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Imperial Philanthropy: Using Education Reform to Buy the Earth and Sky

11:23 am in Uncategorized by Doug Martin

Christel House Donors: Dell’s Official Flckr Page

(The following was first posted on B-Town Errant, Bloomington, Indiana:)

B-Town Errant Editor’s note: Doug Martin’s work supplies a kind of corrective to the simple “top-line” story and understanding of the education reform movement.  It can be understood to be “about” management and assessment to enforce a worldview where production is only quantifiable and quality must ape the measurements of assessment; and that’s the kindest way to phrase it.  But what is underneath it is a true “bottom-line” approach to the world.  The funders, the think tanks, the politicians, the investors, are all working towards the goal of imperial expansion. The best and most efficient way to assert your worldview is to own the world you wish to view.  Many of the recent scandals with corporate charter school organizations revolve around real estate manipulations.  Corporate Charters buy up old school buildings and install a kind of “puppet education” while they extort communities for rent payments.  When the puppet fails and the malfeasance is uncovered, the puppet takes the heat and the owners sit on the paper, blameless.  This is the US of A writ small.  This is foreign policy brought into your state and local governments.  Welcome to your own slice of the banana republic that is America.  Of course, as a resident and citizen of Indiana Mr. Martin focuses on the corruption endemic here, but pay attention.  All the names are the same and they are as entrenched in national politics as they are in state politics.  We are being eaten alive on all fronts.  D. Storm offers further examples of the “reach” of the imperialist and philanthropic class in italics.

INDIANA  SUPT. OF CORPORATE SCHOOL REFORM TONY BENNETT’S NEW CAMPAIGN DONORS

As an employee of the corporate school reformers, Indiana’s Tony Bennett is drowning in new campaign funding. Out of the hundreds of donors to Bennett since he first surfaced in 2008, only a handful cannot be traced to the corporate school reform movement. To fully elaborate on all the anti-public education people and front groups the supt. has behind him would literally take months of work.  Thus, I have listed here a few new Bennett donors to boycott and be outraged with.

NOTE: The in-text links over the dollar amounts below open to PDFs.

ANGIE’S LIST’S WILLIAM S. OESTERLE: $20,000

If you’re looking for a public-friendly supt. of public education, steer clear of Angie’s List and its corporate “word-of-mouth wisdom.” The corporation’s co-founder and CEO, William S. Oesterle has given Tony Bennett one of his largest donations to date. A former partner of the venture capital firm, CID Equity Partners, Oesterle helped manage Mitch Daniels’ 2004 campaign. In the 1980s, he led the right-wing Hudson Institute, an Indy-based pseudo-research group closely tied with ALEC and funded by the anti-worker Koch brothers.

As Martin has noted time and again, these Privateers are all connected and all have a “vision” for dominating PROPERTY.  Oesterle is basically buying up the city as it becomes available via Daniels’ and the Indy Mayor Ballard’s “economic development” plans.  For example, earlier this year the IBJ reported on this, “City to give Angie’s List $4.6M to buy properties for expansion.”

Money for real estate acquisition is a major component of the $7.1 million in incentives the city of Indianapolis offered Angie’s List Inc. for expanding its headquarters campus to accommodate 500 more employees….

The city will also direct $1.5 million of its “Rebuild Indy” funds toward neighborhood and infrastructure improvements. Oesterle said a top candidate for upgrades is Market Street east of downtown.

Finally, the city will direct $1 million in federal tax credits toward Angie’s List. The tax credits would be applied to the newly acquired real estate, said Melissa Todd, vice president of operations at Develop Indy, the city’s economic development arm.

Angie’s List is still working on its master plan, but Oesterle said the company will consider building a parking garage and at least one office building. He said he’s looking to fill in “open spots” on Market Street and Washington Street.

Buying the Last Chance Towing property was a key piece of the puzzle, and the contract was struck late Friday, Gigerich said.

Angie’s List also will be eligible for as much as $7 million in tax credits from the Indiana Economic Development Corp., based on its plans to hire 500 people.

