The House Education & the Workforce Committee is hosting yet another hearing, this time to address school closures during the Covid-19 pandemic. But this isn’t really about educational quality, learning outcomes, or even K-12 students. The MAGA GOP has always been anti-public-education and, time and time again, top committee members have voted against billions in funding dedicated to safely reopening schools. Their latest hearing features three right-wing witnesses who have dedicated their careers to anti-public-education initiatives. The roster includes a non-profit executive who sits on the board of numerous pro-voucher groups, including one primarily funded by the Koch Brothers, a right-leaning policy wonk who has relentlessly promoted tax-funded charter schools & voucher programs opposed by teachers’ unions, and a state superintendent who opposed vaccine mandates and has targeted trans and nonbinary students. House Republicans don’t really care about kids’ education or public health. They just want to use the issue to push partisan stunts that fit their MAGA agenda.
House Republicans Opposed Funding Necessary For Reopening Schools & Supporting Working Families
- February 2021: House Republicans Voted Against Pandemic Aid Earmarked For Safely Reopening Schools. Every returning Republican on the education subcommittee voted against allocating $130 billion to safely reopen schools, which was included in the American Rescue Plan. [H.R. 1319, Roll Call 49, 2/27/21]
- November 2021: House Republicans Voted Against $400 Billion In Universal Pre-K and Childcare Programs. Every returning Republican on the education subcommittee voted against allocating $400 billion to help states build universal prekindergarten and affordable child care programs, including $100 billion in funding for expanding child care programs, all included in the Build Back Better Act. [H.R. 5376, Roll Call 385, 11/19/21]
- May 2022: House Republicans Voted Against Funding To Safely Reopen and Reinvest In Underfunded, Marginalized Schools. Every returning Republican on the education subcommittee present on the record voted against the Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools Act, which would have invested in the most underfunded, marginalized schools with facilities that pose health and safety risks to students and staff. [H.R. 604, House Committee on Education & Labor Roll Call 6, 5/18/22]
Derrell Bradford is president of the 50-State Campaign For Achievement Now (50CAN) with decades of experience working in anti-public-education advocacy. He currently sits on the board of a right-wing group primarily funded by the Koch Brothers, and serves on the boards of numerous other groups promoting charter schools and voucher programs.
- Bradford Has Spent His Career Advocating For Tax-Funded Charter Schools & Voucher Programs. In addition to serving as president of 50CAN and NYCAN, Bradford currently sits on numerous boards at anti-public-education national organizations and advocacy group boards — including, but not limited to, Success Academy Charter Schools, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, and the National Association of Charter School Authorizers. He previously served as executive director of Excellent Education for Everyone (E3), New Jersey’s largest advocacy organization pushing for vouchers, and had a personal stake in seeking greater funding for private schools as a board member of multiple Catholic high schools.
- 2016: Bradford Attacked NAACP Efforts To Boost Transparency and Accountability In Charter Schools As “A Sellout Of Black Children” Crafted With “Sinister Intent.” In a 2016 editorial piece to anti-public-education news website “The 74,” Bradford decried an NAACP resolution calling for a moratorium on the lack of transparency and accountability in charter schools as a “sellout of black children to teachers unions and other moneyed interests if there ever was one.”
- 2011: Bradford Served On A Republican “Educator Effectiveness Task Force” In New Jersey, Issuing Disastrous Recommendations Opposed By Local Teachers’ Unions. In 2011, Bradford joined a task force appointed by former Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) to study ways to measure educator effectiveness. When the task force concluded its evaluation and released a report, however, it recommended that decisions on retaining teachers and principals be linked to student test scores — up to 5o percent of their evaluations. The recommendations were opposed by local teachers unions, including the New Jersey Education Association, which has reportedly said that “tying performance reviews to standardized test scores would lead to teaching just so students can pass a test.”
- Bradford Sits On The Board of a Right-Wing Advocacy Group Seeking to Further Privatize Education That Is Closely Affiliated with the Koch Brothers. Bradford sits on the board of a right-wing advocacy group known as “Yes. every kid.” (YEK) that is closely affiliated with the Koch Brothers. YEK has received the majority of its revenue from the Koch network, and Bradford’s own organization, 50CAN, has also contributed to the organization. In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, YEK released a playbook seeking to exploit the crisis as part of a right-wing push to privatize education. Over the past year, YEK has also been actively working to uplift Republican governors and state legislators.
- Malkus Works For The American Enterprise Institute (AEI), A Right-Leaning Think Tank Promoting Anti-Public-Education Initiatives. AEI has been characterized as a right-leaning think tank, yet the organization’s education policy has largely focused on anti-public-education initiatives. In 2018, Malkus co-hosted a discussion with former Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL) advocating for voucher programs. Additionally, Trump’s Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos headlined a 2019 AEI event during which she attacked teachers unions and pushed for a Trump-era tax credit proposal that would have directed federal funding to private and religious schools.
- Malkus Has Spent His Career At AEI Advocating For Tax-Funded Charter Schools & Voucher Programs. Despite acknowledging the shortcomings of many existing publicly-funded voucher programs, Malkus has spent his time at AEI advocating for private and charter schools funded through these types of programs. In 2016, he celebrated “National Charter Schools Week,” and praised state-level voucher efforts. In 2017, he disputed a study by the Institute for Education Sciences and the U.S. Department of Education showing that students who received a voucher had achieved lower math scores after one year compared to students who had not. Yet he acknowledged that, in his own words, “If it’s because private providers are not on par with public schools, that’s fine. Parents should choose with that in mind, and not assume private schools are the best option.” Despite being aware of the shortcomings of voucher programs, Malkus has continued to urge increased funding for the programs and even named 2021 “The Year of School Choice,” in the wake of public-school closures due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Malkus Celebrated a Supreme Court Ruling Expanding School Vouchers To Religious Schools. Malkus has advocated for programs that allow private schools to receive public funding even as they fail to protect students from discrimination. In 2022, Malkus authored an article celebrating a 6-3 SCOTUS case ruling that state governments cannot not bar religious-based private schools from receiving funding through voucher programs. Religious schools are not subject to the same academic standards or student protections as public schools; some have been accused of discriminating against LGBTQI+ students and staff and others have even failed to provide a basic education to enrolled students.
Catherine Truitt is a Republican currently serving as superintendent of the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, elected to the position in 2020. She previously helped shape education policy for North Carolina Republicans during former Governor Pat McCrory (R-NC)’s tenure, serving as senior education advisor.
- Truitt Opposed Vaccine Mandates During the Covid-19 Pandemic. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Truitt opposed the Biden administration’s issuance of an emergency temporary standard requiring teachers, school staff, and administrators to be vaccinated for Covid-19. In response to the order, she tweeted: “[T]he federal government’s decision to mandate vaccination is one of the clearest examples of government overreach and one of the purest attacks on personal choice. I’ve always maintained these decisions are best made by an individual, or parents, and in tandem with a trusted health care provider.” [Twitter, 11/4/21]
- Truitt Is A Republican Who Supports School Voucher Programs. Since being elected state superintendent of public instruction, Truitt has increasingly embraced right-wing education policies like school vouchers. She made an effort to commemorate the North Carolina charter school system’s anniversary, and celebrated the so-called pro-voucher National School Choice Week push. Truitt even spoke at the 2023 Charter Advocacy Summit.
- Bowing To Pressure From The Far-Right, Truitt Has Targeted Trans and Nonbinary Students As State Superintendent. Truitt has increasingly bowed to pressure from far-right groups to embrace anti-LGBTQI+ policies. In June 2022, she embraced the GOP-led State Senate’s so-called Parents Bill of Rights, which sought to block schools from including LGBTQI+ curriculum and sought to force teachers to expose trans and nonbinary students. Then, in May 2023, Truitt sent a letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona opposing a Biden administration’s proposal that would protect trans and nonbinary students under Title IX. She sent the letter after bowing to pressure by right-wing activist groups who accused Truitt of “advancing the ‘Trans’ agenda” and “allowing teachers and counselors [to] easily groom children into changing their sexes without their parents’ knowledge” by following federal guidance pushing states to hide employees’ sex from school records without permission from school administrators. Less than a month after the accusations, Truitt declared her opposition to trans students participating in high school sports. In her letter to Cardona, Truitt suggested the Biden administration was trying to “reconstruct…Title IX to inherently disadvantage women.”