History of Corporate School Advocacy
Founded by Heritage Foundation members T. William Boxx, Don Eberley and Alex G. McKenna in 1988, the Foundation has steadily lobbied for the wholesale outsourcing of state programs and services. A few months after its inception, for example, it called for the appointment of a "privatization czar" in Pennsylvania. Attempts to have the Pennsylvania Public School Code amended so that it would allow allow for the establishment of charter schools, were high on the agenda from the beginning. In 1989, Kevin Harvey argued in one of the foundation's research reports that an “educational phenomenon is on the horizon in the United States that could revolutionize our nation’s public school system, and two years later Linda Morrison laid out the case for a "market based restructuring" of the public school system.
In 1997, when Sean Duffy assumed leadership, the Foundation took a sharp turn from issuing research publications to “advancing conservative policy objectives,” according to a report issued by Keystone Progress and The Center for Media and Democracy. It also took a more belligerent turn. A former press secretary for the state Department of Education, Duffy was intent on “defang[ing] the federal education bureaucracy” and of discrediting the “the teachers unions and their fellow travelers.”
While the rhetoric was given a softer spin when Duffy left in 2001, the focus on the education market and the lobbying for corporate schools, as well as the campaigns directed at teachers’ unions, remain one of the key areas of focus. Current CEO and President Matthew J. Brouilette is also a board member of "Pennsylvania's leading school advocacy", REACH, and has previously served on the advisory committee for the UK-based E.G. West Centre for Market Solutions in Education. In a 2013 op-ed, he claimed that "no other organization has done more harm to the teaching profession" than the teachers' unions.
- The Commonwealth Foundation, "History," organizational webiste, accessed June 30, 2014.
- David Ranii, "New foundation to push state to privatize services, The Pittsburgh Press, March 10, 1988.
- Kevin Harvey, "[ttp://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED398326.pdf How 'Schools of Choice' Can Improve the Public School System]," organizational publication, 1989, accessed June 30, 2014.
- Linda Morrison, "Why Conventional Education Reform Fails: The Case for Market Based Restructuring," organizational publication, accessed June 30, 2014.
- Keystone Progress and The Center for Media and Democracy, "The Commonwealth Foundation and the Allegheny Institute: Think tanks or corporate lobbyist propaganda mills?, organizational report, November 2013.
- Sean Duffy, "Testimony of Sean Duffy, Vice President of the Commonwealth Foundation Before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Committee on Education and the Workforce," U.S. House of Representatives, March 30, 1998, accessed June 30, 2014.
- Albert Fondy, "State report on urban schools is flawed, and Duffy’s commentary is worse," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 8, 1998, accessed June 30, 2014.
- Matthew J. Brouilette, "Get Rich Quick! Start your own Union," Penn Live, November 13, 2013, accessed June 30, 2014.