It's A Basketcabal

The Perimeter Primate lays it out, as usual. Go to her blog for the remaining links (I didn't copy them all...).
Linda Darling-Hammond Didn’t Play Basketball

The latest to come out is an article in The New Yorker about Green Dot Public Schools and its founder and chairman, Steve Barr. The piece was written by Douglas McGray of the New America Foundation, a D.C. based policy institute which includes education reform as one of its key issues. Green Dot was founded in 1999. In 2006, billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad gave Green Dot $10.5 million to open up 20 more schools. It currently operates 18 high schools, mostly in L.A.

Years ago, Barr became friends with Reed Hastings, the founder of Netflix. Hastings funded Green Dot’s launch. Hastings also helped to start the New Schools Venture Fund, an organization which additionally received $22 million from the Gates Foundation in 2003 to “create systems of charter schools through nonprofit charter management organizations.”

Hastings and Don Shalvey are the co-authors of the California Charter School Initiative introduced to the legislature by Assemblyman Ted Lempert and signed into law in 1998. This repealed the 100-school limit of California’s 1992 charter school legislation. With the cap raised for the number of charter schools in California, Hastings and Shalvey then co-founded Aspire Public Schools and started engaging in even more pro-charter activities.

Steve Barr calls Shalvey one of his “Most Influential People,” along with former California Governor Pat Brown. Incidentally, Barr named one of his dogs “Jerry Brown.” Other connections are that Broad and Hastings donated generously to State Superintendent Jack O’Connell’s campaign, and that Jerry Brown set up two charter schools in Oakland early during his tenure as mayor, Oakland School for the Arts and the Oakland Military Institute. He continues to aggressively advocate for these two schools and keeps them pumped up with extras. I’ve heard enough at Brown's public appearances to know that he despises the form of Oakland's traditional public schools.

According to the McGray article, this past March,
… Barr got a call from the new Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. He [Barr] flew to Washington, D.C., at the end of March, for what he expected to be a social visit. At the meeting, Duncan revealed that he was interested in committing several billion dollars of the education stimulus package to a Locke-style takeover and transformation of the lowest-performing one per cent of schools across the country, at least four thousand of them, in the next several years. The Department of Education would favor districts that agreed to partner with an outside group, like Green Dot. "You seem to have cracked the code," Duncan told Barr.
And according to the New Yorker’s abstract
This month, Barr expects to meet with Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers (A.F.T.), and her staff and outline plans for a Green Dot America, a national school-turnaround partnership between Green Dot and the A.F.T. Their first city would most likely be Washington, D.C.
But now let’s turn to basketball.

Luckily for him, Steve Barr played basketball in high school and playing hoops is still one of his main hobbies. He’s read The Last Season, a book by Laker Coach Phil Jackson, at least twice. Barr says, "Basketball is the perfect metaphor for anything.” This history and outlook sets him up nicely for being accepted by Arne Duncan and President Obama.

Secretary of Education, Call-Me-Arne,” Duncan (see photo caption) is a former private-school attending Chicago native who graduated from Harvard in 1987 with a B.A. in Sociology. He was on the college’s basketball team, and after graduating, played professional basketball in Australia for four years.

After his oversees basketball adventure, Duncan returned to Chicago and was immediately given a job by John Rogers, a longtime friend and former Hyde Park basketball buddy who had also attended the Chicago Lab School. At that point, Rogers had become the CEO of the largest US minority-run mutual fund firm, Ariel Capital Management. Rogers is the son of the first African American woman to graduate from the University of Chicago Law School who then became a prominent Republican lawyer. It was she who nominated Richard Nixon.

So in 1991, Rogers placed Duncan in charge of running the Ariel Education Initiative, a non-profit set up by Rogers' firm to advance "...educational opportunities in economically disadvantaged areas.” It seemed like a good fit for Duncan, after all, he had tutored a lot at his mother’s inner-city after school program when he was a kid, he had an unused bachelor's degree in sociology, and he was Rogers' friend and a basketball player.

The rest is history. In 1998, after running Rogers’ local non-profit for several years, Duncan went to work for Chicago Public Schools, becoming Deputy Chief of Staff for former CEO Paul Vallas. In 2001, he was appointed CEO of Chicago Public Schools by Mayor Daley. At the press conference when Obama announced his appointment of Duncan as U.S. Secretary of Education, Rogers was right there to praise him. Duncan was sure to thank Rogers, his "mentor" and close friend of 35 years.

Basketball happens to be a HUGE part of Rogers’ life. For years he has played in three-on-three tournaments basketball where Arne Duncan has been a regular member of his team. Rogers also recently attended a Michael Jordan basketball fantasy camp where his playing caused quite a stir; he is interviewed here. By the way, an upcoming three day camp in Las Vegas with Jordan is priced at $17,500.

Another of Rogers' regular basketball teammates for many years is Craig Robinson, Michelle Obama’s older brother. Both men attended Princeton and played on the school's basketball team. After graduating from college, Robinson became a wealthy businessman but gave up that work in 1999 to become a college basketball coach.

Knowing Rogers via her brother, Michelle introduced Obama to him when she started dating Obama seriously, around 1990. This would have been about the time Arne Duncan returned to Chicago and was starting to work for Rogers' non-profit, as well as playing basketball with him again. Connections made on the court, rather than on the green.

So now the relationship between Rogers, Robinson, Duncan, and Obama is explained. By the way, Rogers' ex-wife, Desirée Glapion Rogers, is the new White House social secretary. Read more about Obama's basketball life here.

This is a world where basketball means a lot, and where it is believed that important qualifications for a person are borne out on the courts. From The Audacity of Hoops:
But before matters between Barack and Michelle could advance too far, she had a test to administer. Having grown up listening to her father and her brother, a two-time Ivy League Player of the Year at Princeton, insist that a man’s character gets laid bare on the court, she hatched a plan. Craig Robinson rounded up a quorum of friends of varied abilities. “I didn’t want the game to be too intimidating,” he says, because it would’ve been painful to tell Michelle the prospect with the odd name hadn’t made the grade. He needn’t have worried. Obama found that sweet spot between not shooting every time and not always passing to Craig. In campaign appearances Robinson would retell the story with a kicker: “If I could trust him with my sister, you can trust him with your vote.”
It's a cute story, but after figuring things out, it's a little scary to think that this type of thinking may have been a factor in why Arne Duncan was ultimately selected.
So let's not be surprised to imagine that Barr has also passed some sort of basketball-character test. I'd bet 20 bucks that, as of late, he's been heading for the courts to get himself back into shape a bit more.

Total Pageviews