Figures that the super-rich would turn privatization of public schools into a game

Attention all charter school and education reform advocates! 

It’s not too late to get your tickets to the Seventh Annual Take’em to School Poker Tournament, a major fundraiser for Education Reform Now, a member of the charter school advocacy conglomeration that includes Democrats for Education Reform, Education Reform Now Advocacy (and indirectly Students for Education Reform.)

Together, these corporate-funded education reform groups have spent tens of millions to push their anti-student, parent, teacher and public school agenda that includes support for the Common Core, the Common Core testing scam and the privatization of public schools through the massive expansion of privately owned, but taxpayer funded, charter schools.

Education Reform Now and its affiliated entities have also bankrolled anti-union, anti-teacher ads in Chicago, New York and elsewhere, as well as, funneling massive amounts of money to support or oppose candidates based on their position on education reform issues.

With Education Reform Now’s “Seventh Annual Take’em to School Poker Tournament” coming up on Wednesday, July 20, 2016 at Gotham Hall in New York City, charter school owners and their funbders and allies have a plethora of sponsorship opportunities to choose from.

For $250,000 you can nab 10 seats at the poker tournament, 10 rebuys (a technique for expanding your winnings), 10 cocktail tickets for non-poker players and the honor of having not one, but two, “special guests” sit at your table.  [Education Reform Now hires famous people, usually sports stars and actors, to attend the event and sit and play with the wealthy donors]

For $100,000 you get the same benefits, but alas, the company of only one “special guest.”

Other Sponsorship levels include a $50,000 package, a table of 10 poker seats for $20,000 or a single poker seat for $1,000.

Last year’s Education Reform Now Event Chairs were education reform extraordinaire hedge-fund managers, John Sabat (SAC Capital Advisors LP), Michael Sabat (Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.) and Whitney Tilson (Kase Capital).  Other members of the event committee included John Petry and Joe Williams.

Petry is the co-founder of Democrats for Education Reform, the co-chair of Education Reform Now and a founding board member of Eva Moskowitz’s notorious Success Academy charter school chain.

Like Petry, John and Michael Sabat are closely associated with the Success Academy charter schools and both are members of the Education Reform Now Board of Directors.

Whitney Tilson is another co-founder of Democrats for Education Reform and has been a board member of the KIPP and Academy Charter Schools Chains.  In addition, Tilson has been a leader of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Joe Williams served as the president of Education Reform Now and Education Reform Now Advocacy.

In an article entitled, Inside A Big Poker Tournament With Hedge Funders, Poker Pros, And Legendary NYC Athletes, Business Insider reported that the event raises “funds for Education Reform Now, an advocacy organization that’s committed to making sure all kids can access high-quality public education.”

The article conveniently overlooks that fact that the charter school industry fails to provide equal educational opportunities for children who require special education services, those who aren’t fluent in the English Language and those who are forced out of charter schools for failure to survive the abusive disciplinary policies.

According to published reports, in addition to raising money for Education Reform Now, the education reform industry group sponsoring the poker tournament also provides a variety of prizes for tournament participants including seats at the World Series of Poker Main Event, vacations, golf outings, and “power lunches” with hedge fund managers like David Einhorn (Greenlight Capital), billionaire Seth Klarman, Leon Cooperman (Omega Advisors) and Bill Ackman (Pershing Square Capital Management.)

As Bloomberg News has reported, the Education Reform Now Poker Tournament also includes,

 “Blackjack tables, a putting hole, a silent auction offering a Joe Namath football jersey signed by him, models in cocktail dresses, and masseuses, clothed primly in what looked like hospital scrub tops. For food: hamburgers, fries, fajita bar, macaroni and cheese. Also John Allan’s, a salon for men, provided manicures and shoe shines for male guests.”

Over the years, some of the corporate sponsors of this boondoggle event include Eagle Capital Management, Capstone, Goldman Sachs Group, Tiger Global Management, Visium Asset Management, Hutchin Hill Capital, Magnitude Capital, SAC Capital Advisors, First New York Securities, Tricadia Capital Management, EcoR1 Capital, AB Bernstein, Point 72 Asset Management, Murdick Capital, Morgan Stanley, Magnitude Capital, Kase Capital and Greenlight Capital.

