"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Friday, July 24, 2009

Gates/Dell/Walton Purchase Share of Charter Authorizer Association

It's not a coincidence that on the same day that Duncan officially announced the start of the "Race off the Cliff," the Gates, Dell, and Walton foundations donated $9.4 million to the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, a pro-charter/privatization nonprofit led by former Renaissance 2010 leader Greg Richmond. From the NACSA website:

NACSA Announces $9.4 Million in Grant Funding

Donors Recognize Need for High Quality Authorizing, Stronger Charter Schools

CHICAGO, July 24 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) announced today that it has received $9.4 million in investments from three of the nation's preeminent foundations -- the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation -- that recognize the need for consistent standards and accountability in charter school authorizing practices.

"We are pleased that these foundations are investing in NACSA to grow the number of high quality charter schools across the country," said Greg Richmond, President and CEO of NACSA. "The charter school movement is experiencing a powerful confluence of supporters and opportunities as President Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Duncan work to increase the number of quality charter schools across the country. NACSA is well-positioned to sustain this work and implement sound strategies to ensure that all students have access to excellent educational opportunities."

With the funding, NACSA will launch a national initiative to strengthen the practices of authorizers in targeted cities and states by adopting professional standards and by working with external stakeholders to create a high quality charter sector.

"For nearly 10 years, NACSA has been at the forefront of the quality charter movement, working in cities and states to strengthen the charter sector," said Jim Goenner, Chairman of NACSA's Board of Directors. "This investment will allow NACSA to further its work, expand its capacity, and support effective authorizing by advancing quality standards and practices that will serve as models for the nation."

This is the first time that the Gates Foundation and the Dell Foundation have partnered with NACSA to support quality authorizing practices. The Walton Family Foundation previously invested in NACSA to expand the knowledge base and increase the impact of quality authorizing practices.

"We are sharpening our focus around a set of clear strategies," said Richmond. "NACSA develops high quality authorizing environments that result in a greater number of quality charter schools. These influential foundations are investing in that work."

NACSA (www.qualitycharters.org) is the trusted resource and innovative leader working with educators and public officials to increase the number of high quality charter schools in cities and states across the nation. NACSA provides training, consulting, and policy guidance to authorizers and education leaders interested in increasing the number of high quality schools and improving student outcomes.

SOURCE National Association of Charter School Authorizers

NACSA has also works with the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (board members listed here), has received about a million dollars a year from government sources and another million from the Walton Family Foundation, manages to pay roughly $100,000 salaries to 9 employees/consultants, and includes for-profit ventures like the Edison Schools, White Hat, K-12 Inc, and Connections Academy in their membership. NACSA overseas about half of the nation's charter schools, but also act as one of the de facto PRs/lobbying/training arm of the corporate charter school movement: giving advice to states and education departments on charter oversight, regulations, and authorizations all while taking money from the for-profit education sector and a right-wing, union-bashing foundation looking to push more competition in public education. Conflicts of interest? You bet. Insidious relationships? Check. Corrupt snake oil salesmen pushing test score miracles? Boatloads. Just like the Wall Street banking giants and their army of well-funded lobbyists, the major bankrollers of the corporate charter school movement and their for-profit leeches know that it always helps to buy off the governing bodies when implementing reforms.


  1. Duncan's attempt to expand charter schools by offering billions of taxpayer dollars never explains the issue of standards. Gates and cohorts don't seem to detail what they consider "quality."

    I'm wondering if you know whether Duncan is attempting to loosen standards across America under the guise of innovation, or allow states to continue to oversee and maintain public/charter testing?

  2. As a longtime follower of Edison Schools, I've blogged about Edison's attempted resurgence on the SF Education Examiner:
    Edison Schools: It's baaaaack, and bringing with it innovations like child labor

    Detroit’s public school system is hiring a retooled version of Edison Schools, a flopped school-reform fad of a few years ago, in a desperate effort to make over the floundering city’s schools.

    This story has Bay Area angles. Detroit has brought in Robert Bobb, former city manager of Oakland and a non-educator, to be their school district’s emergency financial manager. My understanding is that Bobb was respected in Oakland, but his business decision to hire Edison requires an unnatural willingness to turn a blind eye to past performance. I’m proposing a corporate motto for Edison: “Fool me twice, shame on me.” Edison is one of four firms the district is hiring; the Detroit Free Press (showing the press elsewhere how it’s done) has done its homework, finding a spotty history:

    Edison, a New York-based for-profit firm, was the great shining hope of advocates of turning public education over to the free market back around 2001. School districts around the country hired Edison to take over schools, which the company promised to turn into high achievers at no extra cost, while also making a profit for its shareholders.

    Edison was a big San Francisco story in 2001, after the Board of Ed started looking into severing a contract initiated by former Superintendent Bill Rojas that had brought Edison in to run one SFUSD school. Edison, somewhat inexplicably, decided to respond to SFUSD’s move by working up a media frenzy (the willingness of the local, national and even international press to make a major news story out of an arcane school policy issue, at Edison’s behest, baffles me to this day).

    In fairly short order, Edison fizzled as clients, one after another, dropped the company. The company retreated from the limelight, still running a few schools here and there.
    But a few years later, Edison was planning its comeback. In October 2007 I blogged about a leaked plan for the E2 project, a do-over for the company. Now, renamed Edison Learning, the firm is quietly – in contrast to its past grandiose publicity-hounding ways – trying to tiptoe into new client districts.

    The rest of the post: