Bush funds voucher front group, targets Blacks

Reprinted from The Black Commentator

The Bush administration is directly funding a media campaign by the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), the school vouchers propaganda outfit created by the far-right Bradley Foundation. The blatant political nature of the gift could not be plainer. “We want to change the conversation about parental choice by positively influencing individuals who are resisting parental choice options and get them to reconsider their outlook,” said Undersecretary of Education Gene Hickok, announcing a $600,000 grant to the BAEO.

The taxpayer-funded propaganda blitz targeting Black parents will be the second for the BAEO. The front group’s 2000-2001 media campaign, valued at an estimated $3 million from Hard Right and corporate bankrollers, inundated print and electronic media in selected cities. It was the coming-out party for the BAEO, which had shortly before been check-booked into existence by Michael Joyce, then executive director of the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation. Bradley has given the BAEO well over $2 million since inventing the front organization in August 2000. The ultra-right Walton Family Foundation also helped jump-start the BAEO with $900,000, according to People for the American Way.

Joyce also channeled at least $1 million to Charles Murray, author of The Bell Curve, the book that gave academic respectability to the theory that Blacks are intellectually inferior to whites. Joyce left Bradley in June to devote full time to his Washington lobbying firm, Americans for Community and Faith-Centered Enterprise. He has permanent access to George Bush’s ear, having been the principal architect of Republican social policy over the last decade. It was Joyce who inspired the GOP’s faith-based initiatives strategy and the party’s most restrictive welfare “reforms,” as well as the vouchers offensive among Blacks.

As The Black Commentator reported in our July 11 issue, the Bradley Foundation is the “paymaster of the Right. Since 1985, the foundation has spent close to $400 million to invent and fund a host of phony civil rights, environmental, women’s, small business, student, and other front organizations tailored to serve its corporate agenda. The school voucher ‘movement’ was one such concoction.”

Buying a movement through media

Through the efforts of Bradley-funded think tanks, like the American Enterprise Institute and the Manhattan Institute, the illusion has been created of a Black grassroots movement for vouchers. Federal dollars will now magnify the lie, for public and media consumption. It will also provide the BAEO with enormous political patronage opportunities. “The full-scale media campaign will use direct mail, television, radio, newspapers, the Internet and door-to-door visits,” reads the Education Department press release. “BAEO also will provide direct assistance to eligible parents through call centers and local volunteer corps.”

A phony “movement,” invented by rich, racist white men in Milwaukee, is being foisted on a Black and Latino public, paid for with the people’s tax money.

The Bush administration is engaged in a shameless abuse of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, passed overwhelming by support from both sides of the Senate and House, and crafted largely by Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy. Under cover of informing parents of options available within public school systems, the BAEO is encouraged to use public money to rally political support for private schools funding – its only reason for existence.

Bush gave lip service to the intent of the legislation when he signed the measure early this year. “These reforms express my deep belief in our public schools and their mission to build the mind and character of every child, from every background, in every part of America,” said the Prevaricator-in-Chief.

Six months later, following the U.S. Supreme Court decision paving the way for private school vouchers, Bush paid homage to the Bradley Foundation, the deep pockets behind the “movement.”

“The Bradley Foundation has always been willing to seek different solutions,” said Bush. “They’ve been willing to challenge the status quo. They’d say, where we find failure, something else must occur. And the foundation not only has been kind and generous with its donations, the foundation also has been willing to help people think anew.”

Now, Bush has put Bradley’s creation, the BAEO, on the federal payroll. “This grant is one of many vital components that will enable us to advance BAEO’s work and its mission,” said BAEO chief executive Lawrence C. Patrick III, accepting the subsidy.

The BAEO’s mission is privatization.

The grant for the media campaign was announced at a charter school in Philadelphia, one of the cities targeted for political conversion, along with Dallas, Detroit and, of course, Milwaukee. Detroit and the rest of Michigan overwhelmingly rejected a private school voucher referendum two years ago; the federal money gives the BAEO another shot at proselytizing among “parents and community members in economically disadvantaged, at-risk communities.”

Milwaukee, under the firm political grip of the Bradley Foundation, is already host to a voucher program involving 10,000 students. The federal “informational” monies will doubtless supplement the paychecks of Bradley’s African American operatives, further distorting that city’s Black political structures.

Philadelphia is the choicest prize to the privatizers of the BAEO. Sitting among the motley BAEO board of Republicans and education business hustlers are Floyd Flake, the former Democratic congressman from Queens, N.Y., and president of Edison Charter Schools, and Deborah McGriff, a former Milwaukee Schools superintendent and president of Edison Teachers College. Edison is the for-profit vulture of public education. Its stock value rises and falls with the number of “failing” public schools it can cut deals to take over. Twenty Philadelphia schools have been placed under Edison’s control. Quite literally, Flake and McGriff have a vested interest in the failure of public education.

With the cash infusion from Bush’s Education Department, the BAEO will be able to put more of its political troops on the streets, infesting parent and neighborhood meetings, spreading the voucher gospel. Federally financed radio and print ads will work relentlessly to create the sound and fury of a “movement” that exists only because Bush, Bradley and the rich make it so.

Political hustlers such as Cory Booker, the BAEO board member, unsuccessful Newark mayoral candidate, darling of the corporate media and leading Black, nominal Democrat booster for school vouchers, also benefit directly from the $600,000 Department of Education gift. His political fortunes rise along with those of the phony Black voucher “movement.”

The biggest beneficiary is the Republican Party – in a sense, Bush is converting Education Department funds into African American GOP and Democrat Trojan Horse cadre development money. Vouchers are the GOP’s wedge into Black America, a people for whom education is the dearest priority.

BAEO Chairman Howard Fuller, whose Marquette University-based Institute for the Transformation of Learning was sustained by at least $900,000 from the Bradley Foundation, tells his followers that their mission is “to change the face” of pro-voucher politics. Fuller is married to Edison Teachers College president Deborah McGriff – a household built on undermining public education and Black political cohesion. The entire voucher enterprise is incestuous and thoroughly corrupt – the true character of what is advertised as the “new Black politics.”

“I remain convinced that history is on the side of the families and their right to make choices for their children,” Howard Fuller told his new paymaster, Undersecretary of Education Hickok, in Philadelphia. “This partnership is a perfect match,” Hickok beamed. He’s correct: a rightwing, Republican match with the most dangerous race-sellers in Black America.

Reprinted with permission from the publishers of www.blackcommentator.com.