Eli Broad Spends $100 Million to Buy a Yale Home and the Yale Name for His Education Leadership Center

This blog will take a two week holiday break. Good wishes to you for Christmas and the New Year.       Look for a new post on Monday, January 6, 2020.

Eli Broad just donated $100 million to Yale University’s School of Management. The gift came with a quid pro quo: Yale University’s School of Management will now house the Broad Superintendents’ Academy and Broad Residency in Urban Education. What this means is that mega philanthropist, Eli Broad is buying a prestigious institutional home for a training program he alone devised.  Eli Broad’s personal philosophy of education management will receive the imprimatur of Yale University even though there is no academic, peer-reviewed research endorsing Eli Broad’s theories of education management.

Who is Eli Broad and what are the Broad Academy and Residency in Urban Education?

In her 2010 book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System, Diane Ravitch describes Eli Broad and his background: “Eli and Edythe Broad attended Detroit public schools. He received a degree in accounting from Michigan State University. With his wife’s cousin, Broad entered the home-building business and later bought a life insurance company that eventually became a successful retirement savings business called SunAmerica. That business was sold to AIG in 1999 for $18 billion, and Eli Broad became one of the richest men in the nation. He promptly created the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, which invests in education, the arts, and medical research… Having been trained as an accountant and having made his fortune as an entrepreneur, Broad believes in measurement, data, and results. He created training programs for urban superintendents, high level managers, principals, and school board members, so as to change the culture and personnel in the nation’s urban districts…  In 2006, Broad invited me to meet with him…. He explained his philosophy of education management. He believes that school systems should run as efficiently as private sector enterprises. He believes in competition, choice, deregulation, and tight management. He believes that people perform better if incentives and sanctions are tied to their performance. He believes that school leaders need not be educators, and that good managers can manage anything if they are surrounded by smart assistants.” (The Death and Life of the Great American School System, pp. 212-213)

My clipping file of articles on Eli Broad and his Superintendents’ Academy and Broad Residency in Urban Education starts in 2010 with an article on Kansas City Superintendent, John Covington, a Broad Academy graduate who was in the process of shutting down half of Kansas City’s public schools.

Next comes a 2011 press release announcing the Broad Foundation’s $25 million pledge to endow Teach for America, the alternative five week alternative certification program for school teachers who will commit to two year stints as teachers.

In 2011, Education Week‘s Christina Samuels analyzed the role of the Broad Academy: “Billionaire businessman Eli Broad, one of the country’s most active philanthropists, founded the Broad Superintendents Academy in 2002 with an extraordinarily optimistic goal: Find leaders from both inside and outside education, train them, and have them occupying the superintendencies in a third of the 75 largest school districts—all in just two years… But as the program has risen in prominence and prestige—758 people, the largest pool ever, applied for the program this year, and eight were accepted,—it has also drawn impassioned criticism from people who see it as a destructive force in schools and districts. They say Broad-trained superintendents use corporate-management techniques to consolidate power, weaken teachers’ job protections, cut parents out of decision making, and introduce unproven reform measures.”

Between 2002 and 2014, the Broad Foundation awarded an annual $250,000 prize to urban school districts identified by the Broad Foundation as having accomplished successful turnarounds. The program was eliminated when improvement as measured by standardized test scores persistently remained flat across school districts despite No Child Left Behind’s promise that all children would be proficient by 2014. In 2011, Broad also launched a prize for charter school networks that would demonstrate high academic outcomes.

In 2015, the Los Angeles TimesHoward Blume reported on Eli Broad’s “$490 million plan to put half of Los Angeles Unified School District students in charter schools.” “According to a 44-page memo, obtained by The Times, the locally based Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and other charter advocates want to create 260 new charter schools enrolling at least 130,000 students.”  The plan was never fully realized, but Broad has supported and invested in the rapid growth of charter schools in Los Angeles.

In a post in August of 2019, California blogger, Tom Ultican located Broad’s position among philanthropists who invest in corporate, accountability-based education reform: “Broad (rhymes with toad) is one of he billionaires driving a neoliberal agenda focused first and foremost on privatizing public education.  Hastings, Arnold, Bloomberg, Walton, Rock, Fisher and Broad are all spending huge money for the cause.  In the last Los Angeles School Board election, just this group spent more than $5,000,000 to capture the Board. They all lavishly support both Teach for America and charter schools… One of the highest profile Broad Fellows is Neerav Kingsland from the Broad Residency Class of 2009-2011.  Last year, Kingsland was named managing partner of The City Fund. This new fund was founded when billionaires Jon Arnold and Reed Hastings each pledged $100 million to promote the portfolio model of public school privatization.  Before going to work at the Arnold Foundation in 2015, Neerav and two other law students formed the Hurricane Katrina Legal Clinic, which assisted in the creation of the privatizing organization, New Schools for New Orleans.  Kingsland became its chief executive officer.  He is joined at The City Fund by Chris Barbic, first (and) failed Superintendent of the Tennessee Achievement School District, founder of YES Prep Charter Schools, and alumni of Broad Superintendents Academy 2011.”

