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Charter Schools

The problem with you calling us out for being funded by hedge fund billionaires is that you’re funded by hedge fund billionaires (and unions)

Journalists continually tell the story about billionaires influencing education policy. They leave out the billionaires that fund their friends.

I got an email from an @AP reporter with the subject line saying “black charter schools debate.”

“This is Sally Ho, national education reporter with the Associated Press. I am working on a story about the black charter school debate in light of increasing enrollment in the community,” she wrote.

When I called her, she framed the charter school issue as if it were a black civil war between billionaire-funded groups on one side who were fighting traditional groups like the NAACP. Her slip was showing.

I told her that there is no war in the black community over charter schools. It’s a divisive manufactured story with no basis in reality. Research settles the issue by telling us the majority of black people are among the most reliable supporters of charters and school choice. Most black people are clear about their support. If any segment of black “leaders” disagrees, they’re disagreeing with the majority of those they claim to lead.

Ho’s story, as I expected, insinuated that our leading black organizations, including the Urban League, UNCF, 100 Black Men, and so on, are charter school friendly merely because they receive grant funding from the Walton Family Foundation.

I can’t tell you how disrespectful that is for a non-black outsider to write. I don’t care how many millennial black progressives with educations from PWIs tell her it’s okay. It’s not.

This graphic below is her sloppy attempt to depict a black universe where “Walton money” is the master in the middle, and black organizations are reduced to being nondescript grantees.

Screen Shot 2019-01-17 at 6.52.24 PM

Given the history of these organizations and their missions, she, at very least, is trading in accidental millennial hipster racism. It’s gross.

When I told her that the NAACP and Movement For Black Lives are in disagreement with most of the black community, perhaps because they are publicly aligned with the teachers’ union campaigns against charters she balked. She told me she’s tired of that framing because teachers working through their unions on behalf of their profession isn’t the same things as the outsized role wealthy pro-charter people play in education policy.

For me, that announced her blind spot. She had decided who in the black community wears the black hats, and who wears the white hats. At that moment I knew the story would not be fairly written.

Later, Ho tweeted to New York Times’ Nikole Hannah Jones “A handful of billionaires who are advancing their vision of education reform is very different than” hundreds of thousands of teachers via union.”

If that isn’t bias, I’m not sure what is.

I protested against her frame for the story and told her the real story about black education that black people are desperate to beat the odds in education. We want educated kids, and the public schools are not working for us. By every measure, the outcomes are terrible. There are obviously valid reasons to support educational alternatives. It’s lazy journalism to keep writing the same “Billionaires are Privatizing” stories without ever touching on the educational outcomes in black traditional schools are driving the need for reform.

She snapped on that point. “I cover philanthropy and education” was her justification for focusing on the Waltons. She asked me if I thought charter parents needed so much financial support for their cause given they are such a small portion of public schools students.

The fact is, Ho doesn’t really focus on “philanthropy” as much as she writes the same story over and over about the same handful of philanthropists (the ones “progressives” love to hate). Her work exposes her to claims that she’s not a journalist as much as a young person with an opinion who happens to work for a news outlet.

If her job is to get the facts and tell the real story so her readers are smarter after reading her work, then there are inescapable problems.

She talked at length with Michael Lomax, president of the UNCF. He is arguably the largest living figure in black education given the fact that he’s raised $1 billion to pay for black people to get college educations, but she doesn’t quote him in the story. Instead, she quotes people with lower professional status in the world of black nonprofits, including Andre Perry, Deidre Brooks from Memphis Lift, Victor Goode, the NAACP’s education director, and me.

It’s an interesting and curious choice given the fact that she had access to Lomax and others like Howard Fuller, the godfather of all black education reformers.

Perry is a former charter school leader who Ho quotes as saying all of these black nonprofits that support educational alternatives are merely “black faces” pushing a “white agenda” for money.

When he publicized Ho’s story it was with an additional dig at the integrity of black charter school supporters:


Which leads to a problem for Ho, in my opinion. Did she ask Perry about HIS funding? If she did, where is that information? If she did not ask, why not?

Had she asked me I would have told her what most people close to the situation know about Perry. He plays for pay. While I was at Ed Post he asked us for $150k to produce media and research. I negotiated his contract even though I disagreed with him on most things and most everyone told me he was being paid by “both sides” of the charter debate.

We ended up paying moving costs to get him from Michigan back to NOLA, and then about $6,000 monthly to write incoherent blog posts that nobody understood.

Howard Fuller (who is also in Ho’s story, but not quoted) also paid Perry to lead an advocacy group called BE NOLA. In both cases, with Education Post and BE NOLA, he was paid with money that came from those dreaded billionaires who want to make us all escorts.

As I recall, Perry cashed every check without issue. If we are just “black faces” of a white agenda, what is he? The escort of escorts?

