In addition to myriad political entities and nonprofits, the Koch brothers’ network — or the “Kochtopus” — also comprises Koch-funded education initiatives designed to impart their extreme libertarian views on our nation’s young people. These initiatives — like Youth Entrepreneurs — wield influence in our schools the same way the Kochs do politically: by buying it. Standard operating procedure among the Kochtopus’ tentacles, but as a new report from Huffington Post highlights, it’s especially craven when you consider the Kochs’ open hostility toward public education, and the drastic education funding cuts that some of their favorite elected officials have presided over in North Carolina, Kansas and Wisconsin.
Huffington Post digs into the machinations of the Bill of Rights Institute (BRI), an organization that has received millions in funding from the Koch organizations that came together to launch BRI in 1999, including the Charles Koch Foundation and the Fred and Mary Koch Foundation. A senior vice president at Koch Industries sits on BRI’s board. These are BRI’s explicit ties to the Koch network, but implicit, self-serving Koch philosophies abound in the free materials that the group provides to teachers and students on topics surrounding the Constitution. According to the report, BRI “cherry-picks the Constitution, history, and current events to hammer home its libertarian message that the owners of private property should be free to manage their wealth as they see fit.” Sounds eerily like the billionaire Kochs’ opposition to the wealthy paying their fair share in taxes, just remixed for social studies class. Other lowlights from the BRI’s materials include its support for “Stand Your Ground” legislation proliferated by the corporate-backed American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and the teachings’ utter lack of references to climate change, natch.
Another HuffPo report on Youth Entrepreneurs earlier this year deemed the group’s efforts as being part and parcel with the “Kochs’ slow creep into America’s schools.” As the piece on BRI notes, the infiltration is even more bizarre when taken with the rest of the Koch legacy on education, which dates back to David Koch’s insistence in 1980 that the Department of Education be abolished and with it, all federal funding for education. In the decades since, the Kochs have backed Republicans like Scott Walker, who slashed education funding in Wisconsin, a move that would naturally lead cash-strapped schools, students and teachers to lean on the free resources and funding opportunities Koch groups like BRI and YE proliferate.
Deprive schools of resources, then ply them with free materials that espouse your self-serving worldview — it’s a vicious circle that only promises to worsen as bought-and-paid-for Republicans usher in the Kochs’ anti-public education agenda.