Washington, D.C. — This morning, government watchdog Accountable.US released a new analysis showing that despite their efforts to paint themselves as grassroots, several of the most prominent groups weaponizing opposition to honest and inclusive education in public schools are actually funded by anti-public education billionaires and other mainstream conservative actors.
“Extremist groups spreading lies about accurate and inclusive education aren’t backed by educators or the facts — they’re backed by billionaires and Republican political operatives,” said Kyle Herrig, president of Accountable.US. “Students are in school to learn, not to be political props for wealthy special interests playing partisan games.”
The group’s analysis follows new reporting this morning in Popular Information that Ian Prior, a former Trump Department of Justice official with ties to numerous groups fighting equitable education, paid a large network of fake local news sites to run anti-Democrat propaganda pieces, essentially “us[ing] the network to launder partisan attacks as ‘news.’” Prior then appeared in media distributed by the network attacking honest and inclusive education.
As the Daily Beast reports, the watchdog’s findings make it clear that the billionaires and mainstream Republican partisans working to undermine the U.S. public education system through school choice and privatization efforts are the ones really bankrolling the backlash against equitable education — not grassroots local donors.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE FINDINGS:
- Fight For Schools is a PAC run by Ian Prior, a former Trump Department of Justice official who is closely tied to the right-wing conspiracy rag Human Events. The group, which has descended on the contentious education debate in Loudoun County, Virginia, is funded by the Ben Carson-led group 1776 Action and one local major Republican donor, Sharon Virts. Notably, the group provided support fundraising and filling out rallies for new Virginia Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin.
- Parents Against Critical Theory is another Loudoun County-based group in part organized by Fight For Schools’ Ian Prior and local Dell subsidiary employee, Scott Mineo. Mineo posted racist, Islamophobic rhetoric on Facebook and promoted the idea that white supremacist rallies were a left-wing hoax. The group has coordinated with the Heritage Foundation to run events.
- 1776 Action, a rebrand of the former Ben Carson operation that came under fire for misallocating funds, is a well-funded fringe group that has supported both Parents Against Critical Theory and Fight for Schools — the latter of which received a $10,000 donation 1776 Action.
- 1776 Project PAC was founded by right-wing activist Ryan Girduksy. Girdusky co-wrote a book with former Trump- and current Matt Gaetz-advisor Harlan Hill. Girdusky notably implied in a tweet that the Great Replacement Theory, a violent white nationalist credo, was valid. Recently, Donald Trump Jr. has authored fundraising emails on behalf of the group which compared supporters of fair and equitable education to the Taliban.
- Free To Learn Coalition is a group running a massive, national ad campaign against honest and inclusive education. The group was founded by The Judicial Crisis Network — a group that has spent millions to pack the Supreme Court with right-wing judges and is “effectively controlled” by Trump’s former judicial advisor and Federalist Society executive Leonard Leo.
- No Left Turn, which was founded by noted conspiracy theory promoter Elana Fishbein, has funded and mobilized people to challenge anti-racism initiatives on the local level. The group’s board features Trump ally David Clark, who told right wingers to “have a plan” before they shoot racial justice protestors, and the founder of a recognized hate group that has led charges to criminalize homosexuality across the globe. Notably, No Left Turn coordinated with the Heritage Foundation and state and local politicians to pass legislation against honest and inclusive education.
- Parents Defending Education, despite being described as “grassroots,” is tied to the Koch Network via founder Nicole Neily, who has worked at numerous Koch operations including a “grassroots” group that fought anti-Trump bias at the collegiate level. The group also employs a prominent consultant for a billionaire funded right-wing education reform blog.
Read the Daily Beast’s full report on Accountable.US’s analysis here.
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