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Public Core is an organization of West Contra Costa County parents, teachers, community members, and school staff who fight for public control and accountability in our schools. We believe that public schools, open to all, are essential to the health of a democratic society. Our goal is high quality, inclusive public education for all students. We believe that the proliferation of privately-operated schools using public money will increase inequalities in education and in our society. We are dedicated to informing the public about the impact of publicly-funded, privately operated schools on our community.

For more information: (510) 270-0955 or
En Español - Working to maintain public control and accountability for public schools in WCCUSD since 2014. Not affiliated with the deceptive website started in 2016 to confuse and distract.

Follow the Money / the Players

Articles about the Big Money behind Charter Schools


Hedge Papers 129:  Hidden Donations Brought to Light:  How the Wealthy Elite Tried to Defeat Proposition 30 
Hedge Clippers, June 27, 2016
"John H. Scully, the former corporate executive and current multimillionaire investor, is the founder of the Making Waves Foundation, which operates the Making Waves Academy charter school in Richmond, CA. In the 2013-2014 school year, Making Waves Academy received $555,144 in Prop. 30 funds, according to the Comptroller’s Office. That’s only slightly more than John H. Scully donated to Americans for Job Security. In 2014-15, the school appears to have received $760,830, and has elected to spend those funds on busing, special education, and psychological services.
"Scully is no stranger to shadowy campaign finance conduits. Between 2014 and 2015, Scully and his wife donated a total of $500,000 to the California Charter Schools Association Advocates, a PAC that spent $2.3 million in the 2015 Los Angeles school board elections.[26] Campaign finance laws did not require that donors to the PAC be disclosed before the election, preventing timely public disclosure of contributors to the top-spending PAC in the 2015 school board race."

Vidya Rahm and Antia Raghavan:  A Power Couple Exits
Forbes, June 30, 2009
Article about billionaire "power couple" and former hedge fund managers Ron Beller and Jennifer Moses, who moved to San Francisco from London in 2009 and founded Caliber charter school in the WCCSD. They are now poised to purchase the Adams middle school site at far below market value to expand their operation. Moses has also served as an unpaid advisor to Jerry Brown.



Joaquin Palomino and Emily Green: Powerful Interest Groups Funding Wiener-Kim State Senate Race
San Francisco Chronicle:  October 23, 2016
"A flood of money from powerful interest groups is pouring into the tight state Senate race between San Francisco Supervisors Scott Wiener and Jane Kim in what has become this year’s showdown between the city’s moderate and progressive camps." Doris Fisher gave $3.3 million to the California Charter School Association/"Parent Teacher's Alliance" (a pro-charter group fraudulently trading off the PTA name), which then gave $378,000 directly to Scott Wiener, and an additional $421,000 to "Equality California" (a gay rights PAC), which then also passed the money along to Wiener, who is a big charter-school proponent.


Ken Epstein:  Large Contributions Flood Oakland School Board Races
The Post News Group, October 7, 2016
Much of the money flowing into the Oakland Board of Education race this year is coming from Great Oakland (GO) public schools, widely viewed as a supporter of new charter schools and pro-charter policies in Oakland. Article details amounts and PACs seeking to influence the race.

Jan Malvin and Joel Moskowitz:  Op-Ed: 'Oakland Achieves' School Progress Report Misses the Mark
The Post News Group, October 6, 2016

"Confusing the public may well be the major achievement of the fourth annual 'Oakland Achieves' Public Education Progress Report prepared by Urban Strategies Council.  

This report, deemed 'primarily an update on the academic outcomes for the 2014-15 school year,' offers no trends data for Oakland Unified School District-run schools. Rather, it is the first report in the series to feature student-level data from charter schools. Without explaining the omission of trends data for district-run schools, the report appears crafted to tell a story that compares charter schools with district-run schools." Article details the skewed findings of a report that ignores the "selective enrollment and pushout practices" of local charters and other relevant data. 


Diane Ravitch:  The Fate of Oakland's Celebrated American Indian Charter School
Diane Ravitch's Blog, June 27, 2016
Leader of Oakland's American Indian Charter School, Ben Chavis, was praised for achieving high test scores, though critics charged he got them by pushing out American Indian students and replacing them with students of Asian descent. He was also known to make remarks demeaning racial and ethnic groups, complain about multiculturalism and unions, and to punish children for minor infractions. When a state audit disclosed that $3.8 million went missing, apparently to pay rent to himself as owner of the buildings, Chavis was forced to resign.


Carol Burris:  How Messed up is California’s Charter School Sector? You won’t believe how much.
Washington Post, September 9, 2016

First of four articles discussing the "never-ending stream of charter scandals coming from California," including the use of school funds to pay a more than half a million-dollar settlement to a teacher who sued for being wrongly terminated after she was ordered by her charter school director to travel to Nigeria and marry the director’s brother-in-law so he could become a U.S. citizen. The California charter landscape and all of its players are surveyed in detail, along with the lack of oversight.