One commenter to the story offered some history (you know, that thing that’s supposed to instruct us on what to expect of the future when we repeat certain acts…):

It Must Be Groundhog Day…Again
> Deja VuAugust 16, 2011 5:31 PM

0/30/08 Angies List Adding 400 Jobs, Investing Millions Into Redevelopment http://www.insideindianabusiness.com/newsitem.asp?id=32309 1/29/09 Angies List Laying Off 90 Employees, Triming Costs http://www.insideindianabusiness.com/newsitem.asp?id=33547 6/12/07 Angie’s List Plans Expansion to U.S. Cities, Europe http://www.insideindianabusiness.com/newsitem.asp?id=23823 11/09/07 Angie’s List Fires 38 Employees http://www.insideindianabusiness.com/newsitem.asp?id=26371 Did they collected the public incentives on this deal without creating new jobs and making the promised private investments?

Education reform is a good “story” but is proving to be only that, a story told by the owners in order to manipulate communities into agreeing with their “imperial” goals of purchasing the ground we all walk on.  As the law continues to create more and more “precedent” to bolster the power of the property owner, we find ourselves in the hands of fewer and fewer actual owners wielding tremendous influence, politically and legally.

AMERICAN FEDERATION FOR CHILDREN: $10,000

This Betsy DeVos outfit changed its name to American Federation for Children after the old front group got busted breaking laws in Ohio. Kevin Chavous, a former Hoosier and now a leader of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, sits on its board of directors. Besides Chavous, AFC includes Pennsylvania hedge fund manager Joel Greenberg, hedge funder and Democrats for Education Reform’s Boykin Curry, Carrie Walton Penner of the Walmart family, and Florida corporate school reform funder, John F. Kirtley.

Last year, the AFC’s  Indiana-registered PAC funneled millions of Walton Family and DeVos money into Indiana and six other states using the Terre Haute office mailbox address of right-winger lawyer James Bopp, Jr., most despised for his work with the Supreme Court’s Citizens United case.

However you view the law and our apparently extremely flexible constitution you must find it difficult to imagine that the idea that money is speech is a “just” one.  The “Citizens United” ruling wherein corporations were affirmed to be “people” and where “money” was affirmed as speech effectively removed the barriers to the outright purchase of, well, everything.  Not only are elections and representation commodified but really all things became objects to be traded in the US of Hedge Funds.  It is massively heartening to discover that at least one state sees the error of this.  The Montana Supreme Court has said NO, NOT HERE, to the “Citizens United” Way.  Some detail on the Montana case is offered in this report from the Billings Gazette, “Supreme Court upholds state ban on corporation spending.”

The Montana Supreme Court on Friday overturned a lower court’s ruling and reinstated the state’s century-old ban on direct spending by corporations for or against political candidates.

The justices ruled 5-2 in favor of the state attorney general’s office and commissioner of political practices to uphold the initiative passed by Montana voters in 1912….

McGrath’s majority opinion is replete with references from books by Montana historians discussing successful efforts by the Copper Kings in Butte in the late 19th and early 20th century to control the state by influencing legislative and judicial decisions through bribes and applying political pressure on at least one governor.

“This naked corporate manipulation of the very government (governor and Legislature) of the state ultimately resulted in populist reforms that are still part of Montana law,” McGrath wrote. “In 1906 the people voted to amend the state Constitution to allow for voter initiatives.”

Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi offers his usual intelligent response on these issues in an interview on Current TV.

CHRISTEL DEHAAN: $25,000

Co-founder, in 1974, of Resort Condominiums International (RCI), DeHaan runs a charter school in Indiana and several in other countries. She is also a member of the American Diploma Project, sponsored by the business roundtable/governors reform group, Achieve, Inc. One of Bennett’s earliest funders, DaHaan also sits on Mitch Daniels’ Bill Gates-supported Education Roundtable.

