Search results for: "Stand for children"

 

Mercedes Schneider discovered that Oregon-based Stand for Children is pouring money into school board races in Louisiana. Why should an Oregon organization try to choose school board elections in another state? That’s the way the Disruption Movement works. The funding comes from the usual sources, none of which is based in Louisiana.

She writes:

Since 2012, hundreds of thousands of dollars has flowed into Louisiana elections from this Portland, Oregon, ed-reform organization, and when I examined the campaign finance filings for these three PACs, I discovered only two Louisiana contributors to one of the PACs, the Stand for Children LA PAC…

SFC is anti-union, pro-Common Core, pro-school choice—usual corporate-ed-reform fare. As for some of its major money: Since 2010, the Walton Family Foundation has funded SFC (via the SFC Leadership Center$4.1M, with $400,000 specifically earmarked for Louisiana.

Then, there’s the Gates funding…

It all sounds so locally-driven, so grass-rootsy.

It’s probably best to not mention that SFC in Oregon finances the show.

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Once upon a time, long ago, a man named Jonah Edelman founded a group called Stand for Children. Edelman had instant credibility because he was the son of civil rights leader Marion Wright Edelman.

Somewhere, somehow, around 2009, Stand for Children decided to change its focus. So it became a grantee of the Gates Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation,  and an advocate for charter schools, high-stakes testing and test-based teacher evaluation. Gates and other billionaires gave millions to Stand to act as a pass-through.

Stand was active in Illinois, fighting against the Chicago Teachers Union. It funded pro-charter candidates in local elections such as Nashville. It was active in Massachusetts, trying to pass a referendum in 2016 to lift the state limit on charter school expansion. That referendum failed.

But, reports U Mass professor Maurice Cunningham, the money people in Massachusetts shut off the spigot, and Stand for Children is leaving, perhaps for another assignment.

Cunningham is a specialist in tracking Dark Money and the ways that the elites are undermining democracy.

What we learn from this tale is that there is no “reform movement.” It has no grassroots. It is a phenomenon of wealthy elites trying to buy public policy.

 

 

 

Maurice Cunningham, professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts, is an expert on the infusion of Dark Money into education.

He wrote several articles about the millions of dollars that poured into Massachusetts to promote the referendum to increase the number of charter schools in November 2016.

This article is about a Dark Money passthrough called Stand for Children, which began its life as a pro-public school group but turned into a pro-Privatization, anti-union, anti-teacher organization. It highlights the role of Stand for Children in Massachusetts. It does not explore its national activities, where it plays a pernicious part in the attack on public schools, unions, and teachers.

http://blogs.wgbh.org/masspoliticsprofs/2017/10/6/your-dark-money-reader-special-edition-stand-children/

Those who remember the early days of SFC now call it “Stand ON Children.”

It has funneled money to corporate reform candidates in cities from Nashville to Denver. It tried to squelch the Chicago Teachers Union by buying up all the top lobbyists in Illinois. It has funded anti-union, anti-teacher campaigns.

It pretends to be a “civil rights” organization. It is not.

The pro-charter political group called Stand for Children and four pro-charter candidates face potential fines up to $685,000.

“The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance on Tuesday sent a show cause letter to Stand for Children and candidates Miranda Christy, Thom Druffel, Jane Grimes Meneely and Jackson Miller.

“The violations relate to the candidates coordinating with Stand for Children and its two political action committees to find campaign workers. The coordination, first reported by The Tennessean, stemmed from an email between Stand for Children’s political director, Dan O’Donnell, and the executive director of the Martha O’Bryan Center, a nonprofit group that operates two charter schools.

“I am appalled at the money that was put into this race,” said school board member Jill Speering, who easily defeated Grimes Meneely despite being dramatically outraised. “It’s going to be interesting to see what the findings are and what kind of action is taken.”

“According to the ethics bureau’s board of directors, that coordination caused the four candidates to eclipse campaign contribution limits. Each campaign is subject to a fine equal to 115 percent of the difference between the contribution cap of $7,600 and the amount of the unreported political help provided by Stand for Children. That comes out to about $70,000 in potential fines per campaign, and Stand for Children’s political action committee is subject to the same potential fine for each infraction.

