Teachers in the San Francisco Bay area picketed Thursday outside an education conference that features News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch as a keynote speaker, saying they believe he and other business leaders want to profit from reforms discussed at the summit.
More than 100 demonstrators marched outside the Palace Hotel, which was hosting the two-day National Summit on Education Reform. The protesters, joined by activists from the Occupy Wall Street movement, chanted, banged drums and held signs with pictures of Murdoch and slogans such as "Hey Murdoch! Our Schools are Not For Profit."
The educators said they believe the business leaders were seeking to profit from digital learning that they were promoting as a way to improve public education. Murdoch was expected to talk about the role of technology during his keynote speech Friday morning, said Jaryn Emhof, a spokeswoman for the Foundation for Excellence in Education, which organized the summit.
"We don't think education is their concern. We think that profit is their only concern. And we don't trust them near our children," said Dennis Kelly, who heads the San Francisco teachers union.
Last year, News Corp. acquired Wireless Generation, a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based company that provides software and services to K-12 schools. In August, New York's comptroller rejected a $27 million contract with the educational technology company because of the phone hacking scandal in Great Britain.
Foundation for Excellence in Education is chaired by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and champions school vouchers, charter schools and performance pay for teachers, which are controversial among educators. Speakers expected during this year's conference include philanthropist Melinda Gates and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, as well as Bush.
Emhof said the San Francisco summit was a chance for "lawmakers and policymakers to learn proven policies and innovative strategies to improve student achievement."