In a recent article for Independent Media Institute, Jeff Bryant describes Broad’s philosophy of education philanthropy: “With a mission to advance entrepreneurship in education and other fields, Broad’s education donations have focused, according to the organization’s 2010 annual report, on ‘two issues Eli Broad knew well from his days in business: governance and management—school board to superintendent.’  Broad’s efforts to transform school governance and management include conducting a training center for school leaders; advocating for school governance models that emphasize business methodologies rather than democratic engagement; circumnavigating traditional teacher preparation programs by funding Teach for America; and supporting charter schools and organizations and political candidates that promote charters.”

The editors of PR Watch at the Center for Media and Democracy explain the curriculum of Broad’s Superintendent’s Academy and Urban Residency Program: “The Broad training curriculum for education minimizes subject areas like core education (10% of curriculum time). Instead it emphasizes ‘reform priorities’ (40%), ‘reform accelerators’ (30%), and systems-level management (nearly 20%). Training includes time with think tanks, businesses, and charter network administrators. Training does not prioritize classroom teachers, public school principals, or people knowledgeable about delivery of public education.”

LA Times education reporter, Howard Blume covered Eli Broad’s recent $100 million gift to Yale and the pending move of the Broad Center from California to New Haven: “The Broad Center, which has attracted praise and suspicion for its training of school district leaders, will move from Los Angeles to Yale University, along with a $100-million gift provided by founder Eli Broad… The donation is the largest ever for the Yale School of Management (SOM) and will help fund a master’s program for public education leaders and advanced leadership training for top school system executives—efforts that had been undertaken by the center in Los Angeles…. The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation has been the primary funder of the Broad Center, and in most years is the only one according to the center. The foundation has contributed $143.5 million to the center since 2001. The Broad Center’s budget for 2019 is $15 million.”

A new Dean at the Yale School of Management is responsible for bringing the Broad Center and Eli Broad’s huge gift to Yale. The Yale press release reported that Dean Kerwin K. Charles announced the gift on December 5: “Charles began discussions with The Broad Foundation shortly after starting his term as the Indra K. Nooyi Dean and Frederic D. Wolfe Professor of Economics, Policy and Management on July 1… ‘We are simply awed by the generosity of The Eli and Edythe Broad foundation and by the commitment to improving the lives of all in America that is reflected in their philanthropy,’ said Charles.'”

The Yale School of Management’s press release explains: “The new Yale SOM center will offer a one-year master’s degree in education management for early-career leaders who want to have an impact on large school districts.  It will also offer an advanced executive training program for senior district leaders, such as superintendents and CFOs. Together the two programs will train approximately 50 leaders each year.  Both will be tuition-free, to ensure that the cost doesn’t deter promising education leaders from participating.”

My simple clipping file provides a cautionary tale about the corporate reform narrative Eli Broad is now paying Yale University to promote.  Corporate-style school managers—many of them trained at the Broad Academy—have been charterizing public schools, helping states impose radical takeovers on the poorest school districts in Louisiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Arkansas, and Ohio, and imposing waves of school closures like the one Jon Covington launched in Kansas City a decade ago.

School closures have become a bigger issue in the years since, and they have produced some of the strongest evidence of the weaknesses of the sort of school reform preached by Eli Broad. The 2013 school closures in Chicago are the best example.  More profoundly than any writer I know, the University of Chicago sociologist Eve Ewing examines the enormous disruption and community grieving that ensued in Chicago after Rahm Emanuel (not a Broad graduate but nevertheless a corporate reformer) closed 50 schools in June of 2013.  In her 2018 book, Ghosts in the Schoolyard, Ewing quotes the Chicago Public Schools technocratic portfolio planner, Brittany Meadows, justifying (at a formal 2013 hearing) the reason for closing Mayo Elementary School: “(T)he enrollment efficiency range of the Mayo facility is between 552 and 828 students. As I stated, the enrollment of Mayo as of the 20th day of attendance for the 2012-2013 school year is 408. The number is below the enrollment efficiency range, and thus the school is underutilized.”

