Education Funding

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  • Atlanta Journal-Constitution Exposes Dark-Money Funding Behind Georgia School Takeover Campaign

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Private corporations, lobbyists, and a national group connected to major dark-money, anti-teachers-union donors are major contributors to a campaign supporting a state education proposal that is fiercely opposed by teachers and parents, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

    A proposed amendment to the Georgia state constitution -- Amendment 1 -- would allow the state to take over schools that are deemed “failing” and create an “Opportunity School District,” a move proposed by Gov. Nathan Deal and opposed by public educators and parents. As the Journal-Constitution explained, the amendment would “enable an appointee of the governor to seize ‘chronically failing’ schools and the local tax dollars that support them. Those schools would either be shuttered, run directly by a new statewide district or converted to charter schools under independent management.”

    Amendment 1, which will be on state ballots in November, has attracted millions in funding from groups in support and in opposition of the proposal, including substantial funding from national teachers unions for an advertising campaign opposing the measure.

    Teachers groups and the state PTA have spoken out against Amendment 1, explaining that its passage could eliminate local control by school boards and community members -- particularly in black and Latino communities -- and could shift tax dollars to private charter management companies or other groups that are subject to less oversight. As the Journal-Constitution reported, the National Education Association has spent heavily on a campaign opposing the amendment representing 35,000 Georgia teachers who are among its ranks.

    But the identities of donors bankrolling the advertisements in support of the proposed amendment -- as part of an organization called Opportunity For All Georgia Students -- were purposely concealed using a group set up by supporters of Gov. Nathan Deal. The group, Georgia Leads, is categorized as a “social welfare” group with a 501(c)(4) tax status, and as such is not required to disclose its donors. Of the four donors contributing a total of $1.22 million to the campaign in support of Amendment 1, Georgia Leads contributed the most substantial amount -- $810,000. 

    On Friday, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published an investigative report revealing some of Georgia Leads’ donors -- and the biggest names were private corporations and lobbying firms (emphasis added):

    The biggest donor to the pro-OSD amendment this year — as of Sept. 30 — was Georgia Leads Inc., a fund set up to push Deal’s agenda. Georgia Leads had put $850,000 into Opportunity for All Georgia Students as of the end of September.

    [...]

    While Georgia Leads doesn’t disclose donors, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found more than $250,000 in contributions to the group by reviewing expenditure listings by companies and political action committees who file reports with the state ethics commission. All the donors have big stakes in legislation at the state Capitol, including AT&T, the retail store lobby, McGuireWoods (one of the best-connected lobbying firms at the Statehouse), Hospital Corporation of America, beer distributors and bank lobbyists.

    The investigation also identified the national group 50CAN as another major donor to the pro-Amendment 1 campaign, second only to Georgia Leads. 50CAN is affiliated with a dark-money-fueled echo chamber pushing conservative, anti-union policies under the guise of “education reform,” and has supported past Georgia initiatives to open up schools to private competition, as well as similar Opportunity School District-type initiatives in other states. It is affiliated with a number of other national groups that received dark-money funding from anti-teachers-union private donors. 

    Graphic created by Sarah Wasko.

  • A Year Of Hardball Shows Media Could Be Doing More To Discuss College Affordability

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    A recent Media Matters analysis found an overall lack of substantial discussions about college affordability issues on evening cable news programs. Notably, nearly a quarter of the total time spent discussing topics related to college affordability across all three major cable networks over the course of a year came from MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews. Hardball’s discussions about topics such as rising college costs and student debt burdens illustrate what may have been the driving force for a vast majority of the limited conversations the study found across all networks -- a tie-in with the current presidential election.

    In a recent study, Media Matters analyzed a year of evening cable news programming on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC and found that, together, all three networks devoted just under 2 hours and 22 minutes in 56 segments, in total, to discussing college affordability issues over the course of the year. Fox News’ and MSNBC’s evening news programs each spent a little under an hour discussing these topics (24 and 23 segments, respectively), and CNN devoted just under 35 minutes, or nine segments.

    MSNBC’s Hardball single-handedly accounted for just over a quarter of the total number of qualifying segments in this study and nearly half an hour of total discussion time.

    Why did Hardball account for such a large proportion of the total substantial discussion in Media Matters’ analysis? One finding suggests it was an election-year phenomenon: All 15 of the Hardball segments included in the study feature at least one guest discussing a specific presidential candidate’s record, stances, or policy proposals related to college affordability. Although host Chris Matthews’ questions or assertions about candidates’ stances often only grazed the surface, they show that cable news programs are capable of providing more in-depth coverage on college affordability when the interests of the host, guests, and the public converge.

    In many of these segments, Matthews introduced the topic by asking guests -- often strategists or campaign surrogates -- to explain higher education policy differences between the two then-Democratic presidential hopefuls: former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Discussions of these differences frequently focused on political strategy and voter appeal as much as on the details of the proposals.

    Though many of these exchanges were brief or limited in scope, Matthews’ questions about Sanders’ and/or Clinton’s policy proposals demonstrate that evening cable news has the capacity to provide detailed, policy-focused discussions under the right circumstances: when guests are eager to talk about the issue, hosts are prepared to ask questions, and viewers have demonstrated a desire for more information.

    The presidential race appears to have dictated these particular circumstances for the year studied. In fact, the majority of qualifying guests on each of the three cable networks specifically talked about at least one presidential candidate’s record or views on a college affordability issue -- or they were themselves a candidate at the time of their appearance.

    When considering only those guests who spoke substantially about college affordability topics (many guests were participants in multitopic discussions, but did not speak specifically about college affordability), that number jumps even higher. Nearly 90 percent of guests who discussed college costs, student loans, or impacts of the national student debt burden also mentioned a specific presidential candidate’s record or stances on these issues.  

    With so many of the college affordability discussions on evening cable news closely tied to the presidential election, it’s unclear what will happen to those (already limited) conversations after November.

    Image created by Sarah Wasko. Video created by Coleman Lowndes. 

  • Fox News Evening Programs Mock And Dismiss Student Concerns About College Affordability

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Evening cable news programs rarely discuss college affordability issues, and they even more rarely feature guests who present relevant expertise or recent personal experiences in these discussions. In a recent analysis of evening cable news programming, Media Matters found an overall apparent lack of student or borrower guests participating in these conversations, while the majority of guests were white, male, and 35 or older. Though Fox News programs featured the most student guests, the network’s discussions of college affordability were limited and they often allowed older, white hosts and guests to push outdated math about college costs and dismiss the experiences of students who are struggling to afford higher education.

    In a recent study, Media Matters analyzed an entire year of evening cable news programming and found that Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC together spent just 2 hours and 22 minutes -- 56 total segments -- airing substantial discussion of topics related to college affordability. Of the 56 segments, almost half (24) were aired on Fox News. Of the 127 total guests participating in these segments across all three networks, eight were identified as current students -- all appearing in segments on Fox.

    Considering the overall lack of interviews and panels discussing college affordability across all the networks, including four segments with eight student guests throughout a year of programming is not a significant accomplishment. All three networks ought to be including more guests who can share recent, personal experiences with paying for higher education in conversations about college costs or student debt. Two Fox News evening programs -- On The Record with Greta Van Susteren and Hannity -- took this initial step by featuring student guests, but the discussions were still largely dictated by the hosts.

