FreedomWorks active in Pennsylvania school choice movement
A FreedomWorks employee wears a Panda suit in goading pro union Supporters during a labor-sponsored event in Washington, D.C. on February 22. Freedom Radio host Tabitha Hale appears in the foreground. (Caption: Mikhail Zinshteyn)
On Monday an installment of Freedom Radio, a podcast production of FreedomWorks, outlined the conservative action group’s involvement in the school choice movement of Pennsylvania.
The Keystone state is in the midst of a heated campaign over SB 1, the state Senate bill that would put the state in the company of Indiana as having the most expansive public-funded student voucher program in the country.
The podcast identified the guest, David Spielman, as one of FreedomWorks’ point men in organizing rallies in cities across Pennsylvania. During the exchange, Spielman told host Tabitha Hale, “We sent a message, lets just say, that people want SB 1.” Hale followed up that “we’re in a position of facilitating what’s already going on there.”
Spielman accused organizations opposing the voucher bill of misappropriating the proposed law’s key features. In particular, he pointed to “the teachers unions” who are “spreading around messages that are upsetting conservatives,” like arguing the bill is unconstitutional and would raise taxes.
Though Hale and Spielman note support for the piece of legislation is bipartisan, the organization is putting pressure on Republican lawmakers exclusively to see the bill become law. The FreedomWorks website has posted their names and phone numbers, and during the podcast, House Majority Leader Mike Turzai and Sen. Kim L. Ward were singled out for waffling on whether they will vote for SB 1.
FreedomWorks returns to Pennsylvania next weekend, this time to the neighborhoods of Scranton and Wilkes-Barre. The group came to national prominence during the 2010 election season as one of the main supporters of tea party candidates. Former Republican House Majority leader Dick Armey is a co-chair of the organization.
Between 2007 [PDF] and 2008 [PDF], FreedomWorks received $200,000 from The Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation. In 2008, the foundation controlled over $70 million in assets, according to 990 tax filings, and donated tens of millions of dollars in those two years to Christian foundations, churches seminaries and other conservative political groups like Focus on the Family ($1,000,000) and The Heritage Foundation ($4,000,000).
Richard and Helen DeVos are the parents of Dick DeVos, whose wife leads the American Federation for Children, a leading school choice advocate that moves millions of dollars to support local legislation expanding voucher and public-to-private school initiatives. The Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation also donated $200,000 to the Alliance for School Choice between 2007 and 2008, a Washington, D.C.-based school choice organization that support public funds paying for students private school tuition costs.