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EAG Right Wing Funders List Grows

While Kyle Olson and his Education Action Group refuse to disclose their funders, it is possible to uncover some of them. Here’s the most recent summary of the right wing foundations that pay for EAG’s work. Notice that two grants were intended to fund a new EAG Wisconsin chapter:

EAG Funders 2015


EAG Part of “Identity-Laundering Scheme”

The American Bridge 21st Century Foundation’s Conservative Transparency project provides new evidence of the right wing corporate funding that drives EAG’s agenda.

According to their database, EAG has received a total of $794,750 since 2009 from a rouges gallery of right wing foundations. These include Charles Koch, Michigan’s Dick Devos and Donors Capital Fund, which alone provided a 3rd of this funding.

Donors Capital gained national attention recently thanks to a Drexel University study exposing them as what’s been called an “identity-laundering scheme.”

The study examined the funding behind the climate denial industry, and found:

The biggest donor listed is Donors Trust/Donors Capital Fund, which accounted for almost $79 million; individuals can put their so-called donor-advised funds at Donors Trust and then direct the organization to give money on their behalf to nonprofits.

Donors Capital thereby protects the identity of these corporations, insulating them from a negative public reaction to their bottom lines. And now EAG is one of the benefactors of this scheme, depending on how many of the general public read EAG’s propaganda reported as fact, but never learn about its secret funding.


Donors Trust acts as a money laundering service for corporations and the wealthy to secretly fund right wing causes.


EAG has been against the Common Core Curriculum since they first heard about it, apparently because it’s a government initiative. So far, they haven’t found a way to blame unions.

Veld Comm Core

But their complete lack of touch with the real world has never been more evident.

Probationary teacher washout Ben Velderman recently sourced an Education Week article that described how teachers were being forced to regiment bathroom time, so as to lessen distractions and maximize learning. All in the name of performing better on standardized tests and avoiding a state takeover.

After reading this article, Velderman saw an opening. “According to our three sources, a growing number of young elementary students are hiding out in school bathrooms as a way of coping with the stress caused by …  Common Core.” Beyond the obvious ridiculousness of this story, that 10 year olds run to the bathroom to relieve stress, EAG’s “sources” have a track record that doesn’t instill confidence.


Kyle interviews mysterious hooded source on a union-backed, international communist conspiracy.

Years ago Kyle Olson posed with a dark, hooded “source” to expose an international communist plot against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. The obviously posed photo of Kyle standing like a Macy mannequin is truly laughable. After all, don’t all real reporters interview their secret sources on the street, through a darkened doorway?

These new “sources” also tell them that “Some elementary students have reportedly started an “I Hate Math Club” that meets on the playground during recess to share horror stories from math class.” Grade school kids standing around on the playground share horror stories? Perhaps Velderman has never met an actual elementary school student, but if he wants to invent believable stories about little kids on a playground, he should consider visiting an actual playground and have a look.

But beyond their obvious story inventions, EAG’s anti-Common Core position is hard to rationalize when it has so often pointed to standardized test results to condemn teacher unions and public schools. But then logic isn’t their strong suit.

Rose City: Another Chance for Manufactured Outrage

EAG is getting lots of mileage by exploiting a bad situation in Michigan. About a year ago a teacher was convicted of sexual misconduct against a student in the Rose City schools. The teacher is now serving time in prison.

That’s usually plenty for Kyle to order up an outraged column, but in this case, a number of fellow teachers sat with the teacher’s family during the trial, which EAG reads as a sign that they can’t be trusted with children. Later, it was discovered the teacher had a contract right to a severance payment, which the school board refused to pay. A grievance was filed and is now scheduled for arbitration.

This is when EAG and the Mackinac Center released the hounds. How could the MEA defend a child molester? Manufactured outrage is EAG’s bread and butter. As is a real talent for avoiding inconvenient facts.

MEA did not represent the teacher in the criminal proceedings. And the union cannot choose who gets to have the contract enforced and who doesn’t. It has a legal, fiduciary duty to enforce the whole document, even when it comes to people no one likes.

As the MEA said:

MEA is legally obligated to enforce a contract uniformly for all employees who are governed by it. We can’t enforce a contract for one and ignore it for another, even if the actions of an individual are appalling. The crime committed here is heinous, but that doesn’t change our obligation to consistently implement a contract

EAG Gets National Recongition: Pants on Fire

This is the kind of thing Kyle Olson and his writers are probably proud of. Bad press is better than no press, after all.  But EAG now ranks with Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, Marco Rubio and Michele Bachmann after receiving Politifact’s Pants on Fire rating for published lies.

