When most people hear about Teach for America, they think of an organization that recruits bright young college students, gives them five weeks of training, then collects big bucks from school districts that hire the kids for a two-year gig.

What is not well known is that TFA has a political operation that trains its loyal recruits to get involved in elections, to run for local and state school boards or legislative seats or even higher office.

With its free-market orientation, TFA has become a major political player on the right, especially on education issues, where they advance school choice and undermine teacher professionalism and unions. Their goal is to capture political power for the privatization agenda.

Laura Chapman here presents her review of TFA’s political action arm, Leadership for Educational Excellence:

“Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE) was founded in 2007 as a 501(c)4 spin-off of Teach for America. It offers coaching for Teach for America alumni or staff, and networking for TFA alumni who are interested in elected office and other leadership positions. Candidates for elected office receive support up to the legal limits for in-kind contributions, at no charge to the candidate. LEE offers political and policy fellowships for current and former TFA alums.

“LEE Foundation provides grants to conduct LEE educational events, sponsor internships and fellowships. It also commissions white papers and toolkits to guide dialogue with the general public and others in the education and policy arenas.

“On January 12, 2016, Marketwired reported that Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE), has a new program and “the first cohort of nine “Venture Fellows” who will push for expanded school choice, described as an effort by entrepreneurs to “end educational inequity.” Here are some briefs on the winners.

“Milagros Barsallo, and Veronica Palmer, RISE Colorado. The RISE website is a case study in non-disclosure of any activities other than fundraising and organizing “families” to lobby for choice in schools.

“Nicole Baker Fulgham, The Expectations Project, Nicole is also an Aspen Institute Education Fellow and Mind Trust Education Entrepreneur Fellow who regularly speaks at faith-based and education conferences. Christianity Today Magazine named her one of the 50 Women Leaders Influencing the Church and Culture (2012. The New Schools Venture Fund named her the Entrepreneur to Watch (2014).

“The Expectations Project website is under construction but it says: “There are more than 300,000 places of worship across America compared with roughly 50,000 high-poverty public schools, struggling to meet student needs — a ratio of 6 to 1. “Imagine what might be possible if just a handful of people in each of these congregations took it on themselves to ensure the students in these schools had faithful advocates looking out for their best interests. We believe that the academic achievement gap in U.S. public education can be closed in our lifetimes, but only if people of faith open their hearts, roll up their sleeves, and get to work on behalf of students.”

“The Expectations Project website has a whisper link to WeWork Wonder Bread Factory, a co-working space in Washington DC. That link took me directly to a report titled: ”DR. JEFFRY WOODS ON THE RECENT INDY TEP CLERGY ROUNDTABLE” (June 2016). Dr. Jeffry Woods is described as “the Indianapolis Regional Director for The Expectations Project” a faith based organization that addresses inequities in public schools. Participants in the roundtable included: Mr. Jay Geshay – The Vice President of the United Way, Dr. David Hampton – Senior Pastor of Light of the World Christian Church (who also serves as the Deputy Mayor of Indianapolis), Pastor Richard A. Reynolds – Senior Pastor of New Revelation, and Mr. Earl Martin Phalen – Founder of Summer Advantage and Phalen Leadership Academies in Indianapolis. Mind Trust is major promoter of Teach for America and charter schools. http://www.expectations.org/interviews/dr-jeffry-woods-on-the-recent-indy-tep-clergy-roundtable/

“Claire Blumenson, School Justice Project. Based in Washington DC provides legal counsel to and serves as an advocate for students ages 17-22 with special education needs who are involved in the DC justice system.

“Eric Leslie, Union Capital Boston. 
A mobile-based loyalty program for low-income families that provides social and financial service rewards (money, access to services) in exchange for their community involvement in schools, health centers, and civic programs.

“Frank McMillan, Lead organizer of New Jersey Together, a multi-faith coalition in northern New Jersey and an affiliate of The Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF). IAF is the nation’s oldest and largest multi-faith organizing network dealing with issues in urban centers, including education, http://metro-iaf.org/issuesvictories/74

“Richard Pelayo, and Jessica Stewart GO Public Schools. Based in Oakland but recruiting other districts in California to support private governance of schools—policy, practice, and culture—claiming to “promote excellence and equity for our students and families.”

“Amber Welsh, for Austin Kids First Action, a PAC that receives funds to position preferred charter-friendly candidates on the local school board.

“The challenges we face in education are as complex and diverse as our communities,” said LEE Executive Director Michael Buman. “The idea isn’t to find a single solution, but rather to assist LEE members in forging alliances and identifying community-driven solutions.”

“LEE fellows participate in an eleven-month boot camp suitable for executive directors, with intensive coaching, site visits, peer-to-peer networking, and other supports. The boot camp ends with an event where fellows seek capital by presenting their ventures to potential investors and partners.

http://www.marketwired.com/press-release/education-entrepreneurs-selected-for-inaugural-venture-fund-fellowship-2087500.htm

“Here are excerpts about the board members of LEE from the website https://educationalequity.org

“Mike Buman is the executive director of Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE). He was a partner in the New York office of the global management consulting firm McKinsey & Co.

“Elisa Villanueva Beard became the sole chief executive officer of Teach For America in 2015, after serving as the co-CEO alongside Matthew Kramer for two years. Prior to her role as CEO, she led Teach For America’s field operations as the chief operating officer.

“Steuart Walton is one of the heirs to the Walton family fortune from Walmart. He is CEO of Game Composites, Ltd. He has worked for Walmart’s international division in the mergers and acquisitions group and serves on the board of the Walton Family Foundation.

“The following serve on both the Board of Directors of LEE and the LEE Foundation.

“Emma Bloomberg. The oldest daughter of New York City’s billionaire ex-mayor Michael Bloomberg. Emma was most recently chief of staff at the Robin Hood Foundation, a nonprofit that funds programs in the five boroughs of New York City.

“Arthur Rock. Principal of Arthur Rock & Co. a venture capital firm. He is also on the board of Teach For America and Children’s Scholarship Fund and an active funder of KIPP.

“Michael Park. A partner in McKinsey & Company’s New York office and leads the firm’s Strategy and Corporate Finance Practice for the U.S. Northeast. He helps lead McKinsey’s pro-bono work with Teach For America.

“LEE is the source of well-funded and sophisticated faux “grassroots” movements led by carefully trained entrepeneurs who intend to make public education into a private enterprise.”