The 65 Percent Rule — Who’s behind it?

History of the "65 Percent Rule"

Back in April 2005 conservative columnist George Will hyped a previously little-known education ‘reform’ proposal, which he launched onto the national stage as the “65 Percent Solution,” because it would mandate that “65 percent of every school district's operational budget for education be spent on classroom instruction.”

Will said Overstock.com owner Patrick Byrne’s 65 percent idea “solves the misallocation of resources” and is “perfect because it wins 80-plus percent support in polls and torments people who Byrne thinks should be tormented.” That’s the real thinking behind what Will tried to sell to those who read his column in 460 of the nation’s newspapers.

It’s not about helping kids; but it is, Will wrote, “politically delicious because it unites parents, taxpayers and teachers while, he hopes, sowing dissension in the ranks of the teachers unions.”

Byrne, in a May 12, 2005, National Review article, calls his 65 percent plan a “national grassroots movement.”

This ‘grassroots movement’ is, in fact, an expensive campaign funded by just a few very wealthy activists, whose money is used for television commercials and contributions to cooperating state legislators who introduce Byrne’s 65 Percent idea as legislation calling for a statute or a statewide voter referendum.

Turns out Byrne is not the person who initiated “65 Percent.” It was Arizona Republican activist Tim Mooney, who sold the idea to Byrne and got him to give $100,000 to establish the entity agitating for 65 Percent:First Class Education. Byrne has established his anti-public schools credential when he gave $50,000 to another education outfit, All Children Matter, to help defeat Utah state legislators who’d voted to kill a tuition tax credit bill.

So, who’s writing the checks for all these TV commercials and state-run 65 Percent campaign operations?

One funding source for the 65 percent campaign is All Children Matter. ACM is the creation of the DeVos family, headed by Dick DeVos, the Grand Rapids, Mich., founder of Amway. The DeVos’ had spent an astonishing $4.75 million in 2000 for the voucher referendum, Kids First! Yes!, which failed at the polls by a 70 to 30 percent margin.

Dick Devos’ wife, Betsy, founded a precursor to All Children Matter, the Great Lakes Education Project, which in 2002 was the fifth largest political action committee in the state of Michigan, having donated $1,258,269 to conservative Michigan candidates.

But the DeVos family doesn’t limit its anti-public education political giving to Michigan.

Betsy gave Parents for Choice in Education, which advocated for the Utah tuition tax credit, $252,000.

All Children Matter has its name listed in connection with anti-public education, pro-voucher efforts in Texas, where the Texas Ethics Commission lists ACM donations to 42 candidates and candidate committees. The breadth of ACM is immense and well documented at All Children Matter and the subject of considerable research at blogsite “Eye on Williamson County," which is well worth viewing.

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Nicholas J. Penning
American Association of School Administrators
March 3, 2006