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Charter-Promoter, Progressive Policy Institute (PPI), Is Really Third Way Foundation, Inc.

November 12, 2017

An organization that calls itself Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) has been to Minnesota of late. This I learned from a colleague in Minnesota who asked me if I knew anything about PPI or a man named David Osborne, who is associated with PPI.

Osborne is apparently traveling and promoting a book he wrote, entitled, Reinventing America’s Schools. On September 05, 2017, Osborne as interviewed about his book by noted ed reformer Chester Finn. From the C-SPAN summary about the interview:

After Words with David Osborne

David Osborne examines the charter school movement and offers his outlook for the future of public education in his book, Reinventing America’s Schools: Creating a 21st Century Education System. He talked about the success of schools in cities such as Newark, Memphis, Denver, Oakland, and Cleveland modeling the charter school system in New Orleans, which was a part of the rebuild after Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans reconstructed their school system through the states Recovery School District (RSD) program, turning their public schools into charter schools over time. Results are showing improved test scores, graduation and dropout rates, and school performance scores. Mr. Osborne argued that regardless of what we call schools every public school should be treated like a charter school, with autonomy, performance accountability, parental choice, and diversity of school design. He was interviewed by Chester Finn.

Among the New Orleans RSD marvels: An ACT composite that has yet to crack 17. But this apparently did not make it into Osborne’s book.

One can watch the hour-long video and read the transcript here. 


Osborne has been busy promoting his book. Sure enough, Osborne was in Minnesota on November 08, 2017, promoting his book, which is identified as “the cornerstone of the education project at PPI”:

The Progressive Policy Institute, Education Evolving, and Ed Allies invite you to join us for a community reception featuring David Osborne as we celebrate the release of David’s new book, Reinventing America’s Schools: Creating a 21st Century Education System. This book is the cornerstone of the education project at PPI.
David is the author of several books, including the New York Times bestseller Reinventing Government. Born of a need in America’s inner cities, a new paradigm of public education is emerging, to fit the realities of the 21st century. In his new book, David offers a bracing survey of the most dramatic improvements taking place in urban education today in cities as diverse as Denver, Washington D.C., and New Orleans. These cities all have one thing in common – they all embrace a public education system that relies on school autonomy, accountability, and choice.
Following a reception, David will present the vision for education reform revealed in his new book before participating in a panel discussion with local education leaders. A Q&A will follow. Please join us for this important conversation.


The day before speaking in the Twin Cities, Osborne was in Memphis.

And believe it or not, Osborne plans to try to sell the marvels of charters in Chicago on November 13, 2017. Peter Cunningham’s Education Post is sponsoring the event along with the Illinois Network of Charter Schools.

As for PPI the nonprofit: Well, there is no PPI nonprofit. On its website, PPI does not identify itself by the name under which it is registered as a nonprofit. So, if one is seeking tax info on PPI, one must look under The Third Way Foundation, Inc. (EIN 52-1629221– not to be confused with Third Way Institute or its related nonprofit, Third Way).

The Third Way Foundation became a nonprofit in 1989. According to its 2001 tax form, The Third Way Foundation shared its equipment, facilities, and personnel with the now-defunct lobbying nonprofit, Democratic Leadership Council.

The Third Way Foundation first identified as PPI in 2008.

The Third Way Foundation does not offer much at all regarding its mission. The most one gets is from the 2008 tax form:

To advance the cause of progressive government in America by promoting civic responsibility and public entrepreneurship. Adapting America’s public and governmental institutions to new conditions.

In other words, The Third Way Foundation via PPI works to replace public entities with market-based, privatized or quasi-privatized versions of those entities in the name of public empowerment and “choice”– all of this without clearly informing the public of such a goal.

Just call it “reinventing.”

Beyond 2008, the Third Way Foundation mission statement was reduced to the following:

To advance the cause of progressive government in America by promoting civic responsibility and public entrepreneurship.

PPI’s key funders are  for the most part not the usual names behind market-based ed reform. NewSchools Venture Fund is one name that comes up. However, an eyebrow raising donor to The Third Way Foundation is the lobbying nonprofit, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PHRMA). (Now there’s a nonprofit: PHRMA paid its CEO $3 million in 2014. It gave Third Way Foundation $75,000 that year.)

Via the Third Way Foundation tax forms one can learn that David Osborne is a “key employee” who received $152,000 in total compensation in 2015, and also in 2016, it seems.

“Key employee” Osborne appears to have been hired to write PPI’s cornerstone education project.”

One more note about Third Way Foundation: It seems that the 2015 and 2016 tax forms are exactly the same, with someone having written “2016” over the “2015” by hand for 2016. Both 2015 and 2016 forms were submitted in 2017, but it is clear by the stamps and other notations of receipt to the IRS that this same 2015 form has been somehow also accepted as the 2016 tax form.

Perhaps PPI is also reinventing its tax form submission.

That seems like a far better idea than trying to promote charter school anything in Chicago.

chicago school closure


Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

From → Charters, RSD

  1. Edd Doerr permalink

    Chester Finn, a member of the MD state board of ed (appointed by GOP pro-voucher Gov Larry Hogan), is a long time voucher pusher. At a conference at Catholic University in Washington years ago Finn declared from the lectern that he was “ashamed to be a Jew” because major Jewish organizations oppose diverting public funds to private schools. A prominent rabbi was present and responded appropriately.

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  1. Schneider: Third Way Foundation promoting charter schools | Dolphin

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