Long before Gabrieli was a candidate for governor, the Boston Globe’s Scott S. Greenberger wrote a fascinating article about Advantage Schools, Inc. In the May 13, 2001 article, readers are told:
Advantage Schools Inc., a Boston-based company at the forefront of a national effort to run public schools privately, has failed to live up to its promises of academic and financial success in charter schools in at least seven states.
Across the country, Advantage has made bold commitments, vowing to make stellar students of children victimized by the worst of public education. The people behind the company – among them, the author of Massachusetts’ landmark charter school law and several other Weld-Cellucci aides – say for-profit companies can succeed where bureaucrats have failed.
But while promising to bring higher standards and sharper management of taxpayer dollars, Advantage has misled parents about teacher qualifications, failed to consistently boost scores on high-stakes state tests, and engaged in financial practices that have prompted censure by at least two states, the Globe has found.
The dots connect to the hard-right gang that controls the State Board of Education, dominated by advocates for and insiders within the charter school industry.
Advantage has used its conservative political connections to drum up business in Massachusetts and nationwide. Cofounder Steven Wilson, a former aide to Governor William F. Weld, tapped state Board of Education member Abigail Thernstrom to serve on Advantage’s academic advisory board. And businessman and leading MCAS advocate William Edgerly at one time chaired the company’s board of directors.
Long before 2001, Gabrieli was a heavy investor and major rainmaker for Advantage Schools, Inc. Look at the Boston Business Journal article from July 17, 1998, in which Advantage gets $10 million in new venture capital. Remember, where you see Bessemer Venture Partners, that’s Gabrieli.
The investment, from several venture capital firms, was led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers of Menlo Park, Calif. Also investing were Bessemer Venture Partners of Wellesley, Fidelity Ventures of Boston and United States Trust Co. of New York.
Steven Wilson, Advantage’s president and chief executive officer, said the money will be used to open six new charter schools to go along with schools the company already launched in Phoenix, and Rocky Mount, N.C.
Two of the six new schools, slated for Worcester and Malden, will mark Advantage’s first venture in Massachusetts and will open in the fall, Wilson said.
Why did Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers get into Advantage Schools? Simple.
Kleiner Perkins learned of Advantage, according to Wilson, through Christopher Gabrieli, on leave from Bessemer Venture Partners while running for the open 8th Massachusetts Congressional District seat.
Bessemer was involved in the first round of venture capital funding of Advantage Schools.
In 2001, Gabrieli and Advantage pop up in an article from the right wing Lexington Institute titled Investing in Charter Schools: Markets on the Edge of Change, a quote taken directly from Gabrieli.
While still a long way from achieving profitability, leading charter school companies have attracted investors who see the potential for lucrative, long-term returns, the social value of increased educational options for urban children, and usually both. Many are drawn by the dynamics of a sector Christopher Gabrieli of Bessemer Venture Partners describes as typifying “markets on the edge of change.”
Gabrieli has some curious supporters in a Democratic primary. If you wonder why we lose the governor’s race, it’s because we have people like Barbara Anderson of Citizens for Limited Taxation pulling Democratic ballots and voting for people like Gabrieli. Check out her September 12, 2002 column, where she writes:
Chris Gabrieli has added to the quality of debate in the commonwealth with his support for Mass Inc. and its quarterly magazine, and to some genuine improvement in education with his support for charter schools.
Which leads us back to the July 17 Globe article by Brian C Mooney:
But there is one educational innovation voters aren’t likely to hear the wealthy venture capitalist emphasize, because it was a failure.
In the late 1990s, Gabrieli and his firm, Bessemer Venture Partners, were major investors in Boston-based Advantage Schools, a for-profit charter school company that crashed because of mismanagement of schools in several states, including two in Massachusetts.
According to the article, “Gabrieli’s personal investment in Advantage Schools was in the $250,000 to $500,000 range, according to a 1998 financial disclosure statement he filed in connection with his failed run for Congress.”
Bottom line. If you like the education policies of Weld-Cellucci-Swift-Romney, you can stay the course with Gabrieli.