Unmasking Vouchers: Educational Equity PAC

There is a coordinated and well-funded onslaught against public education and democracy happening in Texas and across the country.

A tidal wave of dark money is flowing into Texas with the specific purpose of undermining democracy by meddling in elections and privatizing our public schools. Here in Texas, billionaires from Texas and outside the state are flooding our politics with enormous amounts of money, using intermediary organizations to funnel campaign contributions to politicians of both political parties.

In this culmination of the Unmasking Voucher series, we will take a look at an organization that serves as a collector and distributor for billionaires’ donations, and we will issue a warning to legislators to be mindful of the campaign contributions they choose to accept.

The Educational Equity PAC is just one example of a dark-money intermediary organization. The organization does not spend much directly itself, but rather serves as a middle man, accepting donations from billionaires. It then turns around and funnels money to recipient organizations — also dark-money go-between organizations — that donate directly to candidates. This practice is intended to obscure the actual sources of campaign donations,  making it harder for the public to hold our elected officials accountable.

The Educational Equity PAC first came to our attention in this Unmasking Voucher series because the PAC made a $1.2 million donation to the Charter Schools Now PAC, according to Christopher Tackett’s analysis.

As a passthrough organization, Educational Equity PAC has just a few large funders and a few organizations to which it has given massive donations. The Educational Equity PAC’s funders according to political journalist Christopher Tackett’s analysis are:

  • Reed Hastings – $1.99 million
    • Co-founder and executive chairman of Netflix, Inc.
  • John Arnold – $180,000
    • American billionaire, former hedge fund manager and former natural gas trader. Co-founder of Arnold Ventures.

With the support from these billionaire donors, the Educational Equity PAC made the following donations to pro-charter school PACs:

  • $1.2 million donation to the Charter Schools Now PAC, which was previously mentioned in our Unmasking series
  • $624,700 donation to the Legacy 44 PAC, which also shares Walmart heiress Alice Walton as a major funder with Charter Schools Now PAC.

Democrats and Republicans alike in the Texas Legislature accept campaign donations from the Charter Schools Now PAC and Legacy 44 PAC. Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), started by New York hedge fund managers and which opposes teachers unions while supporting charter schools and standardized testing, also supports Legacy 44 PAC and just recently started a DFER Texas office.

The following Texas legislators accepted contributions from just the Charter Schools Now PAC alone, according to Tackett’s analysis:

This  analysis of dark money in public education shows it is not just the pro-voucher organizations that work to defund and dismantle public schools; it’s the pro-charter organizations as well. These groups advocate in the Texas Legislature to funnel even more money to charter schools that are starving our public schools of resources, to the tune of $4 billion per year, forcing school closures in some communities. These reform groups also spend millions in marketing and push-polls to stoke false narratives about public schools failing our students and parents.

After the governor calls for a special session to push his voucher scheme, possibly as soon as Oct. 9,  we also expect a push for charter school priorities like increased facilities funding. Legislators who have accepted money from these organizations are at the top of the list of politicians to watch for making deals to sell out our public schools for vouchers in exchange for their campaign donors’ priorities. Follow the money. 

Despite the absence of transparency within the web of dark money in Texas politics, the public is growing in awareness of who funds their elected officials’ campaigns and the influence of money on votes. We urge elected officials to do their due diligence when it comes to accepting donations from organizations like the Charter Schools Now PAC and Legacy 44 PAC because the funding is coming from billionaires who have agendas that are destructive to Texas public schools.

Legislators who accept money from the Charter Schools Now PAC and Legacy 44 PAC are pawns in a chess game played by billionaires pushing to defund and dismantle public education.

All of this money, whether funneled through pro-voucher or pro-charter dark money organizations, is flowing in the same direction. As awareness grows regarding the dark money influence in politics and public policy, voters will hold Texas legislators accountable after learning which contributions candidates and incumbents accept and which they deny.  The choice for Texas legislators is simple and clear: either you are on the side of public schools or you are in the deep pockets of billionaires.