In the mix and supporting this cabal at the California Teacher Credentialing (CTC) was Sacramento based Michelle Rhee and her billionaire funded group "Students First," which organizes and runs pro-privatization school board candidates - shills at boards throughout the country. It received $500,000 as start up money from the Broad Foundation and other billionaires including Arnold Tepper, who is a Democrat and owns Appaloosa Management. Another contributor is John Arnold, a former Enron trader who also gave $35,000 to the Obama Victory Fund in the 2012 election campaign and is who is also seeking to push legislation that will eliminate defined pensions for public school teachers and force them into 401k's run by his investment company.
According to accounts, Students First, which is a "non profit" 501c(3), will have a budget of over $225 million in 2010-2013. Part of this funding has been used to support reauthorization of "No Child Left Behind," which was also supported by President Obama, Education Secretary Arnie Duncan, and California Democratic Congressional leader George Miller. Rhee's husband Kevin Johnson, who is also mayor of Sacramento and president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors also founded his own "non-profit" charter school as part of the St. Hope Academy in Sacramento and also runs the Sacramento High charter. Johnson has been implicated in a corruption scandal with illegal use of Federal funds and sexually harassing employees at the St. Hope Academy and inappropriate sexual conduct with a minor who attended his charter. Johnson is also an active supporter of the Gulen Magnolia Schools, while pushing his own charter schools in Sacramento.
On September 12, 2012, Arnie Duncan as part of his national privatization Department of Education tour came to Sacramento to push the Race To The Top and No Child Left Behind schemes. Duncan also lauded Michelle Rhee and her husband Kevin Johnson at a meeting in Sacramento as part of the U.S. Conference on Mayors, who are pushing for mayoral control of schools, mayoral control of school funding, mayoral control of school districts, and for mayors to be able to appoint school board members. This does not sound very democratic does it? In fact, Michelle Rhee on a recent PBS program can be heard saying to the interviewer: "This is not democracy" after being admonished by the city council for going outside of their instructions. Mayoral control of schools, which New York City has experienced under Bloomberg, appears the ultimate goal of these profiteers, while quashing any opposition from the tax paying public, busting education unions, and other organized workers and creating more charters.
Another supporter of privatization in Sacramento is David W. Gordon who is the Sacramento County Superintendent of Schools. Gordon is also on the WestEd Board of Directors, which pushes Core Standards and further growth of charter schools nationally and is controlled by the billionaire non-profit operations like the Lumina Foundation while WestEd receives funding from public school districts, public community colleges and public universities.
It should be noted that Steinberg was involved in supporting charters and gave $5,000 for privatization shill Gloria Romero from his political fund for Romero to run for State Superintendent of Instruction.
Romero who is now the head of California Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) and also was a spokesperson for anti-labor California Proposition 32 which sought to prevent unions from collecting dues by onerous procedures on their rights. She also was the author while in the legislature of the Parent Trigger Laws in California, which have been used by privatizers to manipulate parents into shutting their public schools and turning them over to charter operations run by privateers.
The funders of the Parent Trigger Laws include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Walton (WalMart) Foundation. Romero's DFER is funded by Wall Street Hedge fund managers who are making investments into charter schools for use of public funds, while eliminating professional teachers and bringing in Teach For America (TFA) young teachers, who have been used to help destroy public education by undermining the quality of public education in mostly low income minority schools and by de-professionalizing the teaching profession by the elimination of long term skilled teachers. This displacement of senior teachers is a conscious policy of the supporters of privatization, since a profession teacher corp cost approximately 87% of the public education budget. School administrators harass and discriminate against long term skilled fully credentialed teachers who are now being demonized, bullied and retaliated against. This includes even being placed in euphemistic "rubber rooms" in Los Angeles and New York.
In fact, while potential criminal negligence and fraud along with potential misappropriation of public funds has taken place at the CTC Commission, the Brown administration, which is directly in charge of the commission, has not only covered it up, but actually appointed more officials that have financial conflicts of interests with public education including Brown's former Education Secretary Sue Burr. Brown appointed Burr as his education secretary despite the fact that she was executive director for the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association CCSESA. Burr, along with Gary Hart were intimately involved in drafting of the first charter school laws in California. CCSESA has been pushing for more charters and is funded by companies profiting from getting school contracts for online education and pushing more testing and charters. In January of this year, Burr resigned as Brown's Education Secretary and was appointed by him to the State Board of Education. She is also on Edsource board of directors.
