From the Open-Publishing Calendar
From the Open-Publishing Newswire
Indybay Feature
Related Categories: U.S. | Indymedia
Et Tu NPR? Et Tu NPR? Education Privatizers and Union Busters In Full Control Of NPR
by Yasha Levine
Friday Apr 26th, 2013 3:12 PM
NPR is taking millions from union busters like the Gates Foundation and other privatizers and then pushes programming supporting their education privatization agenda.
Et Tu NPR? Et Tu NPR? Education Privatizers and Union Busters In Full Control Of NPR
By Yasha Levine

Last week, I wrote about the nation’s first successful "parent trigger" privatization of a public school, in a isolated town on the edge of the Mojave Desert. In that piece, I mentioned how parents and teachers had become disillusioned by the biased reporting of parent trigger in the media.

"No matter what article I read, it seemed to me that the common perspective that was shared was pro-Parent Revolution," said La Nita M. Dominique, the local Adelanto president of the state teachers union, referring to the outside pro-charter front group that descended on their community and used harassment, deception and thinly veiled threats of deportation to push parents into signing a petition that handed over their kids' school to a private contractor.

Lori Yuan, a mother of two kids Desert Trails and a member of Adelanto’s planning commission, described feeling that she was caught in some kind of grand conspiracy that was bigger and more powerful than anything she could imagine.

“I would do these interviews with these people and reporters and journalists and bloggers. Anyone that would call I would talk to because I need to get this information out because people need to know this. And then I'd get the article and I'd be like this has nothing to fucking do with what I said. I got to the point when I started thinking, do they — and by they, I mean Parent Revolution — do they own everything? [D]o they own the newspapers?"

It’s easy to paint this as the paranoia of parents who feel like the media doesn’t understand their concern about parent trigger. That was my first impulse too. And then I started reading some of the coverage.


What’s not just surprising, but actually shocking, is how far pro-school privatization interests have been able to infiltrate and corrupt the reporting at supposedly left-leaning NPR, and its affiliate public radio stations.

Consider a new NPR local news project called State Impact, which NPR describes as a "local-national collaboration between NPR and station groups in eight states that reports on state government actions and their impact on citizens and communities."

In January, State Impact published an interview with Greg Harris, the Ohio director of Michele Rhee's pro-charter school astroturf group StudentsFirst to promote a "report card" that the group released rating Ohio's state education policies.

State Impact reporter Ida Lieszkovszky had nothing but praise for StudentsFirst, describing it as "a group looking to improve education through increased accountability for teachers and principals, more financial transparency in schools, and enhanced power for parents, is grading states on their education initiatives."

StudentsFirst gave Ohio a C-, largely because the state did not "evaluate"—aka fire—teachers based on "performance" and limited the number of total charter schools that could be opened. In fact, StudentsFirst gave most states Ds or lower for not firing unionized teachers, for not being nearly pro-charter enough and for not scrapping their "outdated pension systems." (California got an F, while NSFWCORP's home state of Nevada got a straight D.)

Lieszkovszky took StudentFirst's discredited pro-charter blather at face value, and was even nice enough to embed the full report card at the bottom of the article. She also fed the StudentsFirst rep anti-union questions during the interview…stuff like this:

Q: Some of the measures that you mentioned, like tying teacher pay to teacher performance, are things that the teachers’ unions in the state really don’t like. How much of this has to do with unionization in these states?
The interview also included a link to a NPR State Impact profile page for Michele Rhee that reads like it was crafted by Rhee's publicist, describing her as a crusading reformer trying to "build a national movement to defend the interests of children in public education." The profile makes no mention of the controversy surrounding Michele Rhee's reform tactics, which have been discredited in a series of test-score cheating scandals.

NPR might describe State Impact's coverage of StudentsFirst as "news reporting" but at times it feel closer to outright shilling.

So, why would public radio be so willing to gush about groups like StudentsFirst and their pro-privatization agenda?

Well... it might have something to do with the fact that both NPR's State Impact and Rhee's StudentsFirst are funded by the same pro-privatization groups. In this case, the Walton Family Foundation, which has been funneling over $100 million a year to various right-wing efforts to break teachers unions and privatize public education—and that includes both NPR and StudentsFirst.

In 2012, the foundation gave Rhee's StudentsFirst $2 million. That same year, it cut NPR a hefty check for $1.4 million. The foundation classified both handouts—one to a respected news organization; the other to a notorious astroturf outfit—as "K-12 Education Reform Grants" to "Shape Public Policy." Among other grantees funded under this category include the the ultra-libertarian Institute for Justice and the National Right to Work Legal Defense and Education Foundation, both Koch-connected outfits involved in the nasty business of busting unions.

How much of the Waltons' $1.4 million NPR grant went specifically to fund the State Impact project is not entirely clear, but State Impact does list the Walton Family Foundation as a major donor on a "Supporters" page, hidden several clicks away from the program’s homepage.

Looking through NPR's recent education coverage, it becomes clear very quickly that this glaring conflict-of-interest is not one-off event or an accidental editorial misstep.

In fact, pro- charter school bias and undisclosed conflicts-of-interest run rampant through NPR's education reporting. Take the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Over the past decade, it has funneled around $8.5 million to National Public Radio and its affiliate stations and networks, according to data compiled by the Seattle Times. And a good chunk of that money was specifically earmarked for "improving" NPR's education reporting.

For example: In 2009, the foundation gave National Public Radio a grant of $750,000 to "support coverage of education issues on NPR programs, including the 'Morning Edition' and 'All Things Considered'." That same year, it sent another $651,768 to Minnesota Public Radio/American Public Media to "strengthen the quality and quantity of reporting" on education issues. American Public Media produces NPR's Marketplace programming, which has also come under the corrupting influence of Wall Street and pro-austerity interests. (Read our previous reporting on that issue here, here, and here.)

by anon
Saturday Apr 27th, 2013 9:23 AM
For another good resource, go to:

We in Seattle are ground zero for Gates Foundation and corruption.

We haven't quite fought them to a standstill but we are working on it.