Movement

Public Funds Public Schools

Website:

https://pfps.org/

Director:

Tamerlin Godley

Public Funds Public Schools (PFPS) is a teachers’ union-aligned campaign started by the controversial left-wing extremism watchdog Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), its affiliated SPLC Action Fund, the teachers’ union-funded litigation group Education Law Center, and the law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson.[1]  Its seeks to prohibit taxpayer funds from providing any support to private schools by filing lawsuits, monitoring school voucher proposals in state legislatures, and supporting research that condemns school voucher programs.[2]

Background

Public Funds Public Schools is a teachers’ union-aligned campaign attacking voucher programs that are designed to assist students and their families, especially those who do not otherwise have the financial means, to attend private schools. Public Funds Public Schools was jointly founded by the controversial left-progressive Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the teachers’ union-funded Education Law Center (ELC).[3]

PFPS was announced by the SPLC and ELC with separate posts to their organizational websites on September 2019.[4] [5] SPLC Action Fund, the SPLC’s electoral and lobbying arm, is also a PFPS backer.[6] The law firm Munger, Tolles & Olsen is a participant in PFPS; it serves as the organization’s primary legal partner.[7]

Because of the joint founding of PFPS by its several parent organizations, the legal filings, opposition letters, and program funding are often driven by many or all of the founding organizations. As well, PFPS shares an office with Education Law Center in New Jersey, and PFPS founder Tamerlin Godley is a litigation partner at Munger, Tolles & Olson. [8]

Leadership

The director of Public Funds Public Schools is Jessica Levin, a senior attorney for the Education Law Center.[9] Outside of her role, the leadership structure of PFPS is relatively obscure. The “about” page located on the organization’s website focuses on the participation of its founding organizations, and it does not list a board of directors or managing officers.[10]

Munger, Tolles & Olsen partner Tamerlin Godley is one of the most visible participants in PFPS activities. In the amicus brief the organization issued in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, a challenge to Montana’s “Blaine Amendment” that barred providing tuition assistance to students attending religious schools,[11] Tamerlin Godley served as the counsel of record.[12] The brief was published with the assistance of fellow Munger attorneys Jessica Reich Baril and April Youpee-Roll, alongside the ELC’s Jessica Levin and Wendy Lecker.[13]

On March 2, 2020, Public Funds Public Schools reported that its parent groups SPLC and Education Law Center would be representing plaintiffs alongside the ACLU’s Tennessee state affiliate in a lawsuit challenging the Tennessee Education Savings Account program as unconstitutional. [14] [15]

PFPS supported a March 19, 2020 letter written by the Utah Education Association teachers’ union to Utah Governor Gary Herbert (R) requesting that he veto HB 332, a proposal to create a tax-credit school voucher for students with disabilities. [16]

PFPS published a report in February 2020 criticizing the allocation of funds for schools in New York. The report claims a $3.6 billion shortfall for public schools in New York based on claims by Foundation Aid Formula, which has been criticized for flawed measurements of fund allocations for public schools. [17] [18]

PFPS published a policy brief in January 2020 criticizing private school vouchers in Mississippi. The bill, SB 2695, included provisions for an Education Savings Account for students with disabilities. [19] [20]

Public Funds Public Schools submitted an amicus curiae brief on November 5, 2019 along with its parent organizations to the United States Supreme Court, arguing that student achievement is harmed when funds are dispersed to both public and private schools in Montana. The case was ultimately decided for the challengers and against the state’s and PFPS’s position, with the court finding in June 2020 that it was unconstitutional to ban religious schools from accessing the same institutional aid offered to other private schools.[21]

On December 27, 2019, PFPS filed an amicus curiae brief urging the Michigan Supreme Court to undo existing Michigan law allowing for state funding of private schools. [22]

On April 16, 2019, PFPS filed an amicus curiae brief along with National Education Association and Maine Education Association teachers’ unions in support of a decision to deny tuition funding for religious schools in Maine. [23] [24]

PFPS opposed a 2017 bill in Arizona allowing for an Education Savings Account limited to students with disabilities, Native Americans, and students in low-performing schools. Another proposed expansion of Arizona’s Education Savings Account came in 2019 to include students from low income families and students who have been victims of harassment and crime. PFPS expressed opposition to this proposal as well, and the bill eventually failed. [25]

