by Dr. Arnold Hillman

Generally, I am not a doom sayer. I have a long fuse when it comes to particular actions of both state legislatures and the federal government. Since I am now an old fogie, I have seen many things come and go. It is rare to see things that seem to benefit most people stay around for a long time.

If you were born when Social Security was created, you probably thought that it would go on forever. As you see, the conflicts in our federal houses, that may even destroy this good thing. 

In this tome, I will try and explain how one of our pillars of democracy, public education, is now on the chopping block. For reasons that I will endeavor to explain, the future of rural communities seems to be inextricably tied to the attempt to destroy public education.

The idea of public education has seen its critics from the beginning. Alexis de Tocqueville, French aristocrat, philosopher and writer saw the beginnings of public education in the 1830’s, as he traveled across the new country. His background was education for the elite.1 

A more constructive critique was made by James Conant, formerly a President of Harvard University. He was concerned about the then current operation of high schools . He was influenced by Rudolph Flesch’s book, “Why Johnny Can’t Read.” His view was that it was difficult to bring children up academically in a society that was ultimately unjust.2

A more political criticism was authored by President Ronald Reagan. In a Federal Commission Report, titled “A Nation at Risk,” the report said,  “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.” (1983).3

The 1990’s brought with it a drive for accountability. Outcomes were now the main criticism of public schools, as test scores seemed to fail and reading and graduation levels declined. A new argument arose, stimulated by the writings of Erik Hanushek. Now the question was, “Does Money Matter?”4 

The question was not answered immediately, but a compromise was issued that money mattered if it was spent wisely. However, even that action did not stop there. Studies on both sides created non-answers to both of those questions.

The 2000’s saw a massive effort on the part of the federal government to increase test scores and bring equality to those who needed to be raised up. The first effort, during the George W. Bush administration, was to change the ESEA law to something called “No Child Left Behind.”5

In the Obama administration there was a program called “Race to the Top”. It was a plan to give school districts a chance to enhance their federal dollars by changing the way schools could be transformed from lesser to more advanced. It had some effect, but did not do what it was supposed to do.6

The Trump administration and its Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos completely disregarded public schools and created more charter schools and funded them with additional federal dollars. The result was more charters and fewer dollars to public schools. There was also an effort to dole money out to private and parochial schools.7

The new Biden administration has not yet gotten to the point of making an effort to help public schools. Actually, there was little in the way of raising test scores and graduation rates. All of this effort relied on states to do the job. Because of the Covid 19 pandemic, the first few years of the administration focused on getting students vaccinated and providing funds for school districts to prevent Covid from spreading. The funding a rules for the next fiscal year 2024 is yet to be passed.


In 1930 there were 130,000 public school districts in the United States. The average size of the districts was 150 students. Currently there are 13,560 public school districts, with the average size being 5,000 students.8

Consolidation of school districts began in earnest in the 20th century, with the Depression beginning in 1929. Most of the districts were rural in nature and could not function with the lack of tax revenues and other resources. Centralized departments of education looked to consolidation as a way of saving money. Since most of the heads of those departments were urban educators or politicians, they used a broad brush stroke to consolidate or unify school districts.

Desegregation, beginning with Brown v. Board of Education and its companion cases ushered in a new wave of consolidations. Most of them were also in rural schools. Large suburban communities did not go through the process of uniting two districts into one larger one. Most of them had larger populations or were about to become larger as a result of  suburbanization.9

As our country grew after World War II, President Eisenhower established the interstate road system and Mr. Levitt created suburban enclaves that were cheap enough for returning soldiers. This began the movements away from the large cities. It also emptied out some cities of its middle-class clientele.