“The campaigns also are subject to $10,000 fines for incorrectly reporting contributions in their disclosure reports. According to the letter, each candidate reported incorrect figures on the second quarter and the pre-primary disclosures, which means each is subject to up to $20,000 in total fines. In total, the two Stand for Children political groups and the four candidates could face up to $685,164.38 in fines. A hearing is set for Oct. 12.”

Peter Piazza earned his doctorate in 2015 and wrote his doctoral dissertation about the activities of Oregon-based Stand for Children in Massachusetts. He is now working as a professional researcher. SFC is an organization that started out as an advocate for children, but then received millions from corporations and foundations to fight teachers’ unions and advocate for charter schools.

Piazza wrote this summation of his research for the blog:

Stand for Children: Misadventures in Massachusetts

In the upcoming school year, a new law restricting teacher job security will become effective in Massachusetts, after having taken a winding road to its fruition that was at best nonsensical and at worst deeply undemocratic. Better known as the Stand for Children compromise law, MA 2315 prohibits public schools from using seniority as the primary factor in teacher personnel decisions, ending a long tradition that had allowed districts to make these kinds of decisions themselves, through the collective bargaining process.

The law was originally proposed by Stand as a ballot question that would have had even more far reaching consequences for teachers. Then, Stand and the state’s largest teachers’ union worked out a compromise bill in private negotiations with their lawyers. That bill was passed through the state legislature in order to remove the original (and worse) proposal from the ballot in 2012.

I tried to follow as many of the twists and turns as I could in my doctoral dissertation, relying most heavily on interviews to reconstruct a deliberately obscure policymaking process. Much of this story will be frustratingly familiar to public education advocates-

• As others have noted on this blog (here and here) and elsewhere (see here, here and here), Stand was initially created as a genuine grassroots advocacy group. Following Race to the Top and Citizens United, the group abruptly turned away from local level membership and towards big money grants from national foundations, especially – of course – Gates and Walton (2010, 2011). Research found that in 2010 Stand’s Leadership Center – its 501(c)3 wing – was among the top 5 recipients of grants from venture philanthropy in educational advocacy.

• In Massachusetts, Stand, a registered 501(c)4 group, began accepting large donations around 2009 from “dark money” sources, including a shadowy but extremely influential organization called Strategic Grant Partners. Local donors to Stand’s (c)3 wing also included The Boston Foundation, a prominent Boston donor that launched the state’s Race to the Top Coalition which continues to advocate for neoliberal reform, and Bain Capital. Because (c)4’s don’t have to disclose their donors, however, it’s hard to trace the money all the way through. Reporting, however, has linked Stand’s MA office to the usual suspects of hedge-fund managers and investment bankers. In all, it was widely believed that Stand had nearly $10 million to spend on the ballot initiative, though, the group saved some money in compromise, ultimately spending a little more than $850,000, according to state campaign finance records.

• Long-time members in the state left publicly, in an open letter expressing both critique and confusion regarding Stand’s new direction. Without an active base of volunteers, most of the money spent on the campaign went to paid signature gatherers or lobbyists.

• Even worse: Stand’s national CEO, Jonah Edelman – the son of Marian Wright Edelman – told everyone on YouTube that the organization would bring its anti-union agenda to states like Massachusetts. After passing restrictions on job security in Illinois, Edelman referred to teachers unions when he infamously trumpeted that Stand was able to “jam this proposal down their throats.” He then stated baldly that “our hope and our expectation is to use this as a catalyst to very quickly make similar changes in other very entrenched states.”

But, in the Massachusetts example at least, there are potential sources of hope for public education advocates –

• Stand was almost completely conflicted within every major level of the organization. National leaders wanted a quick win, state leaders wanted more time to build relationships, and Stand’s community organizers genuinely wanted to do good community organizing.

Here’s my best short summary of the whole process: As told to me by a state level leader at Stand, “the original Great Teachers Great Schools campaign plan was over a three year time period. So we had the intention of building a coalition around it, spending a significant amount of time lobbying on it.” This would have lined them up to try to pass a traditional bill through the state house in 2014.

Then, the organization abruptly changed its plans, deciding instead to pursue a ballot question for the 2012 election. Another state level leader told me that this decision was made “basically five weeks” before the deadline for filing ballot measures. Potential allies in the business community and even their own staff assumed that the decision to go with the ballot question was likely driven by national leadership because the state office “wasn’t big enough to tell national ‘here’s the deal’.”

