Voucher Advocate Betsy DeVos, Right-Wing Think Tanks Behind Koch-Style Attack on PA Public Schools
Rachel Tabachnick printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Apr 20, 2011 at 11:28:44 PM EST
The DeVos family crusade to eradicate public education has targeted Pennsylvania, and a voucher bill may come to a vote in the PA Senate as early as Tuesday.  It's being marketed as a solution to save public schools, but the big donors are tied to right-wing think tanks that openly advocate, and strategize, the end of public education.  How can vouchers improve public schools if the people mobilizing the movement intend to eradicate public education?  Regardless of your personal stance on "school choice," it's important to know who is behind the voucher movement and the agenda they don't share with the public or advertise in their media campaigns.
Also see Part Two in this series, a report tracking over $4.6 million dollars contributed to American Federation for Childrens' Indiana PAC in 2010, prior to the election ($5.8 million total in 2010).

A new wave of school voucher bills is sweeping the nation, which would allow public education funds to be used in private or parochial schools.   As with past waves of voucher initiatives, these new bills are largely promoted and funded by the billionaire DeVos family and a core group of wealthy pro-privatization supporters. They include Pennsylvania SB-1, soon coming to a vote in the PA Senate, and the "Vouchers-for-All" bill approved by the Florida Senate Education Committee on April 14. Betsy DeVos is at the helm of organizations that have set the stage for both bills, but you would never know it based on the propaganda being marketed to Pennsylvanians.  Even if you are from another state, keep reading.  Chances are a Betsy DeVos-led campaign is already at work in your state or will be there soon.  
 
The DeVos family is recognized as one of the top national contributors to the Republican Party, free market policy institutes, and Religious Right organizations. Many of their previous attempts at using voucher initiatives to privatize the nation's public schools have been transparent. Recent campaigns have been more covert and are camouflaged behind local efforts described as grass roots and bipartisan.
 
Pennsylvanians should not be deceived. Regardless of where one stands on the issue of school choice, behind the curtain of this effort is an interconnected network of right wing think tanks and billionaire donors, funded by foundations including those of the DeVos and Koch families and the Scaife, Allegheny, and Carthage Foundations of Pennsylvania's own Richard Mellon Scaife. The leaders of many of these DeVos/Koch/Scaife-funded institutes openly voice their ideological objections to all forms of public education. Some even proudly display their support for a proclamation posted at the Alliance for Separation of School and State, which reads,

"I proclaim publicly that I favor ending government involvement in education."

Years have been spent developing and promoting schemes to privatize public education. The report "Voucher Veneer: the Deeper Agenda to Privatize Public Education" by People For the American Way (PFAW), quotes Joseph Bast, President and CEO of the Koch/Scaife/Walton-funded Heartland Institute,
"The complete privatization of schooling might be desirable, but this objective is politically impossible for the time being. Vouchers are a type of reform that is possible now, and would put us on the path to further privatization."

(Contributions from the DeVos, Scaife and Koch foundations are noted throughout this article, however, other family foundations including Olin, Bradley, Smith Richardson, and Walton - the Walmart heirs, also fund these same think tanks.)
 
Pennsylvania could be a case study for nationwide anti-public education partnerships, formed by Religious Right activists joining forces with radical free market think tanks and libertarian-minded investment and hedge fund managers. The movement is billed as the salvation of inner city students; and Democratic politicians, often African American, are portrayed as the heroic champions of children who desperately need access to better education.  The need is real, but the claim that this about improving public schools is false advertising.

The big money donors who provide millions for orchestrated campaigns and glossy media, and what they expect from their investments, are kept behind the scenes. "Flooding the zone" is the phrase the Democrats for Educational Reform (DFER), partners in the voucher movement, have used to describe the intense media exposure before an important vote or election. In the case of Pennsylvania, the illusion created by "flooding the zone" may have impacted the 2010 gubernatorial election, and could impact the Senate vote expected to take place next week.
 
Students First?
 
Students First PAC, a 527 created to promote vouchers in Pennsylvania, was established on March 10, 2010 by Joe Watkins. On the Students First website Watkins describes himself "as an aide to a president of the United States and as a pastor of a church," but he doesn't mention that the president was George W. Bush. Nor does the bio mention Watkins' lobbying and investment fund resume, his appearances on MSNBC, CNN, and Fox as a Republican strategists, or being featured in a Citizens United advertisement attacking Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign.  The website does nothing to give away it's right-wing backing or their extreme agendas, unless you happen to be familiar with the generic-sounding foundations listed as supporting the bills.
 
Students First shares the name of the network founded by Michelle Rhee, former D.C. school superintendent and a star in the documentary Waiting for Superman, who has been described by some as the Sarah Palin of education because of the unusual media attention.  She has now shocked some of her more progressive fans by joining forces with Florida Governor Rick Scott who is promoting a Vouchers-for- All bill.  The Pennsylvania Students First organization is actually an affiliate of American Federation for Children (AFC), chaired by Betsy DeVos, as it states on the website.  A donation to Students First PAC was received from Joel Greenberg, a board member of AFC, on the date the PAC was formed. Approximately 5 million dollars from Greenberg, a co-founder of Susquehanna Investment Group (SIG), and two of the other SIG co-founders, Jeffrey Yass and Arthur Dantchik, would follow between March 10 and May 11, 2010. Most of this money was, in turn, contributed to the campaign of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Anthony H. Williams. Graphic at right is the AFC board of directors.

Williams is an African American Democratic state senator serving part of the Philadelphia area and was a very long-shot candidate in a large field of Democratic candidates for governor. William finished a distant third and the Democratic nomination was won by Dan Onorato, Allegheny County Executive and a centrist Democrat, who was endorsed by both of the state's public school teachers' unions in the general election. In August, months after the May primary, Williams endorsed Onorato in a public appearance and Onorato, in turn, voiced support for school vouchers for low income students.  Expectations were raised that Onorato would have a chance of tapping into the same donor pool that financed Williams' campaign.  

The Washington Post reported, via a political consultant, that Onorato later met with the three Williams donors who declined to support Onorato's campaign, despite his embrace of William's voucher scheme. Some of the press coverage claimed the three had become "gun shy" due to the unexpected press exposure. It was reported that the trio of mega-donors said Onorato's position "did not go far enough."  It was unlikely that these donors, affiliated with right-wing think tanks, would support Onorato or that he would have embrace their real agenda.  Williams, on the other hand, despite liberal stances on some issues, had been working in these circles of voucher supporters for years, forming ties with the interconnected network of the pro-privatization movement.  It would have been hard for him not to know that these supporters and the associated think tanks openly advocate ending public education or that Students First is part of Betsy DeVos' privatization crusade.

Who is Betsy DeVos and Why Is She Trying to Privatize Public Schools?
 
Betsy DeVos is a former chair of the Michigan Republican Party; daughter of the late Edgar Prince and Elsa Prince-Broekhuizen; sister of Blackwater-founder Erik Prince; and wife of Dick DeVos (son of Richard and Helen DeVos). The Devos side of the family fortune comes from Amway/Alticor, the controversial, multi-tiered home products business. A Center for Public Integrity Report showed that the DeVos family and business interests were the fifth largest contributors in the 2003 -2004 election cycle, with 100% of the donations going to Republicans.
 
Dick and Betsy DeVos have been credited with helping to finance the Citizens United case which allows Super PACs to raise unlimited funds and conceal the donors, meaning that we will no longer know who provides the millions of dollars for the big media campaigns, or reveal the information that I have in this article on the Pennsylvania campaign.  

The Prince and Devos families have also funded the Family Research Council, Focus on Family, and the ministries of the late D. James Kennedy, all warriors against separation of church and state. Kennedy did, however, believe in separation of school and state. Like many others who have benefited from Devos and Prince family largesse, he signed the proclamation to end public schools.
 
Much of the research claimed to support vouchers and charter schools comes directly from the Foundation for Education Choice, a think tank founded by the late Milton and Rose Friedman. Milton Friedman was the patriarch of the "Chicago School" and radical free market economics. In a briefing paper for the Cato Institute (Scaife/Koch/Devos-funded) titled "Public Schools: Make Them Private," Friedman stated,

"Vouchers are not an end in themselves; they are a means to make a transition from a government to a market system."
 
The DeVos and Prince families played a major role in bringing together right-wing business leaders and religious conservatives and combining these forces to battle labor unions and federal regulatory policy while promoting conservative social policy.  The Right built a parallel universe of think tanks to counter the established institutions deemed to be controlled by liberals.  The secretive Council for National Policy was described by ABC in 2002 as the,
"most powerful conservative group you never heard of."
"The brightest lights of the hard Right," stated ABC News, meet behind closed doors - invitation only - and with no press. Richard DeVos famously described the CNP as bringing "together the doers with the donors." The expenditure report of Students First PAC shows a $575 dollars for conference registration for the Council for National Policy.
 
Betsy DeVos, who heads Alliance for School Choice, founded All Children Matter in 2003, American Federation for Children, and American Federation For Children Action Fund, registered in 2010. Alliance for School Choice and American Federation for Children have almost identical board of directors, including Kevin P. Chavous, a former D.C. council member who describes himself as having "helped shepherd" the D.C. and New Orleans charter school programs. DeVos' pro-voucher organizations pump millions of dollars into campaigns around the country, including last minute media blitzes. Advertisements sometimes omit the word "vouchers" but accuse their rivals of opposing equal opportunity education and and not caring about the education of African American students in failing urban schools.
 
Until recently it appeared that the voucher movement had fizzled. In 2000, both California and Michigan voters overwhelmingly rejected voucher schemes despite the DeVos campaigns being advertised as having broad based support. Kids! Yes! First! spearheaded the unsuccessful voucher drive in Michigan in 2000 and raised four million dollars in six months. But of the four million, three million came from the DeVos family, including one million each from Dick DeVos, Betsy Devos, and Betsy's mother, Elsa Prince. The Michigan Catholic diocese contributed $740,000.
 
Betsy DeVos` organizations have had significant legal problems. All Children Matter was fined 5.2 million dollars for funneling campaign money into Ohio in 2006 through their various state networks and lost its legal appeal in February 2010. Misconduct has been reported in several states, including a case in Wisconsin that resulted in a fine.
 
Following these legal troubles, All Children Matter disappeared and a new entity emerged under the name American Federation for Children. This new DeVos-led organization has affiliate groups in several states and its board of directors includes Chavous, John F. Kirtley, Boykin Curry, Joel Greenberg, and Carrie Penner. The American Federation for Children website links to right-wing think tanks funded by the DeVos, Scaife and Koch foundations, including the Cato Institute, the Center for Education Reform, Heartland Institute, Heritage Institute, Institute for Justice, and State Policy Network.

Board member Kirtley also serves on the board of the James Madison Institute, which has been heavily funded by Koch foundations. J. Stanley Marshall, the founding chairman of the institute also signed the proclamation at Alliance for Separation of School and State calling for the end of public education.
 
American Federation for Children sponsored rob-o-calls, which urged Wisconsinites not to sign recall petitions for eight state senators who have supported Governor Scott Walker's anti-union agenda. The groundwork and talking points for Walker's war on public sector unions was prepared by the same DeVos/Scaife/Koch-funded think tanks that promote the privatization of schools. (The three SIG founders who funded Anthony Williams' campaign in Pennsylvania, each contributed $6,000 dollars to Scott Walker's campaign.)
 
The anti-public school crusaders have attacked their opponents with self-righteous zeal. In late October 2010, advertisements describing Florida attorney general candidate Dan Gelber as "Toxic to Jewish Education" were published in Florida's larger Jewish communities. The words were in a red Halloween font and criticized Gelber's refusal to support vouchers that could be used to fund students at parochial schools. Dan Gelber is Jewish and the ad did not originate from the opposing candidate.  From the Broward Palm Beach New Times article titled,""Anatomy of the Gelber Attack: From Amway to Huizenga,"

"The ad was funded through a state 527 committee that itself was funded a quarter million dollars by a federal organization called the American Federation for Children. That group is aiming these kinds of scurrilous attacks against Democratic Jewish candidates in several races.

The American Federation for Children is chaired by a woman named Betsy DeVos. ... Dick DeVos is the son of billionaire Amway founder (and Orlando Magic owner) Richard DeVos. The DeVos family is among the largest political contributors in America today -- and they generally back an extreme right-wing agenda. The vice chairman of the group is John F. Kirtley, a 'venture capitalist' and sizable Florida Republican Party donor out of Tampa. Prior to starting the current organization, DeVos and AFC Executive Director Greg Brock collaborated on a similar group called All Children Matter (ACM)."

The article continues with a list of other questionable campaign maneuvers by All Children Matter in Florida, Missouri and Virginia.
 
The New Right partnership has roots in some organizations that were overtly racist, and racism has frequently reared its head since President Obama was elected. Despite this problematic history, the anti-public school activists have ruthlessly exploited the inequities in our public school systems, inequities that their policies have arguably exacerbated. Millions of dollars have been spent advertising unproved radical free market agenda as the solution instead of the problem. Opposition is demonized as intentionally obstructing a bright future for disadvantaged children and sometimes implied to be racist. The effort has successfully courted (and funded) a small group of Democratic African American leaders who have become the public face of the privatization movement.
 
Targeting Pennsylvania Public Schools
 
The Family Research Council website features a speech given in 1999 by Hubert Morken, a Pat Robertson biographer and Regent University professor. Titled "The Naked Public School: Religion, Education and Character in the Aftermath of Columbine," Morken describes the alliances and outreach efforts to African Americans in Pennsylvania,

"The leadership dimension of education reform is the most exciting of all today. For example, for decades, school choice went nowhere as long as it was perceived as a Catholic issue. Evangelical Protestants who prevented this reform now join with Catholics to promote it, and these religious groups now ally themselves with free-market advocates and members of the African-American community."
 
Morken, continued,

"The Pennsylvania story is similar and involves not just entrepreneurs but also lawyers, churches, policy think tanks, and grassroots organizations. In Pennsylvania, the alliance of Catholics, evangelicals, and free-market organizations goes back to the 1980s and earlier. The late William Bentley Ball, a devout Catholic and distinguished religion and education litigator, not only represented Protestants before the Supreme Court, but also served as in-house counsel for the Association of Christian Schools International, the largest evangelical school organization in the nation. Also, in Harrisburg, the Commonwealth Foundation, a free-market think tank, and the Pennsylvania Family Institute, associated with Focus on the Family and Family Research Council, have close ties with the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference on education issues. The REACH (the Road to Educational Achievement through Choice) Alliance is a clearinghouse and public face for this coalition. Recently, these supporters of school choice formed 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."


The Commonwealth Foundation, mentioned in Morken's quote, and the Allegheny Policy Institute located in the Pittsburgh suburbs, are funded by the Scaife foundations. Richard Mellon Scaife also owns the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. Michael W. Gleba is president of one Scaife foundation and treasurer of another. He also serves as chairman of the Commonwealth Foundation, whose emeritus directors include former Club for Growth president and new Republican Senator Pat Toomey.
 
PA State Rep. Dwight Evans, referenced in Morken's speech, is one the board of directors for the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO). [Note: The "O" in BAEO is for "Options" not "Opportunity" as originally stated in this report.] It was founded in 2000 by Howard Fuller, director of the Institute for Transformation of Learning at Marquette University, heavily funded by the Walton foundations. Kevin Chavous became chair of the BAEO in 2009 and also chairs Democrats For Educational Reform (DFER). Both Chavous and DFER board member Boykin Curry also serve on the board of Betsy Devos' American Federation for Children. The Philanthropy Roundtable's Catholic School Guide describes the DFER, launched in 2007. "Non-tax deductible contributions come from individuals like hedge-fund investors William Ackman, R. Boykin Curry IV, Charles Ledley, John Petry, and Whitney Tilson."
 
BAEO directors include Newark Mayor Cory Booker and Pennsylvania's Dwight Evans, Anthony Williams, and Dawn Chavous. Chavous is Executive Director of Students First and was the campaign manager of Williams' gubernatorial campaign. Since 2006, the program of the annual symposium of BAEO has included a statement in its program extending thanks for the support of the Honorable Dwight Evans, (PA state Representative) and the Honorable Anthony Williams, (PA state Senator). Also in the programs is recognition of the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation, among others.
 
Anthony Williams is now the Democratic PA Senate Minority Whip and Democratic co-sponsor of Pennsylvania's SB-1. He has drawn statewide attention due to huge contributions to his campaign, funded by pro-voucher PACs including Students First PAC which had been funded with millions from Joel Greenberg and his SIG partners Arthur Dantchik and Jeffrey Yass. (This is perfectly legal in Pennsylvania since there are no personal campaign contribution limits in state races.) Shortly after his entry into the campaign, Williams raised a stunning 1.7 million dollars. Perhaps more shocking was the additional 1,625,000 dollars that the three funders contributed to Students First PAC, that was then contributed to Williams campaign in the week before the primary election.
 
Contributions to Students First PAC from March to May totaled over 1.5 million from Jeffrey Yass, 1.7 million from Arthur Dantchik, and 1.9 million from Joel Greenberg. Photobucket

Sometimes the group would contribute in unison. For instance on May 11, 2010, one week prior to the primary election, Yass gave $533,333.00, Dantchik gave $533,333.00 and Greenberg gave $533,334.00. The graphic above is the trio's contributions to Students First PAC from March through May, compiled from the figures on the Pennsylvania Department of State Finance Reporting, and does not include the trio's contributions to other PACs which supported Williams' gubernatorial campaign. The American Federation for Children Action Fund also donated 1.2 million dollars to Student First PAC immediately prior to the election. The total receipts for Students First PAC in 2010 were $6,521,450.00 according to campaign finance reports.

[Note 4/21/11: Dantchik total corrected from over 1.4 to over 1.7 million]

Pennsylvania press described Williams' contributors as school choice supporters but failed to mention their affiliation with organizations and think tanks with ideological objections to public education. Joel Greenberg is a director of the Betsy DeVos-led American Federation for Children. Jeffrey Yass is on the board of the Cato Institute (Scaife/DeVos-funded). Ed Crane, founder and president of Cato, signed the Alliance for Separation of School and State proclamation to end public schools.

The Merry Band of Libertarian Lawyers and Their Religious Right Counterparts
 
Dantchik is on the board of the Institute for Justice (Scaife/DeVos/Koch-funded), which describes itself as a "merry band of libertarian lawyers." Institute for Justice, co-founded by Clint Bolick, is known for its legal battles against affirmative action, but now promotes its work as advocacy for the disadvantaged and school choice. Bolick was vocally opposed to the Civil Rights Act of 1991 and in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, labeled Lani Guinier, President Bill Clinton's nominee for Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights as "one of Clinton's quota queens."
 
Dantchik was one of only eight investors in an investment fund called the Free Enterprise Action Fund (FEAF or Ticker: FEAOX). The fund was managed by Thomas Borelli and global warming denier Steven J. Milloy, also known for his website JunkScience.com. The fund was notorious for trying to bully companies into abandoning support for environmental causes. They accused corporations in which they invested of being too environmentally friendly, including Walmart, GE, and Goldman Sachs.  They sent letters to Goldman Sachs stockholders lobbying for their support for a proposal to end company involvement in environmental causes and alleging that Henry Paulson's leadership of the Nature Conservancy Board was a conflict of interest with his role as CEO of Goldman Sachs. Thomas Borelli told Walmart stockholders to quit pandering to an altruistic society and "use your marketing muscle to get Ayn Rand's timeless novel Atlas Shrugged into thousands of homes." [Video]
 
Documentation for the FEAF recommended the fund as "appropriate for investors who seek to promote the American system of free enterprise while pursuing their long-term financial goals." The Fund's guiding principle is described with a quote from Milton Friedman,

"The social responsibility of business is to increase its profits."

Of the eight FEAF investors, one was CLAWS, the foundation through which Arthur Dantchik makes his charitable contributions, and another was Robert A. Levy.  Levy is also on the board of the Institute for Justice and chairman of the board of directors of the Cato Institute. In 2009 the fund merged with the Congressional Effect Fund, which pulls out of the stock market when the U.S. Congress is in session. The FEAF's former website now features a short announcement that ends,
"Stay tuned for more in the fight to keep big businesses from becoming wholly-owned subsidiaries of Marxist-Socialism, Inc."

Libertarian-minded investment and hedge fund managers have contributed shocking amounts of money to promote the privatization of schools, but they are not the primary source of marketing of the anti-public education, anti-union, and anti-federal regulation agenda to the general public. This is how the partnership of the "doers and donors" described by Richard Devos works. The talking points are developed in the think tanks but are then largely distributed to the public by Religious Right organizations. For instance, the anti-environmental stance of the investors of the FEAF fund is echoed in a recent media production marketed by the Cornwall Alliance, a coalition of Religious Right leaders. The two groups have little else in common. One group objects to environmentalism as competition for dollars; the other objects to environmentalism as a competing religion.
 
The Cornwall Alliance's pseudo-documentary is titled  "Resisting the Green Dragon." Marketed on DVD, it features national Religious Right leaders who claim that global warming is a hoax and that environmentalism is a religion in competition with Christianity.  They describe environmentalism as "the cult of the green dragon."
 
Several of the organizations represented in the video production have been supported by the DeVos and Prince families. The Cornwall Alliance is headed by Calvin Beisner, a fellow of the Acton Institute (DeVos/Koch/Scaife-funded). Betsy DeVos has served on the Acton board and Dick DeVos was given the institute's Faith and Freedom Award in 2010. Acton's fellows also include other signers of the proclamation to end public schools, including Marvin Olasky.
 
Noted religious historian Randall Balmer describes the Acton Institute as part of a "powerful coalition to oppose environmental protection" that combines the Dominion Theology of the Religious Right and the wise use ideology of some corporate and business leaders. Dominion Theology is the belief that Christians should take authority or dominion over society and government.  Acton has sponsored dominionist conferences including American Vision's Worldview Super Conference 2010.

Religious Right groups are often portrayed as only concerned with social issues like opposing gay rights and women's reproductive rights.  But "Biblical Capitalism" or the belief that laissez-faire economics is biblically mandated, has been growing in popularity for more than two decades.  Although the merry band of libertarians and the dominionists may have little in common, the anti-environmental, anti-union, anti-regulatory agenda of each is empowering the other.  The combined front has become a formidable force for radical free market fundamentalism and the eradication of the public sector.
 
