Archives for category: Koch Brothers

A valuable website called “Unkoch My Campus” is offering a webinar where you can learn how to identify the tentacles of the Kochtopus.

Charles Koch and his late brother David
have subsidized anti-government, anti-public school policies and think tanks for decades. They underwrote the voucher campaign in Arizona and other states. They work closely with the DeVos family foundations to promote their views. The Koch’s have established centers to advocate libertarian ideas on more than 300 campuses. In the midst of the coronavirus crisis, we see how necessary it is to have a functioning federal government. At times of crisis, we understand that we need an effective public sector. The Koch movement has worked hard to reduce the ability of governments to protect their citizens.

This is a message from “Unkoch My Campus.”

We’re building a movement against the most intricate infrastructure of political influence in the country.

The bad news? This means having to track and expose hundreds of Koch-funded university programs, think-tanks, advocacy organizations, legislators, and judges working at the local, state, and federal levels. Yikes!

The good news? We can learn skills to make this work a little easier, and there are incredible researchers doing a lot of this work for us already!

To learn these skills, join our upcoming “Researching the Koch Network 101” webinar next Tuesday at 2pm ET!

Next week we’re bringing in David Armiak, Research Director at the Center for Media and Democracy, to teach us how to better incorporate opposition research into our campus and community-based campaigns. On this webinar, participants will:

Become more familiar with the universities, state-based think-tanks, advocacy organizations, and legislators involved in moving Koch’s agenda forward;

Learn about the research and resources that already exists to inform and deepen your local campaigns;

Receive an overview of basic opposition research skills experts use to conduct investigations and connect the dots;

Identify ways to leverage research produced by UnKoch’s partners to inform your grassroots base and escalate your local campaigns!

This webinar is designed with campus AND community advocates in mind. Whether you’re trying to kick Koch off of your campus or wanting to deepen your local or state-based advocacy by targeting Koch, this webinar is for you. Register to join us next Tuesday at 2pm ET!

In solidarity,

Samantha Parsons

Wendy Lecker is a civil rights lawyer who writes frequently for the Stamford (Connecticut) Advocate and is a regular contributor to the Hearst Connecticut Media Group.

Recently she wrote about Yale’s agreement to adopt Eli Broad’s school-wrecking “Broad Institute” in return for a donation of $100 million. The Broad Institute is a vanity project by a billionaire who readily admits he knows nothing about education but enjoys disrupting school districts because he can.

Lecker writes:

Wendy Lecker: Putting a price tag on public schools

When it comes to using one’s fortune to influence American policy, billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch stand out.
The Kochs have spent a fortune pushing American politics and policy to the right. Their secretive organization, Americans for Prosperity, is a major player in anti-labor activities, such as Wisconsin’s slashing of union rights, and fighting minimum wage increases nationwide. The Kochs poured money into the American Legislative Exchange Council (“ALEC”) a stealth lobby organization that writes bills that advance Koch industries’ interests specifically and the Koch’s extreme free market ideology in general, and then gets legislators all over the country to introduce them.
They have also donated millions of dollars to establish research centers at universities to push their brand of unregulated capitalism. They impose conditions and performance obligations on the donations, interfere in hiring decisions, and make curriculum and programming decisions. The Kochs often demand pre-approval of any public statements and include anti-transparency provisions in donor agreements. This research is then cited as the scholarly basis for Congressional decisions favoring the Kochs’ interests. The Kochs are proud of their integrated strategy to build a pipeline of influence. The president of the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation boasted that “(n)o one else has this infrastructure.”
Eli Broad, a billionaire who made his fortune through real estate and insurance, seeks to build a Koch-style infrastructure to push his education reform ideology. Broad recently announced that, with a $100 million donation, he is bringing his Broad Center to Yale’s School of Management (“SOM”).
The Broad Center trains school district leaders and those who seek to influence education policy. The center emphasizes applying business principles to running school districts and de-emphasizes education. In seeking candidates, the Broad Center prioritizes “a strong and direct alignment with specific (Broad Center) reform priorities” — which include school privatization and weakening labor protections. The Center openly aims to reshape American public education according to Broad’s ideology.
Eli Broad is a major player in some of the most aggressive — and controversial- education reform policies in America. Like the Kochs, Broad employs an integrated strategy of influence. For example, he bankrolled the education reform slate in the Los Angeles 2018 school board election. His star beneficiary, charter operator Ref Rodriguez, later resigned from the board and pled guilty to felony election fraud conspiracy. Broad also poured millions into Broad alumnus and charter operator Marshall Tuck’s 2018 unsuccessful campaign for California State Superintendent.
Broad used his money and influence to push the Education Achievement Authority (EAA) to run Detroit’s public schools. He provided significant funding and even summoned Broad alumnus and then Kansas City superintendent, John Covington, to be its first chancellor. Covington had wreaked havoc on Kansas City, firing hundreds of teachers and replacing them with inexperienced Teach for America members, and imposing other disruptive reforms. After his chaotic departure, Kansas City’s school district lost its accreditation. It then abandoned Covington’s reforms to regain its footing.
Covington left the EAA abruptly after charges of questionable spending, and the Broad Center hired him. The EAA was a devastating failure, plagued by financial mismanagement and abysmal academic failures.
A succession of Broad alumni ran Tennessee’s failed Achievement School District, which was also plagued by financial mismanagement and poor student achievement — worse than in schools under local district control.
Broad alumni were forced out of Seattle and Los Angeles amid financial impropriety, and Barbara Byrd Bennett, a Broad executive coach, is in federal prison after pleading guilty to a bribery scandal in which she engaged while head of Chicago Public Schools.
These scandals reflect poorly on Broad’s emphasis on applying business practices to school districts.
Much like the Koch’s foray into higher education, Broad’s move to SOM seems like an effort to profit from Yale’s name and perhaps sanitize the questionable track record of Broad alumni. Since Yale has no school of education — unlike other universities in New Haven — Broad’s interest is not to bolster any knowledge of how children can learn successfully.
In an effort to discern how much of the Koch playbook Broad is employing at Yale, I asked SOM about Broad’s involvement in the governance, curriculum, programming and hiring at SOM’s new center. After first indicating they would run these questions by SOM’s dean, SOM now fails to respond, despite my request for follow-up. Apparently, SOM’s Broad Center is adopting the Koch’s lack of transparency.
It is disturbing that a major university is helping enlarge the Broad pipeline, which has funneled scandal and upheaval across American public schools.
Wendy Lecker is a columnist for the Hearst Connecticut Media Group and is senior attorney at the Education Law Center.

The far-right Goldwater Institute has filed a lawsuit claiming that the state has no right to regulate how parents spend their voucher money, the money that is paid by taxpayers. Goldwater says that if the parents misspent the money, it should be refunded to parents so they can try again. The Goldwater Institute, along with the DeVos family and Charles Koch, have sponsored efforts to expand the voucher program to cover all students in the state. They began with the “camel’s nose” under the tent, offering vouchers for students with disabilities (who abandon their federally-protected rights when they go to private schools); then added students in foster care; then added students in “failing” public schools; then students on reservations; then students from military families. They won’t be satisfied until every student in the state gets a voucher to leave public schools for a private school.

The Arizona Republic reports:

The Goldwater Institute, a conservative think tank, has filed suit against the state Department of Education contending it doesn’t have the authority to enforce rules governing Arizona’s school voucher program.

The suit — which was filed in Maricopa County Superior Court and names the state attorney general as a defendant — alleges the Department of Education didn’t follow the state’s rule-making process when it created the ESA handbook, a set of rules that outlines the Empowerment Scholarship Account program. The ESA program grants parents money to send their children to private school.

The suit also contends the Department of Education does not have the authority to require that parents who have misspent ESA money reimburse the state for those funds. It is demanding the Department of Education instead put that misspent money back into parents’ accounts. 

Finally, the lawsuit claims the department has no right to make funding conditional on parents filing expense reports to document how they spent the taxpayer money. It calls the quarterly reports “cumbersome and time-consuming” and says as a result payments to participants are often late, breaching their contract and causing them to miss payments to private schools.

