On Anschutz, Villaraigosa, LAUSD Privatization Candidates, and Riding Dinosaurs

[A] Bizarro World, where the richest and most powerful people in the U.S. are cast as a plucky band of selfless rebels fighting for the civil rights of poor children of color, while dedicated and overworked teachers who can’t afford a house or pay for their children’s college tuition are imagined to be the greedy overlords of the old order.

Randy Childs (Educator and Activist)

Producer, stadium developers donate to group backing Villaraigosa’s school board candidates,” is a piece detailing how fringe right wing billionaire Philip Anschutz has donated at least $100,000 to the Mayor Failure’s Coalition for School Reform — a slush fund to elect privatization friendly school board candidates for Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD).

Anschutz, a reactionary that makes the fascist-friendly Koch Brothers look moderate in comparison, also funded Waiting for Superman, the poverty pimping propaganda piece by the smug mendacious hipster Davis Guggenheim. How far to the right is Anschutz? Master researcher and educator Kenneth Libby’s “Philip Anschutz and Walden Media: What Kind of Agenda?” exhaustive list shows huge sums of Anschutz’s fortune going to organizations that are anathema to social justice and public schools, including Hoover, AEI, Heritage, Cato, etc., along with school privatization favorites like KIPP and Alliance for Choice in Education.

One of the better biographies I’ve seen on Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa’s corporate education reform partner Anshutz comes from educator and author Mike Klonsky.

Finally there’s Phillip Anschutz, the owner of the Examiner, which is nothing but a filthy little right-wing tabloid, disguised as a newspaper. But Anshutz also bankrolled the hot anti-union propaganda film, Waiting for Superman. Just in case you thought this film was made only by a group of well-intentioned, but misguided liberals.

Anschutz is a far right-wing, evangelical billionaire who inherited his fortune from his father’s oil business and who has become a media mogul, publisher of the Weekly Standard, the S.F. Examiner, and owner of L.A.’s Staples Center. He was also the force behind California’s anti-gay initiative.

But it gets so much better, and here’s my favorite part. On February 3, 2011, Klonsky “tweeted” the following.

Anschutz funded Discovery Inst., that promotes intelligent design and criticizes evolution. But then, so did Gates. http://bit.ly/yNog0
1:11 PM Feb 3rd via TweetDeck

Discovery Institute is an extreme right wing evangelical group that promotes fantasies like free markets and a 10,000 year old earth. While we shouldn’t be surprised about Anschutz’s support for such charlatans, some readers may be shocked that the convicted predatory monopolist William “Bill” Gates III, well known for his anti-labor libertarianism, also donates money to organizations which actively promote the idea that people once rode dinosaurs.

Great to have these kind of folks dictating the dialog on public education, labor relations, and national curriculum. And we thought Texas was in trouble? It would be a safe bet to assume that the reactionary Walton fortune heirs probably share similar views. This begs the question, how does the other member of the neoliberal Broad/Gates/Walton Triumvirate stand on riding dinosaurs? Do members of Villaraigosa’s privatization slate for the LAUSD school board including Tamar Galatzan, Luis Sanchez, Eric Lee and Richard Vladovic hold similar views?

Back to the Los Angeles Times piece we started with, which further details:

…fundraising wars over school reform, including philanthropist Eli Broad ($150,000), former Mayor Richard Riordan ($25,000) and Spanish-language media executive Jerry Perenchio ($250,000). All told, the informal Villaraigosa slate — he is actively raising money for three candidates but has yet to endorse them officially — has collected more than $1 million on behalf of Tamar Galatzan, Luis Sanchez and Richard Vladovic.

Disgusting enough? Maeve Reston and Howard Blume also discuss how many of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s Coalition for School Reform contributors also “happen” to be well heeled developers with multi-billion dollar projects awaiting City Planning Commission approval. Go figure!

School privatization minded LAUSD School Board candidates Tamar Galatzan, Luis Sanchez and Richard Vladovic should be confronted on how they stand on the very serious issues brought up here. The Mayor’s forth candidate, Eric Lee, doesn’t seem to be taking money from Villaraigosa’s Coalition for School Reform. However, Eric Lee’s very close association with Parent Revolution’s Ben Austin and DFER’s Gloria Romero — both of whose organizations are funded by the same foundations as Coalition for School Reform — doesn’t bode well for his impartiality either.

Angelenos should be very concerned that the Mayor’s LAUSD school board candidates aren’t only funded by billionaires and plutocrats, but also that their funders espouse extreme right wing views. Nationally, progressives and public school advocates should pay closer attention to those funding and supporting the so-called education reform and charter “movements.”

In Los Angeles we’ve already seen the influence of fringe right ideology in local privatized charter schools. At Celerity Nascent Charter School we witnessed the sad incident where teachers were fired for reading a poem about Emmett Till, which was rationalized by the principal’s oblique suggestion that Till somehow deserved his fate. Another example is Green Dot Public [sic] Schools’ original Alain Leroy Locke Charter High School petition, which contained language requiring students “demonstrate a belief in the value of capitalism.”

The money, power, and influence behind the school privatization forces is considerable. The creeping insidious influence of far right ideology will continue unless communities, students, parents, and educators unite and demand an end to the privatization of our schools. Collectively we can stop the corporate education reform agenda.

To glorify democracy and to silence the people is a farce; to discourse on humanism and to negate people is a lie. — Paulo Freire (Pedagogy of the Oppressed)

Robert D. Skeels is a social justice writer, public education advocate, and immigrant rights activist. He lives, works, writes, and organizes in Los Angeles with his wife and cats. Robert is a U.S. Navy Veteran, and a proud member of Veterans for Peace. He attended Glendale Community College and is currently attending the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), majoring in Classical Civilization. Robert is a committed member of CEJ, PESJA, SCIC, and the Trinational Coalition To Defend Public Education. In addition to advancing working class struggles, Robert is an adherent of Liberation Theology. He devotes much time towards volunteer work for 12 step, church, and homeless advocacy. Robert’s articles and essays have appeared in publications including Schools Matter, CounterPunch, Dissident Voice, Daily Censored, Echo Park Patch, and The Los Angeles Daily News. In 2013 Robert ran for the LAUSD School Board against a billionaire funded corporate reform candidate, finishing second in a field of five, with over 5,200 votes. Read other articles by Robert, or visit Robert's website.