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

Friday, January 02, 2015

IPS and the National School Board Buyout

By Doug Martin

Although the local powers-that-be who funded the members who won the Indianapolis Public School board 2014 election are well known and mentioned in my book Hoosier School Heist (Al Hubbard, David Harris, Bart Peterson, the Chamber, Eli Lilly’s John Lechleiter, Anne Shane, and Christel DeHaan of Tony Bennett scandal fame, to name a few), some of the wealthy outsiders who bought the IPS board in 2014 are relatively new to Indiana.  These new funders last year loaded the campaign chests of IPS candidates LaNier Echols (Carpe Diem charter school’s dean), Mary Ann Sullivan (former lawmaker and present Democrats for Education Reform national board member), and Kelly Bentley (Democrat for Education Reform member), who were all elected. 
But the IPS board race was just one buyout for these newest IPS wealthy funders.  In fact, these same well-to-do out-of-staters have been buying mayors, governors, and school boards all across the US to further the school privatizing agenda. 

Some of these campaign donors, it appears, mean to cement in place Rocketship and KIPP Indy, which are both scheduled to open a dozen charter schools in Indy in the next few years. 

Another wealthy campaign contributor is surely hoping to plant his affiliated charter school francize, Achievement First, in Indianapolis in the near future. 

Many of these wealthy funders, too, are tied to Stand for America, a group which was not required to tell taxpayers the exact cash it dished out to buy the IPS board seats for Sullivan, Echols, and Bentley (see Amos Brown's excellent write-up on this here), although Alternet’s Anna Simonton claims that Stand for Children’s “nonprofit and political armtogether spent over $21 million last year in order to elect 78 state-level and 15 district-level “’education champions.’”
All in all, Simonton traces some of the out-of-state funders behind IPS’ 2014 election as part of a vast movement by the extremely wealthy to recently buy school boards in New Orleans, Denver, and Los Angeles.  Let’s look at a few other cities besides these that the IPS board donors have infiltrated.


Although I mention Bain Capital (started by Mitt Romney) and Stand for Children’s cozy relationship in Hoosier School Heist, it was the recently retired managing director of Bain, Mark Nunnelly, who helped elect school privatizers to the IPS school board and many other public school boards across the country. 
Mark Nunnelly gave $1,000 to Kelly Bentley, $1,000 to LaNier Echols, and $1,500 to Mary Ann Sullivan’s campaigns.  Nunnelly also has supported Stand for Children and funded the Black Alliance for Educational Options/DFER Newark mayor Cory Booker, all mentioned in my book.

Nunnelly is on the board of directors of KIPP charter schools with Emma Bloomberg, the daughter of former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg.  Emma is chairman of the board of Stand for Children’s national outfit.  With Mind Trust help, KIPP Indy is scheduled to open several new schools in Indianapolis. 
Emma Bloomberg played a role in the DC state board of education election, and she chairs the Teach for America-founded Leadership for Educational Equity, the group which gave $5,000 to LaNier Echols, the IPS candidate who also received $650 (see page 3) from TV show princess and major anti-teacher tenure operative Campbell Brown.  And if all of this were not enough, former mayor Michael Bloomberg, upset over lost money to Tony Bennett’s 2012 campaign, pulled through a few days before the IPS board election and gifted Mary Ann Sullivan $2,500.

The daughter of a rich Oklahoma oilman, billionaire Stacey Schusterman is the CEO of Samson Energy, a real estate leader, and a supporter of Stand for Children. She gave $500 (page 10) to Mary Ann Sullivan’s IPS campaign last year and $1,500 (page 6) to Bentley’s. 

