The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation have taken the lead, but other mega-foundations have joined in to underwrite the self-proclaimed “education reform movement.” Some of them are the Laura and John Arnold, Anschutz, Annie E. Casey, Michael and Susan Dell, William and Flora Hewlett, and Joyce foundations.
Each year big philanthropy channels about $1 billion to “ed reform.” This might look like a drop in the bucket compared to the $525 billion or so that taxpayers spend on K–12 education annually. But discretionary spending—spending beyond what covers ordinary running costs—is where policy is shaped and changed. The mega-foundations use their grants as leverage: they give money to grantees who agree to adopt the foundations’ pet policies. Resource-starved states and school districts feel compelled to say yes to millions of dollars even when many strings are attached or they consider the policies unwise. They are often in desperate straits.
Most critiques of big philanthropy’s current role in public education focus on the poor quality of the reforms and their negative effects on schooling—on who controls schools, how classroom time is spent, how learning is measured, and how teachers and principals are evaluated. The harsh criticism is justified. But to examine the effect of big philanthropy’s ed-reform work on democracy and civil society requires a different focus. Have the voices of “stakeholders”—students, their parents and families, educators, and citizens who support public education—been strengthened or weakened? Has their involvement in public decision-making increased or decreased? Has their grassroots activity been encouraged or stifled? Are politicians more or less responsive to them? Is the press more or less free to inform them? According to these measures, big philanthropy’s involvement has undoubtedly undermined democracy and civil society.
Well-financed astroturfing suffocates authentic grassroots activity by defining an issue and occupying the space for organizing. In addition, when astroturfers confront grassroots opposition, the astroturfers have an overwhelming advantage because of their resources. Sometimes, however, a backlash flares up when community members realize that paid outsiders are behind a supposedly local campaign.The article calls for reform of law covering foundations. Increase taxes, for example. Require more spenddown of assets. The foundations will oppose this, of course. Public information would help, but the writer comments:
The mainstream media are, for the most part, failing miserably in their watchdog duties. They give big philanthropy excessive deference and little scrutiny.That has been the case in Arkansas, where the biggest media organization, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is owned by Walter Hussman, an ally of the "reformers." He has a foundation, too.
The Walton Family Foundation made grants of "more than" $432 million in 2012, the foundation has announced. (The foundation has filed an extension for reporting its 2012 990 tax form, so an exact grant total and assets in Arkansas's largest foundation and the 41st largest in the nation are as yet unknown. The foundation reported assets of $1.7 billion in 2011.)
The dollar value is less than that given in 2011, thanks to a $100 million decline in giving to the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation. However, the family foundation increased giving in its three major focus areas — freshwater and marine conservation, "quality of life" in Arkansas and special initiatives.
The foundation's largest grant, $12.7 million, went to the Conservation International Foundation and its second largest, $7.8 million, went to the Environmental Defense Fund. All together, Walton giving in the conservation area rose by $20 million over 2011 to $91.7 million.
Walton "home region" giving in Arkansas totaled $30.3 million, including $9.3 million for education and $15.5 million in Northwest Arkansas; there were other grants to Arkansas organizations as well. The largest grant in Arkansas was one for $4.98 million to the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission. Other $1 million-plus grants of interest: $7.7 million to Camp War Eagle, $2 million to Arkansas for Education Reform (charter schools and vouchers), $1.1 million for Arkansas Advanced Initiative for Math and Science Inc., $1.2 million to Responsive Education Solutions, $1.2 million to Southern Arkansas University, $1.6 million to the Bentonville Bella Vista Trailblazers Association, $2.1 million to the Endeavor Foundation of Springdale, $1 million to the Jones Trust, $2 million to Southern Bancorp Community Partners and $1.8 million to Teach for America-Arkansas.
Chris Bahn at Arkansas Business has a report of a pledge of up to $20 million from the Walton Family Foundation to shore up the Jones Center in Springdale. The creation of the Harvey and Bernice Jones trucking fortune has weathered some difficult times in recent years in part by scaling back some operations such as a TV production arm and fees for the family facility that opened as a free venue.
The city of Little Rock purchased the old mission a year ago for conversion to a long-promised day resource center for homeless. Union Rescue has been renting the space in the interim as it works on a new building. Last September, city officials said they hoped to have the day center open by last January. I've asked City Hall for an update on the delay.
UPDATE From Assistant City Manager Bryan Day:
We are hopefully about thirty to forty-five days away - work is progressing nicely and as of now there are no unforeseen "construction challenges".
Some quotes from Jevon’s family:
“His favored means of transportation and exercise was bicycle riding, with skateboarding being a close second. He was an environmentalist in the deepest sense: always using stairs instead of elevators, bikes instead of cars, reusing every possible thing that could be reused, reading books from the library.”
