A handful of foundations fund multiple think tanks and advocacy groups with matching corporate agendas and goals in order to create the impression that there is a tidal wave of support for the policies they want in place. Consequently there is a network of corporate-funded think tanks that campaign on the issue of ‘education reform’.
Think tanks have become essential vehicles of business propaganda and policy marketing. Think tanks enable US corporations to more actively initiate policies and shepherd them through the policy-making process till they became government policy.
Some think tanks have broad neo-conservative agendas aimed at free-market reforms of every aspect of life, such as the Manhattan Institute of Policy Research, the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation. Some have a more explicit corporate agenda such as the Hudson Institute or the Heartland Institute which campaigns for school 'reform', in particular charter schools. And some are specifically formed to campaign on education issues such as the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Education Policy Institute. The think tanks that are most active on the issue at any particular time change.
People for the American Way noted in 1996:
New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has been dubbed a disciple of the Manhattan Institute, a New York think tank that advocates school vouchers and deep cuts in welfare, Medicaid and health spending. The Heartland Institute published a newsletter for the Madison Group, a network of conservative and libertarian think tanks; its advocacy of free market principles, school vouchers, privatization and deregulation reaches every state legislator in Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin, as well as 1,200 media centers.
Think tanks provide the ‘scholars’ who write books, discussion papers and policy documents to promote business-friendly school reforms, charter schools, voucher and tax-credits. These institute fellows write opinion pieces that are distributed to newspapers around the country. For example, Chester E. Finn, Jr (president of the Fordham Institute) has written hundreds of articles and newspaper opinion pieces as well as eleven books. Denis Doyle has written over 150 opinion pieces for newspapers as well as co-authoring three books on education reform with key corporate CEOs.
Think tank fellows also do media interviews, testify at government hearings, and give lectures in public forums and conferences. Many of the conferences are organised and financed by the think tanks and the foundations that fund them. With all their media exposure, these think tank ‘experts’ become recognised names in the public debate about school education, effectively setting its agenda and defining what its terms are.
If you have any examples or updates you would like to contribute please email them to me and I will add them here. Please give references for where you sourced the information.