    And Fox’s comparatively better inclusion of student guests in college affordability discussions did not yield more substantive discussions.

    On The Record featured a total of seven college students in discussions of student debt or college affordability, across three panel segments. The stated topic of all three segments was the millennial vote, yet each featured some exchanges about college affordability issues. In two of the segments, host Greta Van Susteren asked Democrat student guests if they were planning to vote based on their desire for “free” college. In the third segment, Van Susteren asked student guests, “Who do [millennials] blame for the student loan problem? ... Republicans or Democrats?” And later she asked which party the guests believed would help alleviate student loan debts. The guests -- all of whom explained that they were planning to vote for Republican candidates in the 2016 election -- all declined to “blame” a single party or to conclude that only one party could provide solutions. Together, as defined by the Media Matters analysis, substantial discussion of college affordability in these three segments totaled eight minutes.

    In another segment, Fox News’ Hannity featured a 37-second exchange in which a young viewer asked in a video message what host Sean Hannity would do to “help students like me who are going to be in crippling debt after graduation.” Hannity advised students to forego attending a “big-name school” in favor of a (supposedly) more affordable option, then concluded that “of course, working hard never hurt anybody.”

    Meanwhile, other Fox News evening programs -- although they included ostensible firsthand experiences -- were responsible for some of the most misleading and dismissive segments in our analysis. In discussions on The O’Reilly Factor and The Kelly File, Fox figures pushed claims that students could afford higher education in 2016 if they simply “work for it,” citing their own experiences attending college 24 to 45 years ago when it was still practical to afford tuition through part-time work.   

    On The Kelly File, host Megyn Kelly and Fox & Friends’ Brian Kilmeade discussed Fox colleague Neil Cavuto’s daytime interview with a student activist guest about the Million Student March. Kilmeade began the discussion by diminishing student concerns about affordable loan payments, then pivoted to listing the cost of tuition at several private, four-year colleges and suggesting that if students are accepted to those schools but cannot afford the sticker price, “Guess what? Maybe you can’t go. You have to go to a college that you can afford, and you work your way up.” Kelly cited her own college experience, arguing, “I took out loans. I paid them back. That’s how it works in this country.” Kilmeade agreed, saying, “It’s unbelievable.” Throughout the segment, Kelly repeatedly mocked student protesters, suggesting they were asking for “the one percenters to pay for your life,” and asking, “Why do they even have to buy a crib? It’s unfair.”

    In 1992, when Kelly graduated from college, the average sticker price (tuition, fees, room, and board) for a full year of full-time attendance at a private research university like her alma mater was $17,572, which amounts to $30,166 in 2016 when adjusted for inflation. For Kilmeade, who graduated in 1986, it was $11,034, or $24,248 in 2016 inflation-adjusted dollars. Today, both schools cost more than twice what they did when Kelly and Kilmeade were students -- attending Kelly’s alma mater as a full-time student costs $63,344. For Kilmeade’s alma mater, the figure is $49,582. These numbers do not include transportation, books, or health insurance, among other additional costs.

    On The O’Reilly Factor, host Bill O’Reilly blamed students for incurring student debt by choosing to attend “Harvard,” arguing that students ought to attend state universities or community colleges where tuition is more “reasonable.” Schools in the New York state system, according to O’Reilly, cost “a bit, but it’s not punitive.” Fox News analyst Kirsten Powers attempted to explain that rising costs can be prohibitive for students from low-income families and that his argument reinforces a “class system where only certain people can go to college.” O’Reilly responded, “The argument can be made that -- and millions of Americans have done it -- that you can get a good education, but you must work for it.” O’Reilly asked Powers, “Why do they think they’re owed all this by the government? What is that mentality? I don’t get that. I never took a penny from the government.” The discussion then devolved into O’Reilly claiming that child hunger was a “myth.”

    In another segment from April, O’Reilly disparaged young people who supported free public college tuition -- at the time, a policy proposal from then-Democratic presidential candidate Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders -- explaining that he had “never taken anything from anybody in [his] life.” O’Reilly dismissed attempts from economist Austan Goolsbee to point out how college costs have risen significantly since O’Reilly was a student. O’Reilly focused instead on his mid-career graduate school attendance at Harvard University in the 1990s (years after he became a nationally recognized media figure) to attempt to rebut Goolsbee, rather than drawing the more appropriate and even less compelling analogy to his undergraduate college experience decades earlier.

    O’Reilly graduated college in 1971, when the average sticker price for a full year of full-time attendance at a private liberal arts college like his alma mater was $2,599, or $15,456 in 2016 dollars when adjusted for inflation. Today the cost for the first year of full-time attendance at the same school -- which, again, does not include many estimated additional costs associated with attending college -- is $49,860

    Images created by Sarah Wasko. 

  • Guest Demographics Matter In Media Discussions Of College Affordability

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Evening cable news programs rarely discuss college affordability issues, and when they do, they even more rarely feature guests who present relevant, recent personal experiences. In a recent analysis of evening cable news programming, Media Matters found an apparent lack of student or borrower guests participating in these cable news conversations relating to college affordability, while the majority of guests were white, male, and 35 or older. By limiting the demographic diversity of guests, media are shutting out the voices of those most affected by these issues.

    In a recent study, Media Matters analyzed an entire year of evening cable news programming and found that Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC together spent just 2 hours and 22 minutes airing substantial discussion of topics related to college affordability. In those discussions, networks invited disproportionately white, male guests who were 35 or older. Among 127 total guests participating in these discussions, just 6 percent were identified as current students and only 2 percent discussed their own current or recent experiences borrowing money to pay for college. In short, the voices dominating evening cable news seem to not be those of the individuals most affected by today’s skyrocketing college costs or unmanageable student loan burdens. By inviting fewer women, young people, people of color, students, and borrowers, to participate in these segments, networks are limiting the substance of college affordability discussions and depriving viewers of an accurate picture of college costs and student debt.

    Across all three networks, 58 percent of guests participating in discussions about college affordability were men. However, research shows that women are more likely to take out student loans than men, and that women need college degrees to access employment opportunities more than men do. The gender pay gap also makes getting out of debt all the more difficult for women, in particular for black and Hispanic women, even as women dedicate a higher percentage of their earnings toward paying off that debt.

    Seventy-three percent of cable evening news guests discussing college affordability topics were white. Twenty percent of guests were black, 6 percent were Hispanic, and 4 percent were Asian-American. (Two percent of guests were coded for an undetermined race, and multiracial guests were coded for multiple races or ethnicities as applicable.)

    Yet black and Hispanic students, borrowers, and families experience the financial strain of attending college more acutely at every step in the process -- from the initial decision about what type of higher education to pursue, to borrowing and making loan payments, to struggling for financial security decades after college attendance. Black and Hispanic students are more likely to attend schools with fewer resources for financial aid, while black and low-income students, in particular, are more likely to take out loans to pay for school and to have higher loan balances. Greater financial strain while attending college can also lead black and Hispanic students to drop out at higher rates, which in turn impacts their ability to find employment and pay down even small amounts of debt.

    More than three-quarters of cable evening news guests discussing college affordability were 35 or older -- and 40 percent were 51 or older (of those guests whose ages were publicly available). Across all three networks, only 6 percent of guests discussing college affordability issues were identified as students, and only 2 percent -- three guests across all networks for the entire year studied -- discussed their own personal or recent experiences borrowing to pay for higher education.

