private school voucher

Right-Wing Voucher Push Undermines Public Education & Constitution

Religious Right leaders and anti-government ideologues have shared a decades-long dream: to dismantle public education through a system of vouchers that would divert taxpayer funds out of public schools and into religious schools and other private academies.  For some, privatizing education is primarily a religious or ideological project. For others, the billions of dollars that flow through public schools is a tempting source of cash. For some it’s both.  Whatever the incentive, voucher proponents are finding success.  A renewed push for the creation and expansion of voucher and voucher-like schemes is contributing to a disturbing rise in public education dollars being diverted to schools that face little to no oversight or public accountability and teach religious dogma at the expense of science.

Most recently, on February 28, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that Douglas County’s voucher program – labeled a “Choice Scholarship Program” in accord with the messaging tactics of Republican spinmeister Frank Luntz – does not violate the state Constitution’s explicit prohibitions against public funding for religious education, even though 18 of the county’s 23 “private partner” schools are religious.  As reported by the Associated Press, dissenting Colorado Court of Appeals Judge Steve Bernard wrote, "In my view,[the Colorado Constitution] prohibits public school districts from channeling public money to private religious schools. I think that the Choice Scholarship Program is a pipeline that violates this direct and clear constitutional command." 

The ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State say they will appeal to the state Supreme Court.  Heather L. Weaver, staff attorney for the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief said “Public education funds should be used to help improve our public schools, not to promote religion in violation of the state constitution.”  Unfortunately, the Colorado case is not the first in which courts have been willing to go along with voucher plans.  In 2011, in a 5-4 ruling, the conservative U.S. Supreme Court majority allowed an Arizona tax-credit / voucher program to stand while weakening the ability of citizens to challenge programs that divert public funds for religious purposes.

State legislators and their corporate backers in the American Legislative Exchange Council have pushed similar voucher-like tax breaks in other states, often employing the language of “choice” and “options” to divert public attention from the intent and effect of these schemes.  After conservative victories in state elections in 2010, governors and legislators in many states, including Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Florida, pushed to create or expand programs that divert public education dollars into religious schools and other private academies.

Among the most aggressive is Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is basically pushing an effort to privatize public education in his state.  He has instituted a massive voucher program grounded in the “model legislation” pushed by ALEC, which honored Jindal in 2011 with its Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award.  Think Progress notes that Jindal’s plan will divert huge sums from public schools:  “Since the public schools will lose commensurate funding every time one of their students opt for a voucher, the state’s public school system could by some estimates lose up to $3.3 billion annually once the program is fully implemented. “

Ed Kilgore noted last summer in Washington Monthly:

In heading his state in the direction of universally available vouchers rationalized by public school failure, Jindal is not, of course, holding any of the private school beneficiaries accountable for results, or for common curricula, or, it appears, for much of anything. A big chunk of the money already out there is being snapped up by conservative evangelical schools with exotic and hardly public-minded curricular offerings, with the theory being that any public oversight would interfere with the accountability provided by “the market.” So if you want your kid to attend, at public expense, the Christian Nationalist Academy for Servant-Leader Boys & Fecund Submissive Girls, that’s okay by Bobby.

Lack of accountability is a real concern.  While proponents of voucher programs paint a picture of a poor student being given a chance to attend an elite private academy, most of those schools have few openings, meaning that the “choice” offered to many students and parents is something far different, including fly-by-night schools with little track record of their own.  According to the Louisiana Budget Project,

Louisiana requires almost no accountability from voucher schools....While voucher students are required to take the same assessment tests as public school students, there are no penalties for private schools if they fail to measure up to their public counterparts. In fact, Gov. Jindal vetoed language in a 2011 appropriations bill that would have removed participating schools if their students’ scores lagged those in the lowest performing schools in the Recovery School District, which incorporates most New Orleans public schools.

So if public schools have lousy test scores, they're failures and their students all get vouchers. But if the private schools have lousy test scores, then....nothing. Presumably the magic of the free market will fix them up.

In June 2011, an investigation by Miami New Times found a breathtaking lack of oversight and accountability in Florida’s voucher program for disabled students, likening it to “a perverse science experiment, using disabled school kids as lab rats.”

In addition to defunding public schools at the expense of unaccountable private schools, voucher programs end up using tax dollars to promote sectarian religious education and proselytizing. 

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops describes Catholic schools as central to the church’s “New Evangelization.”   And in Louisiana and elsewhere, tax dollars are being used to support schools that teach young-earth creationism, revisionist U.S. history published by fundamentalist Bob Jones University, and other religious dogma applied to civics, politics, and literature. 

