Don’t Let Wall Street Takeover Education

BROOKLYN CASTLE tells the stories of five members of the chess team at Intermediate School 318, a below-the-poverty-line inner city junior high school that has won more national championships than any other school in the country and the first middle school team to win the United States Chess Federation’s national high school championship. Teams from I.S. 318 recently won the national seventh and eighth grade championships.

Seventh and Eighth Grade National Champio

2014 Seventh and Eighth Grade National Champions from I.S. 318

In 2013, Mayor Bloomberg cut the budget, and there was no money for after school programs like the chess team at I.S. 318. Luckily they were able to raise over $67,000 online to keep the chess program going.

In contrast, Eva Moskowitz Founder and CEO of the Success Academy held a fundraiser for her charter school chain and raised $7 million in one night. In New York City, Success Academy currently runs 32 schools,  has approval to open 14 additional schools, and is looking to grow to 100 within the next decade.

Democrats for Education Reform

L to R: David Einhorn, another hedge-funder on DFER’s advisory board, is president of Greenlight Capital, LLC; Board member Whitney Tilson is chief of T2 Partners and Tilson Funds and vice chair of New York’s KIPP Academy Charter Schools; Hedge-fund manager John Petry, a DFER board member, co-founded the Harlem Success Academy Charter School with Eva Moskowitz; DFER advisory board member Joel Greenblatt is a protégé of fallen junk-bond icon Michael Milken; Joe Williams heads Democrats for Education Reform and its sister organization, Education Reform Now.

The Board of Directors for the Success Academy includes many hedge fund-managers such as Joel Greenblatt, John Petry, Jay Bryant, Steven M. Galbraith, Kevin Hall, W. Yen Liow, Daniel S. Loeb, Richard S. Pzena, and John H. Scully. Wall Street is looking to privatize America’s public schools. Using a number of policy schemes including school vouchers and for-profit charter schools, the education privatization movement seeks to take over America’s largely public K-12 education system and put it in the hands of some of the very same people who caused the financial crash on Wall Street.

DFER

One group that has been successful in pushing this wave of privatization is Democrats For Education Reform (DFER), a group of largely finance industry Democrats who advocate for expansion of charter schools and high-stakes testing, among other policies. Daily News Columnists and Democracy Now! co-host reported on the relationship between Wall Street and charter schools:

I’ve been trying now for a couple of years is to try to figure out why is it that so many hedge fund managers, wealthy Americans and big banks, Wall Street banks, have — executives of Wall Street banks, have all lined up supporting and getting involved in the development of charter schools. And I think I may have come across one of the reasons: there’s a lot of money to be made in charter schools. And I’m not talking just about the for-profit management companies that run a lot of these charter schools.

It turns out that at the tail end of the Clinton administration in 2000, Congress passed a new kind of tax credit called a New Markets Tax Credit. And what this allows is it gives an enormous federal tax credit to banks and equity funds that invest in community projects in underserved communities, and it’s been used heavily now for the last several years for charter schools.

An article in The New York Times raises the issue:

[D]o [charter schools] cherry-pick students, if not by gaming the admissions process, then by counseling out children who might be more expensive or difficult to educate — and who could bring down their test scores, graduation rates and safety records?

The idea that Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy indeed cherry-picks its students is supported by an article in The Daily News:

The Upper West Side Success Academy charter school has touted itself for not trying to push out kids with special needs or behavior problems, but a parent has audio to the contrary.

Freestyle Chess Tournament

To promote real education reform, we are developing the International Scholastic Freestyle Chess Tournament (ISFreCT). In the ISFreCT, students can work in teams and make use of any technical support for selecting their chess moves.

ISFreCT will explore former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov’s ideas of using the decision-making process of chess as a model for understanding and improving our decision-making everywhere else and how we have discarded innovation and creativity in exchange for a steady supply of marketable products.

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