Thursday, June 9, 2011

Are "vulture philanthropists" taking charge?

The new superintendent of the State Recovery school District, and Gov. Jindal's pick to be the next state superintendent, is 35-year old John White.

We know a bit about White's background, detailed in this EdLog post, including the fact that he is certified by the Broad Superintendents Academy (it's pronounced "Brode").

But most people know very little about the academy, which has churned out superintendents with business backgrounds for 21 of the nation's 75 largest school systems, according to this Education Week article by reporter Christina A. Samuels.

The scrutiny provided by Education Week and in The Broad Report by blogger Sharon Higgins is disturbing. The blog includes this motto: "Make no mistake, What is happening in large urban districts today has been carefully orchestrated by vulture philanthropists."

The EdWeek article has a comment from one expert who says that the Broad Academy is designed to provide "superintendents who are trained how to use their power to hand over their systems to the Business Roundtable."

The academy is part of a worrisome movement that education policy professor James Horn calls "venture philanthropy," and includes the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Milken Family Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation and others

Worrisome, Horn says, because "What venture philanthropy is doing seems to me to be wielding influence not to help public institutions, but to destroy public institutions, or take control of them. This is a dangerous place, where corporations and government get mixed up.”

The academy certifies superintendents after a 10-month fellowship season, during which they spend six extended weekends at seminars, with expenses paid by the academy.

Education writer Diane Ravitch has issues with the academy, saying that graduates "have a preference towards privatization."

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