This could get petty quickly, so let me point to what I think is the most unforgivable omission, one that raises questions about Ho’s claim to covering philanthropy in education. The field on Billionaires and deep pocket organizations funding on the anti-reform side is vast. She ignores all of the money mobilized to defeat charters.

On Christmas day she tweeted this graphic by the National Education Policy Center without mentioning they’re a union-funded think tank. That’s an important detail in a story that is going after Walton for funding “pro-charter” organizations.

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Fairness and sincere curiosity about the facts would require Ho truly follow the money in all directions. But she consistently misses (or ignores) a well-funded ecosystem of groups that act as a communication echo field for anti-reform messaging on behalf of traditional public school employees.

Here is a graph of many (not all) groups in the progressive anti-reform universe. The first thing you should notice is there are too many connections for you to see. That’s on purpose. There are so many connected organizations that it is nearly impossible to get them on a single page.

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Even when you zoom in you can only see a thumbnail of the players on their map.

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The obvious takeaway is that the social justice industrial complex isn’t fueled by the people, unless you consider the people Billionaires, millionaires, foundations, and unions.

Where are Ho’s stories about this ecosystem? If she covers philanthropy and education, why the narrow focus only on Gates, Walton, and Bezos?

When Ho openly states she sees no need to cover money on the traditional school side of advocacy, it is because she’s either ill-informed about the incredible amount of money and organization on that side, or unwilling to see it due to personal politics.

Let’s make this more simple. First, here is what Big Labor puts into influencing public policy overall (including union-driven education policy).


By any reasonable estimation, $530 million represents a significant attempt to influence policy.

That said, it might be surprising but unions aren’t even the biggest players in the anti-reform game.

Welcome to Democracy Alliance, an annual meeting of the Left’s 1% where captains of industry decide which social justice groups will be funded, and which ones will carry out the agenda determined behind closed doors.

Education isn’t DA’s primary concern, but when it comes to ed policy there is no sunlight between them and labor bosses. This is where the liberal 1% is convinced to support an agenda of keeping poor children in schools they’d never choose for their own kids? (*ahem, Matt Damon).

How many people of color or low-income folks get in this meeting?

Meanwhile, labor not only has a seat at the big people’s table, they also have infiltrated leadership positions.

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If you support charter schools and choice, you will notice some of the groups that fight both of those issues on DA’s funding menu.

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And, here are people in their syndicate who never seem to disclose their billionaire or union funding.

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And here are just a few of their pay-to-play “journalism” outlets that function – like Sally Ho – as the communications shop for Social Justice, Inc.

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And, this part of the story sickens me. While the big rich white syndicate defending traditional education systems produces content attempting to pull the black cards of pro-choice African Americans, they also fund Afroturf groups masquerading as local or national parent-driven organizations. In fact, as much as we are called “escorts” our opposition act as clever fronts to blackwash union money and push a message attempts to convince the majority of black people who currently support choice that they are actually better off having fewer educational choices.

Here’s but a small example:

Screen Shot 2019-01-17 at 8.18.18 PM

And the Afroturf activists have just as many white guys pulling their strings as anyone else.

Screen Shot 2019-01-17 at 8.17.57 PM

And, although the anti-charter syndicate purchased the right to add “I support the NAACP and the Movement 4 Black lives” in calling for a moratorium on charters, as if that is the last word in black thought and the license for white progressives to silence the majority of black people who disagree, you should inspect the language of these groups.

Look at the resources and authors used for the education platform of the Movement for Black Lives. Find one that isn’t a teachers’ union grantee.

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And, if the issue is about stopping “corporate” reform, you might be interested in the NAACP’s funders.

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(If Ho or others ever want to get savagely honest about the players in this drama, I could help).

And, for all my family and friends eager to call out Billionaire influence on our activism, I encourage to look deeply. If you or someone close to you is part of any of these groups below, please demand they return their grant funding.

Screen Shot 2019-01-18 at 10.31.44 AM

Finally, about Ms. Hannah Jones’ interesting response to Ho’s story:

ho bae

It’s interesting that she’s “been waiting for a story like this” (and that she felt it so important that she responded to it on Christmas Eve, the same day it was published) when it could cut all directions, including hers.

Would any of us know Hannah Jones if it weren’t for her work at ProPublica?

Would we know about ProPublica if they hadn’t been funded by the inventor of subprime lending, the very instrument that wiped out 40% of black wealth?

They also have more than their fair share of deep pocket “supporters.”

The way she talks you’d swear her work is charity. In truth, she cashes checks from the wealthy like everyone else.

Is the New York Times suddenly nonprofit? Last time I checked their largest stakeholders were billionaires and major investors in private prisons and child detention centers.

