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

Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation, Inc.

In 2001, the Milton and Rose Friedman Foundation gave $20,000 to BAEO to write the group’s amicus brief in the Cleveland voucher case argued before the Supreme Court. It also gave $20,800 to BAEO’s Indiana chapter.46 The Friedman Foundation gave a total of $70,000 to Marquette University for a symposium on “Educational Options for African Americans” that was run by BAEO.47 Such meetings provided Fuller’s base for launching BAEO. In 2000, The Friedman Foundation gave $230,000 – over a quarter of its grant money for the year – to the AERC to cover production of five television and four radio commercials for BAEO.48

Economist Milton Friedman and his wife Rose founded the Friedman Foundation in 1996 “as the first national foundation devoted exclusively to promoting parental choice.”49 The Friedman Foundation promotes vouchers on a number of fronts. The group provides financial grants to groups like BAEO, but it also does a great deal of pro-voucher work directly out of its Indiana headquarters.50 For instance, the Foundation spent over $3 million from 1999-2000 on its own ad campaigns promoting vouchers in California, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, and Washington D.C.51

Milton Friedman, who won a Nobel Prize for his work on monetary theory, is credited with laying the original academic framework for voucher theory in the 1950’s. Friedman’s academic work focuses more on the financial profits school privatization could reap rather than the purported assistance it could offer low-income students in failing schools – the interest BAEO purports to represent. In 1995 Friedman wrote, “the privatization of schooling would produce a new, highly active and profitable private industry.”52 Friedman insists that voucher programs ought to include everyone, regardless of economic class. “Programs that are designed for the poor will be poor programs,” he told the editor of the pro-voucher School Reform News.53

The Friedman Foundation had assets totaling $5.3 million in 1999, and also received $100,000 from the Walton Foundation in 1999 and 2000.54 J. Patrick Rooney, the wealthy voucher backer and former AERF chair, also sits on the Friedman Foundation Board. Rooney is also associated with the pro-voucher Greater Educational Opportunities Foundation, with which three BAEO board members are affiliated.

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