Governor Brown is now demanding that the CSU and UC system implement a massive growth of online education benefiting these same tech profiteers or he will cutback and withhold state funding for these public institutions. Brown's wife, Anne Gust was the former Chief Administrative Officer/general counsel and Executive Vice President of the Gap Corporation. Gap through the Fisher's runs Rocketship schools and a chain of 70 Kipp charter schools throughout the country. On the board are owners of Viacom, Netflix and other billionaires like Mark Nunnelly, who is managing director of Bain Capital Board as well as Carrie Walton Penner who is a trustee for the Walton Family Foundation that owns Walmart. Carrie Walton Penner is also on the board of the California Charter School Association CCSA, EdVoice, and the Alliance For School Choice. The CEO of Netflix, Reed Hastings, formerly of the State Board of Education is also on the board of Edvoice.
Edvoice is a very powerful political action committee and advocacy group in education policy and was one of the top five campaign contributors in the 2010 general election according to the California Fair Political Practices Commission, which at the time was investigating Edvoice for their potential improper use of independent expenditures. Eli Broad is also on the board of Directors of Edvoice.
Rocketship Learning had contracted with the lobbing firm, School Innovations and Advocacy (SI&A), whose clients include school districts, K-12 inc- largest online education company in U.S., Orange County Department of Education, National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and Santa Clara office of Education. Santa Clara County Office of Education has been approving the expansion of Rocketship Charter Schools in Santa Clara County. Rocket Learning is doing business in California, incorporated in Delaware but physically located in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
A parent of one of the students of one of the Kipp Schools -Kipp Hartwood Academy Elementary in Santa Clara- discovered that in order to go to the school board he had to make an appointment to go to the Gap headquarters in San Francisco where the school board met. He was complaining about the clinical abuse his child faced at the school due to the "training" procedures at the Gap funded chain of schools.
California State Attorney Kamala Harris has also refused to respond to a request to investigate numerous potential conflicts of interest with government officials and public education funding that appears to exist throughout the state. The request to Harris was made back in December of 2011. No one from the Attorney General's Office has responded to date. The request was sent certified with return receipt. The request has been confirmed as received.
Of course any investigation would immediately implicate the Governor and other Democratic Party officials in the state who are supporting charters and privatization.
California Democratic party chair John Burton is also on the board of Phoenix University, which has been engaged in defrauding the government and creating a diploma mill with the federal government on the hook for billions in loans to students.
There are too many organizations in the unregulated world of non-profits that are literally taking over our public education system to mention. But, a few other notable organizations involved in the restructuring and de-funding of public education include the Lumina Foundation and ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Commission. ALEC develops legislation such as the trigger laws which further privatization.
Also WestEd, a government agency through a joint powers agreement receives money both from many public entities such as school districts, CSU, UC and community colleges and private money through foundations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Lumina. WestEd also received funding from NCS Pearson. WestEd pushes "core standards" and more testing in the schools. It should be noted that Lumina was a funder of ALEC. UC President Mark Yudof is also on the board of directors of Lumina and has pushed privatization at the UC system including online education with tech companies and UC private partnerships using public UC resources for new drugs that will benefit the privateers.
The counsel of WestEd, Leah Williams based in San Francisco refused to provide financial conflict of interest statements saying that the California Fair Practices Commission told them they did not have to provide such material. While the FPPC may not have jurisdiction over WestEd, as WestEd appears not be a quasi government. It does however receive state public education tax dollars and public funds from school and college districts throughout the country. This raises fundamental questions of transparency and where are our public education tax dollars are going? The public has a right to know.
In fact, our public education tax dollars are going to many non-profits, many organizations that produce reports about how bad our public education system is and how things need to be "reformed". These same entities have the most to gain by claiming doom. Doom means things need to change and these greedy tax grabbers are all too willing to be the first in line with their wallets wide open with false promises of the best way to improve education. But we must ask: The best way for whom? Certainly not the best way for students, especially students of low income, special needs students or English language learners.
