MADISON, Wis. — Rose Fernandez, former head of the Wisconsin Coalition of Virtual Schools Families, is part of a network involving lobbyists, non-profit organizations, elected officials and even the law-breaking All Children Matter, seeking to give for-profit companies like the Virginia-based K12, Inc. Wisconsin education tax dollars. An interactive website detailing this network and its in-state and out-of-state players is available at FernandezFiveMillion.com, compiled by One Wisconsin Now.
“Rose Fernandez is part of a well-financed network to keep our public tax dollars going to for-profit companies like K12, Inc., said Scot Ross, One Wisconsin Now Executive Director. “Wisconsin education tax dollars should stay in Wisconsin and not go to out-of-state, for-profit companies.”
As president of the Coalition of Virtual School Families, Fernandez headed up a movement that worked to push through legislation authored by Rep. Brett Davis (R-Monroe) to guarantee virtual schools continue here. The Virginia-based K12, Inc. was the for-profit company contracted to create curriculum for the Wisconsin Virtual Academy. In its prospectus filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, K12, Inc. anticipated $5 million in 2008 revenues from Wisconsin taxpayers. [K12, Inc. SEC Prospectus, 12/12/07, pg. 69]
“This is a vast network determined to push as much of our public education tax dollars to private companies as they can,” said Ross. “Their goal is to reduce accountability, erode confidence in public education and put our children’s futures in the hands of companies whose only concern is profit.”
Besides Fernandez, the Virtual Coalition and the Virtual Academy, some of the other organizations and individuals involved in the network include:
Brian Fraley, Fernandez’s campaign manager in her race for Secretary of the state Department of Public Instruction. Previously, Fraley ran the Wisconsin Institute for Leadership Political Fund, which received its only contribution, $50,000, from K12, Inc. on 10/28/08 [http://forms.irs.gov/politicalOrgsSearch/search/Print.action?formId=33029&formType=E72].
K12, Inc, the Virginia-based for-profit company founded by Ronald Packard and Bill Bennett, which provides curriculum materials to a number of Wisconsin virtual schools.
All Children Matter, the $10 million pro-private school vouchers group financed by right-wing givers including Dick DeVos, the Wal-Mart heirs and Wisconsin’s George and Susan Mitchell. ACM founder DeVos is an investor and former member of the K12, Inc. board of directors and ACM-giver George Mitchell is a $1,000 donor to Fernandez’s DPI race. In November 2006, the Wisconsin Elections Board found ACM violated state campaign finance law. ACM’s attorneys are now the two top lieutenants to Republican Attorney General JB Van Hollen.
Bill McCoshen, the Senior Vice President of the Capitol Consultants lobbying firm, which serves as K12, Inc’s Wisconsin lobbyist. Capitol Consultants also previously employed John Behling, who is the Wisconsin Institute for Leadership’s board chair.
Rep. Brett Davis, is the Republican author of several pro-virtual school bills, including legislation that allowed virtual schools to continue in Wisconsin to the benefit of K12, Inc. Davis received campaign contributions from McCoshen and two top officials at K12, Inc. In addition, Fraley’s Wisconsin Institute for Leadership spent money praising Davis during his most recent reelection campaign.
All Children Matter was also leveled with a $5.2 million fine by the Ohio Elections Commission in 2008 for illegally funneling $870,000 into Ohio campaigns. All Children Matter spent $900,000 attacking Wisconsin legislative Democratic candidates in 2008 with a series of notorious racist appeals surrounding the “Healthy Wisconsin” universal health care plan.