Along with Walmart’s Carrie Walton Penner (whose husband Greg, as I point out in Hoosier School  Heist, helped buy the IPS board election of 2012), Schusterman sits on the board of the Charter School Growth Fund.  Besides dismantling public education in her own state, along with Achievement First trustee Jonathan Sackler, Schusterman funded Marshall Tuck for the superintendent’s office in California, the young and handsome corporate darling who, despite tons of money, lost the election.
Hedge fund manager Alan Fournier didn’t have to worry about funding the IPS board race last year, as he did in 2012.  Schusterman took his place, and they both worked together to influence the New Jersey school board race last November, too.

Schusterman also gave $25,000 to Stand for Children’s election campaign in Washington state in 2012.

Billionaire LinkedIn’s CEO Reid Hoffman and his wife Michelle Yee each gave $1,000 to Kelly Bentley (page 6), $1,000 (page 4) a piece to LaNier Echols, and $1,000 each to Mary Ann Sullivan’s IPS board campaign (page 2).

Hoffman and Yee funded Tobias Read’s campaign, an Oregon state representative who was one of the sponsors of a charter school bill which passed in 2011.
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg helped Tobias Read, too, for he used to work with her and Larry Summers in Bill Clinton’s Administration.  Summers, if we remember, helped set the rules to deregulate Wall Street which led to the big crash of 2008. 

Sheryl Sandberg is a member of Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.  Along with Intel’s Arthur Rock, Sandberg funded a school board member for the Duval County Florida school board race last year.  And Sandberg, Rock, Greg Penner (Carrie Walton’s husband who helped buy the IPS school board in 2012), were behind the school board privatization movement in Atlanta recently, too, supporting four candidates who were elected.  As Alternet’s Anna Simonton writes:

[Arthur] Rock is not the only name on the reports with financial power and a less than obvious connection to Atlanta Public Schools. Greg Penner of the Walmart empire, Dave Goldberg of the Sheryl Sandberg empire (they’re married), and Kent Thiry of the DaVita kidney dialysis empire (it sounds inglorious, but he pulls in $17 million annually), are among the names that had some Atlantans scratching their heads this election season.

Billionaire Arthur Rock (a board member of TFA’s Leadership for Educational Equity), Greg Penner, and Alan Fournier (who gave money to IPS school board candidates in 2012), among others, poured money into a small town school board race in New Jersey recently.  
And Rock and Bain Capital’s Mark Nunnelly also helped buy school privatization during a school board race in California. 

Arthur Rock gave $5,000 to LaNier Echols’ campaign (page 3)

In 2014, investment manager and real estate mogul Jonathan Sackler handed Mary Ann Sullivan $2,500.

Sackler, a board member of the New Schools Venture Fund privatizing outfit, is the trustee at Achievement First, a nationwide charter school managing organization.  He is also a director at 50CAN, a corporate school group funded, in various states, by Bill Gates, the Bush Foundation, Arthur Rock, the Walton Family Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, and many others involved in privatizing Indiana schools. 
Along with Arthur Rock and other IPS board donors, Sackler threw money into the Minnesota school board race last year, as well.  Beth Hawkins, at MinnPost, writes that “The Minneapolis Progressive Education Fund has received $100,000 from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, $90,000 from Teach for America board member Arthur Rock and $25,000 from Jon Sackler, who sits on the boards of the education advocacy groups 50CAN and Students for Education Reform”.

Sarah Lahm, from In These Times, gives us a hint at what is going on here.  Keep in mind that Rocketship is set to operate in Indianapolis, and Arthur Rock, Facebook’s Sandberg, and others partner with that charter school company:

What do investors like Bloomberg, Rock and Sackler stand to gain by pouring money into the Minneapolis school board race? While national charter school chains such as Rocketship do not operate here, the city’s school district recently entered into the state’s first-ever “district-charter compact” with local charter school chain Hiawatha Leadership Academies. This compact was borne out of a 2010 District-Charter Collaboration Compact signed by Minneapolis Public School administrators, local politicians and charter school operators. In the future, Minneapolis Public Schools spokesperson Myrle Croasdale tells In These Times, the district is “open to developing partnerships with outside stakeholders.” Perhaps this willingness helps to explain how the Minneapolis Progressive Education Fund has attracted such big-dollar outside support for school board candidates.

