some of the players behind the latest version of the strong mayor initiative are surprising. They include Maurice Read, a union leader and Ruth Gottlieb, a fundraiser who worked on Heather Fargo's final campaign for re-election. They might be involved on behalf of another local politician.
It could have something to do with termed out State Senator Darrell Steinberg having expressed an interest in running for Sacramento mayor in the future. As a major political player, he's only going to be interested if it's worth his time. He wouldn't want to be one of nine on the City Council again. The bills that he has pushed through the legislature have demonstrated his interest in public education. As a strong mayor with some control of the local schools, he'd get to experiment with some of his ideas. Meanwhile in exchange for not running for a third term in , Johnson might get Steinberg's endorsement for a run for Supt. of Public Instruction. Of course we're just speculating here.
While most of the big names in the "ed refrom" world are familiar to your, there are some local politicians involved in the "ed reform" business who are going to have a big impact on our schools. None of them have had the benefit of being in the classroom in their day jobs. They use the fuzzy world of non-profits to gather money through donations and grants, then dole it out to influence policy in local schools.
Mayor of West Sacramento, Christopher Cabaldon's former day job was with EdVoice, a charter school advocate organization. He is now one of the principals of Capitol Impact, a lobbying and consulting firm on education policy. Current Sacramento City Council member and former SCUSD board member Jay Schenirer joins Calbaldon at Capitol Impact. Together with partner Rick Miller, they "provide leadership as the executive directors of California Office to Reform Education, Linked Learning and ARCHES", all education reform focused non-profits.
CORE, the California Office to Reform Education, is a organization of the superintendents of the largest school districts in California including Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Long Beach and Fresno. They are responsible for educating over a million of California's children. CORE recently was granted a NCLB waiver by the US Dept. of Ed. SCUSD was included in the waiver without a vote by the school board or with the agreement of the teachers' union. It's not clear if Sac City can actually participate in the waiver if the teachers don't agree to being evaluated at least in part by student test scores. A little known component of the waiver is an appointed board who will assess how well these districts are complying with the goals an requirements of the waiver. It will operate under its own authority separately from the California Department of Education. One member of that board will be Rick Miller. Also unknown is whether the principals of Capital Impact are the consultants who will be earning 10% of the millions of dollars of Title 1 money released by the waiver.
These are just a few of the local players in the "ed reform" game. There is so much money at stake it makes "ed reform" an attractive career option. They can hide behind a do-gooder facade, usurping the words of the civil rights movement to grab more power and influence. But not one of these people is an actual educator. It's not about the kids, it's about the money.