Harold Meyerson:  How the Charter School Lobby is Changing the Democratic Party
Los Angeles Times, August 26, 2016
"At a time when Democrats and their party are, by virtually every index, moving left, a powerful center-right pressure group within the liberal universe has nonetheless sprung up. Funded by billionaires and arrayed against unions, it is increasingly contesting for power in city halls and statehouses where Democrats already govern. That’s not how the charter school lobby is customarily described, but it’s most certainly what it’s become."
Article details how, in California and New York, "political action committees funded by charter school backers have become among the largest donors to centrist Democratic state legislators who not only favor expanding charters at the expense of school districts, but also have blocked some of Gov. Jerry Brown’s more liberal initiatives."

Hedge Papers 129:  Hidden Donations Brought to Light:  How the Wealthy Elite Tried to Defeat Proposition 
Hedge Clippers, June 27, 2016
"In 2012, California voters widely supported Governor Brown’s Proposition 30, a ballot measure designed to raise revenue for public schools. It was premised on the common sense idea that the state’s millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share of taxes to fund public schools. Many of the wealthiest Californians, especially hedge fund managers and private equity investors, did not like that they were being pressured to pay higher taxes. They hid their involvement in the “no” campaign by contributing to Americans for Job Security, a Virginia-based 501(c)4 organization. Their contributions were then funneled through two separate Arizona-based groups in an attempt to shield the wealthy donors’ identities. Presumably they knew that a public campaign against Proposition 30 would draw too much scrutiny and put them on the defensive."

Aaron Mendelson:  Charter School Groups Spending Big in California Legislative Races
KPCC, May 25, 2016
Spending by two pro-charter groups, the "Parent Teacher Alliance" (not affiliated with the PTA) and the California Charter Schools Association, has already outpaced the $1.65 million "dark money" spent by the CCSA independent expenditure committee in 2013 and 2014 races for California state senate and assembly seats.



Daniel Bergerson:  Don't Teach for America, Teach for Real
Columbia Spectator, October 12, 2016
"I almost fell for Teach For America. Its brochure told me I could “make a difference” after college by postponing my imaginary yet promising career for two short years in order to teach in a low-income area. As a senior in high school, I did not yet know that “making a difference” meant shortchanging students in need of real teachers, deprofessionalizing the teaching profession, and leading the charge to privatize schools." Article asserts that Teach For America "bankrolls the expansion of charter schools," and promotes "epistemological racism," "savior complexes," and "neoliberal ideology," while driving down teacher pay and professionalism.

Joel Warner:  The Battle of Hastings: What's Behind the Netflix CEO's Fight to Charterize Public Schools?
Capital and Main, October 12, 2016
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, who has stated that public schools are "hobbled" by elected boards, has donated more than $3.7 million to the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA)’s political action committee so far this election season. The article details Hastings' history as an education reformer, his backing of the heavily criticized Rocketship and failed California Charter Academy chains, and his contribution to the "lengthy dismantling" of bilingual education in California. “When tech industry leaders like Reed Hastings call for an elimination of school boards or for more privatization of public schools, they block low-income people from using the one instrument that the powerful can’t ignore – their vote.”


Kristina Rizga:  Why Did Black Lives Matter and the NAACP Call for an End to More Charter Schools?
Mother Jones, August 15, 2016
The policy agenda of The Movement for Black Lives released in July argues that charters represent a shift of public funds and control to private entities. Along with "an end to the privatization of education," organizers are demanding increased investments in traditional community schools and the health and social services they provide. The statement comes just weeks after the NAACP also called for a freeze on charters. The article lists the most significant concerns charter school critics have cited over the years.

Rachel Slade:  The Great Charter School Debate
Boston Magazine, September 2016
Legislation lifting the cap on the number of charter schools the state can have, and how many students they can enroll, is on the November ballot in Massachusetts. This article provides a detailed, even-handed breakdown of the issues and history of the charter school movement in Massachusetts. It concludes: "The charter school debate touches fundamental issues in our society: income disparity, unions, and private philanthropy in the public realm. These are elemental topics that Americans have grappled with for a couple of centuries, and right now in Boston, that drama is playing out in our public school system."


Capital & Main Staff:  Failing the Test:  Charter School Power Brokers
Capital & Main, June 2, 2016
Article discusses the "radical agenda of the Walton family," to dismantle school districts as a whole and replace them with "a new way of doing public education" that "decreases the publicness of public schools." To this end, "capturing school boards has become a major goal of the charter-school movement," along with funding education coverage in the media.  It cites a report issued last year by the American Federation of Teachers and In the Public Interest that states that the charter power brokers have "taken the U.S. charter school movement away from education quality in favor of a strategy focused only on growth. It’s been lucrative for some, but a disaster for many of the nation’s most vulnerable students and school districts.”

No Author:  Brought to You by Walmart? How the Walton Family Foundation's Ideological Pursuit is Damaging Charter Schooling
Cashing in on Kids, no date
"If we are committed to a public education system that strives to serve all children, with the understanding and expectation that each and every one matters, has potential, and deserves the resources and opportunity to succeed, then we must rein in the current growth model of charter expansion, and insist instead on a well-regulated and equitably resourced system of public schools that works for all children. To do that, supporters of public schools designed to serve all children must not only work to change how politicians and policymakers view charter schools. We must also change the Walton Family Foundation, which has driven the current market-based reform agenda over the past 20 years. This report, and the accompanying petition, are a first step in making change at the Walton Family Foundation."

