Today the Wall Street Journal is announcing that Campbell Brown is launching a new education site that "won't shy away from advocacy." Which is kind of like announcing that Wal-Mart is opening a new store and will not shy away from marketing or that Burger King is opening up at a new location that might sell hamburgers.
Sadly, there are no surprises in this story. The site, called The Seventy Four in reference to the seventy-four million students in the US (and not say, the seventy-four gazillion dollars Campbell and her friends hope to make from privatizing education). Here's the blurb currently resting on the site:
The Seventy Four is a non-profit, non-partisan news site covering education in America. Our public education system is in crisis. In the United States, less than half of our students can read or do math at grade-level, yet the education debate is dominated by misinformation and political spin. Our mission is to lead an honest, fact-based conversation about how to give America’s 74 million children under the age of 18 the education they deserve.
From this I can only assume that when they say that the "education debate is dominated by misinformation and political spin," the rest of the sentence was supposed to be "and we hope to get our misinformation and political spin to the front of the pack."
We haven't heard much lately about Brown's PR campaign to break the teachers union (loosely attached to her Vergara-style lawsuit). But where the Parent's Transparency Projected was marked by a distinctly non-transparent resolve to protect the tender identities of Brown's backers, this new project has clear funders.
The new site will launch with thirteen employees and a $4 million dollar budget, courtesy of backers that include Bloomberg Philanthropies (as in former anti-public ed NY mayor Michael Bloomberg), Walton Family Foundation, Johnathan Sackler, and the Peter and Carmen Lucia Buck Foundation-- in other words, the usual group of charter school backers.
And while the WSJ is extraordinarily generous in calling Brown an education-reform advocate (just as Ronald McDonald is haute cuisine advocate and the heads of the tobacco industry are health advocates), they do also note:
Ms. Brown’s husband, Dan Senor, sits on the board of StudentsFirstNY, which advocates for charter schools among other issues. Joel Klein, head of the Amplify digital education unit at The Wall Street Journal’s parent company News Corp, is also on the board.
There's a nifty video, slickly shot and produced, that ticks off the usual topics in "I want to know..." statements. These folks want to know about positive news about what works, which makes me wonder why Gates isn't in on this, as he is a fan of positive outcomes journalism. They want to know about "the best teachers, the best schools." So, looking for super-heroes. And a whole progression of students remind us that they are the seventy four-- this site will apparently be big on For The Children. Brown also expresses her desire to use the site to push education issues to the forefront of the Presidential campaign.
Brown has used some of that $4 million to hire actual journalists, including Pullitzer Prize winner Cynthia Tucker, Conor Williams from Talking Points Memo (but his day job is senior researcher in the Early Education Initiative at New America-- he also once wrote a spirited defense of Brown), and Steve Snyder from Time Magazine (where he was in charge of digital editorial coverage).
As usual, I am struck by just how much money reformsters are willing to pump into the cause. I'm here with my staff of one (me) and a budget of-- well, I guess you could claim that my budget today is about 75 cents because while I was sitting here working on this, I had a bagel and a cup of orange juice.
At any rate, brace yourselves boys and girls-- here comes the next wave of faux progressive teacher bashing and charter pushing by privatizers who will not rest until they've cracked that golden egg full of tax dollars. Because that's the other reason they're willing to sink $4 million into something like this-- because while that may seem like a lot of money to you or me, to them it's peanuts, an investment that they hope will pay off eventually in billions of tax dollars directed away from public education and to the private corporations that are drooling at the prospect of cashing in on education.