Sackler, in fact, even bought the Providence, Rhode Island, Obama-supported mayor, giving over $25,000 to Democratic Jorge Elorza in 2014, who won the election.  Elorza “sat on the board of the Achievement First Mayoral Academy until he entered the race for mayor.” 
Sackler and others actually own Connecticut governor Dan Mallory, as Jonathan Pelto has noted time and time again, and 50CAN influenced the Bridgeport, Conn. Board of education election, too.

For the Austin, Texas, school board race, Sackler helped IPS board funders Schusterman, Nunnelly, Campbell Brown, and the Leadership for Educational Equity. 
As a side-note, Tindley charter school’s Marcus Robinson sits on the board of directors of the Achievement First Charter Network Accelerator.

The hedge fund manager front group DFER also played a role in the IPS race.  National board member Mary Ann Sullivan was helped by Democrats for Education Reform, which handed over $1,100 (page 10), and DFER’s Joe Williams (detailed in Hoosier School Heist), gave $250 (page 14).  Education Reform Now, which is closely tied to DFER, gave Bentley $600, and DFER gave her $1,100 (page 6).

For more insight and campaign funding details on the IPS board race of 2014, see Gary Welsh’s excellent blog post here.



  1. Very scary Doug. The amount of money corporations can pump into school board candidacies is outrageous. They have democracy by the neck. When will people start to wake up. Their country and their schools have been sold to corporations.

  2. I've got some long, but relevant comments/links to add here,
    so please bear with me, folks... as it all relates to the article

    Two years ago in early 2013, the privatizers poured millions into
    three LAUSD school board races out here in Los Angeles. In
    particular, former NYC mayor Bloomberg cut a check for $1 million
    to privatization candidate Kate Anderson---who ran as "just a '
    plucky mom who cares about kids" out of a Disney Sunday
    Night Movie. Given the outside finanical support she received,
    her defeat was a miracle of sorts.

    (In one of the other two races, there was another miracle:
    veteran teacher Monica Ratliff's underdog victory over her
    corporate privatization opponent, despite Ms. Ratliff only
    having $44,000 of campaign funding to her opponent's
    $3 million.

    Alas, in the the third of these races,
    education activist Robert D. Skeels came
    within 4 percentage points of getting into
    a run-off with privatization queen
    and incumbent Board Member Monica
    Garcia. This third race is referenced
    later on in this post by teacher Martha Infante.)

    Anderson and her allies were attempting to oust pro-public
    school incumbent and 17-year teaching veteran Steve



    The Bloomberg $1 mill drop backfired, as Zimmer was able
    to employ jujitsu and use Anderson's monetary advantage---and
    the hidden motives of those providing that advantage---against

    Next, Rupert Murdoch cut Anderson another check
    for $250,000. Again, Zimmer was able to use
    this against Anderson.

    When the privatizers' attack on Anderson for her
    suspicious funders and funding started to get
    traction, they then instructed their astroturf
    orgs to make a desperate attempt to counter the
    criticism of outside funding. Former LAUSD
    Board Members in the privatization camp---Yolie
    Flores and Marlene Canter---put
    out an insane op-ed defending the out-of-state
    billionaires' attempt to buy control of the schools
    via their backing of Anderson and two other


    Then an astroturf parent group---"Parent
    Partnership for Public Education" (a misnomer,
    if ever there was one)---put out the same equally
    specious argument defending Bloomberg,
    Murdoch, et al.

    It went like this...

    California is the largest state in the nation,
    and LAUSD is the largest district in California... so
    what happens there affects the rest of the country
    a lot... so those out-of-state funders were just patriotic
    saviors of our nation and our nation's economy... not
    money-motivated privatizers.

    Got it?



