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Bradley Foundation Behind Latest Attack On Unions, Public Education

Plantation economics at its worst
Bradley Foundation Behind Latest Attack On Unions, Public Education

On Monday, the Supreme Court of the United States heard oral arguments on Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a case that could devastate unions across the country. Sadly, it appears that the conservative court is leaning towards ending mandatory dues collections, which mean that union members could reap the benefits of union representation without paying their fair share. In other words, if the court rules against the unions, it would legalize freeloading nationally and set up the country for a complete return to Right to Work.

Brian Mahoney, writing at Politico, found that the whole lawsuit is being funded by the Milwaukee-based dark money funding group, the Bradley Foundation:

The conservative Bradley Foundation has spent millions over three decades to smash labor unions. Now an investment that could barely buy a house in Washington may bring it closer to that goal than ever before.

The vehicle is a Supreme Court case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, to bar public employee unions from compelling payments from nonmembers. The lawsuit, about which the high court will hear arguments Monday, was brought by Rebecca Friedrichs and eight other California public school teachers who declined to join the union that represents them in collective bargaining. But the lawsuit's true author looks to be the Milwaukee-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.

The Bradley Foundation funds the Center for Individual Rights, the conservative D.C. nonprofit law firm that brought the case; it funds (or has funded) at least 11 organizations that submitted amicus briefs for the plaintiffs; and it's funded a score of conservative organizations that support the lawsuit's claim that the "fair-share fees" nonmembers must pay are unconstitutional. When CIR first filed the case in a California federal court in 2013, the Bradley Foundation posted the news on its website under the tab, "What We Do."

Bradley isn't the sole conservative philanthropy to bankroll CIR. Others have included Donors Capital Fund and Donor's Trust, two vehicles frequently used by the Koch brothers; the Dunn's Foundation for the Advancement of Right Thinking; the F.M. Kirby Foundation; the Lillian Wells Foundation; and the Carthage Foundation, according to Conservative Transparency, a project of the liberal opposition research nonprofit American Bridge.


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But it's Bradley - with an endowment estimated at $800 million - that's provided the most conspicuously extensive support to Friedrichs. Since 1989, CIR (which bills itself as the conservative alternative to the American Civil Liberties Union) has received more than $2 million from the Bradley Foundation, according to data compiled by Conservative Transparency. Bradley continues to fund CIR through a general operating grant, CIR President Terry Pell told POLITICO.

The Bradley Foundation has a long history of wanting to smash unions and had bankrolled Scott Walker's gubernatorial campaigns in order to bust the unions in Wisconsin. They were so invested in making sure that Walker won and did what they hired him to do that Michael Grebe, then head of the Foundation, became Walker's campaign chair.

But the Bradley Foundation's goal isn't just to bust the unions. In fact, busting the unions - especially the teachers' unions and other public sector unions - was just a step in their bigger agenda. The Bradley Foundation wants to get rid of unions in order to get even more money and more power.

With the teachers' unions out of the way, it would make it easier for them to accomplish another goal - privatizing the public education system. Three years ago, the liberal watchdog group One Wisconsin Now, reported that the Bradley Foundation had already spent $31 million to support groups that wanted to privatize from public education. I'm sure that they consider that money well spent since Walker has already spent nearly $2 billion in tax dollars for private schools.

As the gentle reader already knows, these private schools have already shown themselves to be utter failures. They not only perform worse than public schools, but the education profiteers are already complaining that they need even more money.

But the failure of privatized schools are not necessarily unintentional.

Decades ago, the Bradley Foundation paid $1 million to Charles Murray to write The Bell Curve. In that book, Murray basically says that the poor - especially African Americans - aren't worth spending a lot of money on so that they could receive a quality education:

The explosive conclusions of The Bell Curve are now common knowledge. What is less well known is that the country's leading conservative foundation paid co-author Charles Murray $1 million to write the book. Foundation funding of research is nothing new. But Murray's support from the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation is an example of the highly ideological research that conservative foundations favor as they seek to mold public policy. Even in the marketplace of ideas, it takes money to compete.

The Bell Curve's key educational policy recommendation dovetails with the Bradley Foundation's top education priority: support for school choice, including public funds for private and religious schools. This bolsters the case of those who argue that despite the rhetoric of choice, many voucher advocates have abandoned the vision of a quality education for all children. Says Robert Lowe, associate professor at National Louis University and an editor of the journal Rethinking Schools:

The Bell Curve is a smoking gun. It maintains that the poor—including the majority of African Americans—are generally incapable of benefiting from education....

C.J. Prentiss, an Ohio legislator (Independent/Democrat) who has been active in the African-American community opposing vouchers, also notes that voucher advocates have tried to win converts by arguing that vouchers would improve educational opportunities for the poor:

You have to be suspicious of someone who argues that on the one hand, African Americans are dumber than whites, and then, on the other, comes into the Black community and says, `We are going to make you as bright as you can be, here are some vouchers.... I believe vouchers are simply a way to dismantle public schools and use tax dollars to fund an elitist private school system. But voucher advocates know it would be suicide to say that openly.

So there you have it with all the dots connected.

The Bradley Foundation and other groups like them want to do away with the unions to make it easier to privatize and profiteer from public education. To increase their profit margins even more, they will not provide a quality education because poor people - especially the minority ones - well, they're just not worth it.

Is it any wonder that Wisconsin and other states under the influence of dark money are in an economic and social free fall?

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