School Closure Expert Robert Bobb Is Back in Town

Robert Bobb at a recent community meeting on education

Listen to TheFightBack question Bobb:

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Former City Administrator and D.C. School Board president Robert Bobb is back in town. Actually, he never left. “I just commuted back and forth for two years. I never left [D.C.],” Bobb said after a community meeting last month on the “Future of Public Education in DC.”

Mayor Vincent Gray recently appointed Bobb to the Board of Directors of the Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation, the troubled mostly-government-sponsored nonprofit implicated in Councilmember Harry Thomas’ funneling and misuse of city money for personal use.

From 2009-11, Bobb served as Emergency Financial Manager for Detroit Public Schools. Tabrian Chas Joe, a high school senior and organizer with B.A.M.N. (By Any Means Necessary), described Bobb’s tenure in Detroit as follows: “Privatize education. Charter-ize education. Bust the union. Segregate the schools.”

Bobb was paid well for his efforts, earning a government salary of $280,000, plus an additional $145,000 a year from the Kellogg Foundation and the Broad Foundation, which is a known cheerleader and booster of charter schools.

Bobb is looking to capitalize on his public sector experience and has started a consulting firm to assist organizations and governments in distress. TheFightBack spoke with Bobb the day it was announced he is assisting the city of Richmond in closing its $23.8 million education budget shortfall. “We’re doing it strictly on a pro-bono basis,” said Bobb, who insisted he wouldn’t be making recommendations (such as closing schools), but would just “validate the [City Council’s] recommendations.”

Bobb, who is looking to do more of this type of work, and not for free, may find himself quite busy if the economy doesn’t improve and local governments continue to rely on outside “experts” to help carry out unpopular and painful cuts to public education. Bobb is well positioned to land such contracts due to the connections he’s built up with city officials all over the country as a result of his 30 years as city manager in D.C., Richmond, Oakland, Kalamazoo and Santa Ana.

Here in D.C., Mayor Gray recently commissioned a Walmart-funded study which concluded that the city should turnaround or close 38 underperforming public schools, turning at least some of them into charters.

Back at the community meeting, the front page of the program read, “Support Our Schools! Don’t Close Them!”

Bobb said he was at the community meeting because he’s “very interested in public education in the District for every child.”

When TheFightBack asked Bobb if Mayor Gray had asked him to assist with another round of school closures, he said, “No, not at all. Absolutely not.”

Chas Joe, having spent two years under Bobb, is skeptical: “He wants to destroy public education [in D.C.] like he did in Detroit.”

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