Neal McClusky from the CATO Institute made a good point in response to my Twitter storm on Ho’s piece. He said it isn’t particularly useful to expose all of these funding relationships because it detracts from arguing ideas and the issues rather than stepping down the guilt by association land mine.

I agree. The truth is I’ve been funded by some of the same people my opponents have. I’ve contributed financially and in-kind to many of their organizations. I have worked with them on non-education issues. And, as I told Ho in our interview, I’m clear the real issue is about black education, or the lack thereof, not Walton, not billionaires, and not privatization.

But, if you are going to dig in my trash for receipts, scour my 990s, and jump in my wallet and pretend what you find gives you cause to erase my lived-experience, status as an activist parent, and a long-time nonprofit leader, expect the forensics to tell another story.

Especially if the person writing the story got a full-ride to college on a billionaire’s dime, and works for organizations funded by billionaires.

Listen, all I’m saying is don’t be out here dissing people for being funded by hedge billionaires if you’re being funded by hedge fund billionaires.

That dog don’t hunt.

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  5. Chien

    January 27, 2020 at 2:03 pm

    Hi, Thanks for the revelation on how anti-reformers are funded by billionaires and unions. Can you post more legible versions of the graphics that show the funding connections? I want to know exactly who I’m dealing with in my education advocacy efforts in NYC.

  6. Pingback: It's Hard to Believe You Care About Educating All Kids When You Call Me an Uncle Tom

  7. Pingback: When Is It OK To Call Someone An 'Uncle Tom'? | Retort

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Charter Schools

I don’t care if KIPP changes their slogan if they still get results


Good People, some of y’all keep asking me about the internal work the KIPP charter school network is doing to interrogate itself for racial justice concerns, which begins with them changing their well-known slogan”Work Hard, Be Nice.”

I’ve resisted commenting because I think it’s a phony problem.

But, since questions continue to come my way, here a few thoughts:

1. KIPP can change their slogan to whatever they think helps them meet their organizational objective. You don’t have to like it. Stay in you lane.

2. People from the Right love any facile news peg that allows them to belabor the case that “woke” is going too far. I’m sympathetic to their complaint, but notice they have ZERO to say about it when white supremacy goes too far…..ever. It’s way too convenient and I’m tired of that. To them I say: woke isn’t doing nearly the damage to our country and out culture that your president, your party, and you are doing. Clean your own toilet before inspecting others’.

3. So-called “Ed Reform” is full of self-important individuals with axes to grind for one reason or other. Sometimes it’s just straight up competition, sometimes it’s malignant jealousy, sometimes its egotism because they didn’t get a grant or one of their AMAZING criticisms wasn’t heard, or whatever. To them I say, focus on your own house people and shut up about what others are doing.

4. On the liberal side, there are school/reform leaders who blow with the wind and will swing to something like racial justice theology as a shrewd value-signaling move to save their position within the field. Their perfection of woke-speak is a shield meant to position them as “allies” against white supremacy even as they enjoy every privilege and benefit of it.

5. I don’t give a damn if KIPP changes their slogan from “Work Hard, Be Nice” to “Eat Healthy, Drink Water,” or “Say Nice Things To People,” or “Don’t Take Crap From People On The Internet” – just as long as they keep teaching kids to beat the odds in the classroom. As of this point I haven’t heard a single them from them that tells me they aren’t going to keep focusing intently on teaching, learning, and outcomes.

6. And, finally, no – telling kids to “Work Hard, Be Nice” is not telling them to be complicit or be a slave or be compliant to white masters. That is almost as stupid as saying changing the slogan it teaching kids that merit doesn’t matter. Both claims are so damn stupid I can’t imagine educated people aren’t embarrassed to make them.

In the end, I hope everyone can focus on education, focus on results, and focus on the opponents of our field.

Please people: pop open a can of Mind Your Damn Business and drink heavily.

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Charter Schools

Sydney Johnson: California charter schools support their families during a tough time

If you listen to critics you’ll believe charter schools are the enemy of public education. If you look at how many of them are serving their students and families during the coronavirus pandemic, you might see a different story.

Private schools and some charters have found the transition to “distance learning” relatively easy, but public school districts have struggled to ensure students have functioning technology, internet access, and teachers trained to teach online.

Even worse, less than half of school districts have written plans to address pandemics even as experts have been warning of one coming for years. (Isn’t it delicious for public school cultists that Bill Gates is one of those who sounded the alarm about a coming pandemic, and he’s now putting his considerable resources toward expediting the search for a COVID-19 vaccine?).

Sydney Johnson tells the story of how *some* charter schools in California have acted quickly to meet the needs of families (even beyond their educational needs):

For schools like Fuerza, shifting to online classrooms was a relatively quick endeavor because the TK-5 charter school already had technology in place. At home, ensuring a supportive learning environment for students is more of a challenge. Fuerza and a handful of other charter schools across the state are responding by connecting families to resources they need so students can participate in class at home, from internet discounts to legal support.

