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April 13, 2009

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Yah, right, and Skull and Bones is the real power behind the U.S. government.

Adrian Fenty and the D.C. City Council were elected by the people of Washington as have all the other mayors and city council members since Washington, D.C. got home rule over 40 years ago. Fenty appointed School Superindentent Rhee and she reports to Fenty as do the chief of police and all other appointed officials.

The Federal City Council is a non-profit organization that has been around since 1954. It's not a Billionaire Boys Club (there are few billionares in the D.C. area); it's true that it's members are mostly business people, but its members also include the presidents of all the universities in D.C. and the greater D.C. area; the chairman of the Washington Post; the president of the Kenndedy Center for the Performing Arts; the Chairman of the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities; and the CEO of Goodwill Industries.

The Federal City Council does support charter schools but also is involved in such projects as expanding and restructuring the city's libraries; providing support to the Police Foundation, and working to provide a dedicated source of funding for mass transit.

If there are any "backdoor deals" that are "running roughshod over democracy," they are apparently visible only to your blogger as they have gone entirely unreported over the last 40 years by the city's news media.

Enough with the conspiracy theories.

Skull and Bones? Well, weren't both candidates for President in 2004 Bonesmen?

As for the Federal City Council, you'd have to be blind not to believe this group exercises great influence in DC politics. Look at the board of directors --I mean "leadership team." You got a Rockefeller and a Graham, both big kahunas in the local media and probably billionaires to boot.

You got the program director for education of the Gates Foundation. You got a fat cat from Chrysler-Daimler. The president of the group is the CEO of the American Council of Life Insurers.

They may all be billionaires. You don't think they have the ear of Fenty?

Even here in Portland, school politics has been, if not corrupted, then "shaped", by powerful advocacy groups and a largely compliant media. As I've pointed out before, in 2003 (when I ran for the board), the winning slate of four candidates all had the backing of local movers and shakers and groups like Stand for Children.

At the time, all newly elected board members attended training put on by none other than Eli Broad, "venture philanthropist" extraordinaire.

Both Kerry and Bush were, indeed, Bonesmen, but, as Kerry was also president of the Liberal Party of the Yale Political Union, while "W" was, obviously, on the other side of the political fence, it should be clear that Skull and Bones had no unified political philosophy.

In the same mannner, just because the leadership of the Federal City Council is well-heeled (but not billionaires), does not mean its members necessarily see eye to eye on all social and political issues. Sure they wield influence -- or try to. Why else would they exist? But there's no evidence of "backroom" deals. As a non-profit organization, The FCC's books are open to inspection if you care to do the research.

Venture capitalists have been interested in education since the late 1990s. Al Gore actually told a group of Silicone Valley investors that if they were so good at making big changes, why couldn't they change education?
Enter the NewSchools Venture Fund, started in the late 1990s by a former TFA founding member (Kim Smith) and a number of venture capitalists from Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers (KPCB). They started with a modest little website called GreatSchools.net designed to create a market for education by publishing test scores, evaluations of schools (based on test scores), and made parents aware of school choice options. From there, they tried the for-profit models (invested in Edison and LearnNow, which was eventually sold to Edison - and the former co-CEO and founder of LearnNow is currently running the "Innovation Fund" for Duncan in the DOE). Gates, Broad, and Walton became HUGE financial donors in the early 2000s - Gates alone has contributed over $50 million to NSVF's charter school accelerator fund. NSVF serves as an intermediary for philanthrocapitalists looking to leverage change along the lines they see fit. NSVF works alongside think tanks (Aspen Institute, Andrew J. Rotherham's EdSector, and the Progressive Policy Institute) to create policy papers furthering their agenda.
As for DC, NSVF started EdBuild, a group that was going to buy up real estate and turn it into possible locations for charter schools. No-bid contracts and all - after all, EdBuild is run by former members of DC's ruling class of progressives and the business leaders of DC. Michelle Rhee doesn't disagree with a single thing these philantrocapitalists push as the new version of education reform - conspiracy or not, the powers-that-be recognized she would be a partner in their effort to change public education. Of course, you can change something and make it worse, or make it completely unsustainable, or change it to serve selected interests.
The rationale for these venture capitalists looking at education is: we built the damn greatest economy in the world. Let us remake education.
Of course, the economic situation should be fair warning that venture capitalists should keep their greedy hands off public education.

Good stuff, Ken.

My cousin is a Kleiner, married to the son of THE Kleiner of Kleiner Perkins. I wonder if he knows anything about this foray into educational capitalism.

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