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Exposed: The Billionaire-Backed Group Strong-Arming Parents into Destroying Their Kids' Public Schools

You won't believe the predatory behavior of this education "reform" outfit, Parent Revolution.

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Parent Revolution is a direct outgrowth of the charter school industry. Ben Austin, the outfit's leader, previously headed a large charter-school firm called Green Dot Schools, whose backers overlap nicely with Parent Revolution's backers -- Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Walton Family Foundation, Eli Broad, Phillip Anschutz, and others. Austin's replacement at Green Dot Schools is a former partner at Bain, Mitt Romney's old firm.

Parent Revolution's Ben Austin has described the law as "a groundbreaking and historic new policy" that will "transform public education," and has dressed it up in the language of parents' rights. ALEC, which adopted a version of the Parent Empowerment Act as a model for "parent trigger" legislation, described it in similar terms, saying that it "places democratic control into the hands of parents at school level."

And yet, for all this empowerment, parents have never tried to pull the trigger on their own, not without Parent Revolution coming into town and applying pressure, intimidation and bait-and-switch techniques on unsuspecting parents.

In recent years, Diane Ravitch, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education under George H. W. Bush, has turned into the most eloquent and forceful critic of charter schools and voucher programs. She tells me that California's parent trigger law was not designed for the parents' sake. Instead, Ravitch describes it as "a stealth tactic by charter advocates to gain a larger market share by duping parents."

Charter school advocates like Parent Revolution and so-called "school reformers" like Michelle Rhee (recently discredited in a series of test-score cheating scandals and for trying to conceal the wealthy Wall Street funders of her "StudentsFirst" pro-privatization group) front for some of the world's biggest, most powerful corporate figures. Potentates from the extraction industry, Wall Street hedge fund tycoons and others have invested huge sums into privatizing America's public education system. For them, it is a public trough filled with up to $1 trillion just waiting to be converted into private profit, whatever the consequences for children.

Former "Junk Bond King" and convicted felon Michael Milken, Oracle billionaire Larry Ellison, Netflix founder Reed Hastings and billionaire venture capitalist John Doerr are just some of the names betting heavily on privatized education. Black Rock, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and just about every other big name in Wall Street and private equity are in on the action, as well.

An investigation by the  Huffington Post revealed that Michelle Rhee's secretive, well-funded pro-privatization group StudentsFirst is backed by hedge fund tycoon David Tepper, who pocketed $2.2 billion in 2012 alone. Another backer is billionaire John Arnold, a former Enron trader who reportedly gave Rhee's group "tens of millions" of dollars. Arnold, a self-described "libertarian" who profited heavily from Enron's manipulation of the California energy markets, is funding the drive to slash California teachers' pensions through his front-group,  The California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility.

Just last month, Rhee  joined the "Parent Revolution" group for a joint march in support of parent trigger and charter schools in Los Angeles. It's a small world, school privatization, and its inhabitants have very deep pockets.

So these are some of the people behind the parent trigger law, which should indicate what it’s really about. The law will give these corporate interests a new weapon with which to privatize public education and access to a virgin vein of taxpayer dollars. Best of all, the trigger law makes it look as if parents are choosing to privatize public education out of their own free will. They were given a choice, and they put their trust in the private sector.

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