How Billionaire Privatizers Are Undermining Public Education

Eli Broad is a retired billionaire who funds school privatization through his various donations to charter school expansion and lobbying efforts. Since 2008, Broad gave $212,500 to Betsy DeVos’ lobbying organization “Alliance for School Choice.” It is a Washington, DC-based firm that, similar to CCSA, undermines public education and pushes for expansion of unregulated charter schools and school vouchers.

Although Broad denounced DeVos as Trump’s education pick, they teamed up to fund legislative races in Louisiana, a state that, post-Hurricane Katrina, became the poster child for unregulated charter growth and the systematic destruction of the civic institution of public education.

Broad and DeVos both funded the Educational Achievement Authority in Michigan, which oversaw the mass charter-ization and de-unionization of Detroit public schools, resulting in a wasteland rife with student equity and access violations, recently documented in a front page story in the New York Times.

$7.5 Billion

Eli Broad

Retired real estate mogul

Net worth: $7.5 billion

  • Has given $1.35 million from since 2013  to the California Charter Schools Association Advocates
  • Backer of an ambitious if controversial plan to double the number of charter schools in Los Angeles by 2023. 
  • Bankrolls Great Public Schools Now, a nonprofit funded by the same people on the board of CCSA. GPSN’s mission includes “accelerating the growth of high-quality public schools.” 
  • Gave over $125,000 to various LA political candidates between 1998 and today.

Donald Trump

President and TV personality

Net worth: $3.7 billion

  • Pledged to earmark $20 billion for school choice saying, “There’s no failed policy more in need of urgent change than our government-run education monopoly.”
  • “As president, I will establish the national goal of providing school choice to every American child living in poverty. If we can put a man on the moon, dig out the Panama Canal and win two world wars, then I have no doubt that we as a nation can provide school choice to every disadvantaged child in America.”
  • “I have been consistent in my opposition to Common Core. Get rid of Common Core.”
  • Donated $1,000 to Antonio Villaraigosa’s 2009 mayoral race.

Betsy DeVos

Secretary of Education

Net worth: $1 billion

  • As secretary of education, DeVos has promised to expand existing voucher programs in line with Trump’s goal to provide more school choice.
  • DeVos family reportedly gave $1.45 million over a seven-week period to Michigan Republican candidates and organizations after the state legislature passed a public school funding plan that omitted charter school oversight
  • Backer of pro-charter groups EdVoice (Reed Hastings is a founder) and Parent Teacher Alliance
  • The DeVos family are long-time supporters of vouchers for private, religious schools; conservative Christian groups like the Foundation for Traditional Values, which has pushed to soften the separation of church and state; and organizations like Michigan’s Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which has championed the privatization of the education system

Richard Riordan

Retired investment banker, former mayor of LA

Net worth: $100 million

  • Contributed $1 million of his own money to a PAC against School Board President Steve Zimmer in 2017 school board race.
  • Served on board of Alliance for College Ready Public Schools.
  • Gave $1,100 in 2016 to both Kelly Gonez and Nick Melvoin for their 2017 school board races.
  • California Charter Schools Association Advocates: $50,000 from Riordan since 2013.
  • Gave just under $50,000 to various LA political candidates between 1999 and today.
  • Riordan Foundation is a major donor to the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools (PLAS), and is listed as having given $1 million or more to the organization.
  • Major backer of EdVoice – a Sacramento-based pro-charter advocacy organization that also includes fellow billionaire Hastings, Broad, and others as backers and/or board members.

Walton Family

Owners of WalMart empire

Net worth: $130 billion

  • The Walton Family has promised more than $1 billion since 2003 for charter school operators to gain access to facilities.
  • Waltons are the largest philanthropic donors to charters in the U.S. after the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  Dedicated to an ideological approach to charters focused on growth rather than education quality.  Waltons have supported “the unregulated growth of a privatized education industry.”

Reed Hastings

Netflix CEO

Net worth: $1.75 billion

  • California Charter Schools Association Advocates: $2.5 million from Hastings since 2013.
  • Gave $2,000 to Antonio Villaraigosa’s 2001 mayoral campaign, and $1,100 to Monica Garcia’s 2017 school board campaign.
  • Backer of pro-charter groups EdVoice (Hastings is a founder) and Parent Teacher Alliance.
  • Major contributor to Great Public Schools Now PAC.
$7.5 Billion

Doris Fisher

Co-founder of Gap, Inc.

Net worth: $2.7 billion

  • California Charter Schools Association Advocates: $3.4 million since 2013
  • Contributed $1,100 each to individual LAUSD school board candidates including Tamar Galatzan (2015), Ref Rodriguez (2015) and Monica Garcia (2017)
  • Gave more than $4 million to EdVoice and CCSA Advocates between 2014 and 2016
  • Associated with the Doris & Donald Fisher Fund (formerly the Doris & Donald Fisher Education Fund), which provides grants to support select charter projects and focuses on K-12 education reform.  The fund is a supporter of the Growth Fund, KIPP Foundation and Teach for America.
  • Doris Fisher co-founded the KIPP Foundation in 2000 and serves on its board of directors.

Arthur Rock

Silicon Valley Venture Capitalist

Net worth: $1 billion

  • Silicon Valley venture capitalist and early investor in Intel and Apple.
  • Major donor to EdVoice – has given over $1 million.
  • Contributed $1,000 each to Kate Anderson and Monica Garcia in the 2013 school board races.
  • Member of Lifetime Directors of the national board for Teach for America.
  • Highlighted in 2013 by Politico as a leading financier of education reform who “has made sizable donations to legislative and school board candidates across the country who support expanding charter schools, and in some cases, vouchers.”