Under the ESA program, parents receive 90% of the state funding that would otherwise go to their local public school districts. Children in six categories, such as those with special needs, in foster care, from failing schools and others, are allowed to enroll in the program. 

The voucher money, loaded on debit cards, is intended to cover specific education expenses such as private- or religious-school tuition, home-school expenses and education-related therapies.

Dawn Penich-Thacker, spokeswoman for Save Our Schools Arizona, which has opposed expansion of the ESA program, said the suit is really about stripping power from Kathy Hoffman, the Democratic superintendent of public instruction elected in 2018.

“They (Goldwater) don’t want her having any say over it,” Penich-Thacker said. 

Parents have complained about the expense reports for years but Goldwater only now filed suit, Penich-Thacker said. 

Last year, two bills in the Arizona Legislature would have stripped oversight of the ESA program from Hoffman and given it to the Treasurer’s Office, which is overseen by Republican Kimberly Yee.

“Suddenly, this is when the school choice community is up in arms,” Penich-Thacker said. “Parents are saying this is happening since day one, but it took the election of 2018 for anything to actually become a problem.” 

The Goldwater Institute has been involved in shaping the ESA program since before the voucher program became law in 2011. 

The think tank was instrumental in writing the legislation that created the program. It was also deeply involved in the numerous expansions of the law, which were often copied from model legislation written by special interests.

It was a big backer of the universal voucher expansion that would have allowed all 1.1 million Arizona public school students to use public money to go to private school. The number of students receiving the funds would have been capped at 30,000. Voters overturned the voucher law in November 2018 by a vote of 65% to 35%.

Goldwater also has wielded an “iron-like grip level of influence” behind the scenes with the Department of Education, attempting to dictate how the program should be implemented and acting as if it retained ownership of the program.

Thomas Ultican recommends Kochland as far and away the best book of 2019.

He begins:

This may be the finest book thus far in the twenty-first century. Kochland; The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America is the second book by former agribusiness reporter for the Associated Press, Christopher Leonard. His first book, The Meat Racket; The Secret Takeover of America’s Food Business received rave reviews; however, Kochland is uniquely special. It is an economic history of America since 1967 that shows the deep changes in our economy that have given rise to a new kind of capitalism. Kochland is told through the lens of Koch Industries whose “annual revenue is larger than that of Facebook, Goldman Sachs, and US Steel combined.”

Leonard weaves an epic tale of brilliance, philosophical intransigence, greed and ruthlessness. Over almost 600 pages, this enjoyable read clearly elucidates many of the troubling outcomes from the last 50 years like the rolling blackouts in California and the destruction of the labor movement.

Fred Koch, the family patriarch, graduated in Chemical Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1922. In 1927, he won a patent for an improved petroleum refining process. Do to legal issues surrounding his patent, Fred ended up working in Stalin’s Russia between 1929 and 1932. This experience informed his extreme anti-communist views. He later joined with Robert Welch and a group of businessmen to establish the virulently anti-communist John Birch Society. In 1960, he published the pamphlet “A Businessman Looks at Communism” in which he claimed that the National Education Association was a communist front organization and that public school books were filled with pro-communist propaganda.

In 1961 Fred convinced his son Charles to leave his new job at Arthur D. Little, Inc. and come back to Wichita to work for the family business. Charles went to work there after an impressive career at MIT earning a BS in general engineering 1957, an MS in nuclear engineering 1958 and an MS in Chemical Engineering 1960.

Kochland is also the story of Charles Koch. In 1966, after five years working for his father, he became the CEO of the company then known as Rock Island Oil & Refining Company. After his father Fred died in 1967, Charles took a disparate set of assets – a cattle ranch, a minority share in an oil refinery and a gas gathering business – and stitched them together into the company the family renamed Koch Industries as a tribute to their father. Today it is the second largest privately held corporation in the world. Largest.org lists Cargill, the corporation headquartered in Minnesota and founded in 1865, as the world’s largest privately held company with revenue of $114.7 billion. Koch Industries revenue for the same year came in at $110 billion.

Charles Koch is today worth more than $60 billion, as is his brother’s widow, Julia Flesher Koch.

Couldn’t they just enjoy their riches and leave our institutions and our lives alone?

