Brothers Charles and David Koch are two of the richest people in the world. They own Koch Industries, the second-largest privately owned company in the country. In 2013 the company had revenues of $115 billion. Long active in conservative politics, as this Washington Post article explains, they have now set their sights (and money) on our public schools.
“The Koch network will spend around $400 million on politics and policy this election cycle, but that’s only part of a grander effort to fundamentally transform America.
Making a long-term play, the billionaire industrialist Charles Koch and his like-minded friends on the right are increasingly focused on melding the minds of the next generation by making massive, targeted investments in both K-12 and higher education.
Changing the education system as we know it was a central focus of a three-day donor seminar that wrapped up late last night at a resort here in the desert outside Palm Springs.
Leaders of the network dreamed of disrupting the status quo, customizing learning and breaking the teacher unions. One initial priority is expanding educational saving accounts and developing technologies that would let parents pick and choose private classes or tutors for their kids the same way people shop on Amazon. They envision making it easy for families to join together to start their own “micro-schools” as a new alternative to the public system.
There are about 700 people who each contribute a minimum of $100,000 per year to the constellation of organizations that comprise the Koch network. For years, many of these megadonors have urged Koch to wade into the battles over what they call school choice. Charles resisted, believing that his network had no special comparative advantage to move the needle in this area.
“The lowest hanging fruit for policy change in the United States today is K-12,” said Stacy Hock, a major Koch donor who has co-founded a group called Texans for Educational Opportunity. “I think this is the area that is most glaringly obvious.”
Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity, highlighted field operations that the network has built in 36 states to advance its agenda, including on education. “We have more grass-roots members in Wisconsin than the Wisconsin teachers’ union has members,” he said. “That’s how you change a state!”
It is very disconcerting when members of the ONE PERCENT decide they want to control the other 99 percent of us. Obviously the Robber Barons of the 19th century are alive and well.