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.
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.
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.
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.
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. ”
…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.
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.
Kyle Olson’s EAGNews continues ignore the line between his “charitable foundation” status with the IRS and political action by joining in on the right wing’s obsession with finding fault with everything Obama.
Not even attempting to use school reform as a launching point, a recent EAG newsletter alleged Michelle Obama now runs the United State Department of Agriculture, or at least its free lunch program, and that she’s starving kids.
On September 27th, EAGNews sent its email subscribers another hair on fire rant about the first lady’s supposed order that the USDA’s cut the amount of food provided to kids, forcing them to eat junk food.
The USDA actually revised it policy promoting more fruits and vegetables. As CNN pointed out:
Children will not be forced to take the vegetables and fruits onto their plates; the standards require that the various food groups be offered.
Where, exactly is the school reform connection here? Has EAG decided, finally, to drop this pretense and just take direct shots at unions and Democrats?
The EAG newsletter arrived the day after the same story line appeared on Fox News. That report made the same ludicrous allegations that Michelle Obama directs USDA policy, and that school children are going hungry.
So not only is Kyle not bothering to find a connection to his long time school reform cover, he’s not even trying to avoid the obvious coordination between his operation and the rest of the conservative policy echo chamber.
Not all news organizations are still in the dark about Kyle Olson. A recent Dallas Morning News story sourced Olson, but not as the head of a school reform group, but as “commenter on Fox News and columnist of Townhall Magazine, which describes itself as a Conservative News & Opinion Magazine…” Increasingly, its only other conservative policy outlets that still refer to him as having any connection to school reform.
On the other hand, writing about the recent Chicago Teacher’s strike, the Chicagoist recently referred to EAG as a “conservative think tank.” That’s a first. EAG thinks?
Thanks to the IRS’s refusal to make any meaningful attempt to enforce the federal laws against political work by non-profit “charitable” foundations, (like EAG Foundation), EAG continues to push the limit on 501 (c)(4)’s and political commentary.
Today is a good example. First giving lip service to their neutrality:”EAGNews is a nonpartisan organization,” writer Victor Skinner, judging by the byline, writing from the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida (which in itself is odd, given the convention ended over 3 weeks ago), presses on to reproduce the entire Republican Education platform, interspersed with glowing reviews:
“fresh and bold ideas the GOP is offering”
“We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.”
“The Republican solutions are straight-forward and student-focused.”
Being unable to contain his glee, Skinner goes a bit past the text of the platform, parroting the crazy right’s conspiracy theories that are EAG’s bread and butter: “it’s important to rid schools of the depraved union educators who indoctrinate vulnerable students into their Marxist political causes.” One can almost see the smoke coming out of Skinner’s ears…
About half way through, Skinner forgets to add quotation marks to the planks he’s quoting, making it difficult to tell whether he or the Republican party is speaking. But then, that’s just as well, there’s not a bit of light between them.
It’s unlikely anyone still believes EAG is about school reform and not union bashing, and knowing their extensive GOP roots, it seems weird that they keep pretending everyone else hasn’t figured them out.
It hard, some days, to think of a way to take a shot at teachers unions and public schools, but Olson recently made a unusually thin complaint, even for him.
Complaining that too many schools have instituted meatless Mondays, Olson recently co-posted on the Breitbart Big Government site and the ultra Republican Townhall.com that these events are part of a campaign to get HIV tests and condoms on Mondays. Not that these campaigns are actually related in any way to school vegetarian days, they both take place on Mondays, and that’s enough for Olson.
But what’s the agenda? Less cholesterol? Fewer fatsos? Perhaps, but a “K-12 Tool Kit” lists several other benefits of “Meatless Mondays,” including:
Reduce carbon footprint: The UN estimates the meat industry generates nearly one-fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that accelerate climate change.
Outrageous! The UN! Again the problem is that this tool kit comes from the Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health and its battle against obesity; it doesn’t come from any of the schools Olson complains about.
But then this kind of paranoid conspiracy theory is what BigGovernment readers want. As one of Olson’s fans writes:
Meatless Monday is intended to facilitate the indoctrination of our children and their parents into acceptance of U.N. Agenda 21. Meatless Monday is just a tiny piece of a HUGE Global Agenda of Eugenics, Earth Worship, and Utopian-ism.
And Olson still sells EAG as ” a non-partisan non-profit organization … promoting sensible education reform …”
EAG recently launched its 1st Annual Andrew Breitbart Memorial Essay Contest, a “patriotic essay contest” for K-12 children by offering $500 to kids entitled “What Does American Mean to You?” because EAG considers the deceased Breitbart a near saint for his success working the press.
His best known success involved the ACORN pimp videos, where Breitbart protégé James O’Keefe posed as a pimp that got financing advice from ACORN staffers. It turned out the whole thing was a hoax:
But it was all a hoax. And for weeks now, ever since the trick was highlighted by blogger Brad Friedman, Breitbart has been wrestling with the glaring contradiction and struggling to explain his own role in the hoax.
Even more troubling is Brietbart’s doctoring of a video of USDA official Shilley Sherrod, painting her falsely as a racist:
Conservatives including David Frum and Ann Coulter have acknowledged that the video Breitbart posted is a fraud. But Frum, a former speechwriter in the Bush White House, wrote that he has seen this act too many times to expect Breitbart to apologize for “distributing a doctored tape to defame and destroy someone.”
Sherrod was fired. Her defamation lawsuit against Brietbart continues.
So naturally Kyle Olson wants to paint the godfather of press manipulation as a saint by equating him with great Americans. He is actually reserving a $500 prize for 100 word essays written by kids between kindergarten and the 5th grade, even though he has long invoked the evils of the political manipulation of our youth. In fact, he wrote the book on it.
One blogger was so offended by the contradiction, he encouraged protest entries. Penn State Altoona professor Dr. Timothy Slekar, who maintains @ The Chalk Face, suggested his readers write submissions that reflect the real Breitbart rather than the revisionist history version.
EAG reacted in its usual fashion by attacking the man rather than the argument. Not being able to defend Breitbart, they attacked the critic:
Slekar is yet another radical professor who despises everything that the patriotic Breitbart stood for…Leave it to radical leftists to try to hijack a children’s essay contest and subvert an opportunity for students to tell why they value America. Can’t these desperately unhappy misfits just leave kids alone?
Agreed. Lets just leave the kids alone.