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Why are out-of-state billionaires investing in a Minnesota school board race? - The Parents Campaign

Why are out-of-state billionaires investing in a Minnesota school board race?

The following is an excerpt of an article posted by Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post in October of 2014.
For several years now local school board races around the country have attracted big money from outside the state — and sometimes from across the country — as school reformers and their supporters seek to elect like-minded public officials. In 2013, for example, millions of dollars were spent on school board races in Los Angeles and in 2012, outsiders poured money into a New Orleans school board race. The following post looks at what is going in a Minnesota school board race. It was written Minneapolis-based writer and former teacher Sarah Lahm, published by In These Times, and reported in partnership with The Investigative Fund with support from the Puffin Foundation.
By Sarah Lahm

In the aftermath of a failed 2013 bid for mayor, former Minneapolis city council member Don Samuels is running for a spot on the school board. If he wins, he will undoubtedly be able to thank the extensive financing and canvassing support he’s received from several well-heeled national organizations, such as the Washington, D.C.-based 50CAN, an offshoot of Education Reform Now called Students for Education Reform (SFER), and various people associated with Teach For America, which has been called a “political powerhouse” for its growing influence in policy and politics beyond the classroom.

These groups often project an image of grassroots advocacy but are in fact very well-funded, often through the support of extremely wealthy hedge fund managers and large philanthropic foundations. Together, they and like-minded “education reform” proponents have dramatically, but not necessarily democratically, altered how public education works throughout the United States…

Outside forces, dark money
The outside money flowing to the Samuels campaign follows a relatively recent national pattern that’s played out in places such as Texas, Oregon, Colorado and New Jersey, where local school board races have been heavily influenced by the political and financial heft of outside groups…
…(One donor) is on the board of the NewSchools Venture Fund, based in California and a leader in what has been termed the “venture philanthropist” approach to education: one that emphasizes on technology, data and charter school growth. …Investigative journalist David Sirota zeroes in on the profit motive behind such technology-oriented groups, which, in Sirota’s words, often “try … to buy a big-city school board election” in order to more easily tap into what is estimated to be a $790 billion K-12 market.
 …So what might out-of-state investors hope to gain from helping Don Samuels get on the Minneapolis school board?
The answer may lie in the well-documented, billionaire-led push by education reform proponents to privatize the nation’s public school system. This is often accomplished through efforts to expand “school choice” through district and charter school competition, with the accompanying goals of weakening or eliminating … democratically elected school boards. The infamous Koch brother-funded “American Legislative Exchange Council,” or ALEC, has also used its political muscle to push pro-charter bills through state legislatures across the country.
Read the full article here.

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