Jay-Z gets dragged online for pushing Jeff Yass-backed private school plan

Rapper Jay-Z is being dragged online after it was reported his Roc Nation media company will throw its weight behind a conservative effort to promote attendance at Philadelphia private schools rather than public ones. 

Late last week, the mogul (aka Shawn Carter) received a lot of favorable press that portrayed Roc Nation’s support as a boon for underprivileged kids. 

As NBC News 10 in Philly reported

On Friday, the organization announced plans for an educational campaign for Philadelphia that will secure about $300 million in scholarships for kids in grades K-12 from low-income households so they can attend one of the city’s array of private schools. The organization will host a series of events across the region from June 10 through June 21 aiming to educate the public and share information about the Pennsylvania Award for Student Success (PASS) — also known as Senate Bill 757. The legislation aims to increase education opportunities for underprivileged youth attending the state’s lowest-performing public schools.

A spokesperson from Roc Nation said in a news release that its goal is “to empower the youth and families with the knowledge to pursue their scholastic dreams, make their voices heard and become the leaders of tomorrow.”

But a closer look at the details paints a more complicated — and controversial — picture. As some on social media have noted, the program supported by Roc Nation is not so much “securing scholarships” as funneling public funds to Pennsylvania’s private and charter schools.

This effort is being led by conservative lawmakers and activists in the state, including billionaire businessman and Trump-backer Jeff Yass. Yass, who’s from Pennsylvania, has made the anti–public school agenda (sometimes referred to as “school choice”) his No. 1 issue, according to CNBC. The billionaire TikTok investor is a major funder of groups like the conservative Commonwealth Foundation, that have advocated for the PASS program, which would fund vouchers to allow students from underprivileged communities to attend charter and private schools. 

Similar voucher plans, like Arizona’s voucher program, have faced backlash for failing in their promises to cut costs and to benefit underprivileged students.

Longtime education reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones helped to explain on X why favorable reports about Jay-Z’s involvement were misguided. “It is a lie that these programs do not take from public-school funding. Fewer kids in the classroom means fewer dollars to the school,” she posted. “This is a windfall to the city’s private schools at the expense of the public ones that most kids attend.”

“This ain’t it,” said the account for the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Federation of Teachers in reaction to the Roc Nation news. Its post included a picture of Carter and Yass together at a black tie event.

Voucher programs like the one Carter and Yass are backing align with key education priorities outlined in Project 2025, the conservative plan to transfigure the U.S. government if Donald Trump is elected in November.

That Jay-Z is trying to give this school voucher initiative a veneer of activism should come as no surprise. This is the same man who discouraged players from kneeling during the national anthem in protest of racial inequality after the NFL entered a business deal with Roc Nation. The same person who none other than activist Harry Belafonte took to task for having “turned their back on social responsibility.”

As I wrote last week, Republicans these days are eager to use rappers to promote their right-wing agenda. And in this case, they seem to have found willing participants in Jay-Z and Roc Nation.

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