These private philanthropic foundations in Hawai‘i are entering into and contributing to the complexity of already existing nodes in a statewide network of neoliberal reform, which is taking forms both approximating and very distinct from those in other locations in the country. It was not only the innovative ways in which competitive federalism was deployed under President Obama, but also his administration’s explicit renewal and development of ‘public-private partnerships’ that created new possibilities for hollowing out and privatizing the public space of all levels of public schools. Katharyn Mitchell’s preliminary work points to an important and (as of yet) undeveloped area of research, looking at the geographically specific impact of new forms of venture philanthropy in education, “focusing in particular on the ways in which it manifests new geographies and temporalities of neoliberalism” (Mitchell). This manifestation of a newly modulated neoliberalism under Obama reflects his administration’s response to the forms of resistance experienced by earlier administrations with a stronger “push towards micro-managed markets and public-private partnerships within which philanthropic foundations are major actors” (Ibid). Philanthropic investment in corporate reform of public education has encouraged the emergence of geographically specific hybrids, like that which has emerged in Hawai‘i in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Building on existing historically specific social hierarchies, allegiances and alliances, local social and political elites have appropriated and recirculated the dominant hegemonic neoliberal discourse on public education reform and used to widen and tighten their grasp of material resources and ‘play in the game.’ In the process, they have changed public language and ‘common sense’ about the nature and sources of the problems in public education in ways that won much broader consent for neoliberal/corporate educational reform from many parents, school boards, and the general public than did “uniform, top-down, or coercive approaches” of previous administrations (Mitchell).
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