Weingarten, Broad, and *Collaborative* Privatization
This is a post about two individuals whose actions contribute to the privatization of American public education: billionaire Eli Broad and American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten.
Weingarten is working in tandem with corporate-driven “reform.” I wish it were not so. However, the evidence of Weingarten’s pro-privatization bent is profound.
This post focuses chiefly on Weingarten and Broad.
It is a long one.
UFT/AFT and the Simulated “Company Union”
What led to this post was my recent reading about billionaire Eli Broad, who spends his foundation’s money in order to turn public education into a continuous churn of profit-driven chaos.
In writing A Chronicle of Echoes, I learned that Weingarten is a favorite of Broad. It was then-New York City Chancellor Joel Klein (also a privatizer) who was writing as much to NYC charter vixen Eva Moskowitz. (See page 32 of Echoes.) Weingarten was president of NYC’s United Federation of Teachers (UFT) at the time.
I wondered how it was that a privatizer like Broad would “favor” a union president. After all, Broad is known for “favoring” the teacher temp agency, Teach for America (TFA) and the numerous traditional-public-school-replacing charters that thrive on TFA temps, and he is known for creating his own privatizing superintendents via his non-accredited, educational-leader-as-disruptive-business-CEO-propagating Broad Superintendents Academy (now just called Broad Academy).
In reading this post by blogger and retired Philadelphia classroom teacher Ken Derstine, I finally understand why Broad “favors” Weingarten, a union president. Derstine writes:
The Broad Foundation Mission Statement states that one of its goals is the transformation of labor relations. The Broad Foundation is not anti-union. Rather, it seeks to transform unions into a form of company union. A company union is a union located within and run by a company or a national government, and the union bureaucracy is incorporated into the company’s management. This opens up the workforce to unfettered exploitation for profits of the owners. Many right-wing governments internationally use company unions to suppress worker struggles against low living standards. In 1935, during the labor struggles of the Depression, the National Labor Relations Act was passed which outlawed company unions in the United States. [Emphasis added.]
Broad does not want to get rid of unions; he wants to subsume them.
And Weingarten is just the *leader* to unofficially sell UFT (and now, AFT) to Broad and other corporate reformers in a back-door, privatizers’ “company union”-type arrangement.
What makes this arrangement possible is the cancer that runs AFT/UFT, the pro-corporate Unity Caucus, an invitation-only, dominant group that drives the direction of AFT. Unity Caucus members agree to sign away their individual voices and accompanying critical thinking skills in order to *belong* to this dysfunctional, corporate-reform-loving *in-crowd.*
As Derstine documents, Weingarten has a well-established record in placing corporate interests above those of K12 teachers. But she is not alone. Other Unity folk collude in this traditional public education betrayal:
Broad has found no shortage of former or current union leaders who are willing to be bought and join his venture philanthropy to foster labor/management “collaboration”. Former President of the Service Employees International Union, Andy Stern, is just the most visible on the board. In education, the Teacher Union Reform Network (TURN) fosters this collaboration. …
Leadership of TURN was taken over by current AFT Vice President Adam Urbanski, when he was head of the Rochester, New York local in 1999. By 2001, TURN had formed a partnership with the Broad Foundation. According to the Los Angeles Times, on April 5, 2001, Eli Broad announced his Foundation was donating $10 million to TURN to foster labor/management “collaboration”. In 2009, Broad invested $2 million in TURN, “a network of National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers locals”. (Broad’s 2009 Annual Report, Page 15). …
In the early days of this collaboration, labor leaders joined leaders in politics, business and non-profit organizations in staffing the faculty at the Broad Superintendents Academy, training the future Broad Superintendents. According a 2002 Broad press release (Page 2) participants included… Adam Urbanski, Director of Teacher Union Reform Network [and] Randi Weingarten, President, United Federation of Teachers.
On November 8th and 9th, 2002, Randi Weingarten participated in a retreat at the Eli Broad’s home which included corporate and education leaders. [Emphasis added.]
I mean, how close to Broad and his privatizing intentions can one get?
Public-funding-usurping charters? Why not?
Broad was shoveling out the dough, and in an amazing sellout of the teachers who pay her salary via their dues, Weingarten was *willing to try* corporate-driven reform by opening “union-run charters” (??):
In 2005 the Broad Foundation made a $1 million grant to help the United Federation of Teachers in New York City, at that time headed by Randi Weingarten, to open two union-run charter schools in Brooklyn, the first such schools in the country. In October, 2012, it was announced these schools are in academic and enrollment trouble and will probably close at the end of the school year. This became another opportunity for another round of teacher bashing by the right-wing media. (Note: This column is written by Micah Lasher, executive director of StudentsFirstNY.) [Emphasis added.]