    I saved this piece from the Venice Patch
    for posterity: (it's since been taken down)


    Amy Baker of Parent Partnership for Public Education

    March 4, 2013 at 05:02 pm

    "I'm a parent of a child in LAUSD and I'm voting for Kate
    Anderson. I don't understand all of this rhetoric about
    'outsiders'. California educates one out of every eight
    public school students in the United States and
    LAUSD is by far its largest district.

    "Why shouldn't other non-UTLA citizens be interested
    and invested in the education of so many of our country's
    future population and work force?

    "Read this:

    " http://www.dailynews.com/news/ci_22701724/marlene-canter-and-yolie-flores-lausd-board-race?IADID=Search-www.dailynews.com-www.dailynews.com

    "Really, those who are so afraid of changes to our
    system need to find another angle."


    then later... Amy attempts to employ the tortured logic that
    argues that Michael Bloomberg is actually "an insider". She
    tries to make a false equivalency between...

    ... the teachers who are with students 8 hours a day,
    and whose families' often impoverished and desperate
    circumstances pose an ever-present and daily
    challenge to educating them... (an intimate
    understanding and acquaintance that Bloomberg,
    Murdoch, et all will forever lack)


    ... out-of-state billionaires who are
    out to profit from the privatization
    of most or all of LAUSD... via the charter
    school chains they own and would
    devour huge chunks of the distritct, and also
    via the digital and on-line curriculum
    companies they own and would be
    the chosen vendors servicing those charter
    companies to the tune of billions of dollars
    of annual profits.



    "Zimmer counts on 'outside' money too. All of the many
    fliers in my mailbox bashing Kate Anderson are paid for
    by UTLA. I have yet to see ONE flyer or ad that is paid
    for by parents or community members.

    "And since California educates one out of every eight
    public school students in the United States, I would think
    that the entire country, including Michael Bloomberg,
    should be considered insiders, not outsiders.

    "We are educating a huge part of the future work
    force in the country. Why does UTLA get to be the only

    "I'm a parent and I appreciate the financial support
    of Kate Anderson by people who can match the
    amount of money UTLA is spending on Zimmer's

    "UTLA is just mad that they aren't the only voice in
    this race"


    For one thing, contrary to what Amy claims
    here, these out-of-state billionaires didn't "match"
    the funding that UTLA provided Zimmer.

    UTLA spent about $1 million, to billionaires
    total of $5 million



    HERE'S MY RESPONSE at the time:

    "This is for Amy..

    "Since you linked to Yolie Flores' op-ed, I"m going
    to move over the Top Comment responding to the Flores

    It's from "Teacher of the Year" Martha Infante.

    "You go, Martha!

    - - - - - - - -

    "Martha Infante · Top Commenter ·
    Los Angeles, California

    INFANTE: "The teachers union is not the Borg. We are
    tens of thousands of men and women who have chosen
    to dedicate our lives to serving our youth.

    "We are your husbands, wives, brothers and sisters. We
    are your children, cousins, nephews, and nieces. We are

    "What Flores and Canter choose to overlook is that the
    will of Los Angeles residents should not be subverted by
    any ONE wealthy individual from across the country. Unlike
    teachers, Mike Bloomberg does not live in our city, pay
    our taxes, or work in our classrooms.

    "Teachers make meager contributions to school board
    candidates they feel will protect the interests of students
    and teachers alike. After all, we share a classroom for
    8 hours a day. We are in it together.

    ""I cannot afford to make a million dollar contribution.

    "But I can participate in my union, join the House of
    Representatives, and demonstrate the best that
    democracy has to offer: debating ideas, electing
    sound leaders, and participating in elections by
    phone banking and precinct walking when necessary.

    "Isn't this how a democracy should function? One person,
    one vote?

    "It is shocking then, to see two former school board
    members flaunt their contempt of democracy by
    aligning themselves to billionaires who are intent
    on dismantling public education and privatizing it.

    "What a conflict of interest.