Ewing then examines Meadows’ corporate-style, technocratic thinking: “Meadows closes with the language of logic: ‘This number is below the enrollment efficiency range, and thus the school is underutilized.’ Meadows presents this data using an ‘if… then’ statement, explaining the calculation of the metrics without explaining the validity of the constructs involved.  In this manner the school closure proposal appears natural and inevitable. Well, of course, since this number is below the enrollment efficiency range, this is what happens next… The logic implied in Meadows’s statement reflects a certain view of reality: the idea that the most important aspects of the educational enterprise can easily be captured in no-nonsense, non-debatable numeric facts. These numbers are taken to be unbiased and a truer representation of what happens in a school building than more qualitative measures… which are seen as overly subjective or unreliable.” (Emphasis is in the original.) (Ghosts in the Schoolyard, pp. 100-101)

Ewing’s research instead demonstrates that schools are community institutions which cannot be managed as businesses.  She summarizes what her research as a sociologist in Chicago has taught her about the kind of human connection that must always be at the center of how school leaders work with their families and communities: “The people of Bronzeville understand that a school is more than a school.  A school is the site of a history and a pillar of black pride in a racist city.  A school is a safe place to be.  A school is a place where you find family.  A school is a home. So when they come for your schools, they’re coming for you. And after you’re gone they’d prefer you be forgotten.”  Ewing continues: “It’s worth stating explicitly: my purpose in this book is not to say that school closure should never happen. Rather, in expanding the frame within which we see school closure as a policy decision, we find ourselves with a new series of questions…. These questions, I contend, need to be asked about Chicago’s school closures, about school closures anywhere. In fact, they are worth asking when considering virtually any educational policy decision:  What is the history that has brought us to this moment?  How can we learn more about that history from those who have lived it?  What does this institution represent for the community closest to it?  Who gets to make the decisions here, and how do power, race, and identity inform the answer to that question?” (Ghosts in the Schoolyard, pp. 155-159)

A Broad-style school management program at Yale University is unlikely to provide school leaders with the motivation to ask Ewing’s questions.

Finally, Broad’s purchase of a Yale University home for his Broad Superintendents’ Academy and the Broad Residency in Urban Education represents a disturbing trend by which billionaires can dictate curriculum and even faculty hires at supposedly independent research universities.  Other examples are the Center for Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington, Bothell, whose biggest funder is the Gates Foundation; the Walton Family Foundation-funded Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville; Paul Peterson’s Program on Education Policy and Governance at the Harvard Kennedy School, whose sponsors and contributors include the Lynde & Harry Bradley Foundation, the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, the Milton & Rose D. Friedman Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Charles Koch Foundation, the John M. Olin Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation; and Koch Brothers-funded Departments of Economics at George Mason University (a public university in Virginia), and Florida State University.

6 thoughts on “Eli Broad Spends $100 Million to Buy a Yale Home and the Yale Name for His Education Leadership Center

  1. Jan,
    In reading this I find myself wondering when we, as a nation, will acknowledge that we have altered the constitution to move from government by and for the people to government by and for the oligarchs. The strategy of using philanthropic influence to purchase legitimacy via “owning” academic departments has been overlooked in most analyses of influence. That Yale (or any other Ivy university) would welcome the Broad approach to marginalizing the human factor in pursuit of “economic efficiency” should be a surprise to no one.

  2. This was another amazing column. You know how to put together so much information and provide a clear argument. Thank you for sticking with it. Susie

    Sent from Mail for Windows 10

  3. Pingback: Jan Resseger: Eli Broad and the $100 Million He Paid to Re-Brand His Faux-Leadership Center | Diane Ravitch's blog

  4. It is beyond discouraging that this flim-flam artist has hoodwinked Yale into hawking his wares. What Broad and his brood have foisted on numerous needy school systems is scandalous and heartbreaking, with incalculable damage done to countless children, families, and schools. And as usual, follow the money. Here is an article that details the corruption and cronyism that is endemic with Broad graduates. I can testify personally to the harm that Deborah Gist (Broad graduate 2008) did as RI Commissioner of Education. She left here for Tulsa, and has been working her black magic there as well, to the distress of Tulsa Public Schools. total travesty

  5. Pingback: Billionaire Power? Two Decades of Education Policy Are a Cautionary Tale | janresseger

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