The solution to the problem of the CTU bargaining with the Mayor is the Mayor getting out of the the school-running business.


DFER Illinois’ Rebecca Nieves-Huffman. Photo: Substance.

What is the deal with telling Karen Lewis that she should step down from being head of the Chicago Teachers Union?

Not CTU members who last year voted her another term by a huge margin.

But the Wall Street hedge fund managers of Democrats for Education Reform.

I remember a few years back when the Tribune’s Eric Zorn said she should resign.

Now it is DFER-IL State Director Rebeca Nieves-Huffman.

Damn. Let us pick our own leaders.

DFER is a national group funded by the hedge fund manager wing of the Democratic Party. They are the ones who pushed Obama to appoint Arne Duncan over Linda Darling-Hammond. They are the big money behind charters, vouchers and all other sub-categories of corporate reform.

Nieves-Huffman says that since it is all but official that Karen Lewis is running against their pal Rahm Emanuel for mayor, it is a conflict of interest to run and be president of the teachers union.

“With a $40,000 contribution to her mayoral campaign, President Lewis has made it clear she is running for mayor, but she has also said that she will force negotiations over a new teachers contract this year,” DFER-IL State Director Rebeca Nieves-Huffman said in a statement. “Doing both would present nothing short of a conflict of interest. Chicagoans won’t know whether President Lewis is representing her members, her political interests, or if she’d use the negotiations merely as an extension of her campaign. If Karen Lewis truly cares about representing the interests of all Chicagoans, she should step down from her role as head of the CTU as she pursues a campaign for mayor.”

Of course, this is just Nieves-Huffman fronting a dance for the Mayor.

But let’s take the suggestion seriously for a moment.

It seems to me that it is DFER, Nieves-Huffman and the Mayor who have a conflict of interest.

Their interests conflict with democracy.

They don’t want us to decide who our leaders are.

They don’t think union elections should count.

And they don’t think we should choose our own school board.

Chicago is the only place in Illinois that doesn’t elect its school board.

In Chicago the mayor runs it.

And he has made a mess of it.

The solution to the problem of the CTU bargaining with the Mayor is the Mayor getting out of the school-running business.

It is always very weird to me that we can elect members of the Metropolitan Water District, the people who clean our water, but not members of our board of education.

But this is Chicago.

DFER and their hedge fund manager funders want to tell teachers who their president should be.

And the Mayor gets to tell us who are school board members must be.

Joel Klein’s emails. Going after the union, Ravitch and Meier. Courting “overweight billionaires.”

When Kyle Olson FOIAed my work emails he didn’t find anything.

Now that former NY school’s Chancellor Joel Klein’s emails have been released, it reveals a lot. An enemies list that included the AFT, Diane Ravitch and Deborah Meier. And charter school friendly hedge fund managers that Klein was courting on the one hand but describing as “overweight billionaires.” on the other. The emails concerned Klein’s battle to establish more charter schools.

Klein in now an executive with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.

A lot of the emails are between Joe Williams and Klein. Williams runs DFER, Democrats for Education Reform. DFER is heavily funded by the overweight billionaires.

From the NY Times:

But one of the callers on the line with Mr. Klein in 2010 said Friday that the chancellor did ask the Robin Hood board to commit more funding to Education Reform Now, rather than start its own lobbying organization. Mr. Klein told them “their philanthropy was going to amount to minuscule results unless they stepped it up,” said the caller, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.Attempts to reach Mr. Klein through News Corporation, where he is now a top executive, were unsuccessful on Friday.Though Ms. Scaperotti said Mr. Klein did not fund-raise on the call, it is not clear whether any rule prohibited him from doing so. After everyone on the call had hung up, the rapid e-mailing resumed.

“You were terrific,” Mr. Klein wrote to Bradley Tusk, a consultant for Education Reform Now. “Perfect pitch, perfect message.”

“Who’s the heavy breather on the call?” wrote a participant, whose name was redacted. “Normally, I’d ask them to mute their phone but I don’t want to alienate any donors.”“Some overweight billionaire,” Mr. Klein replied.

