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Bill Gates is the Latest Billionaire Funder of Cunningham’s EdPost

April 22, 2018

Peter Cunningham might be the highest paid ed reform blogger in America: Almost $1M in total compensation for 31 months (May 2014 to December 2016).

On September 01, 2014, Lyndsey Layton of the Washington Post introduced Peter Cunningham’s ed-reform blog perch, Education Post, to the world. An excerpt:

Into the fray steps Education Post, a nonprofit group that plans to launch Tuesday with the aim of encouraging a more “respectful” and fact-based national discussion about the challenges of public education, and possible solutions.

Peter Cunningham, the former communications guru for U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, is leading the organization, which is backed with initial grants totaling $12 million from the Broad Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Walton Family Foundation and an anonymous donor.

As noted below, the first year, EdPost only garnered $5.5M in donations, not $12M. Either times were tough, or part of that $12M was money promised for the future, without Cunningham’s needing to have an annual evaluation based upon his billionaire-funded effectiveness. Nice, if one is willing to be a billionaire’s yes-man.

As I reported in October 2017, Los Angeles billionaire Eli Broad has played a notably dominant role in EdPost. Cunningham said the following to education journalist Jennifer Berkshire in a May 2015 interview:

When I was asked to create this organization [Education Post]—it wasn’t my idea; I was initially approached by Broad—it was specifically because a lot of reform leaders felt like they were being piled on and that no one would come to their defense. They said somebody just needs to help right the ship here. There was a broad feeling that the anti-reform community was very effective at piling on and that no one was organizing that on our side. There was unequivocally a call to create a community of voices that would rise to the defense of people pushing reform who felt like they were isolated and alone. 

Thus, in order to defend helpless, moneyed ed reformers against the likes of me, at billionaire Broad’s urging (and with an annual salary no classroom teacher will ever see), Cunningham started EdPost (official nonprofit name: Results in Education Foundation, or RIEF, but you won’t know that from the EdPost web site) with $12M from Michael Bloomberg, Eli Broad, the Waltons, and Laurene Powell Jobs (Emerson Collective), with the following breakdown as per  the RIEF 2014 tax form:

  • Michael Bloomberg: $3.2M
  • Broad Foundation: $1.5M
  • Emerson Collective: $500K
  • Walton Family Foundation: $250K

In 2014, Cunningham’s total compensation was $201,950 for 6 1/2 months of blogging at Eli Broad’s behest– and apparently with agreed Broad oversight.

According to RIEF’s 2015 tax form, Eli Broad did not donate money to EdPost in 2015. However, as I also reported in October 2017, in order to arguably exercise power within RIEF, his foundation did have two representatives on the RIEF board (one Broad rep in 2016).

Here’s the 2015 RIEF money flow, which was down from 2014’s $5.5M to only $2.3M. Still, Cunningham fared nicely:

  • Michael Bloomberg: $284K
  • Emerson Collective: $1M
  • Walton Family Foundation: $1M

In 2015, Cunningham’s total compensation was $368,138 for 12 months of blogging, or “ris[ing] to the defense of those pushing reform who felt like they were isolated and alone.”

In 2016, RIEF picked up a new donor: Bill Gates.

bill gates shrug  Bill Gates

According to the Gates grants search engine, the $1.5M grant is for EdPost to publicize state-level activity related to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). (But don’t try searching the keywords, “education post” or “edpost”; there will be no search results):

Results in Education Foundation

Date: November 2016
Purpose: to increase awareness of state activity on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and elevate the voices and perspectives of key stakeholders in states
Amount: $1,500,000

In 2016, RIEF brought in just over $4.6M from 5 donors. From the RIEF 2016 990:

  • Michael Bloomberg: $283K
  • Broad Foundation: $930K
  • Emerson Collective: $1M
  • Walton Family Foundation: $923K
  • Gates Foundation: $1.5M

RIEF president and head blogger, Peter Cunningham, was also paid well: $382,836 in total compensation.

