This report appeared in the Washington Post yesterday and deserves a read from any and every public school advocate in the state.
One of the people who was quoted was Art Pope of North Carolina. Pope is well known for his endeavors in North Carolina and his establishment of the Civitas Institute and the endowment fund named for his father. His libertarian views are also well-known. He was quoted as saying,
“One reason the wealthy donors are so amenable to investing so much in education is alarm about the next generation. Recent polling shows younger people have a more favorable impression of socialism than capitalism. “The younger generation is less sympathetic and less understanding of limited government conservatism,” said Art Pope of North Carolina, a fixture of Koch meetings. “They’re more sympathetic or more willing to give not just social justice but outright socialism a chance. … It used to be you didn’t have to have a serious conversation about socialism in American politics. Now you do. So what is the appeal of that? How do you message?”
The angle seems to be that the Koch network wants to work with teachers and “unions” to better the educational outcomes for students.
This advocate does not believe that. Nothing in the Koch network’s past has ever given the impression that working with teachers and unions has been a priority. In fact, their track record has been the opposite: working against unions and supporting the privatization of public schools.
Some other interesting quotes from the Washington Post report include:
- “The announcement came Monday at the end of a three-day seminar where 634 donors who have each committed to contribute at least $100,000 annually to Koch-linked groups gathered under palm trees at a luxury resort in the Coachella Valley.” (That’s over $63 million a year).
- “Families are getting more and more comfortable with experimenting and taking risks,” she said on the sidelines of the meeting. “Education should be getting way, way better and way, way cheaper, but the opposite is happening.” (Cheaper?)
- “Berner points to examples such as the Netherlands, which funds 36 different types of schools, from Islamic to Jewish Orthodox to socialist,” the Charles Koch Foundation notes in a summary of her work. “Alberta, Canada, funds homeschooling along with Inuit, Jewish, and secular schools. In Australia, the central government is the nation’s top funder of independent schools. Other countries with plural school systems include Denmark, Finland, Germany, and Sweden.” (So, could we say the same thing about healthcare considering NC refused to expand Medicaid?)
- “We’ve got to start supporting politicians who are willing to make compromises. Americans are tired of the battles between charters and district schools; these take up too much energy and resources. A pluralistic system doesn’t pit entire sectors against one another.” (Interesting that NC passed its last budget through a nuclear option and still has extremely gerrymandered districts.)
Simply put, the Koch network will have to do a lot more than offer platitudes and well wishes to convince me that they really want to work WITH veteran teachers and organizations such as NCAE.