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To Lisa Macfarlane and Suzanne Estey: And you thought it was a conspiracy theory?

Either your comments have been overly scripted by your moneyed backers or you have been bold face lying but these are the facts:

Chris Christie’s demented “you people” movement: The right’s school-for-cash obsession

Chris Christie and Bill Gates

Chris Christie and Bill Gates

by David Sirota

New data proves conservatives and moguls are spending huge sums to turn schools into Wall Street profit centers

It is easy to think of the concept of oligarchy as something distant and fantastical – something that involves exotic destinations like Manhattan, Monaco, Macau and Moscow but not the Middle America locales that you’d never see in, say, a glitzy Jason Bourne flick. I guess the assumption at work is that in a place so often derided as Flyover Country, there’s not much that any true oligarch might covet.

Of course, there’s a good case to be made that oligarchy is actually more of a powerful social, political and cultural force out here than anywhere else. From yesteryear’s Copper Kings in Montana to today’s epic land and water grab all over the Midwest and Rocky Mountain region, the heartland has always been the oligarchs’ playground. It is also their laboratory – the place where the ruling class brutally imposes its hare-brained schemes on the population, as if we are guinea pigs.

You can see what this local version of oligarchy looks like most clearly in education. Indeed, in the last few days, the national media momentarily reported on such oligarchy when the GOP’s prospective 2016 presidential candidate, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, publicly berated teachers with the ugly “you people” epithet. The headline-grabbing exchange came after an educator dared to question him about his efforts to turn his state into a laboratory for the destructive ideology of anti-public-school oligarchs. Christie, who has slashed public school funding and worked to divert public education resources into private schools, responded to the question with the oligarch’s let-them-eat-cake attitude, saying of teachers “I’m tired of you people.”

But, then, as shocking as this let-them-eat-cake attitude may seem when it is evinced so brazenly by a national politician, it is the same oligarchic attitude that now dominates local education politics all over the country. Perhaps most illustrative of the trend is my home state of Colorado. This state has unfortunately become the national petri dish of the Education Oligarchs – people like the Walton family, of Wal-Mart fame; Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft; Michael Bloomberg, the anti-union media mogul; and Philip Anschutz, the billionaire sponsor of right-wing Christian causes. These oligarchs and others aim to put everything – including our kids future – up for sale to the highest bidder in the Colorado education system.

One way to see this is to look at how the Walton family and Gates have deployed their wealth to make an opportunity out of this square state’s infamous education finance problems. Leveraging their tax-subsidized foundations, they purport to come to the financial rescue of budget-strapped schools. Yet, they typically tie their seemingly altruistic beneficence to ideological demands.

For example, some foundations make their cash contingent on schools tearing up teachers’ union contracts and putting more unproven technology into the classroom.

Some go further and push specific technologies into classrooms – technologies that, not coincidentally, their corporations stand to profit from. One example: Microsoft chairman Bill Gates has used $100 million from his foundation to ram his company’s corporate partner, inBloom, into the Colorado’s largest school district. InBloom collects student data to share with technology companies like Gates’ Microsoft, which then develop for-profit education software to sell back to schools. According to the New York Times, parents objecting to the surveillance-like technology feared “officials might be unable to evaluate inBloom objectively, given its backing by the Gates Foundation, a major donor to public schools whose grant money Jeffco was hoping to attract.” The school district ultimately received a coveted $5.2 million grant from the Gates foundation and – not surprisingly – decided to keep using inBloom.

Most recently, some of these billionaires make headlines financing Colorado ballot initiatives that seem altruistic in their ostensible goals of raising revenue for schools. Yet, the oligarchs make sure that the details of those initiatives quietly steer a massive chunk of the new education revenue away from public schools and into the coffers of privately administered charter schools – the ones that on the whole don’t provide better educational outcomes, but do serve those billionaires’ desires to undermine teachers’ unions.

To read this article in full, go to salon.com.

Submitted by Dora Taylor

2 comments on “To Lisa Macfarlane and Suzanne Estey: And you thought it was a conspiracy theory?

  1. Pingback: Education News | Dolphin

  2. Pingback: Crisis Capitalism: Bill Gates and Other ‘Education Oligarchs’ Turn Schools Into their Private, For-Profit Ventures | Techrights

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