Policy Watch reporter Sarah Ovaska is out with a new Policy Watch Investigates piece this morning that examines some troubling links between a Rutherford County public charter school and an ultra-conservative, out-of-state philanthropist and political activist. Here’s the opening:
“The Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy, a public charter school in Rutherford County, is quick to promote the school’s high SAT test scores and international field trips to China, Europe and South America.
But not as widely advertised is the Western North Carolina public school’s connection to John Bryan, a retired Oregon business executive and significant funder of the conservative school choice movement.
Nor is the school’s annual diaper drive for a local anti-abortion religious group, an activity that an expert says violates the Constitutional separation of church and state.
Bryan’s $37 million family trust, the Challenge Foundation, contributes heavily and regularly to conservative causes like challenging global warming research and scaling back government in addition to lending its name to public schools like the Thomas Jefferson charter school.
He’s a national figure in libertarian circles when it comes to charter schools, and spoke last June about the push to expand charter schools at an annual retreat held by the billionaire Koch brothers, according to a copy of the retreat’s agenda
 obtained by the Center for American Progress.
The connection between Bryan, charter schools and his giving to conservative, limited government causes isn’t surprising to David Faunce, a board member of Thomas Jefferson.
‘He’s an advocate for school choice and that’s where you tend to find the school choice movement, in those organizations,’ Faunce said.”