Texas AFT: Unmasking Vouchers: Charter Schools Now PAC
The Texas AFT shares some research about the actual track of some Texas dark money.
Texas has become awash in dark money seeking to influence public education over the past several years. This dark money represents political and business agendas working to undermine our public schools and degrade the quality of public education in Texas and to advance privatization and vouchers.
While the dark money web of influence is complex, one need only pull on the threads of a few individuals and organizations to reveal how a few extremely wealthy “activists” use intermediary organizations and useful politicians willing to accept their contributions to advance privatization and the “education reform” movement in Texas.
We will be digging deeper into public campaign finance data over the next several weeks to reveal who is pushing the privatization fight in our state. We will cast light on just how little privatization has to do with serving Texas students or improving public education in our state, and reveal connections between Texas politicians, national donors, and extreme political organizations.
There are few surprises here.
In fact, the two highest individual donors to the Charter Schools Now PAC were Alice Walton and Richard Weekley, according to Chris Tackett’s analysis. Alice and Jim Walton are heirs to Sam Walton’s Walmart fortune, while Richard Weekley co-founded David Weekley Homes with his brother and is the co-founder, chairman, and CEO of Texans for Lawsuit Reform. Richard Weekley was also the largest donor to State Board of Education member Julie Pickren’s campaign. Pickren is the SBOE member at the center of the recent controversy regarding “welcoming PragerU to Texas” as a curriculum provider.
Both Alice & Jim Walton and Richard Weekley are major nodes in the network of dark money in Texas public education. But they’re not alone. Reed Hastings, co-founder and executive chairman of Netflix, made a $1.99 million contribution to an intermediary organization named the Educational Equity PAC, which then donated $1.2 million to the Charter Schools Now PAC.
The messy relationships between wealthy donors, intermediary organizations, and politicians accepting campaign contributions in exchange for influence is exemplified by a $5,500 donation from the Texas Public Charter School Association to the Texas Federation for Children for “research” on May 20, 2020 (TEC filer ID: 82775, report ID: 100784352, contribution ID: 120506088). The Texas American Federation for Children is an astroturf organization formed to push vouchers in Texas. Democrats and Republicans alike in the Texas Legislature accept campaign contributions from the CSN PAC/Texas Public Charter Schools Association.
After having their coffers filled by donations from those billionaires, these organizations then distribute this dark money to new candidates and to targeted politicians’ re-election campaign accounts. The influence of this dark money can be seen at work within the State Board of Education (SBOE) and the Texas Legislature.