Update 9/3/14: Debate on educationally-sensitive North Carolina Senate race airs 9/3/14 on UNC TV and Radio, also available via C-Span. This is the first debate between Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Thom Tillis, currently Speaker of the NC House and candidate for U.S. Senate. See below on “Prosperity” money in this race.
I was asked recently to provide information on Charles and David Koch and their positions on public schools. As it happens, Americans for Prosperity, which the Koch brothers take credit for establishing, is hosting a conference this weekend on issues including “the next phase of school choice.” So, this is an interesting moment for such a review.
Defending the American Dream
The Dallas “Defending the American Dream Summit” is described by organizers as “the Best Kept Secret of Pro-Liberty Conferences.” (Do NOT CONFUSE “Defending the Dream” with Dream Defenders.) It promises cutting-edge activist training and networking, warning:
All around us a battle of ideas rages, and the very fabric of American prosperity is under attack. Now more than ever, we must be alert, involved, and engaged in the fight for freedom and liberty.
Check back for details on “the next phase of school choice,” as it emerges from this summit. (To follow live, 8/29-30), view stream and #Dream14.
Koch money supports “parental choice” in ways promote both privatizing schools and re-segregating them.
The Libertarian Party focuses on free market and parental authority in its education policy:
Education is best provided by the free market, achieving greater quality, accountability and efficiency with more diversity of choice. Recognizing that the education of children is a parental responsibility, we would restore authority to parents to determine the education of their children, without interference from government. Parents should have control of and responsibility for all funds expended for their children’s education.
— Libertarian platform, education plank
David Koch, once on the Libertarian presidential ticket split with the party over tax issues. The brothers now actively support shifting governmental “interference,” in the form of tax money and charter school legislation, from transparent civic budgets — like those managed by school boards, cities, and states — to private corporations and charter organizations not required to share financial information. (See American Legislative Exchange Council sample legislation, Americans for Prosperity, etc.)
AFP supports candidates for office who support school choice, often in forms that actively promote re-segregation and privatization. See, e.g., local school board election in Wake County, NC, where outsize donations supported candidates in favor of “neighborhood schools” in place of desegregated facilities. Pushing back on such situations led to the NAACP’s Moral Mondays; see, e.g., “Our Position on Diversity in Public Education in Wake County.”
Also note recent establishment of the dark money, 501(c)4, Carolina Rising organization, in North Carolina, which just spent $1.5 million for ads “educating” voters about teacher pay raises. Not overtly supporting a candidate, the ads seem designed to promote Thom Tillis for U.S. Senate, in opposition to Sen. Kay Hagan.
For legislative agenda, which has been pursued in states all around the union (as well as in DC), see also: “How are corporations undermining K-12 public education through these ALEC bills?” (PDF)
Americans for Prosperity meanwhile, is preparing to mobilize for the fall election. A new chapter was just announced in South Dakota, where Sen. Tim Johnson’s retirement opens election prospects. The national organization is currently advertising 55 job openings across the country.
More on North Carolina
Wake County School Board member Karen Simon faced Deborah Pickett, supported by AFP funds, who spoke about “forced busing.” School Board member Rita Rakestraw faced Chris Malone, supported by AFP funds, who talked about the need for “neighborhood schools.” When AFP candidates won in Wake County, local news reported “in one election they now have the majority they need to change the way students are assigned to schools.” (see “Kochs’ Efforts to Re-Segregate Public Schools [2014 edition]“). See also Koch Industries’ response, which answers none of the issues Robert Greenwald raises in this short film.
Dream Defenders (NOT Defending the Dream)
Dream Defenders “develop the next generation of radical leaders to realize and exercise our independent collective power; building alternative systems and organizing to disrupt the structures that oppress our communities.”