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

Friday, November 08, 2013

Tea Party School Bus Hijack, Muncie, Indiana

by Doug Martin

While Douglas Storm and I were exposing the corporate assault on our schools on WFHB radio on Eugene V. Debs’ birthday during the Zinn Read-In at Purdue, Tea Party front men were spreading misinformation in Muncie, Indiana, which stopped a property tax referendum vote from passing, leaving public school children after this year without bus transportation to schools. 

One Tea Party tactic included lying in a flier to residents of Muncie’s southside, claiming that, if property taxes were not raised, Southside High School, set to close down, would remain open. In fact, the bus and high school funding debate are separate issues. Jim Arnold, from the Muncie 912 Tea Party and Ball State University (which gets a healthy fee to sponsor charter schools  in Indiana), said the school bus referendum was just a way for the school board to “pull at the heartstrings of people,” and Tea Partiers lied by saying that the 74 buses would continue to operate next year, when they will not.
 
The misinformation campaign was also orchestrated by convicted felon Chris Hiatt, a talking head for the Citizens of Delaware County for Good Government, another Tea Party group founded by Indiana legislator Doug Eckerty, co-author of the school voucher expansion bill that recently passed in Indiana. Chris Hiatt’s business got 700 bucks in 2009 (page 10-11 in PDF) and a few hundred dollars in 2010 to do printing for Eckerty’s campaign (page 11 of PDF), and  Hiatt has used the old John Birch Society trick of trying to recruit libertarians to take over the local school board.   

Eckerty does not like gay people.  In fact, he was one of a few Indiana lawmakers who signed a letter to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to stop the LGBT Youth Group from having license plates in the state. Eckerty's campaigns have been funded, in part, by oil interests, Nestle (which believes the human right to water is a socialist plot to destroy the wealthy), and the Hoosiers for Economic Growth (see page 10 in PDF), the anti-public school/voucher front group led by Walmart, Amway, and hedge fund managers. Mike Pence was in Muncie in 2010, campaigning for Eckerty. 

The Tea Party has gained steam in Indiana, since Mike Pence was elected.  The majority of the money the Koch brothers have funneled into the state has gone to Pence, even though the brothers may be handing money through front groups.  Pence got $400,000 from David H. Koch in 2012, and Koch Industries has given another $5,000 to Pence’s governor campaign in Indiana. The Indiana Tea Party, in its various forms and branches, has not even filed tax forms since it has been in the Hoosier state, so there is no way of completely knowing where this money is coming from. 

And the Indiana government has its fair share of Tea Party operatives.  As I’ve noted at Schools Matter before, Mike Pence has several Tea Party pipers in his administration.  Pence rehired Chris Atkins to lead the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). A past tax and fiscal policy director at ALEC, the Anderson, Indiana-born Atkins began working for the 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 which has led to the lack of funding for buses and schools in Muncie.

Atkins must love how Muncie school children will have to have their parents drive them to school now, or walk, since Atkins is not a fan of increased spending to eliminate inequality in the public schools either.  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.”

At OMB’s Department of Government Efficiency and Financial Planning, Gloria Downham wears the Tea Party Americans for Prosperity hat.  Downham’s  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 "choice scholarships."

 
In comments on the corporate Star Press website, Muncie's Tea Party mouthpiece Chris Hiatt has called the attempt to raise property taxes for the Muncie school buses an “attempted $43 million theft.” Guess he forgot that in 2012 the Indiana government set aside $91 million to forgive startup loans to charter schools, even ones with horrible track records and whose sponsorships were not renewed and their schools bolted shut.  He doesn't seem to care that school vouchers have drained millions from the public schools.  Guess that role of "Big Government" is just fine for Hiatt and his hucksters in the Tea Party in Muncie. 

And I guess Hiatt forgot, also, that the corporate-run newspaper the Star Press he believes is a socialist mill helped his buddy Eckerty win election which helped load his own pockets with campaign money for his printing business.  Hiatt conveniently also fails to mention, as Todd Smekens does, that the Star Press gives Tea Party operatives a voice non-stop.

Meanwhile, Southside residents are holding a rally tomorrow to help save their school.  You can find them on facebook and read an excellent take on the Tea Party school bus hijack at the truly democratic Muncie VoiceAs for all those people who will lose jobs driving kids to school and for all of those children without bus transportation, the ride is over.


 

 

 

4 comments:

  1. James Lacey9:20 AM

    I really don't think the comment about Chris Hiatt added anything to the story. If fact it now makes me want to take another look at you. You will stoop to any level to get your point across and that bothers me more than Chris Hiatt. It is obvious to me you are a lower class person than you think Chris is.

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  2. If anyone would be considered guilty of hijacking it would be the local governmental clowns Muncie has elected to represent the people. We just got the property taxes lowered from years of ridiculous assessments + some of these jokers want to raise taxes to pay for buses. Muncie was 8 million in the black. That surplus could have been used towards new buses. Oh my bad I forgot we needed that surplus for local city/county governmental thieves to pilfer.Muncie needs to have all new elected officials. Any local politician or long rooted political family in Delaware county needs permanently voted out. Especially the ones that practice law whether private or public practice.

    ReplyDelete
  3. If anyone would be considered guilty of hijacking it would be the local governmental clowns Muncie has elected to represent the people. We just got the property taxes lowered from years of ridiculous assessments + some of these jokers want to raise taxes to pay for buses. Muncie was 8 million in the black. That surplus could have been used towards new buses. Oh my bad I forgot we needed that surplus for local city/county governmental thieves to pilfer.Muncie needs to have all new elected officials. Any local politician or long rooted political family in Delaware county needs permanently voted out. Especially the ones that practice law whether private or public practice.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Tea Party front men were spreading misinformation in Muncie, Indiana, which stopped a property tax referendum vote from passing, leaving public school children after this year without bus transportation to schools. Minneapolis Party Bus Rental

    ReplyDelete