Get sick, get well
Hang around a ink well
Ring bell, hard to tell
If anything is goin' to sell
-- Bob Dylan

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Billionaire charter backers clash. Broad vs. DeVos

Billionaires DeVos vs. Broad
Power philanthropist Eli Broad is urging senators to vote against confirming fellow billionaire and right-wing school "choice" advocate, Betsy DeVos.

The growing grassroots resistance to Trump's choice for Ed Secretary has split the charter/voucher movement and its wealthy backers. Pro-choice groups and think tanks have been thrown into a dither with some like BAIO's Howard Fuller endorsing DeVos while others, distance themselves for fear of being associated with Trump and the Alt-Right.

According to EdWeek:
In comparison to DeVos' philanthropic work, the Broads belong to a class of donors that prefer a much more managed approach to school choice, investing in charter school models that can scale up and measure their performance. They are strong supporters of charter management organizations—nonprofit networks of charter schools (think KIPP)—whose rapid growth has been propelled by the federal government and a handful of wealthy donors. 
Eli and his wife Edythe Broad are among some of the most influential backers of charter schools nationwide. Their foundation has given over $150 million to charter schools nationally. Of that, $79 million has gone to charters in Los Angeles. He's also used his money to influence local school board elections in favor of pro-choice, anti-union candidates.

He's also a big Democratic Party campaign donor who personally bankrolled many of Arne Duncan's ed initiatives and currently is underwriting Education Post, the pro-charter, anti-teacher union project run by Duncan's former assistant, Peter Cunningham.

But Broad has no real problems with Trump or the Republicans. In 2013 he was exposed for secretly funding a right-wing, anti-union group connected with the Koch Bros. He formerly helped run the failed giant AIG Corp., once the world's biggest insurer, into the ground.

DeVos and her husband Richard on the other hand, are free-market evangelical conservatives who favor vouchers and for-profit charters as opposed to, what she calls, "government schools". Her appointment has far less to do with her competencies or lack thereof as a department head, but rather as an ideologue and an important piece of the Trump/Bannon move to take over and demolish the institutions of government, including the Dept. of Education.

Broad's letter to McConnell and Schumer urging them to dump DeVos, came on the same day as two Republican senators announced that they plan to vote against DeVos' confirmation. Both Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska hail from rural states. Both raised concerns over DeVos' hyper-focus on school choice and her overall knowledge of public schools.

Only one more Republican needs to break with the party to sink DeVos' nomination, but GOP leaders say they are confident DeVos will ultimately be confirmed as the next secretary of education.

We'll soon see if Broad has enough juice to swing one-more Republican vote away from DeVos. I doubt it.