Matt Barnum reports that school board members in several cities have formed a new organization to consult with one another. They claim they don’t have an agenda but they are funded by Education Cities, the organization that was created to promote the “portfolio model” that favors charters.

If all that was wanted was an organization where school board members could communicate, such organizations exist. Every state has a state school boards association. There is also the National School Boards Association. Clearly, something else is intended here, and you don’t need a big imagination to figure it out. These are school boards members who are part of the “Reformer” agenda, and they are impatient to disrupt their district’s schools.

This is yet another organization trying to pump life into the moribund charter movement, which has failed to close the achievement gap anywhere or to introduce any innovation other than strict discipline (a return to the late 19th century) and which lobbies to avoid accountability and transparency.

The charter lobby is doubling down and pumping out more organizations as existing charters close or fail to produce results, kind of like buying more of a sinking stock. If the stock doesn’t rebound, you lose it all.

Barnum writes:

School board members are elected to make the most local decisions about school policy. But a new group is trying to get them to join forces to form a network of school board members in at least 10 cities.

School Board Partners says it wants to create a “national community” of board members and will offer coaching and consulting services. Emails obtained by Chalkbeat indicate the group is targeting board members in Atlanta, Baton Rouge, Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Memphis, New Orleans, Oakland, and Stockton.

The group spun out of Education Cities, an organization that advocated for the “portfolio model,” a strategy focused on expanding charter schools as well as giving district schools more autonomy. Denver, Indianapolis, and New Orleans have enacted some version of that model, and Education Cities also counted member groups in most of the cities on School Board Partners’ list. And School Board Partners’ website says its community will be “aligned to a common theory of change” — signs that this is a new strategy for portfolio advocates.

But Carrie McPherson Douglass, who previously worked at Education Cities and founded the new group, says it won’t push specific policies.

“One of our core beliefs is the need for local autonomy,” she told Chalkbeat. The group is open to board members from any city who will prioritize equity and want to see “dramatic change,” she said — and that’s not simply code for the portfolio model.

“I am very hopeful that there are other ideas out there,” Douglass said.

School Board Partners’ website offers limited information, but an August email sent to recruit potential members offers more details. Douglass wrote the group has “secured our first large multi-year grant” and plans to offer “pro-bono consulting services to help school board members research, plan and execute thoughtful change initiatives.” (The email also lists San Antonio as a target city, but Douglass says it has since been removed because Texas already has a support system for school boards that want to adopt the portfolio model.)

Douglass, an elected school board member in Bend, Oregon, said the group grew out of her experience. “I thought I was going in pretty prepared, pretty knowledgeable,” she said. I “really just found it to be an incredibly unique and difficult challenge.”

The group doesn’t have a list of members and is still raising money, Douglass said. The email said the group would hold its first national convening in October, but Douglass said that’s been pushed to February.

School Board Partners was announced in July, as much of Education Cities’ work and staff was absorbed by The City Fund, a well-financed new group that hopes to bring the portfolio model to cities across the country.

Douglass says her group’s funding so far has come from money raised by Education Cities, which had been funded by the Arnold, Dell, Gates, Kauffman, and Walton Family foundations, among others. (Chalkbeat is also funded by Gates and Walton and Gates.)

Of course, there are no specific policies, no agenda, but the new group is funded by the same foundations promoting privatization of public schools.