David Sirota’s recent series of investigative articles about the extraordinary conflict of interest displayed by the Public Broadcasting Service and WNET has sent shock-waves through across the country.
Sirota’s articles include;
The articles revealed that the Public Broadcasting Service accepted $3.5 million from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation to pay for a series called The Pension Peril. John Arnold being the billionaire, former Enron trader.
The PBS series appeared to be slanted in such a way as to represent the conservative, anti-public employee sentiment of the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.
After Sirota’s story broke, PBS announced that it would return the money and hold off running any more episodes of the pension series.
Diane Ravitch and Jan Resseger, two of the country’s leading pro-public education advocates blogged about the story. (Wait What? readers had a chance to read Resseger’s piece cross-posted at UPDATE: PBS sells out to Corporate Education Reform Industry?).
In a post today entitled, More on Conflicts of Interest When Philanthropists Sponsor the News, Jan Resseger observes:
“Attacks on public pensions are central to the corporate school deform agenda to lower salaries and reduce due process for teachers. This is all part of the attack on teachers unions. After all, if we economize by paying teachers less, have an easier time getting rid of those expensive older teachers, and deny teachers things like fringe benefits including pensions, we can all pay less taxes.
Make no mistake, this is central to the attack on the price we pay for being the civilized society we like to believe we are.”
But the relationship between the corporate education reform industry and elements of the public broadcasting community go much deeper than the Laura and John Arnold Foundation’s $3.5 million pay to play maneuver with PBS on pensions.
While the news about PBS and the pension series debacle is shocking, the relationship between public broadcasting and the Gates Foundation funded Common Core mouth piece known as The Teaching Chanel (Tch) is even more troubling.
Thanks to an email from a Wait, What? reader named Susan this morning and the earlier investigative work of Susan Ohanian; we can see that the corporate education reform industry’s manipulation of public broadcasting goes much, much deeper than the pension issue.
The Teaching Channel is one of the most vocal proponents of the Common Core.
According to its website, The Teaching Channel is “A video showcase—on the Internet and TV—of inspiring and effective teaching practices in America’s schools.”
“Teaching Channel Presents” is the title of the weekly broadcast television show that airs on public television stations across the nation. The series was created in 2011 and bills itself as “an unprecedented series that opens up classroom doors and showcases inspiring teaching across America.”
WNET Thirteen appears to be the lead station when it comes to airing “Teaching Channel Presents” on public television.
So who is the Teaching Channel?
The Teaching Channel’s Board of Directors is made up of Steve Arnold (Co-Founder and Venture Partner, Polaris Venture Partners), Louise Henry Bryson (former chair of the J. Paul Getty Trust), Lisa Gersh (former President and Chief Executive Officer of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc.), Ted Mitchell (President and CEO, NewSchools Venture Fund) and Vicki Phillips (Director of Education, College Ready, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation).
Over the past three years, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has given the Teaching Channel over $20.2 million dollars.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is Teaching Channel’s primary funder.
In fact, in a bizarre twist, while the Teaching Channel reported to the IRS on their annual 990 report that they had received a total of $11.7 million in donations in 2011 and 2012, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation reported that they gave the Teaching Channel a total of $12.9 million during that time period.
Regardless, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is not only the single most important player behind the development and implementation of the Common Core, but along with the Walton Foundation and the Broad Foundation, Gates is among the most important funders of the entire corporate education reform industry.
And the relationship with public broadcasting?
The Teaching Channel’s 2012 IRS 990 filing reveals a $370,091 payment to none-other-than PBS’s WNET in New York.
Check back for updates on this developing story.
You can read Susan Ohanian’s October 3, 2012 piece about the Teaching Channel and the Gates Foundation in her article entitled, Gates Foundation Money at Work.