Educate All Students: Larry Miller's Blog

November 24, 2016

Wisconsin school-choice supporters cheer DeVos pick

Filed under: American Federation for Children,Trump,Vouchers — millerlf @ 7:25 am

Jim Bender, of School Choice Wisconsin, celebrates the decisions of Trump, the President elected on a platform of racism, misogyny, and xenophobia

Erin Richards , Milwaukee Journal Sentinel November 23, 2016

With her deep ties to Wisconsin’s private-school choice movement and disdain for unions thwarting reforms, Betsy DeVos, president-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for U.S. Education Secretary, was a name that sent shock waves through the state’s education circles Wednesday.

“It is completely jazzing the entire school-choice community nationwide,” said Jim Bender, president of advocacy group School Choice Wisconsin. “It’s like, game on.”

Gov. Scott Walker congratulated DeVos, whom he called his friend, on Twitter while Democratic Wisconsin Congressman Mark Pocan tweeted the nomination was “really bad news for public schools.”

DeVos is married to Dick DeVos, and both are heirs to the fortune amassed by Michigan-based direct sales company Amway, which was co-founded by Dick’s father, Richard DeVos. Betsy DeVos was active in Republican politics and has focused on schools as board chair of her national advocacy group, American Federation for Children, based in Washington, D.C. The group has funneled millions of dollars into campaigns around the country to elect school choice friendly lawmakers and to lobby aggressively for school choice legislation.

AFC spent almost $5 million on Wisconsin elections alone since 2010, according to liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Now, which railed against DeVos in a statement Wednesday.

“Being a billionaire whose hobby is underwriting campaigns to steal our public school dollars and send them to unaccountable private schools disqualifies her from being our Secretary of Education,” the statement said.

DeVos believes in upending the status quo in education and has denounced politics and slow-moving governmental processes as methods for doing so. Instead, she supports competition in the form of charter schools and voucher schools to provide more educational opportunities.

“How many of you believe our education system will ever be fixed by political parties?” she asked in Austin last year when she spoke at the SXSW education conference. “I have some bad news for you,” she continued for anyone whose hands were raised. “You are delusional.”

The American Federation for Children actually had its origins in Milwaukee in 1998; it operated under a different name and helped support the Milwaukee voucher program. DeVos remains close with Scott Jensen, the former Republican speaker of the state Assembly who was barred from running for public office in Wisconsin after his role in the state caucus scandal. Since 2010, Jensen has been a senior adviser for AFC, a position that’s allowed him to skillfully direct the nonprofit’s efforts to spread school choice programs in the form of vouchers, tax credits and education savings accounts.

Bender said the DeVos nomination is a powerful show of support for Trump’s agenda for change, which includes a proposal to make $20 billion available for children to attend the public or private schools of their choice. There is no plan yet for where that federal money would come from.

“There will be two big winners: The roles of local units of government and the role that parents play in education,” Bender said. “It looks like you’re going to have a de-emphasis put on the role of the federal government in education.”

Bill Hughes, chief academic officer of the Seton Catholic Schools network in Milwaukee and a former public-schools superintendent, said the DeVos nomination is a clear shift in educational direction that’s somewhat consistent with where Wisconsin has been heading for years.

“There is going to be considerable discussion and ferment about all of this — which should lead to better policy and ultimately better schools in public, choice and charter sectors,” Hughes said.

Contact Erin Richards at erin.richards@jrn.com or (414) 224-2705 or @emrichards.

 

 

November 23, 2016

Betsy DeVos is Trumps nominee for Education Secretary. Her Game Plan is to make all public schools private.

Filed under: American Federation for Children,Trump — millerlf @ 2:34 pm

Let there be no confusion. Betsy DeVos  strives for the end to public education and replacing it with vouchers, or as it has been called for by some in Wisconsin, “a voucher in every backpack.”

School Choice Wisconsin , will you oppose the Trump racist, misogynist, xenophobic administration? Or are you celebrating?

From the mission statement  for The American Federation for Children:

“The American Federation for Children is the leading national advocacy organization promoting school choice, with a specific focus on advocating for school vouchers, scholarship tax credit programs and Education Savings Accounts.”

Following is a blog I posted in April of 2014.

Who is the right-wing American Federation for Children?

The American Federation for Children (AFC), led by Betty DeVos, is allying with the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce( MMAC) to run candidates for offices in upcoming elections. The American Federation for Children spent $1.5 million helping Republicans in the recall elections. That includes some $900,000 that it spent to help Scott Walker fend off Tom Barrett’s challenge.

Who is the American Federation for Children?
The American Federation for Children (AFC) is an organization with roots in Milwaukee that promotes public school privatization through “voucher programs.” It shares an address and leadership with its 501(c)(3) partner Alliance for School Choice (ASC).

AFC is chaired by Betsy DeVos, the billionaire wife of Amway founder Richard DeVos and former chair of the Michigan Republican Party. In recent years, she has funneled tens of millions of dollars into school privatization efforts and other right-wing initiatives.

AFC is an ALEC member and is represented by former Rep. Jensen on the ALEC Education Task Force. Jensen is the former Republican Wisconsin Assembly Speaker convicted in 2005 of three felonies for misuse of his office for political purposes, and banned from the state Capitol for five years (the charges were later reduced on appeal). Jensen is one of AFC’s registered lobbyists in Wisconsin.

Jensen has proposed bills to ALEC on behalf of AFC/ASC that were adopted as “model” legislation. For example, in March 2011, Jensen presented to the ALEC Education Task Force the “Education Savings Account Act,” which creates financial incentives for families to take their children out of the public school system and put them in for-profit primary and secondary schools.

AFC was a “Trustee” level sponsor of ALEC’s 2011 Annual Conference – which, according to data from 2010, equated to a $5,000 payment to ALEC.

(Following is an AlterNet blog article that gives some history of Betty DeVos, her family and their right-wing agenda.)
The DeVos Family: Meet the Super-Wealthy Right-Wingers Working With the Religious Right to Kill Public Education
By Rachel Tabachnick, AlterNet
Posted in 2011 and Printed on July 19, 2012

Since the 2010 elections, voucher bills have popped up in legislatures around the nation. From Pennsylvania to Indiana to Florida, state governments across the country have introduced bills that would take money from public schools and use it to send students to private and religious institutions.

