Very simply, the ballot measure to lift the cap on charter schools is all about Republican efforts to privatize public schools. Remember George W. Bush’s failed attempt to privatize Social Security early in his second term? Well, raising the charter school cap is the latest bamboozlepalooza by the GOP, and it deserves the same fate – a “No” vote on Nov. 8.
Bush’s move on Social Security was motivated by Wall Street’s desire to get its greedy hands on all those dollars from working men and women that flow each payday into Social Security. Having failed at that, Republicans are now drooling over the half-trillion dollars flowing from the same hard working men and women into local schools each year, and they want as much of that as they can get, even here in Massachusetts. Their long-term goal is privatization of our schools. All the rest is noise.
It’s not surprising that our “moderate” Republican Governor Baker is banging the drum loudly to lift the cap. You see, for many years Governor Baker was the executive director of the Boston-based Pioneer Institute, which is a prime beneficiary of Koch brothers’ largesse. And as Deep Throat told Woodward and Bernstein during Watergate, if you want to understand what’s going on, “follow the money.”
According to the Center for Media and Democracy – and the Pioneer Institute’s own public disclosures – the Koch connection has given Pioneer roughly a $1 million dollars to further its right-wing agenda, which includes expanding charter schools. With Governor Baker leading the charge, the Pioneer Institute is very influential, but they aren’t alone. Indeed, a mysterious group called Great Schools Massachusetts purchased $2.3 million in television ads during last summer’s Olympics to push for more charter schools. According Maurice Cunningham of WGBH in Boston, the top five contributors to the group are: Great Schools for Massachusetts; Education Reform Now Advocacy; Expanding Educational Opportunities; Families for Excellent Schools-Advocacy; and Strong Economy for Growth.
Don’t recognize these groups? Neither does anyone else. In fact, it’s almost impossible to know exactly who provides this “dark” money, but the Center for Media and Democracy reports that their boards consist almost entirely of “Wall Streeters who made their fortunes through financial groups and hedge funds.”
According to New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, “There is no requirement that the names of these entities reflect their actual purpose or interests, and many use generic or even misleading names that obscure the nature of their funding.” The Brennan Center also noted that the politically clever operatives behind these organizations use positive sounding local names to hide the true source of the money. If that source were known, voters would consider that information and be less likely to respond positively to the ads.
That’s why we have the oxymoronically named Public Charter Schools for MA, a proponent of lifting the state’s cap on charter schools, purchasing $6.5 million in advertising for the seven weeks leading up to the election, according to Politico Massachusetts. And who did that group hire to create those misleading ads? It was none other the same people who brought us the anti-John Kerry Swiftboat ads in 2004 … and four more years of George W. Bush and his Social Security bamboozlepalooza!
As Christopher Martell, a professor of social studies education at Boston University, sums it up, “This ballot question is being pushed by well-funded special interest groups (who do not have to reveal their donors and many are from outside Massachusetts with no previous advocacy work for public education), who would like to see more private entities running public schools.” Further, says Martell, “Many of these special interest groups are supported by wealthy families (who do not typically have children in the public schools) and investors (who profit from investments in charter school companies and other attempts to privatize public education). If you believe that public education is essential for democracy, then this should raise serious concerns.”
“This is our campaign finance farce-ocracy at work,” says WGBH’s Cunningham, “and it’s dark.” But it makes grabbing a big chunk of our already inadequate school funding even easier. Please vote “No” on raising the charter school cap. Enough is enough.