    Though it is possible that more guests are currently paying off student or parent education loans or perhaps are enrolled in college currently than were coded in Media Matters’ analysis, those guests didn’t talk about such experiences during their appearances. Overwhelmingly, the discussions of topics like rising college costs, borrowing to pay for school, and student loan burdens did not include guests sharing relevant, first-hand experiences paying for college in recent years.

    Yet study after study highlights the “many crises of student loans,” detailing how today’s complex system of higher education and the debt-based system most use to pay for it are shutting out low-income students, veterans, and other groups of Americans who are often already marginalized in media coverage, and leaving those who attend college but do not earn degrees and students who attend for-profit colleges even further behind. Perhaps greater overall representation of students and borrowers -- or better, students or borrowers from specific groups that are feeling the financial squeeze of student debt most -- would give evening cable news viewers a more complete understanding of how college affordability policy proposals might work and who they might affect.

    A July poll from Pew Research Center found that 66 percent of registered voters say education is a “very important” issue for their 2016 presidential vote, and 84 percent said the same about the economy. Rising college costs and the impacts of student debt burdens are significant issues that fall in the intersection of the two topics. Evidence shows student debt can impact personal wealth, delay homeownership, affect personal decisions to marry or start a family, and that it has “cripple[d] retail sales growth.”

    Student debt’s impacts on the long-term financial well-being of borrowers are reverberating throughout the economy, and they are likely felt more acutely by those individuals with the most unmanageable debt burdens. But a viewer who relies on evening cable news programming to understand the causes and impacts of the student debt crisis, or to learn about possible solutions, might not know that at all. 

    Images created by Sarah Wasko.

  • STUDY: Evening Cable News Spent Less Than Two And A Half Hours Discussing College Affordability In An Entire Year

    Only 2 Percent Of Guests Discussing These Issues Identified As Current Or Recent Borrowers, 6 Percent Were Students

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Media Matters studied one year of evening cable news programming on Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN to examine the types of discussions these shows featured about issues related to college affordability. Our research found that all three networks devoted limited time to discussing these issues, and that the majority of guests participating in the discussions were white, male, and middle-aged or older. A very small proportion of segments discussing topics related to college affordability mentioned recent, personal experiences paying for higher education. 

    Key Findings On Cable Evening News And Discussions Of College Affordability Issues

    For the period beginning July 1, 2015, and ending June 30, 2016, Media Matters identified and analyzed all interview and guest panel segments on evening cable news programs that featured substantial discussion of college affordability issues, such as plans to reduce the cost of college attendance, reforms to make student loans more affordable, or the various individual or macroeconomic impacts of the current national student debt burden.

    Media Matters found an overall lack of substantial discussions about issues related to college costs and student debt across all three cable news networks -- together, all three networks devoted 2 hours and 22 minutes to discussing college affordability in the year studied. Fox News’ and MSNBC’s evening news programs each spent a little under an hour discussing these topics, and CNN devoted just under 35 minutes. MSNBC’s Hardball, however, single-handedly accounted for just over a quarter of the total number of qualifying segments in this study.

    Media Matters also found that networks featured predominantly white guests -- and significantly more male than female guests -- in interviews and panel discussions related to college affordability. More than three-quarters of guests invited to discuss these issues were at least 35 years old -- and 40 percent of them were 51 or older (of those guests whose ages were publicly available), though Fox News hosted substantially more millennial guests than the other networks did. Journalists formed the largest plurality of guests by profession, followed by political strategists (a category that also includes political consultants and campaign staffers). Only eight of the 127 total guests participating in these discussions in the year studied were identified as current students, and only three discussed their own current or recent experiences as student loan borrowers.

    How Much Did The Networks Discuss College Affordability?

    From July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016, 56 total segments -- totaling 2 hours and 22 minutes -- across evening news programs on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC featured substantial discussion of issues related to college costs or student debt.

    Fox News and MSNBC ran almost the same number of segments discussing college affordability issues -- 24 and 23, respectively. CNN ran just nine segments featuring substantial discussion of these topics within the year-long scope. 

    Of these 56 total segments, 44 were larger, multitopic panel discussions or interviews in which at least two speakers discussed college affordability issues for a portion of the segment. Only 12 segments in the year-long period began with a student debt or college cost-related topic as the stated topic of discussion for the entire segment.

    Fox News had the most segments explicitly devoted to college affordability topics (seven), followed by MSNBC (three), and then CNN (two). Fox News’ and MSNBC’s evening news programs each spent nearly one collective hour on college affordability discussions, while CNN spent just over half an hour.

    MSNBC’s Hardball aired the most segments including substantial discussion of student debt or college costs among the cable evening news programs, with 15 total qualifying segments -- more than a quarter of the total included in the study. Fox News’ On the Record and The O’Reilly Factor each included eight qualifying segments.

    Who Did The Networks Ask About College Affordability Issues?

    Across all three networks, 127 guests participated in segments featuring substantial discussion of college affordability issues in the course of the year studied.

    The majority of the guests across all three networks were male (58 percent) -- and white (73 percent). Gender representation for guests was relatively similar across all three networks. Racial and ethnic group representation varied slightly more among the three networks: CNN had a significantly smaller proportion of white guests and a larger proportion of black guests, but Asian-Americans and Hispanics were not represented on the network in these conversations. Fox News had the highest proportion of Hispanic guests (at 10 percent), though these appearances were almost exclusively made by network co-hosts Geraldo Rivera and Juan Williams on programs other than their own.

    Media Matters also coded for each guest’s generational age, based on available information about each individual. Of the nearly 70 percent of total guests whose age was publicly accessible, the most represented generational groups were Generation X (35-50 in 2015) and Baby Boomers (51-69 in 2015). Together, 70 percent of guests were ages 35 to 69. Millennials (18-34 in 2015) accounted for 24 percent of the guest appearances in discussions of college affordability issues. Almost all millennial guests appeared on Fox News, while all three networks hosted nearly the same number of guests in the older age categories. (Generational age data, however, should be approached with some caution, as the ages of 32 percent of the total guests in the study -- already a small data set -- were not publicly accessible.)  

    The most represented profession, by far, among evening cable news guests discussing college affordability was journalists. Thirty-six percent of the total guests across all three networks primarily worked as television, print, or radio journalists. Thirteen percent were current or former elected or administration officials, 10 percent were political strategists, 6 percent were academics, and 6 percent were students. The proportion of each profession represented by guests varied widely across the three networks, and a large percentage of overall guests were recorded as having “other or undetermined” professions because of a single, 28-person panel of “GOP voters” that included a brief discussion of student loans on Fox News’ The Kelly File.

    Over the year studied, a total of eight current students (6 percent of guests) made guest appearances on the three networks in the evening news segments that featured substantial discussion of college costs or student debt. All eight were guests on Fox News -- seven of them participants in three different segments on On the Record discussing the political leanings of millennials. The other student guest spoke for six seconds, asking Hannity host Sean Hannity about his views on college affordability in a 37-second segment. All but one of these students were white, and gender was evenly represented.

    Just three of the 127 total guests (2 percent) participating in substantial discussions about college affordability were identified in the segment as current or recent student loan borrowers. In a June segment on CNN Tonight, former Trump University customer Sheri Winkelmann described the personal financial burdens she and other former students incurred to pay for Trump University seminars (this example, however, is unique among the segments in that Trump University was a real estate seminar business and never accredited as a school). In another segment, from Fox News’ Hannity last August, then-presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) mentioned that he had owed more than $100,000 in student loan debt in response to a question from Hannity about addressing national debt and other economic issues. The third guest to mention his or her current or recent personal experience borrowing money to pay for college was the aforementioned unnamed Hannity viewer who asked a six-second question.

    What Did Guests Discuss About The Issue Of College Affordability?

    In the 56 qualifying segments, the most frequently mentioned topics were possible solutions, or the need for solutions, to address the rising cost of attendance at institutions of higher education, often in conjunction with then-Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) proposal for tuition-free public college or in discussions comparing Sanders’ and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s policy plans for making college more affordable. Thirty-seven percent of guests mentioned questions or statements related to this specific topic.

    Twenty percent of guests discussed the macroeconomic impacts of rising college costs or the national student burden, referencing, for instance, data showing student debt surpassed all other types of household debt in the U.S. besides mortgages in 2012. Sixteen percent of guests discussed possible solutions, or the need for solutions, for existing student loan burdens. Just 11 percent of guests discussed individual examples of the real-world impact of student debt or rising college costs -- sharing their own experiences, those of other individuals, or hypothetical examples.

    Of the 127 guests in the study, 71 guests -- 56 percent -- either made statements or responded to questions that specifically addressed a presidential candidate’s record, stances, or specific policy proposals related to college affordability or were themselves a candidate at the time of their appearance. Forty-one percent (52 guests) discussed Sanders’ record or policy stances on college affordability topics. About a quarter of the guests discussed Clinton’s record or policy stances on these issues, with many comparing the two then-candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination. 

    Eighty-two guests -- 65 percent -- spoke about any of the five specific topics related to college affordability that Media Matters measured: 

    • college costs, i.e., questions or statements related to the cost of attendance at institutions of higher education, rising tuition or “sticker prices,” or policies to make college more affordable for future students; 
    • student debt, i.e., questions or statements related to federal or private student loans, loan repayment and interest rates, student loan refinancing, student loan forgiveness, or policies to address student debt burdens for current students and borrowers; 
    • individual impacts of rising college costs or student debt, i.e., questions or statements related to personal, anecdotal, or hypothetical individual-level experiences with paying for college, taking out student loans of any kind, or navigating loan repayment, refinancing, or forgiveness;
    • macroeconomic, large-scale impacts of rising college costs or student debt, i.e., questions or statements related to general economic consequences of the national student debt burden, or general social or emotional impacts of struggling to afford college; and
    • a specific presidential candidate’s record, stances, or policy proposals related to college affordability, i.e., a policy proposal to reduce public college tuition, a proposal to refinance existing student loans, a candidate’s past statements about his or her own student loan debt, or a candidate’s record as a private citizen or a public servant related to college affordability. Additionally, we coded if the speaker was themselves a candidate at the time of their appearance. 

    Notably, of the 82 guests who spoke about these topics, 71 -- 87 percent -- discussed college affordability issues in conjunction with the records or stances of one or more presidential candidates. Fifty-seven percent discussed college costs, 32 percent discussed the macroeconomic impacts of student debt or rising college costs, 24 percent discussed possible solutions for climbing student debt, and 17 percent discussed specific individual impacts of struggling to pay for college.  

    Methodology

    Media Matters conducted a Nexis search of transcripts for evening programming on cable news channels Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC from July 1, 2015, through June 30, 2016, for mentions of any variations of the keywords college; student; school; university or universities; educate, education, or educator; degree; and graduate or graduation within 50 words of any variation of one of the following keywords: cost; affordable or affordability; tuition; debt; loan; and borrow or borrower.

    We included the following programs in the data: CNN's The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, Erin Burnett Outfront, Anderson Cooper 360, and CNN Tonight with Don Lemon; MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, All In with Chris Hayes, The Rachel Maddow Show, and The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell; and Fox News Channel's Special Report with Bret Baier, On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, The O’Reilly Factor, The Kelly File, and Hannity. We did not include Fox News’ The Five in the study because of the show's substantially different format and because it rarely has guests.

    For shows that air reruns, we included only the first airing in the data retrieval. For some dates, town hall events by presidential candidates or presidential primary debates pre-empted regular programming in whole or part. These events were not included as relevant segments, but discussions or interviews related to these events before or after their airing were included. Presidential town hall events presented as regular episodes of a program were also not included as relevant segments. Segments were also limited to interviews (live or pre-taped) and panel discussions. News packages, host monologues, and teasers for upcoming segments were not included.

    For this study, Media Matters included only those discussion-based segments where the stated topic of discussion was college costs, student debt, or other issues related to college affordability, or where the segment contained "substantial discussion" about these topics. We defined “substantial discussion” as a portion of a segment in which at least two speakers raised questions or made statements directly addressing college affordability issues.

    Qualifying segments were coded for timing. Media Matters reviewed and recorded time stamps for entire discussion-based segments when the stated topic of the segment was related to college affordability and for the portions of multitopic segments that featured substantial discussion of college affordability issues. Teasers, host monologues, news reports, and news packages introducing qualifying segments were not included in the final time count, as they do not constitute “discussion.” Commercial breaks were also not included in this count.

    For the purposes of this study, Media Matters defined a “guest” as any individual not affiliated with the program who was introduced and shown on camera during a segment in which substantial discussion of college affordability occurred. Program hosts, guest hosts, and network correspondents were not counted as guests, except in instances where a network host or correspondent appeared on a program other than their own specifically to engage in discussion (as opposed to delivering straight reporting). Individuals who did not engage in discussion of college affordability issues but participated in a larger, multitopic discussion that touched on these topics (such as a large panel) were counted as relevant guests, as they had the opportunity to discuss college affordability topics. Guest appearances were counted only once per segment.

    We coded all guests in a qualifying segment by name; gender; race and/or ethnicity; profession; generational age; whether they identified themselves as a current or recent student loan borrower; and what specific topics related to college affordability they discussed. Guests could be coded as belonging to more than one racial or ethnic group, or coded as “undetermined” if their racial/ethnic background was not publicly available through self-identifying statements, personal websites and social media, or media profiles. Similarly, guests’ ages were determined through a good faith search of publicly available information from personal online profiles and media profiles. We were able to determine 68 percent of guests’ ages through these means. We defined the age generations using Pew Research Center guidelines: The millennial generation included guests who were ages 18-34 in 2015, Generation X included guests ages 35-50 in 2015, Baby Boomers included guests ages 51-69 in 2015, and the Silent Generation included guests ages 70-87 in 2015.

    We used two independent coders to review segments and determine whether a guest identified him- or herself or was introduced in the course of the segment as a current or recent student loan borrower (having paid off loans within the last five years). It is possible some guests are current or recent student loan borrowers but are not included in this count, as they were not identified as such in the segment, and guests’ personal financial information is not typically publicly accessible.

    We also used two independent coders in reviewing all relevant segments to determine whether each guest spoke about the following topics related to college affordability:

    • college costs, i.e. questions or statements related to the cost of attendance at institutions of higher education, rising tuition or “sticker prices,” or policies to make college more affordable for future students;
    • student debt, i.e. questions or statements related to federal or private student loans, loan repayment and interest rates, student loan refinancing, student loan forgiveness, or policies to address student debt burdens for current students and borrowers;
    • individual impacts of college costs or student debt, i.e. questions or statements related to personal, anecdotal, or hypothetical individual-level experiences with paying for college, taking out student loans of any kind, or navigating loan repayment, refinancing, or forgiveness;
    • macroeconomic, large-scale impacts of college costs or student debt, i.e. questions or statements related to general economic consequences of the national student debt burden, or general social or emotional impacts of struggling to afford college.

