Calling Out Billionaires Who Oppose Public Schools

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June 28, 2016 — UTLA was part of a powerful action last month to bring hidden money — and hidden agendas — to light in advance of a critical vote on school funding this fall.

Parents, students, educators, and community groups leafleted and chanted outside the Century City offices of two of the billionaires exposed in a new report, “Hidden Donations Brought to Light: How the Wealthy Elite Tried to Defeat Proposition 30.”

The report reveals the names of previously undisclosed wealthy Californians who donated to a shadowy political group focused on defeating Prop. 30 in 2012 while they associated themselves with public schools that benefited from the increased tax revenue in the measure.
 

“I am appalled at the hypocrisy of these billionaires,” Rowan Avenue teacher and UTLA Board member Gloria Martinez said. “I am tired of people calling themselves philanthropists yet they fight funding for arts in school, they fight more nurses in schools, and they try to pack 35 students into my classroom. Our students deserve better, our communities deserve better, our teachers deserve better, our students and parents of color deserve better, and it all starts with these billionaires paying their fair share.”
 


The action took place outside the offices of Ares Management LP. Two of the millionaires named in the report — Anthony Ressler and John Kissick — are partners in Ares. Ressler is also a founder and former board chair of Alliance charter schools, which continues to wage an illegal anti-union campaign against its own educators (read about a judge’s recent ruling against Alliance on page 5). Some of the secretive funding uncovered in the Hedge Clippers report also went to anti-union Prop. 32, a measure that would have silenced the political voice of educators and other employees.
 


As part of the “dark money” scheme, donors contributed to an out-of-state organization, which circulated the funds through other groups before the money was channeled back to California. By then, the donors’ identity was beyond the reach of disclosure laws. Some of the contributors, including Eli Broad, had already been exposed after a state investigation; the Hedge Clippers report adds more than 70 names to the shameful list.

Parents, educators, students, and community members are asking the donors named in the report to support Prop. 55, the November ballot measure that would extend the Prop. 30 tax on the wealthiest 2% of earners. About $7 billion a year in school funding is at stake.

“As a student, I remember the massive cutbacks that our schools went through just a few years ago,” said Kenia Alcocer, a student at East Los Angeles College. “This time around, I think the billionaires who fought against Prop. 30 should do the right thing and support a strong public education system for California.”

Resources: Read the Hedge Clippers report at bit.ly/hedgereport and the L.A. Times story at bitly.com/Timeshedgereport.

The release of the report kicked off California Hedge Clippers, a new campaign, linked to the national Hedge Clippers, to combat dark money in politics and expose strategies used by billionaires to undermine public education and other social services. UTLA is a partner in this coalition, along with ACCE (Alliance for California Community Empowerment), AFSCME 3299, POWER (People Organized for Westside Renewal), the Courage Campaign, SEIU Local 721, and other groups.