It is not often that a national political group finds it necessary to explain its crushing defeat in a series of state legislative elections. But the shadowy "American Federation for Children" -- which is well-identified by the watchdogs at PRWatch as "a pro-school privatization group" -- had to do just that after all of the candidates it backed in Tuesday's Democratic primaries were roundly rejected by the voters.

The defeat AFC took was so sweeping that the group had to issue a statement Wednesday in which it "reaffirmed its support for legislators and candidates across Wisconsin who favor expanded educational options for families, following disappointing primary results last night."

Yikes.

AFC, a group funded by billionaire right-wingers from Michigan (former Michigan Republican Party chairwoman Betsy DeVos and her husband, Amway heir Dick DeVos) and their wealthy allies across the country, poured more than $100,000 (perhaps a lot more) into "independent" campaigns on behalf of supporters of school "choice" and "voucher" schemes, which weaken public schools in Milwaukee and pave the way for privatization.

But the AFC candidates lost. Badly.

State Rep. Jason Fields, the Milwaukee Democrat whose re-election was the chief priority of AFC and its Wisconsin operative, former Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen, was defeated by community activist Mandela Barnes.

But Jason Fields was not the only AFC loser Tuesday. His brother Jarrett Fields lost another Milwaukee Assembly primary, as did AFC favorites Tracy Dent and Mildred Coby. And state Rep. Elizabeth Coggs, who ran with strong AFC support, lost the 6th District state Senate primary to Nikiya Harris, who ran with the strong support of unions and progressive groups.

While AFC poured money into the legislative races, a relatively new progressive, pro-public education group, Wisconsin Progress, countered by recruiting, training and backing able pro-public education candidates. The winners Tuesday -- in all the races where AFC lost -- were backed by Wisconsin Progress.

Of course, AFC had more money. But Wisconsin Progress and its candidates stood for something Wisconsinites value: strong public schools and a commitment by the state and its communities to use taxpayer dollars to back public education -- not schemes to move public money into the pockets of private-school operators.

That was enough for Wisconsin Progress.

The group's slogan has been "Don't Get Mad. Get Elected."

Because so many of Tuesday's key primaries were in overwhelmingly Democratic districts, meaning that the Wisconsin Progress-backed winners are all but certain to become legislators, the slogan is now becoming a reality.

Wisconsin Progress was making plans for the next clashes with AFC and the right-wing money machine, when the clashes this fall will be between Democrats who want great schools and Republicans who would dismantle Wisconsin's commitment to public education.

As for the "American Federation for Children," they were just making excuses.

John Nichols is associate editor of The Capital Times. jnichols@madison.com

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(10) comments

JBANK
JBANK

Help me out CT! Those are the bad schemers. As opposed to the public sector schemers like in Illinois where the union bosses worked a day and picked up pensions worth millions. Sure thing!

RichardSRussell
RichardSRussell

"Union bosses" is an oxymoron, like "jumbo shrimp", "Big Environment", and "Fox News". It's a dog-whistle phrase used by people who congenitally use "Democrat" as an adjective and can't bring themselves to put the word "President" in front of "Obama" (assuming they can even use THAT name at all). In short, it's a sign of someone who has subcontracted her or his thot processes to whoever originates the daily right-wing talking points. You'd think these puppets would get tired of having those wiggly fingers up their hinders all the time, but apparently not.

JBANK
JBANK

Speaking of thought processes, yours is more than a little off today Richard. I count on you to offer something interesting to an article but you missed the mark this time. Next time check out the real story before you start to woof about right wing talking points and that type of garbage. Yes. At least union paid schemers in Illinois did try to substitute teach in Illinois for one day in order to collect a fat pension from the Illinois Teachers Retirement System. So, speaking of hinders, why not pull your head out of yours.

RichardSRussell
RichardSRussell

I notice that you at least stopped referring to "union bosses", creatures as mythical as unicorns, so I consider my time well spent.

vaportrail
vaportrail

You forgot “open-minded liberals” in your list.

Good Gosh
Good Gosh

Independent Patriot. Take a deep breath, relax, calm yourself. You have blundered into an editorial. Click your heels three times and repeat, "There's no place like Fox News."

ChooChoo
ChooChoo

Independant Patriot, This article is on the opinion page, hence it is an editorial. But it is a fact that AFC is trying to privatize our schools and capitalize on the profits.

dmark
dmark

There is a reason the DeVos family is spending millions to push vouchers and it ain't got anything to do with improving education. These vultures see a pool of public money and they want to gobble it up. There is a reason why the constant attack on teachers and their unions. They are the only barrier to this scum ruining the public school system in this country.

David Blaska
David Blaska

Another victory for the entrenched teachers union, another defeat for the under-served kids in one of the nation's poorest-performing school districts. Something to celebrate, alright.

Independant Patriot
Independant Patriot

Please tell me this is an editorial...

When will people like you stop building walls between our broken two party system? Try writing an article without the words liberal, conservative, right wing, left wing, etc. Instead focus on what the groups stand for with (call me crazy) FACTS.

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