Tuesday, June 01, 2004

The Black Commentator on education

The Black Commentator offers some of the best writing and analysis for those interested in progressive education. Two articles last week are definite must-reads for those who seek more info on vouchers and the relationships with the conservative think tanks. Of all the articles I've seen, their take on the Brown anniversary was the one I liked the best.

The voucher article provides valuable details on how the voucher movement ended up targeting minorities.
Former Reagan Education Secretary William Bennett understood what was missing from the voucher political chemistry: minorities. If visible elements of the Black and Latino community could be ensnared in what was then a lily white scheme, then the Right's dream of a universal vouchers system to subsidize general privatization of education, might become a practical political project. More urgently, Bennett and other rightwing strategists saw that vouchers had the potential to drive a wedge between Blacks and teachers unions, cracking the Democratic Party coalition. In 1988, Bennett urged the Catholic Church to "seek out the poor, the disadvantaged…and take them in, educate them, and then ask society for fair recompense for your efforts" – vouchers. The game was on.

The Heritage Foundation was soon joined in voucher agitation by the young, hyper-aggressive Bradley Foundation, of Milwaukee. Bradley and its allies steamrolled through the Wisconsin legislature a voucher program for Milwaukee's schools, and spent millions of dollars to buy a Black constituency to support it. In 2000, the Bradley, Heritage and Walton Family Foundations unveiled their African American front group: the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), whose job is to put a Black face on a rich, white man's creation.
Some of the connections between political players, think tanks, and corporate money may be not surprising. More interesting is the relationship between the DLC guy in NJ and the rightwing thinktanks and the conservative foundations, such as the one supported by the Walton family money.
New Jersey is a battleground for voucher operatives, the most urban/suburban state in the nation, and a pet interest of John Walton, one of five heirs to the $100 billion Walton (Wal-Mart) family fortune. Walton and local white businessman Peter Denton took a special liking to 30-year-old, then first-term Black Newark City Councilman Cory Booker. With the help of the Bradley-funded Manhattan Institute and a national network of corporate rightwing donors and activists, Booker ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2001, hugely outspending the incumbent. Booker is a founding director of the BAEO and of Newark-based E-3 – Excellent Education for Everyone – the Right's voucher outpost in New Jersey, founded by Denton, a white Republican. Booker is a nominal Democratic, of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) variety. Indeed, he is the very model of the Black Democratic Trojan Horse that the rich Right now cultivates on a national scale. Publicists from the Manhattan Institute and other rightwing thought-manipulation tanks have dubbed this small but growing rump of Black Democrats the New Black Leaders. Naturally, the corporate media sing the same song.
There's more, but I'll end with these words.
This then, is the Right's answer to Brown: that urban public education is not worth funding. African Americans should join with the privatizers, put their hopes in the "market," and abandon demands for equality in the public sphere.

"For me ladies and gentleman, it's education by any means necessary," Rone bizarrely proclaimed to the legislators. "And in my heart, I know that Malcolm would agree with me."

From the lips of a corporate mercenary, the words are obscene.