The Future of Public Schools in Pennsylvania

In October, Pennsylvania's auditor general Jack Wagner warned that a "flawed funding system" for the already existing charter schools was costing the state millions of dollars. Wagner, a Democrat, was also a candidate for governor in the 2010 primaries. He had voted for charter schools as a state senator and voiced support for them during his campaign, but prior to the general election released a report calling for a temporary moratorium on new charter and cyber schools, similar to those imposed in several other states. Pennsylvania taxpayers spent almost a billion dollars on 116 charter and 11 charter cyber schools in the 2008 -2009 school year.  

Simultaneous with the huge cuts in the state's education budget, proposed by New Republican Governor Tom Corbett, the Senate will be voting on SB-1 which would provide vouchers for low income students and cost the state hundred of millions of dollars.  Philadelphia's public schools could lose 40 million dollars of funding next year. Meanwhile Governor Corbett refuses to tax gas drilling in the state's abundant Marcellus Shale.  He claims it would be unpatriotic.

The Future of Vouchers  
 
The huge donations did not result in a win for Anthony Williams, but they did add to the media hype surrounding the push for vouchers. After the primary, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Dan Onorato changed course and made a public appearance with Williams in support of portions of his voucher plan. The conservative publication National Review Online responded that Williams was a "force to be reckoned with" and concluded that Onorato's about face on vouchers should be considered a win for Tom Corbett since "Onorato becomes basically Republican-lite on education." Onorato lost and even failed to carry his home base in Allegheny County.  Again, from National Review Online,

"Now that it's clear Onorato won't be gaining financially from this move -- at least from the Williams backers -- this "grant" position on education looks all the more like an ill-conceived attempt to appeal to a demographic already likely to vote Republican, while inviting alienation of the union base that he'll need in lock-step to close a gaping 10-point deficit in the polls."

The word "grant" in quotes in the NRO article refers to the fact that Onorato would not use the word voucher.  In hindsight, the huge campaign contributions to Williams may have been a well orchestrated trap for the Democratic Party, providing the illusion that support for vouchers was becoming more broad-based.    
 
Williams' official website has a list of organizations which have signed up to support SB-1. The list of churches and religious organizations are primarily those with right-wing political leanings and the rest of the list is dominated by a who's who of pro-privatization think tanks. It is a list you would have expected to find on the website of Rick Santorum, not on the website of a Democratic state senator.
 
Polls have shown as many as two thirds of Pennsylvanians are opposed to using tax money to fund private and parochial schools, but on April 19, with the vote only a week away, Students First PA released a poll showing 54 percent of Pennsylvania's likely voters support the pending voucher legislation. Students First PAC list its public relations contact as Brabender Cox, one of the leading Republican media firms.
 
Students First PA held a rally in support of the bill at the state capitol on April 12. Video of the rally is part of an ad campaign on the Internet throughout the state, sponsored by Dick Armey's FreedomWorks. FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity spun off from the David Koch-founded Citizens For A Sound Economy.  The media campaign is amplifying the voice of voucher supporters in preparation for the vote next week.
 
The videos of the rally produced by Students First PA are compelling, as was the conveniently-timed pro-school privatization movie, Waiting for Superman. They feature students and parents who have very legitimate concerns about education in their communities and good reason to fight back against the inequities in public education. Before Pennsylvanians begin to dismantle the state's public school systems, perhaps they should educate themselves about the agenda of the movement's leading advocate, Betsy DeVos.
 
DeVos wrote a biting op-ed for the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call in 1997 in which she stated that her family did indeed expect a return on their huge investments.
"I know a little something about soft money, as my family is the largest single contributor of soft money to the national Republican Party. ...I have decided, however, to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point."

It is highly doubtful that the expected return on the millions of dollars  invested by the advocates for free market education is improving Pennsylvania's public schools.  Their goal is privatization and we should take them seriously.

Also see Part Two in this series, a report tracking over $4.6 million dollars contributed to American Federation for Childrens' Indiana PAC in 2010, prior to the election ($5.8 million total).

This series has been continued:

Pro-Voucher Astroturfing Campaigns Across Nation Coordinated by DeVos, Funded by a Few Mega-Donors
http://www.talk2action.org/story/2011/4/24/22559/1547

Betsy DeVos Announces PA Governor Tom Corbett Will Keynote Pro-Voucher National Policy Summit
http://www.talk2action.org/story/2011/4/26/112152/230

Strategy for Privatizing Public Schools Spelled Out by Dick DeVos in 2002 Heritage Foundation Speech
http://www.talk2action.org/story/2011/5/3/12515/58655

Protesters Object to School Privatization Efforts of DeVos, Michelle Rhee and PA and WI Governors
http://www.talk2action.org/story/2011/5/10/212833/674/




Display:
At stake is about $600 billion spent annually on K-12 education.  Privatization in this case and in many others is code for using public money to finance risk free private investment that ensures private profit and excludes public profit while externalizes risk and passing off any loss to government.  I don't know what one calls such a system, but it most definitely is not "free market capitalism".