Vouchers have always been a staple of the right-wing agenda. Like previous efforts, this most recent push for vouchers is led by a network of conservative think tanks, PACs, Religious Right groups and wealthy conservative donors. But “school choice,” as they euphemistically paint vouchers, is merely a means to an end. Their ultimate goal is the total elimination of our public education system.

The decades-long campaign to end public education is propelled by the super-wealthy, right-wing DeVos family. Betsy Prince DeVos is the sister of Erik Prince, founder of the notorious private military contractor Blackwater USA, and wife of Dick DeVos, son of the co-founder of Amway, the multi-tiered home products business.

By now, you’ve surely heard of the Koch brothers, whose behind-the-scenes financing of right-wing causes has been widely documented in the past year. The DeVoses have remained largely under the radar, despite the fact that their stealth assault on America’s schools has the potential to do away with public education as we know it.


Right-Wing Privatization Forces

The conservative policy institutes founded beginning in the 1970s get hundreds of millions of dollars from wealthy families and foundations to develop and promote free market fundamentalism. More specifically, their goals include privatizing social security, reducing government regulations, thwarting environmental policy, dismantling unions – and eliminating public schools.

Whatever they may say about giving poor students a leg up, their real priority is nothing short of the total dismantling of our public educational institutions, and they’ve admitted as much. Cato Institute founder Ed Crane and other conservative think tank leaders have signed the Public Proclamation to Separate School and State, which reads in part that signing on, “Announces to the world your commitment to end involvement by local, state, and federal government from education.”

But Americans don’t want their schools dismantled. So privatization advocates have recognized that it’s not politically viable to openly push for full privatization and have resigned themselves to incrementally dismantling public school systems. The think tanks’ weapon of choice is school vouchers.

Vouchers are funded with public school dollars but are used to pay for students to attend private and parochial (religious-affiliated) schools. The idea was introduced in the 1950s by the high priest of free-market fundamentalism, Milton Friedman, who also made the real goal of the voucher movement clear: “Vouchers are not an end in themselves; they are a means to make a transition from a government to a free-market system.” The quote is in a 1995 Cato Institute briefing paper titled “Public Schools: Make Them Private.”

Joseph Bast, president of Heartland Institute, stated in 1997, “Like most other conservatives and libertarians, we see vouchers as a major step toward the complete privatization of schooling. In fact, after careful study, we have come to the conclusion that they are the only way to dismantle the current socialist regime.” Bast added, “Government schools will diminish in enrollment and thus in number as parents shift their loyalty and vouchers to superior-performing private schools.”

But Bast’s lofty goals have not panned out. That’s because, quite simply, voucher programs do not work.

The longest running voucher program in the country is the 20-year-old Milwaukee School Choice Program. Standardized testing shows that the voucher students in private schools perform below the level of Milwaukee’s public school students, and even when socioeconomic status is factored in, the voucher students still score at or below the level of the students who remain in Milwaukee’s public schools. Cleveland’s voucher program has produced similar results. Private schools in the voucher program range from excellent to very poor. In some, less than 20 percent of students reach basic proficiency levels in math and reading.

Most Americans do not want their tax dollars to fund private and sectarian schools. Since 1966, 24 of 25 voucher initiatives have been defeated by voters, most by huge margins. Nevertheless, the pro-privatization battle continues, organized by an array of 527s, 501(c)(3)s, 501(c)(4)s, and political action committees. At the helm of this interconnected network is Betsy DeVos, the four-star general of the pro-voucher movement.

The DeVos Family Campaign for Privatization of Schools
The DeVoses are top contributors to the Republican Party and have provided the funding for major Religious Right organizations. And they spent millions of their own fortune promoting the failed voucher initiative in Michigan in 2000, dramatically outspending their opposition. Sixty-eight percent of Michigan voters rejected the voucher scheme. Following this defeat, the DeVoses altered their strategy.

Instead of taking the issue directly to voters, they would support bills for vouchers in state legislatures. In 2002 Dick DeVos gave a speech on school choice at the Heritage Foundation. After an introduction by former Reagan Secretary of Education William Bennett, DeVos described a system of “rewards and consequences” to pressure state politicians to support vouchers. “That has got to be the battle. It will not be as visible,” stated DeVos. He described how his wife Betsy was putting these ideas into practice in their home state of Michigan and claimed this effort has reduced the number of anti-school choice Republicans from six to two. The millions raised from the wealthy pro-privatization contributors would be used to finance campaigns of voucher supporters and purchase ads attacking opposing candidates.
Media materials for Betsy DeVos’ group All Children Matter, formed in 2003, claimed the organization spent $7.6 million in its first year, “impacting state legislative elections in 10 targeted states” and a won/loss record of 121/60.

Dick DeVos also explained to his Heritage Foundation audience that they should no longer use the term public schools, but instead start calling them “government schools.” He noted that the role of wealthy conservatives would have to be obscured. “We need to be cautious about talking too much about these activities,” said DeVos, and pointed to the need to “cut across a lot of historic boundaries, be they partisan, ethnic, or otherwise.”
Reinventing Vouchers
Like DeVos, several free-market think tanks have also issued warnings that vouchers appear to be an “elitist” plan. There’s reason for their concern, given the long and racially charged history of vouchers.

School vouchers drew little public interest until Brown v. Board of Education and the court-ordered desegregation of public schools. Southern states devised voucher schemes for students to leave public schools and take the public funding with them.

Author Kevin Michael Kreuse explains how this plan was supposed to work in White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism. “At the heart of the plan to defend school segregation, for instance, stood a revolutionary scheme called the ‘private-school plan.’ In 1953, a full year before Brown, Governor Talmadge advanced a constitutional amendment giving the General Assembly the power to privatize the state’s entire system of public education. In the event of court-ordered desegregation, school buildings would be closed, and students would receive grants to attend private, segregated schools.”

Given the racist origins of vouchers, advocates of privatization have had to do two things: obscure the fact that the pro-privatization movement is backed primarily by white conservatives, and emphasize the support of African American and Democratic lawmakers where it exists.

In 2000, Howard Fuller founded the Black Alliance for Education Options. The group was largely funded by John Walton and the Bradley Foundation. Walton, a son of Walmart founder Sam Walton, contributed millions to the Betsy DeVos-led All Children Matter organization, including a bequest after his death in a plane crash in 2004.

