The Aspen Institute: How They Shape Delaware Education & Reap The Profits

The Aspen Institute is a think tank that deals with global issues with a very large emphasis on education.  Eight citizens of Delaware are part of its fellowship program: Governor Jack Markell, Secretary of Education Mark Murphy, Dr. Paul Herdman of the Rodel Foundation, Senator Chris Coons, Tom Kovach, Collin O’Mara, Chief Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court Leo Strine and Portia Yarborough with DuPont.  Mark Murphy’s predecessor Lillian Lowery is also a fellow.

Their website describes the organization as:

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC.  Our mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues.

Their website gives nine areas where they deal with these critical issues: Community & Family Prosperity, Culture & Communication, Economy, Education, Energy & The Environment, Health, Justice & Equity, Philanthropy & Social Enterprise, and Security & Global Affairs.

The President and CEO of The Aspen Institute is Walter Isaacson, a former CEO of CNN/TimeWarner.  He also serves on the board for Teach For America.

They also happen to have some of the biggest movers in the corporate education reform movement: US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, KIPP Founder Richard Barth, Great Schools CEO Bill Jackson, Education Pioneers CEO Scott Morgan, LearnZillion CEO Eric Westendorf, ten of the biggest Teach For America executives in the country including COO Elisa Villanueva Beard, John Luczak with Education First Consulting, Senior Vice President Laura Slover of Achieve Inc., three executives from the Achievement First chain of charter schools, Leah Hamilton with the Carnegie Corporation, Relay Graduate School President Norman Atkins, Uncommon Schools CEO Brett Peiser and Managing Director Julie Jackson, no less than seven high level officials with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Ed Kirby with the Walton Family Foundation, Russlynn Ali and Shivam Mallick-Shah with the US Department of Education, John Bailey and Patricia Levesque with Foundation for Excellence in Education, Marc Porter Magee with 50CAN, CEO Jean Desravines of New Leaders for New Schools, Leslie Kerner and Larry Berger with Wireless Generation (now Amplify), COO Gloria Lee and three other associates with NewSchools Venture Fund, Co-founder Joann Gama of IDEA Public Schools (Charters), President Tim Daly with The New Teacher Project, Dan Katzir with The Broad Foundation, Founder John Danner of Rocketship Education, Executive Director Chris Eide of Teachers United, CEO Kevin Hall with Charter School Growth Fund, and CEO Eva Moskowitz of Success Academy Charter Schools.  All items in bold are explained below.

Add in companies like Google, Facebook, Goldman Sachs, Foot Locker, Bank Of America, J.P. Morgan,  McKinsey & Company, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, and many more.

So what does a fellow do at the Aspen Institute?  They have projects they work on for the betterment of their chosen area.  For Governor Markell, Paul Herdman and Mark Murphy, they are all in the education sector.

Markell’s project is below:

Helping narrow the achievement gap, and improve the long-term prospects for nearly 400 African American students in DE

Minority high school graduation rates are grim: 48% for Hispanics, and 52% for African Americans, compared to 68% for Caucasians. Jack Markell has seen firsthand that when a child is mentored and tutored, they are more successful and productive in school, and he believes that the most important thing his community can do to improve the lives of minority students is to improve the long-term educational prospects of children in the community. To that end he intends to use his position as the recently elected chair of Delaware’s Urban League to develop (in conjunction with the board’s educational advisory committee), a series of proposals that can help narrow the achievement gap, and improve the long-term prospects for nearly 400 African American students in their community. The Board will initially study several successful models-including the Harlem Children’s Zone, the Avid Program, Kipp schools and others-and based on this review will put a plan together for consideration and execution. Jack estimates this will be an approximate seven-year effort, but he believes that if real progress for a sizable proportion of the 400 children is demonstrated, there will be leverage to argue successfully for changes on a broader scale.  

Very interesting indeed!  Say, wasn’t it the Urban League that spoke with Markell last week and they said they didn’t want parent opt out?  And Markell is or was the Chair of that organization?  And is that KIPP I see in this description?  I believe it is.  And he wants to help 400 children.  With help from KIPP.  Hmm, are there any schools in Delaware with approximately 400 students with ties to KIPP?  I would have to do some serious research into that!

It doesn’t look like Mark Murphy has any project going and Paul Herdman’s project hasn’t even started, but it is very interesting:

Governors University – Prompting bolder state strategies in education policy by creating a three-day entrepreneurial seminar, “Governors University”, in order to foster awareness of education issues, and grapple with the political constraints.

What are all those constraints Dr. Herdman?  Things like the law?

Going back to all those companies and names I listed above, some of them educators in Delaware are well aware of.  At least they should, because the Delaware Department of Education spent millions and millions of dollars paying them.

