Teacher Union Lists Top 10 Voucher Supporters

Published July 1, 2001

If you’re “very wealthy” and provide financial support for school vouchers to help children get a better K-12 education, there’s a good chance you were considered for inclusion in the National Education Association’s article, “Ten Reasons to Speak Out for Public Schools” in the May 2001 issue of the teacher union’s monthly magazine, NEA Today.

The issue featured a “Clip & Save” column offering the names of 10 leading pro-voucher advocates–“some very wealthy folks,” according to the union–who were characterized generally as individuals involved in an “anti-public education assault.” The list obviously excluded the primary beneficiaries of school vouchers: low-income families dissatisfied with their assigned public schools.

“Never, never stop speaking out for public education,” NEA Today urges its teacher union members. “There are some very wealthy folks out there–many of whom work together–who fuel America’s pro-voucher movement.”

Here’s how the teacher union viewed these children’s advocates:

#1. John Walton

Wal-Mart heir Walton is considered by the teacher union to be the voucher “movement’s most prolific giver,” providing seed money to CEO America and $2 million to last November’s voucher initiative in Michigan. According to the NEA, “Walton bankrolls a massive private voucher program along with financier Ted Forstmann and runs a charter school management company.”

#2. Ted Forstmann

Wall Street financier Forstmann “recently funded a multi-million-dollar ad campaign attacking public education,” according to the NEA. The description continues: “Forstmann wants to scrap public schools in favor of an ATM-like system that would dispense taxpayer-funded vouchers” to private schools “run by anyone who wanted to start one.”

#3. Tim Draper

NEA Today points out the California initiative supported by Silicon Valley venture capitalist Draper would give publicly funded vouchers “to children from even the wealthiest families.”

#4. Dick DeVos

According to the NEA, DeVos and his wife Betsy are conducting an “anti-public education assault” using “a skewed report” to claim a high failure rate for Michigan’s public schools.

#5. The Bradley Foundation

NEA Today points out that The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation “makes generous gifts” to Milwaukee’s privately funded voucher program, to voucher researcher Paul Peterson of Harvard University, and to the pro-voucher legal group, the Institute for Justice.

#6. James Leininger

Leininger provides most of the financial support for the Horizon privately funded voucher program in San Antonio, Texas, which the NEA claims is “draining money” from the local public schools.

#7. J. Patrick Rooney

Insurance company executive Rooney created one of the first privately funded voucher programs and took the idea national with CEO America. Rooney also played a key role in other pro-voucher groups, including the American Education Reform Council and the Greater Educational Opportunities Foundation.

#8. Milton Friedman

According to the NEA, economist Friedman uses his foundation to supplement four decades of voucher advocacy with support for ad campaigns, conferences, publications, think tanks, and advocacy groups to promote “alternatives” to public schools.

#9. Richard Mellon Scaife

With four family foundations, NEA Today reports, Scaife provides support for a variety of groups that promote vouchers and tuition tax credits: think tanks, private voucher-dispensing organizations, and public interest law firms.

#10. New Benefactors

The NEA lists the following as “new benefactors” for the voucher movement: Univision CEO Jerrold Perenchio, former Circuit City CEO Richard Sharp, Wolverine Gas & Oil CEO Sidney Jansma, Domino’s Pizza founder Thomas Monaghan, and the computer company Compuware.

By contrast . . . NEA Today also reported that the union helps underwrite what it characterizes as “independent” research into issues of interest to the union. Thus, the NEA funds studies on vouchers, class size reduction, and for-profit education at the Center for Education Research, Analysis, and Innovation at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, which is headed by Alex Molnar.