Maurice Cunningham is a professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts. During the heated battle over a referendum to expand charter schools (Question 2), Cunningham wrote about the funding of both sides. The Massachusetts Teachers Association spent heavily to oppose Question 2, but they were far outspent by the many millions poured into the state to support charter schools. Most of the pro-charter money came from outside Massachusetts, from the Walton family, Michael Bloomberg, and financiers in a group calling itself “Families for Excellent Schools.”
The referendum lost by 62%-38%. The only districts that voted for it were affluent districts that never expected to see a charter school in their backyard. The opposing votes were highest in districts that had charter schools because they realized that a vote for a charter was a vote to defund their local,public schools.
Cunningham continued to follow the money after the election of last November.
Read this dynamite piece about Democrats using Republican money to advance Obama’s legacy on charter schools. He goes right to the dark bipartisan heart of privatization.
He learned of a new group called Massachusetts Parents United, and he discovered that it was funded by the same organizations that funded the pro-charter referendum. He wrote about it and was barraged on Twitter by outraged members of the group, who accused him of “bullying” and “belittling” some dedicated moms. These are the moms funded by the Walton Family Foundation. He challenged them to cite any inaccuracy in his article, but they did not.
Here is the way it begins:
“Mom and pop education organizations in Massachusetts seem to crop up just as fast as billionaires can fund them these days. The latest such entrant is called Massachusetts Parents United, with ties to Families for Excellent Schools and Democrats for Education Reform Massachusetts. It’s old wine in an empty bottle.
“The first tie is personnel – the state director of MPU, Keri Rodriguez Lorenzo, is the former state director of Families for Excellent Schools, which last year poured over $17 million in dark money into the Great Schools Massachusetts ballot committee. She is also on the Advisory Council of Democrats for Education Reform Massachusetts, which pours dark money into legislative races and into the 2013 Boston mayoral race.
“The second tie is financial. One of MPU’s funders is The Walton Family Foundation. In last year’s Question 2 fight, Walton money funded most of the activities of a ballot committee named Advancing Obama’s Legacy on Charter Schools, which was itself a front established by DFER MA. The Walton money – about $1.8 million from cousins Jim and Alice Walton – was funneled through another ballot committee named Campaign for Fair Access to Quality Public Schools. In Democrats Using Republican Money for Education Reform Now to Advance Obama’s Legacy on Charter Schools, I noted the irony of a putative Democratic committee subsisting on funds generated by the notoriously anti-worker WalMart. The rest of the Obama’s Legacy money came from DFER MA’s customary funder and dark money kissin’ cousin, Education Reform Now Advocacy of New York. If you understand all this, you probably own an intuitive grasp of the lyrics to “I’m My Own Grandpa.””
To follow the interesting Twitter exchange, go to Maurice Cunningham’s Twitter feed. @MassPolProfMo
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