10,000 protesters massed in Austin for a “Save Our Schools” rally. In the end, the damage to the state’s already-underfunded schools added up to $5.4 billion, forcing districts to lay off tens of thousands of teachers and staffers. -- American ProspectThe Gates Foundation moved on Austin and and other districts, forcing them to sign a pledge to promote privately-run charter schools in exchange for funding. Gates calls it their District-Charter Collaboration Compact under which the foundation awards the districts—14 so far—$100,000. These districts also supposedly get a shot at another $40 million worth of grants.
Last fall, following the Austin school board signed such a pledge with local charters. The agreement, Superintendent Meria Carstarphen said, would make Austin eligible for grants “from people and places that otherwise would not have given us the time of day.” A month later, the city again became a venue for protests—smaller, but equally vociferous—arguing against a new partnership.
According to Abby Rapoport, writing in the American Prospect:
It’s a story being repeated across the country. With most states cutting school funding, Gates and other private foundations are wielding outsize influence over public education, using their much-sought-after millions to fund and shape a top-down reform agenda. Like the other major (but smaller) players, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation, Gates uses its funds to encourage public schools to adopt a more corporate approach.Of course there's little difference the power foundations and federal funding, in this regard. Arne Duncan has also used his control of federal dollars to make competitive grants to states and school districts through Race To The Top, in exchange for a promise to close neighborhood schools and turn them over to private operators.