The Agenda Behind the Voucher Agenda

During “National School Choice Week,” which ran from January 27 to February 3, the Heritage Foundation published a special report, “Choosing to Succeed,” which included a call for abandoning the “myth” and “relic” of the common school.  In January, Americans for Prosperity published a report blaming the federal government for the failure of education reform and promoting vouchers and voucher-like tax schemes, such as Pennsylvania’s “Education Improvement Tax Credit.” 

On February 5, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor gave a speech at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, where he argued that education funds should follow students whether they “choose” public, private, or charter schools. He asserted, “One of our priorities this year will be to move heaven and earth to fix our education system for the most vulnerable.”  It is important to understand that targeted voucher programs that allow students from poor families, children with disabilities or students in underperforming schools to attend private schools that will accept them are not the ultimate goal of school privatizers. They are a tactical means to a much larger strategic end, which is the end of public education altogether, as pushed by David Koch in his run for the White House in 1980. As Milton Friedman, intellectual godfather of the movement, said “Vouchers are not an end in themselves; they are a means to make a transition from a government to a free-market system.”

In a May 2011 article, researcher Rachel Tabachnik reviewed the history and financing of the school privatization movement. Its financial backers have been pouring millions of dollars into state politics for the past decade in order to build legislatures more to their liking.  Right-wing donors such as Betsy DeVos and the Walton Foundation funnel money through groups with media-friendly names like All Children Matter, its successor the American Federation for Children, and AFC-affiliated state-level political action committees like Students First, which raised more than $6 million for the 2010 election cycle in Pennsylvania.

“Like most other conservatives and libertarians, we see vouchers as a major step toward the complete privatization of schooling,” wrote Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast in 1997. “In fact, after careful study, we have come to the conclusion that they are the only way to dismantle the current socialist regime.” Heartland has received significant funding from right-wing foundations over the years, including the Charles Koch Foundation.

Another major ideological target is public employee unions, and teachers unions in particular.  A 2011 New York Times story about FreedomWorks’ lobbying for a Pennsylvania voucher program noted, “FreedomWorks is pushing anti-union legislation in several states, and saw the school choice legislation as part of that larger battle.”

School vouchers are just one part of the immensely complicated arena of education policy.  A wide array of strategies and policy proposals is often confusingly lumped together under the banner of “education reform” or “school choice,” terms that can encompass everything from curricula, student testing and teacher evaluation, charter and cyber-charter schools and more.  Some strategies may identify effective reforms that can be replicated and used to strengthen public schools and improve educational opportunity.  Others, like vouchers, are designed to weaken or dismantle public education altogether.

As parents, educators, and activists evaluate various education reform proposals, it is worth keeping in mind the question posed  by Stan Karp, in the Spring 2011 edition of Rethinking Schools, when he said that what is ultimately at stake in the school reform debate is “whether the right to a free public education for all children is going to survive as a fundamental democratic promise in our society, and whether the schools and districts needed to provide it are going to survive as public institutions, collectively owned and democratically managed – however imperfectly – by all of us as citizens. Or will they be privatized and commercialized by the corporate interests that increasingly dominate all aspects of our society?”

Note: this is the first in a series of posts about right-wing efforts to undermine public education, often in the name of education reform.

See also: Predatory Privatization, a 2012 Right Wing Watch In Focus report; and  Voucher Veneer: The Deeper Agenda to Privatize Public Education, a 2003 report from People For the American Way Foundation.

 

 

Scott Walker’s Latest Pro-Voucher Gambit Exposes Dishonesty Of The Voucher Movement

Private school voucher advocates and their allies in the so-called “education reform” movement readily talk about the need for rigorous, constant testing along with the application of free market principles to education: reward high-performing schools and teachers and punish bad ones.

Over the last decade, Milwaukee has been a laboratory for private school vouchers, and the results have been poor: numerous studies have shown that vouchers failed to make any difference in student performance. Just like in Washington, DC and Cleveland, private school vouchers in Milwaukee failed to produce the gains their supporters promised as students, with students in the Milwaukee voucher program actually performing worse than comparable public school students.

But now Republican Gov. Scott Walker wants to expand the ineffective voucher program while cutting funds to public schools. And so much for the emphasis on testing -- voucher students will now be exempted from the tests that revealed the program’s failure.

The Wausau Daily Herald reports:

Milwaukee’s voucher school program would be expanded under a Republican-backed bill expected to pass the state Assembly on Tuesday.



State Superintendent Tony Evers has questioned expanding the voucher program at the same time Walker is proposing cutting public school aid by more than $800 million over the next two years.



Walker is also proposing eliminating in his budget that voucher students take the same statewide achievement tests that public school students must take.

This year, results were released for the first time comparing public school and voucher students. They showed voucher students lagging behind their peers in public schools.

That’s right, even though voucher students are “lagging behind their peers in public schools,” voucher programs are being rewarded with expansion while public schools are punished with cuts. With little care for accountability and testing, this move by Walker and the Wisconsin GOP demonstrates how the push for private school vouchers is really about the Right’s ideological war against public education.