A report by People for the American Way questions whose interest was being served in the partnership between the Alliance and conservative foundations. The summary of the report reads, “Over the past nine months, millions of Americans have seen lavishly produced TV ads featuring African American parents talking about school vouchers. These ads and their sponsor, the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), portray vouchers as an effort to help low-income kids. But a new report explores the money trail behind BAEO, finding that it leads directly to a handful of wealthy right-wing foundations and individuals that have a deep agenda — not only supporting the school voucher movement, but also backing anti-affirmative action campaigns and other efforts that African American organizations have opposed or considered offensive.”

Black Commentator.com was more blunt, describing vouchers as “The Right’s Final Answer to Brown” and tracking the history of vouchers from die-hard segregationists to the Heritage Foundation’s attempt to attach vouchers to federal legislation in 1981. The article stated, “The problem was, vouchers were still firmly (and correctly) associated with die-hard segregationists. Memories of white “massive resistance” to integration remained fresh, especially among blacks, who had never demanded vouchers — not even once in all of the tens of thousands of demonstrations over the previous three decades.”

The article continues, “Former Reagan Education Secretary William Bennett understood what was missing from the voucher political chemistry: minorities. If visible elements of the black and Latino community could be ensnared in what was then a lily-white scheme, then the Right’s dream of a universal vouchers system to subsidize general privatization of education, might become a practical political project. More urgently, Bennett and other right-wing strategists saw that vouchers had the potential to drive a wedge between blacks and teachers unions, cracking the Democratic Party coalition. In 1988, Bennett urged the Catholic Church to ‘seek out the poor, the disadvantaged…and take them in, educate them, and then ask society for fair recompense for your efforts’ — vouchers. The game was on.”

In this winning formula, vouchers or “scholarships” are advertised as the only hope for under served and urban minority children. Those who dare to defend public education from voucher schemes are, ironically, implied to be racist. Glossy brochures published by the DeVos-led entity All Children Matter show smiling faces of little children as well as those of the African American and Democratic politicians who have joined the campaign. Kevin Chavous, a former D.C. city councilman who takes credit for “shepherding” vouchers in D.C. and New Orleans, served as senior advisor to All Children Matters and now leads the BAEO and sits on the board of the DeVos-led AFC and Democrats for Education Reform.

All Children Matter was fined $5.2 million dollars in Ohio for breaking campaign finance laws, and lost an appeal in early 2010. The fine has not been paid. The DeVos-led organization also received bad press due to a fine in Wisconsin for failing to register their PAC as well as complaints in other states. In 2010 the entity began working under the name American Federation for Children (AFC) and registered new affiliate PACs across the nation, just in time for the 2010 elections.

The 2010 effort included a state that was not even included in Dick DeVos’ list of potential targets when he spoke to the Heritage Foundation in 2002 — Pennsylvania. An affiliate of AFC registered a PAC in Pennsylvania in March 2010 and less than a year later a voucher bill, SB-1, was sponsored in the Senate.

Throughout this well-coordinated campaign, the Pennsylvania press never once mentioned the name Betsy DeVos.

The Religious Right Foot Soldiers
The strategy in Pennsylvania in 2010, like efforts in other states, benefited from years of previous efforts to build alliances in the voucher movement. The conservative policy institutes have limited reach in the general public. In order to win the battle for hearts and minds, a larger public relations effort is required. The Religious Right fills this role with their tremendous broadcast capability and growing access to churches and homes. The partnership between free market fundamentalists and social conservatives is often contentious, but they share a common goal — to end secular public education. The free marketers object to the “public” aspect while the Religious Right objects to the “secular” component of public education.

A significant forum that brings together free-market power brokers and Religious Right leaders is the Council for National Policy (CNP), a secretive group that has met several times annually behind closed doors since 1981. Richard DeVos described CNP as bringing together the “donors and the doers.” This partnership gives the Religious Right access to major funders, including Richard Mellon Scaife, who are not social conservatives.

Many of the free-market think tanks are secular, but there is a trend toward merging free-market fundamentalism with right-wing religious ideology. The Acton Institute is described by religious historian Randall Balmer as an example of the merging of corporate interests with advocates of “dominion theology.” Dominionism is the belief that Christians must take control over societal and government institutions. The Acton Institute funds events featuring dominionist leaders including Gary North, who claims that the bible mandates free market capitalism or “Biblical Capitalism.”

Betsy DeVos has served on the board of Acton, which is also funded by Scaife, Bradley and Exxon Mobil. A shared goal of this unlikely group of libertarians and theocrats is their battle against environmental regulation. One of the Acton Institute fellows leads a group of Religious Right organizations called the Cornwall Alliance, which is currently marketing a DVD titled Resisting the Green Dragon. The pseudo-documentary describes global warming as a hoax and claims environmentalism is a cult attacking Christianity. Another shared goal of the free marketers and Christian dominionists is eradicating secular public education.

Gary North explains why getting students out of public schools is key to the Christian dominionist camp. “So let us be blunt about it: we must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political, and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God.”

And the Christian Right has been busy enacting this vision. One of the first goals of the Christian Coalition was to take control of 500 local public school boards, and it’s a strategy the Religious Right has continued. One prominent example is Cynthia Dunbar, one of the members of the Texas State Board of Education which made controversial changes to the state’s social studies curriculum in 2010. Dunbar, who was advised by right-wing self-styled “historian” David Barton, is author of One Nation Under God and has described sending children to public schools as “throwing them into the enemy’s flames, even as the children of Israel threw their children to Moloch.”

In addition to getting Trojan horses on school boards, the Religious Right has played a significant role in disseminating anti-public school propaganda and forming alliances to support vouchers for private schools. Family Research Council (FRC), one of the entities funded by the Prince and DeVos families, documents the effort in Pennsylvania to cultivate a partnership between Protestants and Catholics who wanted public funding for their sectarian schools.

The data accompanying proposed bill SB-1, indicates that the majority of the public school funds that will be spent on vouchers will pay tuition for students already enrolled in private schools. In Milwaukee 80 percent of voucher program schools are religiously affiliated, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. In Cleveland, 52 percent of the students in the 29 Catholic diocesan schools are using taxpayer-funded vouchers, according to the Plain Dealer.

FRC’s Web site includes a 1999 speech by one of Pat Robertson’s biographers, in which he describes the school choice alliance in Pennsylvania of Protestant and Catholic leaders along with the Commonwealth Foundation and REACH Alliance. Commonwealth is a state think tank funded by the Scaife foundations. REACH Alliance is the statewide pro-voucher activist organization funded by the DeVos-led Alliance for School Choice (now also renamed American Federation for Children). This alliance is further described in the speech as forming “ties to black legislators based in Philadelphia, including Dwight Evans. This was big news for the Pennsylvania education reform movement because Evans is a powerful legislator and community leader.”