PFPS supported the efforts of teachers’ unions in West Virginia and Kentucky to augment efforts to divert funds away from private schools and cited labor unions as “one of the most effective ways to stop private school voucher proposals.” [26]

Teachers’ Union Associations

Both Southern Poverty Law Center and Education Law Center, the organizations behind the Public Funds Public Schools campaign, have taken funding from teachers’ unions that oppose school choice efforts that threaten the unions’ de facto monopoly on education policy. The National Education Association provided SPLC with $10,000 in 2018.[27] Education Law Center has taken hundreds of thousands in from teachers unions, including $540,000 from the New Jersey Education Association in 2017-18;[28] $100,000 from the American Federation of Teachers in 2018-19;[29] and $125,000 from the NEA in 2017-18.[30]

References

  1. “Tamerlin J. Godley.” Munger Tolles & Olson. LLP. 2020. Accessed April 4, 2020. https://www.mto.com/lawyers/tamerlin-j-godley ^
  2. “Private School Voucher Analysis of 2019 State Legislative Session.” Public Funds Public Schools. November 26, 2019. Accessed April 4, 2020. https://pfps.org/private-school-vouchers-analysis-of-2019-state-legislative-sessions.html ^
  3. White, John C. “Give Vouchers Time: Low-Income Families Need as Many Quality School Options as Possible.” Brookings. Brookings, August 3, 2016. https://www.brookings.edu/research/give-vouchers-time-low-income-families-need-as-many-quality-school-options-as-possible/. ^
  4. “NEW CAMPAIGN TO FIGHT VOUCHERS, PROTECT PUBLIC EDUCATION.” Education Law Center. Education Law Center, September 10, 2019. https://edlawcenter.org/news/archives/vouchers/new-campaign-to-fight-vouchers,-protect-public-education.html. ^
  5. “SPLC, Education Law Center Launch New Campaign to Fight Vouchers, Protect Public Education.” Southern Poverty Law Center. SLPC, September 10, 2019. https://www.splcenter.org/presscenter/splc-education-law-center-launch-new-campaign-fight-vouchers-protect-public-education. ^
  6. “What Is the SPLC Action Fund?” Southern Poverty Law Center. Accessed August 3, 2020. https://www.splcenter.org/what-splc-action-fund. ^
  7. “About.” Public Funds Public Schools. Accessed August 3, 2020. https://pfps.org/about.html. ^
  8. “Tamerlin J. Godley.” Munger Tolles & Olson. LLP. 2020. Accessed April 4, 2020. https://www.mto.com/lawyers/tamerlin-j-godley ^
  9. “PFPS Statement on Trump Administration’s Announcement of Push to Fund Private Schools.” Southern Poverty Law Center, July 10, 2020. https://www.splcenter.org/presscenter/pfps-statement-trump-administrations-announcement-push-fund-private-schools. ^
  10. “About.” Public Funds Public Schools. Accessed August 3, 2020. https://pfps.org/about.html. ^
  11. Barnes, Aurora. “Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue,” ScotusBlog. 2020. https://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/espinoza-v-montana-department-of-revenue/. ^
  12. “BRIEF OF AMICUS CURIAE PUBLIC FUNDS PUBLIC SCHOOLS IN SUPPORT OF RESPONDENTS.” United States Supreme Court. November 15, 2019. Accessed April 4, 2020. https://pfps.org/assets/uploads/PFPS_Espinoza_Amicus_Brief.pdf ^
  13. “BRIEF OF AMICUS CURIAE PUBLIC FUNDS PUBLIC SCHOOLS IN SUPPORT OF RESPONDENTS.” United States Supreme Court. November 15, 2019. Accessed April 4, 2020. https://pfps.org/assets/uploads/PFPS_Espinoza_Amicus_Brief.pdf ^
  14. Parents sue Tennessee to block unconstitutional voucher law. WATN-TV. March 2, 2020. Accessed April 4, 2020. https://www.localmemphis.com/article/news/education/parents-sue-tennessee-to-block-unconstitutional-voucher-law/522-5b5c9852-b463-435b-af0f-8b59499b1397 ^
