Yesterday in the Sun-Times, Gary, Indiana, Pastor Ray Dix regurgitated the same deceptive rhetoric the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) has been shamefully pumping into low-income African American parents for over a decade, specifically that vouchers and charter schools are the answer to the failing/imprisonment of black students. But, as every school choicer watchdog group knows, the BAEO is merely a mouthpiece for the white rich who want to completely privatize education.

To begin with, Dix has ties to BAEO’s Jackie Cissell, who was among those who started the group in 2000. Cissell, who worked to elect Mitch Daniels and encouraged the Indiana Family and Social Services’ chaplain scandal, often appears on Pastor Dix’s radio show, Higher Ground, in Gary, praising fake Democrats like Cory Booker, corporate sell-outs like Tony Bennett, and former fellow Hoosier, Kevin Chavous, who has made a healthy living blasphemously using Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words to conceal his hedge-fund buddies’ desires to throw away our children’s future in charter schools and gamble with the almighty public dollars.

Dix deletes even more shameful facts from his narrative. As Erica Lasdon, Carol Keys, and Ralph Neas pointed out in 2001, BAEO was dastardly started with money from the Walton Family, the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation, and the Bradley Foundation. Michael Joyce, then president of the Bradley group, was a staunch supporter of vouchers in Milwaukee, for he knew that over time public money would be used to pay for upper middle-class and rich families to send their darlings to private schools, as it will in Indiana. Remarkably, the Bradley Foundation has shoveled money into anti-affirmative action groups like the Center for the Study of Popular Culture and Mitch Daniels’ hero and Bell Curve author Charles Murray, who believes blacks are inferior (pp. 5-8). Bradley also funded Jackie Cissell’s salary at the GEO Foundation, an Indianapolis charter operator she once worked for.

It is also worth noting that the Institute for Justice (IJ), which claims to be “filing to intervene on behalf of parents in Indiana” to support the new voucher school bill, was first funded by the Koch Brothers. In fact, as Phil Wilayto first exposed, it was the IJ who defended the Wisconsin and Ohio voucher bills in the courts, with additional Bradley Foundation cash aiding in  propagandizing the Milwaukee people (Lasdon et al., 2001, p. 6). The Walton Family, since 1998, has been handing IJ money, and recently cash to the Indiana Public Charter School Association and other school choicers. A whole slew of right-wing groups will probably help the IJ in the Daniels and Bennett voucher fight.

Sadly, most Indiana low-income kids will be wounded by Daniels’ $600 million throat-slash to the public schools or sent to the corporate dystopia of the charters, where only the bottom-line and Milton Friedman birthday parties matter. Regardless of race, these kids will be banned from the non-religious private schools, since their families can’t fork over the outlandish tuition costs the vouchers won’t cover.  In this way, Daniels’ bill bails out the Catholic schools which have dropped in enrollment over the years. Some may foot the tuition difference of the vouchers, but they will also carefully select their students. Truthfully, the voucher scheme has never been about helping the poor, and it never will be. The scheme’s Indiana win is not surprising given Daniels’ perverted worship of the rich and his own part in founding and funding the religious private school, the Oaks Academy, in Indy.

This July 4th, both Daniels and Dix need to go back and re-read their Bibles and the U.S. Constitution. Last I heard, Jesus was not a big fan of those who used the poor for their own sordid plans. And Thomas Jefferson sure as hell wasn’t up at night praying for the bailout of the British East India Tea Company.


I am indebted to Erica Lasdon, Carol Keys, and Ralph Neas for their excellent 2001 “Community Voice or Captive of the Right? A Closer Look at the Black Alliance for Educational Options,” written for People for the American Way. For those who wish all the details, please read this report.  More information can also be found on BAEO in Black Commentator’s “Fruit of the Poisoned Tree: The Hard Right’s Plan to Capture Newark, NJ.”


Doug Martin

Doug Martin

Doug Martin is a Walt Whitman scholar, poet, fiction writer, editor, musician (the Delicious Militia), and teacher.