In the switch to distance learning, many California schools have struggled to purchase devices for students, get teachers up to speed with online teaching and contact parents of students who aren’t participating in distance learning. But at Rocketship and some other charter schools, students were already completing digital assignments daily and teachers were routinely reaching out to parents through texts and home visits.

During the first week of distance learning, Anguiano’s oldest son Abraham, who is in fourth grade, was unable to turn on the laptop provided by his school, and the family didn’t have an extra working computer to give him. The next day, Anguiano had a new charger for her son’s laptop and was ready to go after replying to the morning text message, notifying staff that the device wasn’t working.

Most days, Anguiano said her kids have what they need. But the transition to distance learning has been difficult for the whole family. On top of managing two kids and her own office work, which is now mostly remote, her husband, along with thousands of other workers throughout California, was recently laid off from his construction job.

To help families with similar struggles, Rocketship, a charter management organization with 13 schools in California, initiated a new program at each campus called the Care Corps, a team of staff who reach out to every family every day during the shelter-in-place order to ask if they need support.

“Some say, ‘I’m an essential worker and I’m concerned that I will bring something home to my family,” said Christina Vasquez, the business operations manager at Rocketship Fuerza. “Sometimes they just need someone outside of the home to talk to.”

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Charter Schools

Why aren’t teachers freaking out about Biden and Bernie’s education task force?

New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, put together an advisory council to help his state “reimagine” public education. Fearing Cuomo and his partner, the Gates Foundation, will produce a plan that creates accountability and expectations in their public school pension farm, the NYC teacher types pounced.

“There’s no current classroom teacher on this list of advisors” they whined.

For the record, here is Cuomo’s list of advisors:

  • Kaweeda Adams, Superintendent, Albany City School District
  • Jaime Alicea, Superintendent, Syracuse City School District
  • Jody Gottfried Arnhold, Founder, Dance Educator Laboratory (DEL) 92Y
  • Melodie Baker, Director of Education, United Way of Buffalo & Erie County
  • Kyle Belokopitsky, Executive Director, New York State PTA
  • Meg Benke, Provost, SUNY Empire State College
  • Jackie Burbridge, Parent, Suffolk County
  • Katie Campos, Partner, Strategic Collective
  • Anthony Collins, President, Clarkson University
  • Stephanie Conklin, Master Teacher, South Colonie Central School District
  • George Dermody, CEO, The Children’s Home of Wyoming Conference
  • Karol Mason, President, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
  • Austin Ostro, President, SUNY Student Assembly
  • Martin Palermo, Master Teacher, William Floyd School District
  • Roger Ramsammy, President, Hudson Valley Community College
  • Seema Rivera, President, Guilderland Central School District School Board
  • Shannon Tahoe, Interim Commissioner, New York State Education Department
  • Dennis Walcott, Former Chancellor, New York City Department of Education
  • Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers

As you can see, teachers, parents, students, higher education, nonprofits, superintendents, and other education officials are represented.

Now, contrast that with the farcical “unity” education task force assembled by current and failed presidential candidates Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.

Per Vox Media, here’s their list:

Sanders’s picks:

Biden’s picks:

  • Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), task force co-chair and former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus
  • Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association
  • Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers
  • Maggie Thompson, executive director of Generation Progress
  • Christie Vilsack, literacy advocate

Hmmm. This feels a little paltry.

Let’s start with the fact that Sanders seems to continue his trend of giving zero effs about honest Black representation or truly addressing K-12 education’s pedagogical and social issues beyond what political neosocialist agenda setters tell him works best.

Looking at his picks tells me his post-racial disaster socialism once again proves him an unserious candidate for any post responsible for educational progress.

Now, Mr. Biden, what gives?

Two national teachers’ union bosses, a political consultant, and the former first lady of Iowa?

Together, these picks reveal why the Democrats’ education agenda is useless to America’s most marginalized students:

Their list includes:

  • No school leaders who are successfully educating children deemed “hard-to-teach” by an out-of-touch education establishment;
  • No classroom teachers with a track record of success;
  • No parents of color desperate for improved educational options;
  • No one with direct pedagogical insights into what will improve education for those who are poorly served in today’s public schools;

In short, both Biden and Bernie, when given the chance to show how genuine their interest is in educational improvement, fail the test by stacking the deck with political advisors in place of accomplished educators.

The funny thing is, none of the Badass Miseducators so abundant in social media grievance groups have come for Biden and Bernie, even as they have indignant seizures about the fact that Cuomo dare work with Bill Gates for his “reimagine” counsel in New York.

I guess that’s the surest sigh it’s all politics folks.

If you care about fixing education so it works equally well for everyone, there’s nothing to see here.

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