by Brian Washington
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By the end of the week, education activists should have a better understanding of how the 2016 field of presidential hopefuls on the Republican side is shaping up and what some of the threats to students, educators, and public education may look like in the future.
Thursday, February 26, kicks off the start of the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, DC. CPAC represents the largest gathering of right-wing conservatives from around the country.
The event’s agenda is filled with workshops designed to come up with new ways to undermine public education and limit opportunity for students. Without a doubt, there will be discussions about siphoning away taxpayer dollars from public education and funneling them into private and religious schools and expanding privately-run charter schools that, despite getting public funding, are not accountable or transparent to the communities they are supposed to serve.
If some of this sounds like it comes from the ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) playbook, which includes restricting the ability of educators to advocate for their students and dismantling public education, that’s because many of the faces attending this week’s CPAC meeting are also regular attendees at various ALEC events.
Also, because this year’s conference is happening at the start of the 2016 election cycle, a string of GOP presidential hopefuls are expected to attend, including Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, an ALEC acolyte who’s also a darling of billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, the Koch Brothers.
Walker has been leading the fight in Wisconsin against workers’ rights, middle-class families, students, educators, and public schools. He was instrumental in defunding higher education and robbed public schools of critical dollars through private school vouchers and huge corporate tax cuts. He also led the charge to strip educators of their voice to advocate on behalf of students.
Another serious contender for the GOP presidential ticket who will be speaking at CPAC this week is former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who also supports private school vouchers, the corporate takeover of public education, and other policies that harm students.
In fact, at last year’s Republican National Convention, Bush told the crowd that public schools should be thought of as competing commodities governed by a free market.
As governor, Bush was also responsible for the implementation of a controversial A-F school grading formula that has since come under fire by parents, educators, and elected leaders and has had to be adjusted at least two dozen times over the last several years.
Other CPAC guest speakers who are looking to head-up the Republican ticket for the White House include U.S. Senators Marco Rubio of Florida, Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Ted Cruz of Texas as well as Governors Chris Christie of New Jersey and Rick Perry of Texas.
CPAC ends Saturday, February 28. Be sure to check the Speak Up for Education and Kids Facebook page and the “What We’re Reading” section of Ed Votes for updates on what’s happening at the conference.