  15. “Parents Sue Tennessee To Block Unconstitutional Voucher Law.” Public Funds Public Schools. March 2, 2020. Accessed April 4, 2020. https://pfps.org/parents-sue-tennessee-to-block-unconstitutional-voucher-law.html ^
  16. “UEA Letter to Governor Herbert.” Utah Education Association. March 19, 2020. Accessed April 4, 2020. https://www.myuea.org/sites/utahedu/Uploads/files/Politics/2020%20Under%20the%20Dome/UEA%20Letter%20to%20Governor%20Herbert%20RE%20HB332%20Sub%203.pdf ^
  17. “New York Can’t Afford It.” Public Funds Public Schools. February 2020. Access April 4, 2020. https://pfps.org/assets/uploads/PFPS_NY_Private_Aid_Report_2.27.20.pdf ^
  18. “Problems with the Foundation Aid Formula – Changes must be made to Create Greater Equity.” The Statewide School Finance Consortium. September 2012. Accessed April 4, 2020. http://www.statewideonline.org/conf/problemsrecommendationsfoundationaidformula092012.pdf ^
  19. “Education Scholarship Account.” Mississippi Department of Education. 2020. Accessed April 4, 2020.  https://www.mdek12.org/OSE/ESA ^
  20. “Invest in Public Schools: End ineffective Private School Voucher Programs.” Public funds Public Schools. January 2020. Accessed April 4, 2020. https://pfps.org/assets/uploads/PFPS_Policy_Brief_–_MS_School_Vouchers.pdf ^
  21. Liptak, Adam. “Supreme Court Gives Religious Schools More Access to State Aid,” June 30, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/30/us/supreme-court-religious-schools-aid.html. ^
  22. “BRIEF FOR AMICUS CURIAE PUBLIC FUNDS PUBLIC SCHOOLS” State of Michigan in the Supreme Court. December 27, 2019. Accessed April 4, 2020. https://pfps.org/assets/uploads/CAP_v._MI_-_PFPS_Amicus_Supreme_Ct_received_12.27.19.pdf ^
  23. “Amicus Brief Supports Maine’s Decision Not to use Public Funding on sectarian Schools.” Education Law Center. April 16, 2019. Accessed April 4, 2020. https://edlawcenter.org/news/archives/vouchers/amicus-brief-supports-maines-decision-not-to-use-public-funding-on-sectarian-schools.html ^
  24. “Brief Amicus Curiae of Public Funds Public Schools, National Education Association, and Maine Education Association in Support of Defendant Makin’s Motion for Summary Judgment.” United States District Court, District of Maine, Bangor Division. April 8, 2019. Accessed April 4, 2020. .https://edlawcenter.org/assets/files/pdfs/Charters%20and%20Vouchers/2019_4.5%20carson%20amicus%20-final.pdf ^
  25. “Private School Vouchers: An Unsuccessful Effort to Overturn the Will of Voters in Arizona and Growing Suburban Opposition in Texas.” Public Funds Public Schools. December 10, 2019. Accessed April 4, 2020. https://pfps.org/private-school-vouchers-an-unsuccessful-effort-to-overturn-the-will-of-voters-in-arizona-and-growing-suburban-opposition-in-texas.html ^
  26. “Private School Vouchers: The Impact of Educator Activism in West Virginia and Kentucky” Public funds Public Schools. December 16, 2019. Accessed April 4, 2020. https://pfps.org/private-school-vouchers-the-impact-of-educator-activism-in-west-virginia-and-kentucky.html ^
  27. National Education Association, Labor Organization Annual Report (Form LM-2), 2018, Schedule 17 https://olms.dol-esa.gov/query/orgReport.do?rptId=685545&rptForm=LM2Form ^
  28. New Jersey Education Association, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990), 2017, Schedule I ^
  29. American Federation of Teachers, Labor Organization Annual Report (Form LM-2), 2019, Schedule 15 https://olms.dol-esa.gov/query/orgReport.do?rptId=710571&rptForm=LM2Form ^
  30. National Education Association, Labor Organization Annual Report (Form LM-2), 2018, Schedule 17 https://olms.dol-esa.gov/query/orgReport.do?rptId=685545&rptForm=LM2Form ^
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