Mike DeGuire: The billionaire agenda behind the “DARK MONEY” that helped elect three new Denver school board members in November, 2023
Dr. Mike DeGuire provides analysis of how dark money influenced a local school board race and how that implicates the City Fund, an organization busy in far more places than Colorado.
Recent coverage of the Denver public school board race would seem to indicate that the public had it with the previous school board. For those that voted, that may be the case, as they overwhelmingly supported three new board members who ran as a ticket to bring about their definition of change: more safety, more academics, and a more “effective” school board. But in reality, the goals of those funding the campaigns for the newly elected board members go way beyond these three platform topics. The three were funded heavily by an independent expenditure which outspent their opponents by over 5 to 1, thanks to nearly $1.44 million in dark money from outside the city. This amount was nearly twice the amount of money given to the political action campaigns of the reform candidates in 2023 as compared to money given by similar “reformer” groups in 2019.
Local news media explained that the “dark money” came primarily from City Fund, “a national organization that favors charter schools and school autonomy.” However, City Fund is led and managed by people who have much broader goals in addition to promoting “autonomy and innovation for public and charter schools.” The people connected with City Fund have been working behind the scenes to change how public education takes place in Denver, in Colorado, and across the nation for years, and not just in this most recent DPS school board race. Denver citizens should know who the people are that funded the school board 2023 campaign, their allegiances to other organizations and individuals, and the long-term vision that these groups have for public education.
Formed in late 2017, City Fund “received funding from a number of foundations who are committed to privatizing public education: the Hastings Fund, the Arnold Foundation, the Dell Foundation, the Gates Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, and the Ballmer Group.” In 2018, a leaked presentation described how City Fund planned to use its $200 million investment to increase charter school representation up to 50% in over 40 cities across the country. Denver was cited as a “model district” for this movement, along with New Orleans and Washington, D.C., since over half of the DPS schools were already functioning as either charter or innovation schools. This governing system is named the “portfolio model,” since the focus is for school boards to manage their “community’s portfolio of educational service offerings by divesting less productive schools and adding more promising ones.” In the past several decades, based primarily on test score results, Denver “unloaded” over 48 neighborhood schools and opened more than 70 charter schools and over 50 innovation schools.