March 11, 2014

As defense attorneys in the Los Angeles "bad teacher" trial defend teachers' right to due process and a fair hearing of accusations regarding their effectiveness or lack thereof, let's have a look at those funding the effort.

David Welch: David Welch is a wealthy Silicon Valley businessman who is the founder of Students Matter. His bio on the Students Matter website says "[h]is passion for public education arises from his roles both as a parent of three school-aged children and as an employer in two highly successful start-ups in Silicon Valley."

Do his children attend public school, I wondered? The answer was rather startling: they do not appear to be public school students. A review of the donations made by Welch’s private foundation shows contributions to two high-end private schools in the Menlo Welch and his wife donate to both of the top private schools in the Atherton area. David and Heidi Welch donated to Sacred Heart Schools in 2010, a system of private schools that cost between $21-$35k/year, and their foundation has also donated to the capital campaign and the annual fund of the Menlo School, a private school with a $37k/year tuition.

John Radford: John Radford donated to Students Matter via his personal foundation in 2012. What is his specific interest in teacher quality for underprivileged children.

Radford is the mayor of Los Altos Hills, a Silicon Valley suburb that ranks as one of the wealthiest towns in the country. Interestingly, this small town is home to a charter school: Bullis Charter School. Unlike traditional charter schools, Bullis operates essentially as a government-subsidized private school. According to a 2011 Bloomberg News article, Taxpayers Get Billed for Kids of Millionaires at Charter School, parents are expected to contribute up to $5,000 per student at Bullis, which is attended by a disproportionately white and wealthy students.

Donald Scifres: Silicon Valley venture capitalist and rightwing financier Donald Scifres has donated $33,000 to Students Matter over two years. Scifres also donated a total of $10,500 to two groups who campaigned against Prop. 30: Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and Californians for Reform & Jobs.

Here then, are three men who have no actual day-to-day reality inside public schools, but millions of financial reasons to push them closer to the privatization brink all in the name of profit. There's just one thing standing in their way: Teachers and teachers' unions. The way to make schools profitable is to move those 'ineffective' teachers out of the way so they can move in with their vision for public education, which happens to have absolutely nothing to do with worrying about what happens to underprivileged students.

It seems pretty clear from the background of these three alone that there isn't much in the way of altruistic passion for universal public education. It's an untapped profit center, and this lawsuit is their tool to mine deeply enough to unleash those profits.

For more background on the trial and issues, see my posts here and here.

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