    Guests could be coded as discussing more than one of the above topics in a single segment.

    Media Matters also reviewed segments for guest discussion of specific presidential candidates' records, stances, or policy proposals on issues related to college affordability. Guests were coded if they made any statement referring specifically to an individual candidate's record or policy proposals on any college affordability issue (e.g. plans to subsidizing college tuition, plans to reform student loans, past experiences with higher education costs), or if they directly responded to a question or assertion from another guest about a specific candidate. Guests could be coded for making statements about more than one candidate in a single segment. Guests who were also presidential candidates at the time of their appearances could be coded for making statements about their own records or stances on college affordability issues, as well as for making similar statements about other candidates. These guests were additionally coded as presidential candidates. A second coder was used for accuracy in making these determinations.  

    Rob Savillo helped shape the research design of this study, and Tyler Cherry and Bobby Lewis contributed to its implementation with segment review and coding. All graphics were made by Sarah Wasko.

  • Chicago Tribune Compares Teachers Union’s Strike Vote To Rigged Elections Of Infamous Dictators

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    The Chicago Tribune’s editorial board -- which has a long history of launching absurd, misinformed attacks on the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and its leadership -- targeted its latest editorial against the union’s vote to reauthorize a potential strike should current contract negotiations break down. The board accused union leaders of “intimidat[ing]” members into voting in favor of a strike, comparing the vote by petition to rigged elections of dictators Saddam Hussein and Kim Jung Un.

    The September 21 editorial, headlined “The Chicago Teachers Union’s vote charade,” attacked CTU leadership for conducting a strike reauthorization vote among its members by petition, claiming that the voting approach “falls into the See?-Everyone-Voted-For-Me school of electioneering.”

    The petition vote is actually a reauthorization measure that was designed, the union president explained, to “reinforce the democratic sentiment [the] union made last December when members voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike.” The December vote, which was conducted by secret ballot under stalled contract negotiation circumstances that have since changed little, showed that 88 percent of union members approved of striking. The current petition vote is mostly meant to re-energize members and fend off potential legal action from city or state officials by reinforcing the results of the initial vote, the union explained. The petition approach, which is significantly less costly than a secret ballot measure, was originally proposed by a rules committee of rank-and-file members and is in line with past union voting methods.

    These facts did not factor into the editorial board’s extreme criticism, which included citing “some famous examples” of what it called CTU’s “Big-Brother approach” to voting: 

    • In 1995, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein swept to victory with 99.96 percent of votes cast. (We shudder to think of what happened to the recalcitrant .04 percent.)
    • In 2014, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un reportedly notched an even more convincing victory — 100 percent — to confirm his leadership in the Supreme People's Assembly. No other name appeared on the ballot. Voters who (bravely or foolishly) sought to reject Kim would have had to do so in an open booth so everyone could see.
    • Even more convincing was the 1927 Liberian presidential triumph of Charles D.B. King with about 240,000 votes. The impressive part: Liberia only had about 15,000 registered voters.

    Suggesting that authorizing a teachers strike in Chicago would be akin to electing dictators and war criminals in rigged elections is irresponsible, illogical, and offensive. It is also just the latest in a years-long editorial smear campaign by the Tribune against CTU.

    The Tribune has repeatedly attacked the union’s members for organizing actions to push for a fair contract in what is now a nearly 18-month-long negotiation process centered around fair pay and adequate funding and resources for Chicago public schools. Since CTU’s long-expired contract was originally negotiated in 2012, the Chicago Tribune has frequently mocked union officials and bizarrely accused educators of undervaluing classroom time and throwing selfishtantrums” that hurt children.

    Image at top via Flickr user Spencer Tweedy using a Creative Commons License.

  • Trump's New Education Transition Team Has Corporate Dark-Money Ties

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Major education news outlet Education Week reported that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign has appointed two new staffers to his “presidential transition team for education”: the Hoover Institution’s Williamson Evers and the American Enterprise Institute’s (AEI) Gerard Robinson. Both Evers and Robinson are well-connected in the pro-privatization education policy sphere and affiliated with several groups devoted to weakening public schools.

    In a September 19 article, Education Week reported that multiple sources confirmed the addition of Evers and Robinson to Trump’s education transition team. Both Evers and Robinson have previously served in Republican administrations and are connected to prominent corporate- and dark-money-fueled groups in the education policy landscape. As Education Week explained:

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has picked Williamson M. Evers, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and Gerard Robinson, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, to be on his presidential transition team for education, according to multiple sources.

    Evers served as an assistant secretary for policy at the U.S. Department of Education from 2007 to 2009, and also was an adviser to former U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings in 2007 under President George W. Bush. Robinson served as Florida's education commissioner from 2011 to 2012, and has also served as Virginia's education secretary and as the president of the Black Alliance for Educational Options.

    The policies backed by Trump, Evers, and Robinson -- often cloaked in the language of so-called “school choice” -- have earned the support of corporate and private billionaire funders eager to profit off students, an interest Trump himself has pursued through his now-defunct and allegedly fraudulent Trump University business. Among education groups funded largely by right-wing dark money to drum up support for education privatization are three directly connected to Evers and Robinson.

    Evers is a research fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford University, which publishes the education policy journal Education Next and has received thousands in funding from the anti-union, right-wing Bradley Foundation to support a K-12 education “taskforce.” Evers’ work at the Hoover Institution has largely focused on his opposition to the Common Core State Standards and his conservative interpretation of the federal government’s limited role in shaping education policies. Trump has both egregiously misrepresented the standards and confused the parameters of federal education policy on the campaign trail, namely by repeatedly and incorrectly asserting that he would abolish the Common Core as president.

    Robinson is a resident fellow at the conservative right-wing think tank AEI, which has received millions in funding from conservative donors such as dark-money conduit DonorsTrust, the Charles Koch Foundation, and the Sarah Scaife Foundation, to support general operations and education-related research. AEI, “one of the country’s main bastions of neoconservatism,” frequently publishes education research defending voucher programs that drain money from public schools (similar to Trump’s recent education policy proposals) and online education programs that allow private companies to profit off students with little oversight. Robinson’s tenure at AEI has included Bradley Foundation-funded work on the “future of American society and the role education plays in it” and efforts to push a conservative view on racial justice in education across mainstream and right-wing media outlets.

    Robinson also previously led the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), a group that receives substantial funding from conservative donors to make the case for privatized educational policies as a means for racial equity. Both AEI and BAEO work closely with a number of other pro-privatization nonprofits and think tanks such as the anti-union American Federation for Children and the Koch-affiliated State Policy Network of right-wing think tanks.

    Evers’ and Robinson’s research and affiliations reveal a commitment to pro-education privatization policies that should come as no surprise -- they perfectly align with Trump’s support for expanding opportunities to open up the public school system to market competition and private, for-profit actors with little regulation. These recent appointments reveal the Trump campaign’s active desire to operate solidly within the “education reform” echo chamber built, funded, and fueled by dark-money conservative activists.

