Page 2


Rev. Sterling Lands, president of the Austin chapter of the Black Alliance or Educational Options Jana Birchum Foundation has been a generous donor to the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, a rightwing think tank that financed author Charles Murray’s work on The Bell Curve. Murray’s book argues that racial inequalities in the United States are a result of minorities’ inferior genetics. The Bradley, Olin, and Walton Foundations have contributed heavily to the Children’s Education Opporbegan CEO Americaoriginally CEO San Antonioin 1992 to give private vouchers to public school students in San Antonio’s Edgewood Independent School District. In 1994, Walton gave Leininger $2 million to make CEO a national program. CEO America now claims to operate in 70 cities and 36 states, giving out the private vouchers that critics say are a stalking horse for publicly funded vouchers. But voucher backers have encountered a problem in their push: a growing body of research that indicates vouchers don’t significantly help students. So the Bradley, Olin and Walton Foundations have subsidized their own scientific studies that show vouchers succeeding. Education researcher Paul Peterson is the director of Harvard University’s Program on Education Policy and Governance, which has received more than $5.4 million from the Olin, Bradley and Walton foundations. In 2000 Peterson released favorable results from a study on the New York City voucher program. The research group that gathered data for the study felt compelled to issue a press release disowning Peterson’s results, calling them “premature” and “inconclusive.” The non-partisan National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education reanalyzed the New York City program and found African-American voucher students were the only group to show any improvement over public school counterparts; their achievement test scores were about 1.5 percent higher. Peterson and Jay Greene, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute’s Center for Civic Innovationan institute also supported with Bradley, Olin and Walton moneyreleased a 1996 report showing gains for Milwaukee voucher students. University of Wisconsin professor John Witte, who had made a fiveyear study of the Milwaukee voucher program, called Peterson and Greene’s study a “confusing, tortured effort to find any evidence that students enrolled in private schools do any better than students in Milwaukee public schools.” On another front, the Bradley, Olin andWalton foundations also support the Institute for Justice and the Legal Landmark Foundation, public-interest law firms that have successfully defended voucher programs in Florida, Cleveland, and Milwaukee. Through strategic investments in lawyers, academics, and community organizations like BAEO, these powerful conservative interests have orchestrated voucher pushes in California, Michigan, and Florida. Now they’re moving into Texas. Together, board members of CEO America gave $82,000 to Gov. Rick Perry during the 2002 election campaign, and about $95,500 to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. CEO America’s board members gave $41,267 to Attorney General Greg Abbot and $177,500 to Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn. As a group, members of the House of Representatives received just under $57,000, according to the Texas Ethics Commission. Perry and other top Texas officials have been staunch supporters of vouchers and privatized education. But however good the voucher lobby may have been to Texas politicians, there’s little reason to believe that vouchers will be good for Texas childrenespecially for the African-American and Hispanic children that vouchers are supposed to rescue. “The greatest irony of vouchers is that they would hurt precisely those children they claim they would help,” says TFN’s Sam Smoot. “The vast majority of children will be left behind in public schools that have been drained of their resources.” Grusendorf’s HB 2465 would create a voucher pilot program this fall in 11 urban school districts, chosen for their high numbers of students in reducedprice lunch programs. The voucher program would be the most extensive in the country and would expand in 2005 to include any district that chooses to join it. 6 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5/9103