The pro-voucher American Federation for Children is even launching an ad campaign to defend Wisconsin Republicans facing recall votes, and recently hosted an event where they honored Walker for his voucher advocacy. AFC was founded and funded by Betsy Devos, a Religious Right activist and wife of Dick Devos, the son of the founder of Amway and an unsuccessful Republican candidate for governor of Michigan. Today, AFC is one of the most aggressive pro-voucher groups, and aims to fully privatize public education.

Through their advocacy for private school vouchers, the Devos family merged their anti-union and anti-public school beliefs with their mission to chip away at the separation of church and state. The Devos family is a key benefactor of Religious Right groups across the country, financing major social conservative organizations like Focus on the Family and the Council for National Policy, and provided almost the entire funding for Maggie Gallagher’s Institute for Marriage and Public Policy.

With Scott Walker admitting that the private school voucher movement’s emphasis on testing, results and accountability is hogwash, it is abundantly clear what the real goal is: privatizing public education.

Heck: DC Mayor Vince Gray Wants To Punish Kids Who "Survive The Abortion Holocaust"

During the heated fight over the federal budget, Republicans won a compromise that stopped the city of Washington D.C. from using its own tax dollars to help low-income women access reproductive health services and added more funding to a DC private school voucher program opposed by local officials. Strongly objecting to the House GOP’s blatant encroachment on home rule, which included financing an ineffective voucher program while taking away crucial funding for women’s family planning, DC Mayor Vince Gray and a number of Council members were arrested during a protest. Anti-choice leaders harshly criticized Gray, deriding him a proponent of black genocide who wants to destroy the city’s African American population.

Indiana right-wing commentator Peter Heck, who called President Obama a disgrace to his ancestors over his pro-choice views, is out with a new column charging Gray with supporting the “slaughter [of] innocent children” while punishing those “who survive the abortion holocaust”:

But beyond the blatantly obvious flip-flops which the Obama-loving mainstream press find a way to excuse as just part of the president's remarkably nuanced mind, this behavior fits a much larger pattern of inconsistency that has come to define the liberal mind in America. Inconsistencies that should bring great embarrassment when exposed, and that rationality would demand be confronted and resolved, are systematically embraced and welcomed in the land of left-believe.

How else can one explain the recent protest that took place in Washington, DC? There, over 40 liberals (including the city's mayor and several councilmen) took to the streets to complain that the budget deal recently passed by Congress would deprive the nation's capital city of federal tax dollars to fund abortions. In the name of choice, these left-wing activists blocked the streets until being detained by police. On its own, seeing a group of liberals championing the right to choose to kill children in the womb is nothing new.

But that wasn't all they were protesting. Another part of the budget deal that had raised their ire was the reinstatement of the Opportunities Scholarship Program. This school-choice program provides poor families the chance to move their children from failing inner-city schools to higher performing ones, allowing future generations of predominantly minority students the opportunity to escape the cycle of poverty that engulfs them. This protest, then, is the perfect embodiment of modern liberal thought: rally in the streets to continue facilitating the choice to slaughter innocent children in the womb while simultaneously demanding that those children who survive the abortion holocaust be given no choice to break free from their deplorable surroundings.

Pro-Voucher Group Working Against Recall of Union-Busting Wisconsin Republicans

An organization that backs private school vouchers is campaigning against the recall of the eight Republican Wisconsin senators who backed Governor Scott Walker’s anti-union legislation. The so-called American Federation for Children (AFC) is an ardent supporter of the voucher scheme in Milwaukee, the unsuccessful voucher program which Walker and his GOP allies want to export to other parts of the state as part of bolstering the Republicans’ attacks on public schools and teachers.

Listen to their robocall defending GOP Senator Sheila Harsdorf:

At the same time that Walker and the Republicans proposed a massive $834 million cut to public schools, endangering the state’s esteemed public education system, they seek to spend more taxpayer money on a wasteful voucher program that has been unable to improve the education of Milwaukee students. A comprehensive study in 2009 found “no overall statistically significant difference between [voucher school] and [public school] student achievement growth in either math or reading one year after they were carefully matched to each other,” and that fourth graders in the voucher program were actually performing worse than comparable public school students.

While the private school voucher scheme did nothing to improve education, it did funnel taxpayer dollars to religious schools: of the 120 schools receiving vouchers examined in the study, 95 were religious and 7 operate within a religious tradition.

Renowned education scholar Diane Ravitch, once a proponent of the so-called “school choice” movement, told OnMilwaukee.com that the voucher program “has not worked”:

Milwaukee is indeed the nation's laboratory for assessing the value of school choice. The advocates of school choice predicted that academic performance in choice schools would not only soar, but that the competitive pressure would cause achievement in the regular district schools to improve. None of this has happened. The latest studies show that students in voucher schools and in charter schools do not perform any differently from those in the regular public schools.



