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Over $3M in Out-of-State Cash Poured into La. BESE Election; Waltons Pay $1.3M

October 11, 2019

Seven seats for Louisiana’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) are among the contests to be decided by Louisiana voters on Saturday, October 12, 2019.

(Usually eight of the eleven seats are on the ballot, but this election one BESE member, Tony Davis of District 4, is unopposed. Davis is an ed-reform favorite. The remaining three BESE seats will be filled by the governor, a contest also on the October 12, 2019, ballot.)

For the 2011 and 2015 BESE elections, the out-of-state billionaire-enabled, corporate-ed-reform cash flowed freely.

Such is the case in 2019, as well.

money in safe

First of all, here is who the out-of-state, corporate-ed-reformer financiers want as Louisiana’s 2019 BESE board:

  • James Garvey (Dist 1)
  • Kira Orange-Jones (Dist 2)
  • Sandy Holloway (Dist 3)
  • Tony Davis (Dist 4– unopposed)
  • Ashley Ellis (Dist 5)
  • Ronnie Morris (Dist 6)
  • Holly Boffy (Dist 7)
  • Preston Castille (Dist 8)

According to its 09/10/19 filing, Oregon-based Stand for Children’s Louisiana-financed PAC, Stand for Children Louisiana (SFC LA) IEC, spent $168K in August on six BESE candidates (all of the above except Orange-Jones). However, according to SFC LA IEC’s October 10, 2019, filing, not only has Orange-Jones been added to the list; its Oregon main office has spent an additional $383K in September 2019 on the Louisiana’s BESE candidates it prefers, including $231K on Orange-Jones and Castille for radio and television ads and $85K on Garvey for “broadcast media placement” and mailers.

The SFC goal appears to be to manufacturing grass roots support for issues like Common Core, charter schools, and union busting.

But there’s more:

Another ed-reform PAC is very much in the mix: Louisiana Federation for Children (LFC) Action Fund, an extension of the American Federation for Children (AFC), a pro-voucher, pro-charter org formerly chaired by US ed sec Betsy deVos. Once DeVos was headed to DC in November 2016, AFC founding board member, William Oberndorf, became AFC chair.

In August 2019I wrote about the AFC/LFC influence on the October 2019 BESE election; in December 2018, Arkansas billionaire Jim Walton donated $100K to LFC Action Fund.

According to LFC Action Fund’s October 10, 2019, filingJim Walton and his billionaire, school-choice-promoting sister, Alice, each dropped a cool $562,500 into LFC Action Fund coffers to promote election of 24 candidates to Louisiana offices on October 12, 2019, including support for five BESE candidates (Garvey, Boffy, Holloway, Ellis, and Morris).

On its October 10, 2019, filing, LFC Action Fund reported a total of $2.4M in contributions for the month of September; aside from the Waltons’ combined $1.1M, Oberndorf contributed $275K, and a Virginia-based group, Public School Allies, tossed in $1M. Public School Allies is a lobbying nonprofit associated with the City Fund. From the December 09, 2018, Chalkbeat:

A new group that’s raised millions to promote its brand of school reform has begun spending that money in seven cities — and its staff may be planning to try to influence elections, too.

The City Fund has already given grants to organizations and schools in Atlanta, Indianapolis, Newark, Denver, San Antonio, St. Louis, and Nashville, according to one of the group’s founders, Neerav Kingsland. Those grants amount to $15 million of the $189 million the group has raised, he told Chalkbeat.

City Fund staffers have also founded a 501(c)(4) organization called Public School Allies, according to an email obtained by Chalkbeat, which Kingsland confirmed. That setup will allow the group’s members to have more involvement in politics and lobbying, activities limited for traditional nonprofits.

The details — some first reported by The 74 on Sunday — offer the latest insight into the ambitions of The City Fund, which is looking to push cities across the U.S. to expand charter schools and district schools with charter-like autonomy.

That “push” takes quite a load of ed-reform-loving cash.

Even though BESE candidates Orange-Jones and Castille were omitted from that beefed-up, $1M Walton dollar drop to LFC Action Fund, do not think that the Waltons have forgotten them. As I posted on October 07, 2019Alice and Jim Walton donated $100K apiece to Education Reform Now (ERN) Advocacy, yet another ed-reform PAC that receives its sustenance from a national org not located in Louisiana, and which is promoting a slate of candidates in the Louisiana’s October 12, 2019, elections, including ed-reform-pleasing BESE candidates. Why, ERN Advocacy and SFC LA IEC are even paying a common consultant for its Orange-Jones and Castille ads (Berni Consulting).

When it comes to purchasing a state board of education majority, astroturf orgs and the out-of-state national orgs and billionaires behind them must coordinate their efforts, n’est ce pas?

three-waltons-e1570841229275.jpg

Jim and Alice Walton

The SFC, AFC, and ERN money into Louisiana’s 2019 elections– much of it directed towards BESE campaigns– easily exceeds $3M to date. (Based on the Walton involvement in the 2015 BESE election, I am hard pressed to imagine that the Walton money is meant for any races other than BESE races.)

In contrast, the Washington, DC-based American Federation for Teachers (AFT) has contributed $361K to Louisiana’s October 12, 2019, elections– just over half of the amount that a single billionaire Walton has spent to date:

  • $100K to LA Democrats PAC (07/2019)
  • $51.3K to LA Fed of Teachers PAC (03/2019)
  • $76K to LA Fed of Teachers PAC (08/2019)
  • $35K to LA Fed of Teachers PAC (08/2019)
  • $100K to the State Democratic Campaign Committee of LA (09/2019)

DC-based American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees also contributed $100K to the State Democratic Campaign Committee of LA in September 2019.

Election purchasing power is clearly in favor of corporate ed reform, and such a board would likely keep John White in place as state superintendent for another four years.

However, that does not mean that Louisiana voters must acquiesce to the glossy ads  enabled by the ed-reform money dump.

Below are BESE candidates who are also on the ballot, and who are not part of the Walton et al., market-based ed reform attempted purchase, though some are pro-charter-school.

Click links to better know these BESE candidates:

District 1:

District 2:

District 3:

District 5:

District 6:

District 7:

District 8:

Voting is Saturday, October 12, 2019.

Don’t be fooled by the expensive BESE ads.

Vote informed.

ballot-box

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Interested in scheduling Mercedes Schneider for a speaking engagement? Click here.

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Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

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