Los Angeles' May 16th election day is coming fast, and citizens are being inundated with fliers, phone calls, texts and emails. Most victims of this advertising tsunami have no clue who exactly is behind this man-made disaster. Thankfully though, someone has been doing their homework. According to Hedgeclippers.org, a group of activists from a variety of citizen organizations, the California Charter School Association (CCSA) has spent a record $4 million in 2017 on the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) 2017 Race. Judging by those crazy numbers, either Los Angeles cares more about education than most other cities, or there's big money to be made in education.
Oh, come on! Of course it's about the money. LAUSD has more than 640,000 students and a budget of about $7.6 billion is up for grabs. Yes, that's billion with a B. According to the CCSA, there were 292 charter schools in the LAUSD with over 40,000 students on waiting lists in 2016. Pro-charter organizations anticipate that these numbers will explode should the candidates they are backing win.
And chances are that they're right. The CCSA alone has increased it's spending on state and local legislative officials and lobbying of those officials every single year. Last year they spent $602,469.56 with three different firms lobbying for charter school expansion at the state level.
Pro-Charter Candidates Taking Large Donations from Charter Organizations
The California Charter School Association Advocates (CCSAA), the funding arm of the CCSA, is pouring unbelievable amounts of money into the race. Some of that "influence" money, as Betsy DeVos likes to call it, is directly contributed by CCSAA to pro-charter candidates. Some of it is contributed to candidates by the Parent Teacher Alliance (PTA), an organization we all know and love. That is until you look behind the curtain and discover that the CCSAA is funding the PTA.
A word to the wise, whenever you see an organization with a name like the PTA or Students for Education Reform (SFER), chances are the names are intentionally misleading. You might think the SFER is composed of actual students based on it's title, but it is actually a big business organization like all the other charter school advocates. The name is derived from the claim that students from ivy league schools started the organization. In reality, it is simply a means for organizations and investors to funnel their money to for-profit charter groups without being known.
Candidates taking money from these organizations are pushing hard for charter schools in L.A. just as their masters demand they do. Of major concern is that the LAUSD presidency is up for grabs this year. Public school supporter and incumbent Steve Zimmer has so far kept pace with pro-charter candidate Nick Melvoin. However, Melvoin's corporate backers have picked up the pace this month. Public school advocates are rightly concerned that voters will have no idea who is behind these candidates since those statistics won't be released until after the election.
The majority of these corporate interest groups are not even located in L.A. Speak UP, another pro-charter advocate, is located in Pennsylvania. The PTA is out of Sacremento, and SFER is located in New York City of all places. LA Students for Change was a CCSA concept and though students are involved, they are led by CCSA adults. The following is the latest (5/13/2017) breakdown per LAUSD candidate that is being backed by these corporate interests:
Monica Garcia - District 02
- CCSAA - $120,374.42
- PTA - $42,183.98
- SFER - $31,895.20
Nick Melvoin - District 04 and President
- PTA - $1,823,462.24 and $1,539,910.86 (ads against Zimmer)
- Speak UP - $90,071.93
- SFER - $55,532.23
- LA Students for Change - $1,277,343.66 (ads against Zimmer)
Kelly Gonez - District 06
- CCSAA - $1,961,279.46 and $632,861.09 (ads against Padilla)
- PTA - $458,481.67 and $24,369.56 (ads against Padilla)
Billionaires & Millionaires Behind Funding
This labyrinth of pro-charter organizations are funded by a handful of billionaire investors. These families are the ones funding and running the push for deregulation and for-profit educations. Additionally, they are supporters of Trump and the Republican party.
- DeVos family from Michigan, Amway Corporation, worth $5.5 billion.
- Walton family of Arkansas, Walmart, worth $130 billion
- Broad family of California, KB Homes, worth $4 biilion
- Richard Riordan of California, fomer mayor of L.A., worth $100 million
- Fisher family of California, The Gap, worth $3.3 billion
- Michael Bloomberg of New York, New York City mayor, worth $47.5 billion
- John and Laura Arnold of Texas, Centaurus Advisors LLC hedge fund, worth $2.8 billion
These groups and their billionaire/millionaire backers want to turn public education into a private industry. Their goal is to access the never ending supply of tax dollars to fund their education corporations. Instead of tax money going directly to schools, they use charter management companies to take a cut from money that was intended for schools. These corporations also are involved in supplying charters with buildings, property, supplies and programs. This enables them to take more of the budget from schools.
L.A. parents and voters should know what exactly who they are putting in office. A vote for these candidates will ensure that taxpayer money for education will be diverted from their children to this giant web of for-profit charter school managers and suppliers. They should also ask themselves why so much money from out of county and state is supporting these candidates.