Evans would indeed become key to expanding vouchers in the Philadelphia area, and he and state Senator Anthony Williams (not to be confused with the D.C. mayor by the same name), both Democrats, serve as directors of the BAEO.

The Battle for Pennsylvania
By the 2010 election, the groundwork had been laid and the heavy artillery brought into the state of Pennsylvania. First, a PAC was registered in March 2010 by Republican strategist Joe Watkins under the name Students First. Affiliated with the DeVos and Chavous-led AFC, the PAC shared the name with the organization founded by Michelle Rhee, a star of the popular pro-privatization movie Waiting for Superman. The Web site of Students First PAC touts the African-American Watkins’ experience as an adviser to a president and pastor. There is no mention of the fact that the president was George W. Bush. The bio also neglects to include Watkins’ ties to the Republican Party or his role in attack ads run on Fox News against presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008.
Students First PAC received over $6 million in donations for use in the 2010 elections, much of that donated by three mega-donors whose names were unfamiliar to most Pennsylvanians. The three mega-donors, Joel Greenberg, Jeffrey Yass and Arthur Dantchik, also contributed over a million dollars to the AFC-affiliated PAC in Indiana and $6,000 dollars each to the gubernatorial campaign of Scott Walker. The Indiana PAC total was raised to almost $6 million by a few contributors, including Betsy DeVos herself and several Walton family members. Most of that money did not stay in Indiana but was distributed to affiliated PACs in six other states, including over a million sent back to Pennsylvania’s Students First.
Much of the Students First money went to the long-shot gubernatorial campaign of Anthony Williams. Williams lost in the primaries, but he brought statewide attention to his primary campaign cause — school vouchers. Among Students First’s millions of expenditures was a $575 payment for conference registration to the Council for National Policy.
Pennsylvania press did not pay much attention to the background of the donors of the unprecedented millions pouring into the election in support of a single issue, describing them simply as supporters of school choice. Greenberg serves on the board of the Betsy DeVos-led AFC; Yass on the board of the pro-privatization think tank Cato Institute; and Dantchik on the board of the Institute for Justice, which describes itself as a merry band of libertarian litigators and is perhaps best known for its battles against affirmative action. It’s funded by Koch, Bradley, Olin, Scaife and Walton foundations and has now become a champion of school vouchers. The organization was credited by Dick DeVos in his 2002 speech as serving a significant role through challenges to the Blaine Amendments in numerous states, which disallow public funds to be spent supporting religious schools.
Money continues to be spent on attack ads against both Republican and Democratic senators opposed to SB-1. The Scaife-funded Commonwealth Foundation has created a webpage to pressure wavering Republicans. The Koch-funded FreedomWorks sponsored mailers attacking Republican state Senator Stewart Greenleaf. The mailer is headlined, “There’s a battle in Harrisburg over our children’s future. Who will win? Our children or the powerful teacher’s union?” A Students First PAC mailer attacks Democratic state Senator Daylin Leach as opposing the bill because, “he is listening to teacher union leaders who oppose SB-1 and have contributed a fortune to people like Leach.”
Much of the Indiana PAC money was also used in media campaigns, including funds sent to Florida for media purchases. AFC was the sole funder of a pro-voucher group that ran ads in Jewish publications attacking Dan Gelber, a Jewish candidate for Florida attorney general who opposed vouchers. Full page “wanted ads” were purchased in Jewish publications accusing Gelber of “crimes against Jewish education.” Other ads purchased just prior to the election described Gelber as “Toxic to Jewish Education” in red Halloween-style letters.
Dick DeVos’ model for “rewards and consequences” as described in his 2002 speech, is at work in Pennsylvania, Florida, and elsewhere, and it’s a project funded by a few mega-donors. The voucher warriors with their unlimited funding are trying to create the absurd impression that they are the altruistic David in battle against the teachers’ union Goliath.
Betsy DeVos has announced that Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker are scheduled to speak at the National Policy Summit of the American Federation for Children on May 9. Walker wants to expand vouchers in Milwaukee despite the program’s failure, made clear by disappointing standardized test results. Walker’s response? To halt the testing. Pennsylvania voucher supporters have already taken care of the pesky issue of accountability by defeating an amendment that would require the students using vouchers to take standardized tests.
During the AFC’s summit, it’s doubtful there will be speeches about eradicating public education but there will certainly be public relations-produced media everywhere, showing the beautiful faces of the little children these voucher proponents are supposedly saving. And Betsy DeVos, the four-star general of the voucher wars, will continue to advance a stealth campaign against American communities and working families — the battle to eradicate public education.

 

April 28, 2014

Right-wing Voucher Supporters Train Potential Political Candidates

Filed under: American Federation for Children — millerlf @ 8:52 am

American Federation for Children, MMAC and Democrats for Education Reform provide candidate training
By Lisa Kaiser Shepard Express

That’s what former Republican Assembly speaker turned voucher school lobbyist Scott Jensen instructed potential candidates in a day-long training session on April 12.
Jensen was responding to a question posed about whether candidates should accept checks from a donor with a checkered past. Jensen advised that the potential public embarrassment was worth it. That donation could purchase ad time, flyers, whatever a candidate needed to push him- or herself across the finish line, Jensen said.

Oh the irony.

Voucher Candidate School
Jensen spoke to roughly 30 potential voucher candidates—and a few progressive ringers—at a training session sponsored by the pro-voucher, Washington D.C.-based American Federation for Children (AFC), the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) and Democrats for Education Reform (DFER).

Jensen said that AFC had been offering candidate training in Milwaukee for the past three years and also trains candidates around the country.

Billed as a bipartisan gathering, speakers included Jensen, former Sen. Lena Taylor staffer turned WNOV host Sherwin Hughes, MMAC lobbyist Steve Baas, Godfrey & Kahn attorney Jodi Jensen, AFC’s Brian Pleva, Sheree Dallas Branch of ABRAZO Multicultural Communications & Marketing, and Democratic campaign consultant Zak Williams.

Lobbyist Katy Venskus, of Rocketship Education, which will be opening its second charter school in Milwaukee in 2015, had been scheduled to speak but had to cancel.
Jensen spoke in her place about campaign financing, and gave as well his regularly scheduled talk on campaign strategy and messaging.

