Connect the right-wing dots

By: - March 1, 2010 3:52 pm

The new Gang of Five Majority on the Wake County Board of Education that wants to resegregate the schools continues to claim it is carrying out the wishes of the majority of parents in Wake County.

Never mind the 94.5 percent of parents who said in a recent survey that they were satisfied with their child’s school.

The Gang of Five is really speaking for a small right-wing ideological sliver of the county led by folks like Art Pope and Bob Luddy whose goal is to dismantle and privatize public education with vouchers and tax credits.

The decision by the Gang of Five to hire the right-wing Civitas Institute to conduct board trainings ought to remove any doubt about who is pulling the strings of the new majority.

According to the group’s latest nonprofit tax return, Pope contributed $1.62 million of the $1.66 million that Civitas raised in 2008.

The staff members of Civitas are unabashed supporters of vouchers and tax credits. They fight efforts to reduce class size, oppose funding for early childhood programs for at-risk kids, and routinely call for less support for teachers and school administrators.

The chair of the Civitas Board is conservative businessman Bob Luddy, who just happens to have been the largest single  indivdual contributor to the campaigns of the four members of the Gang of Five elected this fall.

Luddy is also a strong proponent of vouchers and runs both a charter school and a private school, the Thales Academy, with campuses in Apex and Wake Forest.

Gang of Fiver and Wake Board Chair Ron Margiotta is on the board of Thales Academy. 

The Director of the Pope Civitas Institute is Frances De Luca, who used to run the North Carolina chapter of Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the group that staged a rally in support of the new board majority before a December meeting.

Pope is not only a big contributor to AFP, he serves on the national board.

The AFP rally was led by staff member Chris Farr, the ex-wife of Republican lawyer Thomas Farr, recently hired by the Gang of Five to audit the school board’s legal expenses and provide other legal advice.

Emails from Margiotta’s Wake County account show he was actively seeking guidance from the Pope/Luddy axis right after the election.

Lindalyn Kakadelis copied Margiotta on an email she sent to Bob Luebke of the Civitas Institute and Terry Stoops of the Locke Foundation on November 12 in which she said she talked to Margiotta and he said he wanted her to meet with the newly elected school board.

Kakadelis is the director of the N.C. Education Alliance, a project of the Locke Foundation. Stoops replied that he knew Civitas wanted to do a school board training.

Now it appears that Civitas will be hired to “train” the new board even though the group has never before conducted school board trainings.

Maybe the first lesson can be to explain how all the parts of the Pope/Luddy axis fits together in its drive to destroy public education as we know it.

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Chris Fitzsimon

Chris Fitzsimon, Founder and Executive Director of N.C. Policy Watch, writes the Fitzsimon File, delivers a radio commentary broadcast on WRAL-FM and hosts "News and Views," a weekly radio news magazine that airs on multiple stations across North Carolina. [email protected] 919-861-2066