Who’s Minding (or Mining) Baltimore City Schools?

Who is min(d)ing Baltimore City Schools? Lately it appears to be Baltimore Citizens on Baltimore Schools (BCBS).


The group is inviting parents and community members to get involved. They state, “Our work focuses on developing, implementing and sustaining district effectiveness that leads to increased student achievement in Baltimore City Public Schools.”

But wait, there’s more!! If you are a parent, teacher or community member genuinely interested in helping support Baltimore City public schools you might want to read the fine print before joining. What hides beneath the surface of this grass-roots organization is astroturf, The group is part of a larger reform effort focused on corporate and privatizing interests.

BCBS is part of Achievement First which was founded in 1998 by Fund for Education Excellence. The Achievement First model was developed by Fund for Educational Excellence. This model is a turn-around model that trades in public schools for McCharters.

Fund for Educational Excellence (FfEE)

The Fund For Education Excellence is a privately held company in Baltimore, MD founded in 1984 defined as a non-profit because it receives substantial part of its support from government unit or from the general public. It has $6.16 million in estimated annual revenue.

FfEE CEO Roger Schulman is a TFA graduate, who previously worked for The New Teacher Project which is driven by corporate CEO’s and a corporate model of education. “The majority of TNTP’s revenue comes from its work with clients on a fee-for-service basis.” This model is being replicated in Baltimore. And the Fund creates and promotes its charter school model. In 2012 he received annual salary of approx. $157,000.

FfEE is funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which donated $100,000 to FfEE in 2011.

Their website states, “With the support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and 11 local foundations, the Fund expanded our scope of services, playing a significant part in Baltimore City’s High School Reform movement including the introduction of school choice for all high school students.” So funding from Gates goes to “choice” (aka privately run charter schools) to replace public schools. We’ve seen the influence Gate’s monies have had in other areas of the country. Some of us believe this does not bode well.

And FfEE donates money to other non-profits, cycling the money to and from other predatory reformers. Including Center on Reinventing Public Education. CRPE appears to perform the tasks that FfEE does. Its website states its task is to conduct “research and policy analysis CRPE seeks ways to make public education more effective, especially for America’s disadvantaged students.” Apparently there are millions of million dollar ways for corporate interests to “improve schools.”  Their major funding is also brought to you by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Rather than shuffling monies between themselves to promote corporate-driven reforms, wouldn’t that money FfEE gave CRPE have been better served providing library books, art supplies or air conditioning to the city schools FfEE promises to serve?

In 1998 FEE introduced the Achievement First reform model, placing full-time professional developers in schools to build the capacity of teachers to deliver high-quality literacy instruction.

In fall 2005, under the leadership of New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, Achievement First expanded into Brooklyn. They have Achievement First charter school chain in NY, CT and RI. It appears that Baltimore is next in their lists of places to colonize. Here is a list of Board members for AF:


William R. Berkley, Chair
Chairman and CEO, W.R. Berkley Corporation

Doug Borchard, Treasurer
Managing Partner and Chief Operating Officer, New Profit, Inc.


Carlton L. Highsmith
CEO (retired), Specialized Packaging Group

James Peyser
Partner, NewSchools Venture Fund 

Jon D. Sackler
President, Bouncer Foundation

Elisa Villanueva
Co-CEO, Teach For America 

Ariela Rozman

How is replacing Baltimore City public schools with charter schools an improvement given the tenuous record that charter schools have.

According to Alan Singer:

Currently, there are approximately 2.5 million students enrolled in publicly funded charter schools in the United States. These charter schools are operated by both profit-making companies and “not for profit” organizations. In New York City every charter school is operated by what is known as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. In New York State, only 16 out of 209 charter schools are operated by for-profit companies. In other states, particularly Michigan, Florida, and Arizona, for-profit companies dominate the charter school movement. In Michigan, about 65% of the charter schools are run by for-profit educational management organizations

Achievement First set out to create a public charter schoolsAchievement First has grown into a network that includes 25 schools in five cities. In 1999, Amistad Academy opened with 84 fifth and sixth graders. Now, in the 2013-14 school year, Achievement First is serving 8,100 students in grades K to 12.

The faux “choice” narrative driven by predatory philanthropists is coming to Baltimore. But what if WE CHOOSE to support, to reclaim, and to advocate for our public schools? Who will help us financially support models driven by real evidence that smaller class size, experienced teachers, rich and meaningful curricula, and adequate funding? After all, it’s what the private schools (where reformers send their own kids) provide for their students. The best money can buy.

But Baltimore City Schools and the families living there will get more tests, more monies spent on data infrastructure and Common Core training. They get mediocre profit-driven corporate run charter schools. Less recess, less art, fewer teachers, fewer resources for anything not driven by the tests. And when all else “fails” (or the kids “fail”) Maryland reform policy makers can just sell their community schools to the highest bidder, which seems to be Achievement First.


Go and tell them what YOU think. Left unchecked and unchallenged their model to privatize schools and privately manage our children will not stop.

Published by educationalchemy

Morna McDermott has been an educator for over twenty years in both k-12 and post secondary classrooms. She received her doctorate in education, with a dissertation focus on arts-based educational research, from The University of Virginia in 2001. Morna's teaching, scholarship, and activism center around the ways in which creativity, art, social justice, and democracy can transform education and empower communities. She is currently a Professor of Education at Towson University.

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