  • Journalists, Experts Unimpressed By Trump’s Education Plan

    ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump recently delivered an education-focused speech in Cleveland, OH, coupled with the release of what his campaign calls “new school choice policies.” As they have with Trump’s limited previous statements on education, education reporters and experts are pointing out that his proposals lack specifics, don’t reflect political realities, and show a lack of understanding about the federal government’s role in creating education policy. 

  • Fox News Celebrated Back-To-School Season This Year By Laughing At Students And Attacking Teachers

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Fox News marked the start of the school year with a predictable mix of attacks on public education, racial justice activism, and progressive policies, often launched by extreme-right commentators and campaign surrogates for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

    Fox Villainized “Stalinist” Teachers Unions On Air And Online

    Fox News hosts engaged in education discussions using the network’s typical approach: bashing teachers unions and attempting to drive a nonexistent wedge between educators’ priorities and the best interests of students.

    On Your World With Neil Cavuto, guest host Stuart Varney dismissed guest Tamara Holder’s attempts to substantively discuss a recent story about a state teachers union. The union decided to boycott a back-to-school promotion to draw attention to public school funding disparities. Before Holder, a Fox contributor, could speak about the boycott, Varney combatively accused Holder of wanting to “squash school choice.” Varney repeatedly interrupted Holder during the three-minute segment -- even after she implored, “Why are you so mad at [teachers unions] when they’re not doing anything other than fighting for more resources?” He concluded the segment by saying, “I’m really shocked that you won’t support school choice, that you support the Stalinist bureaucracy of the teachers union.”

    Meanwhile, FoxNews.com ran an opinion piece titled “If your child’s school is failing, thank a union” authored by Richard Berman -- a corporate lobbyist and the executive director of the Center for Union Facts, a dark-money-fueled organization that routinely smears labor unions. Berman rehashed the same tired, inaccurate attacks on both organized labor writ large and teachers unions specifically that have long clogged the airwaves at Fox. The piece equated the political spending of the two major national teachers unions -- the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, which together represent almost 5 million individuals -- with the spending of dark-money PACs funded by a small number of wealthy private donors. Berman’s organization does not publicly disclose its funders, though tax disclosures show the group has received substantial funding from anti-union “dark-money ATM” groups DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund, as well as the right-wing Bradley Foundation.

    A second opinion piece on FoxNews.com, written by Fox News “Medical A-Team” member Keith Ablow -- a longtime anti-LGBT “pop psychologist” who has recently attacked transgender teens -- was titled “Are your kids back in school? Time to apologize to them.” Ablow’s op-ed argued -- with zero evidence -- that “antiquated systems of tenure” and resistance to voucher programs have led to subpar schools. Ablow encouraged readers to “follow my lead and apologize to their kids for what passes as primary and secondary education in America.” Meanwhile, the majority of Americans believe their local public schools are performing well.

    Fox Figures Repurposed Racial Justice Arguments To Attack Progressives On Education

    On Hannity, frequent Fox guest and Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke -- a right-wing extremist who has previously called members of the Black Lives Matter movement “garbage” and Hillary Clinton a “cop hater” -- argued that progressive policies such as opposition to increasingly unpopular school voucher programs “have herded black people… onto that plantation called the American ghetto.”

    On The Five, co-hosts Kimberly Guilfoyle, Juan Williams, and Dana Perino, and guest co-host Jesse Watters, concluded that viable solutions to “social pathologies” in Milwaukee’s communities of color include African-Americans “step[ping] up to the plate” rather than playing “victims of Democratic policies,” and pushing efforts to “hold teachers accountable.” Perino mentioned that the NAACP opposed privately managed charter schools, prompting Williams to declare the position “unbelievable,” and Guilfoyle to conclude, “I don’t get that.”

    Days later, the co-hosts pivoted a discussion about Trump’s tweet about the Chicago shooting death of basketball star Dwyane Wade’s cousin to push right-wing myths. They used it to claim that even "school choice" cannot address challenges facing the black community, including the right-wing canard of “black-on-black crime.” They also dismissed the NAACP’s recent resolution calling for a halt in the expansion of privately managed charter schools.

    On The Record With Greta Van Susteren interviewed Trump surrogate and frequent Fox guest Rudy Giuliani about Trump’s attempted outreach to the African-American community, allowing Giuliani to spend nearly five minutes attacking the education stances of teachers unions and progressives and touting his own record on pushing privatization measures in New York City schools as mayor.

    Fox Hosts And Guests Laughed At Students’ Activism On Offensive Terminology: Should An Injured Horse “Get A Lawyer, Because The Horse Is Offended” By Being Called “Lame”?

    Fox host Kimberly Guilfoyle guest-hosted On The Record and interviewed a student leader at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee about students’ efforts to highlight offensive terms. After student Mike Fortello explained why using terms like “lame” or “gay” as negative descriptors can be hurtful to others, Guilfoyle bizarrely questioned whether Fortello’s logic would somehow mean a hypothetical horse with broken legs “should get a lawyer, because the horse is offended” by being called “lame.” Guilfoyle and her other guest, Ben Shapiro, ended the segment by talking over the student repeatedly, laughing, and insulting the university. In another On The Record guest host stint the following day, Guilfoyle gleefully reported on the University of Chicago’s rejection of trigger warning and safe space use, beginning a segment on the story by jokingly asking a network correspondent if he was “in a safe space to report this.”

    Later that week, campus sexual assault denier George Will joined Bret Baier in a panel discussion on Special Report to celebrate the University of Chicago’s decision not to “appease” students “we now call snowflakes, these fragile little creatures who melt at the first sign of the heat of controversy.” Panel members laughed at Will’s example of “committing cultural appropriation by wearing a sombrero or something of the sort.” Will was disinvited from a college campus speaking engagement and protested at several other campuses in 2014 following his comments that those who experience sexual assault enjoy “a coveted status” in society. He identified himself in the segment as “someone who’s been disinvited from a college campus, I’m delighted to say.”

    None of these segments acknowledged the serious reasons students -- particularly increasing numbers of students of color, women students, and first-generation college students -- may be seeking out safe spaces or conversations within campus learning environments.

  • Here Are The Details Media Ought To Report About Trump’s Cleveland School Visit 

    ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump delivered remarks on education policy at a Cleveland, OH, charter school September 8. Although Trump’s statements seemed to reflect somewhat vague centrist stances in favor of so-called "school choice" and accountability measures, media should pay attention to the context of Trump’s visit. The nominee appeared at a struggling school privately managed by a for-profit company led by an education privatization proponent with ties to the right-wing American Legislative Education Council (ALEC) and a track record that’s been criticized by even national charter school advocates. 

  • WSJ Pushes Flawed Talking Point That Teachers Unions Hurt Students Of Color

    ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    The Wall Street Journal editorial board’s response to a California court decision that declined to review a challenge to state teacher tenure laws framed support for educators’ labor rights as a move to “deny upward mobility to poor black and Hispanic children.” The editorial ignores ample evidence that strong unions benefit low-income students of color and their neighborhood schools by boosting teacher quality and contributing to more equitable school funding, and that teachers unions routinely support efforts to combat racial and class inequality beyond the classroom. 

  • TV News Misses Golden Opportunity To Recognize Title IX During Rio Olympics

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    As thousands of athletes from around the world descended on Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this summer to compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics, broadcast and cable news programming missed a golden opportunity to discuss the incredible legacy of the legislative reform largely responsible for the growth and success of women’s sports in the United States and around the world -- Title IX.

