Why is the Right-Wing PR Consultant Jo Blacketor on the Indiana State Board of Education?
Although she likes to post on the charter school/voucher/merit-pay promoter Indiana Democrats for Education Reform’s facebook page, Indiana State Board of Education member Jo Blacketor makes her living at Faulkner Strategies doing PR work for right-wingers. Currently changing its name to Gridiron Communications, Faulkner Strategies’ clients include or have included actor-lawyer-turned-nutcase Fred Thompson, the anti-public education DeVos family front group All Children Matter, Ice Miller LLP lobbyists (hired by Stand for Children to help pass Indiana Senate Bill 1), and almost all Republican party groups in Indiana.
Faulkner Strategies’ leader, Chris Faulkner, is becoming a big honcho in the conservative world of deception and smear. Recently, he was honored by Campaigns & Elections Magazine with the Reed Award for bombarding 500,000 Florida homes with his direct-mail attack on Charlie Crist while working on the Marco Rubio U.S. senatorial campaign. Appropriately, with all those anti-public education clients onboard, Faulkner threw Mitch Daniels and the Indiana Republican Party lots of money over the last few years.
Which brings us to Ms. Blacketor’s other educational activism, which began with a seat on the South Bend school board (where she seems to have been a supreme agitator) and found steam with her failed 2007 District 7 run as a Republican for the Indiana House. Although as a military child she spent a lot of time in Japan, Cuba, Germany, and Turkey, Blacketor stressed her knowledge of U.S. education on the campaign trail by claiming that NCLB was wonderful and parental choice was essential.
Not only did Mitch Daniels recruit Blacketor for the State Board of Education, he let her represent Indiana on the National Association of State School Boards’ Government Affairs committee in Washington from 2007-2009. On assignment with NASBE, she was able to visit the U.S. Army branch at North Carolina to analyze their teaching methods, reminiscence about being a child and firing weapons, and then make policy recommendations for NCLB.
A former AFLAC employee, Blacketor also speaks for Indiana through her involvement with the American Diploma Project, which was launched in 1996 by the Bill and Melinda Gates-funded education reform group, Achieve, with funds from the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation. Achieve and the ADP work to “bring value to the high school diploma by raising the rigor of high school standards, assessments and curriculum.” In other words, they publish propaganda to promote the testing of kids to death and basing teachers’ pay on test-scores like Indiana’s ISTEP.
And let’s not forget Jo’s consulting work with Indiana Virtual Families, a home-schooling moms’ group whose members are about to get a nice tax cut for keeping their precious darlings out of the socialist public schools. Along with the Indiana Public Charter Schools Association, School Choice, Indiana, Students First, and a slew of other front groups, Indiana Virtual Families organized Queen Bee Michelle Rhee’s statehouse rally. With hundreds of charter school teachers and students taking the day off with Indiana taxpayers’ money, the groups awarded honors to Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett and Republican leader Brian Bosma.
Monique Christensen, Indiana Virtual Families’ leader, helps run the National Coalition for Public School Options. She—like Mitch Daniels’ teacher-seniority-bashing star Pam Heuer—has cameo-appeared to support Senate Bill 1 in videos for Stand for Children. In 2009, Christensen testified in front of the Indiana government’s Interim Study Committee on School Funding Formula and in a letter in the Journal Gazette called on Indiana Democrats to sell out to the rich school reform crowd, quoting the crooks Democrats for Education Reform to make her point.
Apart from Christensen, Jo Blacketor schmoozes with State Board of Education member Gwen Adell and Eli Lilly’s Theressa Wright on the Indiana Public Charter Schools Association, which she helps direct. With so many ties to Daniels and Bennett, this lovey-dovey group might as well be living in the Governor’s Mansion, or Daniels’ $3.5 million home in Carmel. Last year, they even hired Lt. Governor Becky Skillman’s former intern, Sarah Overshiner, and Tony Bennett’s wife in 2009. Although Tina Bennett has now resigned, her ghost is still roaming the charter association’s hallways, if not her own physical body.
Besides the Indiana newspapers’ constant references to IPCSA, most people don’t know that their January study stating 71% of Hoosiers favored charters was paid for by Christensen’s National Coalition for Public School Options and was done by the Glover Park Group, a Washington PR firm adored by both sides of the political aisle because they will basically say anything you want, as long as you have enough money to pay them.
Blacketor must have felt cheated. Her Faulkner Strategies could have cut IPCSA and NCPSO a mighty fine deal, rigged the results even more in their favor. But it wouldn’t have looked good if someone had connected the dots. Ms. Blacketor, it doesn’t look good now, either.