A fight over education in Nashville might come your way next: It's a proxy for dangerous right-wing education ideas. "We know we need to do something about students who are not achieving in our schools." That anxious appeal - along with its many variations - has become the refrain now firmly embedded in speeches and opinion columns about American public education.
The thousands of students and hundreds of scholars supported by folks like Charles Koch have had their lives enriched, and with that has come a greater appreciation of the remarkable powers of markets in promoting human welfare. We should be thanking these philanthropists for their largess, rather than harass them. And gutless administrations should be condemned for permitting these attacks to occur in an unanswered fashion. People have the right to disagree with the findings of Koch funded scholars and students, but no right to try to silence them.
Conservative groups across the US are planning a co-ordinated assault against public sector rights and services in the key areas of education, healthcare, income tax, workers' compensation and the environment, documents obtained by the Guardian reveal. The strategy for the state-level organisations, which describe themselves as "free-market thinktanks", includes proposals from six different states for cuts in public sector pensions, campaigns to reduce the wages of government workers and eliminate income taxes, school voucher schemes to counter public education, opposition to Medicaid, and a campaign against regional efforts to combat greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.
"Money is the mother's milk of politics," Gloria Romero tells me on the phone. "It's flowing to both sides. Government isn't about drawing lines. It's not about saying you're on that side and you can't come over." Her voice is friendly, somewhat placid, but it's clear Romero is not thrilled with having to answer questions about her political alliance with the Koch brothers and other wealthy supporters of Proposition 32, and she conspicuously avoids bringing up their names. When pressed about the Kochs and the money behind behind Prop. 32, she falls back upon her experience in Sacramento.
Koch-funded groups recently helped push through historic tax cuts in Kansas. This week, they will battle against public schools seeking more funding. Fifty-four school districts are taking the state to court to try to recover funding that was cut by state officials during the recession. The trial, which starts Monday before a three-judge panel in the Shawnee County Courthouse, could take a month.
The broad and detrimental reach of the Koch brothers' influence on American life offers an array of areas that demand scrutiny, but there are three that set the stage for all the others: the corrupting influence of Koch money on elections, legislation and the scholarly research that shapes legislation.
Koch Industries spent $40 million in the 2010 election cycle, but they've vowed to spend $100 million this year. That s not counting the money that goes to think tanks such as the Cato Institute or Americans for Prosperity to engineer research - such as making voters and decision-makers "suspect of science" - that could then help elect Republicans.
At any serious university, allowing donors to dictate the content of teaching or research would be a cardinal sin. FSU officials have denied that their deal with the Charles G. Koch Foundation violates academic freedom. Bruce Benson, the Economics Department chair at FSU, told the Washington Post that while the Koch money paid for two new professor positions, the Koch people didn t suggest candidates for the job. "It was the other way around," Benson said. "The department gave such a list to the foundation."
What s happening to academia in Florida demands national attention. Billionaires Charles and David Koch are infringing on intellectual freedom and independence in colleges and universities. It s an old fashioned quid pro quo where the Koch brothers get allied professors who ll preach Ayn Rand, supply side economic policies and the values of the 19th century Guilded Age to students and the college gets some funding.
This week, in a courtroom in Prince William County, Virginia, a hearing will take place that could have implications for the privacy rights of scientists at colleges and universities across the country. It's part of a lawsuit brought by the American Tradition Institute, a free-market think tank part of a broader network of groups with close ties to energy interests that have long fought greenhouse gas regulation. Our investigation also finds that ATI has connections with the Koch brothers, Art Pope and other conservative donors seeking to expand their political influence.
The student resegregation plan favored by industrialists Charles and David Koch has been a divisive flashpoint between school board members in Wake County, NC. The billionaire brothers continue trying to resegregate a widely celebrated school system, which sets the agenda for hundreds of communities across nationwide.
A lobbyist for Koch Industries and energy interests serves with a lobbyist for Pfizer pharmaceuticals as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) corporate co-chairs in Wisconsin, according to documents obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy at this year s ALEC Annual Meeting. For some, their fundraising for "scholarships" to benefit ALEC legislative members raises issues of legislative ethics.
Following the 2009 Wake County school board election, Americans for Prosperity waited a few months before publicly popping champagne bottles. The blog entitled, "Your grassroots action really paid off in Wake County Public Schools," is a self-congratulatory missive AFP published. In light of the role AFP played in Wake County, the blog post affirms its active role in repealing and replacing successful school integration policies.
This film and investigation connects the dots and reveals why the Koch brothers are trying to end public education and how their wealth winds up in the hands of Jim Crow. Watch the video, then call David Koch and tell him to stop funding school resegregation now. His number is 212-319-1100.
Do we REALLY want David and Charles KOCH foundations to try to influence legislation in Nevada that kills public education. Do we REALLY want a conservative sitting behind a desk in Washington, deciding how we fund our NEVADA public schools? Could there be groups like this? Groups which have a goal of establishing think tanks in every state to kill public education?
The Koch family, most recently brothers Charles and David, has operated on the far-right edge of traditional politics, supporting Americans for Prosperity, the tea party and the John Birch Society. The latter has spent Koch resources hunting communists, fellow travelers and dupes supposedly hidden among the clergy and high school and college faculty. Koch Industries is an energy and chemical company that is the nation's second-largest privately held company.
Times are tough for state-funded colleges like Florida State University. After four years of budget trimming, FSU now faces an additional $19 million in cuts and a $40 million deficit. So it's an inopportune moment to raise a stink over private donations of $1.5 million made three years ago.
The disturbing news that Florida State University sold out its faculty spots to the right-wing Koch Foundation has led to probes into other agreements that the Koch Foundation has made with universities.
As reporter Kris Hundley notes, Koch virtually owns much of George Mason University, another public university, through grants and direct control over think tanks within the school. For instance, Kochcontrolsthe Mercatus Center of George Mason University, an institute thatset muchof the Bush administration s environmental deregulation policy.
Yesterday, ThinkProgress highlighted reports from the St. Petersburg Times and the Tallahassee Democrat regarding a Koch-funded economics department at Florida State University (FSU). FSU had accepted a $1.5 million grant from a foundation controlled by petrochemical billionaire Charles Koch on the condition that Koch s operatives would have a free hand in selecting professors and approving publications.
Billionaire Charles Koch's efforts at shaping public policy have come under immense scrutiny recently, despite the fact that he and his brother have used their immense wealth to influence legislation for years. But given the disastrous results in places like Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida and Indiana some of the Koch's old deals are getting a second look.
Usually, when billionaires or millionaires give a large sum of money to a university, even a private one, they can specify where that gift will go -- which department or function, facilities, new hires, dorms, or what have you. And it's no secret that some of those big donations may lead to a little bit of wink-and-nudge affirmative action when it comes time for the little billionaires Jr. to apply to college.
Notions of academic independence gained a fresh twist recently, when the new Freedom Center found a home on the UA campus. Administratively, the UA Freedom Center is tucked within the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, and soon will enjoy its own digs at the Marshall Building on Park Avenue. The think tank already features an impressive roster of UA faculty members, including at least two endowed Philosophy Department instructors