"Parent Revolution, using the trigger law as leverage, mobilizes parents, school-by-school, to vote for one of four reform efforts—firing staff, replacing the principal, closing the school or converting to a charter. Once such a change is made, there is no mechanism for parents to be organized for sustained, long-term action to improve their local schools and communities. Organizing, in this sense, is an ongoing process that develops the capacity of its own members and uses the power of their experiences and numbers to effect change." — UCLA IDEA
Recently a community based activist (as opposed to Bill Gates funded astroturf activism), asked me about where the foppish millionaire from Benedict Canyon, Ben Austin, and his posse of privatizers piloting the so-called Parent Revolution (née Los Angeles Parents Union) get their funding. Unfortunately, it isn't always easy figuring out where these nefarious organizations obtain their funding since the IRS doesn't require 501C3s to list their deep pocketed and ideologically skewed corporate donors. That said, we were able to discover several of the Parent Revolution's neoliberal co-connivers. The email exchange between the activist and myself, and some of the information uncovered — especially regarding why they're funded — is of interest to a wider audience.
Just wanted to check some facts..
What was Parent Revolution's budget last year? 1.5 million? Is there a link to that info some where or did you already send it to me?
I know of a staggering 500K from Walton Family Foundation alone this year. Problem with estimating last year's budget is that we typically don't get online access to their 990 forms until about a year or two after the fact. For this year's Walton donation see: Los Angeles privatization pushers take second biggest slice of reactionary Walton pie, where I link to Strauss' article who has the data released by the Waltons.
Unfortunately, most donors don't publicize their contributions to the neo-feudalism project the way the Waltons do. Moreover, the byzantine non-profit laws don't require organizations to list where they get their funds. The only way to do this is to sort through probable donors 990 forms and search for the 501C3 you are looking for.
You always need to keep an eye out on the news too. Here's the kind of announcements you have to keep track of: California Education Policy Fund Awards Grants Totaling $3.73 Million, to Organizations Dedicated to Statewide Education Reform. The opulent Rockefellers list Austin's band of privatizers as grantees, without giving a figure. Notice too, that one of the "education" organizations the foundations touts as supporting the "needs of underserved students" is none other than the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.
The last 990 data we have from LAPU/Parent Revolution is from 2009 (enclosed), which showed them with a 650K budget. I know it's at least twice that now, but we won't see 2010 and 2011 990s for a while.
To get a better estimate, you need to work backwards from the Foundation 990s. You would want to look at the usual poverty pimping suspects: Eli and Edyth Broad Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. We would also need to figure out how the following individuals are donating money to them: Laurene Powell Jobs (probably through Emerson Collective), Reed Hastings, Casey Waserman, and other privatization pushers.
Also, most of their board members donate in order to win a seat on the board, so we'd need to figure out how much money they donate as well.
This is one of the most difficult things about "non-profits" since they don't have to list their funders. Some do, and it makes it so much easier to look up the figures. Austin's little group is actually smart enough not to list where they get their funds, since it looks bad for them. After all, if they were an authentic parent organization, then their funders would be parents and community members.
I'll check with some of my sources to see if I can get more information.
Subsequent discussions found me providing my correspondent with evidence of the Wasserman Foundation funding Parent Revolution and other right wing anti-public education organizations.
I also learned that by law all 501C3 "non-profit" corporations must, on demand, provide their 990 forms for inspection to any member of the public. In other words, I can walk into Parent Revolution's office and order them to show me their 2010 990 form, which they intentionally filed late so that GuideStar wouldn't have it online for another year. I will be writing a piece on that (and visiting some of Los Angeles' most vile privatization 501C3s) very soon.
However, the most important discovery made during this investigation was a sizable $50,000 contribution from the Eli and Edyth Broad Foundation to Parent Revolution on their 2009 990 Form. Corporate charter charlatan Ben Austin constantly states that his organization supports "parent empowerment" and is leading a "dynamic social movement" "committed to a kids-first agenda where parents have a real voice in their kids’ futures." Sounds very noble no? Well, in a rare lapse of candor, the Broad donation defines both the purpose of their contributions and Parent Revolution's raison d'être:
"To support efforts to help Charter Management Organizations apply for new LAUSD schools under LAUSD's School Choice Resolution"
This puts to lie all of Austin's bluster about a "kids-first agenda" and reminds us that school privatization and growing charter school market share is Parent Revolution's only agenda.