In the South, the effects of Brown v. Board of Education were felt across the states. White flight from public schools began in earnest with the creation of “White Academies” and later on, “Christian Schools.” This left public schools in many communities that were already segregated, to be further segregated in schools.10

Although “Separate, but Equal” was never really equal, Black schools were far inferior in resources to white schools. Even experiments in integration, such as the Charlotte Mecklenburg School District, in North Carolina, began to lose its white population. In Woodland Hills, a federally mandated consolidation of four separate school districts outside of Pittsburgh. Eventually failed. At the outset of the consolidation, 80% of the students were white. Today, that school district is 66% African American.11

This section will try to determine whether consolidation fosters either integration or segregation. We will try and focus our attention on small and rural school districts in South Carolina. Movement to consolidation has been fostered by the legislature, as well as the Department of Education.12


Actually, Brown V. Board of Education was one of six cases challenging “Separate but Equal” (Plessy V. Ferguson). The South Carolina case was called Briggs v. Elliott and it was begun in Summerton in 1952. It was combined with 4 other cases to form Brown. Sixty-nine years later, the issue is still alive. 

Besides the White Academies and Christian Schools, a publicly funded set of schools called “Charter Schools” have now appeared. These schools function, in many states, as a close relative of private schools. They are funded by local school districts and are not subject to many of the laws that apply to “regular” public schools. They draw billions of dollars away  from public coffers.13

Online charter schools are another way of removing funds from public schools. Studies relative to online charter schools are mostly negative. There are some online charters that perform well, but many most often  are another way of making money for the management companies that run them.  Management companies that run both online and in-person charter schools are sometimes listed on the stock exchange.14

There are a number of areas in which the consolidation of school districts reside; economic, improvement of student achievement, fewer expenditures and effects on local communities. These items all show mixed results.15

What has not been a popular topic to discuss about consolidation is race and racial equity. Prior to Brown and the many years that it took to come into compliance, our way of looking at integration has changed. 

The focus of integration has overwhelmingly centered on population centers. In the 1970’s the Charlotte-Mecklenburg model had been at the forefront of both federal and state minds. It was thought that if you combined suburban counties, or school districts, with their city hub school districts, it would foster integration.16 

An example of an attempt to regionalize was the city of Richmond- Bradley v School District of Richmond. Eventually the Supreme Court squashed the plan to regionalize Richmond with Henrico and Chesterfield counties to integrate students and staffs. Cities were generally part of a movement to desegregate schools across the nation.17

In that case, the plaintiffs pointed out that much of the state of Virginia had segregated school districts. The same thing is somewhat true here in South Carolina. In the 2018-19 school year (Orangeburg County and Clarendon County are now considered one school district each) of the 75-school districts, 29 of the districts had a percentage of African American students above 50%. Six districts were over 90 % and four districts had over 80% African American students.18

As with many other states, where segregation occurs because of residency patterns, South Carolina has looked to methods used in other states to achieve efficiencies in educational policy and monetary savings.

One of the major actions in achieving efficiencies is to mandate all school districts that have fewer than 1500 students consolidate with another school district. There may be incentives involved that might “sweeten the pot” for those that agree to merge.19

In some cases, school districts themselves might be interested in consolidating because one of the school superintendents is in the process of retiring and thinks that consolidation would be easier to accomplish. This was the case in Pennsylvania when Center Valley and Monaca went through a two-year study and planning to join. The results of the merger are described by a study done by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.

The results of that action did not achieve the goals of either efficiency or cost savings.

Research findings:

The merger/consolidation research shows:

  • There are no documented cases of financial savings from merger/consolidation.
  • Merger/consolidation has had a negative impact on student achievement.
  • The potential for adverse economic impact on smaller communities that lose facilities exists.20

Certainly, this anecdotal description of just one school district in another state does not predict what could happen here in South Carolina. It is, at least, another hint at what might be in store for consolidation in our state. 

Most of the very small school districts that might be up for consolidation here in South Carolina are part of the “Corridor of Shame.”21 These are those school districts that are rural, mostly minority and economically handicapped. They exist along the Rte. 95 corridor from the North Carolina border to the Georgia border.

