Follow the Money: It’s Education . . . We’re NOT Stupid!

Education is the most important issue facing our community.

Education is also the hottest commodity in Louisiana right now. This post-Katrina reform of public education has made it clear to the world that the futures of our children are for sale. And our public schools and the children they serve are being traded like gold, pork bellies and orange juice.

These reformers, the profiteers making money off of the corporatization of public education—they got a good thing going down in here in this city, and they don’t want to lose it. Why else would all of this dark money (political spending by non-profits that are not required to disclose their donors) be pouring into the Louisiana from out-of-state to back Board of Elementary and Secondary Education back incumbent Kira Orange Jones along with other candidates running for other BESE seats, as well as candidates in Louisiana State Senate and House of Representative races–even people we thought we knew and could trust.

Of course this isn’t a surprise. Years ago, we warned you of the reformers’ playbook. There plan was to use money to influence community leaders in an effort to convince the rest of us that their brand of reform was the way.

The reformers need these folk to carry their water and do their bidding to further the dismantling of public education not only in New Orleans, but across the state, ensuring that schools our schools are never returned to local control and that they remain operated by quasi-for-profit entities where students are dollars signs, principals are replaced by CEOs and teacher unions are locked out.

The New-York Based non-profit Education Reform No Advocacy has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into Kira Orange Jones’ BESE re-election bid.

A campaign finance report dated Sept. 28 and filed on behalf of Education Reform Now Advocacy, which is associated with the New York-based Democrats for Education Reform and is located on the 19th floor of a building at 222 Broadway in New York City, reports the group’s $358,934 in contributions to benefit four candidates in the Oct. 12 primary. The money they spent on behalf of candidates included printing costs and media buys, including two huge media buys for Kira Orange Jones at local television stations that totaled more $61,500.

Another campaign finance report filed on Oct. 2 on behalf of Education Reform Now Advocacy details that the non-profit contributed another $321,484.60 to impact races in New Orleans and across the state. That same report disclosed another $200,000 in contributions ($100,000 each from Alice Walton and Jim Walton of Bentonville, Ark.). Yep, that’s right—those Waltons.

That makes the total amount for that report over $521,000. And you guessed it. Kira Orange Jones benefitted in a big way again. Nearly $150,000 of the contributions disclosed in the Oct. 2 report went to Jones’ campaign for direct mailers, billboards and canvassing. In all, we are talking about more than $200,000 spent by this out-of-state non-profit to impact Louisiana’s District 2 BESE race.

Oh, yeah! It’s Education! We’re NOT stupid.

Education Reform Now Advocacy is a charter-school proponent that uses its 501(c)(4) nonprofit status to make sizeable political contributions to push the privatization of public education while hiding the names of its donors. And it is not new at all to Louisiana politics. According to media reports, the organization made a six-figure media buy in 2018 to impact local school board races in Baton Rouge.

It’s Education! We’re NOT stupid.

But why in the world are the Wal-Mart people donating that kind of money to influence elections in Louisiana, you ask. Good question. In case you didn’t know the Walton Foundation pledged $1 billion a few years ago to push the “Walmartarization” of public education via the expansion of charter schools and other so-called school choice reforms.

But schools aren’t businesses. And in this nation, a free, quality and equitable public education is a right, not a commodity. Oh, and our children aren’t customers—they are our most precious resources and our future.

So let’s face it, any candidate elected thanks to hundreds of thousands of dollars in media buys, direct mailers and canvassing paid for by some New-York based non-profit will be representing the interests of some New-York based non-profit in Baton Rouge.

Which leaves us with this question—Who will represent you?

It’s Education! We’re NOT stupid!

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