"Reformers" in Milwaukee have been pursuing strategies that we now know are ineffective. The more time and resources devoted to ineffective strategies, the less attention there is to finding useful improvements. Choice got the support of foundations and business leaders, but it has not worked.

Even the state schools superintendent Tom Evers agreed that “choice schools have proven to be no more effective and in some cases less effective than Milwaukee Public Schools.”

But organizations like the AFC ignore and dismiss the clear findings that the Milwaukee voucher program is a wrongheaded and ill-designed effort to improve education, and instead want to expand the program to more school districts and tear down the public education system. Now, they want to make sure that Republican legislators keep their jobs and continue to support vouchers and bust unions representing public school teachers.

2012 Candidates Weekly Update 12/28/10

Haley Barbour

Mississippi: Uses private jet for political and entertainment outings, state spent over $500,000 for his air travel (Politico, 12/27).

Race: Controversy over Barbour’s Citizens Council “whitewash” continues (Christian Science Monitor, 12/22).

John Bolton

Government: Says government should not cut defense spending to shrink the deficit (TPM, 12/27).

Social issues: Denounces non-binding treaty on the rights of indigenous people (Fox News, 12/25).

Mitch Daniels

Social issues: Stands by his support for a “truce” on social issues (Politico, 12/27).

Education: Details private school voucher plan (Courier Journal, 12/24).

Mike Huckabee

GOP: Think Progress investigation ties Huckabee to “a firm notorious for defrauding families facing foreclosure with false promises and predatory fees” (Think Progress, 12/27).

Health Care: Huckabee and Palin’s own 2009 speech challenge Palin’s criticism of Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity efforts (The Hill, 12/27).

Sarah Palin

Language: Claims “Refudiate” was a typo, but she used the term in an earlier interview on Fox News (NY Daily News, 12/27).

Environment: Says conservationists are hypocrites for using pencils and paper (HuffPo, 12/27).

Foreign policy: Former Bush spokeswoman Dana Perino says Palin’s reality show and policy role give her an “authenticity” problem (The Right Scoop, 12/26).

2012: Peggy Noonan predicts that Palin won’t run for President but will have immense clout in the primary (GOP12, 12/26).

Tim Pawlenty

2012: Upcoming book tour could serve as “a test of his appeal” to Republican voters nationwide (Gannett, 12/24).

Religious Right: Sidesteps judicial nomination process and appoints Religious Right activist and deputy chief of staff’s wife to district court (RWW, 12/23).

Mike Pence

Religious Right: Leaders of Religious Right groups believe Pence can unite social conservatives with fiscal hawks (WSJ, 12/27).

GOP: Columnist believes Pence can successfully run for the nomination by “reuniting the Reagan Coalition” (Forbes, 12/23).

Mitt Romney

Health Care: Struggles to balance his criticism of coverage mandate with his support for a mandate in Massachusetts (HuffPo, 12/27).

2012: Holiday card asks, “Guess which grandchild heard that Papa might run again?” (Politico, 12/22).

John Thune

Government: Flounders in attempt to oppose earmarks while requesting more than $100 million (AP, 12/28).

Minnesota: Headlining MN GOP’s Lincoln/Reagan Dinner (Star Tribune, 12/22).

Meet Renee Ellmers: Cracking down on Monarchy and Mosques

Following the election, RWW will bring you our list of the "The Ten Scariest Republicans Heading to Congress." Our final candidate profile is on Renee Ellmers of North Carolina:

Leading Democratic Rep. Bob Etheridge by 1,489 votes in North Carolina’s second district, conservative activist Renee Ellmers has declared victory and is now attending freshman orientation in Washington DC.

A self-declared “product of the tea party,” she ran on anti-health care and anti-Stimulus platform: she compared President Obama to “Louis XIV, the Sun King” and asserted that his administration is establishing “a socialistic form of government.” She blasted Democrats for their “imperial ruling class attitude,” and referred to the Stimulus Plan as “massive government takeovers of the economy.”

Ellmers believes that Obama put the country at risk because he supposedly refuses “to recognize – and tell the American people – [that] he understands radical Islamic terrorism does exist.” She then launched an ugly and bigoted campaign ad equating all Muslims with the 9/11 terrorists, and arguing that the Islamic Community Center in Lower Manhattan is a “Victory Mosque” and a symbol of Muslim conquest:

Narrator: “After the Muslims conquered Jerusalem, and Cordoba and Constantinople, they built victory mosques. And now, they want to build a mosque near Ground Zero. Where does Bob Etheridge stand? He won’t say, won’t speak out, won’t take a stand.”

Ellmers: “The terrorists haven’t won, and we should tell them in plain English, ‘No, there will never be a mosque at Ground Zero.’”

