Broad’s support of Clinton raising concerns within teacher unions
Craig Clough | October 1, 2015
With his massive plan to enroll half of all LA Unified’s students into charter schools, billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad is threatening major disruptions at LA Unified, cementing his role as Public Enemy No. 1 to many district and local union leaders.
But Broad’s enduring support for public charter schools now appears to be contributing to problems for an old friend, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, whom he has long supported financially.
Clinton appears poised to receive the endorsement of the nation’s largest teachers union, the National Education Association (NEA), this weekend, but the potential endorsement is causing controversy among many rank-and-file members. Similar outrage emerged when Clinton received the endorsement of the second-largest national teachers union, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), in July.
Part of the concern is due to her past support of charter schools and connections to Broad, as well as her connections to Bill Gates and the Walton family, who are also major financial backers of charter schools that directly threaten union teacher jobs. An alternate candidate in the field, Sen. Bernie Sanders, a declared socialist with a track record of full-throated support of unions, makes a better candidate, according to some NEA and AFT members.
“[Clinton’s] labor credentials are significantly worse than her main challenger in the Democratic primary, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders,” wrote Huffington Post blogger and former NEA member Ben Spielberg, who also pointed out that Clinton once served on the board of directors of Wal-Mart.
“Even if she says things that today sound supportive, she’s not going to be a steadfast friend of organized labor,” Jamie Rinaldi, a teacher from Newton, Mass. and a union activist told Politico. “We don’t know she’s going to be the ally that’s going to stand with our legislative agenda.”
Almost 5,000 AFT members signed an online petition asking AFT to withdraw the Clinton endorsement, which came in July. One comment on the petition, which summed up much of the Clinton opposition, said, “The support that Hillary receives from Wall Street, and gives them in return, and her misguided support of charter schools clearly shows whose interests she is working for.”
Several NEA state branches have already called on the organization to withhold any endorsement.
“We are concerned that an early recommendation does not allow members to be participants in a real debate around the issues that are still unfolding,” Nebraska State Education Association president Nancy Fulton said in a statement Wednesday. “A recommendation this early in the process is premature.”
With most charter schools being non-union, the math behind Broad’s charter expansion plan in LA is simple to the LA teachers union president, Alex Caputo-Pearl: lose half of the district’s students, and his union, UTLA, will also lose half of its teachers. Caputo-Pearl sees this as a threat to UTLA’s very existence, which makes it strange when his two national affiliates may both end up supporting Clinton, who once said, “I stand behind the charter school/public school movement, because parents do deserve greater choice within the public school system to meet the unique needs of their children.”
The Clinton Foundation has even gushed over Broad’s charter school philanthropy. From the foundation’s website, which is referring to a 2007 donation Broad made to LA charters totaling $27 million: “[Broad’s donations] will have a far-reaching impact on improving the education of students in Los Angeles. By broadening the investments in charter schools in Los Angeles, a tipping point will be created that will put pressure on all other public schools in Los Angeles to improve the educational opportunities for all children.”
The Broads and Bill and Hillary Clinton have connections that go as far back as 1983 and as recently as Sept. 19, when Bill Clinton attended the second opening night of the Broad Museum in downtown Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles Times quoted Clinton at the gala talking about their friendship, which dated back to when Hillary was Broad’s lawyer. “I looked up one day and Eli was in my living room, and my life has never been the same,” Clinton said.
Broad, through one of his corporations, gave $100,000 to Bill Clinton’s presidential reelection campaign and was one of the controversial “Lincoln bedroom donors” who gave the then-president some bad headlines due to the perception that Clinton was using the White House to raise campaign funds.
Broad endorsed Hillary Clinton for president in 2008, has donated over $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation and was recently a co-chair of the Super PAC “Ready for Hillary” that was formed to draft Clinton into the 2016 race. It has since dissolved.
* Updated to reflect Ben Spielberg is a former NEA member, not a current one.