Billionaires such as Bill Gates and Eli Broad (pronounced brōd) use charitable donations to school districts, schools, and education professionals to change public education policy nationwide. Berkeley feels its share of influence from these billionaires.
In 2003, the Gates Foundation helped Berkeley High School transition to a small schools model, a policy Gates was aggressively pushing nationwide. Today in 2012, the Broad Foundation has influenced the school district's choice for a new superintendent.
- The billionaires' influence: How does it come to pass that remote billionaires have such intimate influence over Berkeley school policies?
- What to expect: What can Berkeley expect now that the Broad Foundation has come to town?
- For the better? Is the billionaires' influence good for Berkeley's public education policy?
How does it come to pass that remote billionaires have such intimate influence over Berkeley school policies?The billionaires' influence: Bill Gates and the Small Schools Movement
In 2003, Bill Gates took a turn at reforming Berkeley education policy. Berkeley High School transitioned to a "small schools" model. Money from the Gates Foundation helped to fund and assist that transformation via the Bay Area Coalition for Equitable Schools (now known as the National Equity Project). [Berkeley Daily Planet, November 11, 2003]
By accepting the money and guidance, Berkeley openly became part of a grand Gates experiment. Gates himself had been impressed by early statistics that seemed to favor small schools. He thought he could help by spreading the smalls schools movement to more districts. Berkeley was one of thousands of districts across the country that made a transition to small schools with help from Gates Foundation money. The rate at which small schools came into existence exploded nationwide; Gates' fondness for small schools was highly influential. [Forbes.com, November 18, 2008]
In 2008, Bill Gates expressed disappointment that his small schools campaign was not working and withdrew it. [ibid]
Whether the BHS small school system was an improvement or not (opinions vary), it is in any event a vestige of a billionaire's failed tinkering with public education policy on a grand scale.
The billionaires' influence: Eli Broad and Edmond Heatley
Today in 2012, Eli Broad may be the next billionaire to get a turn at influencing Berkeley education policy. The Broad Foundation describes their education reform goals this way:
Transforming K-12 urban public education through better governance, management, labor relations and competition [broadfoundation.org]Berkeley's new superintendent, Edmond Heately, is a 2008 graduate of the Broad Superintendents Academy. [Broad Center]
The Broad Superintendents Academy awards fellowships to "talented leaders" (their words). The Academy "prepares [those leaders] to lead large urban school districts, state departments of education and high-growth public charter systems".
The Academy helps to place its alumni in strategic jobs around the country. Alumni are supported by a network of peers and provided placement assistance. There are "additional [alumni] services and investments for Fellows in particularly high potential roles and locations". [Broad Superintendents Academy (about)]
Broad and Gates take two different approaches to influencing public education policy. Gates promoted small schools by offering school districts money to make the transition. In contrast, the Broad Foundation trys to influence education policy primarily by placing a network of sympathetic alumni in high level administrative and managerial positions around the country. The Academy was founded in 2002 with the initial aim of installing Broad-trained graduates in 25 of the largest 75 school districts in the country in only two years. [Christian Science Monitor, June 10, 2011]
Today, the Academy boasts:
More Academy graduates have served as urban district superintendents than those of any other national training program. Academy graduates have held 87 superintendent roles and 107 cabinet level roles. Thirty graduates are sitting superintendents in large urban systems, and four are state superintendents (MD, RI, LA and NJ). Academy graduates also lead two of the three largest districts in the country (Los Angeles Unified School District and Chicago Public Schools), as well as newly-formed systems that focus on the lowest-performing schools in Michigan and Tennessee. [The Broad Superintendents Academy (program overview)]Broad's and Gates' methods of influencing policy differ in how they relate to school district autonomy: Districts joined Gates' small school experiment only if they explicitly agreed to take the money. In contrast, districts can unwittingly join Broad's experiment just by hiring Broad alumni.
