Protesters Object to School Privatization Efforts of DeVos, Michelle Rhee, and PA and WI Governors
Rachel Tabachnick printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue May 10, 2011 at 09:28:33 PM EST
On Monday, May 10, protesters (including me) opposing Pennsylvania's Senate Bill 1 and other school voucher schemes, gathered outside the hotel where Betsy DeVos was leading a national pro-voucher conference. Speakers over the two-day American Federation for Children (AFC) event included Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and Michelle Rhee.  There was substantial press coverage of the protest which included participants from Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and D.C.  About six people from FreedomWorks with large, professionally printed signs, attempted to hijack the protest to make it appear that it was in support of SB-1.   Following the fold is a list of resources from the organizations opposing SB-1 and the pro-privatization movement.
Note that FreedomWorks and FreedomWorks Foundation are funded with over $6.5 million from  the two Koch brothers' foundations, $5.7 from the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation, $1.3 million from the Olin Foundation, over $3 million from the Scaife foundations, as well as  $250,000 from the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation.  Nevertheless, the group from FreedomWorks  accused those protesting SB-1 of being an astroturf campaign.    

Statements from Some of the Pennsylvania Organizations Opposed to SB-1:

Keystone Progress Blogspot

Pennsylvanians Opposed to Vouchers - See entire list of organizations at website.

American Federation of Teachers (PFT - Philadelphia)

Keystone State Educational Coalition nd-law.html

Americans United for Separation of Church and State (Delaware Valley Chapter)

PA Council of Churches Statement

PA NAACP -SB1-1.pdf

Details of Objections to SB-1:

Keystone Progress

Education Law Center


SB-1 and the Pennsylvania Constitution

Voucher funds going to students already in private schools.

Analysis of 144 public schools targeted for vouchers in SB-1

ADL Opposition to School Vouchers

Research on role of Betsy DeVos-led American Federation for Children (AFC) and pro-privatization organizations in Pennsylvania and other states:

Articles by Americans United for Separation of Church and State on DeVos-led privatization of public education (also search under DeVos) ttack.html -over-vou.html

Report by People for the American Way about the deceptive campaign for privatization of public education

Articles by Rachel Tabachnick, Regular Contributor to

Meet the Super-Wealthy Right-Wing Family Working with the Religious Right to Kill Public Education.

Details of AFC-affiliated financing and mobilizing in Pennsylvania

Details of AFC-affiliated financing in Indiana and other states

Update on AFC-affiliate activities in Pennsylvania and sponsorship of mailer attacking opposing senator

I hope this isn't an exercise in futility, as the attempts to stop the dominionist/"Tea Party" juggernaut here in Florida have been.

People only need to look to Florida (and a couple of other states) to see where the dominionists/fundamentalists are taking this country.  It's not pretty.  I expect it won't be that many years (unless something stops them) that it will be open season on non-Christians (and walkaways) and church attendance will become de jure.

by ArchaeoBob on Wed May 11, 2011 at 10:13:50 AM EST

I have been encouraged that there are journalists in the mainstream press who are writing about the fact that Rick Scott is following the Cato Institute and Heritage Foundation script.

Also journalists reported that the DeVos' AFC was behind deceptive attack ads and mailers in the 2010 campaign.  In terms of reaching the public, I think we have to focus on showing how dominionists like the DeVoses are impacting the political process, as opposed to focusing on their theology.  The theology is certainly important, but there is such a limited audience interested in that aspect.  Most people want the nuts and bolts of who is funding who, what they are trying to do politically, etc.

by Rachel Tabachnick on Wed May 11, 2011 at 11:06:45 AM EST

Rachel, I think your comment is right on point. The general public is fascinated by stories concerning what powers are behind things. At least enough to listen for a minute. Throw in that it involves extreme theology (without going into details) and it's a great hook! I suspect there are still enough traditional conservatives who believe in keeping religion and politics separate that it could get traction in mainstream.

by rahilliard on Wed May 11, 2011 at 11:58:26 AM EST

fit the audience?

I mention the theology because it leads to their eventual goals, which will be horrific for most people (Indeed, most people don't have a clue to the beliefs and goals of a significant portion of the population of this country).  However, at the same time too much emphasis on the theology might be counterproductive... I've noted that with at least one group, they don't want to hear anything about the religious aspect (they consider it tin-hatter stuff as well as some of the "But it's a church" denial), but if you bring up the purely political side of what is going on, a conversation sometimes starts.

That also worries me, because IMO we're dealing with a religious movement with political aspirations, and funded by elites who use politics (and thus religion) to further their own greed.  It's kind of like the three-legged stool analogy, in that if you leave one of the three aspects out, you're missing a major part of the picture.

I admit I'm not very good at getting the right balance, but I do try.

by ArchaeoBob on Thu May 12, 2011 at 03:02:55 PM EST

So, once an institution of higher education is cash-starved (like the ones in Pennsylvania are about to be), then the billionaires can swoop in to finance your departments as long as they have control over who teaches and what is taught.

