Since their first appearance in the United States a century ago, large private foundations have been seen as a threat to democracy and civil society: they apply wealth to solve social problems according to their own values with minimal democratic control and almost no public accountability. In our age of immense concentrations of wealth, insufficient public resources, dominant market ideology, and unlimited private financing of political campaigns, “big philanthropy” is—more than ever—an instrument of plutocracy, of power derived from wealth. For a dozen years, some of the largest private foundations have been co-opting democratic control of public education in the United States to the detriment of both education and democracy.


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