Ravitch commented on her blog about the email dump:

The first thing I noticed was the chummy exchanges between the public officials in change of the New York City public school system and the top dogs of the charter leadership–the Wall Street hedge fund managers, the leader of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), the leader of the New York City Charter Center, and various others. It comes clear that there is a strong and concerted effort to hand over as much public space as possible to the charters. The charter leaders are not the poor and oppressed of New York City; they are the powerful and monied, and the public officials who are paid to protect and support the PUBLIC schools of New York City are working hand-in-glove to advance the interests of the privately-managed charters, not the public schools. You will also notice, in one of the emails, that the charters are very concerned to make sure that there is no cap on their executive compensation. Heaven forbid! It’s important that their leaders continue to pull down $400,000 a year to oversee a few small schools.

The collusion between those who are sworn to protect the public schools and those who are incentivized to privatize them is surely the most important thing to be gleaned from this correspondence.

For me, the other interesting point is that they are so afraid of any criticism. They are especially afraid of Deborah Meier, me and Jonathan Kozol. They refer to columns by Deborah Meier and myself–she an educator with decades of experience, I a historian with a long view–as “moronic” and “idiotic.” They refer to Jonathan Kozol and me as “deranged crackpots.”

How can anyone take these mean-spirited, ignorant, arrogant people seriously?

Following his work with Bloomberg and Klein, and before his work with Education Reform Now, Bradley Tusk worked for Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.

The Billionaires Boys Club.

It was Diane Ravitch who coined the name, “The Billionaires Boys Club,” to describe the crew of hedge fund managers and philanthropists who are the angels behind the union-bashing and private management charters that the Obama administration seems so infatuated with.

In a Democracy Now! interview with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez Ravitch explained:

“The Billionaires Boys Club” is a discussion of how we’re in a new era of the foundations and their relation to education. We have never in the history of the United States had foundations with the wealth of the Gates Foundation and some of the other billionaire foundations—the Walton Family Foundation, The Broad Foundation. And these three foundations—Gates, Broad and Walton—are committed now to charter schools and to evaluating teachers by test scores. And that’s now the policy of the US Department of Education. We have never seen anything like this, where foundations had the ambition to direct national educational policy, and in fact are succeeding.

In this month’s issue of New York Teacher, Maisie McAdoo names names.

Education Reform Now, a group once named Democrats for Education Reform and run by a former Milwaukee education reporter named Joe Williams, is a main player in the Democratic Party and represents their most rabidly anti-union, right-wing, pro-Wall Street fringe. But it is a very wealthy fringe.

Sitting on their board:

John Petry. A partner at Gotham Capital Management. Petry’s Gotham Capital LLC, founded in 1985 with $7 million from junk-bond king Michael Milken, is a privately owned hedge fund.

Sidney Hawkins Gargiulo. Hawkshaw Capital, founded in 2002 by a former Lehman Brothers analyst.

John Sabat.  SAC Capital, a Stamford, Conn.-based private investment firm.

Brian Zied. Maverick Capital, a Dallas-based investment adviser managing hedge funds and private investment funds.

Also included among Education Reform Now’s funders is Julian Robertson, the founder of the Tiger Management hedge fund. According to McAdoo, Robertson’s gifts include $71 million in 2008, including $250,000 to Education Reform Now, $1 million to the Achievement First charter network, $2 million to KIPP charters, $3 million to the New York City Center for Charter School Excellence, $7.1 million to Teach for America and $200,000 to the New Teacher Project.

Of course, all this is open and above-board. But not always. Back in April of 2009, Ed Reform Now’s Joe Williams got in a mess of trouble for functioning as a bag man, channeling money through different organizations and funds to hide its source and destination.

Daily News reporter Juan Gonzalez reported that $500,000 was quietly donated by Plainfield Asset Management, a Connecticut-based hedge fund to Al Sharpton for the purpose of promoting charters. Former NY schools Chancellor Harold Levy was a managing director at Plainfield Asset Management. Gonzalez found that the money given to Al Sharpton was channeled through Williams and Williams refused to tell Gonzalez how the donation was handled or what it was used for.

Back in 2008, I ran a couple of posts about Democrats for Education Reform which bag man Williams didn’t like too much, although he wasn’t sure which Klonsky he was mad at.

…one of the Blogging Klonsky brothers, I can’t remember which one, but I’m not worried because I am pretty sure I can kick both their asses.