Soon after installing Ronald Reagan as president, social conservatives realized that controlling the presidency meant little if they couldn't get their plans through Congress and state legislatures. They realized that it meant more to control local school boards, city and county governments, and, if possible, state legislatures because these were the government units that were passing laws which had a greater impact on our daily lives.
From that realization, particularly in California, has grown a vast grassroots movement which has been organized by the five men of the Allied Business PAC to capture the state legislature.
Now, with that goal almost accomplished, Howard F. Ahmanson, the Allied Business PAC's chief Christian Reconstructionist idealogue and daddy deep-pockets, has embarked upon a plan to capture California's school boards.
In November, 1994, Ahmanson was the chief financial backer ($40,000) of a pilot project in Orange County which raised $63,221 and gave $61,671 to 36 endorsed candidates for school boards in 15 districts through a PAC known as the Education Alliance. He was joined by John and Donna Crean of Newport Beach, who contributed $10,000.
It would appear that because of the unlimited financial resources of Ahmanson, the Creans, and the rest of the Allied donors, they have the potential of being far more successful than that any other radical Religious Right group on the California scene today.
The Education Alliance is reportedly run by a Mark Bucher, 35, from the office of his business, the Service First Contractors Network in Tustin.
Although disclaiming any ties to the Religious Right, the agenda that Bucher says the Education Alliance supports is amazingly similar to the agendas promoted by the Coalition on Revival (COR), the Traditional Values Coalition, Christian Coalition, Citizens for Excellence in Education, and Focus on the Family/Capitol Resource Institute.
Bucher says that Education Alliance candidates generally oppose state and federal curriculum guidelines, support a back-to basics approach to education and want to emphasize American values instead of multiculturalism. They are opposed to the California Learning Assessment System and the establishment of health clinics or condom distribution in schools. They want to see evolution and creationism taught side by side. They are divided on the question of prayer in schools.
The real educational agenda of the radical Religious Right is outlined by an organization spawned by COR called the National Coordinating Committee. The purpose of this group is the abolition of public education by the year 2000.
The idea of abolishing public schools was reinforced by Christian Reconstructionist Gary North in his March, 1995 newsletter. "Our reform is straight forward; no more taxpayer-funded education," North wrote. "Not a brass farthing," he concluded, quoting from My Fair Lady.
Howard F. Ahmanson Jr., the scion of the Home Savings fortune, has been a member of the board of trustees of the leading Christian Reconstructionist think tank, Chalcedon, since the mid-1970s. Ahmanson is also a long-time member of the Council for National Policy. He was the number-one contributor to Proposition 174, the school voucher initiative on the ballot in the 1993 general election.
The Education Alliance claimed a 33 percent success rate in the November, 1994 election which means that 12 of their 36 candidates won election. In some cases candidates spent up to $7000 to campaign for their seat. This is an unprecedented amount for school board candidates to spend. It portrays an ominous future for people who want to run for school board seats but do not have the financial backing to make the attempt.
With the help of Ahmanson and Crean, the Education Alliance hopes to expand its efforts state-wide by 1996 with the additional goal of sponsoring an initiative to ban public employee unions from materially participating in elections for public-employer trustee positions on school boards, city councils, county supervisors, water districts and so on.
Concerned citizens must do more than just wring their hands. They must become active in an organization which is trying to alert the general public and pluralistic Evangelicals as to the real goals of the radical Religious Right. Coalitions with other civil liberties and civil rights groups must be formed and become a priority in order to preserve the freedom of public schools in our country.