Broad, Walton, and Their LA-based Nonprofit, Great Public Schools Now
Los Angeles is the focus of a major billionaire-funded, astroturf effort to expand the charter sector. And where there is a major market-driven reform push, a new, billionaire-funded nonprofit is often on the horizon. So it is with the 2015-created nonprofit, Great Public Schools Now (EIN 47-4962715, which was actually granted nonprofit status in February 2016). As Los Angeles Times‘ Howard Blume reported in November 2015:
The new organization, called Great Public Schools Now, is based in Los Angeles and will take the next steps in a plan that initially was spearheaded by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation. A draft of that proposal, dated in June, called for raising $490 million to enroll half the students in the L.A. Unified School District [in successful charters and other high-quality public schools] over the next eight years.The nonprofit will be run by two executives from ExED, a local company that specializes in helping charter schools manage their business operations. Former banker William E.B. Siart will chair the governing board; Anita Landecker will serve as interim executive director.
Blume continues the Great Public Schools Now story in June 2016, and he notes a suspicious shift in the kinds of schools the Broad-Walton-funded group supposedly wants to expand:
A controversial group that began with the mission of rapidly expanding charter schools in Los Angeles has named its board of directors, come out with a plan and publicly defined its mission as supporting new, successful public schools of any kind.The board for Great Public Schools Now mostly includes faces and groups that are familiar in the education reform wars of L.A., including representatives from the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation.The chair of the nonprofit is retired banker Bill Siart, the only board member who had been previously announced. …Nearly all the other board members are widely regarded as pro-charter, even though their backgrounds are diverse. …The group’s glossy, 16-page plan identifies 10 low-income, low-achievement neighborhoods as areas of focus. Clustered in the east San Fernando Valley and south and east of downtown, they include Boyle Heights, Pacoima and South Gate.Although the plan is short on specifics, the group plans to announce its first grants Thursday. They could help schools in the targeted areas in a variety of ways. …The newly released plan differs substantially from a draft obtained last year by The Times. That draft, which was not intended for public release, harshly criticized L.A. Unified and identified charter schools as the path forward, with the goal of moving half of district students into charters over eight years. The draft appeared to have been prepared to give to potential funders.Critics probably will continue to view that draft as the real blueprint and the document released this week as public relations. …Timed with the release of its plan, Great Public Schools Now will launch a six-figure TV and print campaign, including ads in the L.A. Times. …While insisting that its focus will be on all schools, not charters alone, the group isn’t disclosing all pertinent details. It declined this week to provide information on its funders and how much money they are providing.
According to its website, Great Public Schools Now has a seven-member board anda three-member team. The board includes Walton Foundation K12 education program director, Mark Sternberg, and Broad Foundation executive director, Gregory