In an interview with Anderson Cooper, she suggested that Obama’s foreign policy subtly shows support for terrorists by using foreign aid to build mosques. Cooper, however, pointed out that she was referring to a program started by President Bush that helps rebuild houses of worships including churches and temples. When he asked if the Roman Catholic Church built a “Victory Church” in Rome over a Pagan temple, she took umbrage and asked Cooper if he was “anti-religion” or “anti-Christian.” Cooper replied: “That’s like the lowest response I have ever heard from a candidate, I have got to tell you.” (Watch the ad and interview below).

Defending her ad to rightwing radio talk show host Tammy Bruce, she said that “it’s time for elected officials to go to Washington who are ready to stand up for America.”

Ellmers says she decided to run for Congress after her work with Americans for Prosperity, a corporate front group tied to the Koch brothers, campaigning against health care reform. She told G. Gordon Liddy that the health care reform bill was “put in place simply to control our lives.” She also maintained that “physicians are not going to be able to continue to practice” because of the reform law, which she said “is just a monster.”

According to Ellmers, insurance companies should be able to deny individuals coverage for pre-existing conditions, saying: “private insurance companies [should] decide how they’re going to handle the pre-existing conditions situation.” Ellmers also attacked requiring insurance companies to cover maternity care and other health issues, calling such coverage “very costly.”

In a debate she came out against emergency funding to protect the jobs of teachers, and suggested that diverting public funds towards private school vouchers through “school choice” would help prevent job losses among teachers.

She said that her plan to reduce the debt would be to cut taxes and end foreign aid, and as a proponent of the “FairTax” she believes that the progressive income tax should be scrapped and replaced with a national sales tax.

An avowed opponent of immigrant rights, she claimed that Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has shown “the kind of leadership we have not seen in a long time” by signing SB 1070, and suggested that Congress vote to defund the Department of Justice over their lawsuit against the draconian immigration law.

Ellmers told the conservative RedState blog that she is fiercely anti-choice and opposes the feminist movement. She was been endorsed by Sarah Palin, Concerned Women for America, and the Susan B. Anthony List.

A Tea Party activist who smears minority groups for political gain and has no real plan to cut the deficit or save jobs, Renee Ellmers appears to exemplify many of the ugliest qualities of the tea party movement.

 

Meet Congresswoman-Elect Sandy Adams: Conspiracy-Theorist, Religious Extremist

Following Tuesday's election, RWW will bring you our list of the "The Ten Scariest Republicans Heading to Congress."  Our first candidate is Florida's version of Sharron Angle, Sandra "Sandy" Adams:

After serving four terms in the Florida State House, Sandy Adams ran for US Congress and handily defeated freshman Congresswoman Suzanne Kosmas. She built-up a far-right voting record as a state representative, and she campaigned as the most conservative candidate in the competitive Republican primary.

As a legislator and candidate Sandy Adams has embraced the agenda of the Religious Right. Adams voted to enact burdensome waiting periods and tougher parental notice laws for young women seeking abortions, and voted in favor of forcing women to have ultrasound tests before terminating their pregnancy, which the Governor ultimately vetoed for placing “an inappropriate burden on women seeking to terminate a pregnancy.” During the GOP primary she was endorsed by militantly anti-choice groups such as the Republican National Coalition for Life and the American Conservative Union. Moreover, she is on-record opposing stem-cell research and boasts that she “fought against this type of research funding in the Florida House of Representatives.”

She is also an avowed opponent of teaching evolution, and voted in favor of a bill that calls on teachers to “teach theories that contradict the theory of evolution.” Adams herself does not believe evolution and says that Christians should reject evolution in favor of “the biblical terms of how we came about.” When asked “by a caller in a telephone town hall meeting whether she believed in evolution…Adams replied, ‘I’m Christian. What else do you want to know?’” Adams also supports Florida’s unsuccessful private school vouchers program and wants the Ten Commandments to be displayed in public schools.

Like Sharron Angle, Sandy Adams floats the baseless conspiracy theory that Islamic, or Sharia, law is thriving in Muslim communities in Michigan and in danger of spreading throughout Michigan and the United States:

The Muslim extremist project is to create pockets and to grow their Muslim extreme philosophies, and if you look at some of our towns within our own borders, like Michigan, Michigan has cities that have a lot of Muslim influence and even so much as I would say some extremist Muslim influence because they are trying to operate under Sharia law, not American law. And I believe that we need to continue to operate under our Constitutional laws and the laws of our country and our state and we should not be under any other form of the law.

Sarah Palin endorsed Sandy Adams, and Adams claims that she “can’t wait to join the Tea Party Caucus” and said that “I believe what Michele Bachmann is doing is the right thing to do and I will be part of that Caucus, I can assure you of that.”