The billionaires' influence: Broad and the job market for school superintendents (a case study)
An examination of Edmond Heatley's career trajectory gives some indication of how the Broad Foundation has become so influential in the job market, so quickly. Connections to Broad show up with remarkable frequency. For example:
- BUSD hired Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates -- an executive search firm for school districts -- to help with the search for a new superintendent. Two of that firm's senior associates, Marvin Edwards and Jerry Chapman, have been guest lecturers at the Broad Superintendents Academy. [berkeleyschools.net (superintendent search 2012)] [The Broad Superintendents Academy (faculty and speakers)]
- In 2011, Santa Barbara also employed Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates. Both Santa Barbara and Berkeley were helped by associates Maggie Carrillo Meja and Carolyn McKennan. In both cities, a Broad alumnus was hired: Edmond Heatley in Berkeley (class of 2008), and David Cash in Santa Barbara (class of 2009). [berkeleyside.com, March 14, 2012] [noozhawk.com March 4, 2011] [Santa Barbara School District K-12 (resume for David E. Cash)]
- Heatley's previous job was with Clayton County School District in Georgia. Clayton County had retained the firm Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates to help with the search early on, but dismissed them because the school board objected to Hazard's recommendation to hire a transitional, corrective superintendent rather than a permanent superintendent. [newtoncitizen.com, February 3, 2009]
- Instead, the district hired a local firm, Brock and Clay (a government and public affairs consulting company), to help with the superintendent search. Nevertheless, they ultimately hired Broad alumnus Edmond Heatley. [Clayton Board of Education, March 14, 2009]
- In 2011, Brock and Clay also provided superintendent search assistance to Fulton County, Georgia, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. There, Broad graduate Robert Avossa was hired. [The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, May 9, 2011] [Robert Avossa on linked.com]
- Before taking the job in Clayton County, Edmond Heatley also applied for the position of superintendent in Washoe County, Nevada. The school district was assisted in their search by Jim Huge and Associates. (Huge provides executive search services to school districts through Proact Search.) [Washoe County School District press release, April 10 2009]
- Broad candidates for superintendent in Washoe included Lawrence W. Fry, Jr. (class of 2006), Edmond T. Heatley (class of 2008), Matthew H. Malone (class of 2003), Vincent Matthews (class of 2006), and Kimberly D. Olson (class of 2005).[ibid]
- Washoe eventually hired Heath Morrison (class of 2009) [The Broad Center (impact of Broad graduates)]>
- Heath Morrison was recently replaced in Washoe by Pedro Martinez (class of 2009) [Washoe County School District: Office of superintendent]
- Jim Huge, of Jim Huge and Associates, also guest lectured at the Broad Superintendents Academy. [The Broad Superintendents Academy (faculty and speakers)]
- Perhaps unsurprisingly, "39% of all external superintendent openings in large urban districts from 2008-2010 were filled by Broad Superintendents Academy graduates." [Broad Foundations 2011/12]
The billionaires' influence: Broad's Power Play
The Broad Foundation's efforts are not limited to placing allies in superintendent positions. There is much more to Broad than just the Superintendent's Academy.
