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:
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.
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.
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
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.
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.”
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?