These districts would most likely be joined by a similar district with the same problems. The history of these districts is most likely a result of de jure segregation. These districts are poor in comparison to the median household in income in 2019 of $53,199. As an example, Hampton School District 2 has a median household income of $26,430, while York District 4 is $95,162. The state median for 2019 was $53,199.10.22

There are always unintended consequences in consolidation of school districts. One is certainly economic. In small rural communities, the school district is usually the biggest employer. When consolidation takes place, movement of students or of schools and the loss of an administration building reduces both jobs and businesses. The loss of jobs makes it difficult for local people to transfer to a consolidated district job that might be too far away to commute. In purely economic terms, wages earned locally are returned back to the community when spent there. Local communities are therefore disadvantaged.

For the state Department of Education and the legislature, having fewer school districts allows for fewer school districts to supervise or review. Data is slimmer and keeping track of test scores and such like are made easier. In some sense, local control stays local. However, in another way it is easier for the state to control education with fewer entities to deal with.

The efficiency question arises, “Will  fewer districts cost less per student?” That would be a very difficult question to answer. If one took all of the fifty states and determined how many districts are in those states, comparing them to each other would be difficult. As a small example, we have one state that has only one school district. That state is Hawaii. When compared to South Carolina, the cost per student in 2019 was $115,242, while South Carolina’s expenditure per student was $10,856.

Of course, Hawaii is really a special case. It has a very high cost of living and mostly everything must be imported. At the bottom of the expenditure per student list there are states with far more school districts and less expenditures per student than South Carolina:23

  • Arizona- $8239—226 school districts
  • Oklahoma– $8239—521 school districts
  • Idaho-$7771—115 school districts

The numbers are almost random. There is no statistical evidence that the fewer school districts that you have, the more efficient or less costly are school districts. Here are the actual numbers and the correlation coefficient.23

STATE EXPENSE PER STUDENT # of school districts
Alabama 9,696 137
Alaska $17,729 53
Arizona $8,239 226
Arkansas $10,139 238
California $12,498 941
Colorado $10,202 178
Connecticut  $20,635 169
Delaware $15,639 19
Florida $9,346 67
Georgia $10,850 180
Hawaii $15,242 1
Idaho $7,771 115
Illinois $15,741 865
Indiana $10,262 296
Iowa $11,732 348
Kansas $11,643 309
Kentucky $11,110 175
Louisiana $11,452 70
Maine $14,145 238
Maryland $14,762 24
Massachusetts $17,058 238
Michigan $12,345 550
Minnesota $12,975 340
Mississippi $8,935 151
Missouri $10,810 70
Montana $11,680 415
Nebraska $12,491 249
Nevada $9,417 18
New Hamp. $15,893 167
New Jersey $20,021 602
New Mexico $9,582 89
New York $24,040 617
North Carolina $9,377 115
North Dakota $13,758 182
Ohio $13.027 618
Oklahoma $8,239 521
Oregon $11,920 180
Pennsylvania $16,395 500
Rhode Island $16,121 35
South Carolina $10,856 79
South Dakota $10,073 151
Tennessee $9,544 141
Texas $9,606 1029
Utah $7,628 41
Vermont $9,240 362
Virginia $12,216 132
Washington $12,995 298
West Virginia $11,334 132
Wisconsin $12,285 422
Wyoming $16,224 352
AVERAGE 12,382 269

Correlation is .19 (all random) 24                   



Consolidation and its aftereffects are counter intuitive. The majority of the consolidation efforts in the United States began and were most profligate in the 19th Century. In the 20th Century consolidation took place from the 1930’s until the 1950’s and 1960’s. Current attempts at consolidation are now political issues. 

The Governor of Arkansas ran his election campaign on a no consolidation plank. He eventually had a law passed in 2015 that said that small school districts could apply for a waiver.25

Research on consolidation and its effect on students, the community and the economy is scarce and also mixed. When the state sets its mind to consolidate, it proceeds. Since states control education in each state, there are few remedies for plaintiffs to argue.

One of the most interesting facets of this counter intuitive notion is the role of the school superintendent. The opening salvo in a consolidation movement is to show that the new district will need only one superintendent. If anyone goes further, they might say that one business office would suffer the same fate. Once again the outcomes are not what we might think.

When creating a new school district, the business offices will have to retool and bring on some new employees. There will also be more employees to fill the role of psychologists, maintenance people, speech therapists, and other special needs staff. 

