Do As The MCAS Folks Say, Not As They Do, Episode 3,137 – Michelle Fine’s Funding Hypocrisy

Over in MCAS-land, rarely a day goes by without some sort of complaining about the nefarious impacts of so-called “corporate” reforms. Like many of their fellow travellers (the Diane Ravitch bunch), Michelle Fine, Regina Tuma, Maia Davis, Ira Shor and their fellow national activists are deeply concerned about the influence of “corporations” on education. Or at least, they make a big to-do of being concerned about it.

Fine, in fact, has expressed so much concern about this “corporate” influence that she even wrote a book about it, titled “Charter Schools and the Corporate Makeover of Public Education”. At a forum last fall, Michelle Fine and her attack dogs lashed out at the Superintendent, attacking her for her associations with “corporate” things…

mcas corporate

Fine and the panelists suspected that Dr. MacCormack’s tenure at the Broad Superintendents Academy, an institution financed by investor Eli Broad—famous for his embrace of corporate management styles to public education—suggested an attempt at “reforming” Montclair schools to a business model.

“Education is not big business!” Fine declared.

So, all this corporate influence is clearly a bad thing.

But a little poking around shows that standard only goes so far. See as much as Michelle Fine and her attack dogs want to complain about the “corporate mentality”, she sure does seem to love that corporate cash.

Fine runs a number of research projects, and it turns out that many of them have been funded by big, bad corporations. Notable among them banks, the most frequent target of attacks by Fine’s allies.

Side Note – we don’t actually take a position on the involvement of corporations one way or the other. But we do take a position against rank hypocrisy.

Let’s take a look…

According to a document from her graduate university, Fine got big grants from the Ford Foundation and most notably, Deutsche Bank. You know, one of those evil big money corporations.

Continuing work on a two-year Ford Foundation grant awarded in 2009, Michelle Fine organized three day-long meetings, at the Ford Foundation and at the Graduate Center, each bringing together dozens of experts and advocates on secondary education and social justice in the US. The final report for this project, which is expected in Fall 2011, is intended to provide a guide for Ford and other philanthropies on how best to support both social justice and improved quality in US secondary education. Prof. Fine also serves as PI for a collection of grants for the “Student Success Centers,” a project involving peer-led college counseling in NYC public high schools. This project, which first came to CHE in 2009, attracted additional funding in the past year from New York State, from a private foundation (Deutsche Bank), from the Brooklyn Community Trust, and continuing support from its major donor, the New York Community Trust.

Another Michelle Fine project, funded by the Kellogg Foundation, closely tied to the Kellogg Company:

Continue the multi-year evaluation project of the Brooklyn community based organization El Puente, funded by the Kellogg Fdn. (Michelle Fine and Maria Torre/Public Science Project).

And of course nothing says evil corporate cash quite like Leona Helmsley:

ActKnowledge will collaborate with GC PIs on new proposals to the Department of Interior/National Park Service (PI, William Kornblum) and the Helmsley Trust (for work focused on NYC public schools; PI, Michelle Fine).

According to the Helmsley site, that was $230,000. Which ain’t nothin.

More broadly, there’s a long list of funders on the “Public Science Project” website – the group Fine runs. These include ADCO Foundation, Brooklyn Community Trust, Ford Foundation, Hazen Foundation, Open Society Foundation, The Overbrook Foundation, Leslie Glass Foundation, Ms Foundation, New York Community Trust, Public Welfare Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, Schumann Foundation, Schott Foundation for Public Education, Surdna Foundation, and What Kids Can Do.

Likewise, the donors for CARANYC (another Fine project) include The Brooklyn Community Foundation, The Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation, The Helmsley Charitable Trust, Local Initiatives Support Corporation – College within Reach, The New York Community Trust, The New York City Department of Education and the Malka Foundation.

Many are foundations. But some – like the Local Initiatives Support Corporation – essentially act as pass-throughs for corporate funding. This month the “featured donor of the month” for Local Initiatives Support Corporation is State Farm. Moreover, according to its website, the top all-time donors for Local Initiatives Support Corporation include corporations like JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, State Farm, Citi, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Wells Fargo, and MetLife, Inc., as well as many others. Basically a who’s who of big-banking corporate America.

Another, similar example, is What Kids Can do, a Fine funder whose funders include corporations such as Adobe, the AT&T Foundation, the Metlife Foundation, MTV, the Nellie May Education Foundation, as well as foundations with a corporate background such as the Lumina Foundation for Excellence, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Kellogg Foundation, and the NoVo Foundation.

I’m pretty sure we could keep going here, but we’re done for now. The bottom line is this: over the past year, we’ve had to listen to a host of over-the-top, relentless attacks from Fine and her ilk on the district, superintendent, school board, and other folks in the community. These attacks haven’t been about improving education for kids – it’s been a deliberate effort to disrupt the system. At times it’s worked, but we’re confident that people are starting to see through it. And part of seeing through it involves looking at the facts on these folks seeing the hypocrisy for what it is.

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