There are some who like to quietly give to charities, being careful not to draw too much attention to themselves. Eli Broad is not this type of person. In a dispute with MOCA, an organization where he had been named “Founding Chairman,” he told the trustees that he wanted his “name on the building...in big letters, which were to go on the front of the building.” He had to settle having the lobby named after him, at least until he built his very own museum. However, when he gives money, he does not just want public recognition; he wants control. Broad and his wife, Edythe, are self-described venture philanthropists who focus “their charitable giving in a new style of investing that was more akin to their business acumen.”
The Broad’s style of giving is on full display in the area of education when he donates desperately needed funds to the LAUSD with strings that give him the power of an unelected Board member. For example, “about 20 senior jobs in the Deasy administration [were] paid for by outside foundations such as those run by Eli Broad.” While the Superintendent and his staff are supposed to report to the democratically elected Board of Education, these staff members were instead beholden to the monied interests paying their salaries. Projects these interests favored, like the $1.3 billion iPad initiative, MiSiS and Breakfast in the Classroom, were then pushed forward as the Board looked helplessly on. When the iPad and MiSiS failures became too much for Deasy to handle, he jumped ship and was hired as a consultant for “The Broad Center for the Management of School Systems as a superintendent-in-residence.”
Broad’s latest proposal is to spend $490 million “to reach 50 percent charter market share” in Los Angeles. If the plan is successful, an additional 130,000 students per year will be cherry-picked from the public school system every year and placed in schools run by private entities that lack democratic oversight. The charter industry calls this “choice,” but this conveniently ignores the fate of the hardest to educate students who will be left unserved by these new private schools. It is hard to imagine a scenario where the District is not left in bankruptcy as it struggles to educate those with severe special needs, behavior issues and difficult family situations while losing funding as tax money is diverted to the private sector.
The LAUSD “already has the highest number of charters - more than 200 - of any school system in the county, enrolling about 16% of students.” It would be hard to make a case against the proposed expansion if these schools were vastly better than their public counterparts, but even with their ability to pick the best students, charter schools only performed “roughly 2.5 percent” better on recently released California Assessment of Student Progress and Performance. To prove that “there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics,” the CCSA later reworked their numbers to show that the charters performed “nine percentage points higher in English language arts but only four percentage points higher in math.” However, to accomplish this they had to remove the LAUSD’s “53 affiliated charters from the comparison,” even though they “are district schools that operate with most of the same rules as [sic] regulations that govern traditional schools.”
While both public and charter schools within Los Angeles fell below the state average on these tests, one bright spot did emerge from the data. According to a district analysis, “In English-Language Arts (ELA), 65 percent of magnets scored higher than the state average, compared with 34 percent of independent charters. On the Math assessment, 56 percent of magnets scored higher than the state average, more than twice the rate of the charters’ performance.” If Broad and his fellow philanthropists want more bang for their $490 million, perhaps they should check their egos at the door and give unrestricted money to the District so that it can expand these types of schools. If it helps seal the deal, the District could name it the “Eli and Edythe Broad Magnet Program.”