As for Gates, New Schools, their grantees, EdSector etc., my own experience with very large nonprofits is that senior staff can leverage their organizations in ways their presidents and boards can’t dream of. Instead, see a network of people – Shelton, Smith, Rotherham etc., with a similarly focused view of school reform from a similar subculture of philanthropy, similarly invested – psychologically or otherwise – in a specific group of grantees, working towards the same ends. It’s not a conspiracy so much as an open secret. They’ve never hidden themselves from the public, they’ve spent a decade daring people to challenge their positions. They are a case of emperors wearing no clothes.
Finally there is nothing like a coherent “for profit education industry.” It’s kind of like talking about the “United Nations.” The industry is divided at least between the multinational publishers, their local consultants and everybody else selling products, services and program. The first two groups want no change to the status quo and would be happy to repeal NCLB. The few, mostly weak, trade groups have badly fractionated the broader industry’s Washington presence. And within any segment of the industry there are literally hundreds of small for- and nonprofit organizations motivated by every force known to man.
Very few in the for-profit world are interested in running public schools – it’s a very unprofitable business. Having reviewed the economics of both the charter management and teacher training businesses, I would say the new philanthropy actually wants to push the burden of their own subsidies onto the government, via RTTT and I3. Finally, there’s just not a lot of exchange going on between the for-profits and the nonprofit represented by the naked aristocracy. Sure it exists, but its not very likely that anyone at for-profit Scientific Learning knows anyone at nonprofit KIPP knows anyone at for-profit University Instructors knows anyone at nonprofit Success for All knows anyone at Scientific Learning. With a foot in both worlds, I can say they are two different worlds and cultures – although they share the fee-for-service revenue model.
That's a good rundown on how peculiarly some of the parts of this puzzle fit together.