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Louisiana Federation for Children: Out-of-State Money Buys 26 Out of 30 Seats

November 19, 2019

Anyone who doubts that ueber-wealthy ed reformers are purchasing elections in other states need only consider this November 10, 2019, campaign finance report for the Louisiana Federation for Children (LFC) Action Fund PAC. Even so, as one quickly realizes when following ed reform money, the connections readily become numerous and complicated.

Let’s see how concise I can keep this this post centered on a single, LFC campaign finance report.

LFC is a state-level tentacle of the American Federation for Children (AFC), the school choice vehicle formerly chaired by US ed sec, Betsy DeVos. Louisiana gubernatorial challenger, Eddie Rispone is the former LFC chair. and also the former treasurer of the LFC Action Fund PAC.

According to LFC Action Fund PAC’s November 10, 2019, filing, three out-of-state donors (two individuals and one PAC), donated a combined $825K in October 2019. The same three donated a combined $2.6M in 2019 alone. They are Arkansas billonaire and Walmart heir, Jim Walton; California billionaire William Oberndorf, who succeeded DeVos as AFC chair, and a school choice PAC, Public School Allies:

  • William Oberndorf (CA): $275K in 10/19; $550K YTD (year to date).
  • Jim Walton (AR): $350K in 10/19; $912K YTD.
  • Public School Allies (VA): $200K in 10/19; $1.2M YTD.

Public School Allies lists as its address “6312 Seven Corners Center #354 Falls Church, VA 22044,” which is a UPS drop box. However, the October 24, 2019, Chalkbeat reports that Public School Allies is the “political arm” of the City Fund, created in 2018 to spread school choice by three individuals, including former New Schools for New Orleans (NSNO) CEO, Neerav Kingsland. From Chalkbeat:

The political arm of The City Fund, the organization with ambitions to spread charter schools and the “portfolio model” of school reform across the country, plans to spend $15 million to influence state and local elections over the next three years.

That political group, known as Public School Allies, has already directed money toward to school board races in Atlanta, Camden, Newark, and St. Louis, and state elections in Louisiana, Georgia, and New Jersey. Donations have ranged from $1 million to as little as $1,500.

The information was shared by Public School Allies and, in a number of cases, confirmed by campaign finance records. The $15 million comes from Netflix founder Reed Hastings and former hedge-fund manager John Arnold, the organization said.

According to his Linkedin bio, Kingsland worked for both Hastings and Arnold “leading education giving” immediately prior to establishing the City Fund.

Sure makes it read like the City Fund “belongs” to billionaires Hastings and Arnold.

But they are not alone. In 2018, billionaire Bill Gates gave the City Fund $10M “to increase the number of high-quality public schools in Oakland.” Of course, to the City Fund, a “public school” is a charter school.

Those complex ed-reform funding paths always seem to end with a few millionaires and billionaires, tossing their cash and puppeting the strings of American K12 education.

So, what, exactly, did Walton, Oberndorf, and those behind Public School Allies want to accomplish with the $829K they poured into Louisiana’s October 2019 election?

Well, they wanted to get 30 individuals elected into various offices, including both state house and senate, and, of course, Louisiana’s state ed board (BESE). To this end, they bought direct mail and digital media ads; “strategic consulting,” and paid for “media production.”

They ended up seating 26 of the 30.

Below is a listing of the LFC-supported candidates, as well as Party affiliation (R, D, or I) and whether each won or lost (W or L, respectively):

Louisiana House:

Louisiana Senate:

Louisiana BESE:

LFC Action Fund also did a $146K “media buy” to oppose one BESE candidate, Timmie Melancon (District 1) (I; L), and it spent $53K to oppose Ryan Gatti (SD 10) (R; L).

It takes an out-of-state village of billionaires to raise school choice.

desk money


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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.

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  1. Leo Laventhal permalink

    The Louisiana Federation of Children also heavily invested this year in the campaign of Aimee Adatto Freeman who just won in house district #98.
    Ms Schneider, thank you for your tireless work.

    • Freeman is on the list in this post.

      • Leo Laventhal permalink

        You’re right, she is. But she’s listed with the senators, not representatives. That’s probably why I missed her.

      • Sorry about that. Error fixed.

  2. two typos here:

    Public School Allies lists as its address “6312 Seven Corners Center #354 Falls Church, VA 22044,” which is a UPS drop box . However, the October 24, 2019, Chlakbeat reports that Public School, Allies is the “political arm” of the City Fund, created in 2018 to spread school choice by three individuals, including former New Schools for New Orleans (NSNO) CEO, Neerav Kingsland. From Chalkbeat :

  3. Linda permalink

    After Katrina, the Knights of Columbus gave $500,000 to the New Orleans Catholic school system. The Manhattan Institute (Koch) wrote high praise for New Orleans Catholic schools. Neither the K of C donation nor the praise are surprising. The politicized K of C is led by Jesse Helm’s legislative aide and Republican operative, Carl Anderson. Anderson is on the Board of Catholic University of America which takes millions from the Koch’s. He’s joined on that board by Tim Busch of the Napa Institute. Napa has an offshoot of lawyers to help church in court cases about separation of church and state.
    Media reported that K of C got involved to defeat the re-election of Dem. U.S. Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper (Penn.). Dahlkemper’s opponent, a Republican man and big Trump supporter, won.

    The Knights of Columbus are school choice supporters.

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  1. Mercedes Schneider: Big Money Buys Key Elections in Louisiana | Diane Ravitch's blog

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