Privatizing our schools
Just Like Michelle Rhee's Students first only BETTER
Astroturf lobbying refers to political organizations or campaigns that appear to be made up of grassroots activists but are actually organized and run by corporate interests seeking to further their own agendas. Such groups are often typified by innocent-sounding names that have been chosen specifically to disguise the group's true backers
Several NC news outlets recently ran a guest editorial from Darrell Allison, president of Parents for Education Freedom in North Carolina, indicating that there is a grass roots parent revolution demanding vouchers and charter schools as “schooling-choice options,” particularly for low-income families.
Factual examination reveals no parent revolution that ordinary families are leading. Three organizations, Parents for Education Freedom in North Carolina (PEFNC), Partners for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, and North Carolina Citizens for Freedom in Education Independent Expenditure PAC, lead the school privatization movement in NC. They share the same Raleigh address and have overlapping staff.
PEFNC is a nonprofit established in 2005 to advocate for public school privatization and charter school expansion, funding derived from the Walton Family Foundation, according to tax documents. Tax records show Allison received $107,889 for his work running the non-profit in 2010, $156,582 in 2012, and $167,085 in 2013. The NC Governor’s salary is $142,265 and State Superintendent of Public Instruction earns $125,676. In 2015, HB 535 proposed allocating $1 million a year to PEFNC to distribute taxpayer dollars to new charter schools in our state. Giving an independent nonprofit the discretion of allocating tax dollars without public oversight did not make the final budget but is expected to rise again.
Partners for Education Freedom in NC (PEFNC2) is a “social welfare” nonprofit. Allison is also president of PEFNC2. 2013 revenue was $500,000, all of it from American Federation for Children, a Washington, D.C. nonprofit that advocates for school privatization. PEFNC2 manages a political action committee that makes contributions to NC candidates for state office. All four members of PEFNC2 serve on the board of PEFNC. PEFNC2 pays for lobbyists, political contributions, TV and radio ads, and outreach to promote vouchers and charter schools.
North Carolina Citizens for Freedom in Education Independent Expenditure PAC (PAC) was formed in 2010. Information about this PAC is limited. What is known? The president of PEFNC serves as its custodian of books and PAC contributes to lawmakers who support vouchers and charter schools.
The work of these well-funded entities, supported by some lawmakers and Gov. McCrory, resulted in a budgeted voucher expansion, funneling more than $40 million in taxpayer funds into unaccountable private schools that may discriminate in their admissions policies. Charter schools receive over $366 million in taxpayer dollars. Charter schools are growing in number but are less accessible to children in poverty and children with special needs. Charter schools do not have to offer transportation or lunch to students. Duke University professors in a 2015 study reported a troubling trend of resegregation in charter schools.
Two online charter schools operate in our state, NC Connections Academy (owned by the British multinational corporation Pearson PLC) and Virtual BAcademy (part of Virginia-based K-12, Inc.) Both have lost 19-20 percent of total enrollment. Virtual schools were allocated $14.3 million in public funding. Their funding is based on a one-day count of student membership. Student withdrawals do not affect funding to Guest columnist: Privatizing our schools: