Strategy and Analysis to Defend and Transform Public Education

The Truth Behind GO Public School’s Corporate Connections

Our recent post critiquing the National Council on Teacher Quality’s report entitled “Teacher Quality Roadmap” got the most hits out of any of the posts on Classroom Struggle.  This demonstrates there is clear interest in understanding the politics and economics behind a seemingly well-intentioned nonprofit organization such as GO.  With that said, we’re publishing Jack Gerson’s biographical sketch of Jonathan Kelin, the executive director of GO Public Schools.  Let’s understand who our “allies” are before we co-sign their political projects.  

Oakland’s Jonathan Klein and the Rogers Foundation

– Jack Gerson

The corporate forces who orchestrate and bankroll the assault on public education are destructive and lethal, but they are not stupid. They can see as well as we that their divide-and-conquer strategy is beginning to break down: the strategy of blaming teachers and teacher unions for the problems of public education. They saw the powerful alliance that was built between teachers and parents in Chicago — especially black and Latino parents. They see a similar alliance developing in Philadelphia, where 23 schools are being closed and the school district effectively handed over to charter school management organizations. They see the anger being directed at school closures and denial of resources, and they see it being directed where it belongs: at them, the

GO's Jonathan Klein, looking straight out of a corporate boardroom presentation.

GO’s Jonathan Klein, looking straight out of a corporate boardroom presentation.

corporate deformers. And since they are not stupid, the corporate forces are trying to regroup, to change their packaging a bit (e.g., talking more “how to improve teaching” before moving on to the need for standardized high stakes testing [“to hold teachers accountable”] and to “close down or turn around failing schools”). Same core program, but new packaging.

But they have money to burn. They’re slick. And in Oakland, long a laboratory for the corporate privatizers, they are pulling out all stops to rebuild support from the community. Their representatives here are very slick and very skilled. OUSD Superintendent Tony Smith’s background is pretty well known. But how many are aware of the pedigree of the man who founded and runs GO Public Schools?

Who is behind GO Public Schools? Jonathan Klein is the Executive Director of GO Public Schools. It would be hard to find an individual anywhere whose resume better illustrates how thoroughly the corporate billionaires — especially the Broad Foundation (and the local Rogers Foundation) — have planned and executed the dismantling of public education in Oakland as we have known it, especially during the state takeover of OUSD and its aftermath.

Klein was student body president at Yale, and then a TFA teacher in Compton, California (Compton was then in state receivership, run dictatorially by its state-appointed administrator, Randolph Ward). He came to Oakland in 1999 to run Bay Area Teach for America (1999 – 2003). Klein then studied and taught at UC Berkeley’s business school, where he got an MBA and taught some business courses. Then he was installed in OUSD by Eli Broad — Klein did his Broad Foundation residency from 2006 to 2008 as Special Assistant to each of the three State Administrators (all of whom were themselves graduates of Broad’s Urban Superintendents Academy: Randolph Ward, Kimberly Statham, and Vincent Matthews.)

Jonathan Klein left OUSD in 2008 and became Chief Program Officer at the Rogers Family Foundation, Oakland’s home-grown corporate billionaire public education-bashing foundation. (From the Rogers Foundation’s home page: The Rogers Family Foundation supports schools, charter management organizations, and non-profit organizatons that are making measurable changes in the lives of Oakland students.) T. Gary Rogers, as CEO of Dreyers, played a major role in pushing the toxic “Expect Success” initiative on OUSD during the state takeover. His son, Brian Rogers, now the Executive Director of the Rogers Foundation, founded Lighthouse Charter Schools, ran unsuccessfully for school board on a corporate deform agenda (basing teacher evaluations and pay on student standardized test scores; closing down “failing” public schools and opening more charter schools; etc.).

Jonathan Klein used the time and resources made available to him at the Rogers Foundation to enhance the connections he’d made at Yale, TFA, the Broad Foundation, and OUSD top management to lay the groundwork for GO Public Schools. A little over a year ago, Jonathan Klein left the Rogers Foundation to became the first Executive Director of GO Public Schools.

