Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Who's Behind the High Achievement NY Curtain?

Education reform group High Achievement NY is at it again, spending hundreds of thousands on a media campaign that includes robocalls to New York State parents, advising them that state assessments are "crucial" for their children's future. They are pushing for "consistent assessments and unified standards." I will move past the distorted facts in their sales pitch, except to mention that they believe tests "fix" the fact that "two-thirds of our students graduate from high school without being ready for college or a career." Really? Two-thirds. Explain to us then please, HANY, why in 2010 nearly 70% of NYS high school graduates went straight into college. Hmm. Add to that the number who take a year off and go to college at a later time. Add to that students like my own son, who got a job straight out of high school but are now going to school nights to get that degree. NY also had four out of the top ten high schools with the highest SAT/ACT scores in the nation. But I diverge...

The purpose of this post is to pull back the curtain and let you know who is funding this massive campaign that aims to fix our "broken" system. Because, you know, it's all for the children. Let's start with their coalition members, beginning with Arva Rice, President and CEO of the New York Urban League, who previously was affiliated with Paul Tudor Jones (yes the hedge fund guy) and his Robin Hood Foundation. 

Then there is New York Campaign for Achievement Now (NYCAN), part of the larger 50-state education reform group. The funding stream for 50CAN includes Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bush Foundation, JP Morgan Chase, and the Walton Foundation, among others. A veritable who's-who of big money in the education reform game. The NY chapter adds more money from Gates, along with Bloomberg Philanthrophies, Kenneth M. Hirsch and William E. Simon. 

Include Association for a Better New York, founded by real estate tycoon Bill Rudin. Their self-stated goal is to "promote neighborhood revitalization." AKA gentrification. AKA keeping their fingers on the real estate prize in NY.

Coalition member Parents for Excellence in Bethlehem has bought the Common Core Gates funded spin. Co-President Kim Namkoong is a parent, also a mathematician and computer programmer. She is a face for the "How is My Kid Doing?" campaign that is funded by - you guessed it - the Council for a Strong America folks and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The Bethlehem Parents for Excellence has a lackluster website (a surprise considering Namkoong's stated occupation) that does not list its donors. They advocate for common core and testing.

Membership includes reformy groups Educators4Excellence and StudentsFirstNY. Educators4Excellence, also funded by the Gates Foundation, is comprised of anti-union young teachers, many of whom are alumni of Teach For America.  See ed blogger Jonathan Pelto's research on the group here. StudentsFirstNY is that pro-charter, pro-voucher group that shares its physical address with New York Charter queen Eva Moskowitz' organization. NYS Families for Excellent Schools also shares that same address and is a hedge-funded PAC for education reforms. See Mercedes Schneider's detailed analysis of other HANY funding here.

HANY would not disclose specific information about their finances (shhh) but in 2014 said the bulk of the campaign money was going to come from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Helmsley Charitable Trust. Gates and Helmsley have both donated millions to promoting the core. 

All this leaves me asking, why are so many corporate, business, hedge fund, pro-charter groups spending mega-money on a media campaign to promote the Core and the tests? Why do they care "so much" about other people's children? The business and money aspect, the fact that they are investors and market manipulators, gives us a clue. They want a share of the education market, the golden apple of opportunity that our children give them. Mega-money to be made by investing in charter schools, testing corporations, and publishers. Mega-money to be made by data-mining our children and manipulating their desires. Does that sound Orwellian to you? Why yes,yes it does. We cannot let big money have our children. Education policy should be promoted and created by educators, not businessmen. Spread the word.


  1. Excellent Piece! The tragic irony is that the big money donors would never send their children to a public school... "other people's children" indeed.

  2. You are totally right C. Testing and common core are for "other people's children."

    1. And when you think of the fortunes that have been made when healthcare, prisons, and the banking industries all became privatized, well here is the next gravy train for all these investors. Sucks