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LA Elections: Who Are the Billionaires Trying to Defeat Steve Zimmer?

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LA SCHOOL ELECTIONS WITH NATIONAL IMPLICATIONS - Some of America's most powerful corporate plutocrats -- including Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, Eli Broad, and the Walton family

(heirs to the Walmart fortune) -- want to take over the Los Angeles school system and Steve Zimmer, a former teacher and feisty school board member, is in their way. So they've hired Kate Anderson to get rid of him. No, she's not a hired assassin like the kind on The Sopranos. She's a lawyer and school parent who the billionaires picked to run against Zimmer. 

As a result, the race for the District 4 seat -- which stretches from the Westside to the West San Fernando Valley -- is ground zero in this battle over the corporate take-over of public education. The outcome of Tuesday's election has national implications in terms of the billionaires' battle to reconstruct public education in the corporate mold. 

The corporate big-wigs are part of an effort that they and the media misleadingly call "school reform." What they're really after is not "reform" (improving our schools for the sake of students) but "privatization" (business control of public education). They think public schools should be run like corporations, with teachers as compliant workers, students as products, and the school budget as a source of profitable contracts and subsidies for textbook companies, consultants, and others engaged in the big business of education. 

In her book The Death and Life of the Great American School System, historian Diane Ravitch calls this group "The Billionaire Boys Club," an interconnected network of wealthy corporate leaders and philanthropists who've joined forces to promote market-driven school changes. This educational ruling class is used to getting what it wants in business and politics and they've created a web of organizations designed to persuade the public, other business folks, and politicians that running school districts like corporations is the way to go. 

They've poured hundreds of millions of dollars into think tanks, advocacy groups, and political campaigns to get their way. In Los Angeles, the billionaires have bankrolled the Coalition for School Reform, LA's Promise, Parent Revolution, and the Los Angeles Fund for Public Education -- all front groups designed to sell their version of "school reform." 

The Los Angeles Unified School District is the second largest school system in the country with over 800,000 students. So gaining control of its board -- and its budget -- is a good "investment" for the billionaires who want to reshape education in this country. 

Not surprisingly, Kate Anderson is funded by some of the same corporate titans, corporate-backed political groups, and Republicans who financed George W. Bush's and Arnold Schwarzenegger's efforts to privatize our schools. 

The billionaires are financing candidates who support John Deasy, the CEO (oops -- superintendent) who came to LAUSD from his former perch at the Gates Foundation. They are particularly worried that Zimmer would be a fourth vote (out of seven board members) to fire Deasy, although he's actually been supportive of Deasy on many issues. So they've poured the most money into their effort to oust Zimmer from his District 4 seat. 

That battle has turned into a remarkable David vs. Goliath contest. But let's recall who won that Biblical battle. Goliath had the big weapons but the feisty David had the slingshot. 

(Read more of Peter Dreier … including whom the billionaires are and why they’re trying to dislodge Steve Zimmer … here.) 

-cw

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 11 Issue 19

Pub: Mar 5, 2013

 

 

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