For Jonathan Klein’s biosketch at the Broad Foundation, see:

For his biosketch at GO Public Schools, see:

For more on the Rogers Foundation, go to:

6 comments on “The Truth Behind GO Public School’s Corporate Connections

  1. Pingback: Diane Ravitch: Good Grief! Teachers Get High Marks on New Evaluations | Classroom Struggle

  2. Pingback: Connecting the Dots: Bay Area Millionaires Buying School Board Elections Across the Country | Classroom Struggle

  3. aulintacruz
    April 20, 2013

    I am a Go Teacher Policy fellow, and a long-time CTA member and site rep. in oakland and Hayward. I also consider myself a socialist. That said, I have never felt like a tool of Bill Gates or the capitalist school-privatization agenda that you are pushing. Ever since I’ve been affiliated with Go public schools I have not seen any substantiation to these rumors. The main push behind the Go Teacher Policy fellows has been to retain and maintain quality teachers in Oakland, where they are needed the most. There is absolutely nothing about privatization, or pushing for charters or any secret agenda.
    As for the report from NCTQ study, there are plenty of people within Go that don’t agree with all of the recommendations. Sorry to break it to you, but things aren’t as black and white.
    -Francisco Nieto Salazar

    • Mara
      April 23, 2013

      Hi Francisco,

      Let’s just try to repeat back what you’re saying to make sure we’re getting this right. You’re saying that your direct experience with GOPS has been centered around developing and retaining quality teachers in Oakland, and that this direct experience contradicts the claims that GO’s political agenda is one that fits squarely in line with the privatization tendency that’s happening nationwide (and internationally). Is this correct?

      Here’s my thoughts, as an individual in CS. First off, you haven’t at all talked about the actual political substance, which is documented in this article. I’d like to ask you a series of questions and it’d be great if you could respond with your thoughts.

      What about Klein’s political ties with the foundations he works for? They exist, materially and it’s documented in this post. Do you think they have no political weight on Klein’s work in Oakland? Why or why not?

      The fact of the matter is that when the OUSD voted to close 5 schools last school year, at least one of which has been turned into a charter school, representatives of GO voted to have “no position” on the school closures. This means feigned neutrality in the face of austerity. Is this an acceptable political position to you?

      I agree with you that there are “plenty of people” in GO who are critical of the NCTQ report. We hosted a study group of 25 teachers in OUSD last week that had two attendees from GO. Neither one had anything to say in opposition to a slew of criticisms made of the report by quality, rank and file teachers. That being said, why have the “plenty of people” in GO not made a public criticism of this document? Would you be willing to do so? Why or why not?

      Lastly, you say you are a socialist. That’s interesting. What is your socialist critique of the findings in the NCTQ report? What are your socialist thoughts on school closures? What is your socialist critique of privatization nationwide? Most importantly, what is GO doing to counter privatization (this is a completely legitimate question because aside from its efforts at doing professional development for teachers, GO has put 100s of thousands of dollars into OUSD school board elections, so it is hardly apolitical)?

      Very appreciative of your engagement on our blog. Looking forward to your response!


      • aulintacruz
        April 24, 2013

        Thanks for your reply. Honestly I wan’t even expecting to get approved. You ask what I think of the political substance of this post? I honestly don’t think there is much there, in terms of drawing a connection between the “lethal” school reformers and Klein. His bio and connections are no secret. Everyone knows about that, yet the post doesn’t really make any connections beyond that. I can’t say I know him that well, although I have had several conversations and haven’t found anything to substantiate the claim that he is part of some mission to privatize education. I am curious to find out if there is such a nefarious connection, after all, I am affiliated with GO as part of the fellowship and if there were such a “secret” plan to dismantle public education, I would very much like to know about it and see evidence. So far I’m far from convinced. This is the very reason I came upon your blog.

        I wasn’t affiliated with GO when the issue of school closures came around, so I can’t speak to that. My guess is that taking a neutral position was a cop out, or maybe they had disagreements at the board level, and came up with that position as a compromise. Like I said, the organization is made up of many people, none of them have ever shown the slightest hint that their motivation is to dismantle public education. But your criticism here is valid, no doubt.

        As for the NCTQ report, we actually go to hear from the report writers themselves, and had pretty heated back-and-forth where we pushed back at many of their recommendations. That said, I wouldn’t waste much time in fighting the report, being that not even OUSD stood behind it, so at this point, it seems like beating up a straw man.

        On the last point, I’ll respond later. I do have students to teach, and I’d love to engage further, but lack the time for a deeper-level Marxist analysis. But I will say this:
        I have been teaching for over 13 years and have been an OEA rep, a HEA (hayward) rep, and have gone to CTA trainings, worked on political campaigns and am familiar with all the discourse around privatization form all angles. I’ve been an outspoken critic of this for years. But I have also learned over time that the world is much more nuanced than a traditional dialectical analysis can reveal.

  4. Pingback: GO Teacher Policy fellow replies to our critique of NCTQ report | Classroom Struggle

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