Regular sponsor and participants also include Charles and Rebecca Ledley.  Charles Ledley has been on the Board of Education Reform Now (former chair) and Democrats for Education Reform, while Rebecca Ledley has been on the board of a Massachusetts charter school chain and the board of Students for Education Reform. (See Wait, What? posts, SFER – The $7 million+ “student run” Corporate Education Reform Industry Front Group and MORE ON SFER – Corporate Money in the 2015 Denver Board of Education Election)

For additional background on Education Reform Now and its related organizations  see the 2013 Salon article, Wall Street is designing the future of public education as a money-making machine,

  • Democrats for Education Reform: Since its inception in 2006, this PAC has opened chapters in 13 states, funneling millions of dollars to candidates who support charter schools, vouchers, performance pay, parent trigger laws, and other neoliberal “reforms.”DFER’s board members are mostly hedge fund managers with vested interests in charter schools. Boykin Curry, whose portfolio is valued at $20 billion, co-founded Public Prep, a network of charters in Manhattan and the Bronx. Whitney Tilson, also a hedge fund manager, sits on the board of KIPP-NYC, a cluster of schools in a national charter franchise founded by TFA alumni. It’s no surprise then, that one of their first projects as members of DFER was to successfully push to raise the cap on charter schools in New York City.
  • Education Reform Now: The nonprofit arm of DFER that advocates for the same “reforms,” with a budget of over $6 million. ERN was the face of DFER’s push to increase charter schools in New York, and has funded similar campaigns everywhere that DFER has peddled its influence. ERN has also proselytized market-based education reforms through projects like DoneWaiting.org, a campaign to promote the documentary Waiting For Superman. (That domain name now leads to a spammy-looking blog about gambling.)DFER and ERN share an executive director and two board members, one of whom, Charles Ledley, is married to Rebecca Ledley. She sits on the board of a charter school management organization in Massachusetts, as well as the board of Students for Education Reform.
  • Students for Education Reform: Founded in 2009 by two Princeton undergrads who made the Forbes 30 under 30 list—possibly because their organization’s revenue skyrocketed from $30,000 to $1.8 million in one year. SFER purports to be a “student-led movement to end educational injustice.” But their work seems to come down to shuttling politically ambivalent students around to lobby against teachers’ unions. SFER is also connected to Teach For America: Its latest tax records list TFA CEO Matt Kramer as a board member, though according to a SFER representative, his term has ended. Other board members of note include Jonathan Sackler, who sits (along with Dave Goldberg) on the board of New Schools Venture Fund, which invests in charter schools and education technology companies.
  • Education Reform Now Advocacy, Inc.: This outfit is a shell of a nonprofit created by the same folks who started DFER and ERN in 2006. The organization seems to have been dormant for awhile, perhaps in part because its name doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. Interestingly, its 2008 tax return contains a pointed statement of purpose that diverges from the feel-good rhetoric espoused by its more active sibling organizations. This shady quadruplet does not aim to “return the Democratic Party to its rightful place as a champion of children,” as DFER’s website claims. It is concerned simply with, “Promoting policies and state and federal level [sic] to increase the number of charter schools and strengthen teacher evaluations in K-12 public schools.”

Fellow education blogger Peter Greene has also written about Education Reform Now’s poker extravaganza.  See Reformster Poker Benefit

  • Sleepless in Bridgeport

    And they are doing this to improve the education opportunities for America’s children…….BULL SHIT! After they complete the scorched earth policy they have designed for public education (particulalry in the cities) our city schools will look like Syria while the 1% count their money and hide in Greenwich behind high walls. And what do we have for future leadership in DC? A jerk, no..two jerks, a crook, and a Socialist. We have met the enemy and they are us.

    • Free market filly

      You ought to see Waiting for Superman to see what is going on in inner city schools. The poor teaching and lack of discipline results in kids graduating who can neither read nor write, and are essentially unemployable. Do the unions care? Not a bit, they are only interested in power and protecting their own. Look at the reading and math results from the Harlem Success Academies….with the same demographics as the local public schools (who get higher funding.)

      • JMC

        You are utterly uninformed. Unions are composed of teachers, and teachers care very much about students’ success. Parents of students in charter schools and the Harlem Success Academies have agreed to have their parental rights suspended. Marine Corps style discipline is enforced there. The children cannot disrupt classes and can be suspended or expelled for almost any reason. Thus there are far fewer “difficult” students. The public schools, on the other hand, are full of difficult students. They are guaranteed a public education by law no matter how negative their attitudes. Teachers are required by law to educate them no matter how impossible the task. If you want a scapegoat for the problems in public education, blame the courts and your politicians.

      • R.L.

        Anyone who uses “Waiting for Superman” as a reference to anything education is utterly ignorant. However, it is a good reference for how to create propaganda.

  • Guest

    Get me a scotch and a stack of ONE DOLLAR chips. I have to keep a sense of humor. Oh, make it a double.

  • Guest

    Get me a scotch and a stack of ONE DOLLAR chips. I have to keep a sense of humor, or I’ll go mad. Oh, make it a double.