Then, amazingly, it turned again. When the campaign for the ballot question wasn’t going well – because Stand hadn’t built a state coalition of any kind – national leadership put clear and direct pressure on state leadership. As reported by a former staff member, during a visit from national in the winter of 2012 staff were “told explicitly that we need to win the campaign or essentially the Massachusetts chapter is going to cease to exist.” Thus, the compromise.

• Absent a major outreach effort, Stand had a very limited number of local allies. Only a few spoke at the legislative hearing for the ballot question, including (of course) a local investment banker; a parent and teacher member of Stand, each of whom had joined the campaign after it started; and a Boston city councilor, who would later – in his mayoral campaign – return a half-million dollar donation from Stand, stating that he did not want to accept money from outside special interest groups.

• The media praised the compromise as a big victory for Stand, but they largely got it wrong. Instead, the organization found itself almost completely isolated in the state. Likely allies in the business community balked at a partnership “because of that national-local issue, you don’t know who you’re talking to.” Community organizers told me that principals wouldn’t return their calls. When I asked Stand leaders what they might have done differently, they responded frankly: “I would have drafted the ballot question with more time. We drafted it in no time.” Without a chance to build a broader coalition, the organization was largely left standing on its own.

• In the compromise, they gave up a lot. More dramatic changes to teacher tenure and collective bargaining were removed from the compromise law, with the restrictions on seniority – not tenure – the only major parts that remained and even those were watered down. The compromised also pushed the effective start date from 2013 to the 2016-2017 school year.

In the end, this all contributed to a process that was troublingly undemocratic. Contrary to how they might be portrayed more broadly, state leaders and community organizers at Stand wanted to organize parents and teachers in Boston schools and wanted to work on other issues completely unrelated to the ballot campaign. They just couldn’t. Under pressure from national leadership, community organizers went out instead to find “folks that would be predisposed to arguing in favor of this anyways whether they had something substantive to say or not and get them on board” often by “giving a 30-second pitch to somebody at Stop & Shop” and getting them to sign an apple-shaped card.

Grad students are often asked to name/label things. I called this “neo-democracy” – an umbrella term for cases like this where big money and high-stakes pressure lead to shallow forms of democratic engagement at the local level, an increasingly common occurrence as neoliberal advocacy groups – like Stand, StudentsFirst and DFER among others – gain influence over state policy.

That’s the bad part, of course. But, it can be reversed, and it is every day by the many, many people who work to bringing public voice to public education. What can’t be reversed, at least not any time soon, is Stand’s reputation in Massachusetts. As others have noted, Stand hasn’t been very active in Massachusetts since. But, this wasn’t a page out of the astro-turf playbook. It was an unintended consequence of a clumsy advocacy process led by heavy-handed “direction” from the national level. And, it suggests that these kinds of groups may not be the smooth operators they appear to be, that without relationships and meaningful connections to the local level, money can of course buy something, but it may only be a flash in the pan.

Yes, the public is wishing up. They want public schools, not privatized charter schools! In addition to losing four school board races in Nashville to pro-public school candidates, Stand for Children list major races in Memphis.  

As reported in The Tenneseean

“House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, noted late Thursday that advocacy organizations supporting charters that had “a similar agenda” as Stand for Children ran “big money operations” against Memphis Democrats Rep. Johnnie Turner and Rep. Antonio Parkinson. Turner and Parkinson also won, Stewart said, calling it a win for public schools.”

The local press in Nashville reported recently that the pro-privatization political outfit called “Stand for Children” had amassed a war chest of $200,000 to fund the campaigns of charter advocates for the Metro Nashville school board. Across the state of Tennessee, the Oregon-based SFC was spending $700,000 in state and local races, apparently to assure Continued Republican dominance of the state.

Yesterday a liberal advocacy group and a Metro Nasville parent asked for an investigation of the ties between SFC and the candidates it supports:

“Consumer rights group Tennessee Citizen Action and a Metro Schools parent plan to file a petition requesting an investigation into potential campaign finance violations involving Stand for Children after questions emerged over whether the group illegally coordinated with pro-charter school candidates.”

