January 12, 2011- Today in the Washington Post, reporter Stephanie McCrummen detailed how a right-wing campaign in the Wake County area of North Carolina has taken over the school board with a pledge to end a very successful socio-economic integration plan. The integration plan, which created thriving schools in poor African-American parts of the school district along with achieving diversity in schools located in wealthy white enclaves, was a model for the nation. However, Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the Tea Party group founded and funded by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, worked with local right-wing financier (and AFP board member) Art Pope to fundamentally change Wake County’s school board:
“I don’t want us to go back to racially isolated schools,” said Shila Nordone, who is biracial and has two children in county schools. “But right now, it’s as if the best we can do is dilute these kids out so they don’t cause problems. It sickens me.”
In their quest to end the diversity policy, the frustrated parents have found some influential partners, among them retail magnate and Republican operative Art Pope. Following his guidance, the GOP fielded the victorious bloc of school board candidates who railed against “forced busing.” The nation’s largest tea party organizers, Americans for Prosperity – on whose national board Pope sits – cast the old school board members as arrogant “leftists.” Two libertarian think tanks, which Pope funds almost exclusively, have deployed experts on TV and radio.
In a way, the Koch brothers are simply fulfilling their father’s legacy. In 1958, Fred Koch — the founder of Koch Industries — joined a group of manufacturing executives and Robert Welch to found the John Birch Society, a virulent far-right group that dominated the civil rights debate. The John Birch Society organized an impeachment campaign against then-Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren for the Brown v. Board decision outlawing racial segregation, and mobilized its supporters to oppose integration of schools on the grounds that mixing black and white would lead to the “mongrelization” of the races. Fred supported the John Birch Society’s anti-civil rights campaign, and wrote a screed denouncing the civil rights movement as communist-inspired.