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Two things: ESAs are not a Grassroots Movement

March 1, 2016

Happy Super Tuesday, y’all!

Many of my friends in the state have received a flyer that boasts of the great things that Education Savings Accounts can do for all of us – well, at least those of us who can make up the difference between the amount of the voucher and the private school tuition. Somehow I missed one. Maybe the group sponsoring the mailouts – Americans For Prosperity – knew not to bother.

ESA flyer image

Well, it’s Tuesday, and I don’t have a lot of time today, so let me tell you two things about this educational non-profit group.

1. The best thing I can tell you is they have a lot of money coming in and a lot going out. In 2012, their tax return shows more than $122 million in revenue. The form also shows that they are a 501 (c)(4) non-profit organization. In other words, they’re a Super PAC – a soft money group that can get around individual contribution limits for candidates. Stephen Colbert explains this better than anyone.

In fact, if you look at the list of groups funding the ESA voucher campaign, there really aren’t any grassroots groups. They are national and statewide special interest groups. The list below includes several right wing groups that have been trying to destroy public education for decades.


They may have anecdotes that tug at your heartstrings, but they have no coherent answers to why students or private schools receiving vouchers should lack for all the accountability that public schools and their students have. We have stories too. We also have thousands of teachers who come to work and take care of the state’s children every day. If you want to help children, I know about 690,000 who have been shorted continuously by the state legislature and governor for six years and counting.

2. To be fair, the same group operates a separate organization that is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization, the Americans For Prosperity Foundation. Their 2012 tax return shows a mere $24 million in revenue. It also shows that many of the top executives are the same in both organizations.

More important is the name listed as the chairman is David Koch. His $40 billion net worth partially bankrolls AFP, AFP Foundation, ALEC, and who knows which other groups. In other words, there is nothing pure about the motives of this shadow group or their flyer. Even if David Koch was the sole supplier of funds for AFP, to him, that would be comparable to me going to 7/11 for a Big Gulp.

This is similar to complaints made last week by local billionaire Bob Funk.

Having all the money doesn’t mean you always get your way. I have some friends who will be reminding our legislators of that fact today. Hopefully, we’ll remember that at the polls too.

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