Community Voice or Captive of the Right? A Closer Look at the Black Alliance for Educational Options

Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation

It is not surprising that BAEO is headquartered in Milwaukee. Wisconsin has been the linchpin of the voucher movement for over a decade and the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation has been at the center of the action. In 2001, the Bradley Foundation gave $500,000 to BAEO for general operations.19

Providing not only money but also connections – Fuller describes Joyce as a longtime personal friend20 – the Bradley Foundation’s support brings BAEO into the forefront of the school voucher movement. Bradley has also funded Fuller’s pro-voucher think tank at Milwaukee’s Marquette University, the Institute for the Transformation of Learning (ITL). As of June 2001, the ITL received more than $1.7 million from Bradley for its various projects.21

The Milwaukee school voucher program has long received crucial support from the Bradley Foundation. In fact, former Wisconsin School Superintendent John Benson says the program would never have started if it were not for Michael Joyce, president of the Bradley Foundation until July 2001. Joyce was “the firepower behind the voucher initiative,” says Benson. “He’s the one who fired up and then convinced then-Governor [Tommy] Thompson,” Benson explains, “Without them, we wouldn’t have school vouchers.”22

The Bradley Foundation played a key role when the Milwaukee voucher program came under legal challenge for violating the separation of church and state after the program expanded to allow tax-funded vouchers to be used in parochial schools. Bradley gave the state of Wisconsin $350,000 to pay for the work that Kenneth Starr, former independent counsel, and his firm Kirkland & Ellis did to defend the voucher program before the Wisconsin State Supreme Court.23

The Bradley Foundation is considered one of the leading right-wing foundations in the country, granting more than $355 million from 1985 to 1999 to right-wing think tanks, affirmative action rollback projects, and efforts to privatize the education system.

On the Bradley Foundation’s grant list:

  • The Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute (AEI), two right-wing think tanks with considerable influence in Congress and the current Bush administration, received $11 million and $12 million respectively from Bradley between 1985-98.

  • In addition to Heritage and AEI, Bradley funds a number of right-wing think tanks that are working to institute vouchers, tuition tax credits and other proposals that would funnel public money to private schools. This includes the Center for Education Reform, the Heartland Institute, the Claremont Institute and the Free Congress Foundation.
  • The Center for the Study of Popular Culture has received almost $4 million in Bradley grants since 1989.24 David Horowitz, the center’s president, most recently caused an uproar on college campuses when he tried to run an ad in campus newspapers entitled “Ten Reasons Why Reparations for Slavery is a Bad Idea—and Racist Too.” Horowitz’s ninth reason asked “Where is the gratitude of black America” for the gift of “the highest standard of living of blacks anywhere in the world?”
  • Charles Murray, co-author of the highly controversial 1994 book The Bell Curve, which suggests African Americans are intellectually inferior to whites, received almost $1 million from Bradley while at AEI.26
  • Anti-affirmative action groups are other Bradley favorites. This includes the American Civil Rights Institute, started by Ward Connerly, who led the successful effort to eliminate California’s affirmative action programs in 1996, and the Center for Individual Rights, which led a successful legal challenge to affirmative action at the University of Texas Law School.27
  • Share this page: Facebook Twitter Digg SU Digg Delicious