SFC is now a money-laundering operation for the plutocrats who hope to eliminate public schools. The hedge fund managers, billionaires, and equity investors are pouring money into key school board races across the country, hoping to undermine democracy–since locals who are committed to public schools are vastly outspent–and to promote privatization.

Stand for Children was once an organization that fought for better education for all children. Then it discovered the corporate reform gravy train and jumped on. Now, SFC can be found fighting teachers and public schools in states across the nation.

 

In this post, MercedesSchneider reviews Stand’s infamous activities in Louisiana.

 

In Louisiana, there was a state school board election last October. One of the anti-corporate reform candidates was an incumbent board member named Carolyn Hill. She often joined with two other dissidents who wanted to improve–not eliminate–public schools. At election time, Stand for Children put up a fake TV ad that accused her of criminal behavior. It was totally false. But it worked. She lost at the polls. That helped build a stronger majority for the group on the board that wants more privatization, more charter schools, more vouchers, more efforts to demoralize career teachers. Carolyn Hill was a great loss.

 

Jason France, the blogger known as Crazy Crawfish, describes Stand for Children in Louisiana this way in the title of a recent post: “Stand For Children Louisiana” is an Evil and Malicious Corporate Front Group for Evil People and Organizations. As Jason put it, in his post about this sordid business,

 

This is how Stand chose to stand for children, by lying and deceiving people about a real champion of children in their community.

 

Of course this behavior wasn’t limited to Stand but this was one of the more egregious cases. In addition to the primetime commercials Stand also spent tens of thousands of dollars on direct mail to people’s homes, warning them about Carolyn Hill.

 

But not only does this organization not “stand for children”, it doesn’t stand for the “Louisiana” part of its title either! 98% of their funding came from corporations, tax exempt entities including one funded by the Sierra club (seriously), and billionaires outside of our state. Several of these organizations probably broke federal laws and should lose their tax exempt status for contributing to a purely political organization that spent all their money on attack ads and propaganda.

 

 

“Stand for Children” was once a civil rights group; it once advocated for more funding and for programs to help children. Then it was taken over by the corporate reform movement and became outspoken against unions and teachers. The budget surged into the millions, due to its new-found friends (the Gates Foundation, the Walton Foundation, and friends from Bain Capital). In Illinois, it bought up all the top lobbyists to push through a bill to limit teachers’  rights and prevent teachers in Chicago from striking. Stand’s founder, Jonah Edelman, boasted about his success in beating the unions and was videotaped doing so at the Aspen Institute  (here is the videotape). (He later apologized for what he said but not for what he did.) In Massachusetts, Stand threatened an expensive referendum to eliminate teachers’ job rights and won.

 

Many of its original friends left the organization because they did not like its alignment with the forces seeking privatization of public education and demonization of teachers. Some now call the group “Stand ON Children.”

 

In Oregon, parents and teachers fought hard for a bill to establish the right of parents to opt their children out of state testing. The bill was passed by the Legislature and is now heading for the Governor’s desk for her signature.

 

Stand for Children has been lobbying and campaigning to persuade Oregon Governor Kate Brown to veto the bill. They wrap themselves in the mantle of “it’s all about the kids” and “it’s all about disadvantaged kids,” to attack the right of parents to say no to abusive high-stakes testing.

 

If you are a parent or educator or student in Oregon, let Governor Brown hear from you.

Jersey Jazzman points out in an illuminating post that Jonah Edelman was hired by the plutocrats to make sure teachers would never be able to strike again.

So Jonah Edelman and his deceptively-named group Stand for Children drafted legislation, bought up most of the high-priced lobbyists, and pushed through a bill to make the hedge fund managers happy. Now, said Jonah, the teachers will never be able to get enough member votes to strike again. This is what it means today to bear the mantle of “civil rights leader.” A civil rights leader in these days wants to crush unions and promote privatization.

But it didn’t work! Only months after the passage of Edelman’s historic anti-union legislation, the Chicago Teachers Union authorized a strike. Jonah had predicted it would never get the support of 75% of its members. It got the support of 90% (and 98% of all who cast a ballot).

And now strikes have broken out in other districts in Illinois. Some may have been inspired by the CTU strike.

Those Chicago equity investors picked a losing cause. They seem to have energized the teachers unions.