The “union-run charters” did not work, but Broad was pleased with NYC’s efforts at pushing the Broad-preferred business model of education, so much so that he gave NYC a prize. Weingarten was fine with it and available for Broad’s public pat on her head:
On September 18, 2007, the Broad Foundation awarded New York City public schools the Broad Prize for Urban Education. Joining Eli Broad on stage at the ceremony were U.S. Secretary of Education in the Bush administration Margaret Spellings, New York City Education Chancellor Joel Klein, and Randi Weingarten, President of the United Federation of Teachers. [Emphasis added.]
Though years have passed since the “union-run charters” flopped, fear not, those of Unity Caucus, self-examination-forsaking faith: it’s 2014, and Weingarten is still willing to push an impossible “charter compromise”:
On October 9, 2014, Weingarten and AFT are hosting a reception for a publication of a pro-charter book entitled, A Smarter Charter: Finding What Works for Charter Schools and Public Education.
Here is the advertised purpose of the book, as noted by the authors:
It’s time to call off the wars. Advocates and policymakers need to stop arguing about whether we need more charter schools or fewer and start focusing on how we can best leverage the charter school model to improve all public schools. [Emphasis added.]
Huge problem: “Best leveraging the charter school model” involves systematically defunding true, honest, democratic (as in all-inclusive) public education.
There can be no “reconciliation.” It’s like pushing for partial assassination.
And yet, here she goes again, promoting an agenda that not only pleases Broad but also fits the bill with the union-hating Walton Foundation. (Read about both Broad and Walton in chapter 23 of Echoes.)
Yep. The AFT president is advancing traditional public school fiscal starvation.
Quick question: How many charters contribute to Weingarten’s over-half-million-dollar, AFT salary?
[Sound of crickets chirping]
Nevertheless, Weingarten chooses to assist in selling the slanted message: Charters aren’t the problem: It’s just that people need to *get past* the *arguments* about charters.
Weingarten shoveled a similar message at the March 2014 Network for Public Education (NPE) regarding the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Her message then: *We* need to get past the existence of CCSS and focus on implementation.
Deny any validity to dissent by declaring that calling the issue what it is– top-down destruction of American public education– amounts to nothing more than some backwards refusal to *move forward.*
What amazes me is that Weingarten so readily sells off the teaching profession to business. She shows zero awareness of the potential damage she ushers onto teachers by doing so. Instead, she opts for the lunatic stance, “I’ll try anything to fit in with those who want to kill the public school classroom.” Here she is in action in 2008:
On November 17th, 2008, shortly after the election of Barack Obama as President, Randi Weingarten spoke at the National Press Club. As reported by journalist Dana Goldstein, in a March 20, 2009 article The Education Wars in The American Prospect, Weingarten offered “an olive branch” to the corporate luminaries in attendance (including many mentioned in this article who are affiliated with the Broad Foundation). She spoke about seeking “common ground” on such things as merit pay for teachers, evaluations based on test scores, and teacher tenure. [Emphasis added.]
Broad is pleased. And why shouldn’t he be?
(Since the time of the 2008 “olive branch,” Weingarten has authored a foreword to a book on value-added modeling–VAM. In 2013, Weingarten supposedly denounced VAM– but she has not denounced altogether grading teachers using student test scores.)
In its 2009 Annual Report (Page 10), the Broad Foundation said,
“Teacher unions have always been a formidable voice in public education. We decided at the onset of our work to invest in smart, progressive labor leaders like Randi Weingarten, head of the United Federation of Teachers in New York City for more than a decade and now president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). We partnered with Weingarten to fund two union-run charter schools in Brooklyn and to fund New York City’s first incentive-based compensation program for schools, as well as the AFT’s Innovation Fund. We had previously helped advance pay for performance programs in Denver and Houston, but we were particularly encouraged to see New York City embrace the plan.” (See the picture in the 2008 Broad Foundation Annual Report, page 14 and a featured Weingarten quote on page 15.) [Emphasis added.]
Here is the reality of “merit pay”: If districts decide to “embrace” it, they must “find” the money by making cuts to existing faculty, staff, and/or resources– or reducing the merit pay to a token.
I was “highly effective” last year. (This year, who knows? It’s a crap shoot.) My net pay increased $30 per month. I’m not sure what cuts my district had to make in order to follow the law that states it must incorporate *pay for performance.*
But back to Broad and His Girl RW, as written by Derstine.
Derstine points out that this is the same Broad who in the very same report is pleased to undermine the teaching profession by supporting TFA, temp-teacher churn, and promote charter schools, which suck funding away from the public schools while having the luxury of never being the bottom rung on the education ladder in the way that traditional public schools are.
