What Billionaires Mean by Education Reform

Recently, talk show host Oprah Winfrey focused on “America’s Education Crisis.” Bill Gates, Microsoft co-founder, and his wife, Melinda, were guests. Stand Up is their national campaign to improve education for youth.

Does Oprah know that the $27 billion Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation also gave $4 million dollars to the Sacramento City Unified School District for “educational reform?”

For the context of this donation we turn to the district’s Sacramento High School. There, students, scores on standardized tests were low.

Officially, such exams are the best measure of what modern education can provide to the nation,s youth. Crucially, the SCUSD had taken state funds to improve SHS students, test scores. Subsequently, the scores lacked the desired improvement.

SHS risked becoming a “failed school.” Later to avoid state sanctions, the district decided to close SHS, located in the low-income, largely nonwhite neighborhood of Oak Park.

Against that backdrop, Starbucks Corp. and inflated home prices are sprouting in this gentrifying area.

Meet former NBA star Kevin Johnson of the Phoenix Suns, a SHS grad, and a guest on Oprah’s recent show. Retired from pro hoops, he was tapped to improve the education of SHS students, heading up the St. Hope Development Corporation. SHS was re-opened by KJ’s corporation, which has run it as a charter school, praised on the Winfrey show.

Significantly, many SHS parents and labor union members opposed the school’s privatization. Parents formed the Sacramento Coalition to Save Public Education. Some SHS teachers did not want to work without a union contract for a corporation.

Legitimizing the drive to privatize SHS was The Sacramento Bee, the city,s one daily paper for over a decade. The McClatchy Co. publishes The Bee. The Sacramento-based publisher is also the pending buyer of Knight Ridder Inc., the 12 union papers of which are on the selling block.

KJ’s corporation, in the context of “seed money” taken by the SCUSD from the Gates Foundation, took over a public high school and weakened labor unions. In the language of the market, non-union labor is more “flexible,” making it is easier for bosses to fire workers. This flexibility also weakens the political power of teachers’ unions.

Oprah’s recent two-part “special report” on the crisis in U.S. public schools included this gem: “I’ve often said that I believe that education is freedom.” Presumably, this includes freedom for billionaires to shape school reform as they see fit. But freeing public education by turning it over to corporations is no freedom at all.

SETH SANDRONSKY is a member of Sacramento Area Peace Action and a co-editor of Because People Matter, Sacramento’s progressive paper. He can be reached at ssandron@hotmail.com




More articles by:

Seth Sandronsky is a Sacramento journalist and member of the freelancers unit of the Pacific Media Workers Guild. Emailsethsandronsky@gmail.com

March 19, 2018
Henry Heller
The Moment of Trump
John Davis
Pristine Buildings, Tarnished Architect
Uri Avnery
The Fake Enemy
Patrick Cockburn
The Fall of Afrin and the Next Phase of the Syrian War
Nick Pemberton
The Democrats Can’t Save Us
Nomi Prins 
Jared Kushner, RIP: a Political Obituary for the President’s Son-in-Law
Georgina Downs
The Double Standards and Hypocrisy of the UK Government Over the ‘Nerve Agent’ Spy Poisoning
Dean Baker
Trump and the Federal Reserve
Colin Todhunter
The Strategy of Tension Towards Russia and the Push to Nuclear War
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
US Empire on Decline
Ralph Nader
Ahoy America, Give Trump a Taste of His Own Medicine Starting on Trump Imitation Day
Robert Dodge
Eliminate Nuclear Weapons by Divesting from Them
Laura Finley
Shame on You, Katy Perry
Weekend Edition
March 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Michael Uhl
The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On
Bruce E. Levine
School Shootings: Who to Listen to Instead of Mainstream Shrinks
Mel Goodman
Caveat Emptor: MSNBC and CNN Use CIA Apologists for False Commentary
Paul Street
The Obama Presidency Gets Some Early High Historiography
Kathy Deacon
Me, My Parents and Red Scares Long Gone
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Rexless Abandon
Andrew Levine
Good Enemies Are Hard To Find: Therefore Worry
Jim Kavanagh
What to Expect From a Trump / Kim Summit
Ron Jacobs
Trump and His Tariffs
Joshua Frank
Drenched in Crude: It’s an Oil Free For All, But That’s Not a New Thing
Gary Leupp
What If There Was No Collusion?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Bernard Fall Dies on the Street Without Joy
Robert Fantina
Bad to Worse: Tillerson, Pompeo and Haspel
Brian Cloughley
Be Prepared, Iran, Because They Want to Destroy You
Richard Moser
What is Organizing?
Scott McLarty
Working Americans Need Independent Politics
Rohullah Naderi
American Gun Violence From an Afghan Perspective
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Why Trump’s Tariff Travesty Will Not Re-Industrialize the US
Ted Rall
Democrats Should Run on Impeachment
Robert Fisk
Will We Ever See Al Jazeera’s Investigation Into the Israel Lobby?
Kristine Mattis
Superunknown: Scientific Integrity Within the Academic and Media Industrial Complexes
John W. Whitehead
Say No to “Hardening” the Schools with Zero Tolerance Policies and Gun-Toting Cops
Edward Hunt
UN: US Attack On Syrian Civilians Violated International Law
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraq Outside History
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Long Hard Road
Victor Grossman
Germany: New Faces, Old Policies
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
The Iraq Death Toll 15 Years After the US Invasion
Binoy Kampmark
Amazon’s Initiative: Digital Assistants, Home Surveillance and Data
Chuck Collins
Business Leaders Agree: Inequality Hurts The Bottom Line
Jill Richardson
What We Talk About When We Talk About “Free Trade”
Eric Lerner – Jay Arena
A Spark to a Wider Fire: Movement Against Immigrant Detention in New Jersey
Negin Owliaei
Teachers Deserve a Raise: Here’s How to Fund It