The efforts in Alabama to undermine public education that began with the accountability act in 2013 are hardly unique to just us. The same thing is happening in state after state. In fact, Alabama was actually late to this dance due to the fact that the legislature did not move from Democratic control to Republican until 2010.
Here is part of a blog post from Mississippi by Ryan Brown that sounds all too familiar and mentions names that also pop up here.
In the Haley Barbour years, Mississippi Republicans at least voiced some support for public education. Even then-Lt. Governor Phil Bryant campaigned on the promise that he would always fully fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP.) As anyone who has observed can tell you, Republican support for public schools has come completely unraveled over the past several years. What’s changed?
Their reversal seems to have been dictated by outside pressure rather than personal philosophy or the interests of their constituents. Thanks to financial disclosures posted on the Secretary of State’s website, we can start to get a picture of who is applying that pressure.
A campaign finance report for an anti-public education political action committee, Empower PAC, shows some disturbing information about our elected officials’ stances on public education. Between January 1 to April 30, 2015, this PAC received nearly $365,000 in donations from anti-public education forces such as the Mississippi Federation for Children PAC, an ALEC-aligned organization, which is oddly based in Virginia.
Who is the Federation for Children, you might ask? The national organization is chaired by former Michigan Republican Party Chair Betsy DeVos. Her husband, Richard, unsuccessfully ran for governor of Michigan in 2006, as a Republican, while spending $35 million of his own money on the race. For Mississippi’s purposes, the Chairman of the Mississippi Federation for Children PAC is Greg Brock, a person who is listed with a Washington, DC, address. He led an unsuccessful school voucher initiative in 2000.
The DeVos family, as well as billionaires Alice and Jim Walton of Walmart, have poured a tremendous amount of money into anti-public education efforts in recent years. That money is now seeping into Mississippi politics.