Press Release: Cascade Policy Institute Responds to Challenges from the Center for Media and Democracy

November 14, 2013

For immediate release

Contact: John A. Charles, Jr.

(503) 242-0900

 Cascade Policy Institute Responds to Challenges from the Center for Media and Democracy

PORTLAND, ORE. – A self-described “progressive watchdog group” has launched a questionable campaign to discredit limited government, free-market oriented public policy research groups across the country, including Oregon’s own Cascade Policy Institute.

Taking a page out of the late Chicago community organizer Saul Alinsky’s book, Rules for Radicals, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) is personally attacking both those who work for and those who help fund these organizations.

Two of the Rules for Radicals state: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon” and “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” CMD is following both these rules by posting supposedly inflammatory information and accusations on its derisively named website,

Oregonian senior political reporter Jeff Mapes wrote a story yesterday about CMD’s claim that Cascade Policy Institute “…and dozens of like-minded think tanks around the country receive major funding from secretive national donors to push a conservative agenda.”

Cascade’s president, John A. Charles, Jr. responded, saying, “It is ludicrous to think that Cascade is operating in lockstep with other organizations to promote any specific policy agenda. As a free-market think tank, we don’t believe in central planning, either in government or in the non-profit sector.”

Charles continued, “We set our own research agenda, approved by an Oregon-based board of trustees, which promotes individual liberty, economic opportunity, and personal responsibility.”

As to the charge that some of Cascade’s funding comes from a group of “secretive donors,” Charles notes that the IRS allows anonymity for donors to non-profit 501(c)(3) organizations, including charities, schools, churches, think tanks, and others.

“We respect the privacy of our donors, whether they are large national funders or the individual Oregonians that make up the bulk of Cascade’s supporters. Contrary to the mistaken belief of CMD, we don’t promote the agenda of our donors; they voluntarily choose to support our agenda of personal and economic freedom.”

Charles noted in conclusion, “The timing of this attack is almost comical given the disastrous rollout of ObamaCare. Now more than ever, the country needs public policies that respect the dignity of individuals to run their own lives. Cascade will continue to be the leading voice for self-governance in Oregon, and we welcome financial support from donors regardless of where they live.”


Press Release: Angry Protesters Reject Proposals for Employees’ Freedom to Choose

For Immediate Release

Media Contact

Patrick Schmitt,


Angry protesters reject proposals for
employees’ freedom to choose

Attendees and Speaker Harassed at Northwest Employee Freedom Event

VANCOUVER, Wa. – Several dozen union protesters marched outside Clark College’s Columbia Tech Center in Vancouver on Thursday evening. The hostile group tried to block attendees from entering the event venue scheduled to hold the first Northwest Employee Freedom One Night Event, jointly sponsored by Cascade Policy Institute of Portland, Oregon and The Freedom Foundation of Olympia, Washington.

After yelling, harassing, and shoving event attendees and organizers, protesters entered the venue and began shouting and using bullhorns to disrupt the event. The keynote speaker, Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s labor expert Vincent Vernuccio, was also spat on by a protester. The Vancouver Police Department was called and escorted protesters out of the event center. The two who refused to leave were arrested for trespassing.

This peaceful gathering of Washingtonians and Oregonians was meant to educate them on the story of how Michigan secured the freedom for all of its public and private sector employees to choose whether or not they want to be represented by a union without financial consequences.

“This kind of behavior is most saddening because it shows a real lack of understanding of what Cascade Policy Institute wants for Oregon,” said Cascade founder Steve Buckstein.

“We do not seek to end unions or union representation. We simply want all Oregonians to have the right to choose whether or not union membership and representation is something they desire for themselves,” he said. “All Oregonians deserve that right, even those who reject our efforts.”

“At the end of the day, this is a fight for freedom and justice. No amount of harassment or intimidation will change that fact,” he ended.

Photos from the event, including images of protesters and arrests, can be found here:


Giving Parents a Choice and Children a Chance

A helping hand makes all the difference to elementary school children who need a chance. Last spring I attended a luncheon at Central Catholic High School in Portland to honor graduating seniors with athletic scholarships to college. I was invited by a young man who began to be sponsored by the Children’s Scholarship Fund-Portland when he was in grade school.

“I have learned that nothing’s going to be handed to you and that you’ll succeed through hard work,” Kidus told me. “[Private school] was challenging, but it has gotten me ready for college and life.”

One of Central Catholic’s star basketball players, Kidus now attends Portland State University and plays for the Vikings. He was able to attend private schools because of scholarship assistance from caring Oregonians.

January 22-28 is the second annual National School Choice Week. A collaboration of more than 200 organizations across the country, National School Choice Week highlights the need for effective educational options for all children, especially those most in need of increased educational opportunity. Participating groups believe parents should be empowered to choose the best educational environments for their children and support a variety of school choice options, including increased access to high-performing public schools, public charter schools, magnet schools, virtual schools, private schools, and homeschooling.

