Foundations Unfiltered

Megan Tompkins-Stange spent five years conducting confidential interviews with insiders at some of the foundations most involved in education reform. What they told her will surprise you. Or not… 

EduShyster: You spent five years interviewing insiders at some of the foundations most involved in education reform, and your new book Policy Patrons allows readers to *listen in* on conversations that are, let’s just say, enlightening. I want to give readers a taste by jumping right into a Gates Foundation official’s take on the chummy relationship between the foundation and the Obama administration—or as one Obama staffer describes it in a telling slip of the tongue, the Gates administration. 

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Megan Tompkins-Stange: I think this is one of the more interesting quotes in the book, because it’s quite self-reflective. On the one hand, the source is acknowledging that the close coupling between Gates and the Department of Education under Arne Duncan was great because it pushed their agenda forward. But on the other hand, they’re acknowledging that it’s somewhat problematic in terms of democratic legitimacy. It was my sense that most of the people I talked to hadn’t engaged—at an organizational level—with the larger question of *What’s our role in a liberal democracy?* or *Is this the right thing for us to do as a foundation?* They were so focused on the work—they talked about *We’re changing things; we’re moving the policy, look at all these things we’ve accomplished.* The democracy part of it was not really a part of the equation in terms of their day-to-day discussions. It was more about, *How do we get the elites who can really move this policy on board?* But it seems like that is changing now in a few contexts. Continue reading →

Can We Talk? (I Mean Really…)

The 49er says that Education Post can’t start a conversation—because its founders and funders already have all of the answers.

can we talkBy *The 49er*
In a recent offline conversation, EduShyster and I were trying to figure out a name for the group of people that are opposing reformers. You see reformers are easy to place in a camp. Even though there are internal fights on issues such as Common Core and the role of the federal government in education, there is general agreement that there need to be major changes to public education in America. But the camp which is fighting those reformers (and probably most of the people reading this post) isn’t so easy to define. Harvard Professor Jal Mehta defines this camp as  traditionalists. (Why do I suspect that EduShyster is bristling at the use of that term?) [Editorial note: she is!] Continue reading →

Internal Documents Reveal Charter Expansion, TFA Go Hand in Hand

Broad Foundation emails indicate charter operators reluctant to expand without TFA presence

By Chad Sommer and Jennifer Berkshire
Last weekend, former Newark Star columnist Bob Braun published a bombshell column, arguing that the state-appointed superintendent of Newark, NJ schools, Teach For America (TFA) alum Cami Anderson, wants to waive seniority rules to fire upwards of 700 tenured Newark teachers and replace a percentage of them with TFA recruits. Executive Director of Teach For America New Jersey, Fatimah Burnam Watkins, quickly dismissed Braun’s assertions as *conspiracy theories,* while claiming TFA has a small footprint in Newark.  But the heated back-and-forth misses the larger issue: TFA plays an increasingly essential role in staffing the charters that are rapidly expanding, replacing public schools from Newark to Philadelphia to Chicago to Los Angeles. In fact, newly released documents indicate that many charter operators won’t even consider opening new schools without TFA to provide a supply of *teacher talent.*

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Closing Schools 4 Choice (and Excellence)

The best way to enhance the excellence of our public schools is by closing them.

It is a well-known true fact that the fastest way to improve schools in order to launch students on a path to 21st century prosperity is to close them. In fact, nine out of ten advocates of closing schools in order to promote enhanced choice and excellence have found that choice and excellence are enhanced when schools are closed. Unfortunately, closing a school while the students are still inside can prove difficult, especially in this era of putting students first. Continue reading →