PAC gets voucher money to Indiana candidates

The political tiger that used to call itself Hoosiers for Economic Growth has a new name, but it hasn’t changed its stripes. It’s up to the same thing: Funneling money from out-of-state billionaires to state legislative candidates likely to support private-school vouchers.

Now called Hoosiers for Quality Education, the political action committee has spent over a half million dollars this year to influence Indiana elections – including at least $187,500 in large contributions made in the last 10 days to Republican state legislative candidates.

As in the past, the group’s money comes primarily from non-Hoosiers. Some $325,000 – more than half of what it raised this year – was contributed by the American Federation for Children PAC, a pro-voucher group headed by Michigan GOP activist Betsy DeVos.

It got $100,000 from a Hoosier, Fred Klipsch, who organized the group and claimed credit for getting Indiana to adopt school vouchers, expanded charter schools and test-based teacher evaluations in 2011. It also got money from John Bryan, an Oregon industrialist with ties to the Koch Brothers, and Charter Schools USA, the Florida for-profit tapped to run three low-performing Indianapolis schools.

American Federation for Children files its Indiana campaign reports from the Terre Haute office of GOP super lawyer James Bopp, a primary figure behind the Citizens United case in which the Supreme Court overturned restrictions on corporate political giving.

And where does the American Federation for Children PAC get its money? Mostly from heirs to the Walmart fortune, who are well known for bankrolling efforts to promote charter schools and vouchers. It reports 2014 contributions of $745,000 from Jim Walton and $166,450 from Alice Walton.

Of course, that kind of money is pocket change if you’re worth more than $34 billion. Not to say our Indiana politicians are for sale – but if they were, these folks could buy them.

Sparks vs. Ubelhor race an education battleground

Indiana legislative districts are drawn in such a way that only a handful of seats are at stake on Election Day. One of those is House District 62, where Linton middle-school principal Jeff Sparks, a Democrat, is challenging Matt Ubelhor, the Republican incumbent.

You can tell it’s a hot race by the amount of late money coming in on both sides. And it’s significant that a lot of the money is coming from groups focused on education.

Just in the past 10 days, Ubelhor has taken in $109,300 in large contributions and Sparks has received $68,000, with party caucuses the biggest donors to each. Since mid-September, Hoosiers for Quality Education has reporting giving $33,000 to Ubelhor and the Indiana State Teachers Association has contributed twice that much to Sparks.

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2 thoughts on “PAC gets voucher money to Indiana candidates

  1. Money of this type goes even to school board elections — we have no “local” or “state” government anymore that is representing the citizens. The partisan agenda is the norm. Now that the public schools are widely considered broken and a teacher shortage of exponential proportions is looming, these groups will aim for higher education and break that as well. We are heading into some dark times when it comes to education — and there is a frightening ignorance about what the rest of the world is doing. There is an agenda of funding to provide adequate resources, modernized curriculum, use of technologies, and blended education across many parameters with international focus– so many innovations are the norm. When was the last time your child came home to tell you about a project they are currently doing with a classroom in Japan or Guam or Sweden? Or, how the use of electronic cubes may be utilized to create housing for people living in poverty. Schools in other countries are increasingly looking like an extended series of Ted-Talks — it is an exciting time for them — and the American rigidity in teach and test will soon leave our students in the dust bin. Once the general public is convinced that the public schools are bad, that failing children are the teachers’ faults, it is no longer a battle lost — the war is lost to the detriment of our children, to our state, and to America. The outcomes of this will affect a generation of children that will be unable to compete in a global economy. Good teachers are probably more skilled that your medical doctor, and most of us trust our medical doctor to give us good care, yet they are poorly paid, expected to teach content, know CPR, resuscitation, prevent suicides, and stop a child shooting up a school. They incur physical injuries on a regular basis — many are threatened by their students and their families quite often. And now the public thinks they have high paying, cushy jobs and that teachers are incompetent. I would like to know how many of the critics of teachers would do what they do every day for a starting wage of about $35,000 a year (not counting work on the weekends and after school) and still find the time and energy to guide and care about every student during that day. It is one of the toughest (and dangerous) jobs — and enrollment in teacher education programs has dropped nationwide to as much as 50%. Those teachers that now leave the profession do not have a replacement waiting in the wings — they are simply not there. Few people want to become teachers. As Colin Powell reminded us with this pithy remark about going to war in Iraq, “If you break it, you’ve bought it.” That is where we are right now. If politicians, and the public that believes their agenda, break public schools, they have bought it — and it will be decades and massive amounts of money to restore what was never broken in the first place.

    • Excellent post. My goodness…look at what our children are missing out on. Just think how behind the curve we will be. Meanwhile, we are trying to decide whether to add the possibility of dinosaurs living together with man into our textbooks. Lovely.

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