SCHOOL VOUCHER BULLYING, PURE POLITICS, AND THE INDIANA OFFICE OF MANAGEMENTAND BUDGET
When it comes to the corporate-religious-political bullying for the Amway/Walmart/ALEC/Overstock.com/Koch Brothers assault on Indiana school children, the Republicans will stop short of nothing. House Bill 1342 was a perfect example. Having moved out of committee but finally killed off yesterday by GOP House Speaker Brian Bosma, this bill sought to strip Indiana superintendent of public instruction Glenda Ritz and the Department of Education of all power to monitor the state voucher schools, giving instead, the Koch-Brothers/ALEC crony Chris Atkins and his Indiana Office of Management and Budget complete control over voucher school funding distribution, oversight, and even voucher school visits.
With OMB’s State Board of Accounts now handing charter school audits over to private companies, House Bill 1342 was meant to punish Ritz, who was originally involved in the lawsuit to stop Indiana’s school voucher system, and lead to even more lack of oversight.
THE INDIANA OMB AND THE CORPORATE RIGHTWING MACHINE
Mike Pence recently rehired Chris Atkins to lead OMB. A past tax and fiscal policy director at ALEC, the Anderson, Indiana-born Atkins began working for the sociopathic voucher lobbying and propaganda mill, the Milton & Rose Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, after leaving as OMB policy director where he hammered out the Mitch Daniels’ anti-public school property tax plan, one of the first initiatives to drain funding from the schools.
Not surprisingly, Atkins is a member of the pro-school voucher Institute of Justice’s Human Action Network, a group of IJ student law conference alumni who volunteer for various cases IJ deems appropriate. IJ is battling in court to save the Indiana school voucher program.
Atkins is not a fan of increased spending to eliminate inequality in the public schools. In 2007, while carrying corporate water for the Koch Brothers-supported/ Eli Lilly affiliated Tax Foundation, Atkins released a “study” at the Philadelphia ALEC meeting which claimed that lawsuits in favor of forcing states to pay adequate funding to inadequately funded school districts have not led to better schools or “long term increases in school spending” but only to higher tax rates. Atkins commented: "Lawsuits may be able to build schools, but they haven't proven effective at teaching kids.”
Atkins, however, is not the only OMB employee with ties to school voucher groups. The Friedman Foundation-funded and Tea Party Americans for Prosperity is represented at OMB’s Department of Government Efficiency and Financial Planning by Gloria Downham, whose husband, Chase, heads the Americans for Prosperity’s Indiana branch. Chase, a former Mike Pence intern, helped elect Republicans for the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Chase and Gloria are parishioners at the St. Monica Catholic Church which operates its own Indianapolis school receiving state vouchers.
Former Ice Miller attorney Brian Bailey, OMB’s chief of staff & general counsel, is also a Tax Foundation crony.
Micah Vincent, at OMB’s Department of Local Government Finance, likes to attend Friedman Foundation events, too.
LIVING WITH DINOSAURS
Besides the American flags flying high in the Indiana religious schools accepting taxpayer money, OMB would have found no problem visiting schools promoting creationism, John Birch Society propaganda and paranoia, and free-market radicalism. Many of the schools receiving vouchers, as Steve Hinnefeld noted at School Matters, use the A Beka and Bob Jones curriculum texts, which vilify liberals, plug free-market inequality, lie about global warming, and see the Bible as the see-all-be-all to an education. Hinnefeld unearthed some disturbing examples, including these from the teacher’s guide to United States History in Christian Perspective: Heritage of Freedom, an A Beka 11th-grade history book:
FDR and the New Deal: “New Deal socialism is but a halfway house to Communism; what Communists seek by violent revolution, socialists seek by legislation, regulation, and taxation … The effects of the New Deal can be seen today in the Social Security system, Medicare, various welfare programs, and the numerous federal regulatory agencies in operation today. Many Americans depend on the government for their daily needs and all suffer from excessive government regulation in one way or another.”
Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s 1950s crusade against Communists: “Senator McCarthy’s aggressive manner and his physical appearance – he did not photograph well and often appeared to be scowling – did not play well in front of the television cameras … In addition, the print media and radio roundly castigated McCarthy. The combined effect of this propaganda turned many people against the senator.”
LBJ and the Great Society: “Higher taxes drained money from individuals and business to fund programs that destroyed the work ethic among the poor while eroding the self-sufficiency of the American family.”
These textbooks, as Professor Frances Paterson and Rachel Tabachnick have observed, compare gay people to child molesters and rapists and show hatred of Hinduism, Native American beliefs, and Buddhism, even lashing out at Roman Catholics and non-evangelical Protestants. Tabachnick also details the texts’ prejudice against African-Americans, writing that “Concerning slavery in America, a Bob Jones high school text states, ‘To help them endure the difficulties of slavery, God gave Christian slaves the ability to combine the African heritage of song with the dignity of Christian praise. Through the Negro spiritual, the slaves developed the patience to wait on the Lord and discovered that the truest freedom is from the bondage of sin.’”
If you want more on Indiana school voucher schemes, like visits to the Creation Museum, see Zack Kopplin’s report here.
Robert Behning, House Bill 1342’s author, told the Journal Gazette “The goal was to try to send a message that we don’t want to abuse our power but we want to make sure that everything we have moved that we value in terms of reform needs to be moving forward the way it was intended.”
In other words, it was an act of bullying and pure politics, plain and simple, one geared on “moving” Indiana back into another century, with a Good News Club in every public school still left standing. If one believes that OMB would have been capable or willing to regulate Hoosier schools receiving vouchers in any way, shape, or form, one would have to believe that humans walked hand in hand with the dinosaurs and that Jesus hated the poor, which many in the school voucher movement either believe or like to lie about.