Then comes that dastardly AFT Innovation Fund, the same one that billionaire Bill Gates’ foundation pumped money into until Weingarten reluctantly listened to her constituents and put a stop to in 2014.
In April, 2009, the AFT teamed with four venture philanthropies: the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation—to create the Innovation Fund. The private-foundation contributions, in addition to the AFT’s down payment of $1 million, brought the fund’s total to $2.8 million. Weingarten said its funds were made available for local affiliates to “incubate promising ideas to improve schools.”
In an April 28, 2009 article, Education Week’s Teacher Beat described the purpose of the Innovation Fund this way: “Both Weingarten and the foundation folks spoke a lot about the importance of working together and collaboration…Both she and Adam Urbanski, the president of the Rochester, N.Y., affiliate who will serve as the fund’s executive director, were quick to minimize the fact that AFT’s education-reform objectives haven’t always been in line with those of the private foundations. [Emphasis added.]
Weingarten and Urbanski could “minimize” the supposed difference between AFT’s and Broad/Gates “objectives” because AFT leadership *offered the olive branch* of wholehearted intent to bend to the privatization agenda.
(Urbanski and TURN. There’s another story.)
Weingarten *Contributes* to DC Union Business
Weingarten is more than willing to use her influence to protect the privatizing reform agenda in local union affairs. Consider Derstine’s report of Weingarten’s “contribution” to 2010 DC union business:
On June 3, 2010, at their union leader’s urging, the Washington D.C. teachers Union ratified a contract with the Washington D.C. School District, headed by Chancellor Michelle Rhee, which included performance pay linked to test score growth, and a weakening of seniority and tenure. Weingarten had interfered in the Union’s election to ensure it would be held after the contract ratification. Rhee got most of what she wanted in terms of merit pay for teachers and loss of seniority. Union President George Parker called the ratification of the contract “a great day for teachers and students.”
When the union election was finally held on November 10, 2010, Parker was voted out of office by the union rank-and-file. On May 20, 2011, Michelle Rhee announced that Parker was joining her corporate reform organization StudentsFirst. Rhee had resigned as Chancellor of Washington D.C. schools on October 13, 2010, and started StudentsFirst soon after when the Mayor who supported her was not reelcted. Rhee’s Deputy Chancellor and chief negotiator of the 2010 teachers’ contract, Kaya Henderson, replaced her. Henderson recently announced the proposed closing of 20 schools due to “under enrollment”. [Emphasis added.]
Delay the election that will remove the DC union president in favor of Rhee-friendly reform; keep him in place until the DC teachers are officially under the heavy hand of corporate reform via their contract, then *allow* his ouster. No problem for him: He has a job waiting for him with Rhee’s StudentsFirst.
It seems that the year after Weingarten handed DC teachers over to Rhee via a Rhee-friendly contract, AFT was caught doing some Rhee-bashing via a website it hosted on the sly, RheeFirst. It seems that AFT tried to launder the site’s IP address but was found out.
AFT’s Laundered Involvement in Boston
Weingarten and her Unity-Caucus-driven AFT will sneak. They did so in the 2013 Boston mayoral race. Here’s how, as noted in the Boston Globe:
Though it had vowed to remain uninvolved in the mayoral final, the Boston Teachers Union, which is formally affiliated with the AFT, endorsed Walsh on election day.
The Massachusetts database of campaign donations shows the AFT never gave money directly to Walsh’s campaign, which would have been subject to state-imposed contribution limits, or to One Boston, which would have been subject to disclosure requirements.
Instead, the national teacher’s union gave $480,000 to One New Jersey, a political action committee that has vocally opposed candidates who clash with teachers unions, most notably Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey.
In a complicated series of transactions, the AFT first gave the money to One New Jersey, which is not required under New Jersey campaign finance laws to disclose its donors. Then, One New Jersey gave the money to One Boston, a Massachusetts political action committee it set up for the purpose of funding an advertisement on behalf of Walsh. One Boston used the money for the pro-Walsh television commercial. [Emphasis added.]
AFT laundered its financial contribution and in doing so avoided both contribution limits and disclosure.
*Coincidentally*, this is exactly how Broad-trained, Louisiana superintendent John White behaves: A pinnacle of deception, ever seeking loopholes. (For examples, read this post on vouchers, this one on testing contracts, and this post on Eureka Math.)
Weingarten and Broad in Jersey’s Business
While we are talking Weingarten and New Jersey, consider Weingarten’s (and Broad’s) role in New Jersey politics. Derstine notes:
On November 17th, 2012, Weingarten teamed with New Jersey Education Secretary Chris Cerf (Broad Academy Class of 2004) to successfully promote the ratification of a contract for Newark teachers that included merit pay based on performance (including high-stakes test scores). The merit pay scheme was subsequently deemed to be a without merit.
