Why Tax Billionaires Out of Existence

22 Apr

By Thomas Ultican 4/22/2021

Twenty years of studying education policy, politics and practices has been awakening. Seeing billionaires inflict their often misguided and unpopular beliefs on our nation’s public schools has made it clear how undemocratic and dangerous extreme wealth is. They have established voucher programs routinely sending taxpayer money to religious schools even though these programs have lost decisively whenever submitted to voters. In her book Slaying Goliath, Diane Ravitch labeled these 0.1% of Americans as disrupters. She asked and answered the question “what do disrupters want?” They want:

  • Inexperienced teachers with little or no training from organizations like Teach For America.
  • To replace teachers with machine teaching (“blended learning” – “personalized learning”).
  • To move fast and break things including school systems, historic schools and communities.
  • To eliminate local democratic control over schools.
  • To eliminate teacher tenure and seniority rights.
  • To eliminate teacher defined benefit pensions.
  • To eliminate teachers unions.
  • To evaluate teachers and schools with standardized test scores.
  • To lower taxes and reduce spending on education.

Controlling the Political Process

In 2018, the Network for Public Education (NPE) produced a masterful report detailing how school board elections are being stolen from local residents. In the introduction to Hijacked by Billionaires: How the Super Rich Buy Elections to Undermine Public Schools,” the authors state, “This report provides some insight into how the very wealthy insert themselves into local elections through direct contributions, Independent Expenditure Committees and even non-profit organizations.”

The Billionaires Cited in “Hijacked by Billionaires”

In my post-election analysis of three elections, School Board Elections 2020: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly,” I show that billionaires Alice Walton of Bentonville, Arkasas, Michael Bloomberg of New York, New York and Stacy Schusterman of Tulsa, Oklahoma poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into the school board races in Oakland, California and Indianapolis, Indiana.

In that same election, the spending in Los Angeles and for California state offices was enormous. Through a combination of direct contributions and political action committees, seven billionaires put more than $14,000,000 into the 2020 election. The bulk of it went into the Los Angeles school board election with over $1,000,000 going to state assembly and senate races plus more than $1,000,000 went into five county board of education elections.

The Path of Billionaire Spending in California’s 2020 General Election

Similar election spending went on in New Orleans, Camden and many other jurisdictions mainly through Public School Allies the political arm of the City Fund founded by billionaires John Arnold and Reed Hastings.

In 2014, SFGATE reported, “Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, who suggests that democratically elected school boards are the problem with public education, says they should be replaced by privately held corporations.” Hastings said out loud a belief held among many of his anti-democracy peers.

Creating an Alternate Teacher Training Path

In their effort to privatize public education, billionaires have created alternate paths for teacher credentialing and professional development.

Mercedes Schneider writes in her book Chronicle of Echoes, “Wendy Kopp declared that she had a force of young, predominantly-Ivy League idealists for sale, and Big Money arrived on the scene to make the purchase.” Wendy Kopp is the founder of Teach For America (TFA) and the young idealists for sale were her “temp teachers” who have no intention of staying in the classroom. In 2011, the Walton Family Foundation donated $49.5 million to TFA. Many corporate donors also sent TFA $100,000 to $999,000: “Anheuser-Busch, ATT, Bank of America, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Boeing, Cargill Chesapeake Energy, Chevron, Emerson, Entergy, ExxonMobil, Fedex, Fidelity Investment, GE, Marathon Oil, Monsanto, Peabody, Prudential, State Farm, Symantec, Travelers, Wells Fargo.”

These unqualified “temp teachers” have not studied teaching and they have no experience. A new teacher coming through a traditional program has taken many education courses and spent a year working with a master teacher as a supervised student teacher. TFA teachers typically have no education courses in college and get just five-weeks of classroom training in the summer.

TNTP is one of several organizations that only exist because billionaires have financed them. Wendy Kopp founded TNTP (originally called The New Teachers Project) in 1997. She assigned Michelle Rhee, who had completed a two year TFA tour, to lead it. Along with TNTP and TFA there are also the Broad Superintendents Academy and the fake school for professional educators called Relay Graduate School instilling the billionaire inspired privatization mindset.

Selling Technology and School Choice

With their enormous wealth, billionaires have poured more than $200,000,000 into organizations like New School Venture Fund to sell edtech and school choice; also funding think tanks (CREDO and CRPE) to provide a veneer of academic credibility.

