There are some very wealthy folks out there - many of whom work together - who fuel America's pro-voucher movement. Some names for your file:
1. Wal-Mart heir John Walton, the movement's most prolific giver, gave seed money to the pro-voucher group CEO America and $2 million to Michigan's 2000 voucher ballot initiative. Walton bankrolls a massive private voucher program along with financier Ted Forstmann and runs a charter school management company. And through the Walton Family Foundation, Walton supports advocacy groups, think tanks, and legal nonprofits that promote vouchers and tax credits.
2. Financier Ted Forstmann recently funded a multimillion-dollar ad campaign attacking public education. Forstmann wants to scrap public schools in favor of an ATM-like system that would dispense taxpayer-funded vouchers for tuition at schools run by anyone who wanted to start one.
3. Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper spent more than $26 million last year on an unpopular California initiative - defeated by a 70-30 margin - to give publicly funded vouchers to children from even the wealthiest families.
4. Alticor Inc. President Dick DeVos directed the 2000 Michigan voucher initiative and, with family members, spent $5 million on this measure - which voters rejected by a 70-30 margin. DeVos and his wife, Betsy, are continuing their anti-public education assault through a new nonprofit organization that promotes a skewed report claiming that 90 percent of Michigan's public schools are failing.
5. The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee makes generous gifts to provide a reliable funding stream for vouchers, from courtroom to the classroom. Among the beneficiaries of the Bradley Foundation's largesse: Milwaukee's privately funded voucher program, Harvard researcher Paul Peterson, and the Institute for Justice, a pro-voucher legal defense group.
6. Texan James Leininger has poured money into political campaigns to promote a conservative agenda that includes vouchers. Leininger provides the bulk of the funding for the Horizon program in Texas, a privately funded voucher program that's draining money from San Antonio's Edgewood public schools.
7. Insurance company executive J. Patrick Rooney, the founder of an early privately funded voucher program, went national after unsuccessful attempts to push vouchers in his home state of Indiana. Rooney has been a key figure in several pro-voucher groups, including CEO America, the American Education Reform Council, and the Greater Educational Opportunities Foundation.
8. Economist Milton Friedman uses his modest-sized foundation to supplement his four decades of voucher advocacy. Friedman supports ad campaigns, conferences and publications, think tanks, and advocacy groups to promote public school "alternatives."
9. Richard Mellon Scaife exerts his financial reach through four family foundations. Scaife, who joined other voucher regulars in supporting the 1993 California voucher initiative, provides core support for think tanks and advocacy groups, private organizations that offer vouchers, and public interest law firms that promote vouchers and tuition tax credits.
10. In 2000, the voucher movement found itself new benefactors. Univision CEO Jerrold Perenchio gave more than $1 million to the California voucher initiative. Former Circuit City CEO Richard Sharp gave $100,000 to both the California and Michigan initiatives. Michigan's big-giver list included Wolverine Gas & Oil CEO Sidney Jansma, at $470,000; Domino's Pizza founder Thomas Monaghan, $350,000; and the computer company Compuware, $361,000.