Far-Right Funders Back African-American Voucher Advocacy Group (BAEO)

Key Backers Also Finance Anti-Affirmative Action and School Privatization Schemes

Washington – Since its creation in August 2000, the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) has emerged as one of the most visible voucher advocates in the country, even landing a grant from the U.S. Department of Education to promote the White House’s voucher initiatives. Contrary to BAEO’s public relations messaging, the group is not supported by a broad African-American constituency but by a handful of wealthy, far-right foundations and individuals. A report released today takes a closer look at this organization which has become one of the top promoters of the school voucher agenda.

The report, Community Voice or Captive of the Right? The Black Alliance for Educational Options, is authored by People For the American Way Foundation (PFAWF). This report provides an overview of BAEO’s place in the voucher movement, examining its promotion of vouchers, the affiliations of its leaders and board of directors, and the history of its funders.

BAEO bills itself as a grassroots coalition of African-American leaders. But in fact, BAEO is bankrolled by a small number of foundations and individuals better known for supporting school privatization schemes and affirmative action rollbacks than empowering African-Americans.

2001-02 saw BAEO spend $4.3 million on advocacy advertising in Washington, D.C. - more than AARP and Lockheed Martin. In fact, BAEO's ad blitz catapulted them to fourth overall for such advertising in the nation's capital.

“BAEO’s sophisticated public relations campaign does not mask the agenda of many of their biggest supporters, whose long-term goal is the privatization of the public education system,” said Ralph G. Neas, President of People For the American Way Foundation.

The Rev. Timothy McDonald, chair of the African American Ministers Leadership Council, challenged BAEO’s priorities.

"Whether its leaders recognize it or not, BAEO is serving as a tool for some very extreme groups that do not have the best interests of African-Americans at heart," said McDonald. "Our community deserves to know the truth about the people who are funding BAEO and the destructive agenda they have for African-American families."

This ‘destructive agenda’ is detailed by PFAWF in its report The Voucher Veneer: The Deeper Agenda to Privatize Public Education. The Voucher Veneer is one in an extensive series of reports on vouchers, tuition tax credits, the voucher movement and other important issues in education.

As voucher battles are waged in states as diverse as Texas, Louisiana, Missouri, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, PFAWF will continue to reveal the truth about private school vouchers and the special interest groups who support them.

"Vouchers are a fraud. BAEO promises parents 'choice,' but the real choice belongs to private schools," said Nancy Keenan, education policy director for PFAWF. "Unlike public schools, private schools are free to discriminate on the basis of religion, gender, disability, or academic performance. There is no evidence that vouchers help improve achievement. Parents and children are better served by proven reforms such as class size reduction, teacher training, and after school programs - not deceptive voucher schemes."

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