    "Ms. Flores herself pushed hard to destabilize
    schools with the Public School Choice plan and
    was reviled in the very community she grew up
    in, Huntington Park, when she ceded part of the
    local high school to charter companies.

    "Then, she was handsomely rewarded with a
    six-figure job with the Gates foundation upon
    her separation from the school board. There should
    certainly be a law barring public servants from
    passing laws that benefit private companies and
    then being hired by those very companies.

    "I for one, and voting for Robert D. Skeels for the
    District 2 school board seat because he is an
    education activist that could never be bought by
    - - -

    "Martha Infante National Board Certified Teacher,
    Los Angeles 2009 CCSS Teacher of the Year"



    A few months later, Zimmer gave a passionate
    speech recapping his re-election and its true
    significance. This speech is like Dr. Ravitch’s
    book summed up in 10 minutes or so. He
    attacks everything from LAUSD Superintendent
    Deasy, to Walmart to Teach for America
    (Steve was TFA, by the way) to the
    true meaning of his election victory
    over corporate and privatization interests.

    Here's a link:


    In the process, Zimmer gives a historical
    context to the attack on teachers, linking it to the
    attack on the middle and working classes.

    Somebody named Julie Tran transcribed
    part of his speech, so I'll finish by cutting
    and pasting it here: (the relevant, transcribed
    portion starts at about 7:35)


    STEVE ZIMMER: (at the August
    2013 UTLA Leadership Conference
    at some hotel near LAX airport...
    go to 7:35):

    “The budget crisis (of 2008 and on) was absolutely intentional. It was caused by corporate greed… corporate greed! It was caused by privatization, and it was caused by radical de-regulation of the housing market, of our economic system, and of our banking system. It was very clear. People got rich as our kids suffered. That’s what happened. It wasn’t an accident.

    “It was intentional. It was purposeful.

    “And the same folks, the same millionaires and billionaires, and privatizers who caused this economic crisis that our school communities suffered so much from…

    “… are the very same people who are donating millions and millions of dollars to the privatization movement, to charter schools, to Teach for America, to everything that is intended to privatize and corporatize this last vestige of a public sector, of unions.

    “They did NOT come after just ME in this last election. They came after ALL of us.

    “Throughout the 1990’s… and my long-time friend and sister in the struggle, Cheryl Ortega is here today as well, and she’ll remember that when were out fighting against Proposition 187… we always use to say to our brother and sister teachers to motivate them, to get more involved:

    ” ‘That when they come after our kids, and when they come after our families, they come after US! They come after our profession! They come after public education!’

    “And that’s what we said during the 1990’s, when the racists, and the xenophobes, and the Republicans were coming after immigrant children and their families. ‘When they come after our families and our kids, they come after US!’

    “And now in 2013, we give the same speech in reverse, and that is that when the come after our teachers, they come after our children, and our families, and the whole thing has come full circle.

    “So when we oppose Academic Growth Over Time, and Value-Added, we are not afraid of accountability, we are not afraid of responsibility. We just want a system of training and support. Let me say that again—training, support, and evaluation—that is based on improvement of instruction, and is based on real information about children and their academic growth. We did not come into teaching to check off boxes. We came into teaching because we believe in our kids and because we are about student growth and academic improvement….

    “But student growth and student improvement can never be measured by a single standardized test score, and what we suffer from in this district is what I like to call a ‘data addiction.’ It’s what I like to call a ‘religious addiction’ to ‘the numbers,’ and to a ‘spread sheet,’ and to a ‘bottom line,’ and we’re taught that this is ‘objective,’ that this is ‘fact,’ and that everything else is ‘soft’… that we should go into ‘The Temple of Data’ and kneel down, and that we should bow down at an ‘Altar of Objectivity.’



    STEVE ZIMMER: (continued)

    “But we WON’T and we CAN’T because the gods that WE believe in teach us that EVERYTHING that is wondrous and beautiful about children cannot be measured by a standardized test score!

    “We know!

