Billionaire brother Charles Koch is not shy about the goal of the Koch network, which gets at least $100,000 a year from each of 700 very wealthy people: it’s to “change the trajectory of the country.” And right now, one of the Koch brothers’ key targets is public education.
Leaders of the network dreamed of disrupting the status quo, customizing learning and breaking the teacher unions. One initial priority is expanding educational saving accounts and developing technologies that would let parents pick and choose private classes or tutors for their kids the same way people shop on Amazon. They envision making it easy for families to join together to start their own “micro-schools” as a new alternative to the public system.
The Charles Koch Institute distributed roughly $100 million to 350 colleges and universities last year, up sevenfold over the past five years. What’s newer is the emphasis on elementary and secondary education. The network declined to offer exact figures but said it will double investment in K-12 this year, with much more planned down the road.
That means state-level efforts to privatize public education, tilting it away from a system that educates all children for the public good to one that leaves all too many kids out in the cold while channeling public money to private profit. It’ll be a state-by-state battle with unlimited billionaire money up against teachers and grassroots education supporters, while Education Secretary Betsy DeVos does everything she can to tilt federal education policy toward privatization.