Why crush democratic institutions like public schools, on which the vast majority of children and families depend?

 

 

 

 

The Walton Family Foundation and the Charles Koch Foundation are joining forces to fund disruptive innovations. Both foundations are hostile to democratically governed public schools. Both have supported charter schools and vouchers.

Philanthropic groups associated with billionaire businessman and activist Charles Koch have announced two initiatives to deepen their involvement in K-12 education. 

One initiative is Yes Every Kid, a group that intends to find common ground between groups that typically have disagreed vehemently over issues such as labor protections and school funding. It’s a social-welfare organization—a 501(c)4 in the language of the Internal Revenue Service—that will be able to take part in lobbying and political campaign work such as promoting ballot measures and committees. It will operate under the umbrella of Stand Together, a nonprofit group backed by Koch that promotes anti-poverty efforts.

The other initiative is an agreement between the Charles Koch Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation for each group to donate $5 million to what’s essentially a Silicon Valley-style incubator for education called 4.0 Schools. This group will use that $10 million donation, and another $5 million from other donors, to seed “500 new schools, programs and education tools across the country,” according to a statement from the Koch and Walton foundations. Among its activities, the Walton Family Foundation supports charter schools and private school choice programs. (The Walton Family Foundation provides grant support for coverage of parent-engagement issues, including charters and school choice, in Education Week.)

Charles Koch, along with his brother David, have long been associated with conservative political causes through groups such as Americans for Prosperity. And for some time, the Koch brothers have been some of the biggest antagonists for Democrats and liberal groups, including teachers’ unions. In January, the Koch donor network announced plans to get more involved in K-12 education. At that meeting of the Seminar Network, a Koch-backed organization, the group said it was interested in promoting personalized learning, improving schools, and working “alongside” teachers. 

The billionaires are restless. They are worried. Nothing they have done or funded has succeeded. The Red4Ed movement has put them on the defensive. The backlash against charters has shocked them (the billionaire Waltons claim credit for launching one of every four charters in the nation). The all-charter New Orleans District, where half the schools were rated D or F by the state, is a disappointment. The Koch Network was walloped last year by parent and teacher activists in Arizona, who blocked voucher expansion.

All the billionaires have is money. Endless money. The Waltons increase their wealth by $4 million AN HOUR. so they are putting up about 2 and 1/2 hours of revenue for this new venture. They can’t be serious. They are just producing disruption, sowing chaos, creating jobs for their followers. Keep your eyes on them and Mr. Koch.

In her latest post, Nancy Bailey draws a contrast between a summit of fake education leaders and the summit that actual teachers reach when they teach their students and fight for their students and their schools.

Bailey describes the pseudo summit taking place in San Diego, where people who have never taught discuss how to reinvent education for fun and profit.

Read her list at the end of her post. It is a who’s who of the Disruption Industry, assembled in one place to celebrate themselves and the damage they have done to schools, students, and teachers across the nation.

 

Bailey writes:

Today’s National Summit On Education Reform meeting is a nightmare for teachers and parents. It involves those who want to replace democratic public schools with technology, ending schools and teaching as we know it. They will have children sitting in front of screens for instruction in warehouse charters, or at home all day.

Most of these self-acclaimed experts have not struggled to teach in gritty, overcrowded classes. They have not wiped runny noses or dealt with the trauma that some children bring to school. They never had to work towards unproven curriculum standards through Common Core. Nor have they had to face the reforms that, ironically, they and their ilk created.

They blame teachers for what goes wrong in schools due to their own back ass policies, but they’ll step up and take credit for anything that goes right!

You won’t find them on the streets of their cities fighting for the needs of children and a profession that nurtures those children. These individuals are above all that.

Florida Governor Jeb Bush leads the summit. As an American citizen Bush has every right to speak out about schools, but he doesn’t have the right to own them. Bush, whose educational background is in real estate and Latin studies, has leveled accusations against schools without doing due diligence to help students. His 3rd grade retention plan is a failed idea, but no one seems to have the power to end it, so children still are hurt by it.

Bush has been against schools and teachers every step of the way. When he had the chance to improve class sizes in the 90s, he hated the idea so much he was caught saying he had a “devious plan to end it.” Think what it would have meant if he’d studied the issue and been supportive of teachers, even negotiated.

