March 22, 2011- When former NBC Today Show co-host Jane Pauley walked out onto a stage in her birth city, Indianapolis, a year ago, some in the audience, including Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett and former mayor Bart Peterson, understood what was behind Pauley’s show of empathy for Indiana’s school children, even though it may have been hidden to those there to see a celebrity.
Pauley spoke with pride of her son Ross—who had just joined the teaching staff of a charter school—and how she heard in Washington about the great things happening in the school reform movement back in her former hometown.
As member of the Board of the Mind Trust, a nonprofit school reform group in Indianapolis which has over $12 million to attack public education, Pauley was there to help sell the corporate privatization of public education. This coming May, in fact, Pauley will even join New York Times’ David Brooks (a “Quiet Revolution” quack) onstage at the Mind Trust’s “Grow What Works: Campaign to Accelerate Education Reform.”
The Mind Trust is the product of President and former Indianapolis Democratic mayor Bart Peterson and CEO David Harris, the mayor’s first Charter School Director in Indianapolis. In 2001, the Indiana legislature passed a charter school law which made Peterson the first mayor to have the authority to charter schools in the country. For their various programs, Harris, Peterson, and the Lilly Endowment-funded Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning (CELL) at the University of Indianapolis received $11.3 million from the Gates Foundation. To the Indianapolis Charter Schools Facilities Fund, a loan program which operated from 2005 to 2009, the Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF) added another $1 million.
Bart Peterson is currently the Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Communications for Eli Lilly and Company, the mega-drug company where Mitch Daniels was Senior Vice President before joining the Bush administration. In fact, current or former Lilly members onboard with the Mind Trust include Alecia DeCoudreaux, General Counsel at Lilly USA, Mind Trust President Claire Fiddian-Green, and Anne Shane, Community Development and Education Consultant to the Lilly Endowment, Inc. The Lilly Endowment, the Ruth Lilly Philanthropic Foundation, and the Eli Lilly and Company Foundation all significantly fund the Mind Trust.
Mind Trust’s Board of Directors is stacked with other Indiana corporate leaders. It includes Indianapolis Power and Light Company (IPALCO) CEO Ann Murtlow, who previously worked as an AES Corporation liaison at the same time Mitch Daniels was an IPALCO board member, then joined IPALCO in 2002 (for the AES-IPALCO connections to charter school scandals, see my article here). Murtlow is also on the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s Board of Directors, a member of the Board of Directors of Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce, and now the Senior Vice Chair of the Mind Trust.
Through its Venture Fund and with help from the Lilly Endowment, in 2008 the Mind Trust spent $2 million to recruit Teach for America to Indiana. Nationally, Teach for America has been under much scrutiny, and the Indiana branch is also drowning in controversy. Tina Bennett (the wife of Tony, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction) recently quit her job as assistant director of Teach for America at Marian University, a Catholic school that was awarded $500,000 from the Indiana government to train future school principals, even though many other more qualified universities applied and were denied. Daniel J. Elsener, Marian’s president, also serves on the Indiana State Board of Education. When asked to comment on his wife’s many conflicts of interests with charter schools, Tony Bennett, in April, arrogantly told a South Bend School Corporation audience: “I see no conflict. I invite choice.” He, however, had no comment on the recent corruptions in Dennis Bakke’s Imagine Schools.