Parents will have a harder time coming to school events, teacher conferences, emergencies, etc. The further away the school is from their homes, the less apt parents and guardians will either be able to come, or want to come to a new school.  This will be especially true for rural communities that will be unable, because of jobs or family obligations, to get to a new school.

Arguments for consolidation, which merges schools or districts and centralizes their management, rest primarily on two presumed benefits: (1) fiscal efficiency and (2) higher educational quality. The extent of consolidation varies across states due to their considerable differences in history, geography, population density, and politics. Because economic crises often provoke calls for consolidation as a means of increasing government efficiency, the contemporary interest in consolidation is not surprising. However, the review of research evidence detailed in this brief suggests that a century of consolidation has already produced most of the efficiencies obtainable. Indeed, in the largest jurisdictions, efficiencies have likely been exceeded—that is, some consolidation has produced diseconomies of scale that reduce efficiency. In such cases, deconsolidation is more likely to yield benefits than consolidation. Moreover, contemporary research does not support claims about the widespread benefits of consolidation. The assumptions behind such claims are most often dangerous oversimplifications. For example, policymakers may believe “We’ll save money if we reduce the number of superintendents by consolidating districts;” however, larger districts need—and usually hire—more mid-level administrators. Research also suggests that impoverished regions in particular often benefit from smaller schools and districts, and they can suffer irreversible damage if consolidation occurs. For these reasons, decisions to deconsolidate or consolidate districts are best made on a case-by-case basis. While state-level consolidation proposals may serve a public relations purpose in times of crisis, they are unlikely to be a reliable way to obtain substantive fiscal or educational improvement.26

The view from education organizations and its supporters about consolidation differs. Some have no stance and some, such as the South Carolina School Boards Association are opposed to state mandated school district consolidation. The SCSBA organization insists that consolidation or deconsolidation be done with the approval of both, or all of the school communities involved. No school district shall have a larger vote than the other. This would be the final say in the matter.

According to the SCSBA, there was a study done showing the relationship between school district size and student performance and the cost of providing educational services. The outcome of the study was that there was no conclusion.27

Current consolidation in the 2022 and 2023 year include the following school districts:

  • Florence School District 1
  • Florence School District 4
  • Clarendon School District 1
  • Clarendon School District 2
  • Clarendon School District 3
  • Barnwell School District 19
  • Barnwell School District 29
  • Hampton School District 1
  • Hampton School District 2
  • Bamberg School District 1
  • Bamberg School District 2

Just recently Barnwell 45 was added to this list. If you know any of these districts, you will see that they are all rural (other than Florence 1 that took over Florence 4). Interestingly enough, there are a number of counties in which there are anywhere from 4-7 school districts and none of them have been made to consolidate.28 



In life, we tend to make choices that are in our best interests. Most times these choices turn out to be positive. I am not talking about taking drugs, alcohol or smoking. Take a look at your own life and you will see that you have made some pretty good decisions.

Recently, there have been some forced choices relating to education. The choicemasters want to force you to make choices about the schooling that your children are getting in local school districts. The choice that they are giving you is to send your children to a private or parochial school and have your tuition paid by the state.

Most of the private schools have tuition rates that are much larger than the dollars that the state would provide. The parochial schools are a different story. The is no real information about what tuition would be if the “Vouchers” were in effect. In fact, these schools do not have to accept your child.

Let us say that funding is not the only fly in the ointment. Distance is also a problem. How will students, who are leaving their local schools to go to a private or parochial school, get there? Will some business start up to transport the children? 

Even more interesting is a new proposal to allow students to go to any public school in South Carolina. There are so many questions about this proposal. The one thing that strikes me as a former coach and athletic director is that now we will be able to poach players from another school district. Wouldn’t that be great?

What about other extra-curricular activities? How about the band director who needs a trombone player? He/she knows one of those kinds of students in a neighboring school district. How about a Quiz Bowl, or spelling bee champion? What about poaching students with very high SAT/ACT scores to enhance your school’s standing across the state. I am sure you could find even more “things” that could be borrowed from another school district.