She has embraced anti-government extremism, and wants to radically alter the Constitution by repealing the 16th and 17th Amendments, which would eliminate the progressive income tax and the right of voters to elect their US Senators, respectively. Adams believes that instead of voters, state legislators like herself should pick the state’s Senators. Adams also wants to abolish the Department of Education, said that the Departments of Energy and Interior Departments should be “completely dismantled” because they are “not allowed by our Constitution,” and strongly opposes Wall Street Reform. She wouldn’t “vouch for the constitutionality of the federal Clean Water and Clean Air acts without reading them,” writes the Orlando Sentinel, “yet she’s all for big government when it comes to NASA.,” which is based in her district.

Furthermore, she backs Republican Rep. Paul Ryan’s “Roadmap for America,” which calls for the privatization of Social Security and Medicare. According to Florida Today, Adams “wants to cut government spending, but couldn’t cite one area to cut; wants to repeal health care reform, but offered no alternative; and is willing to look at privatizing Medicare, something that should alarm seniors.” Adams was also the chief sponsor of a state constitutional amendment that would stop Florida from cooperating with the recently passed health care reform law by barring mandatory insurance coverage.

Adams is also ardently opposed to immigrant rights and touts the endorsement of Americans for Legal Immigration, which has been classified as a “nativist extremist organization” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The group is “allied with various Minuteman factions” and according to the SPLC, the group says that its “‘rallying cry is: Illegals Go Home!’” While serving in the State House, Adams was one of just fourteen members to vote against allowing undocumented children to receive healthcare through Florida KidCare.

On the environment, Adams supports offshore oil drilling off Florida’s coast and tried to censure the Governor for attempting to pass a constitutional amendment to prohibit such drilling.

A steadfast and longtime advocate of the Religious Right and anti-government extremism, Sandy Adams plans to be a bridge between Christian conservatives and Tea Party reactionaries in addition to a stalwart ally of Michele Bachmann in the House.

 

 

 

 

Decrying the "Coup" in Texas

For the last several days, the Texas Freedom Network had been chronicling the battle taking place in the Texas House of Representatives, as right-wing activists from around the state swung into action in order to try and save Rep. Tom Craddick's position as House Speaker - as TFN noted:

Craddick has alienated Democrats and a number of Republicans with his autocratic rule of the House and by forcing controversial votes on hot-button issues like private school vouchers. The religious right has strongly supported Craddick’s speakership, seeing him as an important tool in the far-right’s ongoing and deeply divisive culture war on mainstream values like strong public schools, religious freedom and civil liberties in Texas.

Eleven House Republicans have moved to support state Rep. Joe Straus, a Republican from San Antonio, as speaker after the new legislative session begins on Jan. 13.

TFN explained how people like David Barton and the Cathy Adams of the Texas Eagle Forum were hard at work rallying their grassroots activists to save Craddick's position, but it looks like it was all for naught:

Straus, a moderate Republican from San Antonio, swept into the speaker's race Friday night and by Sunday had enough pledges, the great bulk from Democrats, to assure his election as the next House leader. As his list of supporters continued to grow Monday, his chief Republican rivals dropped their campaigns, leaving him all but assured of election when the 150 House members vote on a speaker when they gather Jan. 13.

Conservative activists and legislators expressed anguish over losing Craddick, a partisan warrior, as speaker. Craddick, who ended his campaign for a fourth speaker's term, saw his base crumble when virtually all Democrats and a dozen key Republicans abandoned him. He was also hurt by the November elections, which left the GOP with a thin 76-74 majority.  

Needless to say, right-wingers in the state are not happy, with Rick Scarborough decrying it as a nothing short of a "coup":

“Values voters in Texas will be outraged to hear the news that a small band of Republicans and 64 Democrats in the Texas House of Representatives have conspired to name Representative Joe Straus of San Antonio, the most liberal returning Republican Representative in the House, as Speaker, replacing conservative Tom Craddick,“ said conservative activist, Dr. Rick Scarborough of Nacogdoches, Texas. “This is a deliberate and carefully calculated plan to undermine and halt progress on the issues we care about the most, ESPECIALLY the rights of the unborn child and traditional marriage” ... “This is nothing short of a coup and we will not take it laying down! We have worked hard for two decades in Texas to elect principled conservatives, but today it is clear we have far too many whose only guiding principle is power!” said Scarborough.

