Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Eli Broad -- stick to golf

Teacher retirement funds being crushed

“Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams, on Eli Broad: “He thinks our schools can learn a lot from a well-run business and all it takes is leadership from the top down.”

Eli Broad, as in Ed in '08, the Broad Foundation, and the Broad Prize, played a big role in the collapse of AIG. But he, along with venture philanthropist Bill Gates, might still be the most powerful force currently pushing the so-called business model on public schools.

Broad helped negotiate some of the biggest pay and severance packages for failed AIG CEOs, in history. This should give educators plenty of food for thought about the hypocrisy of the Broad/Gates push for merit pay as part of business-model reform. If merit pay is so great, why didn't it begin with AIG?

The AIG collapse may also cause school boards to think twice about the top-down leadership model being pushed at Broad's own Superintendent's Academy, which offers special fellowships for military officers interested in running school districts. We all should consider the unwarranted influence these giant venture philanthropists are having over public education in general.

Broad co-founded Kaufman & Broad and later acquired Sun Life Insurance (renamed SunAmerica) in 1971 and sold the company to investment bank AIG in 1998 for $18 billion. Instead of retiring on his billions, Broad saw an opportunity to make billions more in the retirement business as millions of the baby-boom generation approached retirement age. As a director of AIG Retirement (VALIC), he was able to keep one foot in real estate and one foot in retirement—two legs planted deep into the sub-prime mortgage scandal.

To give you an example of what the AIG collapse will mean for teachers, in California alone, teacher retirement funds held more than 20 million shares of tumbling AIG stock. Teachers in Louisiana, California and other states, have settled suits against AIG trying to recover a portion of their losses. But many teachers are now going to have to rethink their retirement plans. In Georgia, the teachers retirement fund took a $180 million loss yesterday, when they were forced to dump 3.5 million shares of AIG from their portfolio.

As my teacher/brother Fred points out in yesterday’s comments section, most Illinois teachers aren’t familiar with either AIG or Eli Broad.

But when I mentioned VALIC, their eyes opened wide. VALIC is one of the 10 district approved annuity companies. Many of our teachers have their entire pensions in VALIC and VALIC is owned by AIG. Suddenly Wall Street didn't seem so far away.

Broad smiles and says: “I don’t want to spend the rest of my life at a country club playing golf. I want to do something that makes a difference and I think trying to improve public education will make a big difference.”

Mr. Broad, with all due respect, you’ve already “made a difference.” Golf’s not such a bad game.

McCain campaign too dirty for KARL ROVE!

"McCain has gone, in some of his ads, similarly gone one step too far in sort of attributing to Obama things that are, you know, beyond the 100% truth test."—Karl Rove on Fox News

Now the media is confirming what my insider Republican friend, Sid told me 2 weeks ago—that Karl Rove had a falling out with Steve Schmidt over the campaign’s selection of SarahPalin.. “Believe it or not”, said Sid, “Schmidt and the boys have moved to the right of their mentor”. When Rove has to speak out publicly to save his own reputation, you know things have gotten low.

“Maverick” did flip-flop on killing the DOE

Somebody needs to start fact-checking Edweek’s fact-checker. Alyson Klein tries to play gotcha with the Obama campaign for running an ad which says: McCain, “even proposed abolishing the Department of Education.”

Fact-checker Klein can’t find anything false about the statement, but is still critical because the information in the ad (like McCain, strike that) is “fairly old.” McCain did advocate abolishing the department back in 1999 (that’s no so long ago, Alyson) but then flip-flopped when the Republicans took over the department. By 2001, McCain like Bush/Cheney and the rest of the neo-cons, dropped their liquidation demand after they figured out that the DOE was potentially a multi-billion-dollar cash cow. Over the past two Bush administrations, they were able to funnel billions to their favorite contractors, after-school programs, and school management companies. Suddenly McCain and his friends became big fans of the DOE, No Child Left Behind, and a scandalized $4-billion Reading First program.

So the Obama ad was completely factual. It’s problem was, it didn’t go far enough in exposing “Maverick” McCain’s lack of principles and his no-so-Maverick, following-the-party-line mentality.

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