FES Funding Revealed: Proving What We Already Knew

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For years, Families for Excellent Schools has described itself as a grassroots organization, but a recent report on FES, a pro-charter organization, revealed where their bucket-loads of money come from.  There's no surprise that it's predominantly from hedge funds, but perhaps actually slightly shocking is the fact that the entire organization is run by Wall Street financiers.  On the board, the chair, vice chair, treasurer and a trustee all have powerful positions in private corporations.  In addition, James Peyser, MA State Superintendent of Schools, is one of the directors.  Ravitch comments: "Why should the public official responsible for the maintenance and improvement of public schools serve on the board of an organization dedicated to privitizing public schools."

"That's not the kind of money that one gathers in needy communities, but it is the kind of money one collects with a few phone calls to Wall Street movers and shakers." -Diane Ravitch

In 2013, 7 donors made up for more than 75% of its budget, each giving upwards of $1 million.  FES has been extremely good at getting people to donate: from 2012 to 2013 donation money increased from $1 million to $12 million.  It is not that FES is better at persuading people to donate than other organizations; in 2010, the New York Times called charter schools "a favorite cause of many of the wealthy founders of New York hedge funds."

"While claiming to empower low-income parents of color to advocate for their children's education, FES exploits parents and their desire for high-quality schools to push for privatization and charter school expansion."  -The Truth Behind FES

The question that I am left with is this: how can a group that is funded, and therefore controlled, by wealthy, mostly white men know what the under-privileged, mostly non-white students and families need in their communities?  Why is it ok that people who are so disconnected from the struggles of needing a good education have the biggest influence over the conversation?  Wouldn't it make more sense to put the people directly affected by the decisions in charge?

Image: JwJ Report