June 19, 2012

Billionaires Behind Push In North Carolina To Transfer $40 Million Of Taxpayer Money To Private Schools

Billionaires Behind Push In North Carolina To Transfer  Million Of Taxpayer Money To Private Schools North Carolina House Majority Leader Paul Stam (R) has an idea for fixing our country’s education system — dump tens of millions of taxpayer dollars into private schools.

Stam is a sponsor of House Bill 1104, which would utilize the “North Carolina Opportunity Scholarship Program” to shift up to $40 million of taxpayer funds in 2013 to scholarships for students to attend private schools.

The Institute for Southern Studies’s Facing South has dug into the push for the privatization bill and has found that a group called Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina (PEFNC) is being used for the cause. As the Institute notes, PEFNC “stands to benefit financially from the legislation by becoming one of the scholarship-granting organizations, enabling it to keep 9 percent of the money for administrative expenses — about $8.8 million over the first five years, according to the Associated Press.”

In addition to PEFNC (which is largely funded by the founders of Wal-Mart), another group called NC Citizens for Freedom in Education (NCCFE) has been formed to do political accountability work to directly target politicians who opposed to the privatization scheme. Facing South notes that ” all of NCCFE’s funding in the current election cycle so far — $52,900 — came from the American Federation for Children [AFC], a national organization that promotes privatization of public schools and has played a key role in the creation of neovoucher programs in other states.”

AFC is mostly funded by the DeVos family, who are the heirs to the Amway fortune. This family not only has funded school privatization efforts in North Carolina, but it has formed countless “school choice” groups all over the country, pouring millions of dollars of their fortune into the cause of school vouchers.

While the DeVos family and Wal-Mart heirs may be funding groups with friendly-sounding names to push their agenda, the public should know that the effect of this heavily-financed rush to privatization could eventually be the destruction of America’s public education system.  They should also be aware that numerous for-profit businesses stand to reap millions or billions from this shift, and are behind much of the lobbying efforts to make this happen.

Joseph Bast, the president of the Heartland Institute, another corporate front group, once explained his thinking behind school vouchers like this: “The complete privatization of schooling might be desirable, but this objective is politically impossible for the time being. Vouchers are a type of reform that is possible now, and would put us on the path to further privatization.”