The students could now offer themselves to school districts that might house them at the home of a booster or even a coach. I wonder how the state athletic associations or even all of the other state associations, would handle that. It certainly would inspire some really interesting business adventures.

So, what does this all mean for you as a parent, or citizen, or just plain folks? What does choice really mean? Can we also have choices in other areas of life? How about in politics? What happens if I don’t like what my state senator, or my local representative is doing? Would I then be able to vote for another person in another district. Isn’t this a choice?

Why is it that we are listening to the definitions of choice in education and not in other parts of state government? In a recent school board election snafu, a person ran in one district and actually lived in another district. He really did not know he lived in the wrong district. So what! It was his choice to run in the other district. As foolish as that seems, isn’t that his choice?

There are many choices that we make in life that may not seem o.k. to others, but are fine with you. So, the above suggestions make as much sense to me, as to allowing any student to go to any school district in the state. By the way, who is going to pay for transportation? This would certainly be a Black Swan event. (A black swan event is a metaphor that describes an event that comes as a surprise, has a major effect, and is often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight).

The state legislature in South Carolina has just passed a voucher bill and the Governor has signed it. The public idea is that this will enhance education in South Carolina. It will certainly not do that.

All the information about how students do after they leave public schools is very clear. The students do not improve at all. 



Public schools are the invention of a number of people here in the United States. Horace Mann, in Massachusetts, is often given credit for the first of the public schools in 1839. Thaddeus Stevens was both a progenitor and defender of free public schools in Pennsylvania.29

The Founders of our democracy believed fervently that an enlightened electorate would keep the democracy going. Their view of who should get educated was limited. It did not include women, slaves or other groups. As time went by and our democracy became more enlightened and developed, we included almost all groups including young people at the age of eighteen.

The earliest forms of education at the onset of our country were a mélange of many methods:

  • Church-supported schools
  • Local schools organized by towns or groups of parents
  • Tuition schools set up by traveling schoolmasters
  • Charity schools for poor children run by churches or benevolent societies
  • Boarding schools for children of the well-to-do
  • “Dame schools” run by women in their homes
  • Private tutoring or home schooling
  • Work apprenticeships with some rudimentary instruction in reading, writing and arithmetic30

As you can see this hodge podge of education was never going to serve a great number of students. The wealthy not only were able to provide for their children in this country, but were able to send their children to various European schools for their education. Obviously that was not what the overwhelming majority of people could do. 

The church, and the Catholic Church especially, was antagonistic to the establishment of public schools. The quote below is from a Catholic publication called “The Pilot” in 1852.

The general principle upon which these laws are based is radically unsound, untrue, Atheistical… It is, that the education of children is not the work of the Church, or of the Family, but that it is the work of the State… Two consequences flow from this principle… In the matter of education, the State is supreme over the Church and the Family. Hence, the State can and does exclude from the schools religious instruction… The inevitable consequence is, that… the greater number of scholars must turn out to be Atheists, and accordingly the majority of non-Catholics are people of no religion.31

By mid-19th century as public education laws spread to more states, their main opposition was the Catholic Church. Even today, among some Catholic writers there is a tinge of “Public Education is Failing.” 

With the current influence of both private and parochial schools, vouchers are created to allow parents to send their children to any of these schools that would take them in. Unfortunately, these institutions have the capacity not to accept every child. So, those that are handicapped or not acceptable for one reason or another, are left to the public schools to educate.

Contention arose in the early 19th century when the King James version of the bible was introduced in the public schools. The Catholic tradition was to use the Hancock Bible. The contention grew into anger about Catholic public school students using the King James version. In 1844 the “Bible Riots” exploded and 17 people were killed in Philadelphia.32 

It was at that time that the Catholic Church decided to create its own set of schools for Catholic children.

Protestant support for public education remained constant until the mid- 1950’s and the early1960’s with the Supreme Court decisions in the school prayer case and the prohibition against bible readings in public schools. However, the biggest antagonism to education came with Brown v the Board of Education of Topeka in 1955.33

The fallout of the Supreme Court’s decision to mandate integration of public schools led to a change of heart among both white Southerners and Northern anti-integration people. In the South new “White Academies” were created to house the new white students who were now leaving public schools. The “White Flight” also stimulated the creation of a massive move to suburban areas that became the home of Levitt houses and a national road system created by the Eisenhower administration.

