A fundamental struggle for democracy is going on behind the scenes in statehouses around the country, as a handful of wealthy individuals and foundations pour money into efforts to privatize the public schools.
The implications are huge. But the school privatizers, and their lobbyists in the states, have so muddied the waters that the public does not get a clear picture of what is at stake.
So it was fascinating when investigative reporter Dan Bice of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ripped the veil off a secretive organization and its hidden political activities by publishing a copy of the American Federation for Children's "2012 Election Impact Report."
Billing itself as "the nation's voice for educational choice," the American Federation for Children pushes forward students of color as the beneficiaries of its lobbying work, but the politicians they support are not exactly heroes of the civil-rights movement.
The report, which was clearly meant only for members and donors, outlines how the American Federation of Children pours millions of dollars into state races around the country to back candidates who support school vouchers and other measures that siphon public money private schools.
AFC and its affiliates "spent more than $7 million in 2012 to elect candidates in states across the country," the report declares.
"We engage in elections," the group explains, "because the political process is the first step to enacting meaningful education reform."
In Wisconsin, the state where AFC spent the most money in 2012, the "first step to enacting meaningful educational reform" meant defending Governor Scott Walker in a recall election after his attacks on teacher's unions and his historic $1 billion in cuts to Wisconsin's public schools divided the state. It also meant ensuring Republican control of both houses of the Wisconsin legislature, so that a controversial plan to expand private-school vouchers could go forward around the state.
Among the victories AFC lists in its report is the defeat of Democratic state senator Jessica King, who won a recall election against a state senator who supported Walker. AFC spent $325,000 to replace King with pro-voucher freshman Senator Rick Gudex, helping to return the state senate to Republican hands. Gudex, who barely won, by a margin of 590 votes, has pledged not to vote for any budget that doesn't expand school vouchers.
Wisconsin ranked #1 in the AFC report, which tallied its political spending here at a grand total of $2,392,000.
Dark money for TV and radio ads further obscures the school-choice issue. Often, these are ads about taxes or crime, and have nothing to do with their sponsors' actual agenda.
Rules requiring disclose for spending on issue ads "aren't worth the paper they're written on," McCabe says, because they aren't enforced.
"So this group can tell its members it spent all this money to support candidates and influence elections, and turn around and tell the elections board that it wasn't political spending at all."
That's too bad, because what the American Federation for Children calls education "reform" looks, to a lot of people, like the dismantling of a state's great public school system.
This is part of the great undermining of the public school system that has been implemented by the conservatives and which includes attacks on teacher's unions, advocating home schooling, and of course the for profit schools that would turn our children's education into a capitalistic enterprise where the focus is on the profit margin rather than on the student's success.
Personally I have never as under assault as I do right now.
And the problem is that so many people are simply unaware of the concerted effort to undermine education and turn children into obedient little cogs in a machine that mass produces apathy and unimaginative pod people.
Oh, and they will be future Republican voters as well. The worst thing for the Republican party is a nation full of intelligent, well educated, voters.
Does not exactly assure the survival of Christianity either by the way. So is it any wonder that many of these private schools are religiously themed?