As it turns out, there were many strings attached to the Charles G. Koch Foundation money given to Florida State University's economics department.

by Rachel Tabachnick on Wed May 11, 2011 at 04:07:45 PM EST

I fear that the climate change work being done at Penn State will be one of the early targets.

by MLouise on Wed May 11, 2011 at 05:58:50 PM EST
Did you see my first article in this series?  One of the voucher mega-donors in Pennsylvania was part of a investment fund that hassled the corporations because their managers were on boards of groups that are environmentally friendly and because the companies themselves had environmental goals/guidelines.  They said this was a conflict of interest - purpose of the company is to make money for stockholders.  Period.

These "too green" companies included Walmart, GE, and Goldman Sachs.  

by Rachel Tabachnick on Thu May 12, 2011 at 11:21:20 AM EST

I've read that Rushdoony had called for the "re-education" of people who teach or use the social sciences, so that the social sciences are done from a "Bible-based perspective" - re-education or elimination.  This could be a step in that direction.  The schools are running from a Business-based model already, and everything is focused on making a profit and cranking out good middle-managers and employees.  The critical thinking aspect of education seems to be decreasing in importance at the administrative level.

They could be attempting the "boil a frog" approach, although this is a big step and maybe too much.  People are starting to protest and there are petitions being sent around to stop the travesty in Tallahassee.

by ArchaeoBob on Thu May 12, 2011 at 03:10:28 PM EST

As long as stories such as the suicide of Phoebe Prince due to bullying as well as this latest atrocity
keep cropping up, you will find more and more people supporting the idea of school vouchers. Public Education needs some serious reform work.

by Frank Frey on Thu May 12, 2011 at 12:03:07 AM EST
I think part of what we're seeing is backlash against the reforms started in the 50s and 60s, and it's always been needed.  American education has for the most part always been deliberate indoctrination in conservative/bigoted thinking.

I remember the racial tensions and violence (and threatened violence) in the schools I attended when I was a kid.  I remember how the teachers (in some cases) actually promoted or encouraged it via disparaging remarks about minorities and how even the textbooks were deceptive (for instance, my people were only mentioned for Pocahontas, the "First Thanksgiving", and killing settlers.)  Bullying is a central issue, but I would also argue that not reinforcing stereotypes and false beliefs (such as America was founded as a Christian Nation) is also important.

Regarding bullying:

Students deserve and need a safe place to learn.  Teachers can (and often are) as bad a bully as the students - as I experienced.  In my case it was because I was a outdoorsman and not a "party animal" and lived according to different ways of thinking than the mainstream.  I was often as afraid of the teachers as I was the students... and the administration was almost as bad.  (Not ONCE did they ever do anything about the bullying, but they sure punished me for "fighting" [resisting bullies] and so on.  They didn't do anything even when there was a near riot directed at me, and an attempt to poison me.)  By the time I was in High School, I learned to associate authority with injustice and abuse, and everything that I've experienced -away from the university- reinforces this viewpoint.  This needs to be changed.

In Florida, there are two different attempts to reform the schools - (1) the teachers and people who want science actually taught, vs (2) the "Good Christians" who want to force creationism and obedience to (religious) authority taught.   I support the reform by the teachers and scientists and strongly resist the "Good Christians".  Doing away with vouchers, the FCAT (and teaching to the test), and things like that are necessary for reform to work.  We also have to counter the hate being taught to the kids (from early childhood), which is more difficult but can be done.  There ARE programs that work in countering hate taught from childhood, but they're not popular (because they actually address the various isms that we fight).  Dr. H. Roy Kaplan describes this well in his book Failing Grades.  The program he's been working with effectively reduces or stops bullying.  I just wish more people would listen and consider ones like it.  Even more so, I wish it had been in place when I was a kid.

by ArchaeoBob on Thu May 12, 2011 at 10:20:58 AM EST

There is no doubt that many of our schools need to be better, but our schools, communities, and American workers have been under attack by the curious partnership of radical free marketers and the Religious Right for quite some time.  If you read the policy papers of the think tanks behind privatization, it is clear that the intent has been to do as much damage to public education as possible.

Also this camp is led by the DeVoses and includes the DeVos/Prince- funded Focus on Family and Family Research Council.  Do we really think that this crowd, motivated by their virulent anti-gay, anti-women's rights, anti-secular hatreds, is going to provide an educational environment where children are not bullied?  

by Rachel Tabachnick on Thu May 12, 2011 at 11:33:11 AM EST

Based upon my memories, the more "religious" a student was, the more likely they would be a bully.  The worst of them piously folded their hands together in prayer on Sunday and into fists on Monday.  

So it wouldn't surprise me in the least to eventually learn that groups like theirs would subtly ENCOURAGE bullying.  After all, how are they going to keep the other students in line???

The Religious Right are ideologically-driven bullies.  Pure and simple.

by ArchaeoBob on Thu May 12, 2011 at 11:46:07 AM EST

Aw, this was a really nice post. In idea I would like to put in writing like this additionally - taking time and actual effort to make a very good article... but what can I say... I procrastinate alot and by no means seem to get something done.madeira plastica | plastic lumber | Ssangyong | hyundai hb20suo2gz

by dennishobson on Mon May 27, 2013 at 01:56:37 PM EST

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