“Private people give money to support things they’re interested in.” -- Roger Tilles, member of the Board of Regents.
Chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents, Merryl Tisch, is contracting 13 research fellows to advise the education commissioner and the 17-member board on how to spend its $700 million Race To The Top grant. The fellows will be paid as much as $189,000 each, in private money; to date, $4.5 million has been raised, including $1 million donated Tisch herself. She is a member of one of New York’s multi-billionaire families.
Donors to the program will include Bill Gates ($892,000), who is leading the charge to evaluate teachers, principals and schools using students’ test scores; the National Association of Charter School Administrators ($50,000) and the Robbins Foundation ($500,000), which finance charter expansion; and the Tortora Sillcox Family Foundation ($500,000), whose mission statement includes advancing “Mayor Bloomberg’s school reform agenda.”
Tisch's bankrolling of the program is another indication of a new trend in ownership society schooling where representatives of the billionaire class directly run public institutions themselves and use tax-exempt private investment, either directly, or thorough their private foundations) to do an end run about the democratic process. Earlier this month, Mayor Bloomberg announced that he would be running a city youth program with $30 million of his own foundation money.
NYT's Michael Winerip writes:
Public education has never been so divided, between those like Dr. Tisch, Commissioner John B. King Jr. and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg who support the Obama administration’s signature Race to the Top initiative and its emphasis on standardized tests and charter schools; and dissenters on the board, who call it a Race to the Bottom and put their faith in teachers as well as traditional public schools. The Race to the Bottom folks warn that the supposedly free fellows come at a stiff political price.Race to the Top requires states to develop student-data collection systems. Recently the Education Department awarded a $27 million no-bid contract to Wireless Generation, a company owned by Rupert Murdoch and overseen by a former New York City chancellor, Joel I. Klein. Mr. Klein is a good friend of Dr. Tisch. The state comptroller’s office is investigating whether it was proper to award the contract without bidding.