    One of the biggest stories coming out of the 2016 Summer Olympics was the sheer dominance of American athletes in general, and American women in particular. American swimmer Katie Ledecky and gymnast Simone Biles finished the games with four gold medals each (and five medals overall) and, at just 19 years old, they both are widely considered the most dominant athletes in their respective sports. Meanwhile, as the United States men’s basketball team struggled before coalescing in the gold medal match, the American women’s team blasted every opponent en route to a sixth consecutive Olympic championship.

    According to The New York Times, the United States brought home 121 medals from Rio, far outpacing China (70) and Great Britain (67) for first place, and became the first nation in 40 years to lead all nations in each medal category: gold, silver, and bronze. As was the case in 2012, more than half of that total medal haul (61) was won by American women, whose unparalleled athletic success would have been unlikely without the unique progressive legacy of the Title IX provision in federal education policy, which prevents sex discrimination in federally funded programs like school sports. From the Times:

    The United States is one of the few countries to embed sports within the public education system. And equal access to sports for women comes with legal protections, gained with the education amendment known as Title IX in 1972 and the Olympic and Amateur Sports Act in 1978.

    About one of every two American girls participates in sports in high school. Of the 213 American medalists in individual and team sports in Rio, according to the [United States Olympic Committee], nearly 85 percent participated in university-funded sports.

    “Those things don’t exist elsewhere in the world,” said Donna Lopiano, a former executive director of the Women’s Sports Foundation. “We have the largest base of athletic development. Our women are going to dominate, not only because of their legal rights but because women in other parts of the world are discriminated against.”

    Broadcast And Cable News Ignored Importance Of Title IX Despite Flood Of Olympic Coverage

    A Media Matters review of broadcast evening news coverage on ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS, as well as cable evening and prime-time coverage on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC between the days of the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2016 Summer Olympics revealed only two substantive mentions of Title IX as it relates to current or former American or international Olympians. A similar lack of interest was on display on the major Sunday political talk shows on ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox Broadcasting, and NBC.**

    A review of available Nexis transcripts from August 5 through August 21 returned 259 results mentioning the Olympics in Rio, including just two references to Title IX’s role in encouraging and supporting female athletes and women’s sports: NBC Nightly News and PBS NewsHour each mentioned the legislation during Olympic segments on August 18 and August 19, respectively. By contrast, there were dozens of mentions of American swimmer Ryan Lochte’s infamous and unsubstantiated story of being robbed at gunpoint outside a Rio gas station.

    Major print outlets including like The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and USA Today gave Title IX special attention in 2016, but their television counterparts once again dropped the ball. Title IX was also conspicuously absent from print and television coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympics, according to a February 2014 Media Matters analysis.

    Title IX’s Global Legacy At The Olympic Games

    As noted above, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which was authored by Sen. Birch Bayh (D-IN) and Rep. Patsy Mink (D-HI) and signed into law by President Richard Nixon, has left an indelible mark on women's sports over the past 44 years. But American women aren't the only beneficiaries of the legislation; Title IX’s prohibition against gender discrimination at most educational institutions is a major contributing factor in making American universities a magnet for athletes from around the world.

    Stanford University, the most successful athletic institution in the world this year in terms of Olympic medals, produced a number of American women medalists -- including burgeoning swimming stars Ledecky, Maya DiRado, and Simone Manuel. It also produced Greek pole vault gold medalist Katerina Stefanidi. If not for Ledecky, the most successful women’s swimmer of the summer would have been Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu, an alumna of the University of Southern California. (Controversial Russian swimmer and two-time silver medalist Yulia Efimova, though not an alumna of the school, is coached by Southern Cal head coach Dave Salo.) Bahamian sprinter Shaunae Miller, an alumna of the University of Georgia, edged out former Southern Cal sprinter Allyson Felix to win gold in the women’s 400-meter. Canadian swimmer Chantal van Landeghem, another Georgia alum, took home a bronze medal in the women’s 4x100-meter freestyle relay alongside teammate and Ohio State University graduate Michelle Williams. Canadian track and field star Brianne Theisen-Eaton, who won a bronze medal in the heptathlon, attended the University of Oregon.

    This is just a snapshot of the Title IX impact that was on display at the 2016 Summer Olympics, but broadcast and cable news almost completely ignored the success story, despite offering a torrent of Olympic-centered stories and features.

    Methodology

    Media Matters conducted a Nexis search of transcripts of evening and prime-time (defined as 5 p.m. through 11 p.m.) weekday programs on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC, and network broadcast news (ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS) from August 5, 2016, through August 21, 2016. Media Matters also reviewed Sunday political talk shows on ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox Broadcasting, and NBC during the same time period. We identified and reviewed all segments that included any of the following keywords: olympics or rio or title nine or title 9 or title ix.

    The following programs were included in the data: World News Tonight, This Week with George Stephanopoulos, CBS Evening News, Face the Nation, NBC Nightly News, Meet the Press**, PBS NewsHour, The Situation Room, Erin Burnett OutFront, Anderson Cooper 360, CNN Tonight, The Five, Special Report, On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, The O'Reilly Factor, The Kelly File, Hannity, MTP Daily, With All Due Respect, Hardball with Chris Matthews, All In with Chris Hayes, The Rachel Maddow Show, and The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell. For shows that air reruns, only the first airing was included in data retrieval.

    **NBCUniversal pre-empted Meet the Press on August 14 and August 21 to air exclusive coverage of the Olympics on NBC.

  • Mike Pence Set To Strengthen Ties To ALEC And Corporate-Driven Education Reform

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Republican vice presidential nominee and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is reportedly scheduled to speak Friday at the annual meeting for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which takes place in Indianapolis, IN, this year. The meeting, which typically determines the legislative priorities of the corporate-funded bill mill for the coming year, runs from July 27 through July 29. Pence was originally scheduled to speak at a July 27 ALEC event co-sponsored by the conservative-leaning Center for Education Reform but later pulled out, citing conflicts with the Trump-Pence campaign schedule. The Indianapolis Star reported that Pence rescheduled his ALEC appearance, however, and will speak at the annual meeting on July 29.

    ALEC is a corporate-fundedmembership organization that connects right-wing state legislators across the country with model legislation that represents “the principles of limited government, free markets and federalism” and corresponds with corporate interests on a given policy issue. ALEC’s corporate-minded -- and conservative -- model policies tackle issues from K-12 education to “academic freedom” in higher education, as well as tax reform, social programs, environmental and infrastructure policies, and health care. Its corporate-sponsored model legislation on education issues is heavily focused on scholarship tax credits, vouchers, and other “school choice” programs that would lessen support for traditional public school systems. In line with the right-wing agenda, ALEC is also behind so-called “right to work” legislation that severely weakens unions -- including teachers unions -- and has so far been adopted in 26 states, although the law was struck down as unconstitutional by a Wisconsin state court in April.

    ALEC is funded by several philanthropic organizations founded or supported by the oil billionaires David and Charles Koch -- including the Charles Koch Foundation, “dark money ATM" DonorsTrust, and Donors Capital Fund -- as well as several other staunchly right-wing private foundations. It boasts having “nearly 300 corporate and private foundation members,” who pay for memberships in order to influence the proposed model policies, and lists partnerships with several right-wing education privatization groups.