Going There: Utah Voucher Group Takes Anti-Gay Tack

For wealthy backers of publicly-funded private school vouchers, Utah has been a crucial battleground. Last year, Amway heir (and 2006 candidate for governor of Michigan) Dick DeVos and others poured a hundreds of thousands of dollars of “seed money” into a Utah PAC, Parents for Choice in Education, which set about electing state legislators who would support a voucher plan. While the group has used heavy-handed tactics before – invoking the specter of “illegal aliens” during last year’s campaign – it’s hit a new low with a recent push poll it conducted in an apparent attempt to stir up anti-gay sentiment against opponents of vouchers:

Bill Lee, a Sandy resident, earlier this week received a call he described as "pretty nasty stuff." He took notes about a portion of the survey he said asks how someone's vote would be affected knowing the same group that opposes vouchers, the "liberal national teachers' union," supports same-sex unions along with higher taxes. Parents for Choice declined to release the survey questions. …

"Many Utahns would be shocked to know the policies and positions promoted by the National Education Association, the parent organization of the UEA," [Elisa Clements, Parents for Choice’s executive director] said, referencing the Utah Education Association, the state's largest teachers' union, which opposes vouchers.

The UEA's communications director described the tactic as "dirty politics." "There are absolutely no resolutions dealing with those issues that have been handled by the National Education Association," Mark Mickelsen said.

Voucher advocates see Utah’s new plan – which will face a referendum this fall – as a potential model for the rest of the nation.

Blackwell Ignoring Ohio Voters’ 37 Percent Solution

Former Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell may have decided to get back into public life, but he does not seem to have learned much from his devastating loss in last year’s election. Blackwell ran for governor of Ohio last year with an education policy platform based solely on his support for school defunding, the “65% Deception,” and vouchers. Blackwell’s opponent – now Governor Ted Strickland - expressed his principled opposition to vouchers throughout the campaign.

Blackwell’s full-throated advocacy of publicly funded private school vouchers earned him praise from some of the nation’s most ardent advocates of school privatization.

For instance, voucher warrior and affirmative action foe Clint Bolick said the voucher movement “has no greater friend than Ken Blackwell.” And voucher pusher Patrick Byrne, also the impresario of the “65% Deception,” praised Blackwell’s “passion” for vouchers. Voucher backers made sure that the money kept rolling in.  Blackwell’s campaign received at least $100, 000 from voucher groups such as Bolick’s Advocates for School Choice

But on Election Day, Blackwell received just under 37% of the vote.

In spite of that dramatic evidence that vouchers and other privatization schemes do not enjoy wide-spread public support in Ohio, and research showing the same nationally, Blackwell soldiers on.  In his first published column since joining the staff of the Family Research Council, Blackwell attacks Governor Strickland’s groundbreaking plan to eliminate the EdChoice voucher program and redirect the money back to Ohio’s public schools:

Calling school vouchers "undemocratic" and charter schools a "dismal failure," Gov. Strickland, in his first major public policy address, slammed the door of educational opportunity on thousands of poor children and crushed the hopes of their parents.

By denying these children the equal access to a quality education that choice programs offer, he also denied that the bloated public education bureaucracy and its entrenched unions have failed our children.

Despite Blackwell’s assertion that voucher programs offer students “equal access,” private schools can choose who to accept – many deny admission to all students with special needs – and students who currently receive vouchers do not have the ‘choice’ to attend any school they wish.  Last year, Ohio voters had a choice, and elected a governor openly committed to funding and strengthening Ohio’s public schools – and focusing on proven reforms – as the best way to ensure that all children have access to a quality education.

Club for Growth Takes Aim at McCain

Club for Growth—the deep-pocketed group known for waging campaigns from the right against Republicans it deems have strayed from the supply-side line on economic issues—has been running down the list of GOP presidential candidates, offering its ideological imprimatur or a tacit threat that it would come out swinging against a contender it didn’t like. While Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback apparently passed the test, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee received a strong rebuke. This led Huckabee, who likes to boast that his definition of “pro-life” includes the period between birth and death, to respond in his speech to CPAC with a promise that he would sign Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge. The Club for Growth half-heartedly commended the pledge, while bragging of its influence under the headline “Huckabee Buckles under Heat.”

Now the Club is taking on Arizona Sen. John McCain, and its verdict contains the harshest language yet:

While Senator McCain’s economic record contains a number of pro-growth positions, such as his support for school choice and free trade, and his steadfast opposition to wasteful government spending, his overall record is tainted by a marked antipathy towards the free market and individual freedom.

This in spite of being a “strong proponent of free trade” and a “consistent supporter” of privatizing Social Security, “boldly” and “eloquently” pushing private school vouchers, and being “at the forefront of the battle to eliminate wasteful projects.” Club for Growth President Pat Toomey expands on the verdict in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, decrying McCain’s supposed “class-warfare demagoguery” and “tenuous commitment to free markets” (temporary link).

Not surprisingly, McCain is skipping the Club for Growth’s winter conference in Palm Beach, despite being invited. GOP frontrunners Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, and Newt Gingrich will be there, as well as Brownback.

