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San Francisco: Walton-Funded Charter Pushers Launch Campaign to Woo Black and Latino Families

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The rightwing, anti-union Walton Family Foundation has funded a group called Innovate to push charter schools as the solution to achievement gaps in San Francisco.

Innovate targets Black and Latino families and peddles the hoax that charters have the secret formula for closing achievement gaps that are rooted in poverty.

“Innovate is a South Bay-based group founded in 2013 and describing itself as a “nonprofit organization whose mission is to build the parent and community demand for world-class public schools, and to accelerate the growth of these schools, particularly for low-income students and students of color.”

“Fair enough. But achieving this end has, reliably, taken the form of agitation for charter schools. The organization is generously funded by pro-charter outfits such as the Walton Family Foundation, which has put hundreds of millions of dollars into bankrolling taxpayer-funded, privately operated schools nationwide. Innovate’s own founding documents state that its raison d’être is to “focus on education reform that will support the creation of new charter schools and innovative district schools, parent choice, and strong systems of accountability.”

“Prior to turning its eyes to the north, Innovate won contentious battles in the San Jose area, besting opponents claiming that charter schools are cannibalizing the public system. They began quietly cultivating black and Latino parents in the Bayview and Mission two years ago, but it’s only in the last several months that this has garnered much attention. The organization began saturating area residents’ social media feeds with links to its report claiming San Francisco schools are the very worst in all of California for poor students of color.

“(The district disputes Innovate’s use of the data — but there’s no way to make the stats look good; generations of minority parents have complained that San Francisco’s schools have failed them, and the gaping achievement gap shows no indications of narrowing in the short term.)

“Innovate’s report is titled, “A Dream Deferred,” a Langston Hughes reference lost on few. Also lost on few is the exquisite quality of this document’s online form, which allows readers ample opportunity to share it with elected officials — and share their personal data with Innovate — at the push of a button.

“Innovate’s most recent tax forms indicate it grossed more than $4 million in 2015 alone, and its slick materials, excellent website, and a communications staff dwarfing the San Francisco Unified School District’s are indicative of that.”

Innovate implied that it has the support of the NAACP, but failed to mention that the state and national NAACP have called for a moratorium on new charters. They used the words of Amos Brown, the head of the local NAACP, and he was unhappy.

““You can tell everybody you see, whether in hell or heaven, that it is not my position to support Innovate and their move for charter schools,” Brown told us. “I want to make it crystal clear to those people: They are not to use my name in support of no charter school! I don’t appreciate this one bit.”

”Mission Local has heard many such stories: Innovate staff packing public meetings and clapping and shouting at the right times; Innovate employees crashing seminars intended for parents, participating in them, and scouting for recruits; Innovate staff trying to gain entry into community organizations.

“These are tactics more befitting campus Marxists or Lyndon LaRouche acolytes than a multi-million-dollar nonprofit with dozens of employees and a coterie of extremely wealthy backers. But the strategies employed by scrappy ideological groups do work — and can be even more effective when you have big bucks on-hand to pay professional organizers.”

Innovate is preying on parents’ hopes and fears. You can be sure that parents will never hear about the many failed charters that litter California, Tennessee, Nevada, Michigan, and other states.





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