Voters in Washington state will have a chance to direct public funds toward private bank accounts if they adopt an initiative to create charter schools this November. Who are the bajillionaires behind the campaign?
The 40 schools proposed by Initiative 1240 would be funded with taxpayer money but privately run, and would serve less than 1 percent of Washington students. They would also be unaccountable to voters.
What appears to be the only comprehensive study ever conducted on the overall efficacy of charter schools, published in June 2009, concluded that 17 percent of charter school students performed on standardized tests better than students enrolled in public schools. Forty-six percent did no better and 37 percent did worse.
Dick Conoboy at Northwest Citizen points out that a 17 percent success rate is nothing to scream about. So why the big push for charter education? Well, there’s money to be made. See who stands to gain below.
A look at the donors to this campaign to pass this year’s version of an initiative on charter schools reveals the following: $3,000,000 from Bill Gates, $1,500,000 from Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, nearly $500,000 from Mike and Jackie Bezos, the parents of Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos; and $200,000 from Katherine Binder, chairwoman of EMFCO Holdings (a manufacturer of aircraft parts). Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings gave $100,000. Hastings, on the board of Microsoft Corp. is also an investor in DreamBox Learning, an educational game company. Democrats for Education Reform, a New York based political action committee, provided $50,000 to the Washington campaign. As of the date of this article, supporters of charter schools (largely corporate) have raised $9,400,000 while the opponents to the measure, in the form of People for Our Public Schools, have taken in only $280,000. As they say in these affairs, “Follow the money.”