Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Charter Investment Seminar with Walton, Gates and DFER

Well, gosh. I don't know how I missed this one.

Last March 10, the Walton Family Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation sponsored a seminar in Manhattan about how to make money in the charter school game.

The program was a who's who of charter school profiteers. Whitney Tilson, top dog of D[sic]FER was the keynote speaker for "Bonds and Blackboards: Investing in Charter Schools" His kickoff was followed by such sexy fare as "State of Charter School Facilities Financing," "Authorizers and Lenders: What Can We Learn From Each Other," and "Assessing a Charter School: Investor Voices." A panel on future trends promised to cover this info:

Discussion about tools market participants can utilize to create a more efficient market, such as: pools, credit enhancement, more state involvement, etc. Discussion will include trends in borrower characteristics and continued disclosure needs.

The panels included lots of folks from the financial sector, including Bank of America, Prudential Financial, Wells Capital Management, and the Charter School Growth Fund. And look-- here's our old friend Rebecca Sibilia, now famous for suggesting that public school bankruptcy is a great opportunity. There are some folks from the ed biz itself there, like KIPP, Achievement First, and the New Orleans Parish School Board.

Oh, and the United States Department of Education sent Clifton Jones to sit on a panel (the one about future trends).

You'll be glad to know that the agenda indicates that at no point were these folks distracted by anything about actual students or actual education. This could as easily have been a conference about investing in pork belly futures or weasel farms. When you ask me why I'm so opposed to the idea of schools as an open investment market for hedge fundies and venture capitalists, this is why-- because in that environment, the actual business of schools is not even in the top five concerns. This is not unique to their interest in education-- when they invest in widget factories or goat farms or pharmaceutical companies, they are never interested in widgets or goats or medicine, but just the money to be made, and in this way, they have not particularly made America a better place. But when you extend this money-grubbing behavior to education, you get the erosion and destruction of a cornerstone of a democratic society.

There were, of course, no educators at this seminar. Why would there be? It had nothing to do with education. Besides, it was a Tuesday-- we were all in school actually doing the work of educating students.

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