NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Silicon Valley Takes On California Teachers' Unions

December 18, 1998

California's high-tech entrepreneurs need educated workers and the state's public schools are turning out graduates whose math and reading scores lag those of the rest of the nation. So Silicon Valley leaders are going after the state's politically powerful teachers' unions.

  • High-tech venture capitalist Timothy Draper is targeting what he calls the "very large, very slow-moving monopoly" that is today's public school system -- by launching a ballot initiative that is likely to call for public-funded school vouchers that could be spent on non-public schools.
  • Oracle's Larry Ellison recently pleaded the need for school choice in a talk before the Cato Institute.
  • David W. Packard, son of the late co-founder of Hewlett- Packard, donated $515,000 to the unsuccessful campaign of a candidate who was challenging the state school superintendent -- an incumbent supported by the teachers' unions.
  • At the behest of a 140-company consortium known as the Technology Network, the state legislature agreed in principle to permit the establishment of 100 new charter schools every year.

Meanwhile, the network's president, Reed Hastings, has been named to governor-elect Gray Davis' transition team on the schools -- where he is in a position to lobby Democrat Davis for further reforms.

Source: Tim W. Ferguson, "Monopoly Busters," Forbes, December 28, 1998.


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