Scholarship programs like the Children’s Scholarship Fund-Portland help put private and parochial schools within the reach of elementary children like Kidus. Because of the Children’s Scholarship Fund and its local partner programs, more than 123,000 low-income children nationwide have attended the private and parochial schools of their parents’ choice. In fact, the Children’s Scholarship Fund is the only national K-8 scholarship organization in the country, providing help and hope to kids who are eager to learn and to achieve.

Believing that every child, regardless of family income, should have access to a quality education, Ted Forstmann and John Walton cofounded the Children’s Scholarship Fund in New York City in 1998. Forstmann and Walton challenged local donors across the country to join them in funding the initial 40,000 K-12 scholarships worth $200 million. The Children’s Scholarship Fund remains the country’s largest charity helping parents to send their children to the schools of their choice.

Here in Oregon, local donors made pledges sufficient for Cascade Policy Institute to launch a $2 million CSF partner program, the Children’s Scholarship Fund-Portland, which has given more than 600 students a “hand up.” “CSF-Portland scholars” have chosen a diverse range of Oregon private and parochial schools, but they are united in their gratitude to each and every benefactor who made their individual dreams come true.

To be eligible for scholarship assistance, families must have incomes low enough that they would qualify for the Federal Free and Reduced Price Lunch Program; but every parent must pay part of their children’s tuition themselves. Making the scholarship a “hand up,” rather than a “handout,” ensures that parents stay engaged with their children’s education, a key component of student success. In fact, CSF-Portland parents pay, on average, more than half the cost of their tuition (they pay $1,900 per child this year). By choosing to pay for private education, they forgo the $10,000-per-child which Oregon currently spends on public education in favor of a better chance for their children.

CSF-Portland scholarships average only $1,700 per child, but this often makes the difference between children attending a public school where they are not thriving or a private school where they are. Scholarships are funded by local donors here in Oregon, whose gifts are matched by the national Children’s Scholarship Fund in New York, so a $100 gift to CSF-Portland can sponsor a low-income child’s tuition for a month.

Ted Forstmann said, “Every child, regardless of their parents’ income, should have access to a quality education – an education that will not only prepare them for successful private lives, but help them to build cohesive communities and a strong democracy. We believe if you give parents a choice, you will give their children a chance.”

He also truly believed, “If you save one life, you save the world.” While Americans engage in necessary debates on education reform, we cannot wait to help the children sitting in classrooms today. The Children’s Scholarship Fund-Portland empowers lower-income Oregon children to get a “hand up” early in life through a quality elementary education, a simple step that puts kids with limited choices on a path to success that gets them “ready for life.”

Cascade’s School Choice Beginnings

Why is school choice such an important part of Cascade Policy Institute’s agenda? Partially, because it is the issue that got us started back in 1991.

In 1990 a small group, including myself, got together and placed a citizen initiative on Oregon’s ballot. Measure 11 would have provided refundable tax credits to every K-12 student in the state, which they could use to attend any public, private, religious, or home school of their choice. No state had ever voted on such a sweeping reform before, and we felt it was time for Oregon to lead the way.

We gathered over 130,000 signatures to place our measure on the ballot, more than any other measure that year. We raised over $500,000 from Oregonians and donors around the country to get the school choice message out in our state.

But on election night that November, we came up short. We only earned about one-third of the vote for our school choice measure. That didn’t surprise us, because through polling we realized that school choice was a new concept to most people, and it was easy for our opponents to scare voters into saying No.

Before the votes had even been tallied, we began thinking about how we could move our school choice agenda forward in the future. We decided that Oregon needed a free-market think tank to advocate for school choice as well as other limited government ideas. That’s why, barely two months after Measure 11 lost at the polls, we incorporated Cascade Policy Institute in January 1991.

In the 21 years that have now passed, we have made some significant progress on the school choice front. We worked hard to introduce the charter school concept in the state in the mid-1990s. By 1999 the Oregon legislature passed, and in his first administration Governor Kitzhaber signed, a charter school bill that has now resulted in more than 100 public charter schools operating in the state.

Also in 1999 we evolved from just talking about school choice to actually providing choice to hundreds of low-income kids in the Portland area through our Children’s Scholarship Fund-Portland program. We initially raised $1 million of private money that was matched by $1 million nationally to provide partial scholarships to over 500 kids for four years at the schools of their choice. The fact that over 6,600 kids applied for those 500 slots demonstrated that the demand for school choice is great in Oregon. We can’t help them all, so we continue to advocate for broader programs that will.

In 2011 Governor Kitzhaber 2.0 signed three school choice bills as part of an education reform package, including expansion of online charter schools, more options to sponsor new charter schools, and open enrollment between public school districts.

We will continue bringing national speakers to the state, talking about the benefits of school choice elsewhere. And we will continue to bring realistic school choice funding proposals to the legislature in the hope that soon a majority of both houses will agree that we can’t wait any longer to provide real school choice for most Oregon children.

Cascade won’t stop advocating for school choice until every student in the state has the real choices they deserve. We appreciate the help of everyone who shares our vision of a freer, better education system in Oregon. It can’t come too soon.