Friday, May 17, 2024

More Momwashing For Privatization

The parenting bubble for anti-public ed activism is really expanding. 

Jeanne Allen's Center for Education Reform has just rolled out the Parent Power Index! It assigns arbitrary values measures three vaguely defined qualities-- choice programs, charter schools, and innovation-- and gives each state a letter grade. There's nothing new being quantified here, just the same old anti-public school, anti-union wine in new parentified wineskins. 

In choicer marketing, "freedom" is out and "parent power" is in.

Maybe it's just an attempt to create some synergy for Betsy DeVos's favorite choice evangelist and American Federation for Children "senior fellow" and his new book about the parent revolution.

But to find someone who's really doubling on momwashing anti-public ed activism, we turn to the American Federation for Children, which is launching a whole new initiative-- Moms on a Mission!

AFC is one more dark money group, probably one of the largest school privatization outfits in the country. It was organized and funded by the DeVos family. It has had a variety of names, including American Education Reform Foundation and Advocates for School Choice, Inc, and has suckled up some other DeVos initiatives like "All Children Matter," a group that was fined for election misconduct in Ohio and Wisconsin.

They're tied to ALEC, the conservative corporate bill mill. They've had a variety of projects, including Ed Newsfeed, a program for planting fake news stories on local media. They're still running Black Minds Matter, School Choice Boyz and Federacion Para Los Ninos

Their leadership is a veritable privatizer who's who. Betsy DeVos gave up her chairman of the board spot to go work for Trump. These days the chair is William E. Oberndorfer, who co-founded the Alliance for School Choice, one of the root organizations of AFC with John Walton and has his own foundation that is busy pumping up charters and groups like Jeanne Allen's Center for Education reform and Jeb Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education and EdChoice (formerly the Friedman Foundation).

The board also includes John Kirtley (Florida School Choice Fund, Florida Charter Institute), Kevin Chavous (DFER, New Orleans voucher plan, K12), Rosemarie Nassif (Center for Catholic Education) and Scott Walker. A staff of 49. We could run through the whole crowd, but you get the idea--there's a lot more to AFC than just Betsy DeVos.

Moms on a Mission doesn't have its own tab yet, but AFC announced their launch on May 11 (Mother's Day).  
Across the nation, school choice is opening wide the doors of opportunity for children, thanks to a powerful force: Moms. Parents are the ones who know and love their children best, and moms are often the front line confronting the obstacles that would otherwise hinder opportunities for their little ones.

There's a brief inspirational video. Also, an introduction to some of the moms.

There's Clarice Jackson, an activist from Nebraska who served as Commissioner of African American  Affairs (2021-2024) under Pete Ricketts and Jim Pillen. She has worked with dyslexia organizations and founded Black Literacy Matters in February of 2022. She has a great story about working as a paraprofessional in school and encountering a young girl struggling to read and write, and coming to realize that with an incarcerated mother and "strapped" grandmother, the girl "lacked the help she needed at home." Jackson eventually adopted the girl, and the story is a compelling example of a school dropping the ball. Of course, it's also the story of realizing that someone would have to step in and take over for the actual parents, who could not manage the job because they were overwhelmed by their own circumstances. Not sure how school choice would have helped.

Tera Myers is the Ohio mother of a child with Downs Syndrome. She spoke at the 2020 GOP convention in praise of Donald Trump. Myers is a member of Mansfield Alliance Church and is a "Mentor Mom" at Berean Baptist Church MOPS Program, or Mothers of Preschoolers. She serves as a state and national parent advocate for Education Freedom, the Trump administration's proposed scholarship program, and is a consultant for Washington D.C.-based American Federation for Children. That last part doesn't appear in the Moms on a Mission website.

Holly Terei makes plenty of appearances on Fox News, perhaps because she's the National Director of Teacher Coalition for No Left Turn In Education, where the Georgia mom hopes to see "teachers and parents working together to push against the progressive woke agenda that has infiltrated America’s public schools." NLTE is yet another culture panic group fed by Tucker Carlson; a Florida chapter head single-handedly made his district the country's leader in book challenges.

Becki Uccello is also an activist parent of a child with special needs, which has made her a frequent voice speaking in favor vouchers in Missouri. The former public school teacher used a voucher from the Herzog Tomorrow Foundation to send her daughter with spina bifida to Catholic school (her son did just fine in public school). Herzog is a foundation aimed at trying "catalyze and accelerate the development of quality Christ-centered K-12 education so that families and culture flourish."

So once again, some experienced activists coded as moms, their activist bona fides downplayed or erased. There's a definite emphasis on students with special needs, which is an interesting choice given that so much of the choice school world is not available to those students. At the same time, it makes a certain sense because so many parents of students with special needs are (or at least feel) ill-served by public schools. 

Moms on a Mission is just getting on its feet, so it remains to be seen how it figures in AFC's ongoing work in dismantling public education. But if these moms ("moms just like you!") show up in your neighborhood, they aren't there to give public education a hand. 

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