9-9-2013 1-04-41 PM

This one involved a misrepresentation of school a budget, something that EAG publishes almost daily. EAG writer Ben Velderman wrote that the Portland School District spent half a million dollars to promote the racism of peanut and jelly sandwiches. From their perspective on the extreme, extreme right, this kind of Brightbart fabrication probably sounds believable, but to the rest of us its just plain stupid.

EAG spends as much time misrepresenting school budgets as does misrepresenting union contracts these days, now that it has moved on to demonizing public schools as well as unions, part of the right wing campaign to monetize public schools.

EAG has focused on Wisconsin of late, particularly those areas where school vouchers are being proposed.

In Kenosha, Wisconsin, EAG criticized a “huge restaurant tab” that was actually the rent paid on alternative learning center.

In Milwaukee, it trumpeted $300,000 in taxi cab charges, money actually paid to bus special needs and homeless students to school.

When interviewed about his racist PB&J sandwich claim,  Velderman said: “I try not to be inflammatory. I try to keep it as reasonable as possible, by not making outlandish claims.”


Velderman Manages to Write About ALEC Without Using the Word “Lobbyist”

EAG’s Ben Velderman recently posted a defense of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), blaming “government school apologists” and “other leftists” for crediting ALEC for the national rash of anti-union and anti-public school legislation. Velderman uses “private sector leaders” to describe the over 300 major corporate lobbyists who, together with conservative think tank staffers, write legislation that is introduced in state legislatures over 1,000 times every year. Legislation that is written by and designed to benefit its corporate sponsors.

ALEC produces model bills written to improve profits in a long list of markets. The bills:

Weaken environmental regulations and deny climate change;

Support school privatization;

Undercut health care reform;

De-fund unions and limit their political influence;

Restrain legislatures’ abilities to raise revenue through taxes;

Disenfranchise voters;

Increase incarceration to benefit the private prison industry;

Weaken gun laws.alec-rtw-language

ALEC came into the national spotlight when a Stand Your Ground law, written by the NRA and sold to Florida legislators by ALEC, resulted in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in 2012.

ALEC was established in 1973 after the success of the Heritage Foundation and its impact on national policy making. Among those who were involved with ALEC in its formative years were Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin, John Engler of Michigan, Terry Branstad of Iowa, and John Kasich of Ohio.

In fact, the Michigan Right to Work bill is taken from the ALEC model. That model language was written by Michigan’s Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a conservative think tank located in Midland, Michigan.

Velderman assures us all that there’s nothing wrong with this: “If an individual lawmaker chooses to introduce one of ALEC’s “model” bills in the state legislature, the bill still has to go through the entire legislative process – just like any piece of legislation – where it is subjected to numerous votes and revisions.”

Writing from Muskegon, Michigan, Velderman no doubt was paying attention when none of this happened in December 2012, when the Mackinac Center/ALEC Right to Work law was enacted in 5 days without a single public hearing or committee vote.

Kyle Drops the Pretense and Gets Honest

EAG’s founder, Kyle Olson, gets hate mail. That’s not surprising, given he trades in vilifying teachers and other school employees, and especially their unions. And he’s increasingly focusing on principals, administrators and anyone else involved in public schools. Helping to monetize public education is a dirty business.

But maintaining the pretense of a school improvement group is hard when you tell the truth once in awhile. That happened in 2011, when Kyle’s Glen Beck wannabe impulses got the best of him (again) and he wrote this on the TownHall site:

I would like to think that, yes, Jesus would destroy the public education temple and save the children from despair and a hopeless future. And he would smash a temple that has been perverted to meet the needs of the administrators, teachers, school board members, unions, bureaucrats and contractors.

Again, Kyle has never taught a day in a public or in any other school. His background in purely in Republican politics. Why is it reporters and even worse, public officials, go to this guy for advice on running their schools?

EAG Cashes In. Big Time.

As part of his school reform interest group pose, Kyle Olson has always promised that his was a grass roots organization financed by regular people, most often outraged parents. His association to the Republican party and Michigan’s right wing Mackinac Center made it clear that this was a lie, but now it’s beyond dispute.

