Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Could The Next Generation Of Philanthropy Actually SAVE Public Education?

I've been having a very telling back and forth with some Anonymous Charter Cheerleaders on my blog the last couple of weeks, mostly in reference to a post I wrote back in January about Hatikvah International Academy Charter School, which is bankrolled by demi-billionaire hedge fund guru Michael Steinhardt. 

And then yesterday a dear friend sent me this link
A group of young heirs in the Philadelphia chapter of Resource Generation has released a statement that decries any reliance on philanthropy for the funding of public schools; instead, they say, rich people should pay more in taxes.
Well, that sure got my attention.

Here's the original letter in its entirety.
With our severely underfunded public schools now open, it is important to examine the causes of this crisis.
We are a group of people in our 20s and 30s with inherited wealth and class privilege who believe that philanthropy has played a role in contributing to the crisis. Current forms of philanthropy are not leading to the transformation of public schools our city needs.
Will Bunch wrote a blog post recently critiquing philanthropic efforts to "fix" Philadelphia's public education. We agree: When philanthropists pour money into alternatives, like individual charter schools or the privately run Philadelphia School Partnership, they erode the development of a healthy public system that equitably serves all. Funding private alternatives supports small-scale interventions that do nothing to address the root causes of inequality. It also weakens the democratic process. Philanthropists should not be the ones deciding what is best for public schools. That decision belongs equally to all the city's community members.
As people with wealth, we know how tempting it is to feel we are making a difference by giving away money. But when we give away money while maintaining the power to decide what gets funded, we perpetuate the injustice we think we're addressing. When we solve "other people's" problems while remaining comfortably unimpacted by the issue at hand, we don't make meaningful change.
Growing up with access to wealth, we were raised with the ability to opt out of "not good enough" public institutions. When it came to education, our parents sent us to magnet or private schools, or used financial stability to choose cities, suburbs and towns with well resourced schools.
What our city needs from wealthy people now is for us to advocate for and participate in structural change that will ultimately improve the resourcing of our schools. Require us to opt in to the public sphere, not choose to pay to set our lives apart:
• Tax us more! Pennsylvania has one of the most regressive tax systems in the United States. Wealthy individuals and corporations are not paying our fair share of taxes.
• Eliminate tax havens and loopholes that allow wealthy people to accumulate and hold onto wealth. Wealth disparity in the US today is at the highest level it has reached since the 1930s. Only reformed tax policies can effectively redistribute wealth.
• Make policies that require businesses to respect people over profit. Until wealthy people's means of making money are just, no amount of charitable philanthropy will cancel out the exploitation that initially created the wealth.
• Fund organizing efforts by teachers, parents, students and community members that are focused on creating wellfunded, locally controlled public schools. These efforts develop leaders, strengthen democracy and lead to change that is desired by those most directly affected.
We inherited wealth through our families' intention that it would make our lives better, but we know it has contributed to isolating us and perpetuating poverty. We envision an alternative role for ourselves in creating a city that values all of its citizens. (emphasis mine)
Submitted by members of Resource Generation, Philadelphia Chapter
Hillary Blecker
Sarah Burgess
M.J. Kaufman
Aaron Kreider
Sara Narva
Jessica Rosenberg
Julia Stone
Anonymous Member

They are absolutely, positively, 100% right!! These young adults expressed precisely what I was attempting to point out regarding Michael Steinhardt's funding of the Hebrew Charter School Network and Hatikvah
Philanthropists should not be the ones deciding what is best for public schools. That decision belongs equally to all the city's community members.  
This is exactly what is causing local skirmishes like mine, as well as the destruction of public education in cities like Philly, Chicago and Newark. In my town it's Michael Steinhardt, but in the big picture it's Gates, Waldon, Broad etal. 

There is no doubt that The Billionaire Boys Club has their own agenda and they have bought access to our nation's politicians and public schools to form them into their own image. And by all accounts, they are leaving them far worse than they found them.

Make sure you check out the link above to Resource Generation. These are young people who seem to be natural allies to those of us fighting for public education. 
Since 1998, Resource Generation (RG) has engaged over 1,800 young people with wealth across the U.S. Through community building, education and organizing, we help young people with wealth bring all they have and all they are to the social change movements and issues they care about. We organize to transform philanthropy, policy, and institutions and leverage our collective power to make lasting structural change.
I thank them for their courage to stand up for what is right and just, not only for the children of Philadelphia, but for ALL children. You can thank them too.  Here's their Facebook page. Please, let them know how much we appreciate their work.

It gives me hope that perhaps the next generation of wealth will do less damage than the one currently destroying our public schools. 


  1. I find it ironic that you say that you don't want philanthropists to decide education policy, but you seem to be supportive of the bankrupt Abott formula whereby a small cadre of unelected people (The NJ Supreme Court) has decimated the ability for equitable funding to non urban districts. Yet at the same time, Abott proves the money is not the key to failure of our states education system.

  2. So these trust fund babies big idea is to give away their parents hard earned money to the state or federal government. They are going to give the money to these same agencies that got us into the very mass we are in today. a bad idea and an even worse investment. same old tax and spend

  3. throw more money at it! that should work right??
    Here is a map that shows what we spend PER PUPIL in NJ:


    Total Cost Per Pupil 2011-2012: $20,172

  4. So, let's compare the academic results:
    1. Hatikvah Charter:
    12% special ed, using the lottery system of enrollment
    100% of students school wide passed math (50% advanced proficient)
    2. Highland Park Traditional Public Schools
    14% special ed, NOT using the lottery system of enrollment
    73% of students school wide passed math (5% advanced proficient)
    How about the costs??
    #1. The Charter
    Total Spending Per Pupil
    2010-11 Costs Amount per Pupil: $14,122
    2011-12 Costs Amount per Pupil: $12,611

    #2 Highland Park Traditional Public Schools
    2010-11 Costs Amount per Pupil: $20,120
    2011-12 Costs Amount per Pupil: $20,172

    Maybe the Crusader can explain how Highland Park Public Schools are so much more expensive but produce worse results?