Many of the churches, especially in the South were first to create these “white academies.” They continued to try and retain their tax exempt status, while still teaching religion. The IRS threatened to remove their status and finally a Supreme Court, in 1983, said that no funding should go to these schools.34

In the middle of the 20th century private schools increased 130% in the South and 90% in the rest of the United States. Most of these schools cater to white parents who do not want their children to go to the public schools. In many cases these folks espouse their reasons for their children going to these schools as opposition to the “liberal” public schools.35

Although there are many more children going to public schools (50 million) and many fewer in private schools (6 million), the political might of the private and parochial schools has grown dramatically in the past 10 years. 

With the onset of a strong pro-voucher and charter school effort on the part of these anti-public school groups, public education is seeing a more public anti-public school effort.



The original concept of the charter school was to provide a public school that would be free of certain regulations and be an example of innovative methods of education. In fact, there are a number of charter schools across the nation that subscribe to that ideal. In those instances, local school districts, universities and other organizations work together for the good of the children. However, in many cases, Charter schools are a cash cow for private management companies. Although charter schools are supposed to be public schools, they most often do not follow regulations that apply to public schools. 

The most notorious difference between charters and regular public schools is that charters most often cherry pick their students.

“ One of the more sustained objections is that the autonomy they enjoy allows them to disproportionately enroll the most advantaged students, increasing segregation and leaving traditional public schools to cater for high-need students.”36

A first study by Stanford University in 2010 concluded that charter schools did not improve the education of its students in comparison to local school districts. It appears that in a further study by Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes, charter schools have improved the education of minority students, as well as the disadvantaged.37

Currently 7% of the nation’s public school students attend a charter school. It appears that even in large metro areas scores in charter schools are equivalent to those in the public schools .Contrary to Stanford’s second study, a number of studies done by Stanford University (CREDO) in various states do not appear to be that Charters are any different than other public schools. 38

There have been conflicting research studies about charter schools. Their conclusions were that there were few differences between charters and regular public schools. However, online charter schools do not fare very well in the research. In a study funded by the Walton Family, by CREDO, the Center for Research on Educational Outcomes reported that the majority of online charter students had far weaker academic growth in both math and reading compared to their public school peers. To conceptualize this shortfall, it would equate to a student losing 72 days of learning in reading and 180 days of learning in math, based on a 180 day school year.39

The conflict escalated when the Supreme Court of Washington State declared that charter schools in that state, were, in fact not public schools.40 This will be an ongoing problem, as private investors support charter schools, while educators and teacher unions and others are opposed to them.

Our past federal Department of Education was enthusiastically in favor of charter schools to the detriment of public education. A previous Secretary of Education, in her endeavors, promoted charter schools in the state of Michigan. She was a scion of the Amway fortune and used her monetary advantage to influence legislation and administrations in her state.41 

As Secretary of Education, she had continued this activity with full support of the administration. Many of her activities had been at odds with educators and supporters of public education and higher education.

The present administration and congress seem to be opposed to for profit management companies running large scale charter schools. Congress is fashioning a law that will prevent for-profit companies to manage these offshoots of public schools. There is little hope that this bill will ever pass.42



Censorship in public schools is not new. It’s history begins almost at the beginning of our country. Those in charge of education have used censorship to advance the political power of certain groups. After the Civil War, Southern states used censorship to change the actual history of what happened both prior to and during the Civil War (War of Northern Aggression, or War Between the States).

“The Organization United Daughters of the Confederacy- whose members identified as descendents of Civil War soldiers- were integral in efforts across the South to ban textbooks that contained accurate and critical portrayals of slavery or that criticized Southern Civil War leaders. The President of the United Daughters in 1903, gave a speech in which she described reading a northern textbook as a girl and “Hot blood came to my cheeks” in embarrassment for what she saw as  biased portrayal of the South.”43

The banning of books, curriculum, and research is currently in fashion among the “Culture Warriors.” For reasons that are plainly obvious, all of these actions intend to create a history of our country where no one is to blame for any of our country’s misdeeds.

