Archives for category: Walker, Scott

A reader who is a parent in Wisconsin notes that the far-right group American Federation for Children is reaching out to disability groups to get their support for vouchers. AFS is committed to privatization, and they know full well that vouchers for special education students is a first step. It is also high on ALEC’s agenda. It arises not from concern for the students, whose rights are protected by federal law in public schools, but out of concern for their own political agenda, which is anti-public education, anti-union, and anti-professionalism.

Writes the reader:

More about Wisconsin and vouchers — I and two other parents of students with disabilities have just had a column published in Wisconsin’s Capital Times:

http://host.madison.com/news/opinion/column/parents-why-we-must-stop-special-needs-vouchers/article_1d0779cc-151a-53d2-b575-62de8feadfbe.html

Amanda’s link above, about expanded vouchers expected to be part of the budget plan, also holds true for special needs vouchers, although the Walker administration has been silent on that aspect so far. Just this week, however, the national American Federation for Children lobby has begun contacting disability groups across Wisconsin, with a pitch for putting the vouchers INTO the budget.

This although no statewide disability group in Wisconsin is asking for these vouchers, and we particularly DON’T want them in the budget where they wouldn’t get a separate public hearing. Such a controversial statewide policy change, full of problems and pitfalls, must be debated and exposed and voted on separately!

Stop Special Needs Vouchers, a statewide grassroots group led by families of students with disabilities, is spreading the word: we need to keep special needs education strong in Wisconsin public schools. We’re on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/StopSpecialNeedsVouchers — please join us!

The Walton Family Foundation has many billions of dollars. Though not as big as the Gates Foundation, it is one of the biggest three donors to education today. (The third billionaire foundation is the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.) All three of these foundations support charter schools, testing, and choice.

Of the three, the Walton Foundation is the most conservative. It has a strong preference for free-market and libertarian policies. Last year, it handed out $159 million in education grants. This year, $158 million.

Here is their list of winners for 2012.

The Walton Foundation is built on the fortune produced by the Walmart stores. Walmart is not a friend to Main Street, and the Walton Foundation is not a friend to community public schools. The foundation, like its stores, likes disruption. It disrupts communities and destroys the small-timers that get in the way of the free market. Privatization is the theme of their giving.

If you have time to review the list, you will see many familiar names, some in your own state, advocating for charters and vouchers, which have become a top priority for the far-right.

Teach for America: $11,445,000 million. The DC Public Education Fund was a big winner with $5.9 million, but it seems unlikely that any real public school will see a dollar of this grant. KIPP picked up $8.3 million. The Center on Reinventing Public Education–which writes research studies of charter schools–got $700,000. Students for Education Reform: $250,000. StudentsFirst collected $2 million. Eva Moskowitz’s chain (Success Academy) collected $1 million. Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education came away with $1 million. The ex-liberal, now conservative group Stand for Children won more than $600,000, perhaps to continue their assault on teachers’ unions. GreatSchools, Inc., which grades schools, picked up $4.3 million. Howard Fuller’s pro-voucher group, Black Alliance for Educational Options, won $1.1 million. The once-liberal, now conservative Brookings Institution received  $666,000.

Look over the list of the lucky winners. The one consistent theme is support for school choice, for charters and vouchers. Even the organizations with the word “public” in their name are supporters of school choice.

Perhaps what is most surprising and disturbing in the list is the inclusion of media outlets that should be strictly nonpartisan and neutral. It is frankly difficult to believe that the Walton Foundation makes grants to any organization that is truly nonpartisan on the issues about which it is passionate. So here is the shocking lineup:

$1.4 million for National Public Radio.

$100,000 for the Education Writers Association.

$250,000 for Education Week (Editorial Projects in Education).

$185,000 for Bellweather Education Partners (TIME magazine columnist Andrew Rotherham).

A reader from Wisconsin points out that Governor Walker’s reforms are not intended to improve the schools, but to turn schooling into a free-market activity:

Thank you Diane for highlighting yet another unproven attempt to inject free market ideology into Wisconsin public schools.

