Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Following the Money

I generally avoid reading things that use "$"'s in place of "S"'s in the title, but Ultimate $uperpower: Supersized dollars drive “Waiting for Superman” agenda by Barbara Miner manages to sum up the disparate motivations of the business-model reformers:

There is no single reason why charter schools have become the must-be-involved cause among the hedge fund and finance capital crowd.

Real estate obviously plays a role, as Harlem and the South Bronx are the poor neighborhoods most ripe for gentrification now that so much of Brooklyn has come under the reach of condos, trendy restaurants, Trader Joe’s and Ikea. (In New York City, no deal ever goes down that doesn’t involve real estate.) And, just as clearly, there’s old-fashioned altruism and missionary zeal at work. “What you’re seeing is for the under-40 set, education reform is what feeding kids in Africa was in 1980,” an education reformer said in explaining Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million donation to the Newark public schools in September.

Another explanation is that the hedge fund crowd is comfortable with the charter way of doing business—overwhelmingly non-union, which means that management gets to call all the shots; a guaranteed cash flow in the form of public dollars per student; minimal public oversight; lots of data and test scores; and an educational ideology based on a free-market model of schooling.

At the local level, real estate is almost always part of the equation.

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