The depth of influence on US education via Achieve and ADP, which is one of four “standards” by which states measure “success” in education, would be hard to overestimate.  Christel Dehaan might simply be perceived as an example of what I offered above: the best way to promulgate your worldview is to own the world.  Dehaan actually is very active in her “philanthropy”–she’s established 5 schools on 4 continents–and her foundation is pledged to “breaking the cycle of poverty.”  Maybe it’s just me, but this seems a bit of a disconnect when the very practices one employs in order to own the largest timeshare vacation exchange network in the world.  Dehaan sold off RCI in 1996.  That’s 22 years of wealth accumulation.  What to do next?  Establish my own version of morality on the world!

Ah, Rich, white woman, we love you!

Of further interest is that the “democrat”, Mary Sullivan, who just proposed a ridiculous bill to create a “friendly” assessment for schools (way to reach for the lunatic in “competition” parameters!) has also received healthy contributions from Christel Dehaan.  But Republicans are her most prominent investment, besides the poor children “of color” around the world.  But you likely know my take on this by now.  Christel Dehaan is “seeding” her future, her worldview, by “training” children in impoverished areas to perform a proper role for the global ownership class.  I mean who else reads this kind of publication, “The Resort Trades“?

Immediately, DeHaan was asked, why not retire and live the dream-life? Why work long hours, fund all of your organization’s administrative costs personally and expend such a great deal of energy? Besides, breaking the cycle of poverty seems so overwhelming; what difference can one person make?
She answered with a smile, “I know that I could be sitting on a yacht somewhere in the Mediterranean, sipping champagne. But, I’ve been given this marvelous opportunity to make a difference. I think it’s possible to help break the cycle of poverty throughout the world, one child at a time, and I feel compelled to do all I can.”

Today, Christel House has been responsible for changing the lives of more than 2,700 impoverished children around the globe at five learning centers, including Mexico, India, South Africa, Venezuela and Indianapolis.

And Indianapolis…hmmm.  At any rate, I wonder if they serve Christel House Coffee in Indy somewhere?

Perhaps we can also ponder the relationship between global travel for the obscenely wealthy and their “charitable” impulses.  Anyway, I’m inclined to view this as simply another kind of Western invasion as aggressive in its own way as a military invasion.  A charitable intervention seems far more insidious to me.  Here’s one way to think of it (and other consequences) in this paper by Ole Kamuaro, “ECOTOURISM: SUICIDE OR DEVELOPMENT?”

The Masai from Loita Hills, some 320 km southwest of Nairobi, have been fighting a fierce battle to prevent an indigenous forest, traditionally known as Naimina-Enkiyio or the Forest of the Lost Child, from being turned into another ecotourism destination. Having experienced the devastating effects of tourism at the nearby Masai Mara National Park, they are determined to preserve their sacred forest, which for generations has been under their management and control and carefully kept as a sacred place for worship and communion with Masai deities.

Though largely pastoralists, the Masai here are also small-scale subsistence agriculturists who have used resources in a sustainable manner. As a result, the forest is still dense and rich in biodiversity, with abundant wild flora and fauna, plants which serve as herbal medicines, sufficient water sources, and pastures on which to raise healthy cattle.

Undoubtedly, their spiritual and material way of life will degenerate rapidly if tourism intrudes. As one local person in the neighbouring Masai Mara reserve said, “Tourism has been allowed to develop with virtually no controls. Too many lodges have been built, too much firewood is being used and no limits are being placed on tourist vehicles. They regularly drive off-track and harass the wildlife. Their vehicle tracks crisscross the entire Masai Mara. Inevitably the bush is becoming eroded and degraded.”

Of course, all of this is for sale, right?

DEAN WHITE: $50,000

Now a billionaire, White inherited his father’s mega-billboard business. For fun, White, now in his 80s, dabbles in real estate deals and develops hotels. White recently gave Mike Pence $100,000 in donations to run for Indiana governor. White is listed #281 on Forbes’ list of America’s richest.

Nothing really needs to be said here, does it?  Pence and Billionaires for Billboard America?

