A quick tour of the “Waiting for Superman” website reveals a disturbing connection to corporate America and the billionaire pseudo-reformers. There is a section of the site where it is possible to pledge to see the movie, admittedly a great promotional feature. But, and it’s a big but, based on the number who pledge, corporations and foundations will donate money. These include corporations who stand to profit from schools whichever direction reform goes: Office Max and the publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. It also includes the venture fund NewSchools. I had never heard of NewSchools, so I checked out their list of donors. Among others, NewSchools boast as investors The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Broad Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation.
These are the very foundations that I call the billionaire pseudo-reformers: those advocates of a top-down, business model, exclusionary system of reforms! These billionaires are shelling out millions of dollars in social experiments, and when they fail, they move on to the next experiment leaving the burden of repair to the lackluster resources of public education. Why do these organizations have such a high stake in education reform? How do they stand to benefit, and at what cost to public education?