Another shifty con in which Weingarten has played a visible role.
Meanwhile, billionaire Broad is trying to call his own shifty shots:
On December 13, 2012, the New Jersey Education Law Center announced it had found that Eli Broad was offering a $430,000 grant to New Jersey contingent on the reelection of Governor Chris Christie. Terms of the grant include a requirement that the number of charters be increased by 50%, requiring that all public announcements of the program by the state have to be cleared with the Broad Foundation, and it contained a lengthy provision about making documents, files, and records associated with the grant the property of the Foundation. New Jersey bloggers speculated that Broad’s real concern was the keeping Cerf as the New Jersey Secretary of Education. [Emphasis added.]
In its arrogance, the Broad Foundation justifies its democracy-overriding demand that its grant be contingent upon their specifically-named politician’s remaining in office. Then, the spokesperson offers the expected, “but the final word is with the state” insincere consolation:
Research shows that American school systems making the greatest academic gains have certain ingredients in place, including strong leaders who champion strategies that are designed to create environments that support students and teachers, so we consider the presence of strong leaders to be important when we hand over our dollars.
Of course the longevity of a governor is entirely up to a state. [Emphasis added.]
That’s right: We at Broad expect to dictate that New Jersey politics meet our expectations, but we’ll offer a quick word to pretend that we don’t.
Sometimes sneaky; other times, brazen.
But let us return to sneaky.
New York and Connecticut
Weingarten also attempted to sneak in support for New York Governor and noted public sector enemy, Andrew Cuomo, in the September 9, 2014, Democratic primary. Unity-Caucus-run New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) openly endorsed neither Cuomo nor his challenger, Fordham Law Professor Zephyr Teachout.
What a slap in the collective traditional public school teacher face for NYSUT to refuse to endorse Teachout.
Then came the Weingarten slap.
She just could not resist endorsing Cuomo. Gotta figure out how to sneak it in…
…and so she did, in her sadly-disguised Cuomo endorsement via a September 8 robocall supporting Cuomo’s running mate, Kathy Hochul.
Weingarten could not be as obvious regarding her anti-teacher Cuomo support as she chose to be with her anti-teacher Malloy support in Connecticut in June 2014 for Malloy’s bid for re-election.
Weingarten’s justification for her support of Malloy included his use of student test scores in grading teachers.
Again, Broad would be pleased.
Broad also supports CCSS, and Weingarten will not let go of CCSS. In July 2014 at its national convention, AFT held fast to CCSS and is now offering grants for teachers to *rewrite* a CCSS that is a done deal. AFT also slapped US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on his wrist for being the very reformer that Broad and Gates in 2007 pushed for. As Derstine notes:
In 2007, the Broad Foundation teamed with the Gates Foundation to create Strong American Schools. Founded by Eli Broad, the Gates Foundation contributed $60 million towards “a nonpartisan campaign aimed at elevating American education to the top of the presidential campaign agenda between now and November 2008. Strong American Schools is a public awareness and action campaign designed to give a voice to every American who demands strong leadership to improve our schools.”
With the 2008 election of President Barack Obama, Arne Duncan, until then a Broad Foundation Board member (see the next section), was appointed Secretary of Education. The 2009/2010 Annual Report of the Broad Foundation (Page 5) states:
“The election of President Barack Obama and his appointment of Arne Duncan, former CEO of Chicago Public Schools, as the U.S. secretary of education, marked the pinnacle of hope for our work in education reform. In many ways, we feel the stars have finally aligned.
With an agenda that echoes our decade of investments—charter schools, performance pay for teachers, accountability, expanded learning time and national standards—the Obama administration is poised to cultivate and bring to fruition the seeds we and other reformers have planted.” [Emphasis added.]
Derstine has more: In 2012, Weingarten was full-on-Duncan. And she was (and still is) pro-corporate-reform *collaboration*:
On September 22nd, Weingarten joined Secretary of Education Duncan, who was on a bus tour through the Midwest to promote Race to the Top as part of the President Obama’s reelection campaign.
On the tour she joined Gayle Manchin, wife of West Virginia U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, on a panel to discuss “how to build public-private partnerships to support educational improvement as the path to a brighter future.” Weingarten had praised this program as an example of business/labor collaboration at the Clinton Global Initiative conference. [Emphasis added.]
Weingarten takes no strong stand against any privatizer, Duncan included. Broad certainly would not stand against Duncan. Duncan is Broad’s (and Gates’) “stars aligning.”
Weingarten wants to *collaborate* with the declared enemies of traditional public education. Sure, she’ll reluctantly step back every now and then, but only so far as her faithful ties to privatization allow her feign dissent.
Weingarten, Broad. Broad, Weingarten. Weingarten, privatization.
One and the same.