To advance these sales they have created their own education media empire with The Education Post and The-74 as their flagships. Bill Gates has spent lavishly on publications like EdWeek turning them from a teacher resource into an edtech promoting outlet.

“An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.” —Plutarch (c. 46–120 ce)

In 2017, Bill Moyers wrote,

“The top 1 percent owns more than 30 percent of America’s wealth. The poorest half owns just 2.5 percent. Wall Street bonuses alone are twice the amount of all the combined earnings of minimum-wage workers in this country. We are grotesquely, bizarrely, grossly unequal — unequal in cash, health care, schooling and access to clean air and water. Unequal in our access to power. And we are becoming more unequal by the year: Since Ronald Reagan became president, the income of the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans has doubled.”

As Louis Brandeis famously stated, “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”

5 Responses to “Why Tax Billionaires Out of Existence”

  1. Lloyd Lofthouse April 26, 2021 at 5:18 pm #

    I wanted to reblog this post to one of my blogs but nothing happened when I clicked that Reblog link.

    Like

    • tultican April 27, 2021 at 3:14 pm #

      I don’t know why it didn’t work. Maybe Word Press had a problem. Hopefully it is just temporary.

      Like

  2. Laura Ross Garcia April 30, 2021 at 4:04 pm #

    Do you follow Alison Hawver McDowell? She has a blog called “Wrench in the Gears.” She began investigating proficiency based education and reform in PA schools @2016. She has mapped out connections of the wealthy and influential beyond just education. The picture that her mapping, research and study of white papers has revealed is disturbing.

    I am from Maine where I began investigating PBL and education reform in my district. I followed the money trail and soon learned that the Gates Foundation had essentially hijacked many education systems in New England by infusing cash into Nellie Mae for the purposes of “effecting a systems change.” This is how I came to know of Alison’s work. There is also a former teacher from Maine by the name of Emily Talmage and she had a blog called “Save Maine Schools.” When I first began having questions about the big changes in our district, I stumbled across Emily’s blog and upon reading her research wondered if she was a conspiracy theorist…..UNTIL, I did my own research and confirmed that what she had reported and detailed was very accurate….just mostly hidden from public view unless you know what to look for when following the money.

    Alison began tracking many of the billionaire players beyond education into other areas including energy, healthcare, environmental, etc. What emerged was a picture that suggests that the fin/tech elite, mostly of Davos and the WEF, are busy instituting a social impact market to replace the traditional market as technology advances and the disparity among the masses and the elite grows. Specifically, she gives instances in which the WEF and UN are arguing that they will “build back better” through what appears to be a mixture of venture capitalism and philanthropy directed at a sustainable and green future. However, the real and more important question is whether or not we can trust them. Upon closer examination, it looks like we should be wary. That is, Alison argues that what their long term plan amounts to is essentially confining the masses to a digital prison by treating people as human capital whose worth will be determined by social credits achieved through compliance of programming. All will be tracked on blockchain. And of course, the pandemic, seen through this lens begins to look like a crisis that they will exploit to achieve their ends. Through arguing for a health passport they bring us one step closer to creating digital identities for tracking our existence. Naturally, to have this new social impact market be profitable for the tech/fin elite then they must mine data, to get the data they must create methods of surveillance and systems to collect data.

    I would highly recommend that you check out Alison’s work. Initially, Alison, Emily, myself and others thought that the meddling of the tech/fin sector in public education was about creating future consumers of their products by having technology/computers be an integral part of education. We also naively though that the tech sector was simply looking to expand its markets by exploring more sophisticated forms of education software, etc. Now, we know better. It would appear that what the Gates of the world really want is automated education that is about assessing, tracking and sorting students according to aptitudes and establishing credit scores through the school systems as early as possible. Think of it as cradle to grave tracking….rather dystopian. Unfortunately, as you look at the other pieces of the puzzle that are surfacing in politics you begin to see the bigger picture….things like, moving towards digital currency, moving towards telemedicine, moving towards health passports, defunding police, etc. The more digital the world becomes and they move our existence towards the spatial web….the more it begins to look like a digital prison.

    Like

    • tultican April 30, 2021 at 4:40 pm #

      Yes, I follow both Alison and Emily. I notice that Emily has been quiet lately but Alison keep kicking.

      Like

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Tom Ultican: No Billionaires Wanted or Needed | Diane Ravitch's blog - April 26, 2021

    […] that a large number of billionaires has inflicted on American education and American society. He proposes that we tax them out of existence with their assets used to reduce poverty and […]

    Liked by 1 person

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