EDUCATION POLITICS--Last month, the Los Angeles Times released a terrifying confidential roadmap for privatizing LA’s schools that was produced by billionaire Eli Broad. Broad plans to raise and spend $490 million to create enough privately operated charter schools to house half of the city’s public school students.
The “Broad Plan” is an ambitious, all-sided assault on public schools, potentially funded by money from a who’s who of the nation’s billionaires, including the Walton heirs, Elon Musk, and Steven Spielberg.
Broad’s strategy is to compete directly with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) for what he calls “market share,” by more than doubling the number of charters already in the city. Diane Ravitch writes that Broad wants to “decimate the remaining public schools by draining them of students and resources.” Former LAUSD board president and state Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg calls it a plan to “privatize and destroy public education.”
Just imagine what these resources—which are in the Broad Plan budget—could do for L.A.’s existing public schools:
●$21 million in what he’s calling “civic engagement, and communications, grassroots organizing and advocacy organization support.”
●$43 million on recruiting teachers.
●$280 million to build new schools, $135 million to grow existing charters and start new ones.
To raise and spend that money, Broad has put notorious corporate “reformer” Paul Pastorek in charge. Pastorek dismantled public education in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and was a member of Jeb Bush’s “Chiefs for Change,” who pushed for high-stakes testing and privatization.
Broad and his billionaire friends have decided that instead of investing in our public schools, they’ll just create new ones with less accountability and fewer standards and more control — private control. They’re doing the same thing in Louisiana, where Broad and two Arkansas billionaires have been dumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into school board races to push the school privatization agenda.
If history is any guide, corporate “reformers” have done more harm than good for students, teachers and families. The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) recently released figures on shuttered charter schools across the country—in Los Angeles alone, 37 schools have closed since 2000.
I live in Los Angeles, and what the city’s children need isn’t help from billionaires. Every child needs a great school governed by the fundamental democratic principles of transparency, accountability, equal opportunity and stewardship of public funds. We wrote our Charter School Accountability Agenda to further those principles.
A coalition of unions representing teachers, administrators and school staff, along with community organizations like the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, and even some charter school advocates, are standing up against the Broad Plan. I stand with them. Billionaires can’t teach our kids.
(Donald Cohen is the founder and executive director of In the Public Interest, a national resource and policy center focusing on privatization and responsible contracting. This perspective was posted originally at Capital and Main)
Vol 13 Issue 87
Pub: Oct 27, 2015