Jensen was once one of the most powerful men in Wisconsin. But he was charged in 2002 with misconduct in public office for allegedly using state resources and state workers to help Republican candidates in the 1998 and 2000 elections.
While other legislative leaders ensnared in the caucus scandal took plea agreements, Jensen headed to court.
In March 2006, the same month he resigned from office, Jensen was convicted of three felonies and a misdemeanor and was sentenced to 15 months in prison and 45 months of extended supervision and was banned from the Capitol for five years.
He served no time while he appealed his case. After much legal wrangling, his conviction was overturned and he was granted a new trial.

The Legislature, however, was there to bail him out. In 2007, the bill that created the nonpartisan Government Accountability Board included a requirement that elected officials must be tried in their home counties—in Jensen’s case, Waukesha County.
In 2010, the conservative state Supreme Court overturned two lower court decisions and ruled that Jensen’s new trial should be held in Waukesha County. Later that year, Jensen agreed to a plea deal with Republican Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel—now running for attorney general—in which his felony charges were dismissed. He pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of misconduct in office and he was required to pay a $5,000 fine and reimburse the state $67,174 for legal fees.

Jensen Is Barred from Running for Office
That misdemeanor conviction bars Jensen from running for public office.
But that hasn’t deterred him from helping others run for office and be heavily involved in politics.
Almost immediately after settling his case, Jensen registered as a lobbyist for American Federation for Children in 2011. He also set up a consulting firm, Chartwell Strategic Advisors, and serves as a senior advisor to AFC.
American Federation for Children is sponsored by the DeVos family of Michigan, major backers of conservative causes around the country and big donors to Republican Gov. Scott Walker. AFC has a long history in Wisconsin elections at all levels and supports voucher candidates for office. According to an analysis by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, AFC has dumped an estimated $4.4 million on phony issue ads in Wisconsin elections since 2010. And the DeVos family gave Walker $250,000 during the recalls.
Last year, according to Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, American Federation for Children spent an estimated $45,000 to get Jessie Rodriguez elected as a Republican in Assembly District 69 in southern Milwaukee County. And it donated $30,000 in 2011 and in 2012 to the Oak Creek-based Hispanics for School Choice, a voucher advocacy group controlled by Rodriguez’ brother-in-law, Zeus, the president of St. Anthony School, and her husband, Aaron, a blogger.

John Doe Investigation Not Fully Discussed
In addition to American Federation for Children, Jensen also has been involved in the Jobs First Coalition, which has sponsored pro-Republican ads and materials since 2009. It spent an estimated $53,000 on the Rodriguez race last fall.
The Jobs First Coalition gave $445,000 to the Jensen-connected American Federation for Children in 2010 and 2011; it received $425,000 from the Wisconsin Club for Growth in 2011. It also sent money back to Wisconsin Club for Growth for issue advocacy.
Wisconsin Club for Growth is one of the two dozen groups that were subpoenaed as part of the John Doe 2 investigation into alleged illegal coordination between Walker’s campaign and independent special interest groups during the 2011 and 2012 elections.
Jensen discussed the Doe investigation in passing in his talk on campaign finance.
Jensen told the group that in general candidates can speak to independent groups but can’t develop strategy or messaging in coordination with them.
“Give them the same information you’d give anyone else,” Jensen said.
He instructed candidates not to talk to members of outside groups after an endorsement is made.
“Don’t get into conversations with them,” Jensen said. “Don’t let them say ‘You hinted.’”

Campaign Blueprint
That said, Jensen offered up tips for aspiring voucher candidates on how to talk about the issue, and attendees were provided with a binder full of information on how to file as a candidate, develop their campaign strategy, and use social media, earned media and direct mail to get their message across.
According to a Marquette University poll provided to attendees, 50.5% of those polled support the new statewide voucher program, while 44% oppose it. Republicans show 66% support, while only 42% of independents and 37% of Democrats statewide do.
American Federation for Children data showed that the highest support comes from low-income voters and younger voters, while those 45 and older oppose statewide vouchers because they attended quality public schools, he said. Jensen likened vouchers to marriage equality, in that younger people are more accepting of them while older voters show more resistance.
Jensen also claimed that the voucher movement “shows echoes of the civil rights movement” as he showed a photo of a voucher rally in Florida that featured African American leaders.
Jensen offered up a few winning messages for voucher candidates. The “we can’t wait” or “education is a civil right” themes received huge approval when AFC tested these statements in Louisiana.
Closer to home, upwards of 73% of those polled in Racine and Green Bay agreed with similar statements.
He cautioned that voucher opponents had strong messages too—“charter and choice schools steal resources from traditional public schools” and “charter and choice schools are not accountable” chief among them. He reminded the audience that AFC supported increased accountability in the loosely regulated system.
Jensen likened raising money to mowing the lawn—“it’s a chore, but you need to get it done.”
Jensen said that very few people donate to influence a candidate’s vote while in office.
“They donate because they know you,” Jensen said.

Tales from the Kleefisch Campaign
Jensen, who’s spent a lifetime in politics, recounted a smattering of anecdotes from his own campaigns and those he’s overseen as examples to the potential candidates. He explained that candidates needed to develop a theme with personal stories to illustrate it.
Jensen said that he ran Rebecca Kleefisch’s 2010 bid for lieutenant governor, where he helped her overcome her rookie mistakes—such as relying on too much data and policy—by focusing on positioning herself as a small businesswoman and outsider who knows how to create jobs.
“To the voter, if the candidate’s life experience rings true and they believe she cares, then her plan doesn’t really matter,” Jensen said.
Although Jensen bills himself as Kleefisch’s “senior strategist,” neither he nor Chartwell shows up on any of her campaign finance reports from 2010 or 2011.
Kleefisch’s campaign did not respond to the Shepherd’s request to clarify Jensen’s role in her campaign.
Jensen predicted that the outsider message would be a winning one this year, thanks to the anti-incumbent mood in Wisconsin and Washington, as well as the near-historic number of legislators who are deciding not to run this fall. He said that two more legislators would announce their retirements soon.

 

April 4, 2014

Who is the right-wing American Federation for Children?