    Image by Sarah Wasko.

    Pence’s education policies as Indiana governor have closely mirrored ALEC priorities. In fact, Pence wrote the introduction to ALEC’s annual “Report Card on American Education” in 2014, which graded Indiana highest in the nation for education policy that year. In his introduction, Pence touted Indiana’s school voucher system, which boosts federal funding for students to attend private schools, a long-standing ALEC priority. A recent study, however, pegged Indiana’s voucher program -- now one of the largest in the country -- as an example where “negative effects of vouchers” were apparent in student performance.

    Pence also pointed to increased attendance at charter schools, which are publicly funded but independently operated, sometimes by private management companies with little oversight. ALEC supports policies, reflected in Pence’s education agenda, that boost charter funding and enrollment caps but can financially threaten traditional public schools. The group is reportedly focusing on legislative efforts to make charter school closures more difficult in the coming year.

    Pence has spoken at ALEC and other right-wing corporate reform events in the past, including delivering a keynote address at ALEC’s 2013 policy summit. In 2015, Pence spoke at an Indiana education rally held by the state political action committee Hoosiers for Quality Education. The rally was sponsored by controversial online charter company K12 Inc. (also a “proud” ALEC member) and several national education privatization groups -- some affiliated with the Kochs. These connections to right-wing education reform efforts represent only a facet of Pence’s reportedly close relationship with the Kochs and of his commitment to corporate-backed policies.

    ALEC’s annual meeting has sparked protests from Indiana teachers and lawmakers. State Rep. Robin Shackleford, a Democrat, explained, “For too many years, this organization has destroyed the character of public education in the name of choice at the detriment of our community.”

  • Conservative Media Attack Clinton Child Care Plan As Wasteful Spending, Ignoring Economic Boost For Working Families

    ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Conservative media have mischaracterized Hillary Clinton’s policy plan to expand funding and support for child care and early education programs, suggesting the presidential nominee is offering voters “goodies,” fearmongering about government overreach in preschool programs, and ignoring the economic boost that quality early learning programs can offer. Here are the facts about the short- and long-term economic benefits of supporting greater access to quality early education programs, particularly for single mothers and low-income families. 

  • Latest Editorial Proves The Wall Street Journal Will Defend Almost Any For-Profit Education Company 
     

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    The Wall Street Journal continued its streak of defending for-profit schools with track records of questionable practices and “abysmal results,” this time shifting its focus away from fraudulent for-profit colleges to attempt to sugarcoat the failing online charter company K12 Inc.

    The virtual charter school company K12 Inc. recently reached a $168.5 million settlement with the state of California following an investigation into the company’s marketing and management practices. At the same time, the state’s Education Department has announced an audit of a California virtual charter network managed by K12. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board was, once again, ready to dismiss facts and defend the for-profit education company against what the board views as a politically motivated attack, baselessly claiming that recently substantiated allegations against K12 are “trumped up.”

    The California state investigation into K12, launched by state Attorney General Kamala Harris, alleged that the company had engaged in a number of misleading advertising practices about the quality of its online schools, pushed unfair contracts on public charter partners, and inflated student attendance numbers in order to receive more state funding. It was spurred, at least in part, by a whistleblower report and complaints from educators formerly employed by a California charter network managed by K12. Educators at the K12-managed network moved to unionize in 2014, citing excessive workloads and inability to “effectively advocate for students without the threat of retaliation or job loss.”

    An investigative series at the San Jose Mercury News earlier this year concluded that K12’s network of schools “is failing key tests used to measure educational success,” that K12-affiliated “teachers have been asked to inflate attendance and enrollment records used to determine taxpayer funding,” and that the company “exploits charter [and] charity laws for money.” An online education expert explained to The Mercury News that K12 “has shown an inordinate level of failure, yet it’s continually given lifelines by policymakers who have irresponsibly ignored what’s going on.”

    Yet the Journal contended that another audit of K12’s management practices “looks trumped up” in a July 17 editorial. Complaining about K12’s settlement with the state of California, the editorial board characterized the investigation of K12 as part of a larger “coordinated assault” on for-profit colleges and education companies and claimed that “Democrats are ambushing” the virtual charter school company. According to the editorial board, the further audit of K12 means “Thuggish government marches on.”

    The disastrous results of K12’s schooling model have also been well-documented in media investigations and in research from left-leaning and right-leaning organizations. A New York Times investigation raised red flags about K12’s practices as early as 2011, concluding about the company:

    A look at the company’s operations, based on interviews and a review of school finances and performance records, raises serious questions about whether K12 schools — and full-time online schools in general — benefit children or taxpayers, particularly as state education budgets are being slashed.

    Instead, a portrait emerges of a company that tries to squeeze profits from public school dollars by raising enrollment, increasing teacher workload and lowering standards.

    A 2011 Washington Post report singled out K12’s early lobbying efforts and political contributions, pointing to limited data on the effectiveness of virtual charter schools even as the company successfully opened up state markets for its products through political involvement. In 2012, PolitiFact concluded that a Tennessee politician’s assertion that K12’s results were “the bottom of the bottom” was true.

    The most recent reports from Mathematica Policy Research, Stanford University’s Center for Research in Education Outcomes, and the Center on Reinventing Public Education concluded that “students of online charter schools had significantly weaker academic performance in math and reading, compared with their counterparts in conventional schools.” BuzzFeed News’ coverage of the reports concluded that “Both Sides Of The Education Debate Are United In Scorn” for online charters like K12 due to “abysmal results” for students.

    But K12 has the corporate and conservative credentials to warrant a healthy defense from The Wall Street Journal.

    K12 Inc., until recently, called itself a “proud” member of the corporate-driven bill mill American Legislative Education Council (ALEC), which has pushed virtual schools legislation that would create greater demand for products like those produced by K12. K12 has also contributed financially to the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a pro-privatization think tank founded by Jeb Bush that also frequently touts digital learning tools in its policy recommendations. The majority of K12’s executives hail from the corporate world or from other for-profit education companies, and the head of K12’s “curriculum and products organization” previously spearheaded product development at Pearson Publishing.

    The Journal has a long history of defending the sometimes indefensible when it comes to for-profit educational companies, often relying on violent analogies to make its point.

    The paper stood by shuttered for-profit college chain Corinthian Colleges, even as the company faced multiple state and federal investigations related to its allegedly fraudulent marketing practices and its efforts to facilitate predatory private lending. In fact, the Journal’s editorial board characterized the numerous investigations, launched because of consumer complaints, as “political revenge” by “California job killer” Kamala Harris and a “drive-by shooting” and “contract hit” by the Obama administration. In April 2015, as the company closed its last remaining campuses, The Wall Street Journal wrote a “last rites” editorial lamenting that “the feds and Kamala Harris put 16,000 students on the street.” The now-defunct company has been held legally responsible for its practices, with several investigations and legal actions concluding that Corinthian had, indeed, misled its students about job placement rates and private loan terms, and that former students were owed debt relief.

    The Journal has also repeatedly characterized efforts to address these types of fraudulent practices at other for-profit institutions as “regulatory assault,” a “ploy to win over millennials,” a “contract hit” (again), and a political “stealth attack” akin to “drone strikes,” dismissing evidence that these types of schools have taken advantage of veterans and servicemembers, as well as other innocent students, on the taxpayers’ dime.