    “The beautiful names… and stories… of our kids—we never met a kid that was named ‘Proficient,’ and we CERTAINLY never met a kid that was named ‘Basic,’ and NEVER ‘Far Below Basic!’

    “Our children have names, they have stories, and if we are to fight the battles against corporatization and privatization, we must be the warriors of re-humanization of public education that is about our children, their families, our communities, and their stories!

    “And that starts with humane school communities!”

    “We are not opposed to charter schools because we are opposed to choice for parents and families.

    “Choice is a core value in public education, and we are creating more and more in-district programs (i.e. teacher-led schools, not private charters, Julie) for choice, and options that are built around instructional pipelines that we (unionized teachers) create with families and children.

    “What we oppose… is radical de-regulation.

    “What we oppose is the attack on the basic promise of public education, the basic contract of public education.

    "That is... we serve EVERY child who comes to our door—EVERY child who comes to the schoolhouse door.

    “And if you don’t serve EVERY child—those who are the gifted to those who have the most special needs, and the entire spectrum in between.

    “If you are not about EVERY child, then that is NOT public education, and we stand against it, and we stand against the corporatization and privatization that is embodied in the charter school takeover.

    “The thing that I want to also impart to you is that this fight is a fight across our city, across our nation, and it is a pitched battle, and we need to stand in union solidarity.

    “We need to stand with our brothers and sisters who are our hotel employees, and if we can give a hand to all the H.E.R.E. (hotel union) members that are here today hear serving us.


    “We need to stand with car wash workers.

    “We need to stand with our brothers and sisters from the UFCW who are at our supermarkets unpacking our groceries, and packing them up very day.

    “We need to stand with the union families and the non-union families that are the parents of our children.

    “We need to be out there, just like we were in the 1990’s, and in the many strikes—whether it was the UFCW, H.E.R.E., right here on this boulevard (Century Blvd., a strip near the LAX airport where some high-end hotels are… Julie) , or the ‘Justice for Janitors’ strike right here in 1999.

    “The Labor Movement needs to see that our teaching force is a force of social justice for ALL families in the city of Los Angeles.

    “But let me say this… to my friends… and my brothers and sisters in the (L.A.) County Federation of Labor. If you ask, and if you expect us to stand against Walmart during the DAY, you had better stand with us as we fight Walmart’s effort to take over our schools by NIGHT.

    “It is the SAME fight, and we need to hear our labor leadership across this city defend public education, as we defend the rights of workers and our parents and our brothers and sisters

    Audience member: “FIRE DEASY!” (Oh the irony of that… Julie)

    “The last thing I want to share with you is that we almost lost in this election the promise of public education.

    “And in this room are teachers, families who slept on the floor of my campaign office, people who had the courage to go out and speak truth to power.

    “We didn’t change who we are, or who we were. We became more of who we were through this election cycle.



    STEVE ZIMMER: (continued)

    “The promise of public education is at great risk.

    “But I need to tell you, and we need to be honest with ourselves, that the promise of public education has not been realized for all students, and we know this.

    “It’s been realized for some, but not for all.

    “… and until the promise of public education has been realized for ALL students, it’s a broken promise for EVERY student.

    “It’s not going to change by corporate or private sector intervention.

    “It’s not going to change by some performance metric come up by McKinsey Company, and produced by John Deasy.

    “It’s not going to change by competition, but it is going to change by us working together.

    “In a few days, we’re going to celebrate the 50th anniversary of ‘The March on Washington’…. I feel like I can say this… ”


    and Steve continues on with quotes from King.

    Now, I would be remiss if I failed to mention
    that many who backed Zimmer thought that in the fall
    of 2013---a short two months after this speech---
    Zimmer's vote to retain Superintendent Deasy
    contradicted the rhetoric in this speech, and this,
    in turn, enraged Zimmer's supporters.

    However, to be fair, almost exactly a year later,
    Zimmer reversed himself and was one of the
    prime movers in forcing Deasy out as LAUSD