Jan Resseger spent her waking years as a warrior for social justice in her church. Now she writes a brilliant and thoughtful blog.

Her recent post made me reflect on the fact that groups like “Moms for Liberty” and “Parents Defending Education” create turmoil and chaos over the issue of the day (masking, vaccines, school closings, trans kids, books about race or gender identity), then use the issues and conflict they created to demand vouchers to send their kids to schools with like-minded parents.

These Astroturf groups are funded handsomely by the Walton Family Foundation, Charles Koch, Betsy DeVos, and other billionaires to act as shock troops for their paymasters.

Jan Resseger wrote recently:

I cannot even keep track of all the press coverage I have seen in the past couple of weeks about school privatization proposals under discussion in the state legislatures. And in almost all of the articles I read, the move to privatize schools is accompanied by descriptions of culture war fights about book banning, interference with curricular standards, and elimination of programs that encourage “diversity, equity, and inclusion” in public schools and public universities. I have a stack of very recent articles about Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Texas, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and New Hampshire, and I am sure I have missed others.

What is the cause of today’s attack on public schools and the kind of programming that many of us believe is essential to help our children live well in our diverse society?

In her Washington Post piece about a battle between two parent groups, Concerned Taxpayersand Support Education, in Mentor, Ohio——Hannah Natanson blames COVID for the controversy: COVID Changed Parents’ View of Schools—and Ignited the Education Culture Wars.

And in a powerful report from the Network for Public Education, Merchants of Deception, political scientist Maurice Cunningham identifies the role of Astroturf parents’ groups that present themselves as though they are a spontaneous welling up of parent outrage. Even though financial support for these groups is untraceable dark money, here is how Cunningham tracks evidence that these supposedly local groups are well connected from place to place and supported by powerful, far-right political interests: “First we should watch for groups that have “grown at a pace that only a corporation’s monetary resources could manage.” Then we should identify the group’s allies to “get a better idea of the real powers behind” the organization. Additionally: “We’ll use another tool to draw telling inferences about these fronts: identification of their key vendors, such as law firms, pollsters, and public relations firms, which we’ll see are often instruments of conservative… networks… Another recurring clue… is the ‘creation story.’ A new non-profit group bursts forth with some version of claiming that two or three moms began talking over what they see as problems in schools and resolve to start a nonprofit to take on the teachers’ unions, administration, or school board. By some form of miracle, they almost immediately receive hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars in funding from billionaires. Next, they find themselves gaining favorable coverage on right-wing media—Daily Caller, Breitbart, and Fox News…. ”

Of course both the disruption COVID thrust upon our communities and the use of parents by far-right groups trying to ban “WOKE” policies represent what many of us have been watching in the past couple of years. But on a deeper level, it is not a coincidence that the outrageous school board disruptions and the attempts by the far right to scrub the textbooks, and the legislatures considering parents’ bill of rights legislation also seem to be happening in places where slate lawmakers are also pushing vouchers, and not merely the old-fashioned tuition vouchers for private schools, but the new Education Savings Account universal programs to provide wider parental “freedom” and lack of oversight of the public dollars being diverted to these plans. These new vouchers are being designed to give parents the ultimate latitude in school choice—homeschooling and micro-schools where parents put their vouchers together to pay for a teacher for several families. Lack of regulation is a key ingredient in most of these plans. In every case the worldview underneath the proposals involves extreme individualism along with marketplace consumerism.

In her new book, The Teachers: A Year Inside America’s Most Vulnerable, Important Profession, Alexandra Robbins describes parents who view themselves and their children as the customers teachers must please: “At a candidate forum during the COVID pandemic, a Maryland school board member called students the ‘customers in our school system,’ as if teachers existed to satisfy students rather than to educate them… On a broader level, the student-as-customer attitude has contributed to a growing politicized movement pushing for parents to have authority over what is taught in schools.” (pp. 66-67) Believing your child is the client who must be pleased by services rendered is a very different conception of the parent-teacher relationship than believing that the teacher is a professional whose expertise and cooperation you can and should consult for guidance about your child’s education.

Please open the link and read the remainder of this very important post.