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Business-Managed Democracy

“Business-managed democracies are those in which the political and cultural arrangements are managed in the interests of business”

Sharon Beder

Business-Managed Education

Vouchers - Business Campaigns

Ballot Support


Businessmen have spent millions of dollars trying to get voucher programs accepted in state ballots. In Michigan the group Kids First! Yes! raised $13 million to campaign for vouchers, including large contributions from Amway Corp president Dick DeVos and his wife, Betsy; Domino’s Pizza founder, Tom Monaghan; and John Walton who got his money from the Wal-Mart fortune. The Catholic dioceses also contributed millions to the pro-voucher campaign. The opposition raised $5 million, mainly from teacher unions and school administrators.


In the case of the California ballot of 2000, which proposed vouchers be available to all students no matter how wealthy their parents, $30 million was spent, of which $24 million came from Silicon Valley venture capitalist, Tim Draper. Draper a “prominent Bush fundraiser”, who inherited his first fortune and made his second inventing “viral marketing”, thinks public education is “socialistic”. Opponents spent $30 million opposing the ballot, $26 million of it coming from the California Teachers Association.


Pro-voucher groups have also funded efforts to replace legislators who have opposed voucher efforts. One Political Action Committee (PAC) All Children Matter (AMC), was set up by Dick and Betsy Devos to “recruit, train and fund candidates committed to vouchers, tax credits and other reforms”. It received funds from John Walton and others.

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Advocacy Group Support for Vouchers

The diagram below shows how a few wealthy foundations (often the charitable offshoots of business empires) are funding a vast network of organisations in the US, which are campaigning to introduce market reforms into education, including vouchers and charter schools. These organisations and many others campaign for these reforms through local organising, mass media and political lobbying.


For example, "the John M. Olin and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundations led the way in pouring millions of dollars into institutions and activities that promoted vouchers and school choice."

Funding network

Sources: R. G. Neas, ‘Following the Money: Funding and Support for Voucher Programs’, Washington DC, People for the American Way Foundation, 2003; Media Transparency, ‘Media Transparency: The Money Behind Conservative Media’, Cursor, Inc, accessed 20 May 2006; ‘Vouchers: Who's Behind It All?’ American Association of School Administrators, 21 October 2005.

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Individual Support for Vouchers

In addition to family foundations, individual wealthy people are using their corporate wealth to promote vouchers and charter schools. The table below gives some examples of key individuals supporting vouchers.

Wealthy Individuals Positions - past and present Donations
Dick DeVos
President of Amway (1993-2002)
  • Co-chair of Kids First! Yes!
  • Co-chair, Education Freedom FundBoard of the Children’s Scholarship Fund
  • Founder of All Children Matter (AMC)
  • Michigan Board of Education
  • Member Michigan Business Roundtable
  • Candidate for Michigan governorship (2006)
  • Board, Education Freedom Fund
Private voucher programmes
Lobbying for state voucher schemes
Republican Party
Advocacy groups and coalitions
Betsy DeVos
  • Co-chair, Education Freedom Fund (EFF),
  • Co-chair, Of the People
  • DeVos Foundation also funds EFF
  • Board of Children First America
  • Founder of All Children Matter (AMC)
  • Founder, chair, Great Lakes Education Project
  • Director, James Madison Institute
  • Chair of Michigan Republican Party
Ted Forstmann
Venture capitalist, Forstmannn Little & Co.
  • Co-chair, founder Children’s Scholarhip Fund.
  • CEO and funder, Put Parents in Charge
  • Honorary chairman, Washington Scholarship Fund
Private voucher programmes
Lobbying for state voucher schemes
Voucher advertising campaigns
James Leininger
  • Founder, Texas Public Policy Foundation (think tank modelled on Heritage Foundation)
Private voucher programmes
Lobbying for state voucher schemes
Putting Children First PAC
Republican Party
J. Patrick Rooney
  • National Center for Policy Analysis (TX)
  • American Legislative Exchange Council
  • State Policy Network
  • Chair, American Education Reform Foundation
  • Board, Washington Scholarship Fund
  • Board, CEO America
Conservative causes
Private voucher programmes
Lobbying for state voucher schemes
John Walton
Heir to Wal-Mart fortune
  • Co-chair, founder, Children’s Scholarhip Fund
  • Board, CEO America
  • Director, Tesseract Group
  • Founder, Schools Research Foundation
  • Board, AERC
  • past president, AERF
Private voucher programmes
Lobbying for state voucher schemes
Charter schools
Advocacy groups and coalitions

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Contributers' Updates and Examples

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.