This is all combined in a myriad of political actions that include anti-abortion, open carrying of firearms, anti- LGBTQ activities and “fake news.” Wanda Sykes, a well known comedian has said that she will be against drag queens when they come into a school and start murdering children with a copy of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

The banning of books has brought about a push from a small minority of people. Many of these banners have no children in schools and are seen to be members of a political group called “ Moms for Liberty.” 44

Maurice Cunningham, retired professor of political science, has written an exposé of the well-funded fake “parent groups” that spring up overnight to disrupt school board meetings and demand control of books, curriculum, and COVID protocols. Who is behind them? Read the latest report from the Network for Public Education: Merchants of Deception: Parent Props and Their Funders”

They show up shouting at school board meetings with endless complaints. The press interviews them as though they are some “regular moms” looking out for their children, but they are not. They are a well-funded facade for the Koch, Walton, and DeVos families to disrupt and destroy public education.

In a new report, author and academician Maurice Cunningham pulls back the veil on the players, tactics, and funders. This must-read report identifies the who, how, and why behind “Merchants of Deception: Parent Props and Their Funders.”

Cunningham is author of the new book Dark Money and the Politics of School Privatization.45

Across the country, from 2021 to 2023, eighteen states have restricted the use of Critical Race Theory from their curricula. Although this is not a basic education program and is mostly taught in college graduate programs, CRT has invaded our censorship programs.46

The idea of censorship includes individual tastes and social ideation. One can look at some of the classic pieces of literature and see objections to profanity in those books. Objections to Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, Fahrenheit 451, Katherine Paterson”s Bridge To Tabathia, Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye banning are based on profanity within the works. 

The illogic of many of these objections could clear the way for many of Shakespeare’s works to be censored on the basis of violence, immorality, murder, and insanity. Objections to curriculum and books in the library has been around for a while. The difference now is that it is a planned activity around the country by a minority of people with a political motive.

One can see this motive when you hear those people who are running for public office, decry the indoctrination of students by “ Woke” philosophy (whatever that is). What do you call the insidious and insipid attempts by this minority and their political cronies to destroy public education? There were sections of the electorate who, for reasons of their own, would want to divide a country, so that they could rule by autocracy. It is difficult to define them as either conservative or liberal. They most often use media to dispense their divisive philosophy and convince large segments of the population that they are under attack and they must fight back.



All this points out that monied and political interests far outgun public education and its supporters. As we see that political operatives, funded by this dark money, have invaded local communities. A clear example is that the Mom’s for Liberty will hold their major conference in July in Philadelphia and the main speakers will be the most popular presidential candidates of a political party.

 As the disparity in our country between the wealthy and all others, the political clout of the 1% is growing. If we do not grow public education for all, the disparity will grow even larger. Will we then see the 1% then control what is left of democracy? The question then arises, how will we fight back against the forces arrayed against public education ?



1 De Tocqueville, Alexis and the Character of American Education, Acton Institute.

2 Flesch, Rudolph, “Why Johnny Can’t Read” Harper Brothers 1955.

3 National Commission on Excellence in Education, A Nation at Risk, Terrell Bell, Chairman, 1983.

4 Hanushek, Eric, Making Schools Work-Improving Performance and Controlling Costs, Brookings Institution Press, 1994..

5 No Child Left Behind” ESEA change- in operation 2002-2015- U.S. Government 

6 Race to the Top, Fact Sheet, Office of Press Secretary, White House 2009.

7 ”How Betsy DeVos will be Remembered?” NPR November 19 2020.

8 Wendell Cox, Number of School Districts and Schools from 1930,, 2010.

9 Brown v Board of Education of Topeka 347 US 483 Supreme Court.

10 Pierce, Charles, The Christian Right Didn’t Mobilize Against Abortion. They First Mobilized Against School Desegregation Esquire Magazine, June 30, 2021.