Kate Zernike:  Condemnation of Charter Schools Exposes Rift Over Black Students
New York Times, August 20, 2016
"The nation’s oldest and newest black civil rights organizations are calling for a moratorium on charter schools. Their demands, and the outcry that has ensued, expose a divide among blacks that goes well beyond the now-familiar complaints about charters’ diverting money and attention from traditional public schools."  Says NAACP President Cornell William Brooks, "This whole notion that charter schools are uniformly excellent, and therefore that people don’t even get to raise the question, is simply not the case.”

Lauren Camera:  A House Divided:  Calls to Curb Charter Growth Are Putting Would-be Allies at Odds
U.S. News and World Report, August 12, 2016
"Charter schools have always represented a flashpoint in the education space. But the demands from the NAACP and the Black Lives Matter-affiliated groups highlight a new wrinkle: After years benefiting from a reform-friendly K-12 agenda that allowed its schools to flourish through the elimination of caps and increased funding at the state and federal levels, the charter sector now finds itself in the crosshairs of a burgeoning and wide-scale debate over who truly holds communities of color in their best interest."

Jeremy Pelzer:  Ted Strickland Calls for Nationwide Moratorium on For-Profit Charter Schools, August 16, 2016
Speaking at Columbus High School about his education priorities if he defeats Republican Senator Ron Portman in November, Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Ted Strickland said he is "opposed to for-profit charter schools because I do not believe that educating our kids should become a for-profit activity." Mr. Strickland called for a similar freeze in Ohio as governor in 2007. "

Abby Jackson:  The Walmart family is teaching hedge funds how to profit from publicly funded schools
Business Insider, March 17, 2015
This article is over a year old, but explains the attraction of the billionaire class to charters. "Hedge funds and other private businesses are particularly interested in the growth and success of charter schools. The growth of charter networks around the US offer new revenue streams for investing, and the sector is quickly growing. Funding for charter schools is further incentivized by generous tax credits for investments to charter schools in underserved areas.... "It's a public payer, the state is the payer on this category," he added in support of the highly safe investing opportunities in charter schools."

Valerie Strauss:  Fethullah Gulen:  the Islamic Scholar Turkey Blames for the Failed Coup
Washington Post, July 16, 2016
The man that Turkey’s leaders have blamed for a failed coup attempt by a group of army officers is an Islamic scholar named Fethullah Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania and is behind one of the biggest charter school chains in the U.S., with over 160 schools. The charters have sparked controversy over the years, with accusations that their Turkish leaders favor Turkish-run businesses when awarding contracts; that they hire large numbers of Turkish teachers on H1-B visas; and that some promote Turkish culture through curriculum.

Valerie Strauss:  How Charter Schools in Michigan Have Hurt Traditional Public Schools, New Research Finds
Washington Post, July 15, 2016
David Arsen, a professor in the Department of Educational Administration College of Education at Michigan State University, is interviewed about a 20-year study he conducted into "Which [school] Districts Get into Financial Trouble and Why." The study looked at how much of a pattern of increasing financial distress among school districts in Michigan was due to things local districts have control over as opposed to state-level policies they don't have control over (teacher salaries, health benefits, class size, administrative spending). It also looked at an item that the conservative think tanks are big on: contracting out and privatization. We found that, overwhelmingly, the biggest financial impact on school districts was the result of declining enrollment and revenue loss, especially where school choice and charters are most prevalent."


Julie Chang:  Dispute over Texas Charter School Network Involves Turkish Government
American Statesman, June 22, 2016
Harmony Public Schools charter chain (46 campuses in Texas) stands accused by the Turkish government of spending $7 million over a 15-year-period to hire foreign teachers, paying those teachers as much as $18,000 per year more than their American peers, awarding multimillion dollar contracts to former employees, and and ties to Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, who is accusedof trying to overthrow the Turkish government. According to the attorney filing the complaint, "There’s every red flag there that there is extensive self-dealing going on.”


Capital&Main Staff:  Failing the Test:  Charter School Powerbrokers
Capital&Main, June 2, 2016
Part of a series discussing how lack of oversight, transparency, and other issues have made charter schools detrimental to public education while offering no tangible academic advantages. Article provides link to other articles in the series.

“Charter proponents, most notably the Walton Family Foundation, contribute large amounts of money to expand charter schools in select cities around the nation. The foundation says it has invested more than $385 million in new charter schools over the past two decades and, earlier this year, announced that it plans to give $1 billion over five years to support charters and school-choice initiatives.”

“If funders like Eli Broad or the Walton Family Foundation were truly committed to education equality,” says John Rogers, an education professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, “they could have taken steps to simply support reducing class size or after-school [activities] or summer programs that would provide more educational opportunity, rather than try to invest in strategies to undermine the capacities of a school district. The primary aim is to dismantle the school district as a whole and replace it with a new way of doing public education.”

A full list of articles on charter schools can be seen here