One of the nation’s leading corporate education reform groups— Families for Excellent Schools—has collapsed. It adopted a name to suggest that it spoke for poor black and Hispanic families, but the families it represented were wealthy financiers from Wall Street, Greenwich, Connecticut, the Walton Family, and the Eli Broad family.

This is the group that spent millions to run ads attacking Mayor deBlasio when he had the gall to challenge Eva Moskowitz’s demand for free space in public schools and the right to force the city to pay for any space she was required to rent. Eva had the support of the powerful financiers of FES and Governor Cuomo, and together they beat DeBlasio and taught him not to challenge Queen Eva.

FES expanded to Massachusetts and poured millions of “Dark Money” (undisclosed names) into the referendum battle to lift the cap on charter schools. After the election, the state investigated the millions in outside money that poured into the race, fined FES nearly half a million dollars for failing to identify its donors, and banned them from operating in the state for four years.

Then came the embarrassment this week when FES was compelled to fire its leader, Jeremiah Kittredge, for inappropriate sexual behavior with a non-employee. As Politico reported, Kittredge was one of the most prominent reform leaders in the nation. But he acted like a jerk, making stupid vulgar comments about a woman’s breasts at an education reform conference, the Philos retreat. Kittredge was one of Eva Moskowitz’s closest advisors.

Then today came this announcement:

**FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE** FEBRUARY 5, 2018

New York, NY – Statement from Bryan Lawrence, Board Chair of Families for Excellent Schools:

“This is a sad day for everyone at Families for Excellent Schools. We are very proud of the work we’ve done to help thousands of families stand up for educational opportunity in their communities, and believe our vision of a world where every child has access to an excellent school has never been more important.

“Unfortunately, after a series of challenges over the past year and particularly given recent events, we have determined that the support necessary to keep the organization going is not there. We are beginning the process of winding down our work. I want to thank all those who have given their heart and soul to this organization since its inception; I know they will continue to advocate for the families and communities we serve.”

Mercedes Schneider wrote about the fall of this phony group here:

https://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2018/02/05/families-for-excellent-schools-fes-is-shutting-down-marvelous/

Politico explained the declining fortunes of FES this way (and hedged on whether FES was closing partially or completely):

The pro-charter group has seen its fortunes decline sharply over the last year. Its influence in New York has waned as de Blasio has largely declined to criticize charters and much of the local press turned its attention away from Families for Excellent Schools’ relentless schedule of rallies and press releases aimed at pressuring the mayor.

By 2016, the expensive rallies the group was best known for were no longer leading to policy wins at the city or state level, and the strategy was eventually abandoned.

And most crucially, the group suffered a disastrous political defeat in late 2016 from which it never fully recovered, sources say. After funnelling $20 million into a pro-charter ballot initiative in Massachusetts known as Question 2, the question was defeated at the polls by 25 points.

Several sources indicated its once-prolific fundraising became significantly more challenging in the aftermath of the Massachusetts loss.

https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2018/02/05/families-for-excellent-schools-planning-to-close-following-ceos-firing-235707

So, the big rallies with the matching T-shirts were no longer impressing politicians. The money was drying up. The executive director was caught in an embarrassing moment of monumental grossness.

Sad. The ed reform movement seems to be cracking up. Students First, gone. FES, gone. Who is next?

ADDENDUM:

Correction by a reader:

“Jeremiah Kittredge’s behavior was not just “an embarrassing moment of monumental grossness.”

“Jeremiah Kittredge guy was a serial creep. Consensual or not, Jeremiah was basically f—ing his way through the Families for Excellent Schools headquarters:

“POLITICO: “Kittredge has been involved in multiple consensual sexual relationships with colleagues throughout his relatively brief career in education reform, including at least one employee who reported directly to him, according to five sources with direct knowledge of the situation.”

“That’s from here:

https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2018/02/02/charter-champions-firing-came-after-sexual-harassment-allegations-233549

“Jeremiah picked the wrong year(s) to be engaging in this kind of Don-Draper-in-Mad-Men type carousing. (Mad Men took place in the early to mid 1960’s) Given the current MeToo/Times Up atmosphere, his behavior was / is monumentally anachronistic.”