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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.

Frank Biden and Privatizers Buying Nation’s 11th-Largest School District

6:48 pm in Uncategorized by Doug Martin

(The following is part of a larger investigative piece on donations and other financial public records in various counties concerning members of Mavericks in Education Florida, Charter Schools USA, and Imagine Schools.  It first appeared at B-Town Errant.)

When the Palm Beach Post endorsed Chuck E. Shaw for the Palm Beach County School Board’s district 2 seat, they praised the ex-JFK Medical Center Charter School principal for “how well he knows the school district.”

Shaw knows where the dinero is, too, and he found it with Frank Biden, the VP’s younger brother, and Mavericks in Education Florida, a for-profit company fanatic about constructing hundreds of new charter schools.

Mavericks currently operators one charter school in Palm Beach County, but originally the school district was not a fan of the Biden-led company. After Palm Beach County’s department of charter schools determined that Mavericks’ application did not meet financial and other standards, Frank Biden, as Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss pointed out, met with members of the school board and persuaded them to change their minds. In early February 2011, they did.

Word at the time was Biden and Mavericks had promised to donate to various school board members’ campaigns, a tactic they’ve been using since June 16, 2010, when an avalanche of Mavericks-money appeared all at once in Chuck Shaw’s campaign chest and helped him get elected to the school board.

Mavericks’ lawyer and board liaison, Charles Barnett, gave $250.

Lauren Rodberg Hollander, Mavericks’ manager, forked over $50.

Husband Steve Hollander, chief operating officer at Mavericks, seconded with
another $50.

Adam Hollander, former Palm Beach County Eagle Scout, Ole Miss student, and Lauren Hollander’s son, affirmed with his $50.

Mark Rodberg, Mavericks’ developer, slid $50 toward Shaw.

Eve Rodberg donated $50.

Mavericks’ curriculum director, Bonnie Solinsky, gave Chuck $50.

Mike Rosen, Mavericks’ CPA, CFO, dished out $50.

A past Charter Schools USA employee, former Florida legislator, and current lobbyist for Mavericks, Frank Attkisson chum-n-chump changed $50.

Debbie Schatz, Mavericks’ marketing guru, handed over $50.

And Frank Biden, president (as of Dec. 5, 2011) and lobbyist for Mavericks, spared a hard-earned $50.

In the campaign records, all (except Barnett) list their addresses as 5090 PGA Blvd, Suite 200, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, the home of Steve and Lauren’s Hollander Real Estate. Mavericks also uses the same address for its for-profit Next Generation in Education, LLC, managed by Mark Rodberg.

In August 2010, Mavericks’ Charles Barnett donated another $174.60.

Although Chuck Shaw abstained during the final vote on Mavericks’ charter school, it didn’t look good.

Frank Barbieri, school board chair, voted “aye,” and in September 2011, he was rewarded. The Hollander family and real estate business gave $1,500 toward Barbieri’s upcoming reelection bid. School Property Development, LLC– led by Barnett and Charles Berle–also donated $500, and Berle pitched in another $25o of his corporate cash.

With the first win and new funding, Mavericks, on November 23, 2011, had hoped to send in Frank Biden to woo the school board into allowing three more of their charters to invade the Palm Beach district (even though they are not accredited high schools), but Lisa Rab’s New Times’ published report helped put an end to the buying, at least for now.

Rab, the night before the big shindig, detailed Mavericks’ dismal state report cards and two whistle-blowing lawsuits filed by teachers against the charter operator for not offering legitimate Florida school diplomas.

In a whisper, the school board postponed the vote and on their website crossed out the Mavericks’ meeting agenda.

The board is set to pick a new superintendent on March 1, as the interim leader steps down and the nation’s 11th largest district braces for a $52 million deficit for next year.

Word on the street is that Shaw may land the gig.

Shaw and Barbieri’s terms expire in November 2012, and a few other board seats open in 2014. Keep an eye on the donations to see how far Biden and crew will go in buying out what is left of Florida democracy.

