"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Monday, April 25, 2011

The New Voucher Reality, Brought to You by Those Who View Public Institutions as the New Red Menace

By Troutfishing at DailyKos (ht to Ken Bernstein): 
"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." - Rachel Tabachnick
Eric Prince has become widely known as founder of the private mercenary army formerly known as Blackwater. Prince's sister, Betsy DeVos, is leading an astroturfing war on public schools. Last Thursday, April 21, Indiana passed a DeVos astroturf entity-backed, sweeping voucher bill. Indiana was part of a national pattern. As early as tomorrow the Pennsylvania state legislature will vote on a similar, DeVos-backed astroturf voucher bill. At stake is the future of public education and even the American middle class itself.
On this issue, mainstream media has largely ceded its public interest watchdog function. Only a few Internet media outlets are publicizing this issue. If you care about this, you can help--pass this story along: to friends and family, to teachers and union members you may know, to anyone you know who cares about the future of the public good, the well-being of the American lower class and middle class, and American Democracy itself.
Back in September 2010, a landmark report was published by Rob Boston of Americans United For Separation of Church and State, titled Michigan Multi-Millionaire Betsy DeVos Is A Four-Star General In A Deceptive Behind-The-Scenes War On Public Schools And Church-State Separation. Few noticed.
A few weeks ago researcher Rachel Tabachnick noted, with alarm, that the scheme was coming to fruition--as voucher bills have flooded into state legislatures in Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, Indiana, and other swing states. The stakes couldn't be higher; by some tallies, spending on public education in America is as high as $700 billion a year. So privatizing that spending could be a terminal blow against the American middle class, unions, and even secular society itself--with religious right schools poised to vacuum up that money, which could then fund the teaching of creationism and right-wing, ideologically charged curricula.
Tabachnick's first report, Voucher Advocate Betsy DeVos, Right-Wing Think Tanks Behind Koch-Style Attack on PA Public Schools, focuses on the DeVos-led astroturfing war on public education in Pennsylvania, where a voucher bill may come up for a vote as early as Tuesday April 26th, and in Florida, which has a 100% voucher plan coming before the legislature.
The second report in the series, Pro-Voucher Astroturfing: Campaigns Across Nation Coordinated by DeVos, Funded by a Few Mega-Donors, looks at the national pattern, in which DeVos-funded entities have funded voucher initiatives in Indiana, Pennsylvania, Florida, Georgia, Wisconsin, Utah, Iowa, and New Jersey.
So, governor-led attacks on the public sector in Michigan, Wisconsin, and elsewhere are part of a larger pattern, a full-frontal assault on the public sector and unions. In the crosshairs are the middle class, secular society, and the redistributive function of government. The chief weapons in this war are money, deception, and money.
In the September 2010 AU report, Rob Boston noted,
"[the] growing prominence of DeVos as a linchpin in the voucher movement. Although hardly a household name, if Betsy DeVos has her way, every American could feel her reach: DeVos’ goal is nothing short of a radical re-creation of education in the United States, with tax-supported religious and other private schools replacing the traditional public school system.
DeVos rarely states it that bluntly. Instead, she crouches behind the euphemism of “school choice” and pretends to be a kindly advocate for downtrodden youngsters trapped in public schools described as “failing.”
Driven by a relentless faith in ultra-conservative religion and the privatization of public services, DeVos and her husband, Dick, who is best known as the former president of Amway, are pouring millions from their personal fortune into a nationwide voucher push.
They’ll be bringing plenty of anti-public school allies along for the ride – chief among them the Walton Family Foundation, an entity operated by the heirs of Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart.
Publicly available documents tell an interesting story of interlocking organizations linked by an ambitious political agenda aimed right at the heart of public education. It’s an alarming tale in which Betsy DeVos poses as a benign benefactor of poor children – all while spearheading a billion-dollar store chain’s crusade to crush unions and privatize a public school system that serves 90 percent of American youngsters."

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