Learn more about who is behind the pro-charter school agenda

California’s privately-managed for-profit charter schools are championed by a group of billionaires who want private corporations to be able to profit from public education. Their agenda is simple:

  1. Divert money out of California’s neighborhood public schools to fund privately-managed charter schools, without accountability or transparency to parents and taxpayers.
  2. Cherry-pick the students who get to attend these corporate charter schools – weeding out and turning down students with special needs.
  3. Spend millions trying to influence your local legislative and school board elections across California to further their agenda.

From 2016 through 2018, these billionaires poured money into nine political action and independent expenditure committees: EdVoice Independent Expenditure Committee, California Charter Schools Association Advocates IE Committee‘Families and Teachers United’ (which is controlled by the California Charter Schools Association), Parents and Teachers for Student Success (which is controlled by Students First), Govern for California Action Committee, LA Students for ChangeStudents for Education Reform (SFER) Action Network, Californians for More Affordable Homes and Quality Public Schools (which is controlled by EdVoice), Families & Teachers for Antonio Villaraigosa for Governor 2018 (which is controlled by California Charter Schools Association Advocates), and Parents and Teachers supporting Marshall Tuck for Superintendent of Public Instruction (which is controlled by EdVoice), Parents, Teachers & Neighbors Working Together supporting Marshall Tuck for Superintendent (which is controlled by Edvoice), Education Reform Now Advocacy for Tuck for Superintendent of Public Instruction, Californians for More Affordable Homes and Quality Public Schools (which is controlled by Edvoice), and Coalition for East Bay Health Care Access, Affordable Housing and Quality Public Schools (which is controlled by Edvoice). So far they have spent almost $100 million to influence at least 2 statewide races, 25 races for the State Legislature, 33 races for school board, and other local races across California.

This network of billionaire donors mirrors the dark-money networks used by the Koch Brothers. In fact, many of the same donors were directly implicated in an illegal dark money scheme in 2012. Here is a look at who they are:

Eli Broad

Broad is the billionaire businessman who cofounded the homebuilding giant KB Homes and was also the owner of Sun Life Insurance.

He and his wife are two of the largest donors to the movement to privatize public education. He has supported school vouchers and gave more than $1 million in 2014 to back an anti-public school candidate for state Superintendent of Public Instruction. Broad also donated $500,000 through the Koch political network in a clandestine effort to influence California elections in 2012.

Broad, who recently failed in his efforts to take over the Los Angeles Times, remains an active backer of the corporate charter movement. Last year, the paper obtained a copy of his secret plan to remove half of the students from LA’s local neighborhood public schools and place them in unaccountable charters.

Broad continues to promote his vision by giving millions to anti-public school candidates and causes.

Broad has given $16,219,121 in 573 contributions

The Walton Family

The heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune are among the 15 richest people in the country, and have been some of the biggest charter school backers and political donors in the nation. The Walton Family Foundation has spent millions supporting private school voucher schemes and giving grants to right-wing think tanks like the Fordham Institute and the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy.

 Here’s a look at some of their political activity in California.

Carrie Walton Penner

Jim Walton (pictured)

Alice Walton (pictured)

Bill Bloomfield

After years of Republican activism, and as one of California’s top GOP donors, Bloomfield ditched his Republican Party membership in time to dump millions into his “independent” bid to unseat Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman.

Bloomfield parlayed his family’s commercial laundry service fortune into a real estate investment company–Baron Real Estate. Bloomfield donated $100,000 through the Koch political network in a clandestine effort to influence California elections in 2012. That same year, he spent more than $7.5 million of his own money on his failed congressional bid.

Bloomfield has given $9,413,485 in 147 contributions and spent $5,067,928 on independent expenditures directly supporting 7 state and school board candidates

Reed Hastings

The Netflix CEO and major political donor is the former head of the state Board of Education, where he helped lead the corporate charter agenda. In addition to giving to anti-public school candidates, the San Francisco billionaire has offered $100 million of his personal fortune to promote new tech-dominated charters.

Hastings’ reappointment to the state education board was rejected by the State Senate.

Hastings has even declared that elected school boards are obsolete and should be replaced with a system of non-profit corporations with appointed board members.

Hastings has given $31,401,159 in 167 contributions

Arthur Rock

The Silicon Valley venture capitalist was an early investor in Apple and Intel. The 86-year-old billionaire has donated to campaigns to support school vouchers, and has become one of the largest supporters of privately-managed charter schools and pro-charter candidates in California.

Rock has given $4,902,250 in 64 contributions

Laura and John Arnold

 Texas billionaire John Arnold built his fortune as an executive at Enron, and has now turned his efforts to trying to influence education policy in California. The former hedge fund director donated more than $300,000 to anti-public school candidates in 2014 and has been a major donor to a number of groups dedicated to pushing the corporate charter school agenda.

Doris Fisher

The co-founder of The Gap clothing company is worth an estimated $2.8 billion. Fisher and her family are major funders of the corporate charter movement, funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars into PACs and lobbying efforts aimed at weakening California’s public schools.

Fisher funneled $1.6 million through the dark money Koch network in 2012 as part of a clandestine effort to prevent a tax measure to ensure billionaires like Fisher pay their fair share to support public education and health care for children.

Fisher has given $7,974,100 in 152 contributions

William Oberndorf

 Oberndorf is a hedge fund manager who was a major investor in a for-profit after school tutoring chain.

In 2016, Oberndorf succeeded Betsy DeVos as chair of the American Federation of Children which advocates for school vouchers.

Oberndorf has given $6,640,711 in 121 contributions