Why do the Koch brothers want to end public education?

he Koch brothers have more than $42 billion to make public policy out of their anti-government ideology, and their assault against public education epitomizes their tactics to remake our nation.

The Koch brothers founded Americans for Prosperity and have contributed more than $5 million to its political coffers. Americans for Prosperity, in turn, contributed to organizations that financially influenced a community school board election.

That’s right: the Koch brothers are involving themselves, through their wealth-backed political apparatus, in local schools.

Americans for Prosperity allied with groups in North Carolina with the sole purpose of building a new majority on the school board in and around Raleigh. The Koch apparatus was trying to rewrite the social contract that made the Wake County school system a magnet for teachers and families and the surrounding communities prosper.

Each campus was its own melting pot where students could build meaningful relationships and find their niche. Advanced courses and after school activities gave tens of thousands of children a path to higher education and a shot at success.

Many families in the community attributed local prosperity and harmony to the way the school district assigned students to schools.

That policy came under siege from the Koch brothers who, through Americans for Prosperity, indirectly supported school board candidates who campaigned on reversing the busing for diversity program. The outside involvement made a school board election into the most divisive race since the 1970s.

The Koch brothers and outside influence provided the script for the Koch-supported candidates. They campaigned to end “forced busing” and promise to enact a “neighborhood schools” mandate.

Do those phrases ring a bell? Using the same language Gov. George Wallace used in the 60s, Koch-supported candidates in North Carolina are pushing to make public policy based on Wallace’s “segregation always” pledge. And they had the Koch brothers and Americans for Prosperity’s full support.

This is a new example of the Koch brothers’ so-called extreme free market ideology. It’s an incredible window into the brothers’ disdain for public service and government protection in general.

Secondary school is a distant memory for the brothers Koch, both in their 70s and both graduates of nonpublic schools (David went to a Northeast boarding school, and Charles to military school). While Charles kicks back in his fenced off Kansas estate and David sips chardonnay and reflects on ballet in New York City, teenagers Moses and Robert Wright are in jeopardy of being shut out from the advanced high school classes they need for college admission.

The teenagers attend college preparatory classes through the district diversity program. The Koch brothers’ influence at such a local level concerns Gerold Wright, the boys’ father.

“We want to make sure we can get the best education public money can buy,” he says in the video. “It worries me. We had a game plan and we did not think we would have to change.”

Quinton White was one of the first students to be relocated without a say in the matter. He said his relationships with former mentors, teachers and students have suffered.

“I feel it was a sneaky move [and] I’m just disconnected right now,” he said. “The decision … has made it difficult for students like me to adjust and grow.”

They are living proof that the Koch brothers are causing students to lose their opportunity for a free and fair shot at academic achievement and future success.

All politics is local, but it’s extremely jarring to meet families and children who’ve been compromised by the Koch brothers’ ideology. It’s as simple what Gerold Wright says.

“What they’re trying to do is dismantle the whole public school system,” he said.

Getting Even

As shown in the documentary film Koch Brothers Exposed, the Koch’s aim to shape and shrink government to their liking at every level: national, state and local. They aim to destroy public sector unions, not simply because government is labor’s last bastion of an organized workforce, but also because the Democratic Party relies on unions to turn out the vote in state and national elections. They’re focused on eliminating environmental regulations and forestalling efforts to control carbon emissions because Koch industries is a carbon-based business. They hope to phase out Social Security in order to eliminate the employer contribution to our national safety net for the elderly.

Corrupting Scholarly Research

Charles and David Koch are generous funders of think-tanks, and donors of endowed chairs at colleges and universities nationwide. They even have their very own academic entity, the Mercatus Institute, at Virginia’s George Mason University, a public institution. The brothers would have you believe that it’s all about their love of learning, but in truth, these entities exist expressly to churn out reams of pages that deny the science of climate change, and that advance economic arguments for the implementation of the Koch agenda, whether it be the roll-back of environmental regulation, the privatization of public schools or the scaling back of Social Security.

Lately, Washington’s wonk community has been riveted by an uncharacteristically public battle for control of the Cato Institute, which the Kochs helped to found, but which has a strong reputation for intellectual independence in its libertarian research. Apparently, Cato wasn’t marching in lockstep with the other Koch-funded think-tanks, leading the brothers to try to gobble up the shares of a recently deceased board member in order to seize complete control of the think-tank.In an interview with Slate’s David Weigel, Cato president Ed Crane put it this  way:
I want to save Cato. I’ll step down if it ends this thing. It can’t be a wholly owned subsidiary of Koch Industries. Who the hell is going to take a think-tank seriously that’s controlled by billionaire oil guys? It’s just nuts!
 But the Koch brothers don’t care about being taken seriously by the smart set in Washington. They care only about one thing: winning. And left to maneuver behind the scenes, they just might do it. As the Koch brothers continue to do more of the same, the corporate media will likely turn its gaze to brighter, shinier objects. More of the same, after all, does not a news story make. But should the Kochs succeed in winning control of all branches of government, the resulting devastation to the lives of everyday people will be news to them — very big news indeed.

Robert Greenwald is a producer, director, political activist, and Brave New Films founder and president.


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