Friday, May 26, 2017

Choosing Democracy: Why Do Billionaires Want Charter Schools ?

Choosing Democracy: Why Do Billionaires Want Charter Schools ?:

Why Do Billionaires Want Charter Schools ?

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Harold Meyerson:

The billionaires, apparently, we shall always have with us — even when we decide how to run the state-funded schools where they rarely send their own kids.

In the Los Angeles school board elections earlier this month, a number of billionaires, including Eli BroadNetflix founder Reed Hastings and two Walton family siblings, poured millions into the campaigns of two charter-school advocates. These billionaire-sponsored candidates defeated two badly outspent opponents who took a more cautionary stance on expanding charters, lest they decimate the school district’s budget. In total, pro-charter groups outspent teacher unions, $9.7 million to $5.2 million. (In the 2016 state legislative campaigns, the charterizers outspent the unions by a far larger margin, $20.5 million to $1.2 million.)
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Though a number of the billionaires who’ve involved themselves in the charter cause are conservatives and Republicans, the actual election battles they join almost always pit Democrat against Democrat — in part because nearly all big cities are now overwhelmingly Democratic. In California, where Republicans’ numbers have ebbed past the point of power, the lion’s share of billionaires’ legislative campaign contributions have gone to more centrist Democrats, who not only are reliable votes on charter issues but also often oppose environmental and other measures advanced by their more progressive colleagues.
Charter billionaires have settled on a diagnosis, and a cure, that focuses on the deficiencies of the system’s victims, not the system itself.


Of all the issues billionaires could choose, why charters, and why now? One reason commonly adduced is that they’ve noticed something troubling: Public school graduates lack the skills necessary for employment. Many of those needed skills, however, are the kind that students acquire in vocational educational programs, not at charter schools.


That there are huge problems in the education of low-income students is beyond dispute — but this is hardly a recent development. The real recent development is the rising share of such students as the middle class has waned.

If the Waltons, say, decided to redirect more of their fortune to raising Wal-Mart workers’ wages, that in turn might enable hundreds of thousands of families to have 
Choosing Democracy: Why Do Billionaires Want Charter Schools ?:

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