GreatSchools: $1,060,200.05

Wireless Generation/Amplify: $11,985,207.06

Education Pioneers $30,000.00

Learnzillion: $333,100.00

Teach For America (DOE): $1,000,241.60

Teach For America (Districts): $1,334,272.15

Education First Consulting: $337,423.45

Achieve3000 (Achievement 3000 Inc.): (school districts paid) $2,079, 793.98

Relay Graduate School of Education (DOE): $296,000

Relay Graduate School of Education (Districts): $63,750.00

The New Teacher Project: $465,646.65

TOTAL: $18,985,634.94

And what about all the companies that Dr. Paul Herdman runs, sits on the board, or had a direct amount of control over either as President, CEO, or as a former board member:

Rodel: $210,656.86

Vision Network (DOE): $2,054,697.00

Vision Network (Districts): $545,501.00

Innovative Schools: (DOE): $1,651,572.00

Innovative Schools: (DOE-Block Grants): $117,273.00

Innovative Schools: (Districts): $3,129,991.18

Delaware Charter Schools Network (DOE): $915.00

Delaware Charter Schools Network (Charter Schools): $369,463.50

TOTAL: $8,080,069.54


That is a whole lot of money going out of our schools for companies directly involved with the Aspen Institute.  There is probably more, but I picked the ones that I already knew about based on funds going out of the DOE, contracts from Race To The Top, and local state knowledge.

How much of this is going towards the salaries of these non-profits?  How much is filtering right back into this cash-cow system?  For example, the school districts received funds from Race To The Top.  But then they turned around and hired Vision Network for professional consulting, and sent that money right back to the corporate education reform movement.  Which is designed to weaken public school districts and create more charters.

If you look at all of the companies I listed from the Aspen Institute, they are all major players in the corporate education reform.  Many of these owners have become multi-millionaires because of this.  And this isn’t even including Pearson, the owner of the PARCC test.  Or American Institutes of Research (AIR), the designer of the Smarter Balanced Assessment and other state standardized tests.  Delaware is a very small part of this landscape.  Imagine the whole country and the billions upon billions of dollars lining the wallets of these people.  Money that should be going to our schools.  Instead, our taxes are going to corporations who are shielded from paying the same ratio of taxes we pay, if they pay at all due to “non-profit” status.  But they will gladly take this money and invest in hedge funds in off-shore accounts that have no transparency whatsoever.

When your child takes the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware, remember this is what it costs your child.

Take a look at their 2010 report on standardized testing:

To find out more about Rodel, Dr. Paul Herdman, Governor Markell, and Mark Murphy and how they have sold out Delaware children to corporate vultures, please go here:

To read all about the Aspen Institute and their merry band of corporate education reformers, please go here:

All financial figures I provided came from Delaware Online Checkbook during the period of Fiscal Year 2011 until 2/28/15.  To find out more about where our education money is going, click here:


Published by

Kevin Ohlandt

I am a proud parent of a son with Tourette's Syndrome and several other co-morbidities. I write on this blog to educate other parents so they know a bit more about not only special education, but all the really bad things that are happening with public schools in Delaware and the USA. We are all in this together, and if our children aren't able to advocate for themselves it's up to us parents! We need to stop letting companies run our schools, and demand our children get a proper education. Our Departments of Education in our states have become weak with fear from the bullying US DOE, and we need to take back our schools!

4 thoughts on “The Aspen Institute: How They Shape Delaware Education & Reap The Profits”

  1. You didn’t provide enough links to your source material…..a good habit to get into….

    And you didn’t start with the top: Board of Trustees.

    Herdman is a mere employee. A yes man. His boss is this guy – who sits on the Aspen Board –
    William D. Budinger
    Founder, Former Chairman and CEO, Rodel, Inc.
    Bill Budinger, inventor, holder of over three dozen patents, founded and served for 33 years as CEO and Chairman of Rodel, Inc. Rodel built plants in Delaware, Arizona, North Carolina, Germany, Japan…

    Another on the Aspen board is the guy we are in business with as a state via Bloom Energy and the now fallen Fisker –
    John Doerr
    Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
    John Doerr joined Intel in 1974 just as they invented the famous “8080” 8 bit microprocessor. At Intel he held various engineering, marketing and management assignments, and was one of their top

    Doerr not only benefited from much of the dark money DEDO sent chasing his way – and as stockholder is still collecting in the DE ratepayer Bloom subsidy payments Collin O’Mara set up for him (and natch is husband of now Markell education policy director Lindsey “O’Mara) –
    But Doerr is also a major, major donor to Markell political campaigns. That’s the money we can openly track. Who knows what dark money is out there in this mess. There is a Koch on this board too, btw.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You are doing an incredible job! Keep up the hard work! Thank you for charging on the battlefield with the flag held high


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