Monday, November 30, 2009

Saltman on Venture Philanthropy & Eli Broad

Kenneth Saltman’s new piece, “The Rise of Venture Philanthropy and the Ongoing Neoliberal Assault on Public Education: the Eli and Edyth Broad Foundation,” provides an excellent overview of how the sponsors of a new form of highly manipulative philanthropy are controlling today’s education reform scene, as well as an extensive summary of the role being played by Eli Broad. Read the whole piece here.

Saltman writes:

Venture philanthropy in education whose leading proponents include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation departs radically from the age of “scientific” industrial philanthropy characterized by Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Ford. These traditional philanthropies, despite pursuing a largely conservative role of undermining radical social movements, nonetheless framed their projects in terms of the public good and sought to provide individuals with public information through schools, libraries, and museums.

Venture philanthropy treats schooling as a private consumable service and promotes business remedies, reforms, and assumptions with regard to public schooling. Some of the most significant projects involve promoting charter schools to inject market competition and “choice” into the public sector as well as using cash bonuses for teacher

pay and to “incentivize” students.

VP treats giving to public schooling as a “social investment” that like venture capital, must begin with a business plan, must involve quantitative measurement of efficacy, must be replicable to be “brought to scale”, and ideally will “leverage” public spending in ways compatible with the strategic donor. In the parlance of venture philanthropy grants are referred to as “investments”, donors are called “investors”, impact is renamed “social return”, evaluation becomes “performance measurement”, grant reviewing turns into “due diligence”, the grant list is renamed an “investment portfolio,” charter networks are referred to as “franchises” -- to name but some of the recasting of giving on investment. Within the view of venture philanthropy, donors are framed as both entrepreneurs and consumers while recipients are represented as investments.

Does this terminology sound familiar in the school districts where you work or live? If so, you can be assured that the Broad infection has spread there.