Advice from a Billionaire: Forget Charity, Do Good While Making a Profit

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Advice from a Billionaire: Forget Charity, Do Good While Making a Profit

"Proud Public Education Supporters."  (Photo: Light Brigading/flickr/cc)

This is a very interesting interview with Bobby Turner, who is the partner of Andre Agassi in opening new charter schools for profit across the country. He seems to think that destroying public education is a way to perform good works.

Charity is laudable, Bobby Turner says, but if you really want to raise enough money to improve a thorny social problem you have to introduce the profit motive.

An associate of 1980s junk bond king Michael Milken who made a fortune in real estate, Turner is now turning that personal philosophy into action.

He set up a company last year called Turner Impact Capital that seeks investors to pay for blue-collar housing, promising returns more typical of ­conventional moneymaking businesses.

And already some big names are risking capital to invest with Turner, a deeply connected Los Angeles financier who already has a similar fund with former tennis star Andre Agassi to build inner-city charter schools.

The Turner Multifamily Impact Fund launched in June so far has drawn investments from high-profile hedge fund manager Bill Ackman; Citi Community Capital, a division of Citibank that invests in affordable housing; the University of Michigan endowment; and Rockefeller Brothers Fund, a philanthropic organization operated by the Rockefeller family.

This is the reasoning of the hedge fund managers and equity investors who are privatizing public schools. If they can generate a profit, taking public money that should be paying for the arts, for raising teachers’ salaries, and for reducing class sizes, they think they are doing good works. Please, someone, tell them they should stick to selling stuff and leave the taxpayer money for the kids, not for investors and profits. They are getting rich, and they are not doing good. They are hurting children.

Diane Ravitch

Diane Ravitch

Diane Ravitch is a historian of education at New York University. Her most recent book is Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools.  Her previous books and articles about American education include: The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, Left Back: A Century of Battles Over School Reform, (Simon & Schuster, 2000); The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn (Knopf, 2003); The English Reader: What Every Literate Person Needs to Know (Oxford, 2006), which she edited with her son Michael Ravitch. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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