One arm, The Broad Residency is (in the Broad Center's words) "A leadership development program that places qualified participants into high-level managerial positions in school districts, CMOs [charter school management organizations], and federal/state departments of education." The residency "[...] places talented professionals into management roles in carefully selected education organizations," where they will "report to the superintendent or senior executive of the partner organization". [The Broad Residency (about the residency)]
The current chief of staff of the federal Department of Education, Tyra Mariani, is a former Broad Resident. Her boss is Arne Duncan who, as Chicago Schools Chief in 2002 accepted money from Broad to begin a (since abandoned) program to recruit and train Chicago principals. [US Department of Education (biographies of senior officials)] [The Broad Residency (network profiles)] [Broad Foundation April 30, 2002 (press release)]
After Duncan's appointment to the Obama cabinet, the Broad Foundations bi-annual report gushed:
The election of President Barack Obama and his appointment of Arne Duncan, former CEO of Chicago Public Schools, as the U.S. secretary of education, marked the pinnacle of hope for our work in education reform. In many ways, we feel the stars have finally aligned.Another component is The Broad Foundation is the umbrella organization under which the Broad Center, Broad Residency, and the Broad Superintendents Academy exist. The foundation is a grant giving organization but does not accept unsolicited proposals: they'll call you. They write:
With an agenda that echoes our decade of investments — charter schools, performance pay for teachers, accountability, expanded learning time and national standards — the Obama administration is poised to cultivate and bring to fruition the seeds we and other reformers have planted. [Broad Foundations 2009/10]
We are continually on the lookout for urban school districts and organizations nationwide that are progressive, led by talented, effective visionaries, and are strategically focused on improving student achievement. Once we have identified a potential investment opportunity, we initiate contact with a prospective grantee organization or individual and invite them to submit additional information.[Bround Foundations education investments]The academy and residency are run by The Broad Center. A sense of the Broad Center's heft and reach can be seen in it's large board of directors which includes, among others:
- The Honorable Joel I. Klein, Chair
CEO, Educational Division and Executive Vice President, Office of the Chairman, News Corporation Former Chancellor, New York City Department of Education
- Jean-Claude Brizard
Chief Executive Officer, Chicago Public Schools
- Harold Ford Jr.
Managing Director, Morgan Stanley
Former U.S. Congerssman, Tennessee
- Wendy Kopp
Chief Executive Officer and Founder, Teach for America
- Michell Rhee
Founder and CEO, StudentsFirst
Former Chancellor, District of Columbia Public Schools
- Andrew L. Stern
Former President, Service Employees International Union
Ronald O. Perelman Senior Fellow, Richard Paul Richman Center for Business, Law and Public Policy, Columbia University
- Lawrence H. Summers
Charles W. Eliot Unviersity Professor, Harvard University
President Emeritus, Harvard University
- Moritemer Zuckerman
Chairman and Editor-in-Chief, U.S. News & World Report
Publisher, New York Daily News
What to expect: Edmond Heatley
Edmond Heatley is, of course, his own man. To say that he will do other than faithfully execute the policies of the school board, or to suggest that he is here on some Broad secret mission would be unfair. For that reason, there is no simple or sure answer to the question of what happens now that, so to speak, "Broad has come to town" in the form of Heatley's selection.
On the other hand, admirers and critics agree that Broad superintendents generally have a reputation for pursuing the Broad foundation agenda. It is a good guess, at least, that Heatley will work towards similar aims.
Transforming K-12 urban public education through better governance, management, labor relations and competition [broadfoundation.org]That describes a familiar education platform in contemporary U.S. politics. Other Broad statements confirm a fondness for charter schools, performance-based pay, increased testing and testing based performance metrics, and so forth. The Broad Foundation is squarely on one side of a variety of modern political controversies about education policy.
The Broad Foundations' education agenda is fundamentally policy oriented and calls for networking strategies. In other words:
The agenda is "policy oriented" in that ideological ideals (such as "competition can make public education better") are expressed as policy directions (such as "encourage charter schools"). Broad's activist project is to try to improve education by causing districts to move in certain policy directions.
The Broad Foundation in their 2011/2012 bi-annual report expressed this policy oriented view this way (emphasis added):
While schools and school districts are full of talented and well-intentioned people, it is the systems in which they work that form the greatest barrier today to student and teacher success. Archaic policies and practices result in wasteful spending, disempowered teachers who feel overwhelmed and unsupported, and inequitable learning opportunities for many poor and minority students. [Broad Foundations 2011/12]Towards that activist aim, the Broad agenda calls for networking strategies: The Superintendents Academy is one tactic for getting Broad-friendly administrators into influential positions, the Broad Residents program another. The network provides a system of mutual support for exchanging career opportunity information, experiences in various districts, program templates, vendor information, and so forth.
