Thursday, April 27, 2006

Milwaukee school study shows how neocons try to control info

This opinion piece by Ed Garvey in the Milwaukee's Capital Times shows how it is being done in Wisconsin. The sad fact is it is happening in many states, and with NCLB and Reading First at a national level as well. We need more and more articles like this exposing how it is done...

The "scientific study" will conclude in a year surprise, surprise that public schools are inferior to private voucher schools. Evidence will be scarce but they assume you will only read the headline. Their prescription will, predictably, be more vouchers. If the stakes weren't so high, it would almost be enjoyable to watch how the neocons manipulate our institutions and media as they advance their anti-government agenda. They believe in controlling the flow of information on matters of public policy and they are darned good at it.

Readers of The Capital Times and understand the impact on national policy of archconservative foundations such as American Enterprise Institute, the Cato Institute and the granddaddy of them all the Heritage Foundation. And there is no need to explain Fox News with its much-heralded "fair and balanced" coverage. (Balance rests somewhere between Jerry Falwell and Dick Cheney.)

What has been missing is an examination of the impressive efforts of the shadowy neocons to shape policy in Wisconsin. I haven't read or heard in-depth coverage of their ability to frame issues and thereby win debates.

Last week the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ran a story that high school graduation rates in Milwaukee, particularly among minorities, were among the worst in the nation. Was this a DPI or Department of Education study? No, it was a news release from the Manhattan Institute. One might assume the Manhattan Institute would be more interested in New York, but they have reason to focus their gaze on Milwaukee.

The reason is the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation funds them. And Bradley loves vouchers. The Manhattan Institute says it will "study" the Milwaukee school system and, being the kind folks that they are, they will keep us informed about failing public schools while also making sure we get the truth about voucher school performance.

(Placing the Manhattan Institute in charge of an analysis of public schools, when they are on record supporting vouchers, would be like asking Wisconsin Right to Life to run Planned Parenthood.)

The "scientific study" will conclude in a year surprise, surprise that public schools are inferior to private voucher schools. Evidence will be scarce but they assume you will only read the headline. Their prescription will, predictably, be more vouchers.

How will we learn the results? Ah, the Bradley Foundation has taken care of that. The Bradley-funded Wisconsin Policy Research Institute will publish the results, the Journal Sentinel and other papers will have stories based on WPRI's release, and editorials will flow. One can almost write them now: "Yes, we believe in public education but are public schools equipped to train the work force of tomorrow? Should Milwaukee admit failure and ask the Bradley Foundation to put a corporate team together to save our schools and our children?"

But it won't stop there. The WPRI will have radio opportunities provided by Journal Communications. You see, Bradley supported Charles Sykes, who has a morning talk show on the most powerful radio station in Wisconsin, WTMJ, owned by Journal Communications. Every workday for 3.5 hours, Sykes has an opportunity to tell listeners about the "prestigious" Manhattan Institute study, push vouchers and condemn the teachers and their union for opposing privatization of public schools.

WISN talk show host Mark Belling will be singing in the chorus as well.

In the meantime, the neocons will be engaging in what they call "legal advocacy" in support of vouchers. The legal team will be headed by the Landmark Legal Foundation. Where does Landmark get its money? Ah, you are ahead of me. Yes, siree. The Bradley Foundation funds this "antidote to ACLU on the right." Landmark handled the Wisconsin Supreme Court case when Tommy's voucher system was under legal challenge by those who have a quaint notion that church-run schools should not receive tax dollars.

You should check out Landmark. They say they are, and I'm not making this up, "the literary home of 'Bell Curve' author Charles Murray." I suppose you are wondering who funded Murray when he wrote "The Bell Curve." Well, guess no more. It was the Bradley Foundation.

Journal Sentinel columnists Spivak & Bice report Landmark is about to sue the Wisconsin Education Association Council for engaging in advocacy. Whoa, Nelly! Advocacy for public schools, no less. What's next? Denying creationism in our schools? That the rapture is in doubt?

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation has more than $400 million in assets and it spends up to $30 million per year. Bradley-supported groups are determined to shrink government, roll back our safety net, and privatize everything from schools to airports.

You have to tip your hat to Bradley, Sykes, Landmark, the Manhattan Institute, and WPRI. They frame the issues, pick the fights, lay out their agenda, and we follow along like lambs to slaughter. Public schools and libraries? Who needs them?

And when they finish up in Milwaukee, it will be time to privatize UW-Madison. Or will Bradley purchase UW-Milwaukee?

How do we deal with this assault on our cherished educational system? Buy a flashlight and shine it on these front groups.

For more information on the Bradley Foundation and vouchers, check out these links courtesy Susan O'hanian:

Bush Funds Black Voucher Front Group

The Real Legacy of Michael Joyce

Group holds forum on No Child Left Behind

Voucher Vultures Support Corporate Culture

Vouchers: The Right's Final Answer to Brown


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