Maurice Cunningham is a professor political science at the University of Massachusetts who has developed a unique talent for exposing the workings of Dark Money in education. The usual source of Dark Money is the multi-billionaire Walton Family, but they are not alone. In this post, he reviews the remarkable story told by the media in Rhode Island. A group of ordinary moms got together to demand charter schools. They set up a website and commissioned a poll done by President Biden’s pollster. Where did the money come from? The media forgot to ask that question. The media’s lack of curiosity about the funding behind this group of moms is curious.

On February 25, five “frustrated mothers” organized to raise money for their passion: charter schools.

What we see here is quite common, a front purporting to be parents but actually funded and acting for wealthy privatization interests. In Massachusetts, Massachusetts Parents United claims to have been founded in 2017 by three moms in a library. From 2017-2019 MPU and its allied 501(c)(4) took in over $3.3 million (actually more, for technical reasons I won’t get into) and about half of that came from the Walton Family Foundation. The organization’s “mom-in-chief” paid herself just short of $400,000 in 2018-19. In 2020 the same mom founded the National Parents Union, which is not national, not parents, and not a union. But it is a money pit. Its financial backers include the Waltons, Charles Koch, and a boatload of America’s wealthiest oligarchs.

And you’ll never guess! But advocacy through polling is a major component of National Parents Union’s marketing strategy.

The story Golocalprov fell for is one of scrappy moms facing off against hidebound unions. But the real story is corporate and oligarchic interests masquerading behind parents versus teachers and the very notion of the public good.

Let’s hope that Maurice Cunningham is able to stir the Rhode Island news media to dig deeper and find out whose money is shaping the attack on the public schools of Providence.