It should also be noted that Williams of WestEd has also been appointed to the Western Association of Schools and Colleges WASC, which is the regional accrediting commission for senior high schools, colleges, and universities. The ACCJC which is under WASC, accredits community colleges. ACCJC's director Barbara Beno is demanding the San Francisco City College and other public community colleges either sell off parts of their colleges, fire teachers, cut wages and healthcare for the staff or they will lose their accreditation. This use of WASC and ACCJC, which are private groups, to push for the liquidation of public education is now becoming apparent to tens of thousands of educators and students as the organization goes on a wrecking operation in our public higher education system. Beno is also on the advisory board of Campaign for College Opportunity (another non-profit) with Lumina Board member Frank Alvarez. The privatizers and their influence over public education is a frontal attack on the public education system and any equality in this education system.
B. Teri Burns has been a long time publicly elected school board member of Sacramento County. Until recently, Burns was a lobbyist with School Innovations and Advocacy whose clients include public entities such as Santa Clara County Office of Education and San Juan Unified school district. These school districts or county offices are funding lobbying firms that are engaged in pushing for privatization of education. School Innovations and Advocacy also is a lobbyist for private entities that are stripping tax dollars away from school districts. School Innovations and Advocacy lobbies on behalf of K-12 inc. and Rocketship Learning.
B. Teri Burns is an elected school board member of Natomas Unified in Sacramento County. Natomas Unified is where Ting Sun of CTC fame has her charter academies. Does anyone see a potential conflict yet? Keep looking- it is right in front of you. K-12 Inc; Rocketship Learning; school districts spending money on lobbyists. WestEd also gets public education tax dollars. The question of how much public money is going to lobbyists and these so-called non-profits is yet unanswered but it is extensive? It also raises the question do we really have an education budget crisis or was there money being funneled into the profiteers? It should be noted that all charter schools are non-profit corporations. The real question is whether these corporateers and their media are crying wolf in order to push for the destruction of more public schools.
The incestuous connections and illegal siphoning off of public funds for profit by pubic officials who have interests in these same enterprises appears to be clear criminal conflict of interest and has developed and expanded over decades in California and throughout the country. In the People v. Honig case, former Superintendent of Public Instruction, Bill Honig was convicted of felony conflicts of interest for having an educational non-profit out of his home with his wife. The judge stated what he and his wife were doing was essentially money laundering. Where is Bill Honig today? Jerry Brown rewarded him by trying to have Honig appointed to the State Board of Education. He withdrew his appointment and Honig now works for the California Department of Education.
If ex-CTC attorney Kathleen Carroll's suit is successful in going forward despite the expected stiff opposition by the powerful corporate interests and politicians who represent them, it has the potential of exposing very corrupt and nefarious connections and actions.
The California Teachers Association CTA/NEA and the California Federation of Teachers CFT/AFT must be aware of these financial conflicts of interests, the corporate connections and the legal violations against teachers, but have to this date refused either to educate their members about these connections or engage in a political education campaign to expose those who are demolishing the public education system. They are also silent about any demand that the State Attorney Kamala Harris investigate and prosecute these systemic financial conflicts of interests. Is it because the unions also have taken money from Gates and other privatizers? The fact that the leadership of the NEA and AFT have taken millions from these billionaire funded foundations and even advertise for their locals to apply for money from these operations raise serious question even about conflicts of interests by the top union officials of these education unions.
A growing number of teachers and education workers are asking where their unions have been as this wrecking operation has escalated? Is Gates using the divide and conquer method to cause dissent within the union by tempting union officials with big bucks? According to Dr. Diane Ravitch's book, The Death and Life of The Great American School System, Gates has given money to NEA. Divide and conquer is a classic union busting technique and it appears to be working within the education unions. The rank and file of education unions around the country are beginning to connect the dots of the attack on education and draw the lessons that these attacks are not only coming from the profiteers but are taking place with the complicity and silence of their union leadership.
The clearest example of this was the invitation to Bill Gates to Address the 2011 AFT convention made by AFT president Randi Weingarten who also happened to be a graduate of the Broad Academy.
For more on the letter sent to Attorney General Kamala Harris see: