Koch and Thurgood Marshall College Fund begin collaboration with invite-only charter school event


The first event held by the Center for Advancing Opportunity, a joint venture of the Charles Koch Foundation is an invitation-only discussion of Brown v. Board of Education. See Full Program Here.

Despite its title, “A Promise Fulfilled? An Examination of Brown v. Board of Education on its 63rd Anniversary,” a quick glance reveals that charter schools are the dominant theme among the panelists, with all but one panelist having clear ties to charter schools or “school choice” advocacy groups. Several of these groups are actively part of Koch's political operations, including Koch's corporate "bill mill," the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and their network of political think tanks, the State Policy Network.


EdChoice, formerly the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice

Name Org Other Affiliations
Steve Perry, Keynote Speker CEO of Capital Preparatory charter school
Jennifer Wider, Moderator Exec. Dir. of Center for Advancing Opportunity Vice Chair of Democracy Prep charter school
Virginia Walden Ford Exec. Dir. of Arkansas Parent Network Board of Directors of EdChoice, Black Alliance for Educational Options, Education Breakthrough Network, and Friends of Choice in Urban Schools. Former Exec. Dir. of DC Parents for School Choice
Alanzo Smith Montgomery College
Sekou Biddle Former outreach director at KIPP national charter
Robert Enlow, Moderator President CEO of EdChoice
Greg Forster Friedman Fellow at EdChoice
Gerard Robinson Senior Fellow at American Enterprise Institute Past President of Black Alliance for Education Options, Trump Education Transition Team
Mashea Ashton Founder/CEO of Digital Pioneers Acadamy charter school recent CEO of Newark Charter School Fund, and National Director of Selection and Recruitment for KIPP charter school

The Center for Advancing Opportunity panel is filled with charter school advocates, like Robert Enlow, CEO of EdChoice. EdChoice was formerly the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, an Indiana non-profit devoted to the privatization of schools, named after free-market economist (and Koch network icon) Milton Friedman. Another panelist, Greg Forester, a Friedman Fellow at EdChoice.

As recently as 2016, EdChoice (along with Exxon Mobil and the Alliance for School Choice) was a top sponsor of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and has helped ALEC create model legislation for school voucher programs across the country. EdChoice is also a MEMBER of the State Policy Network, a national collection of political think tanks funded by Koch’s network of political donors. 

EdChoice is funded by members of the Koch network, like the Bradley foundation (arguably the largest proponent of charter schools in the country), the Scaife foundation, and DonorsTrust. EdChoice also acts as a conduit for money in the Koch network, flowing funding to other school choice organizations around the country, other think tanks in the State Policy Network, and Koch’s political organizations like Americans for Prosperity. An EdChoice fellow, Matthew Ladner, is also the Senior Research Fellow at the Charles Koch Institute, and co-authors ALEC’s “Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform.” 

Other panelists include Virginia Walden Ford, who is on the EdChoice board of directors (though it is not listed on the program). Ford served and continues to serve on the Board of Directors of other “school choice” organizations like the Arkansas Parent Network, Black Alliance for Educational Options, Education Breakthrough Network, and Friends of Choice in Urban Schools. She is also the former Executive Director of DC Parents for School Choice.

 The keynote speaker, Steve Perry, is the CEO of a national chain of charter schools, or charter management organization, Capital Preparatory. Perry was principal and founder of Capital Prep Magnet School in Hartford CT, but when teachers stood in opposition to being integrated into the chain, Perry retaliated, calling teachers unions “roaches,” and making apparently violent remarks on Twitter, saying “All this did was piss me off. It's so on. Strap up, there will be head injuries.” He later stepped down as principal of the of the Capital Preparatory in Hartford to manage the growing Capital Prep chain (later opening a school in Harlem with Sean "Diddy" Combs).


American Enterprise Institute

Another panelist, Gerard Robinson, is a school choice advocate and Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a think tank funded heavily by the Koch foundation, Bradley foundation, and other Koch network donors. Robinson was a member of Donald Trump’s education transition team, whose  “all hands on deck” education proposal encourages increased involvement by “corporate and non-profit” entities, and that “It takes faith, families, and free market values to educate students so they can be assets to our nation.. He was also President of the Black Alliance for Education Options.

The American Enterprise Institute is a top Koch funded think tank, whose CEO is a favorite at Koch donor summits. Another staple at Koch’s summits is AEI’s Senior Fellow and resident white supremacist, Charles Murray. (see section of this report on AEI, Koch Donor Summits, and white supremacy?).

AEI appears to have had a nearly identical event three years ago, entitled “With all deliberate speed: Brown v. Board of Education II, 60 years later,” moderated by Gerard Robinson, whose panels were stacked with charter school advocates, including those from EdChoice. The main takeaway was “how school choice and parental empowerment can lead to greater educational opportunities,” post Brown v. Board of Education.

We suspect that the CAO's first event will be a recreation of AEI's discussion three years ago.