Could “Community Schools” Be Today’s Sugar Refineries?

Global finance has not underwritten “cradle to career” interventions to empower the poor or eliminate the source of their suffering. No, the intent of the 168 pages of calculations paid for by Paul Tudor Jones and the Robin Hood Foundation is to harness the human capital of oppressed communities so it can be scrutinized for “impact,” thus creating a poverty-mining pipeline to enrich themselves and further consolidate their power over the people.

The Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) is the living laboratory in which the Robin Hood Foundation and other financier-backed “charities” incubated next-gen racial capitalism. Their “pipelines” are not intended to deliver the poor to seats at esteemed tables. The children that Strive Together’s minions will be putting on pathways have been assigned far less “lofty” trajectories. Strive has sown seeds across the nation, waiting for laws, technology, capital, and political will to coalesce. Anyone paying attention can see the machine is now in motion. Soon, these powerful white men will reap a harvest from seeds that have been lying dormant for a very long time.

paul tudor jones and bill gates galaStrive Together.jpg

The HCZ model for community-based wrap around services will be implemented through Promise Neighborhoods, an initiative launched by the Obama administration in 2010; HUD’s Choice Neighborhood program, a public-private partnership model for “distressed communities;” districts of innovation, and community schools.

This may account for the extreme police response to a small protest at the ribbon-cutting for a Big Picture Learning School in Sharswood in North Philadelphia a few years back. Sharswood was designated a HUD “Choice Neighborhood,” and as a result huge numbers of people were removed from their homes by imminent domain. Very little housing has been restored, and a large glass housing authority office building, which is much more suited to an office park, was constructed in the middle of the row house neighborhood. The school district also shuttered the local elementary school for two years only to later hand it over to a management company that is now issuing the first education social impact bond in the United Kingdom, Big Picture at Doncaster. The powers invested in this “wrap around services, or else” model must have been quite distressed by community members rallying on behalf of self-determination and local control.

I have wondered about the rationale behind the imperative for the managed “community school” model in cities like Philadelphia, where social supports are abundant and accessible. Why not simply hire additional certified school staff that can assist families if they want help navigating the system?

As I have done this research, and knowing how Obama gutted FERPA, it seems obvious that the services must be brought INTO the school AND outsourced via public-private partnerships. This allows the data to be more readily harvested and processed. In the “old way,” data would likely be siloed among various providers. The third party service provider arrangement thus becomes a key part of the impact-processing scheme. Their services can be made contingent on parents signing away their FERPA rights, thus the data they bring in is accessible and query-able, which makes it easier to locate and quantify cost-offsets (and take profit) cheaply and efficiently. To an impact investor’s way of thinking, it simply doesn’t make financial sense, for example, to invest in their albeit bastardized versions of “literacy” instruction unless there is some way to prove it kept children out of jail or marginally employed. See this helpful post from the blog Saving Maine Schools: “United Way to Parents: Give Us Your Gold.”

Why is the US prison industrial complex so enormous? Why are addiction, gun violence, and chronic illness rampant? Certainly it is about controlling communities of color and profiting from their confinement and debilitation, but moving forward we must recognize how e-carceration and pre-carceration will be added to the mix. Those at the top of the economic pyramid have built up the prison industry, and abetted living conditions leading to widespread asthma, lead poisoning, diabetes, and addiction. Now we are at a tipping point, where it is fiscally prudent for those structures to begin to be slowly whittled down, so as to provide the “impact” cost-offsets speculators like Jones and Druckenmiller require. Community schools are a perfect vehicle to offer “impact-delivering” services in an integrated manner (read cheaper).

I spent time this week listening to a presentation, “Commodity Chains and Chained Commodities,” by Calvin Schermerhorn that outlines aspects of financial speculation that arose from trafficking enslaved people domestically after international trade of Africans was halted. You can watch it here, and I highly recommend it as it provides valuable context for our present situation. Schermerhorn describes the shipment of enslaved people, including a man by the name of Sam Watts, from the Chesapeake to the sugar cane fields of Louisiana.

Edmond Forstall; who later established the Union Bank of Louisiana, which underpinned the widespread sale of bonds in northern states backed by the collateral of enslaved people, mortgaged Watts and others to purchase cutting edge technologies. This technology allowed him to refine sugar on his plantation, putting him financially ahead of landowners that only sold raw cane syrup. Forstall did that through hypothecation, a financial arrangement that allowed property owners to mortgage the lives of the people they held while they remained laboring, enslaved on said property. According to a 1942 article on the Louisiana Banking Act of 1842, the 1830s and 1840s was a period of “revolutionary change and experimentation in banking” throughout the country. It feels like we are treading much the same ground as people try to imagine a future at the intersection of digital payments, social impact investing, and financialized life.

I would like to draw a connection between these public-private corporatized “community schools” and the sugar plantations. I believe interoperable data warehouses are today’s equivalent of Forestall’s sugar refinery, and “pay for success” is today’s hypothecation. If we adopt a model of free-for-all data mining starting in pre-k, that data will be the equivalent of the cane syrup; saleable, but minimally profitable. Siloed, that data has limited value. Sure, it can be used to advance the sale of hardware, software, and broadband access. That enriches the segments of the market looking to commodify public education through tech and 1:1 devices. It also benefits their venture capitalist backers.

That model doesn’t, however, enrich hedge fund managers. People like Druckenmiller and Paul Tudor Jones need dynamic data; data as commodity, and that is EXACTLY what systems like Datazone and the Silicon Valley Regional Data Trust provide. They will be the sugar refineries for the data. The algorithms driving data visualization and predictive analytics will shape the product (liquefied debt instruments tied to social service delivery) in the same way that evaporating vats did the cane syrup.

sugar cane

Pay for Success is today’s hypothecation, a new form of innovative finance that will allow predators to draw capital out of the bodies (spirits? souls?) of bonded people. It is a way to mortgage future public assets and siphon them into private hands. Meanwhile, those who are bonded remain trapped in a system of surveillance that is intentionally designed so their chances of escape are very, very low. Mass escape would mean the profit-center would actually shrink, and investors want “growth” according to the agreed upon metrics, not the elimination of poverty. We must see this cruel system for what it is, NOT what’s being sold to us-progressive, fiscally prudent policy.

Dr. Justin Leroy’s talk on recidivism social impact bonds given in conjunction with an exhibit at the Whitney on debt is an important follow up. More about this research here.

Race, Finance, And The Afterlife Of Slavery from Whitney Museum of American Art on Vimeo.

This is a the fourth in a series.

Read the introduction, Could Newsom’s “Choose Children” Budget Advance Digital Slavery in CA?” here.

Part Two: Accounting Ledgers Connect the Dots: From Jamestown to Harlem and Beyond

Part Three: Interoperable Data To Run Human Capital Hedge Funds

Part Five: Will We See A Pre-K TARP (Toxic Assets Relief Program) In 20 Years?

Part Six: Stanley Druckenmiller and Paul Tudor Jones: The Billionaire Networks Behind Harlem’s Human Capital Lab

I wish to express my appreciation for the research of Dr. Justin Leroy, Dr. Tim Scott, and Dr. Calvin Schermerhorn, which informed my understanding of finance and racial capitalism. To better understand our present situation of “surveillance capitalism,” I encourage you to explore their important contributions.