11 History of Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools, CMS. Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools..

11a 35 years later, we take a look at the impact of the desegregation order that created the Woodland Hills School District,, October 3, 2016.

12 Consolidation and Capital Funds report-Legislation to consolidate schools districts

13”What is a Charter School?” National Charter School Resource Center, May 9, 2023.

14 EMOs/CMOs/Management Companies,

15 Secondo, Noah, “Rural School Consolidation is not the answer,” H Harvard Political review, August 25, 2020.

16 History of Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools, CMS . Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools.

17 January 8, 1971 324 F. Supp. 439 (1971) Carolyn BRADLEY et al. v. SCHOOL BOARD OF the CITY OF RICHMOND, VIRGINIA, et al. Civ. A. No. 3353. United States District Court, E. D. Virginia, Richmond Division. January 8, 1971..\

18 National Center for Educational Statistics, 2018-2019.

19 “Consolidation of Schools,” Greenville News, March 1, 2018.


21 “Corridor of Shame,” a documentary narrated by Pat Conroy

22  Data source, 5 year average, American Community Survey, U.S. Census Bureau., School Districts by state-2015.

24” per pupil spending for each state.correlation done by Dr. Arnold Hillman.

25 Brawner, Steve, “Hutchinson signs school consolidation waiver bill,” TBandP March 11, 2015.

26 Howley, Craig, Johnson, Jerry, Petrie, Jennifer, “Consolidation of Schools and Districts- what does the Research say and What does it mean? National Ed. Policy Center, Ohio University February 2011.

27 South Carolina School Board Association, “School District Consolidation.” 2018.

28 Adcox, Seanna, Parker, Adam, “11 School Districts are Consolidating, aid state incentive money, Post-Courier August 28, 2021.

29 Britannica- Horace Mann, American Educator, Thaddeus Stevens, American Politician and Statesman.

30 Center for Education Policy, “ History and Evolution of Public Education in the US”, Graduate School of Education and Human Development of George Washington University.

31 Lattier, Daniel, “What the Catholic Church said about Public Schools in 1852, Intellectual Takeout.

32 Bringing Knowledge, Breaking Barriers, “ Philadelphia Bible Riots 1844” Pew Center for Arts and Heritage

33 Andrew Gardner, “Racism and the evolution of Protestant Support for Private Education,” Baptist News Global July 23, 2020.

34 Bobic, Michael, “ Bob Jones University v. United States (1983) The First Amendment encyclopedia presented by the John Seigenthaler, chair of excellence in First Amendment Studies, originally published in 2009, Glenville State University, West Virginia,

35  Andrew Gardner, “Racism and the evolution of Protestant Support for Private Education,” Baptist News Global July 23, 2020.

36 Morrison, Nick, “Want To Stop Charter Schools Cherry-Picking The ‘Best’ Students? Use The Carrot Not The Stick, Forbes, April 9, 2021,

37 CREDO, “ Stanford study shows many city charters besting district schools., Columbia University Teachers College, January 20, 2010.

38 Chen, Grace, “ Charter Schools vs. Traditional Public Schools: Which One is Under-Performing?” Public School Review May 10, 2022.

39 Study on online charter schools: ‘It is literally as if the kid did not go to school for an entire year’. Washington Post reports on CREDO study of Stanford University- August 2021.

40 Spitzer, Hugh, “How a Supreme Court Ruling might upend Washington charter schools,” Seattle Times, 12/18/21.

41 Chuck, Elizabeth, “Trump Selects Charter School Advocate Betsy De Vos as Education Secretary,” NBC News.

42 Lzumi, Lance, “Under Biden Administration, Charter schools face multiple threats,” Seattle Times, February 2, 2021.

43 United Daughters of the Confederacy,

44 Hanna, Maddie,” Moms for Liberty-what is it and who’s behind the group?” Philadelphia Inquirer June 2, 2023.

45 Cunningham, Maurice, “ Merchants of Deception: Parent Props and their Funders.”

46 Payne, Daniel, “Critical Race Theory turns school boards into GOP proving grounds, Politico September 28, 2021.