This year's election season gave us some textbook examples of how corporate education reformers use their personal fortunes to contaminate the democratic process.
Let's begin with the little state of Rhode Island, where former hedge fund owner and charter school champion Democrat Gina Raimondo, was elected governor with 40 percent of the vote in a three-way race--one in which there was an unprecedented level of campaign spending.
Raimondo, who as Rhode Island's state treasurer won national acclaim from conservatives for successfully dismantling the state employee pension fund, raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from donors associated with funding the education reform movement and profiting from the charter school industry. Her running mate, Cumberland mayor Daniel McKee, one of the state's most vocal supporters of charter schools, was elected lieutenant governor with help from many of the same donors.
Over the course of her gubernatorial campaign, Raimondo collected checks from many of the major players in the charter school and "education reform" movement, including donations from billionaires Eli Broad and members of the Walton family. (The Broad Foundation and Walton Foundation, along with Gates Foundation, are the primary funders behind the overall education reform movement.)
Another billionaire, former Enron executive John Arnold, along with his wife, not only donated directly to Raimondo's campaign and her political action committee, called Gina PAC, but the couple's $100,000 check made them the largest donors to the American LeadHERship Council, a Super PAC affiliated with Raimondo. The second largest donor to the Super PAC was Eli Broad with $15,000.
A proponent of doing away with public employee pensions, Arnold also donated as much as $500,000 to an advocacy group called Engage Rhode Island, which spent approximately $740,000 lobbying for Raimondo's successful assault on public employee pensions. Over the past three years, the John and Laura Arnold Foundation has donated more than $100 million in support of charter schools and entities involved in the corporate education reform industry, including being one of the largest contributors to Jeb Bush's Foundation for Educational Excellence.
Raimondo's success in raising funds from the charter school industry includes at least $50,000 from the members of the board of directors of Achievement First, Inc., the large charter chain that recently opened a school in Rhode Island, adding...