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The Acton Institute conference on Education & Freedom: School Privatization, School Choice and the Benefits of Free Market Capitalism

October 12, 2017

Last month, we reported that Betsy DeVos will be the keynote speaker at the Acton Institute’s 27th Annual Dinner. The $175 a plate Acton event will be held at the DeVos Hall in downtown Grand Rapids on October 18. 

The very next day, on October 19, the Acton Institute will host an event entitled, Education and Freedom. This event, which is being held at the Acton Institute headquarters on the corner of E. Fulton and Sheldon, makes this claim: 

Everyone in the United States knows education is badly in need of reform. While K-12 and higher education costs have outpaced inflation, we have yet to see commensurate returns.  And parents who opt out of such a system pay twice for their children’s education–taxes and tuition.

Choice, flexibility and innovation are needed.

The lack of freedom for parents, teachers, students, and state and local governments is distorting the purpose and function of education across the country.

It is clear that the Acton Institute is not hiding their ideological bias on the issue of education. They embrace the same fundamental framework as the current Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. The Acton Institute sees the existence of Charter Schools, Private Schools and School Vouchers as synonymous with FREEDOM. So do the people they have invited to their one-day conference

Brian Britton – He is the current CEO of National Heritage Academies (NHA), which is based in Grand Rapids. The NHA was founded by J.C. Huizenga, who is a current board member at the Acton Institute. Huizenga is part of the West Michigan power structure, because of his wealth and the organizations that Huizenga is part of. Over the past 10 years, the National Heritage Academies has spent $810,000 lobbying Congress on education legislation

Joe Cohn – Joe Cohn works for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). FIRE is a major proponent of the intellectual diversity movement, which aims to dismantle the so-called liberal bias in higher academia. Cohn writes about numerous issues related to higher education, but has spent a great deal of time writing about and supporting Betsy DeVos’s revision around Title IX. Like DeVos, Cohn believes that those accused of sexual assault are not treated fairly. 

Ben DeGrow – Ben is the director of education policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. DeGrow writes regularly about the importance of school choice and Charter Schools for the Mackinac Center. DeGrow’s work and that of the Mackinac Center around education policy, “is devoted to privatizing state institutions and to deregulating public education.Over the past decade, the Mackinac Center has received $325,000 from the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation and $210,000 from the DeVos Urban Leadership Initiative

Timothy Hall – Hall works as the Director of Operations and Academics at Thales Academy in North Carolina. Thales Academy was founded by Bob Luddy, a businessman who supports GOP candidates and created Thales Academy because he wanted to offer parents private school options. Luddy was the top contributor to the anti-diversity-policy electoral effort in 2009 in North Carolina and is accused by the NAACP of desegregating school districts. 

Tom Lindsay – Lindsay is the Director of the Center for Higher Education at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. The Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) is a conservative think tank founded in 1989 by James R. Leininger. It is a member of the right-wing State Policy Network (SPN) and is based in Austin, Texas. It has ties to Texas Governor and former presidential candidate Rick PerryTed Cruz, and many other powerful politicians. The TPPF has been a champion of many of the ALEC bills used in states across the country and has a history of supports legislation that supports school privatization, virtual schools, attacking public education teachers and eliminating pensions for public school teachers.

Catherine Pakaluk – Pakaluk is a faculty member at the Busch School of Business and Economics in Washington, DC.  The Busch School is a Catholic School, and like the Acton Institute, believes that Catholicism and Capitalism are perfect bedfellows.

Greg Reed – Greg Reed is an attorney with the Institute for Justice. The Institute for Justice (IJ) is a libertarian public interest law firm registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit and founded in 1991. The IJ names its four major issues as “private property, economic liberty, free speech and school choice.”

Mitchell Rocklin – Mitchell Rocklin is a Resident Research Fellow at The Tikvah Fund, a Jewish educational think tank and philanthropic organization in New York. The Tikvah Fund is a private philanthropic foundation that works closely with neoconservative think tanks and media outlets as well as an array of academic institutions to promote conservative ideologies. The foundation seeks to influence both academic discourse and the media on issues impacting economics, politics, culture, and religion, with a particular emphasis on the role of Judaism in society. The Tikyah Fund is politically Zionist in its orientation.

Jeff Sandefer – Jeff Sandefer has been the President of Sandefer Capital Partners. Sandefer Capital Partners is a U.S. based investment company. In February 2004 they announced that they would takeover Southern Pacific Petroleum (SPP), an ailing company that had been attempting to develop oil shale deposits in North Queensland. The project had been opposed by Greenpeace and other environmental groups due to its greenhouse gas emissions and the company’s refusal to relinquish leases over shale deposits that extended to within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Sandefer considers himself an entrepreneur educator.

Richard Vedder – Richard Vedder is a Distinguished Professor of Economics at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. Vedder is also on the Board of Scholars and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. 

So, it seems pretty clear that the notion of Education and Freedom for the Acton Institute invited speakers means school choice, education privatization and education that embraces free market capitalism.

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