ALEC and Gulen. The soft underbelly of liberal charter merchants.


Nathan says I am against expanding opportunity.

“I do understand the effort to discredit charters by linking them to ALEC. Opponents of expanding opportunity have long used that approach,” wrote charter merchant Joe Nathan. It was in a message he sent following my posting of yesterday’s exchange about the Illinois Charter Commission.

Well. That didn’t take long.

The first part of the exchange between us was civil, friendly and general.

But the minute I mentioned how the Illinois Charter Commission was a word-for-word creation of the right-wing corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council, Nathan turned personal and I became an opponent of expanding opportunity.

Nathan had been telling warm and fuzzy stories about how his kids went to public schools and how his mother worked at Head Start.

As soon as I brought up the connection between ALEC and charters, Nathan turned nasty.

Yes. That’s me: An opponent of expanding opportunity.

Or maybe it was because I brought up the Commission’s approval of the Gulen charters. Gulen, a Turkish political movement is the largest operator of charter schools in the United States and is currently under federal investigation. Gulen charters in several states, including Illinois, have been raided by the FBI.

ALEC and Gulen are the soft underbelly of the self-proclaimed liberal charter promoters.

The truth is that Nathan wasn’t posting here to convince you of the value of the Illinois Charter Commission, passed by the Illinois legislature based on model legislation provided by ALEC.

He is just trying to show his sponsors that he is on the job and earning his keep.

Annenberg, Blandin, Best Buy, Bradley, Bremer, Cargill, Carlson, Frey, Gates, General Mills, Joyce, Minneapolis, Peters, Pohlad, St. Paul, St. Paul Companies, TCF, Travelers, Rockefeller, Wallin, Walton Foundations and the Carnegie Corporation.

They are all listed on his group’s web page.

Check out the corporate sponsors on mine.

There aren’t any.

That’s because I am an opponent of expanding opportunities – for those corporate funders and foundations that pay for Nathan’s charter advocacy.

13 thoughts on “ALEC and Gulen. The soft underbelly of liberal charter merchants.

  1. That’s how it goes. You oppose corporate ed reform and they start in: you’re anti-child, especially anti- poor child, anti-civil rights, anti-equal opportunity. And my goodness, who wants to be all that? It’s the most remarkable control of the narrative in all of American discourse. Thanks for pulling the rug out from under Nathan’s tap dance.

  2. George – Your forgot the funding from the St. Paul Public Schools, other school districts, Mn and US Dept of Education.

    School districts and Mn Dept of Education have asked us to work with them to among other things, help create new options that involve partnerships between high schools and colleges, new partnerships between community groups and schools, etc. etc.

    There are lots of ways to offer new options, some better, some worse. For example, I’m strongly opposed to allowing public schools, district or charter to use admissions tests. The late US Senator Paul Wellstone agreed. We worked together to revise federal laws to encourage startup funding for magnet public schools that don’t use admissions tests.

  3. You need a consultant for schools to do a partnership? Let me explain – for free – how a school district and college can do it. This REALLY happened in a tiny town called Monmouth Illinois. Sometime in the late 1960s someone at Monmouth College called (on something called a telephone) the Principal at Monmouth High School and said any of your kids can take one of our classes for free. Then they discussed how to grade it (MC we will give them a college grade. MHS will give them a pass on their transcript.)

    Fred has my email so you can get my contact for my consulting fee. I am cheap. how about 100K?

    1. Thanks for the offer, David. What you describe sounds very good.

      What we did among other things was arrange for $ to pay for St. Paul district teachers to work with college faculty, so that they could offer courses in the high school for which colleges granted credit.

      We now have some students earning an AA degree before graduating from high school – and we have a number of students who previously had not been successful seeing themselves in different ways.

      1. Okay, Joe. Enough is enough. I am done providing free space for your charter school advertising campaign on this site. Here is the deal. You start posting my articles on your web site and you can post here. Or cut me a Wal-Mart check. Otherwise, we are done here.

  4. One more thing for Joe–& I have mentioned this to him before on Diane’s blog–of all the charter applications that were submitted (I believe last year), just a few–if that many–were rejected. One of those was a proposal made by teachers–TEACHERS (&, if memory serves me correctly, they were former CPS teachers)–to open their own school. They put forth many excellent, creative ideas. Of course, the application was rejected on the spot (in fact, it may have been earlier rejected by CPS or another local board). I know I’m fuzzy on the facts (I’ve been uber busy)–as usual, if a reader is more knowledgeable, please correct me.
    Anyway, the point, here, Joe, is that charterization is a 1% deal, anyway one looks at it–especially here in ILL-Annoy, one of the 10 most politically corrupt states in the country.
    So thanks, Fred, for the cut-off. To paraphrase several of our most corrupt (!) politicians, “We don’t need nobody nobody sent!” So please, Joe, leave us alone.
    &–BTW–stop telling (bragging?) everyone that you’d sent your kids to public school. Many of us did/do. Good for your kids & for ours, but if this privatization keeps up (& it ain’t coming from the private school sector!), a new generation will NOT be able to “send their kids to public schools,” because they will no longer exist–thanks, in part, to charter advocates such as yourself.
    EVERYONE’s kids deserve what our kids have had. There is NO “other people’s children.”

  5. I’m happy your blog out of Chicago does what no news outlet in MN is willing to do: expose charters and Nathan for what he is. Can you imagine what his google alerts look like? He is forever, as you write, trying to earn his keep with his corporate sponsors. Thanks for all your work Klonsky! And speaking of Gulen’s, here’s the latest in St. Paul, MN:

    And scroll through the photos on their FB page to see senator Amy Klobuchar

  6. Joe Nathan began to cash in on this stuff more than two decades ago, and has been wandering around posting his lame defenses of charter schools, union busting, and the latest rapture for privatization since then. As you note, it’s been lucrative. If it were worth it, someone could get a PhD documenting the evolution of the Charter Apologists Movement, of whom Joe is a founding member. They began, remember, by postulating that charters would be small outfits for teachers to get into experimentally nice stuff for kids. And yield “higher performance” and all that. Of course, as soon as there were enough data (they love only those data that fit their claims) to prove the charters were mostly (never “all” — just the majority) scams, the apologetics evolved to where we are today: “Choice”. It’s all for the little children of the poor (mostly black and brown) who can’t move to, say, Winnetka and go to school with Rahm’s neighbors. Etc.

    The “choice” scam has really sold. Even though it’s heart and soul are racist.

    If Joe and his buddies were so interested in selling this version of “choice,” why now 25 or so years later are they still promoting it almost exclusively for poor black kids in places like Chicago, and never spotted out there with their rich white friends (and funders)?

    The answer is obvious, and it’s time to call them out, as the Chicago Teachers Union has, for that too: They are racists. This scheme is for the children of the poor.

    They actually believe that if you slather on enough fancy marketing terms you can sell anything. Call it “merde blance” and people might buy it thinking it’s mayonnaise. Since they’ve been getting away with it all these decades, why not?

  7. Cast charters adrift. These parasites should not be funded by the taxpayer!!! Let the Rauners and the Gates of this world fund them.

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