A Busy Day for Billionaire Backed Front Groups

April 10, 2014

Yesterday was a busy beaver of a day for billionaire backed front Groups. Someone, somewhere, deep in the bowels of the New York wing of the billionaire based campaign to privatize the public school system, must have recently given the order: Get out the word. Now! Some people are beginning to understand what’s really going on.

How else can one explain not one but two volleys from two billionaire financed front groups ( and one newly minted at that ! ) on a single day ?
Early yesterday afternoon I received word of the advent of Higher Achievement New York, yet another deceitfully created billionaire backed front group passing itself off as “grass roots ” and roping in just enough innocent faces to fool those who don’t know any better.

“Higher Achievement New York described itself as “an organized platform” dedicated to higher standards that will explain what the new standards mean for children, and how they offer better preparation for college and careers, through social media advertising and lobbying.
“Our goal is to foster positive conversation that hasn’t existed around these standards,” said the group’s executive director Frank Thomas, who previously worked in communications for the city’s Department of Education and Bill Thompson’s mayoral campaign.”

In plain English, Higher Achievement New York is a public relations project disguised as an education advocacy group.

As the standards belong to the Common Core and the Common Core is an untested experiment in progress, there is no legitimate way to explain how the Common Core can prepare anyone for anything at all. No one has any idea what, if any, effect it will have on students. And explain to whom, by the way ? The parents who have reacted to the experiment on their kids with volcanic rage at what it is doing to their children? To the teachers and administrators who have twisted themselves into pretzels attempting to implement the unholy mess ?

Perhaps they’ll find an audience in the fish and other sea creatures dwelling in New York Harbor. After all, they’re paid and doubtless paid well, to “ foster positive conversation” and they have a better chance these days with sea life than they do with most people not on their pay roll.

As Higher Achievement New York is comprised of more established and experienced fronts such as the Gates Foundation’s Educators4Excellence and Mike Bloomberg’s Students First NY, one should expect an extraordinarily high level of obfuscation, distortion, and shill like behavior.

Many have, in fact, seen a preview of their act. The two aforementioned fronts did their best to dominate the two New York City hearings of Commissioner John King, the first in Brooklyn where Students FirstNew York members were allowed to enter the hall early and hog up no less than 44 of the 45 speaker slots so as to create an impression of wild enthusiasm for the loathed Common Core utterly unrelated to reality outside the world of public relations. At the same time they shamelessly injected the issue of race into the mix, somehow insinuating that the privately owned, secretly created product of the Gates Foundation called Common Core was nothing less than a civil right. The following night when King appeared in lower Manhattan the two fronts showed up in tandem and one heard silly testimonial after silly testimonial from one 24 year old “ex teacher” (currently employed to “raise expectations” by StudentsFirstNY ) after another about how Common Core is the answer to just about every problem in the known universe, bizarre statements by E4E teachers of the almost supernatural power of the Common Core, and, most cynically, insinuations that rejection of the Common Core was merely disguised racism.

Well, with the coming of Higher Achievement New York, you can bet you’ll hear a whole lot more of that kind of stuff.
By the way, does the name Higher Achievement New York portend a Higher Achievement New Jersey? A Higher Achievement Connecticut, and on and on until all fifty states are achieving higher ?

A few hours after reading about Higher Achievement I arrived home to find a foot long glossy post card, not dissimilar in style from the one my then five-year-old daughter received in her name from Success Academy some years back, festooned with smiling and beautiful African American children, so beloved by the titans of Wall Street. Yesterday’s card bore my name and address and a dramatic shot of Andrew Cuomo giving a speech in front of a ChartersWork sign and came from something called Families For Excellent Schools.
The Families kindly sent the card to implore me to call up “education champion” Andrew Cuomo and thank him for the wondrous job he was doing with our schools. Part of Cuomo’s wonderful work was helping to pass laws that gave charter schools rights that public schools don’t have, such as the right for charter school entrepreneurs like Eva Moskowitz not merely not to pay rent, but to dictate the terms of whatever she wants when it comes to expanding her publically funded empire into already existing schools. In essence, what Cuomo did in terms of education was to give Mike Bloomberg a forth term as mayor. And then some.

CARD 1 G

The card made me sick just to look at it. And needless to say, it must have cost a fortune to create and another to do a mass mailing of the thing. This from the folks who can’t afford to pay rent.

CARD 2

As a teacher in PS 149, one of the schools that Cuomo essentially gave to Eva Moskowitz, the homage to the Tough Guy governor’s giveaway goes right to the gut. The giant post card seemed like a sick joke: a sick joke played on the neediest and most disadvantaged school kids in all of New York; a joke played on those who would be jettisoned for the comfort of Ms. Moskowitz’s charter children.

Moreover, how did these creepy people get my name and address ? Who gave it to them ? They got it the same way, I suspect, that other creepy people got my daughter’s name and address a few years back. And that way points to the public trust called the Department of Education and the manipulation thereof.

Disturbing stuff.

I decided to look up Families For Excellent Schools curious, when most families I know are scrapping to get by, as to what manner of families have this kind of money to spend on such gratuitous gestures to such odious figures as Andrew Cuomo. This is how they described themselves on their website: “Founded in 2011 by public school parents, Families for Excellent Schools is a community organization that fights for every child’s
right to an excellent education. Through organizing and political
work, we work to amplify the voices of families over the din of
electioneering and special interest campaigning. Rather than speak on
behalf of public school parents, Families for Excellent Schools
empowers parents to speak for themselves.”

Parents speaking for themselves! How touching!

I looked a little further still and found one of the families for excellent schools was none other than Walton family of Wal-Mart fame, not widely known for being particularly fond of people speaking for themselves.

I looked further and found out that Families for Excellent Schools shares an address with the New York division of Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst.

A question: Weren’t front groups, for excellent reasons, once generally regarded as sleazy, unethical and even sinister enterprises?

What has been left almost entirely unexamined in the privatization campaign is, not only the extreme proliferation of billionaire-backed fronts, but their strange, silent metamorphosis from something to be shunned to something to be accepted and even celebrated.
Is not the purpose of a front to deceive? To trick? To pass yourself off as something you are not so as to scam credulous people of good will ? Are fronts not a con job?

Of course, they are. Fronts are bad faith incorporated.

And yet, multiplying like malignant cells, the massive money behind “education reform” has produced more fronts than one can keep up with. Higher Achievement New York is merely the latest. And none seem to betray their utter amorality.

There will be more, to be sure. We are dealing with souls to whom millions are meaningless and whose ruthlessness, sense of entitlement, and narcissism knows no bounds. The only thing they know how to do is to dominate by any means they can. And they believe it is their right to do so.

They are, after all, unimaginably rich and like the charter schools they hold so dear, they have rights that people like you and I do not.

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4 Responses to “A Busy Day for Billionaire Backed Front Groups”


  1. Yes we will. I’m sure working on it.


  2. Patrick, what a fabulous commentary! I wonder how you have time for this coverage while being a public school teacher, but I’m grateful that you do. This is an ALEC formulaic plan to destroy public education, which you surely must be aware of. It is even in our US Dept of education, Arnie Duncan, charter school cheerleader in chief. The whole thing is sickening. The NYT had a good editorial on Charter Schools over the weekend. Somebody there understands what is happening. Good luck with your protest. The ALEC school takeover is underway in Dallas, TX now. We have the added bonus of George W. Bush in residence, along with his institute and library. Margaret Spellings, his cohort in nationalizing No Child Left Behind, is executive director of the G.W. Bush, a gigantic monument to the worst president we ever had. They continue to foment ignorance and greed on public education until they are stopped.
    Chris Jonsson


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