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Billionaire titans take aim at urban school systems

Billionaire titans take aim at urban school systems

by Caroline Grannan

There's a growing chorus protesting the takeover of public school districts by what blogger Jim Horn calls "vulture philanthropists" - the billionaire, non-educator business titans who are bent on imposing their vision for the education of low-income inner-city minorities. That often means obliterating existing schools and replacing them with charter schools run by managers from outside the community.

One of the most sincere, and surprising, of the voices of protest belongs to Diane Ravitch, longtime education commentator who is a fellow at the Hoover Institution (the heart and soul of anti-public-education "reform" advocacy) and former Assistant Secretary of Education in the George H.W. Bush administration.

Writing from New York, where she has become a sharp critic of Michael Bloomberg's mayoral takeover of the city's school system, Ravitch declares: "It appears that the Big Money has placed its bets on dismantling public education."

Today's highest-profile venture philanthropists are Bill Gates, who needs no introduction; real estate development king Eli Broad; the Walton family of Wal-Mart fame; and Don Fisher, founder of the Gap. "The Billionaire Boys Club," Ravitch observes, "know what needs to be done, and they don't see the point of listening to such unenlightened types as parents and teachers."