For the first post in this series see: The Battle for Seattle, Part 1.

The Battle for Seattle, Part 2: Hijacked!

“We take an untraditional approach to giving. We don’t simply write checks to charities. Instead we practice “venture philanthropy.” And we expect a return on our investment.” -Eli Broad


The Broad Foundation was established in 1999 and Eli Broad wasted no time in providing funds to school systems around the country including Seattle.

In 2000, the Broad Foundation provided the Seattle Public School system with $800,000 for “teacher training” by way of the Alliance for Education.

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Teach for America Founder Wendy Kopp

That same year, according to the Broad Foundation’s Annual Report for 2009-2010, “Wendy Kopp, whose decade-old venture called Teach for America grew out of her senior thesis at Princeton University, visits Eli Broad seeking guidance and support. The Broad Foundation makes its first investment of $800,000 in the organization, which recruits and trains recent college graduates to work in urban and rural school districts for a minimum of two years. By 2009, the foundation’s investment in Teach for America exceeds $41 million.” As an aside, Wendy Kopp has no experience teaching and has no degree in the field of education.

In 2001 the Superintendent of Seattle Public Schools, Joseph Olfchefske, participated in the New Schools Venture Fund Summit and spoke on the subject of Convergence of the Sectors: Public, Private, and NonProfit. The moderators included Tom Vander Ark, Executive Director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Dan Katzir, Director of Program Development at the Broad Foundation along with Wendy Kopp, Founder and President of Teach for America and an assortment of representatives from KIPP and Aspire charter schools.

According to the same annual report, the Broad Foundation awarded a $2.5 million grant to New Schools Venture Fund in 2002. The annual report states that NSVF “invests in public charter school management organizations and other entrepreneurial ventures working to increase the number and quality of charter schools nationwide. By 2008, the foundation’s total investment in New Schools Venture Fund exceeds $13.6 million.”

New Schools Venture Fund has funded and promotes the KIPP charter school franchise, the Green Dot charter school franchise as well as Aspire charter schools and Teach for America.

American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten.

In 2002, Don Nielson participated in the Broad Center for Superintendents Inaugural class training as a faculty member along with Randi Weingarten who was then President of the United Federation of Teachers and Don McAdams.

Also in 2002, Mr. Olchefske participated in the Broad Foundation’s Strategic Planning retreat along with McAdams, Weingarten, Joel Klein, Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education and Wendy Kopp, President of Teach for America.

The ties ran deep between Eli Broad, Superintendent Olchefske and Don Nielson during this time.

In 2003, Olchefske was a lecturer at the Broad Foundation’s Superintendent’s Academy and guess who one of his “students” was! Our very own present day Seattle Public Schools’ superintendent, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson.

That same year Olchefske received a vote of “no confidence” by the Seattle teachers’ union and resigned from his position as superintendent of Seattle Public Schools amid accusations of fiscal irresponsibility. $34M had been lost and no one could account for it.

The irony of that is that our superintendent recently received a vote of “no confidence” by the teachers’ union and the recent state audit brought charges of fiscal irresponsibility, an apparent lack of knowledge of legal procedures and a lack of oversight by the school board.

Raj Manhas, former Superintendent of Seattle Public Schools.

Raj Manhas was appointed superintendent of the Seattle Public School system that year and was immediately sent to the Broad Foundation for “training” by Don Nielson.

Don Nielson chose not to run for a school board position after his term ended in 2003.

The following year, Mary Bass became school board president. Ms. Bass and Sally Soriano, who was also a member of the school board and the Chair of the Legislative committee, organized with several other school districts against charter school legislation. Gov. Gary Locke was for charter schools and told the legislature they couldn’t go home until they passed a vote in favor of charter schools. The vote was close but voters turned charter schools down by 59 percent.