“Jev’s greatest burning desire was to give back to society and mankind through the practice of medicine. He graduated from Medical School at University College Dublin in Ireland in June of this year, less than a week before his thirtieth birthday and had just moved to Little Rock, Arkansas to start his residency in Emergency Medicine...In the last weeks of his life, he was happier than he had ever been, setting up housekeeping, planning to buy a home, meeting and really liking his new colleagues and mentors at UAMS Emergency Department residency training program and starting the work of a resident physician.”
“Arkansas ranked last in the League of American Bicyclist's ranking of all states. Shortly after Jevon had moved to Little Rock, less than a month ago, he talked about how little both cyclists and motorists seem to be prepared to interact in traffic together, and how little infrastructure the town provides for safe riding.
Jevon, trailblazer and environmentalist that he was, did not allow that to stop him from biking.”
Contributions have been received from around the world. BACA plans a memorial ride in October.
Sharon and John Hardin Bale Jr. will give $1 million to support the fetal heart program at Arkansas Children's Hospital and it will be named in their honor.
A for-profit outfit that arranges to auction time with celebrities to raise money for their favorite charities reports a Houston woman paid $255,000 to spend a day with former President Bill Clinton. That was Charitybuzz.com's biggest score in 2011, with the money going to the Clinton Foundation. A backstage meeting with Oprah Winfrey brought $105,000 for the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights and a private voice or guitar lesson from Paul Simon produced $75,000 for the Children’s Health Fund).
The Union Rescue Mission has received a $450,000 challenge grant from the Mabee Foundation toward a $3 million drive to build a new mission on Confederate Boulevard, close by the old mission that has been acquired by the city of Little Rock for its day center for the homeless. (An issue that has been somewhat in the news of late.) The money also would remodel the women's shelter on Park Street.
Union Rescue has been on a long quest since an earlier plan to refit the old Dillard's building on Capitol Avenue for the shelter fell through several years ago. That building has since been rehabilitated substantially for state use.
The details of the current drive and gift:
The Willard and Pat Walker Charitable Foundation has given $1.5 million to build a clinical education center at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences' Northwest Arkansas campus.
It brings to $48 million Walker gifts to UAMS.
A change of pace on a so-far quiet holiday weekend.
Roger Armbrust, a former Arkansas Democrat reporter now retired back in Little Rock after a career in New York, contributes columns to Yahoo and today's is a feel-good story about Arkansans, particularly the Little Rock couple Beckham and Karla Allen. The short version is that they use proceeds from reselling donated used shoes to developing countries to bring clean water to places in Haiti and Kenya.
Here's the water project's website.
There's plenty of philanthropy out there at Christmas time, but I've always had a soft spot for those who labor each year to line up a Christmas for children in protective custody of the state Division of Child and Family Services.
The Joe Johnson Foundation has stepped up this year. It's providing support for food, games and a $100 shopping spree for 50 kids tonight at a local Walmart.
Merry Christmas to the NBA star by way of Little Rock Central and the University of Arkansas.
So I read in the Democrat-Gazette today that gun-happy state Rep. Randy Stewart of Kirby wants to institutionalize taxpayer subsidies to process wild game to give to the hungry. This is wild game that, in many cases, the hunters don't want to eat. Their consciences are mollified a bit by the thought that the meat might go to some good use. But only as long as they don't have to pay for the processing.
Here's an idea: How about putting a similar amount of state money into peanut butter, cheese, bean, rice and similar stores for cheap, nutritious and far more popular sources of food pantry stock for the hungry?
There is a reason deep freezers all over Arkansas are stuffed with gamey ducks and stringy deer time-stamped back to 1949 or so. (I know, I know. If you marinate it in sherry for 15 hours, tie it up in bacon, smother it in onions, slow cook it carefully, serve it with some cheese grits, pair it with a robust, fruit-forward red wine ..... )
The state doesn't need to pay cash subsidies to charity. Then it isn't charity. It's socialized hunting.
Artest's name change makes for some awesome press release moments.
Mr. World Peace’s charitable efforts encourage people to find the hope to seek wellness professionals and promote personal recovery. The UNITY program’s mission is to alter youth behavior by sharing collective prison experience and lessons, along with introducing positive constructive alternatives to negative behaviors, and offer youth coping skills by discussing and modeling responsibility and self-control.
“Words cannot adequately express the gratitude we feel toward Mr. World Peace. This has been a dream since 2005. The recent AETN documentary about UNITY started getting the message out. Now, we’ll be able to develop it further and take the program directly to youth.” states The Centers’ Prevention Services (UNITY) program manager Pam Plummer.
Warren Stephens, chairman of the Foundation, said he was not one of the anonymous donors of $1 million gifts. He announced the gifts at the Arts Center's annual meeting.
The slate is thus clean, with a fresh start for the Arts Center and its new leadership.
Leslie has a fuller report on Eye Candy. She also has on her blog another item on Mayor Mark Stodola promising money for the museum if the city sales tax increase passes.
And which alma does David Bercaw call mater?
Yes, you wrote about Oxford house last June and they managed to cut the grass…
Oh, Krazo, you hysterical old psycho, you such a funny old guy. Not that your…
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