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Boot Camp for Education CEO's

The Broad Foundation is working to remake public education in the image of corporate America. How? By training a generation of superintendents to embrace their agenda.
 
 
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This year, Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard helped Chicago teachers accomplish the impossible.

Under a new Illinois law, the Chicago Teachers Union has to get a 75 percent vote of its entire membership (not just those voting) to call a legal strike. With such a high barrier, "the unions cannot strike in Chicago," boasted Stand for Children CEO Jonah Edelman, who pushed for the rule with the help of millions of dollars from the Illinois business elite.

But in June, after a year of Brizard and his boss, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, 90 percent of Chicago teachers voted to authorize a strike. The summer ended with no contract and the teachers struck a week after Labor Day.

It's been a tough year for Chicago teachers, but that's not a surprise, considering that Brizzard trained at the Broad Foundation Superintendents Academy, the most prominent and most controversial training institute for school chiefs.

The Academy is the flagship program of the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the smallest of a triumvirate of corporate foundations that are at the heart of the billionaire campaign to remake public education in the image of corporate America. The Gates Foundation, spending close to half a billion dollars a year on education, is No. 1. The Walton Family Foundation, started by the owners of Walmart, spends about a third as much. Broad's education spending is much smaller—$26 million in 2009, according to the New York Times.

But Broad gets a big bang for his bucks with his strategy for catapulting graduates of his superintendents' program into the driver's seats of major urban districts. The Academy says 30 of its alumni are now running big city school systems, including Los Angeles, Dallas, and Denver, besides Chicago. Philadelphia has just hired one. In Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, and Rhode Island, Broad-trained superintendents have become state education chiefs. In 2011, Broad alumni filled 48 percent of all large urban superintendent openings, according to the Academy website. But many Broad grads have compiled records that are not much to brag about.

  • In Oakland, three Broad-trained superintendents in a row left the schools in chaos and saddled with a gigantic deficit.
  • In Seattle, Broad alumna Maria Goodloe-Johnson's four-year tenure was marked by fake statistics, disruption, and corruption.
  • At least five Broad superintendents have earned no-confidence votes from their teachers.

When Dallas hired a Broad Academy grad last spring, Jim Schutze of the Dallas Observer researched the Academy's track record and predicted: "There will be blood."

Many Broad superintendents have fought pitched battles with teachers and community organizations when they moved to close schools with low student test scores and to open new charter schools—sometimes in the same buildings, but usually not with the same students. Rating and paying teachers based on student test scores are also high on Broad alumni agendas.

These policies are not unique to Broad. They've been promoted nation-wide by both the Bush and Obama administrations. In fact, Broad is close to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "With the election of President Barack Obama and his appointment of Arne Duncan . . . the stars have finally aligned," the Broad Foundation wrote in its 2009-10 annual report, explaining that the Obama-Dun.can agenda "echoes" Broad's.

But Broad superintendents tend to push that agenda more aggressively than other school chiefs. They often seem to be spoiling for a fight.

Some public school activists who go up against Broad superintendents come away thinking these superintendents actually welcome disruption because their real goal is to destroy urban school systems, turning public education into a competitive marketplace.