Filed under: American Federation for Children — millerlf @ 7:07 am

Right-Wing Alert: “American Federation for Children” and MMAC Organizing for Elections

The American Federation for Children (AFC), led by Betty DeVos, is allying with the MMAC to run candidates for offices in upcoming elections. The American Federation for Children spent $1.5 million helping Republicans in the recall elections. That includes some $900,000 that it spent to help Scott Walker fend off Tom Barrett’s challenge.

Who is the American Federation for Children?
The American Federation for Children (AFC) is an organization with roots in Milwaukee that promotes public school privatization through “voucher programs.” It shares an address and leadership with its 501(c)(3) partner Alliance for School Choice (ASC).

AFC is chaired by Betsy DeVos, the billionaire wife of Amway founder Richard DeVos and former chair of the Michigan Republican Party. In recent years, she has funneled tens of millions of dollars into school privatization efforts and other right-wing initiatives.

AFC is an ALEC member and is represented by former Rep. Jensen on the ALEC Education Task Force. Jensen is the former Republican Wisconsin Assembly Speaker convicted in 2005 of three felonies for misuse of his office for political purposes, and banned from the state Capitol for five years (the charges were later reduced on appeal). Jensen is one of AFC’s registered lobbyists in Wisconsin.

Jensen has proposed bills to ALEC on behalf of AFC/ASC that were adopted as “model” legislation. For example, in March 2011, Jensen presented to the ALEC Education Task Force the “Education Savings Account Act,” which creates financial incentives for families to take their children out of the public school system and put them in for-profit primary and secondary schools.

AFC was a “Trustee” level sponsor of ALEC’s 2011 Annual Conference – which, according to data from 2010, equated to a $5,000 payment to ALEC.

(Following is an AlterNet blog article that gives some history of Betty DeVos, her family and their right-wing agenda.)
The DeVos Family: Meet the Super-Wealthy Right-Wingers Working With the Religious Right to Kill Public Education
By Rachel Tabachnick, AlterNet
Posted in 2011 and Printed on July 19, 2012

Since the 2010 elections, voucher bills have popped up in legislatures around the nation. From Pennsylvania to Indiana to Florida, state governments across the country have introduced bills that would take money from public schools and use it to send students to private and religious institutions.

Vouchers have always been a staple of the right-wing agenda. Like previous efforts, this most recent push for vouchers is led by a network of conservative think tanks, PACs, Religious Right groups and wealthy conservative donors. But “school choice,” as they euphemistically paint vouchers, is merely a means to an end. Their ultimate goal is the total elimination of our public education system.

The decades-long campaign to end public education is propelled by the super-wealthy, right-wing DeVos family. Betsy Prince DeVos is the sister of Erik Prince, founder of the notorious private military contractor Blackwater USA, and wife of Dick DeVos, son of the co-founder of Amway, the multi-tiered home products business.

By now, you’ve surely heard of the Koch brothers, whose behind-the-scenes financing of right-wing causes has been widely documented in the past year. The DeVoses have remained largely under the radar, despite the fact that their stealth assault on America’s schools has the potential to do away with public education as we know it.
Right-Wing Privatization Forces
The conservative policy institutes founded beginning in the 1970s get hundreds of millions of dollars from wealthy families and foundations to develop and promote free market fundamentalism. More specifically, their goals include privatizing social security, reducing government regulations, thwarting environmental policy, dismantling unions – and eliminating public schools.

Whatever they may say about giving poor students a leg up, their real priority is nothing short of the total dismantling of our public educational institutions, and they’ve admitted as much. Cato Institute founder Ed Crane and other conservative think tank leaders have signed the Public Proclamation to Separate School and State, which reads in part that signing on, “Announces to the world your commitment to end involvement by local, state, and federal government from education.”

But Americans don’t want their schools dismantled. So privatization advocates have recognized that it’s not politically viable to openly push for full privatization and have resigned themselves to incrementally dismantling public school systems. The think tanks’ weapon of choice is school vouchers.

Vouchers are funded with public school dollars but are used to pay for students to attend private and parochial (religious-affiliated) schools. The idea was introduced in the 1950s by the high priest of free-market fundamentalism, Milton Friedman, who also made the real goal of the voucher movement clear: “Vouchers are not an end in themselves; they are a means to make a transition from a government to a free-market system.” The quote is in a 1995 Cato Institute briefing paper titled “Public Schools: Make Them Private.”

Joseph Bast, president of Heartland Institute, stated in 1997, “Like most other conservatives and libertarians, we see vouchers as a major step toward the complete privatization of schooling. In fact, after careful study, we have come to the conclusion that they are the only way to dismantle the current socialist regime.” Bast added, “Government schools will diminish in enrollment and thus in number as parents shift their loyalty and vouchers to superior-performing private schools.”

But Bast’s lofty goals have not panned out. That’s because, quite simply, voucher programs do not work.

The longest running voucher program in the country is the 20-year-old Milwaukee School Choice Program. Standardized testing shows that the voucher students in private schools perform below the level of Milwaukee’s public school students, and even when socioeconomic status is factored in, the voucher students still score at or below the level of the students who remain in Milwaukee’s public schools. Cleveland’s voucher program has produced similar results. Private schools in the voucher program range from excellent to very poor. In some, less than 20 percent of students reach basic proficiency levels in math and reading.

Most Americans do not want their tax dollars to fund private and sectarian schools. Since 1966, 24 of 25 voucher initiatives have been defeated by voters, most by huge margins. Nevertheless, the pro-privatization battle continues, organized by an array of 527s, 501(c)(3)s, 501(c)(4)s, and political action committees. At the helm of this interconnected network is Betsy DeVos, the four-star general of the pro-voucher movement.

The DeVos Family Campaign for Privatization of Schools
The DeVoses are top contributors to the Republican Party and have provided the funding for major Religious Right organizations. And they spent millions of their own fortune promoting the failed voucher initiative in Michigan in 2000, dramatically outspending their opposition. Sixty-eight percent of Michigan voters rejected the voucher scheme. Following this defeat, the DeVoses altered their strategy.

Instead of taking the issue directly to voters, they would support bills for vouchers in state legislatures. In 2002 Dick DeVos gave a speech on school choice at the Heritage Foundation. After an introduction by former Reagan Secretary of Education William Bennett, DeVos described a system of “rewards and consequences” to pressure state politicians to support vouchers. “That has got to be the battle. It will not be as visible,” stated DeVos. He described how his wife Betsy was putting these ideas into practice in their home state of Michigan and claimed this effort has reduced the number of anti-school choice Republicans from six to two. The millions raised from the wealthy pro-privatization contributors would be used to finance campaigns of voucher supporters and purchase ads attacking opposing candidates.
Media materials for Betsy DeVos’ group All Children Matter, formed in 2003, claimed the organization spent $7.6 million in its first year, “impacting state legislative elections in 10 targeted states” and a won/loss record of 121/60.