by sulphurdunn on Fri Apr 22, 2011 at 10:46:01 AM EST

Here is a good article arguing against school vouchers in Pennsylvania:  http://articles.philly.com/2011-04-20/news/29451373_1_school-vouc hers-private-schools-voucher-proposal

I am concerned about Gov. Kasich's plan in Ohio to triple the number of school vouchers.  We need to do something to counter this trend and educate people of its negative effects.

by RasSteve on Fri Apr 22, 2011 at 11:21:49 PM EST

I'm working on some follow up articles on the voucher movement in other states. Betsy DeVos-led organizations and the same group of mega-donors are working in states across the nation, using the same modus operandi as in PA.

by Rachel Tabachnick on Sat Apr 23, 2011 at 01:23:01 PM EST
Parent

A bill to significantly alter the school voucher program in Ohio will allow families making up to $95,000 a year to obtain school vouchers. It has recently passed the Education committee.   Does anyone know of any people that I can contact to help oppose and defeat this legislation?

by RasSteve on Mon Oct 03, 2011 at 11:12:26 PM EST
Parent


I am not sure if my understanding is correct but it is said here there are some people who do not like or working to abolished public school. I said this is against the constitution that advocate free education. I am once a public school teacher and i teach practical arts education with my favorite topic like homemade candles and romantic scented candles. I also handle technology and livelihood education.

by lancemayer on Sat Aug 20, 2011 at 10:52:55 AM EST

I love this website It's really fun for chatting online. My favorite part is chatting with people in comments. You guys should add a chat room so everyone can socialize with each other. However, some inappropriate chat may happen too which probably doesn't work. The last thing you need is sex chat going on in your chat room lol. Anyways you guys have a really great site that I enjoy spending my time on it's super interesting and fun.

by Alex Chats Online on Sat Aug 03, 2013 at 05:11:52 AM EST


WWW Talk To Action


Sins Of Omission: When Religious Right Leaders Speak, The Whole Truth Is Often Left Behind
When an individual doesn't feel like being absolutely truthful, there are a couple of things he or she can do. One is to simply......
By Rob Boston (0 comments)
Bishop Finn Under Vatican Investigation
Bishop Robert Finn, head of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri has long been a symbol of the ongoing institutional intransigence in addressing......
By Frank Cocozzelli (2 comments)
"The $1-Billion-a-Year [Religious] Right-Wing Conspiracy You Haven't Heard Of"
In honor of the 2014 incarnation of the event known as The Gathering, I've given an interview with Jay Michaelson, writing for the Daily......
By Bruce Wilson (4 comments)
(Un)Fantastic Five: A Remembrance Of Values Voter Summits Past
The Religious Right's annual "Values Voter Summit" (VVS) takes place this weekend. Americans United staffers Simon Brown, Sarah Jones and I will be there.......
By Rob Boston (6 comments)
The Christian Right's Voter Mobilization Strategy for 2014
My latest post at Political Research Associates is about how this weekend's Values Voter Summit fits into the Christian Right's wider electoral strategy for......
By Frederick Clarkson (2 comments)
NYT's David Brooks to Speak at Antigay Luncheon of Billionaires Who Fund Racist Preacher
Recently, government-encouraged outbreaks of mob violence against LGBT persons in countries from Uganda to Russia, and draconian new anti-gay legislation in those countries too,......
By Bruce Wilson (2 comments)
D'Souza's Downfall: Religious Right Favorite Sentenced For Campaign Donation Violations
Yesterday conservative commentator Dinesh D'Souza was sentenced to five years of probation and a term of community service for violating federal campaign laws. He......
By Rob Boston (1 comment)
Short Takes -- Taking Action Edition
Banned Books Week is being celebrated this year from Sept. 21-27.  Yes its time for the annual celebration of the Freedom to Read, sponsored......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Archbishop Schnurr Throws Cold Water on the Ice Bucket Challenge
The Ice Bucket Challenge has been an outstanding success in raising both awareness and research money needed to find a cure for Amyotrophic lateral......
By Frank Cocozzelli (1 comment)
The Secret Antigay U.S. Money Behind The WCF and the Global Evangelical War on LGBT Rights
[note to readers: this is an excerpt from my first installment in a Twocare.org/Center Against Religious Extremism series that will examine extensive ties -......
By Bruce Wilson (0 comments)
Race as Religion
Reading Edith Beer's book, The Nazi Officer's Wife, I ran across an interesting account of her fake marriage license.  She married a Nazi officer......
By wilkyjr (2 comments)
Dark Discussions on the Christian Right
The Neo-Confederate movement has been trying to jump start itself of late.  It has been an especially heady few months for the League of......
By Frederick Clarkson (1 comment)
Oath Oaf: Religious Right Columnist Calls For Religious Tests In Military
Bryan Fischer, the director of issues analysis for the American Family Association (AFA) is like a demented, right-wing geyser: You can count on him......
By Rob Boston (1 comment)
Deeper Background on Dominionism -- Revisisted
In the Fall of 2011, there was an extraordinary -- and extraordinarily scurrilous -- wave of criticism aimed at those of us who had......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Fall From Grace: What The Religious Right Should Learn From The McDonnell Scandal
Leaders of Religious Right groups are fond of telling us that if we elect more fundamentalist Christians to office, we'll have less corruption. Biblical......
By Rob Boston (2 comments)