MIKE WEAVER: $10,000

Weaver weaves real estate deals for the Vearus Group.

There’s a lot of money to be made from property deals in the charter school industry, so Bennett’s real estate funders are worth keeping a close eye on.

Tony Bennett is doing the dirty work of arranging for more government handouts to the freeloading top 1 percent.  It’s time to let the public know, while there’s still a public left.

As Doug Martin shows us again, Indiana is full of “imperial” adventure; it’s as real here as it is in Eco-Poverty Magnate Christel Dehaan’s international training compounds.

Kevin Chavous, Former Hoosier and Leader of Black Alliance for Educational Options, Returns to Indiana to Help Destroy Public Education

5:10 pm in Uncategorized by Doug Martin

Kevin P. Chavous should be every public educator and parent’s nightmare. The Indianapolis-born school reformer chairs the anti-public education Black Alliance for Educational Options’ board of directors. As co-founder of the hedge fund operated group Democrats for Education Reform, he also holds a high position in the astroturf American Federation for Children, whose Indiana-registered PAC has literally funneled millions of Walton Family and DeVos money into Indiana and six other states using the Terre Haute office mailbox address of right-winger lawyer James Bopp, Jr., most despised for his work with the Supreme Court’s Citizens United case.

BAEO members have a forest of Gates, Walton, and Milton Friedman money, which they freely use to choke anyone that stands in their way. Case in point, in 2010, after Barack Obama failed to support the District of Columbia Opportunity Scholarship voucher plan, Chavous took out a full-page ad in the New York Times, condemning the president. For Chavous, Obama’s attack on public education through “Race to the Top” and charter school expansion definitely was not radical enough.

Then there’s Chavous’ cousin, who is a board member of BAEO Philadelphia. In Pennsylvania, Dawn Chavous handles the Students First PAC (which received $1,100,000 from the Indiana-registered American Federation for Children PAC, as Rachel Tabachnick found, and should not be confused with Michelle Rhee’s group of same name), is board president at Oprah-funded Mastery Charter Schools, is on the board of Boys’ Latin Philadephia Charter School, and was chief of staff for state Democrat Anthony Williams. Williams, matter-of-factly, sits on one charter school board with her. His father, Hardy Williams, in 1998, retired from the Pennsylvania Senate hours before the filing deadline for campaign candidates, so Anthony could acquire the necessary signatures and win the election unopposed. For such niceties, Dawn and Anthony named the Hardy Williams Academy Charter School, which now is operated by Mastery, after the old man.

From the get-go, Kevin Chavous and BAEO have ironically made anti-union/anti-public education a “civil rights” issue, often quoting Martin Luther King, Jr. It seems Chavous was one of the first to call education reform the “civil rights issue of our time,” now a cliché shouted by so-called school reformers such as John Legend, Joel Klein, and Al Sharpton.

Many have rightfully criticized BAEO’s antics. Glen Ford, one of the most outspoken intellectuals in the Black community and a staunch opponent of charter schools, once called BAEO co-director Armstrong Williams “the premiere Black political whore in America.” Writers at the Black Commentator have not been friendly to Chavous and crew either. Education scholar Diane Ravitch has also hammered corrupt politicians and pseudo educators who throw around the “civil rights” language. Undoubtedly, the cliche is now one of Tony Bennett’s favorites.



BAEO in Indiana


BAEO Indiana launched operations in 2001. Their leader, Barato Britt, abandoned his post with the charter school operator GEO Foundation to join Chavous’ group soon after. This revolving door tactic should come as no surprise since BAEO was heavily funded by the American Education Reform Council when Kevin Teasley (GEO’s leader) worked for AERC in 1997.

Besides scripting school-reform propaganda for the Indianapolis Recorder and the Heartland Institute (which cheered for the Indiana Parent Trigger Law with ALEC), Britt once fronted the Edna Martin Christian Center, a position he often used to conceal his anti-public education history.