Texas Voucher Advocate Wants Government to Step In

James Leininger, the hospital-bed tycoon known as the Religious Right’s “sugar daddy” in Texas for the millions he has poured into far-right politics in recent years, is trying out a new strategy in his long quest to see publicly-funded private school vouchers implemented in the state: emotional blackmail.

Announcing the closure of his $50-million privately-funded voucher program in the Edgewood district of San Antonio, Leininger is calling on the state to implement a publicly-funded program to replace it. "If the Legislature doesn't act, those kids are going to be out on the street," he warns.

The Texas legislature has repeatedly rejected vouchers, as recently as last year. And despite spending more than $2 million in last year’s GOP primary to weed out Republicans who opposed vouchers, and millions more in the general election, by his own count he still lost five pro-voucher legislators, making passage difficult, to say the least.  So the activist accustomed to expanding his influence with his money is now apparently trying to use the lack of it to the same ends. However, Leininger’s cry for help is likely to fall flat: since Texas still has a public school system, the Edgewood students won’t be “out on the street” at all.

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private school voucher Posts Archive

Peter Montgomery, Thursday 03/07/2013, 1:05pm
Religious Right leaders and anti-government ideologues have shared a decades-long dream: to dismantle public education through a system of vouchers that would divert taxpayer funds out of public schools and into religious schools and other private academies.  For some, privatizing education is primarily a religious or ideological project. For others, the billions of dollars that flow through public schools is a tempting source of cash. For some it’s both.  Whatever the incentive, voucher proponents are finding success.  A renewed push for the creation and expansion of... MORE
Brian Tashman, Friday 05/13/2011, 1:24pm
Private school voucher advocates and their allies in the so-called “education reform” movement readily talk about the need for rigorous, constant testing along with the application of free market principles to education: reward high-performing schools and teachers and punish bad ones. Over the last decade, Milwaukee has been a laboratory for private school vouchers, and the results have been poor: numerous studies have shown that vouchers failed to make any difference in student performance. Just like in Washington, DC and Cleveland, private school vouchers in Milwaukee failed... MORE
Brian Tashman, Monday 05/09/2011, 4:41pm
During the heated fight over the federal budget, Republicans won a compromise that stopped the city of Washington D.C. from using its own tax dollars to help low-income women access reproductive health services and added more funding to a DC private school voucher program opposed by local officials. Strongly objecting to the House GOP’s blatant encroachment on home rule, which included financing an ineffective voucher program while taking away crucial funding for women’s family planning, DC Mayor Vince Gray and a number of Council members were arrested during a protest. Anti-... MORE
Brian Tashman, Tuesday 03/22/2011, 12:40pm
An organization that backs private school vouchers is campaigning against the recall of the eight Republican Wisconsin senators who backed Governor Scott Walker’s anti-union legislation. The so-called American Federation for Children (AFC) is an ardent supporter of the voucher scheme in Milwaukee, the unsuccessful voucher program which Walker and his GOP allies want to export to other parts of the state as part of bolstering the Republicans’ attacks on public schools and teachers. Listen to their robocall defending GOP Senator Sheila Harsdorf: At the same time that Walker and the... MORE
Brian Tashman, Tuesday 12/28/2010, 10:37am
Haley Barbour Mississippi: Uses private jet for political and entertainment outings, state spent over $500,000 for his air travel (Politico, 12/27). Race: Controversy over Barbour’s Citizens Council “whitewash” continues (Christian Science Monitor, 12/22). John Bolton Government: Says government should not cut defense spending to shrink the deficit (TPM, 12/27). Social issues: Denounces non-binding treaty on the rights of indigenous people (Fox News, 12/25). Mitch Daniels Social issues: Stands by his support for a “truce” on social issues (Politico, 12/... MORE
Brian Tashman, Wednesday 11/17/2010, 2:51pm
Following the election, RWW will bring you our list of the "The Ten Scariest Republicans Heading to Congress." Our final candidate profile is on Renee Ellmers of North Carolina: Leading Democratic Rep. Bob Etheridge by 1,489 votes in North Carolina’s second district, conservative activist Renee Ellmers has declared victory and is now attending freshman orientation in Washington DC. A self-declared “product of the tea party,” she ran on anti-health care and anti-Stimulus platform: she compared President Obama to “Louis XIV, the Sun King” and... MORE
Brian Tashman, Thursday 11/04/2010, 1:30pm
Following Tuesday's election, RWW will bring you our list of the "The Ten Scariest Republicans Heading to Congress."  Our first candidate is Florida's version of Sharron Angle, Sandra "Sandy" Adams: After serving four terms in the Florida State House, Sandy Adams ran for US Congress and handily defeated freshman Congresswoman Suzanne Kosmas. She built-up a far-right voting record as a state representative, and she campaigned as the most conservative candidate in the competitive Republican primary. As a legislator and candidate Sandy Adams has embraced the... MORE