The recent recall attempt exposed the forces supporting Gov. Walker and how they wish to dismantle public education and fill the void with free market principles. Walker rolled out phase two of his anti-public education plan in his State of the State address with more promises to “transform education” and “expand the number of choices for families in Wisconsin—be it a traditional, a charter, a voucher, a virtual, or a home school environment.”

http://host.madison.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/gov-walker-s-state-of-the-state-speech-transcript/article_1281c782-5f75-11e2-b2e7-001a4bcf887a.html

The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute–which provided the first critique you mentioned– is in the same camp (or a suburb) of the MacIver Institute–which sponsored Operation Angry Badger designed to “document the shortcomings of public schools in Wisconsin.”

http://www.jsonline.com/news/wisconsin/leaked-documents-detail-operation-angry-badger-u447pp9-139483133.html

WPRI, MacIver, Citizens for Responsible Government (CRG), and the Tea Party forces supporting Gov. Walker have no intent to improve public education or provide support for our neediest students. A successful public education system with an extensive support network works against the lassez-faire capitalist ideology of these free marketeers.

Joy Resmovits at Huffington Post has a revealing story about how top staff at Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst have abandoned the ship.

No one went on the record to explain the exodus but it is hard to see how any Democrat could be part of a campaign to curtail collective bargaining rights and to diminish the rights and status of teachers. Unions and teachers are the base of the Democratic Party.

Think about how frequently Rhee has allied herself with rightwing governors like Mitch Daniels, John Kasich, Rick Scott, and Chris Christie. She has advocated for for-profit charter schools and for-profit universities. She supports vouchers. She was honored along with Governor Scott Walker by the far-right American Federation for Children, which is passionate for vouchers and privatization of public schools.

What part of her agenda is bipartisan?

StudentsFirst and another far-right group called Tennessee Federation for Children are pumping huge amounts of money into state legislative races for candidates who support vouchers and charters.

Tennessee Federation for Children is affiliated with the pro-voucher organization called American Federation for Children, run by billionaire Betsy DeVos of Michigan. AFS honored Michelle Rhee and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin for their efforts on behalf of vouchers in 2010.

This report in the Tessessean says:

The Tennessee PAC affiliated with StudentsFirst, a Sacramento, Calif.-based organization led by former Washington, D.C., Chancellor of Schools Michelle Rhee, has pumped $376,266 into Tennessee this year. That sum includes contributions to a handful of local school board contenders in Nashville and Memphis but far more to candidates seeking state legislative seats. Most of the recipients are Republicans.

StudentsFirst’s Tennessee PAC, formed last year, spent $66,150 in the Volunteer State over the past month alone, according to financial disclosures submitted last week.

During the same four-week time frame, a PAC called Tennessee Federation for Children, a branch of a Washington organization that expanded to Tennessee this spring, accounted for $145,302 in contributions and other expenditures. The group spent $248,539 in Tennessee altogether this year, with money going to direct mail efforts and to pro-voucher candidates.

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When I was in Chattanooga in September this year, a Democratic candidate told me that a campaign gift of $1,000 was considered huge, so you can imagine the power of this kind of money for conservative Republicans and a few rightwing Democrats.

This teacher in Wisconsin disagrees.

When your class sizes grow larger, it’s personal.

When the classroom lacks the resources it needs, it’s personal.

When this teacher’s family must make do with less, it’s personal.

When the governor takes advice from businessmen but not educators about how to fix schools, it’s personal.

It just isn’t personal for Governor Walker.

Wisconsin has a recall election on June 5. On that date, the voters of the state will decide whether they want Scott Walker to finish out his term or to leave Madison. There are also four Republican state senators on the same ballot.

This article in the New York Times magazine explains the issues and sets them into context. It shows that Scott Walker is an ideologue of the worst stripe. He has rammed through an extremist agenda. He is uncompromising. He wants to get rid of collective bargaining and privatize public education. In his rush to open the state for business, he wants to roll back environmental regulation. And that’s not all. Read the article and see just how far these guys will go to take American society back a century and to abandon any public responsibility for anything.

Scott Walker has the financing of the most reactionary elements in American politics. His policies seek to make corporate greed respectable.

As the article shows, the Wisconsin Idea once meant that legislation should help as many people as possible. The Scott Walker idea is that legislation should help corporations get richer.

For the first time in my life, I wish I were a resident of Wisconsin so I could cast my ballot on June 5 for anyone but Walker.

Diane

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