The Teat: The Bloomberg Blues— A Starved Cow on Purpose

Starving Cow by R. Drown

The Teat is a series on Cloaking Inequity that examines the financial backing of “reformers” who influence education policy. For this current installment in the series, I am going to examine Michael Bloomberg, the current mayor of New York, school “reformer,” and multibillionaire.

To begin, every post in The Teat series has a Haiku:

Children are starving,
yet people ignore this fact,
engorging themselves.

Mike Bloomberg stepped into office in 2001 and has served three consecutive terms. He is a business executive with an estimated net worth of $27 billion. In addition, he created the Bloomberg Philanthropies, whose one of many goals is

To improve education in America with an innovative program to strengthen educational leadership and to advance good public policy in communities across the United States.

The market value of all assets for the Bloomberg Family Foundation at the end of 2011 was $2.9 billion. So, it is not a surprise that Mr. Bloomberg has much clout in education policy. Even if you don’t know much about education— power and $$$ talks (another i.e. see Bill Gates).

How has Bloomberg wielded his political power and foundation’s influence? As mayor of New York:

[He] fought for and won the right to dismantle the failed Board of Education and institute a system directly accountable to the Mayor…

What have been his priorities? Two of the most visible are Teach For America and charter schools.

He is passionate about using Teach For America as educators and power brokers. In fact, the mayor was “recruiting hundreds until the city’s financial constraints forced him to slow it down” (Cohen, 2013). The relationship between NYC and TFA was strengthened under Bloomberg’s tenure with “more than 65 alumni officials at the NYC Department of Education.” TFA has been used to starve public schools of permanent high quality teachers— their alums are everywhere but the classroom.) TFA has been discussed extensively on Cloaking Inequity here.

Mayor Bloomberg has also been a big proponent of charter schools. Similar to Rahm Emmanuel, Bloomberg has claimed there is a lack of funding for schools while exploding the growth of charter schools. When he first took office in 2001, there were 17 charter schools. A decade later there are now 159. In contrast, almost 140 public schools have closed while he has been in office.

So, the question remains: How have Bloomberg’s education policies worked thus far? According to a recent CREDO study “students in New York City charter schools on average make larger learning gains in both reading and mathematics.” However, in the same report, the CREDO study also found that on average NYC charter schools served fewer Special Education students, 17% to 12%, and English Language Learners, 16% to 5%, when compared to their public school counterparts.

See all of Cloaking Inequity’s posts on charters here.

Something feels amiss. On my Twitter feed I follow Partnership for Student Advocacy (@PFSA), a New York City based nonprofit who envisions

…a world in which our resources continually build and replenish an endowment affording accessible tools to every struggling/”failing” school community in poor, disenfranchised, marginalized neighborhoods in New York City.

Every Tuesday, they tweet asking for donations. They call it $20 Tuesdays and their current goal is to raise $10,000 to help fund college trips and testing fees for high school students at Columbus High School. The community of Columbus High School has had a difficult past few years. The city of New York began phasing-out the school due to its “failing” standards. NYC DOE’s solution was to cut funding to the school, with the latest school finance report showing that Columbus High School only received 82.84% of funding per student (see Diane Ravitch’s post). These budget cuts have resulted in Columbus High School having to forgo AP courses and collegiate preparation.

Screen Shot 2013-08-13 at 11.28.32 PM

Sabotage aka starved cow.

The Schott Foundation for Public Policy’s study titled A Rotting Apple: Education Redlining in New York City is essentially a critique of Bloomberg’s “reformer” approach. Schott found that:

Primarily because of New York City policies and practices that result in an inequitable distribution of educational resources and intensify the impact of poverty, children who are poor, Black and Hispanic have far less of an opportunity to learn the skills needed to succeed on state and federal assessments. They are also much less likely to have an opportunity to be identified for Gifted and Talented programs, to attend selective high schools or to obtain diplomas qualifying them for college or a good job.

Bloomberg’s policies are purposefully educationally starving the community of Columbus High School and other high minority, high poverty schools.

Bloomberg/Reformers puppets?

Bloomberg/Reformers puppets?

In conclusion, Bloomberg peaked my interest when he gave $1,000,000 this past year, the largest single donation ever in the Los Angeles school board races, to three candidates (L.A. school board president Monica Garcia in District 2, challenger Kate Anderson in District 4, and Antonio Sanchez, who was vying for an open seat in District 6). In total “reformers” raised $3.8 million in the LA race. Despite raising millions, they lost 2 of 3.

Despite “reformers” defeat in LA, clearly the reformers still have momentum in New Orleans and Chicago. Our traditional media has not held Bloomberg and the “reformers” accountable to the data and research on their “ideas.” We must refuse to be Pawns of Industrialists and Financiers.

If educationally starving poor communities are the result of Bloomberg’s policies, what can we expect from the candidates he finances?

Many thanks to PFSA for their dedication to students and their school communities. Bloomberg and his “reformers” have much to learn from your example.

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