As board member and co-founder of Irving Community School, a public charter in Indianapolis, Britt has set up an anti-public education killer team. Board members include Jeffrey Lozer, a former Ice Miller corporate attorney, past community relations assistant secretary to the charter-operator Christel DeHaan Family Foundation, and previous vice president for DeHaan’s Resort Condominiums International. Presently, Lozer is special counsel to the director of the Indiana Department of Child Services, where he helped carry out the Indiana Department of Education’s Model Evidence-Based Plan for Improving Behavior and Discipline within Schools. Along with Jeffrey Lozer, Arabic specialist Jennifer Suzanne Thuma is or was involved with Irving. She is a former legislative director to Governor Mitch Daniels and was education coordinator to the Indiana General Assembly from 2009 to 2010. Milton Friedman’s Foundation for Educational Choice member Leslie Davis Hiner and Indiana Christian songwriter Michael Welch also join Barato on the Irving Community School board.

Britt supposedly exited his BAEO CEO/president post in 2004. As of October 2010, BAEO’s national website lists no Indiana branch, although media reports often mention it. No record of a present Indiana director can be unearthed online either.



Bennett, Chavous, and Jeb Bush: Voucher Matches Made in Heaven


Last year, Tony Bennett and Kevin Chavous took stage with Jeb Bush at a State Policy Network’s education event on privatizing the schools. With branches in almost every single state, the SPN is a Ronald Reagan-inspired, right-wing network fighting to end collective bargaining for union members and to establish more charter schools, as Mother Jones magazine recently noted. The SPN has even highlighted articles Bennett has written. The SPN’s Hoosier affiliate is the free enterprise group Indiana Policy Review Foundation, once headed by Indiana’s U.S. House member and anti-women creep Mike Pence, who is now running for Indiana governor. The Indy-based Sagamore Institute is in bed with the SPN, too, and their Ryan Streeter recently offered his praise of Indiana’s anti-public education agenda in a piece in the Weekly Standard.

In many ways, Jeb Bush is as much or more of a hero to Tony Bennett as is Kevin Chavous. Although ideas to demolish public education go back to Milton Friedman’s 1955 voucher essay, the Daniels-Bennett sawed-off shotgun-attack is drawn straight out of the Jeb Bush playbook. In Florida, Bush gave letter grades to schools and practiced holding kids back from the 4th grade on their reading scores, two of Indiana’s plans. Admittedly, stressing that children always come first, Tony Bennett joined Jeb Bush’s “Children’s Union” (sometimes referred to as “Chiefs for Change”) along with educational leaders Deborah Gist of Rhode Island, Virginia’s Gerard Robinson, Florida’s Eric Smith, and Louisiana’s Paul Pastorek.

A few days before speaking together at the Indianapolis screening of Waiting for Superman this January, Bennett and Chavous joined hands with Jeb, John McCain, Newt Gingrich, and Dick Morris to take the pledge of the Milton Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice to celebrate National School Choice Week. For his role, Bennett organized an “Eggs and Education” breakfast event with local legislators to push the Friedman organization’s corporate ideas.

Several months ago, Chavous, the Heartland Institute, and EAG’s Kyle Olson (who filmed Tony Bennett for his anti-education movie, Kids Aren’t Cars) conveniently found the “new Rosa Parks,” Ohio’s Kelley Williams-Bolar who was arrested for falsifying documents so her daughters could attend school out of their district. The story was every voucher/parent trigger supporter’s dream, even though Williams-Bolar said the reason she wanted her children to attend school in her father’s district was they would be safer after school at his house. Even some liberals were screaming school choice and emailing petitions to stop the “new Rosa Parks” from landing in prison. For the mainstream media, the “new Rosa Parks” was the best show since Waiting for Superman. Al Sharpton even fitfully gospelled for school choice on Dr. Phil. One more story has since surfaced of an innocent mother going to jail because of the evils of the public school system. Expect many more in the coming days as other states like Pennsylvania take up voucher and other anti-public education issues.