Monday, April 22, 2013

Report: Bradley Foundation Spent $31 Million To Privatize Education...But Why?

Our friends at One Wisconsin Now did a fairly comprehensive report on the efforts of the Bradley Foundation, the same people that brought us racist billboards and corrupt governors, to privatize education in Wisconsin.

Among their key findings are:

  • The Bradley Foundation, headed by Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign co-chair Michael Grebe has underwritten a massive pro-privatization propaganda campaign.
  • Bradley has spent over $31 million since 2001 supporting organizations promoting education privatization, academics providing favorable pro-privatization pseudo-science, media personalities promoting the privatization agenda and lobbying organizations advocating for privatization legislation.
  • The Bradley-financed campaign has manufactured an education “crisis”, proposed a “solution”, attacked and undermined the ability of potential opponents to block their agenda and funded aggressive pro-privatization media and lobbying efforts.
  • Spending on the voucher program in Gov. Walker’s 2013-15 proposed budget would increase a whopping 32%.
  • The voucher program would be expanded to at least nine new urban school districts under Gov. Walker’s proposed 2013-15 budget.
  • Wisconsin taxpayers will have spent $1.8 billion on the private school voucher program by 2014-15.
  •  These organizations will provide Gov. Walker with the right-wing education “reform” credibility he needs to pursue his national political ambitions.
The findings were significant enough that even the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel was forced to cover the story.

But as I said, OWN did a fairly comprehensive report.  Every good report will have six components: who, what, where, when, how and why.

The hit five of the six:
  • Who: Bradley Foundation
  • What: Promoted an education privatization agenda
  • Where: In Wisconsin
  • When: The report covers the last 12 years
  • How: By buying politicians and false media sources (propagandists) to support education privatization
What is missing is the why?

One might argue the obvious reason being that the corporate special interests, like the Bradley Foundation want to profiteer off of the billions spent on education.  One would be correct to do so. In fact, this was made obvious in a report done by Barbara Miner in 1995:
Lowe and Dee point out that The Bell Curve and the Bradley Foundation share a broader ideological perspective; both posit that the social problems facing this country are not related to structural issues of poverty, declining wages, racism, and discrimination, but rest in the behavior and abilities of individuals. As Lowe says:
What The Bell Curve makes clear is that the foundation's agenda is not so much to get the government off the backs of the people, but to get the redistributive government off the backs of the well-to-do.
Dee argues that The Bell Curve and the voucher movement represent an acceleration of the redistribution of wealth that began under former President Reagan:
Reagan stood Robin Hood on his head, and through tax and spending policies allowed the rich to become richer at the expense of the middle class and poor. Now we have a rationalization for it all. The rich are smart and the poor are dumb, and it's in the genes. There's nothing we can do about it but get the government out of the way and allow things to develop according to their biological destiny.
One might also accurately argue that this is about control. By controlling education, they can control the messaging even better, brainwashing our children even before they get to be of voting age. OWN does point out that they are using this to give Scott Walker, the most anti-education governor in state history, national credibility as he pursues his presidential bid.

Alas, I'm afraid that there might be one more thing on their list of goals when it comes to privatization of schools. This third goal is again in Miner's article about The Bell Curve, a propaganda report on school privatization which the Bradley Foundation paid $1 million to have written:
The Bell Curve's key educational policy recommendation dovetails with the Bradley Foundation's top education priority: support for school choice, including public funds for private and religious schools. This bolsters the case of those who argue that despite the rhetoric of choice, many voucher advocates have abandoned the vision of a quality education for all children. Says Robert Lowe, associate professor at National Louis University and an editor of the journal Rethinking Schools:
The Bell Curve is a smoking gun. It maintains that the poor—including the majority of African Americans—are generally incapable of benefiting from education....
C.J. Prentiss, an Ohio legislator (Independent/Democrat) who has been active in the African-American community opposing vouchers, also notes that voucher advocates have tried to win converts by arguing that vouchers would improve educational opportunities for the poor:
You have to be suspicious of someone who argues that on the one hand, African Americans are dumber than whites, and then, on the other, comes into the Black community and says, `We are going to make you as bright as you can be, here are some vouchers.... I believe vouchers are simply a way to dismantle public schools and use tax dollars to fund an elitist private school system. But voucher advocates know it would be suicide to say that openly.
The reasoning for the Bradley Foundation's urging to exploit African American children could be worthy of another post. One reason might be the inherent racism that is still all too prevalent in out country.

More likely, it's the same reason that the Bradley Foundation funded the racist billboards in the last two major elections. African Americans have a greater likelihood of voting Democratic rather than Republican. Instead of doing the right thing and supporting equality for all people, regardless of race, the Bradley Foundation would rather simply make it more difficult for African Americans to vote or to have the skill of critical thinking in deciding who to vote for.

Regardless of what their rationale for attacking the education system is, the one consistent fact is that we must stop this malfeasance from spreading any further.


  1. Why do wealthy conservatives hate middle and lower class Americans? Don't they have enough money already? Why can't they allow us to have good public education, as Thomas Jefferson wanted, so we can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps into better economic conditions? Plus the nation's economy will also benefit from a prosperous middle class, as it once did.

    1. They hate a prosperous middle class because then they'd have to work hard to stay in the high status they inherited. That won't do. It's much easier to pay off politicians and keep the masses limited so they can stay on top.

      And that's what this whole Bradley scheme is about. Having the power to control what's being taught in privatized schools, and getting the MONEY AND PROFITS from these cheap, unaccountable schools. These people don't care one bit about the quality of education, and in fact, would prefer it to go down, since it makes for more low-wage workers that they can exploit and steal more profits from

  2. A stupid citizen doesn't ask questions. They just follow like lemmings.

    Voting election after election against their own best interests.

    Stupid is as stupid does. To paraphrase Forest Gump.

  3. If you haven't there is a nice report from the Department of Education about the failings of charter schools.

    1. Did Not Conduct Effective Oversight of Grantees Receiving the SEA and Non-SEA Grant
    2. OII’s Process for Ensuring SEAs Effectively Oversee and Monitor Subgrantees Needs Improvement
    3. OII Did Not Ensure SEAs Have Adequate Monitoring Procedures for Handling a Charter School Closure

    Basically it's a report full of the missing financial accountability of charter schools in 3 states. We are giving tax payer money to places that are not fully disclosing what they are doing with it. Places like Rocketship that are coming to Milwaukee, send part of OUR money back to Arizona yearly and Milwaukee greed to this foolishness.

  4. Conservatives frequently suggest that raising taxes on the wealthy hurts the middle class as the well-to-do, unwilling to take a hit, will simply pass along the cost to the consumer. At it's most basic level, this is true. But it's also true of all the donations to right-wing causes. That $31M may at first glance appear to come out of the pockets of a few rich individuals, but are possible only because the products their corporate identities produce have been overpriced by that same amount. But since the money comes from a shell non-profit, it need not be identified clearly as a line on the expense report.

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