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Est. April 5, 2002
June 23, 2016 - Issue 659

The Cartel for Corporate Reform’s
“Ratf**king" of Public Education
1990 to the Present

"In recent years, the Cartel has targeted
middle-class suburban districts for corporate
charters as they view them as yielding greater
profits to be raped and pillaged. Additionally,
it has undertaken other strategies to fast track
public school privatization."

Update: Members of Rev. Jevon Caldwell-Gross’ A.M.E. church congregation (he was recently appointed to the Montclair, NJ School Board by Mayor Robert Jackson) are preparing a complaint for the Bishop of the church’s district to complain about his participation in the privatization of Montclair Public Schools under the church’s banner. Meanwhile, Essex County Executive, Joe DiVincenzo, bragged in a meeting last week that he had leverage over the Mayor of Montclair, who is on his payroll, in his attempt to aid his colleagues in establishing a charter school in the city.

According to David Daley in his just published book, Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America's Democracy, the Cartel began Ratfucking the nation in earnest in 2009 via “… a dirty deed done on the cheap.” That is, with an initial political campaign budget of $30 million, it elected Republican governors (Chris Christie in New Jersey and Bob McDonnell in Virginia), and a host of state legislators, mayors, county commissioners, and school board members in subsequent years. In this assault against democracy, public education was a primary target as the Cartel and its allies began to recognize that K-12 education could become its newest profit center.

Earlier on March 22, 1990, the Bradley Foundation laid down the modern-day infrastructure for school privatization with its support of the Wisconsin legislature’s passage of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Plan (publicly-funded, private school vouchers). With an expenditure of $4 million in contributions to minority churches and grassroots leaders, and high-paid lobbyists, Bradley created the first publicly-funded school vouchers since southern legislators formed segregated private school academies for white students as a response to the 1954 Brown v. Broad Decision.

After the success in Wisconsin, the initiative spread to Cleveland, Ohio and the state of Florida, and the school choice template spread to state legislatures across the nation. In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionality of school vouchers with its Zelman v. Simmons-Harris decision. In January 2004, the U.S. Congress passed the first federal voucher bill for Washington, D.C. late in the evening by one vote, that of Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) member, Rep. Harold Ford, Jr., while the rest of the CBC was in Baltimore, Maryland co-hosting a democratic presidential debate at the historically black Morgan State University with Fox News.

In 2005, while voucher legislation was continuing to crisscross the nation, Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, and then President George W. Bush, backed by the Cartel, took full advantage of the opportunity. While the nation was in shock over the death and carnage accompanying Katrina, President Bush signed a recovery bill that allowed for vouchers and charter schools to be established in Katrina-impacted areas in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. As a consequence, New Orleans became inundated with voucher and charter schools which have resulted in only five traditional public schools remaining in the city.

As corporate education reform escalated, beginning in 2009, the Cartel turned its focus toward the creation of corporately-managed charter schools since the per-pupil capitation for charter schools was substantially higher than it was for voucher schools. Also in that same year, the Koch Bros., key leaders of the Cartel, invited Justices’ Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas to their semi-annual retreat in Palm Springs, California where they held seminars on legislation and litigation that would advance their agenda. (Their expenses were paid by the Federalist Society that is funded by the Koch Bros. and its Cartel allies.)

Justices’ Scalia and Thomas indirectly discussed the elements of the Citizens United case which was before the U.S. Supreme Court. It was an argument against restrictions on political contributions by for-profit corporations, labor unions, and other associations. A year later (2010), the Justices were two of the five votes that affirmed financial freedom of speech for corporations. The decision unleashed billions of corporate dollars for political donations to conservative candidates at every level in time for the midterm elections.

This funding placed school privatization efforts on steroids at the local, state, and national levels. The Republicans gained the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and in the majority of state legislatures. The latter victories enabled governments to redraw election districts to ensure that Republicans maintained their majorities at state and Congressional levels, hopefully until 2020, the next time the districts would be drawn.

Now that the Cartel had its governors, state legislators, city council members, school board members, clergy members, grassroots leaders, and President Barack Obama, whom they were able to strike a deal with (in exchange for hundreds of millions of dollars in contributions to his 2008 campaign) to pass Race to the Top (RTTT) through a Democratically-controlled U.S. House and Senate in 2009. It enhanced the system for the current dismantling of public education.

In recent years, the Cartel has targeted middle-class suburban districts for corporate charters as they view them as yielding greater profits to be raped and pillaged. Additionally, it has undertaken other strategies to fast track public school privatization. For example, Cartel-backed elected officials and operatives have engaged in the following actions since 2008:

  • James O’Keefe, a Cartel dirty tricks operative, has been active in: undermining pro-democratic and public education advocates via a series of attacks on teacher unions; “blowing up” an effective get-out-the-vote organization for Democratic candidates (ACORN), which was instrumental in the election of Obama in 2008; and an attack on Planned Parenthood for allegedly selling body parts of aborted babies;

  • New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie, whom the Cartel has funded through two gubernatorial elections and a 2016 presidential run, has proposed legislation to equalize funding between all state school districts as a way to further disadvantage low-wealth districts to make it easier for corporate charters to take them over as parents become desperate for more resources to fund teachers and services and upgrade decaying school facilities; and

  • The Cartel-funded, Republican-controlled North Carolina legislature and Republican governor are currently promoting a bill that would force poor counties to lease school buildings built by construction industry executives, who actually wrote the bill.

These are but a few of the tactics being employed by Cartel surrogates who are pressing these plans in the last year of the Obama administration while they have their people in place. The Cartel is insistent on getting the maximum return on its investment to implement its anti-democratic and privatization agenda. The nation and public schools are being “Ratf**ked!”

links to all 20 parts of the opening series Columnist, Dr. Walter C. Farrell, Jr., PhD, MSPH, is a Fellow of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado-Boulder and has written widely on vouchers, charter schools, and public school privatization. He has appeared on the Today Show with Matt Lauer and National Public Radio’s The Connection to discuss public school privatization, and he has lectured to parent, teacher, and union groups throughout the nation. Contact Dr. Farrell. 




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