Who are the forces behind the big School Choice, Voucher, Education Savings Accounts movement?
How much time do you have? The list has many of the usual suspects, but as usual, it does get convoluted. Everyday now, we see a new article posted on social media, political mailers are showing up in mailboxes across Colorado, and legislation was introduced, and passed in Colorado this past session, under the guise of equitable funding for charters.
“Led by the organization’s political arm, Americans for Prosperity, the Kochs declared the state legislative sessions in 2017 as the network’s most successful ever. In Colorado, conservatives highlighted victories in equalizing state spending on charter schools and defeating a major tax hike to improve the state’s crumbling roads.”
The “equalized spending for charter schools” legislation they are referring to was HB1375. It shouldn’t take much for those of us who are true public education supporters to know, if AFP was lauding the passing of HB1375 as a success, something was seriously wrong with the bill.
We (SJK) strongly opposed HB1375, and encouraged our legislators to do the same.
With the funding so short for education in Colorado and with Jeffco not making a significant investment in our schools for the past 13 years, funding is especially crucial in Jeffco. Now, HB1375 passed (which was really just a dressed up SB61, which we opposed) and is being called a “compromise” which we believe couldn’t be further from the truth. In all honesty, it diverts funding from some of our neediest and most neglected populations in other areas of the state. http://www.supportjeffcokids.org/hb1375-results-and-thanks/
There were a few legislators who listened to us, but unfortunately, too many were persuaded to “compromise” to make things “easier.” A big reality check is coming for many of those legislators, we fear, for now their “compromise” is seen as bending to AFP’s influence. Don’t be mistaken, DFER (Democrats for Education Reform) played a significant role in lobbying and strongly influencing many of our House Representatives to support HB1375; there were many cooks involved in this soup with the exception of broad parental voices. It opens lots of doors and may make for many more opportunities for both AFP and DFER to push vouchers, Education Savings Accounts (ESA), Back Pack funding, Tax Credits, “Scholarships” (there’s a long list of names for vouchers)– all under the guise of “School Choice”.
Most recently, it was announced AFP (Americans for Prosperity/Koch) would be spending $200,000 in Colorado alone, on promoting (their version) of “school choice” and that’s just what was uncovered. Many residents in the DougCo and some parts of Jeffco areas have even received campaign-like mailers supporting charters. AFP/Koch has even sent out campaign-like mailers thanking those legislators (both Democrats and Republicans) who supported HB1375. (We’ll say it again, if AFP is supporting it…)
Voucher supporters have been working hard for years to make a case for why vouchers are good including now referring to them as a “school choice”, as seen in this article. A “study” to claim it promotes economic development – we think this is sort of like Philip Morris (cigarette manufacturer) sponsoring a study to support their claims: “… the Iqos — produces 90-95% less harmful chemicals than traditional cigarettes” (http://www.businessinsider.com/philip-morris-e-cigarette-2016-11).
School Choice Erroneously Proposed as Way to Promote Economic Development
We strongly encourage you to know the sources. Check out the organizations sponsoring these reports!
CPR – Community Protection and Revitalization
CPR Scholarships: Using Private School Choice to Attack Concentrated Poverty, Crime, and Unemployment, by Bartley R. Danielsen, published by American Enterprise Institute
Renewing Our Cities: A Case Study on School Choice’s Role in Urban Renewal, by Bartley R. Danielsen, David M. Harrison, and Jing Zhao, published by EdChoice,
The American Enterprise Institute’s website lists its trustees, including:
Dick Devos, Trustee
Peter H. Coors, Trustee
Other members are listed as members of the Heritage Foundation and Charles Koch Institute.
EdChoice “Is the intellectual legacy of Milton and Rose D. Friedman, who founded the organization in 1996 as the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. “
As we consider the heavy push the last couple of years, by these organizations and individuals (and legislators) along with AFP, ALEC (https://www.alec.org/article/choice-counts-education-director-documents-success-of-charter-schools-education-savings-accounts/), and DFER (“We support mechanisms that allow parents to select excellent schools for their children, and where education dollars follow each child to their school.” https://dfer.org/about-us/what-we-stand-for/) to laud the benefits of vouchers, education savings accounts and their version of school choice, we suggest thinking of it in much the same way as the cigarette industry’s efforts to woo people about the great choices and benefits of what their industry was offering:
“When you buy an e-cig cartridge, you can get differing amounts of nicotine (or none at all). You can also purchase flavored liquids such as chocolate, strawberry, and mint.”
Vouchers, ESA’s and these other “choices” won’t kill our kids, but they will certainly kill public education and equity for all children.