 

Joe Biden’s Brother Helping God Privatize Public Schools

5:38 pm in Uncategorized by Doug Martin

White Hat & Mavericks & Boot Scootin - O My! (Photo: truebrit, flickr)

White Hat & Mavericks & Boot Scootin - O My! (Photo: truebrit, flickr)

(This was first posted at B-Town Errant, Bloomington, Indiana)

When Lisa Rab outed Joe Biden’s brother, Frank, as a major force behind a for-profit education management organization (EMO) dead set on building 100 new charter schools across Florida,* it came as no surprise to anyone who has been paying the slightest bit of attention to the corporate school reform movement, the Obama/Biden/Duncan regime, or Florida.

What was surprising was that Francis W. Biden told Rab that he and Mavericks in Education Florida, LLC  were on “a mission from God.” But the truth behind this “mission from God” is the devil in the details.

Although in press releases Biden is named as president and director of development, he is listed on the Florida Legislature website as a “lobbyist” for the for-profit school outfit. Last month, tracking down Biden’s home address on this website, someone sent him a package of white powder disguised as Anthrax that sent him and his girlfriend to the hospital and the FBI to his house.

Biden, a former director of congressional and legislative affairs under Bill Clinton, has become Mavericks’ main cheerleader, selling his love for poor children and reciting his brother’s name at local school board meetings. But since Frank’s name does not appear on any company document, any promises he makes concerning Mavericks will not be legally binding, and many are starting to see through his corporate school reform theatrics.

The Palm Beach School Board requested that Mavericks’ plea for three more charter schools be taken off their November 22 meeting agenda, after Rab’s story broke. Broward County and the Hernando School District both rejected the group’s applications due to everything from inadequate special needs curriculum to financial management questions, but after a stink, Florida’s Charter School Appeal Commission, in a 7-1 vote, overturned Hernando’s decision.

This month, going against staff recommendations, the Orange County School Board accepted Mavericks’ application for a charter school in their backyard. Critics had complained that Mavericks did not meet the county’s standards, and Orange County’s charter school overseer, Christopher Bernier, noted that “Mavericks locations around Florida routinely fail to test enough students to earn state ratings.” Read the rest of this entry →

Warren Buffett and Corporate School Reformers to Gentrify / Charterize Indianapolis and Other Cities

12:50 pm in Uncategorized by Doug Martin

"Let's gentrify like it's going out of style" by magerleagues on flickr

"Let's gentrify like it's going out of style" by magerleagues on flickr

This piece is cross-posted at B-Town Errant, Indiana’s new and most progressive anti-corporate magazine. Please check it out.

As Atlanta Progressive Review’s Matthew Cardinale recently noted, Purpose Built Communities (PBC), a neighborhood turnaround group started in 2009 by Warren Buffett, hedge fund manager Julian Robertson, and Atlanta businessman Tom Cousins, have hired former Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin to team up with Strategic Capital Partners to gentrify and open charter schools in Indianapolis’ Avondale Meadows region and several other cities.

With offices in Chicago, Indianapolis, and New York, Strategic Capital Partners (SCP) is a relatively new player in the corporate school reform movement. A private real estate investment management firm, SCP hired Albert Gore III, former Vice President Al Gore’s son, as their Vice President of Business Development for their Urban Development Group, after he launched GOOD magazine with help from Teach for America. In 2008, SCP welcomed Bart Peterson as their Managing Director of Strategic Partners Urban Fund, after he lost re-election for Indianapolis mayor and had launched the corporate school reform outfit, the Mind Trust.

As mayor in 2006, Peterson had approved Strategic Capital Partners’ proposal to build the Challenge Foundation Academy in Indianapolis’ Avondale Meadows district. It was their first charter school, even though now the group operates a total of eight in Indiana, North Carolina, and Arizona. Read the rest of this entry →