What to expect: Broad boasts
The Broad Foundation reports:
2/3 of Academy graduates currently serving as superintendents for 3+ years are outperforming comparison groups in raising student achievement on state reading and math exams, closing achievement gaps and raising graduation rates. [ibid]What to expect: Broad critics
Actual results may vary. Dissent Magazine offered:
Every day, dozens of reporters and bloggers cover the Big Three's reform campaign, but critical in-depth investigations have been scarce (for reasons I'll explain further on). Meanwhile, evidence is mounting that the reforms are not working. Stanford University's 2009 study of charter schools — the most comprehensive ever done — concluded that 83 percent of them perform either worse or no better than traditional public schools; a 2010 Vanderbilt University study showed definitively that merit pay for teachers does not produce higher test scores for students; a National Research Council report confirmed multiple studies that show standardized test scores do not measure student learning adequately. Gates and Broad helped to shape and fund two of the nation's most extensive and aggressive school reform programs — in Chicago and New York City — but neither has produced credible improvement in student performance after years of experimentation. [Dissent, Winter 2011]Three Broad superintendents were placed in Oakland's school district while it was under state control. Charter schools proliferated in Oakland. The East Bay Express' Robert Gammon wrote an article on the theme:
Meet Eli Broad, a SoCal billionaire who uses his cash and connections to groom Oakland school administrators and keep the district under state control. [East Bay Express, October 10, 2007]Gammon wrote
An ardent charter-school supporter, Broad built his influence through his close ties with state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell, who also happens to be Vince Matthews' boss. O'Connell, in fact, owes Broad a debt of gratitude. According to campaign finance records on file with the secretary of state, Broad helped O'Connell capture the state superintendent's office in 2002 by cutting a check for $100,000, which put him among the campaign's top donors.
The billionaire's juice with California's highest ranked educator, in turn, has allowed him to operate what amounts to his own educational experiment behind the scenes in Oakland.
Broad believes the best way to fix troubled urban school districts is to employ the classic American business model in which a powerful chief executive runs roughshod over a weak governing board. Oakland, under state control, has provided the perfect laboratory. Since the state takeover in 2003, Broad has donated $6 million to the Oakland schools, and the district has been led solely by graduates of his leadership training academy. During that period, nine other Broad associates also have held high-level positions in the district.
With so much money and political power you would think the case for the Broad education agenda would be easy to state clearly and convincingly. Yet, the case Broad makes in its own materials is vague (e.g. the importance of "leaders") and ideological (e.g. the emphasis on faith in "competition"). If the goal is to express and execute a clear and clearly winning reform program for public education, Broad has not only failed to achieve the goal but it has meanwhile drawn a lot of criticism for the disruptions and failures associated (rightly or wrongly) with Broad.
If we understand Broad's goal differently — as a play to accumulate nation-wide influence over education policy to a few hands — Broad's education philanthropy is a smashing success. As a power play, Broad is winning hands down. In that sense, the Broad network's increasing political power is certainly good for the network itself, but it is quite unclear what that means for our schools and, in particular, our students.
It's hard to say whether Broad will be good or bad for our schools in the long run but it's easy and accurate to say that Broad is going to continue to have a huge impact on public education policy whether for better or worse, including in Berkeley.
Our public school systems are designed so that, ideally, education policy is determined by a representative democracy. Our school boards set high level policy and the public elects our school boards. In practice, non-political staff have considerable influence over policy both because they are a major source of policy proposals and evaluations, and because staff implement policies.
Broad's education project exploits that gap between the ideal of public control over education policy and the de facto influence of staff. In a sense, the Broad network is an attempt to sieze the political power of high level education staffers around the country, and use that power to put forward Broad's particular agenda (more testing, charter schools, and so forth). Broad's agenda is pushed in large part not by persuasion, but quietly and through the murky process of filling high level administrative positions in schools.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, May 9, 2011: "DeKalb superintendent search foiled by job security"
Broad Foundations, April 30, 2002 "Chicago Schools Chief Arne Duncan and National business Leaders Announce Expansion of Drive to Recruit and Train Outstanding Public School Principals in Chicago" (press release)