Perhaps nowhere in North Carolina have the Koch brothers inflicted more pain than in Wake County.
The Koch group Americans for Prosperity has waged a war on the Wake County education system, beginning in 2006, when they funded a secretive affiliate-group to lobby for more charter schools. According to the News & Observer, this Koch-funded group had “repeatedly described itself as a ‘broad coalition’ of grass-roots supporters of education reform.
But campaign finance reports showed the group to be a front for the secretive billionaires’ big money organization trying to divert funding from public schools to private schools.
In 2009, AFP took aim at Wake County’s busing integration program, which the Washington Post called “one of the nation’s most celebrated integration efforts.” AFP North Carolina founder Art Pope supported local extreme conservatives and AFP funneled more money into activists working to re-segregate Wake County public schools. AFP even said they were “proud to play some part” in ending the “wasteful and ineffective policy” of integrating Wake schools.
Later, in 2013, AFP went so far as to condemn the Wake County School Board for working to push back on new legislation that was damaging its school system – the very legislation supported by AFP and the Koch brothers.
In 2007, AFP-NC Affiliate Wake Citizens for Quality Education Called For The School Board To “Ask The North Carolina General Assembly To Raise The Cap On Public Charter Schools.” According to a press release from Americans for Prosperity-North Carolina, “Today the Grassroots membership of Wake Citizens for Quality Education-an affiliate of Americans for Prosperity-North Carolina calls on the Wake County School Board to formally ask the North Carolina General Assembly to raise the cap on public charter schools. The school board can do this be [sic] fully embracing the removal of the cap and adopting that position as part of the board’s official 2007 legislative agenda. The school board either supports more public charter schools or they do not.” [Americans for Prosperity-North Carolina Press Release via LexisNexis, 1/8/07]
Wake Citizens For Quality Education Described Itself As A “Broad Coalition,” But Got Most Of Its Money From AFP. According to the News & Observer, “A group opposing the Wake County school bonds referendum has repeatedly described itself as a ‘broad coalition’ of grass-roots supporters of education reform. But campaign finance reports paint a different picture. According to the reports, filed this week, Wake Citizens for Quality Education has received donations from just two organizations and eight individuals — only two of whom are named. Most of the money is from Americans for Prosperity, a national advocacy group that supports limited government. The group gave $17,500 to Wake Citizens for Quality Education in October, reports show. Earlier in the month, the Wake County Taxpayers Association, a local organization that opposes higher taxes, donated $5,000 in cash and $634 worth of anti-bonds signs.” [News & Observer via LexisNexis, 11/4/06]
In 2009, Conservatives Elected To The Wake County School Board “Overturned A Program That Used Busing To Achieve Economic Diversity In Schools.” According to the New Yorker, “Last year, [Art]Pope garnered national attention when North Carolina Democrats accused Pope of engineering, in 2009, the re-segregation of public schools in Wake County, which includes Raleigh. Conservative board members, elected with the support of Pope and Tea Party activists, overturned a program that used busing to achieve economic diversity in schools—a program that the Washington Post had called ‘one of the nation’s most celebrated integration efforts.’ The new school board pledged, instead, to send more students to neighborhood schools.” [New Yorker, 10/10/11]
AFP-NC Founder Art Pope Backed The Local GOP, Which Supported The Conservative School Board Candidates’ Campaigns, And AFP “Provided Additional Support For Anti-Busing Activists.” According to the New Yorker, “[Art] Pope was the second-largest individual contributor to the local Republican Party, which helped fund the school-board candidates’ campaigns. The largest contributor was Bob Luddy, who is a board member at the John Locke Foundation and at the Civitas Institute. Americans for Prosperity provided additional support for anti-busing activists, describing them as ‘freedom loving’ and their opponents as ‘radical union organizers.’” [New Yorker, 10/10/11]
AFP-North Carolina Called The Integration Program A “Wasteful And Ineffective Policy Of Social Engineering” And Said They “Were Pleased To Play Some Small Part” In Ending It. According to a press release from Americans for Prosperity-North Carolina, “The Washington Post reported yesterday on the successful effort by the school board of the Wake County School District to eliminate a wasteful and ineffective policy of social engineering that undermined neighborhood schools by forcing parents to send their children to distant schools with different calendars — at significant cost to taxpayers. ‘The North Carolina chapter of Americans for Prosperity — along with our Wake County members and other key allies — were pleased to play some small part in this fight,’ said AFP North Carolina State Director Dallas Woodhouse. ‘But we have to credit the real leaders in this fight — the parents and voters of Wake County that elected a school board committed to a more modern and cost-effective system of public education.’” [Americans for Prosperity-North Carolina Press Release via Archive.org, 1/17/11]
In 2013, Democrats On The Wake County School Board Voted To Hire A Lobbyist To Oppose Changes To State Law Backed By The GOP-Controlled Board Of Commissioners, Including Pro-Charter School Reforms. According to the News & Observer, “Also on Tuesday, the [Wake County] school board voted 5-2 along party lines with Democrats agreeing to let interim Superintendent Stephen Gainey hire a lobbyist to oppose legislative changes backed by the Republican majority on the Wake County Board of Commissioners. Commissioners want to change state law to take over from the school board the jobs of locating, constructing and owning schools. They also want authority to give money to help charter schools build facilities and to require that four of the nine school board seats be elected at large.” [News & Observer, 2/5/13]
AFP-North Carolina Condemned The Wake County School Board’s Hiring Of A Lobbyist. According to a press release from Americans for Prosperity-North Carolina, “The North Carolina chapter of Americans for Prosperity (AFP-NC) condemns the misuse of taxpayer funds to hire yet another lobbyist to represent the interests of the Wake County School Board ‘It is an unconscionable abuse of taxpayer funding for the Wake School Board to spend $100,000 in order to hire another taxpayer funded lobbyist, while other taxpayer funded groups such as the School Boards Association, the State Board of Education and the Public Schools Forum already roam the halls of the legislature,’ said AFP-NC State Director Dallas Woodhouse.” [Americans for Prosperity-North Carolina Press Release, 2/6/13]