In the last two election cycles, out-of-state billionaires, hedge fund managers and school privatizers have poured millions of dollars into Louisiana school elections.
A new report from the Network for Public Education Action showcases the money that they invested in Louisiana’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education races “to install a privatization friendly Louisiana State Superintendent of Education to continue and expand upon the reforms already underway in post-Katrina New Orleans and across the state.”
The report notes that in 2011, the top five out-of-state billionaires spent $500,000 on BESE races to ensure that John White would be installed as state superintendent and support school privatization.
By 2015, the report says, “the top five billionaires dramatically increased their spending to close to $4 million dollars in an attempt to maintain that board majority. Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor turned presidential hopeful, led the spending with $1,723,600 in contributions to PACs and directly to candidates. The combined spending of Jim and Alice Walton, heirs to the Walmart fortune, totaled $1,150,000 in contributions, the second highest total in the race. Other out-of-state billionaires included Donald Trump’s Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, her husband, and two of their Michigan associates, whose spending totaled $400,000.”
There are signs that the out-of-state interests are ramping up to interfere in elections this year, as well. An outfit called Education Reform Now is cited in the study as funneling “Dark Money,” that can’t be traced to an individual donor, to rig the outcome of school board elections in Denver, Colorado. In the past few weeks, ERN has paid for advertising in the upcoming Baton Rouge school board elections, calling itself “Raise the Bar Baton Rouge.”
Every member of Education Reform Now’s New York City-based board of directors is a principal officer in an investment firm.
We will never have enough money to outspend the billionaires, hedge fund managers, and privatizers, but we can mobilize to outvote them. Pay attention to what the candidates say, and to whom is funding them. Listen when organizations like the Louisiana Federation of Teachers announce their endorsements for political office.
And above all, don’t forget to vote. It matters.
We CARE, we SHOW UP, we FIGHT, and we VOTE!