In 2005, according to a Seattle school district publication titled “An Overview of Accomplishments,” Seattle Public Schools received an $800,000 Gates Foundation Grant to fund the strategic implementation team, work on the first round of school closures, something that Manhas had not been “successful” at doing, and “implement additional recommendations from the Community Advisory Committee on Investing in Educational Excellence”.

It was also stated in the handout that “A grant-funded Broad Foundation resident is working on strengthening strategic planning capacity in the district”.

Peter Maier, former Seattle School Board Director and WA State Charter School Commission member.

Gates was also busy in 2005 on another front, electing Michael DeBell, the now president of the Seattle School Board, to his first term as school board director. Gates, along with nine board directors for the Alliance for Education, including Hanauer, Don Nielsen, Anne Farrell, Peter Maier, who himself is now a school board member, and John Warner, a retired Boeing executive, funded the campaign to elect DeBell and two other candidates through a PAC named Strong Seattle Schools. According to an article in the Seattle Times, a PAC had not been formed “in recent memory” to support the election of a school board director.

As you will see in the next installment, The Alliance for Education will figure prominently in this race to “education reform” as dictated by Eli Broad and Bill Gates.

The one person who has been a common thread throughout this march towards ed reform in Seattle has been Don Nielson who, in 2006 was quoted as describing the school board members as “social activists and union sympathizers.” Nielsen and others were “actively pushing the idea of an appointed board and talked about it with the mayor in a closed-door meeting with education leaders two weeks ago” according to an article in the Seattle Weekly.

Mayoral control is also another mandate of the ed reformists. Have one person, a politician, in control of a school district that the people with the most money can manipulate. This can be clearly seen with the mayor of Los Angeles and his close associate, Eli Broad. The school board is then selected by the mayor. The school board members then only answer to the mayor. There would no longer be a democratic process in who represents the best interest of our children. It then becomes purely political and is directly controlled by others outside of the school system. It’s an end-run around the democratic process.

Don Nielson

In a speech to the Rotary Club on November 15, 2006, Don Nielson again described the school board, with the exception of DeBell who was in the audience at the time, as “activists.” My guess is that he was referring to people on the board who had fought against charter schools, specifically Mary Bass and Sally Soriano as well as other board members who had, with the exception of Dick Lilly and Jan Kumasaka, opposed the privatization of our public schools in the state of Washington. Mary Bass and Sally Soriano were also against the proposed school closures on the basis that the choice of schools being closed was discriminatory.

What I find interesting is that I had never heard of Don Nielson until I began to research the presence of the Broad Foundation in Seattle. Even though he has had a strong influence on what is happening within our school system now, he has remained behind the scenes and has only made himself known in the business and political sectors of Seattle. This is reminiscent to how Eli Broad operates. No input from parents, teachers, students, the real stakeholders in public education or even well-known and respected educators, just others in business and the military who may or may not have experience in teaching or have children in the public education system.

Most of us as parents in Seattle would not have known about Eli Broad and the Broad Foundation if some of us had not done some digging.

I have decided to change the title of this series of posts to “Hijacked!” because that is the sense that I have now about what has happened to our public educational system not only in Seattle but around the country.

My hope is that with this research and sharing of information, people in other parts of the country will take a look at what’s going on in their districts. This kind of takeover by business interests of public schools is happening in most urban centers. If it isn’t happening in your community, please make sure that it doesn’t. We as parents, educators and students need to have our voices heard. All of us need to be part of the conversation. When a district is run by Broad and Gates, no one outside their realm of associates has a voice in the decision-making process. You will not have a voice in the vision and goals of the schools in your communities. You will not have any say in the nature of individual schools, the curriculum or the caliber of teachers, principals or superintendents who are a part of those schools. You will have no control over how your children are taught and who teaches them.

Stay tuned for what might be the last installment in this series. Looking at my notes though, I see at least two more posts on the horizon. A lot has gone on in Seattle in the last few years that needs to be described.

 The Battle for Seattle, Part 1.

The Battle for Seattle Part 3

The Battle for Seattle Part 4

Dora Taylor