“Officials with the powerful political network led by conservative billionaire Charles Koch said Monday that they are promoting a state-level education strategy that they hope educators and teachers unions will support.
The Koch network is launching a new group next month that will focus on 15 million kindergarten through 12th-grade students in five unnamed states, chairman Brian Hooks said.”
The Associated Press on January 28 released a report entitled “Koch group touts education push on curriculum, technology” which begins with the above excerpt.
For most public school advocates in this state, the mention of wealthy out-of-state “donors” who want to help “reform” public education through providing curriculum and school options for families does not bode well. As a state that serves as a laboratory of business-minded school reforms prescribed by ALEC, it would not be hard to see NC as one of the states that will be targeted.
Add to that, it is the Koch bothers’ network who is spearheading this “initiative.”
If you know anything about the American Legislative Exchange Council, then you know of its toxic hold on policies on many fronts that advance a free-market approach and education is a foundational issue for them.
The Koch brothers have been large donors to ALEC and Koch Enterprises has been on the ALEC corporate board for at least two decades. Any initiative ALEC has probably has the Kochs’ fingerprints all over them.
And now they want to offer something “that they hope educators and teachers unions will support?”
The Koch brothers (and especially their father) are (were) NO FANS OF UNIONS or any semblance of a collective voice from educators. Looking further into that AP report, it becomes clear that it is more about advancing an ideology of school choice options.
“Longtime Koch network donor Frank Baxter, a former charter school executive in California, said he was thrilled the organization was digging into K-12 issues. He said private school scholarships, charter schools and online learning could be important avenues to reform failing schools.
“We’re just beginning to evolve to work on K-12 education and trying to promote good policy but also to again unleash entrepreneurial ideas throughout the community,” said Baxter, who is also a retired banking executive and former U.S. ambassador to Uruguay.
The Koch network said school choice will likely be one of a dozen or more priorities of the new initiative but said it’s too early to discuss its comprehensive policy agenda, which is a work in progress.”
“Unleash entrepreneurial ideas?” “Private school scholarships?” “Charter schools?” “Online learning?” “School choice?”
Translated that means using business models to “deform” public education and providing more vouchers and charter schools (both physical and virtual) run by for-profit companies at the expense of traditional public education funding.
It also means making the teaching profession look more like a conglomeration of contract jobs.
No, the AP report did not name North Carolina explicitly, but it is not a long stretch to see how easily North Carolina could be in line for such a “project” as NC has many connections with ALEC and with the Koch brothers personally.
For instance, there is Art Pope. From Duke Magazine on Nov. 14, 2013 in an article entitled “The Truth About Art Pope“:
“…and North Carolina’s chapter of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, a small-government organization cofounded by billionaire energy executives David and Charles Koch. (Pope, a friend of the Koch brothers, served as one of Americans for Prosperity’s national directors.) “
Furthermore, NC Rep. Jason Saine was named the 2018 National Chairman of ALEC and was helping to open yet another charter school called West Lake Preparatory school that is affiliated with Charter Schools USA.
It’s not ironic that Betsy DeVos is also associated with ALEC. From sourcewatch.com it is learned that DeVos has “bankrolled the 501 (c) (4) group the American Federation for Children, the 501 (c) (3) group Alliance for School Choice and by having these groups participate in and fund the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).”
And remember that Darrell Allison who served as president of the Parents For Educational Freedom in North Carolina for the past few years will now be a director in DeVos’s American Federation for Children. Allison still plans on being based in North Carolina.
Oh, Allison is also on the UNC Board of Governors.
Then take a look at our state superintendent, who is a champion of school choice.
All of those ties indicate that NC very well could be one of those five states targeted by this new Koch network initiative.
It is supposed to be launching next month. That’s February.
Isn’t that when Mark Johnson is supposedly hosting a privately held dinner and presentation to provide major announcements about public education?