What if he’d said, we can’t afford to lower all classes, so let’s lower class size in K-3rd grade when children are learning to read. But Bush didn’t want that. Look at life in Florida and the country now, a mix of underfunded public schools and unproven charters, and vouchers to questionable schools.

Please open the link and read it to the end.

Gay Adelmann, the mother of a recent graduate of the Jefferson County Public Schools, writes here to explain why voters in Kentucky should get rid of Matt Bevin and elect Andy Beshear as Governor.

She writes:

“During Kentucky’s past two legislative sessions, Gov. Matt Bevin lashed out at the record numbers of teachers descending upon Frankfort. But teachers are not the only ones who have been showing up in opposition to his attacks on public education. Many of us are also parents, retired teachers, students, business and community leaders, allied laborers and taxpayers. Our teachers are also taxpayers and often parents, after all. 

“We aren’t just standing up for teachers’ pay or pensions, either. We are also pushing back on Bevin’s draconian education policies, inspired by wealthy elites like the Koch Brothers and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. His solutions involve implementing the American Legislative Exchange Council’s carefully orchestrated schemes to underfund and undermine Kentucky’s public schools, turn our “persistently low-achieving” schools over to outside operators and drastically cut teacher compensation and benefits. This will not only destroy our public schools, it will further displace students (especially our “gap” students), and disenfranchise families across this commonwealth. Unfortunately, this austerity experiment comes at the expense of our community’s most vulnerable children and on Jefferson County taxpayers’ dime…

“Shortly after the 2015 election, Bevin declared, “We’re going to bring charter schools to Kentucky, and we’re going to start in west Louisville.” As a parent of a student in a “low-performing” West End school, this statement set off alarm bells for me. You see, my son’s school has long been the target of charter school wannabes. The entire time my son was in the aviation magnet at The Academy @ Shawnee, our building leaders and teachers lived under Jefferson County Public Schools’ former superintendent’s constant threat of “state takeover.” This often resulted in one failed change-for-the-sake-of-change maneuver after another, further making Shawnee a sitting duck for charter school sharpshooters…

”As a parent and taxpayer, I’m asking Jefferson County voters to stand with other public school parents, teachers and taxpayers and say “no” to four more years of out-of-touch, destructive education policy from the Bevin administration. Vote for Andy Beshear on Nov. 5.”

 

 

 

 

Valerie Strauss writes here about an important new book about the Koch Empire and its desire to eliminate and privatize public schools. The book is “Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America,” by Christopher Leonard.

Strauss writes:

Early this year, the Koch network committed to starting an effort to transform public education. What would that look like?

The author of a new book on the billionaire Charles Koch and his late brother, David, says it would amount to the destruction of public education as we know it.

The Koch network is the influential assemblage of groups funded by billionaire industrialist Charles Koch and more than 600 wealthy individuals who share his pro-business, anti-regulation view of economics and positions on social policy, such as climate change denial.

The focus on K-12 education follows long involvement by the Koch brothers in higher education. As leaders of a conservative movement that believes U.S. higher education is controlled by liberals who indoctrinate young people, they spent as much as an estimated $100 million on programs at hundreds of colleges and universities that support their views…

In June, two Koch-related education initiatives were announced. One is a group called “Yes Every Kid,” which, its creators say, will bring together partisans in the education labor and funding debates to try to find solutions. The other is a project called 4.0 that commits the Charles Koch Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation to pledge $5 million each — along with $5 million from other donors — to support, according to a statement, “600 education entrepreneurs in incubating, testing and launching innovative approaches to education.” (The Walton foundation has long supported charter schools and other parts of the school choice movement.)

one thing is certain: the efforts of the Koch Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation are not doing it “for the kids.” By now, it a fact that kids in charters do not outperform their peers in public schools, and kidsin voucher schools get worse scores than their peers in public schools.

What do the billionaires want? Lower taxes. No unions. Powerless teachers. A free market where government has no role, and families compete for resources. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer, just like the economy. What we know about the market is that it produces a few winners and many losers. It does not produce equal educational opportunity.