Dick DeVos also explained to his Heritage Foundation audience that they should no longer use the term public schools, but instead start calling them “government schools.” He noted that the role of wealthy conservatives would have to be obscured. “We need to be cautious about talking too much about these activities,” said DeVos, and pointed to the need to “cut across a lot of historic boundaries, be they partisan, ethnic, or otherwise.”
Reinventing Vouchers
Like DeVos, several free-market think tanks have also issued warnings that vouchers appear to be an “elitist” plan. There’s reason for their concern, given the long and racially charged history of vouchers.

School vouchers drew little public interest until Brown v. Board of Education and the court-ordered desegregation of public schools. Southern states devised voucher schemes for students to leave public schools and take the public funding with them.

Author Kevin Michael Kreuse explains how this plan was supposed to work in White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism. “At the heart of the plan to defend school segregation, for instance, stood a revolutionary scheme called the ‘private-school plan.’ In 1953, a full year before Brown, Governor Talmadge advanced a constitutional amendment giving the General Assembly the power to privatize the state’s entire system of public education. In the event of court-ordered desegregation, school buildings would be closed, and students would receive grants to attend private, segregated schools.”

Given the racist origins of vouchers, advocates of privatization have had to do two things: obscure the fact that the pro-privatization movement is backed primarily by white conservatives, and emphasize the support of African American and Democratic lawmakers where it exists.

In 2000, Howard Fuller founded the Black Alliance for Education Options. The group was largely funded by John Walton and the Bradley Foundation. Walton, a son of Walmart founder Sam Walton, contributed millions to the Betsy DeVos-led All Children Matter organization, including a bequest after his death in a plane crash in 2004.

A report by People for the American Way questions whose interest was being served in the partnership between the Alliance and conservative foundations. The summary of the report reads, “Over the past nine months, millions of Americans have seen lavishly produced TV ads featuring African American parents talking about school vouchers. These ads and their sponsor, the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), portray vouchers as an effort to help low-income kids. But a new report explores the money trail behind BAEO, finding that it leads directly to a handful of wealthy right-wing foundations and individuals that have a deep agenda — not only supporting the school voucher movement, but also backing anti-affirmative action campaigns and other efforts that African American organizations have opposed or considered offensive.”

Black Commentator.com was more blunt, describing vouchers as “The Right’s Final Answer to Brown” and tracking the history of vouchers from die-hard segregationists to the Heritage Foundation’s attempt to attach vouchers to federal legislation in 1981. The article stated, “The problem was, vouchers were still firmly (and correctly) associated with die-hard segregationists. Memories of white “massive resistance” to integration remained fresh, especially among blacks, who had never demanded vouchers — not even once in all of the tens of thousands of demonstrations over the previous three decades.”

The article continues, “Former Reagan Education Secretary William Bennett understood what was missing from the voucher political chemistry: minorities. If visible elements of the black and Latino community could be ensnared in what was then a lily-white scheme, then the Right’s dream of a universal vouchers system to subsidize general privatization of education, might become a practical political project. More urgently, Bennett and other right-wing strategists saw that vouchers had the potential to drive a wedge between blacks and teachers unions, cracking the Democratic Party coalition. In 1988, Bennett urged the Catholic Church to ‘seek out the poor, the disadvantaged…and take them in, educate them, and then ask society for fair recompense for your efforts’ — vouchers. The game was on.”

In this winning formula, vouchers or “scholarships” are advertised as the only hope for under served and urban minority children. Those who dare to defend public education from voucher schemes are, ironically, implied to be racist. Glossy brochures published by the DeVos-led entity All Children Matter show smiling faces of little children as well as those of the African American and Democratic politicians who have joined the campaign. Kevin Chavous, a former D.C. city councilman who takes credit for “shepherding” vouchers in D.C. and New Orleans, served as senior advisor to All Children Matters and now leads the BAEO and sits on the board of the DeVos-led AFC and Democrats for Education Reform.

All Children Matter was fined $5.2 million dollars in Ohio for breaking campaign finance laws, and lost an appeal in early 2010. The fine has not been paid. The DeVos-led organization also received bad press due to a fine in Wisconsin for failing to register their PAC as well as complaints in other states. In 2010 the entity began working under the name American Federation for Children (AFC) and registered new affiliate PACs across the nation, just in time for the 2010 elections.

The 2010 effort included a state that was not even included in Dick DeVos’ list of potential targets when he spoke to the Heritage Foundation in 2002 — Pennsylvania. An affiliate of AFC registered a PAC in Pennsylvania in March 2010 and less than a year later a voucher bill, SB-1, was sponsored in the Senate.

Throughout this well-coordinated campaign, the Pennsylvania press never once mentioned the name Betsy DeVos.

The Religious Right Foot Soldiers
The strategy in Pennsylvania in 2010, like efforts in other states, benefited from years of previous efforts to build alliances in the voucher movement. The conservative policy institutes have limited reach in the general public. In order to win the battle for hearts and minds, a larger public relations effort is required. The Religious Right fills this role with their tremendous broadcast capability and growing access to churches and homes. The partnership between free market fundamentalists and social conservatives is often contentious, but they share a common goal — to end secular public education. The free marketers object to the “public” aspect while the Religious Right objects to the “secular” component of public education.

A significant forum that brings together free-market power brokers and Religious Right leaders is the Council for National Policy (CNP), a secretive group that has met several times annually behind closed doors since 1981. Richard DeVos described CNP as bringing together the “donors and the doers.” This partnership gives the Religious Right access to major funders, including Richard Mellon Scaife, who are not social conservatives.

Many of the free-market think tanks are secular, but there is a trend toward merging free-market fundamentalism with right-wing religious ideology. The Acton Institute is described by religious historian Randall Balmer as an example of the merging of corporate interests with advocates of “dominion theology.” Dominionism is the belief that Christians must take control over societal and government institutions. The Acton Institute funds events featuring dominionist leaders including Gary North, who claims that the bible mandates free market capitalism or “Biblical Capitalism.”

