2014

22 January 2014: Privatizing public schools is the end game

“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.” – Joseph Bast, President and CEO of the Heartland Institute

The Heartland Institute is funded by Big Names, Big Money, not chump–change millionaires or even minor billionaires.  These guys—the Koch brohers, Richard Mellon Scaife, and the Walton Family—play at the top of the money food chain.  Billionaires’ billionaires.

Last week I wrote the crusade to undo public education began with the takeover of the Douglas County Board of Education in 2009.  Actually, the crusade began decades ago, but it made a huge stride in Colorado when it took over Dougco and picked up steam with Jeffco, the latest of hostile takeovers: Taking control of a school district with the intent not to further, enhance, and improve it, but to end it.

In its report, “Voucher Veneer: The Deeper Agenda to Privatize Public Education,” People For the American Way states it well: “Today, governmental responsibilities in education and the strong connection that Americans have with their public schools are being put to a serious test. A network of Religious Right groups, free-market economists, ultraconservative columnists and others are using vouchers as a vehicle to achieve their ultimate goal of privatizing education.

“Their embrace of vouchers reflects their view that to be successful, privatization must be achieved incrementally. The long-term goal is to make all schooling an activity supplied by private sources: for-profit management companies, religious organizations and home schools.”

Vouchers and charter schools have become useful tools for nefarious groups to accomplish their goals. As in Dougco, the next step is to spend tax dollars on private, religious-affiliated schools.

The money rolls from on high.  The American Legislative Exchange Council, founded in 1973 by Paul Weyrich and several other ultra-conservative ideologues, is a corporate-funded, deep-pocket source.  As John Nichols noted in The Nation in August 2011, “ALEC is a critical arm of the right-wing network of policy shops that, with infusions of corporate cash, has evolved to shape American politics.

“ALEC’s priorities for the 2011 session included bills to privatize education, break unions, deregulate major industries, pass voter ID laws and more.”  Less than three years later, evidence of those initiatives abounds in Colorado.

After being appointed to the education committee while in Congress, second-time-around gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo (R) proclaimed, “I think it’s a lot easier to kill the beast when you get in the cave.”  Seemingly, St. Tom sees himself as St. George on his way to slay the fire-breathing public education dragon.

From neo-liberal Randians to others on the right, there is a confluence of disparate interest groups that share a common core belief that public education needs to go.

A national organization called Alliance for Separation of School and State—I’m having fun with its acronym—boldly states on its banner, “I proclaim publicly that I favor ending government involvement in education.”

On its Who’s Who list: Larry Pratt, Gun Owners of America; Nathaniel Branden, author of the gushing “My Years with Ayn Rand”; Barbara Branden, author of “The Passion of Ayn Rand”; and John K. Andrews, erstwhile Colorado Senate president and Denver Post columnist.

And, if one thinks reaching heaven, dedicating one’s self to education, and becoming rich are incongruent goals, the Rev. Ellsworth McIntyre, another Alliance for Separation of School and State supporter, shows us they’re not incompatible.  His work: “How to Become a Millionaire in Christian Education.”

Finally, there are blood-suckers feeding at the trough of tax dollars, including ambulance-chasing lawyers poised to swoop in once a conservative BOE is empowered.

Brad A. Miller, Esq., is one who apparently cleaning up at taxpayers’ expense, wheeling and dealing to represent newly-elected conservative school boards.  To complement his contract with the Falcon School District, Miller signed a lucrative deal with the Thompson School District in Loveland, CO on December 5, 2013, and less than two weeks later buttoned up another deal with our neighbors to the east, Jeffco, where he stands to rake in a cool $90,000.

It makes one wonder how many books and laptops that 90 grand could buy.  So much for that crapola about conservatives being wise stewards of the public purse, eh?

When it comes to “reform” in public education, follow the money.

Caveat Emptor – Buyer Beware

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