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Schneider: Will Eli Broad and the Waltons Buy Control of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education?

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What a strange world we live in!

Why are a California businessman and a pair of Arkansas billionaires dumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into the race for the state board of education in Louisiana?

Mercedes Schneider explains it here.

Billionaires Eli Broad and Alice and Jim Walton have contributed a combined $650,000 to Baton Rouge businessman Lane Grigsby’s PAC, Empower Louisiana, so that Grigsby might use it to try to retain a corporate-reform-bent majority on the state’s education board, BESE, from 2016-19.

The BESE election is scheduled for October 24, 2015.

According to Empower Louisiana’s campaign finance report (07-17-15 to 09-14-15), Jim and Alice Walton each donated $200,000 on August 20, 2015, and Broad contributed $250,000 on September 10, 2015.

The total on the above report is $763,710, which means that as of September 14, 2015, money from two billionaires from Arkansas and one billionaire from California constitutes the principal funding for Grigsby’s efforts to preserve a BESE majority known for supporting charters and vouchers without equally supporting adequate oversight; supporting high-stakes testing without supporting timely, clear, comprehensive reporting of testing results, and for allying with a state superintendent known for hiding and manipulating data, refusing to honor public records requests, and refusing to consistently audit the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE).

Grigsby considers the above to be the desired course for Louisiana’s state board of education. According to the October 01, 2015, Advocate, he plans to spend his PARC’s predominately Walton and Broad money on 3 of the 11 BESE seats:

Grigsby’s group — it is limited to independent expenditures — will rely mostly on television and radio advertisements and direct mail.

Races where it will be involved include BESE vice president Jim Garvey, of Metairie, against challenger Lee Barrios, of Abita Springs; incumbent Holly Boffy, of Youngsville, against challenger Mike Kreamer, of Lafayette and incumbent Mary Harris, of Shreveport, against challengers Tony Davis, of Natchitoches, and Glynis Johnston, of Shreveport.

The group backs Garvey, Boffy and Davis in those contests.

This is blatant buying of our democracy. There ought to be a law limiting campaign expenditures. People with unlimited resources (who don’t even live in the state) should be prevented from buying elections by flooding them with cash. Ordinary folks, who are well informed and devoted to education, but don’t have any billionaires funders, don’t have a chance.

That’s just plain wrong.

People who use their vast wealth to buy elections should be charged with criminal activity. They undermine our democracy.

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