AS African-Americans who advocate for students and parents in our communities, we find the notion that billionaire hedge-fund managers who live on the Main Line should decide who will be our next mayor and determine the shape of public education in our city troubling, to say the least.
The three partners of the Susquehanna International Group - Joel Greenberg, Jeff Yass and Arthur Dantchik - poured $6 million into the failed gubernatorial bid of Anthony Hardy Williams and now are spending more millions to make him mayor.
Portrayed in the media as disinterested philanthropists, the three are more accurately seen as a local version of the Koch brothers who not only favor charters and vouchers, but promote market-based privatization across the board. This policy agenda hurts working-class people generally and our communities especially.
Consider that the SIG partners:
* Have given $30,000 to the election efforts of Scott Walker, the Wisconsin governor who rolled back union rights in that state. More has come to Walker from groups like the American Federation of Children, another beneficiary of SIG money.
* Have given $2 million to the pro-charter group Students First, founded by right-wing Amway heiress and conservative bankroller Betsy DeVos, sister of Erik Prince, the founder of the mercenary outfit formerly known as Blackwater.
* Are the main backers of a "tax credit for school scholarships" scheme that the Inquirer said cost Pennsylvania $127 million "despite minimal oversight, regulatory loopholes and little evidence of its effectiveness."
* Gave $20,000 to FreedomWorks, a group that helped lead the fight for voter-ID laws used to disenfranchise minority voters.
* Poured 4.6 million into the Cato Institute and Institute for Justice - two D.C.-area libertarian groups favoring policies that redistribute wealth to the rich.
Their candidate, Williams, is a longtime voucher and charter-school advocate. His record as a legislator in Harrisburg shows that the Susquehanna partners have good reason to invest in Williams' candidacy. In conjunction with the Corbett administration and Republicans, he was co-sponsor of the voucherlike bill that created generous tax credits for businesses who contributed to private-school scholarships, draining dollars for public schools. He was the sponsor of a bill that would circumvent local districts' control over charters. He supported legislation that would weaken teacher tenure and seniority rights. Indeed, Gov. Corbett, who slashed a billion dollars from the education budget, picked Williams for his transition team, praising Williams as a supporter of his policies.
Williams, in his TV ads, stresses his legacy as the son of Hardy Williams, a civil-rights trailblazer. But, we say: Follow the money. The Susquehanna group got rich by playing a Wall Street version of a poker game called high-frequency trading.
They know a good bet when they see one.