To recap: for the 2 1/2 years’ worth of tax forms that RIEF, I mean, EdPost, I mean, RIEF, has publicly available to date (2014 – 2016), it has taken in $12.4M from 5 donors, which means it has now surpassed what was supposwed to be the $12M in “initial grants” Layton wrot of in her September 2014 article cited at the opening of this post.

And for 2 1/2 years of blogging so that billionare-funded ed reformers don’t fell isolated and alone, Cunningham has been paid $952,924 in total compensation, or just shy of $1M.

And now, for some irony, as published by Cunningham humself on his luxury ed-reform blog:

On April 20, 2018, Cunningham wrote a post entitled, “Beware of NAEP Theories and Look for Courage in American Education,” in which he searches for an ed-reformer soft landing regarding the overwhelming flatness of 2017 NAEP scores. Below is an excerpt of particular interest, given EdPost’s funders:

The reality is that many school superintendents are under the thumb of change-wary school boards or under fire from reform-resistant teachers unions. It’s increasingly difficult to find anyone to take the job and most last only a few years. With some exceptions, the superintendents and state chiefs who survive longest tend to be the least disruptive.

In Louisiana, corporate ed reform state superintendent John White has “survived” two state boards to date– the one elected in 2011, and the one elected in 2015– with some billionaire help bread-and-butter familiar to Cunningham:

Bloomberg, Broad, and Walton.

From the October 16, 2015, Times-Picayune, regarding Louisiana’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) 2015 election:

Most of the contributions are being funneled through Baton Rouge businessman Lane Grigsby‘s Empower Louisiana political action committee. From July 17 to Oct. 4, contributions to the PAC totaled $2,175,750, according to state ethics reports. That included several familiar names in education philanthropy:

  • $800,000 from former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg
  • $625,000 from Action Now Initiative, a project of Laura and John Arnold, a former hedge fund manager
  • $400,000 from Alice and Jim Walton of the Wal-Mart Waltons
  • $250,000 from Eli Broad, founder of two Fortune 500 companies

Some of those billionaires donated to other PACs as well. In September, Action Now Initiative gave $125,000 and Jim Walton $250,000 to Stand for Children, a pro-charter group that organizes parents. Earlier in the year, the Waltons gave a total of $200,000 to the Louisiana Federation for Children, which also pulled in a $100,000 donation from Betsy DeVos, former chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party. Overall, Bloomberg, Broad and the Waltons have already given significantly more than they did in 2011.

As for what “they did in 2011,” see this October 17, 2012, article in The Nation and the video below, “2011: When the Billionaires Bought BESE,” by Louisiana journalist, Mike Stagg, beginning at minute 3:40.

 

Perhaps Cunningham should have included in his piece on NAEP regret the need for increased elected-board purchasing power of his own funders.

But then, no need to rock the EdPost/RIEF funding boat by criticizing those with the checkbook.

money fishhook

______________________________________________________________________________

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.

8 Comments
  1. Jack permalink

    Mercedes,

    Every time I post Cunningham’s salary on Education Post, or on Chalkbeat, or other sites (THE 74 got rid of its COMMENTS section), it’s immediately deleted.

    “That which one hides is that of which one is ashamed.”

    OR

    “If you’ve got nothing to hide, you hide nothing.”

    That’s also applicable to Sean Hannity’s real estate — a story which just broke.

    • Comments section? Opening the space up for CRITICISM? Never a good idea as I repeat the summary, so nicely written: “…no need to rock the EdPost/RIEF funding boat by criticizing those with the checkbook….”

  2. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    Wonderful research, as usual. When you have time and if you have the interest, I hope you can get into the Little Sis graphing strategy to make visible the tangled webs of connection. Seattle Education has some astonishing versions, one for KnowledgeWorks.
    Here is the link. https://littlesis.org The organization offers training.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Mercedes Schneider: Peter Cunningham and EdPost Cash In | Diane Ravitch's blog
  2. Charter School Unions Make It Hard to “Fully Control the Teachers.” | deutsch29

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