This is an important, can’t-miss podcast about the malign plans of one of the richest men in the world.

Business reporter Christopher Leonard has written a best-selling new book called Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America.It’s an eye-opening account of how the Kochs built the private company that has made them richer than Bill Gates. Leonard spent seven years reporting the book, which gave him plenty of insight into what he describes as the Kochs’ fixation on dismantling public education. In a recent episode of the Have You Heard podcast with Jennifer Berkshire and Jack Schneider, Leonard was blunt about what the Kochs are after. “The ultimate goal is to dismantle the public education system entirely and replace it with a privately run education system. ” Leonard says don’t be fooled by the Koch’s sales pitch (like the Koch Network’s latest education venture, Yes Every Kid, headed by the VP of Communications for Koch Industries.) “There are going to be a lot of glossy marketing materials about opportunity, innovation, and efficiency. At its core though the Koch Network seeks to dismantle the public education system because they see it as destructive. So that is what’s the actual aim of this group. And don’t let them tell you anything different.”
You can listen to the entire interview here: https://soundcloud.com/haveyouheardpodcast/kochland

Steven Singer has written recently about the origins of charter schools. He insists that Albert Shanker, president of the AFT, was not their father.

The real fathers of this first big step towards privatization, he writes, were Ted Kolderie and Joe Nathan of Minnesota, who wrote the nation’s first charter school law and opened the door wide for entrepreneurs, grifters, and attacks on unions.

Singer is a flame-thrower in this post, because he has come to see that behind the “progressive” facade of charters lurks Betsy DeVos, the Walton Family, the Koch brothers, ALEC, and a galaxy of public school haters.

He begins:

If bad ideas can be said to have fathers, then charter schools have two.

And I’m not talking about greed and racism.

No, I mean two flesh and blood men who did more than any others to give this terrible idea life – Minnesota ideologues Ted Kolderie, 89, and Joe Nathan, 71.

In my article “Charter Schools Were Never a Good Idea. They Were a Corporate Plot All Along,” I wrote about Kolderie’s role but neglected to mention Nathan’s.

And of the two men, Nathan has actually commented on this blog.

He flamed on your humble narrator when I dared to say that charter schools and voucher schools are virtually identical.

I guess he didn’t like me connecting “liberal” charters with “conservative” vouchers. And in the years since, with Trump’s universally hated Billionaire Education Secretary Betsy Devos assuming the face of both regressive policies, he was right to fear the public relations nightmare for his brainchild, the charter school.

It’s kind of amazing that these two white men tried to convince scores of minorities that giving up self-governance of their children’s schools is in their own best interests, that children of color don’t need the same services white kids routinely get at their neighborhood public schools and that letting appointed bureaucrats decide whether your child actually gets to enroll in their school is somehow school choice!

But now that Nathan and Kolderie’s progeny policy initiative is waning in popularity, the NAACP and Black Lives Matter are calling for moratoriums on new charters and even progressive politicians are calling for legislative oversight, it’s important that people know exactly who is responsible for this monster.

And more than anyone else, that’s Kolderie and Nathan.

Over the last three decades, Nathan has made a career of sabotaging authentic public schools while pushing for school privatization.

He is director of the Center for School Change, a Minneapolis charter school cheerleading organization, that’s received at least $1,317,813 in grants to undermine neighborhood schools and replace them with fly-by-night privatized monstrosities.

He’s written extensively in newspapers around the country and nationwide magazines and Websites like the Huffington Post.

Read it all. Joe Nathan has frequently commented on this blog, defending charters as just a different kind of public school. I disagree vigorously because it is obvious by now that charters have become vehicles for busting unions (more than 90% are non-union), charters are more segregated than public schools (especially in Minnesota, where there are charters specifically for children of different ethnic and racial groups), and they remove democratic control in communities of color. The proliferation of corporate charter chains adds to their reputation as destroyers of democracy.

Bottom line is that Walton money, Koch money, DeVos money is not meant to advance public education but to eliminate it.

There is a reason that the Democratic candidates for president are distancing themselves from the charter idea. They understand that they can’t support the DeVos agenda. Betsy did us all a favor by removing the mask.