The veil is beginning to fall away from the billionaire-funded charter activity. There are no grassroots in this billionaire-driven “movement.” It is all about money. Without the billionaires’ money, the demand and the supply would dry up.
Inside Philanthropy looks at the funding behind Marshall Tuck, and the article assumes he has won. But millions of votes remain uncounted in California and the contest is not yet decided. At last count, the candidates were less than one percentage point apart. We will have to wait to see who wins the contest between Big Money and teachers.
On the eve of the election, spending for this election had risen to $50 million. The total is likely to be even higher when final reporting is in.
The apparent winner of the contest, Marshall Tuck, is the former president of Green Dot, a charter school network. He wants to expand charters in a state that already leads the nation in the number of such schools. The other candidate, Tony Thurmond, argued for putting the brakes on charters to address issues of transparency and accountability.
Tuck ran unsuccessfully for the same office in 2014 in a race that cost $30 million. In both cases, Tuck outspent his opponent. This year, his campaign had raised $28.5 million by election day.
The money has come from a who’s who of charter school backers and K-12 philanthropists, including Eli Broad, Reed Hastings, Lynn Schusterman, Julian Robertson, Laurene Powell Jobs, Laura and John Arnold, Dan Loeb, Michael Bloomberg and his daughter Emma, and three Waltons: Carrie Walton Penner, Alice Walton, and Jim Walton.
Among Tuck’s biggest backers was Helen Schwab, wife of the finance billionaire Charles Schwab, who gave $2 million to EdVoice for the Kids PAC, which managed independent campaign committees for Tuck; Arthur Rock, the venture capitalist, gave $3 million to EdVoice, while Doris Fisher gave over $3 million. Along with the Schwabs, Fisher has been a huge backer of charter schools as a philanthropist and a consistent mega-donor for political campaigns in this space.
A less familiar name on the list of top backers to EdVoice is businessman Bill Bloomfield. In fact, Bloomfield was the single biggest supporter of the PAC this year, with $5.3 million in donations.
What is crucial in this article is that it recognizes that the push for charters depends on billionaires who have no direct interest in public schools other than to destroy them.
Elected school boards are accountable to the people. To whom are the billionaires accountable?
The most important line in the article is the last one, which recognizes an obvious fact:
Regardless of what you think of charter schools, this seems like no way to make policy on public education, long regarded as among the most democratic institutions in America.