Gleason contribution 2

In 2011, the Gleason Family Foundation of Wilmington Delaware made a gigantic $4.8 million grant to finance EAG’s operations. Gleason is a well known conservative foundation that bankrolls a long list of extreme right causes. These include old stalwarts like the CATO Institute, a number of state Heritage Foundation franchises, including the Manhattan and the Pacific Research Institutes, the Reason Foundation and several others, as well as the Heritage Foundation itself. It also funds several anti-union operations that masquerade as unions, the California Teachers Empowerment Network and the Association of American Educators. Have a look at the Gleason tax return.

But the EAG grant stands out. It is of historic proportions, even among conservative foundations. Notice also that the grant went to EAG’s 501(c)(3) apparition, not it’s 501(c)(4) or 527 versions. This means these funds cannot be spent on politics, something the pages of EAGTruth show has often not been the case.

And to be fair, it’s not like the Gleason Foundation funds only ultra-conservative outfits. It also gave money to the American Red Cross.

Gleason Red Cross

Where’s the outrage?

We have come to accept the fact that teachers unions are more than willing to use students (or former students) as pawns in their political games.

Kyle Olson Education Action Group Foundation EAGNews

This is not an unusual complaint for Kyle Olson, or the rest of his writers. Complaints that teachers want to brainwash their students run rampant. EAG writers complain about indoctrination at public (“government”) schools regularly. For example here, here, here, here, here and here.

Worst of all, they complain that teachers bring politics into the classroom, over and over and over and over. Well, union teachers. The standard is different for teachers that agree with EAG’s school “reform” stands. Policies which are uniformly non-union.


Not a word from EAG in the face of Georgia charter school teachers promoting an initiative that would expand charters in Georgia. A New York Times article covered this, including photos of kids making campaign signs.


So where’s the EAG outrage? Could it be that they only oppose progressive classroom campaigning? Is conservative brainwashing okay? Is indoctrination not indoctrination when its right wing indoctrination?

Kyle’s long-term habit of making this sort of hair-on-fire commentary isn’t unique to EAG. It’s a common theme of the right wing echo chamber:

…sending your kids to government schools is a good thing. It will help prepare them for life in the Islamified America of the future.

That from something called  Moonbattery.

Google “indoctrination” and you’ll get another 6.5 million examples. EAG is part of this right wing campaign to neuter unions and convert public schools;  school reform is the cover they use to convince reporters to publish their invective.

EAG Backs a Flop

Last week, the conservative blame-unions-for-everything mantra was given an apparent boost from a new movie,  Won’t Back Down. It depicts a mother and teacher taking advantage of a parent trigger law to save their children from the clutches of a nasty teacher’s union.

Joining in the right’s revelry was EAGNews’ Victor Skinner: “The new blockbuster movie Won’t Back Down, which focuses on Parent Trigger education reform laws, is already peaking the interest of families frustrated with their public school options. ”

These laws are driven by ALEC and Parent Revolution, a California group with extensive conservative and business backing:

…created by charter school operator Steve Barr, who founded the Green Dot charter school chain. Parent Revolution has a $1 million annual budget and 10 full-time staff members. Its funders include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, the Wasserman Foundation, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisers, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

And Won’t Back Down has similar backing: as a Michigan school district website points out:

Won’t Back Down was produced by Rupert Murdoch and funded by Walden Media, a company owned by billionaire Philip Anschutz – an ultra-conservative businessman described as “a right wing leader”. Mr. Anschutz is a proponent of school “choice”, however his choices are less about parent choice and helping students, and much more about his corporation choosing to build a for-profit empire out of public tax dollars.

Education Action group foundation kyle olson victor skinner

So the right’s campaign to convert public schools to non-union for-profit operations marches on with EAG’s enthusiastic assistance.  But a blockbuster?

Wont’ Back Down was released in what is called a “saturated” release, which is more theaters (+2,500) than a “wide” release. It’s opening last weekend is the second worse all time opening, among saturated releases.  That is, if you measure by total box office. The worst all-time (well since 1982 when they started tracking this stuff) saturated opening, was 2008’s The Rocker, starring The Office’s Rainn Wilson.

If you adjust for the change in ticket prices since 2008, Won’t Back Down qualifies as having the worse opening week ever.

Education Action group foundation kyle olson victor skinner

Won’t Back Down, Opening Box Office

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