Thursday, June 25, 2015

What Is The Influence Of Money On Education Policies?

I started this blog just over a month ago. What finally got me to this point was a press release from The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. They blasted the Opt Out movement, citing the need for standardized tests for students of color, economically disadvantaged students, and students with disabilities. The press release was signed by themselves and eleven other civil and disability rights organizations.

I did a cursory look to see where some of these groups get funding. The Gates Foundation is a usual starting point for me. As it turned out, none of the disability groups had received money from the Gates Foundation. However, six of the civil rights groups received a total of $46,538,043. Wow.


The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
$2,930,868.00
The American Association of University Women (AAUW)
----
Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD)
----
Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Inc. (COPAA)
----
Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF)
----
League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
$943,687.00
NAACP
$2,456,106.00
National Council of La Raza (NCLR)
$33,371,260.00
National Disability Rights Network (NDRN)
----
National Urban League
$5,156,017.00
Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC)
$1,680,105.00
TASH
----
Total
$46,538,043.00

Then, I found another press release from The Leadership Conference issued about a month earlier. This one was called for the re-authorization of ESEA -- specifically encouraging maintaining annual standardized testing, maintaining the 1% cap on those eligible for alternative assessment, and data collection. Forty-one civil and disabilities rights groups signed this one.

So, I started looking into them. Mind you, this is just grants from the Gates Foundation. I haven’t even looked at the Walton and Broad Foundations yet. The total grant money is $1,757,814,434.00 (yes, that says billion) for just twenty-two of those forty-one groups. The majority of that money is for a huge scholarship fund set up with one group, but that still leaves a little over $170 million granted to just twenty-one groups. That’s a lot of money. Sorry to say there are disability groups who did receive grants.


The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
$2,930,868.00
Alliance for Excellent Education
$17,740,410.00
American Association of University Women (AAUW)
----
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
----
Association of University Centers on Disabilities
----
Children’s Defense Fund
$433,178.00
Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA)
----
Democrats for Education Reform
----
Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund
----
Easter Seals
$384,747.00
Education Law Center – Pennsylvania
----
Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN)
----
Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
----
League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
$943,687.00
Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund
$1,325,077.00
NAACP
$2,456,106.00
NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc.
----
National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities
----
National Center for Learning Disabilities
$124,315.00
National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools
----
National Congress of American Indians
$100,000.00
National Council of La Raza (NCLR)
$33,371,260.00
National Down Syndrome Congress
----
National Indian Education Association
$1,944,230.00
National PTA
$2,690,422.00
National Women’s Law Center
----
New Leaders
$20,718,314.00
PolicyLink
$1,882,828.00
Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC)
$1,680,105.00
Southern Education Foundation
$500,056.00
Southern Poverty Law Center
----
Stand for Children
$13,449,716.00
TASH
----
Teach for America
$12,405.267.00
Teach Plus
$17,094,388.00
The Education Trust
$15,291,817.00
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
----
The National Disability Rights Network
----
The New Teacher Project (TNTP)
$23,000,280.00
UNCF
$1,587,347,363.00
Total
$1,757,814,434.00


What are those grants for? Here are some examples (directly from the Gates Foundation website): 
  • General operating support (presumably keeping a roof over their head and the lights on)
  • Educate, inform, convene and communicate with its national coalition of civil rights advocates about the [Gates] US Program’s Education Strategies (Common Core, Core-aligned testing, teacher evaluations, and data collection)
  • Support an advocacy, communications, and policy development initiative promoting federal high school policy reform and participation as a member of the Campaign for High School Equity
  • Provide support for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools to foster a strong charter sector that allows every family to choose a high performing public school that delivers an excellent education for their children
  • Advance the rights of Latino students to a college and career ready public education and to support the priority policies of the Campaign for High School Equity
  • Support implementation of a strategic plan for national PTAs to promote college-readiness, and higher student performance outcomes
  • Continue and enhance its parent advocacy training modules for Common Core State Standards (CCSS) that were originally created during its Gates-funded National PTA sub-grant in 2010
  • Build the pipeline of outstanding secondary school principals, and support secondary principals and their schools through the implementation of a secondary reform strategy
  • Support Common Core implementation and teacher effectiveness programs
  • Support bringing low-income and minority students in Teach for America (TFA) classrooms to proficiency
  • Begin pressure testing possible education finance reform solutions—both substantively and politically
  • Create new early college charter high schools and redesign existing charter high schools
Dr. Wayne Au noted in his guest column in the Washington Post on May 9th, we can’t know how much that money influenced those groups’ decision to sign on (the May 5th release) to what are clearly Gates’ aligned education policies. OK, I agree with part of that, with the exclusion of the grants that are very specifically focused on Common Core and encouraging others to buy into it too. Is it unreasonable to think that these groups are more likely to support press releases endorsing Gates’ education policies than not? I don’t think it is. Which leads me to…

What does this mean for parents and students who these groups represent? While not familiar with some of them, I am with many, and they do really good work. Why is there such a disconnect when it comes to education policy? And why does it have to be test the crap out the poor and disabled kids vs. they will get completely lost or ignored unless we do that testing?

As a parent, I’m really disappointed that the discussion (presuming there’s even that going on) is so narrow and so narrow-minded. I know there are better ways to assess students. There are ways to assure the quality of those assessments from district to district. The current policies of standardize and test everything is failing all of our children. The lack of creativity involved in how to “fix” this is truly astonishing. It’s lazy. And, the organizations in this country who should know better, or seek to know better, are just toeing the corporate line to the detriment of their constituents. It’s very disappointing.

P.S. I’m sure you will all die from not-surprise; there has yet to be a reply to my email sent on May 5th to Mr. Henderson, President of The Leadership Conference.


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