Every young person should go to college—that’s what some people believe. In the past legislators maintained the importance of providing high-quality, low-cost education to children of working and middle class families. One Founding Father who promoted this philosophy is Thomas Jefferson who believed that educated people were vital for a democracy.
College/university attendance has increased dramatically during the recession of the past few years because many people cannot find jobs. At the same time money put into institutions of higher learning annually shrinks. How much less varies greatly: funding per student can be as much as $2,000 lower than or $4,000 higher than the national average.
So what can desperate schools do? Sell themselves, of course. And the Koch brothers are only too willing to purchase them—if the schools follow the brothers’ conservative bent. These are the billionaire men who bankrolled the Tea Party movement, anonymously until someone outed them. They are the same people who told their 50,000 employees how to vote, now a legal situation thanks to the Supreme Court’s decision in United Citizens (a real misnomer) v. Federal Election Commission. Despite the brothers’ opposition to government meddling in business, their business meddles in a government entity.
A prime example is publically-funded Florida State University. Using the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, brother Charles pays $1.5 million to the university’s economics department—with the proviso that he maintains control on hires and fires for a program promoting “political economy and free enterprise.” Goodbye academic freedom.
The agreement, signed three years ago, was kept out of the public eye until two professors complained. One of them is retired; the other will probably be looking for a job soon. The Koch brothers have help from BB&T, the bank holding company who provides $150,000 a year during the next ten years for an instructor plus a separate grant that funds a class on ethics and economics. Their requirement? That the coursework make Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged required reading. For those unfamiliar with the book, popular during the mid-twentieth century, the novel describes the collapse of society because of government’s infringement on free enterprise. Don’t want to read the over 1,000 pages? See the movie being marketed to Tea Partiers.
The Koch brothers started its takeover of public universities with giving George Mason University, a public university inVirginia, over $30 million during the past 20 years. At George Mason, the money “allows” faculty to study “how institutions affect the freedom to prosper” as part of the Mercatus Center. (Think deregulation.)
Other lucky public university recipients of the brothers’ generosity include West Virginia University ($480,000) where economics professor Russell Sobel argues that less mine safety regulations result in greater safety for coal miners; Brown University ($419,254), where the Political Theory Project promulgates the belief that the Great Depression was worse because of the New Deal and bank deregulation has helped the poor; Troy University ($3.6 million with the Manuel Johnson and the BB&T Foundation), where the Center for Political Economy’s goal is to stop deregulation for markets; and Utah State University ($700,000), where the Koch-funded Huntsman School of Business teaches Charles Koch’s “Science of Liberty” management theory, a book that Forbes described as proclaiming a Marxist faith in fixed laws that govern human well-being.
Fortunately for them, the Koch brothers have support in high places, including House Speaker John Boehner
The Koch brothers aren’t the only ones purchasing schools. Detroit (MI) has put 45 schools up for auction, hoping that charter school management companies will take them over. Eighteen companies have shown an interest. Other Michigan schools are being taken over by the state governor under the new law that allows him to appoint Emergency Financial Managers (think Benton Harbor) anytime he wants control. Last week Gov. Rick Snyder listed 23 financially-distressed school districts that he will take over, 18 of them in Detroit.
Tomorrow I’ll talk about the schools in Detroit that EFMs have already closed, including a highly-successful one for pregnant girls.