Testimony to the Philadelphia School Reform Commission May 17, 2018
Read my previous post about Dr. Hite and Ridge-Lane, testimony given during Philadelphia City Council budget hearings on May 16, here.
“Ridge-Lane, Limited Partners is a merchant bank co-founded by former Governor Tom Ridge and R. Brad Lane. The firm “specializes in corporate strategy and venture development for private growth-stage technology companies.” Its website claims it is at the “apex of public and private sectors,” with over fifty well-connected advisors to broker corporate-government deals in information technology, sustainability, real estate, and education.
Ridge Lane has extensive ties to the military and to the Department of Homeland Security. Their team includes a dozen former governors, both Democrat and Republican. It includes thought leaders who seek to channel education into competency-based, workforce-aligned pipelines. There can be little doubt that Ridge Lane, and predatory firms of this type, aim to redesign government as a public-private partnership that serves the interest of social impact investors. In education this will happen through Pay for Success provisions embedded in the Every Student Succeeds Act.
Dr. Hite, I was dismayed to see you listed as a senior education advisor on Ridge Lane’s website. How can you in good conscience serve as an advisor to a consulting firm that views public education as vehicle for profit taking? Our system is far from perfect and was never intended to serve all children well, particularly black and brown children. But do you actually believe partnerships with defense interests and hedge fund managers will create authentic, empowering learning experiences for Philadelphia’s students?
Clearly your motives align with those of the elite. Should we not be suspicious of plans to create an energy pilot program at Strawberry Mansion High School when Ridge Lane has its hands in sustainability ventures? Shouldn’t Ridge Lane’s ties to real estate development give Strawberry Mansion residents pause? They have legitimate concerns that proposed school transformation could result in them eventually being gentrified out of their homes. If Information Technology ends up being proposed as a workforce-training program at the school, will parents have to second-guess if you’re prioritizing the interests of students or investors? Will the twenty-first century work-force programs you offer end up weaving their children’s futures into Tom Ridge’s war and security state machine?
As Philadelphia’s schools transfer to mayoral control, it is our obligation to ensure sure they are not being handed over as points of extraction for private profit. We demand public money for public schools that serve the will of the people—not the war machine, not private capital, and not Big Data.
Tonight I stand with W.E.B. Dubois on the side of peace and justice and truth. I wish to confirm if you are in fact serving as an education advisor to Ridge Lane. If the answer is yes, do we have a right to know what services you render, and how you are compensated?”
Video of the conclusion of my testimony showing Dr. Hite and district legal counsel Lynn Rosner Rauch. Thanks to my friend Ken Destine.
Hite responded that he was indeed serving as an advisor to Ridge Lane, LP. His commitment is to participate every other month in phone calls with other team members from the education sector, and he is not compensated for those services. He and the district’s legal counsel noted that Hite’s involvement with Ridge Lane had been vetted and approved by the School Reform Commission. The lawyer described Hite’s participation in this venture as “a learning opportunity for us.” I asked about submitting an open records request for the vetting information. At the conclusion of the meeting I attempted to discuss parameters for an open records request about the vetting process for the Ridge Lane advising arrangement that the district’s counsel had described. The district’s lawyer was not particularly forthcoming with information that might inform such a request and said that the documents would largely be protected by attorney-client privilege. To be continued.