Deconstructing the Dominionists, Part VI
This is part 6 of a series by guest front pager Mahanoy, originally dated November 15, 2007 which I had to delete and repost for technical reasons. It is referred to in this post,......
Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Republican infighting in Mississippi
After a bruising GOP runoff election for U.S. Senator, current MS Senator Thad Cochran has retained his position and will face Travis Childers (Democrat) in the next senate election. The MS GOP is fractured......
COinMS (2 comments)
America's Most Convenient Bank® refuses to serve Christians
Representatives of a well known faith-based charitable organization were refused a New Jersey bank’s notarization service by an atheist employee. After inquiring about the nature of the non-profit organization and the documents requiring......
Jody Lane (3 comments)
John Benefiel takes credit for GOP takeover of Oklahoma
Many of you know that Oklahoma has turned an unrecognizable shade of red in recent years.  Yesterday, one of the leading members of the New Apostolic Reformation all but declared that he was responsible......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
John Benefiel thinks America is under curse because Egyptians dedicated North America to Baal
You may remember that Rick Perry put together his "Response" prayer rallies with the help of a slew of NAR figures.  One of them was John Benefiel, an Oklahoma City-based "apostle."  He heads up......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Yes, that's right. We have totally lost our religious freedom in Mississippi and it must be restored by our legislators. ......
COinMS (1 comment)
Bill Gothard accused of harassing women and failing to report child abuse
Surprised no one's mentioned this, but one of the longest-standing leaders of the religious right is in a world of trouble.  Bill Gothard has been active in the fundie movement for over half......
Christian Dem in NC (1 comment)
Eugene Delgaudio may lose his day job as Virginia county supervisor
Surprised no one's noticed this, but one of the nation's most virulent homophobes is in a fight to keep his day job.  Eugene Delgaudio is best known as the head of Public Advocate......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
Starkville Becomes First City in Mississippi to Pass Resolution Recognizing LGBT Residents
This caught me by surprise. I guess times are a changin in Dixieland. ------------------------------------- Cross posted from the HRC blog. Starkville Becomes First City in Mississippi to Pass Resolution Recognizing LGBT Residents January 21,......
COinMS (0 comments)
Robert Knight: Running against evolution could potentially be a winner for the GOP
In one of the starkest instances yet of how far gone the religious right is, one of its leading activists thinks that he's found another potential wedge issue that could drive more people into......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
First Catholic official convicted in child sex abuse scandal has conviction overturned
Last year, Monsignor William Lynn, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's secretary for clergy, was convicted of reassigning a priest whom he knew had molested a young boy to a parish that had a school attached......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
Quotes From Sarah Palin 'War on Christmas" Book v. Quotes From 1920s Anti-Jewish Propaganda
The point of this comparison is not to cast Sarah Palin as a Nazi. Rather, my intent is to underline uncomfortable similarities between contemporary "war on Christmas" talking points propagated by elements of the......
Bruce Wilson (0 comments)
Francis sets up commission on how to deal with pedophile priests
Late yesterday Pope Francis announced--apparently after some prodding--that he will set up a panel to advise him on how to deal with child abuse by priests. The announcement was a forthright acknowledgment by the......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
John Hagee: Jews will make deal with Antichrist before End Times
When John Hagee opens his mouth, you expect to hear lunacy.  An appearance earlier this month on TBN was no different.  On Friday, People for the American Way stumbled on a special prophecy-focused edition......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
Doug Phillips Resigns From Vision Forum over "Inappropriate Relationship"
Doug Phillips resigned as president of Vision Forum earlier this week, citing an "inappropriate relationship."   Phillips posted an announcement on the Vision Forum website, stating, There has been serious sin in my life......
Rachel Tabachnick (2 comments)

More Diaries...




All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments, posts, stories, and all other content are owned by the authors. Everything else 2005 Talk to Action, LLC.