Betsy DeVos has served on the board of Acton, which is also funded by Scaife, Bradley and Exxon Mobil. A shared goal of this unlikely group of libertarians and theocrats is their battle against environmental regulation. One of the Acton Institute fellows leads a group of Religious Right organizations called the Cornwall Alliance, which is currently marketing a DVD titled Resisting the Green Dragon. The pseudo-documentary describes global warming as a hoax and claims environmentalism is a cult attacking Christianity. Another shared goal of the free marketers and Christian dominionists is eradicating secular public education.

Gary North explains why getting students out of public schools is key to the Christian dominionist camp. “So let us be blunt about it: we must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political, and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God.”

And the Christian Right has been busy enacting this vision. One of the first goals of the Christian Coalition was to take control of 500 local public school boards, and it’s a strategy the Religious Right has continued. One prominent example is Cynthia Dunbar, one of the members of the Texas State Board of Education which made controversial changes to the state’s social studies curriculum in 2010. Dunbar, who was advised by right-wing self-styled “historian” David Barton, is author of One Nation Under God and has described sending children to public schools as “throwing them into the enemy’s flames, even as the children of Israel threw their children to Moloch.”

In addition to getting Trojan horses on school boards, the Religious Right has played a significant role in disseminating anti-public school propaganda and forming alliances to support vouchers for private schools. Family Research Council (FRC), one of the entities funded by the Prince and DeVos families, documents the effort in Pennsylvania to cultivate a partnership between Protestants and Catholics who wanted public funding for their sectarian schools.

The data accompanying proposed bill SB-1, indicates that the majority of the public school funds that will be spent on vouchers will pay tuition for students already enrolled in private schools. In Milwaukee 80 percent of voucher program schools are religiously affiliated, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. In Cleveland, 52 percent of the students in the 29 Catholic diocesan schools are using taxpayer-funded vouchers, according to the Plain Dealer.

FRC’s Web site includes a 1999 speech by one of Pat Robertson’s biographers, in which he describes the school choice alliance in Pennsylvania of Protestant and Catholic leaders along with the Commonwealth Foundation and REACH Alliance. Commonwealth is a state think tank funded by the Scaife foundations. REACH Alliance is the statewide pro-voucher activist organization funded by the DeVos-led Alliance for School Choice (now also renamed American Federation for Children). This alliance is further described in the speech as forming “ties to black legislators based in Philadelphia, including Dwight Evans. This was big news for the Pennsylvania education reform movement because Evans is a powerful legislator and community leader.”

Evans would indeed become key to expanding vouchers in the Philadelphia area, and he and state Senator Anthony Williams (not to be confused with the D.C. mayor by the same name), both Democrats, serve as directors of the BAEO.

(more…)

April 3, 2014

Milwaukee: MMAC Uniting with Right-Wing to Run State and Local Candidates That Support School Privatization

Filed under: American Federation for Children — millerlf @ 9:17 pm

The MMAC and the right-wing American Federation for Children and Democrats for Education Reform are holding an all day training in an effort to run slates of candidates for political office including for MPS school board in 2015. Their intention is to make privatization of public education their central political theme.

The training will be held on Saturday April 12.

To see their advertisement go to:

Training for Running for Office

August 4, 2012

Right-Wing Alert: “American Federation for Children” Funding Democrats for Education Privatization

Filed under: American Federation for Children,Vouchers — millerlf @ 2:18 pm

The American Federation for Children (AFC), led by Betty DeVos, is spending money on Milwaukee’s present legislative races. The American Federation for Children spent $1.5 million helping Republicans during this year’s recall elections. That includes some $900,000 that it spent to help Scott Walker fend off Tom Barrett’s challenge.

The American Federation for Children was highlighted for its support of Jason Fields in a July 25th article by Daniel Bice in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel titled “Recent GOP Backers Weigh In For Democrat.” (See http://tinyurl.com/ck3b9o2)

Who is the American Federation for Children?

The American Federation for Children (AFC) is an organization with roots in Milwaukee that promotes public school privatization through “voucher programs.” It shares an address and leadership with its 501(c)(3) partner Alliance for School Choice (ASC).

AFC is chaired by Betsy DeVos, the billionaire wife of Amway founder Richard DeVos and former chair of the Michigan Republican Party. In recent years, she has funneled tens of millions of dollars into school privatization efforts and other right-wing initiatives.

AFC is an ALEC member and is represented by former Rep. Jensen on the ALEC Education Task Force. Jensen is the former Republican Wisconsin Assembly Speaker convicted in 2005 of three felonies for misuse of his office for political purposes, and banned from the state Capitol for five years (the charges were later reduced on appeal). Jensen is one of AFC’s registered lobbyists in Wisconsin.

Jensen has proposed bills to ALEC on behalf of AFC/ASC that were adopted as “model” legislation. For example, in March 2011, Jensen presented to the ALEC Education Task Force the “Education Savings Account Act,” which creates financial incentives for families to take their children out of the public school system and put them in for-profit primary and secondary schools.

AFC was a “Trustee” level sponsor of ALEC’s 2011 Annual Conference – which, according to data from 2010, equated to a $5,000 payment to ALEC.

(Following is an AlterNet blog article that gives some history of Betty DeVos, her family and their right-wing agenda.)

The DeVos Family: Meet the Super-Wealthy Right-Wingers Working With the Religious Right to Kill Public Education

By Rachel Tabachnick, AlterNet
Posted in 2011 and Printed on July 19, 2012

Since the 2010 elections, voucher bills have popped up in legislatures around the nation. From Pennsylvania to Indiana to Florida, state governments across the country have introduced bills that would take money from public schools and use it to send students to private and religious institutions.

Vouchers have always been a staple of the right-wing agenda. Like previous efforts, this most recent push for vouchers is led by a network of conservative think tanks, PACs, Religious Right groups and wealthy conservative donors. But “school choice,” as they euphemistically paint vouchers, is merely a means to an end. Their ultimate goal is the total elimination of our public education system.

The decades-long campaign to end public education is propelled by the super-wealthy, right-wing DeVos family. Betsy Prince DeVos is the sister of Erik Prince, founder of the notorious private military contractor Blackwater USA,  and wife of Dick DeVos, son of the co-founder of Amway, the multi-tiered home products business.

By now, you’ve surely heard of the Koch brothers, whose behind-the-scenes financing of right-wing causes has been widely documented in the past year. The DeVoses have remained largely under the radar, despite the fact that their stealth assault on America’s schools has the potential to do away with public education as we know it.
(more…)

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