Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) was created by a group of guys who work as hedge fund managers. Some are Democrats, other are Republicans. They support charter schools and high-stakes testing. They never support public schools. They support Teach for America. They think that teachers should be evaluated by the test scores of their students, even though research overwhelmingly shows that this method is a failure (see the recent RAND-AIR report on the flop of the Gates-funded demonstration of evaluating teachers by test scores). They believe in merit pay, even though merit pay has never worked anywhere. There is no evidence that any active member of DFER ever attended a public school, ever taught in a public school, or ever sent his children to a public school. DFER doesn’t like public schools. Like Betsy DeVos, which it pretends to oppose, DFER believes in free-market reform of schools. If I am wrong, I hope that one of these hedge fund managers contacts me to let me know.

DFER loves corporate charter chains and doesn’t like local democratic control of schools. They see nothing unsavory about out-of-state billionaires buying an election for their favorite candidate, even in a local school board election. DFER is a PAC that collects and distributes fund to candidates who support its goals.

Here is the DFER list for this year’s election. Cory Booker and Michael Bennet are perennial favorites of DFER. I don’t know if Congressman Bobby Scott of Virginia is aligned with their philosophy or if DFER is trying to establish a relationship. He is the ranking Democrat on the House Education Committee in the Congress. Maybe DFER is currying his favor. His predecessor, Congressman George Miller of California, was fully aligned with DFER’s views and was richly rewarded with fundraisers, even when he didn’t have an opponent. His former chief of staff, Charles Barone, now runs the DFER office in D.C.

Suffice it to say that DFER pays no attention to research that does not support its fervent belief in charters, private management, and high-stakes testing. DFER believes in the free market, punishments and rewards for performance. That works on Wall Street. It should work in schools, even if it doesn’t.

Here is a graphic that shows the links among DFER and unsavory characters who also want to privatize public education. There is a factual error in the graphic. Political money is spent by 501c4 organizations. Those designated as 501c3 are supposed to be non-political. The non-political wing of DFER is called ”Education Reform Now.” It has a political advocacy group called “Education Reform Now Advocacy.” Of course, it advocates for high-stakes testing and charter schools. “Education reform,” in the eyes of those connected to DFER, means replacing public schools with private management that is neither accountable nor transparent.

DFER puts out a list of candidates (all Democrats) and invites its members to send them contributions. In this way, it is able to raise very large sums for friends of charter schools in Congress and in important state races, even school board races. Its mailing list includes many very wealthy people, so DFER is a major source of money for candidates like Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York, and other charter-friendly Democrats.

The Democratic Party conventions in both California and Colorado denounced DFER for calling itsel “Democrats” when they undermine public schools.