Archives for category: DFER

Somehow I missed this article when it was published in January 2017. It is well worth reading because it explains how the mainstream of the Democratic Party paved the way for the radical rightwing DeVos agenda.

Unless the Democrats regain their pro-public education values, they will cede a significant part of their base. They cheered striking teachers in the spring of 2018, but they long ago abandoned them and their schools.

It is time for Democrats to once again be the party that fights for the common good, the party that supports public schools, not school choice, which is a mighty hoax. Charter schools are partial privatization that lack oversight or accountability, this opening possibilities of waste, fraud and abuse. On average, they don’t get better test scores than public schools. Those that do choose their students and skew the demographics. Voucher schools get worse results and are free of any civil rights laws.

Hartman could have named many more Democrats who abandoned public schools, starting with DFER. Dannel Malloy of Connecticut. Andrew Cuomo of New York. Please feel free to add to the list..

Hartman wrote last year:

“American public schools have some very serious problems. Spend time in the crumbling public schools on the south side of Chicago and then venture over to the plush public schools in the leafy Chicago suburbs, and you’ll experience alternative universes. Schools all over the greater Chicagoland are filled with committed and professional teachers, some quite excellent. But the students who attend the city schools arrive at school with stark disadvantages, unlike their better-off suburban peers. Discrepancies in school funding only exacerbate such class deficits.

“Most of the problems with the public schools, in other words, are outgrowths of a deeply unequal society. Yet the solution to this problem — the redistribution of wealth — is inimical to the interests of billionaires like DeVos. The fact that she will soon be in charge of the nation’s schools is a sick joke. Make no mistake: DeVos is a serious threat to public education and should be treated accordingly.

“Unfortunately, many Democrats have long supported the same so-called education reform measures that DeVos backs. Often wrapping these measures in civil rights language, Democratic education reformers have provided cover for some of the worst types of reforms, including promoting the spread of charter schools — the preferred liberal mechanism for fulfilling the “choice” agenda. (Charter schools operate with public money, but without much public oversight, and are therefore often vehicles for pet pedagogical projects of billionaire educational philanthropists like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg.)

“DeVos will not have to completely reverse the Department of Education’s course in order to fulfill her agenda. Obama’s “Race to the Top” policy — the brainchild of former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, past CEO of Chicago Public Schools — allocates scarce federal resources to those states most aggressively implementing education reform measures, particularly around charter schools.

“Perhaps the most effective advocate of school choice is New Jersey senator Cory Booker, who many Democrats are touting as the party’s savior in the post-Obama era. Liberals swooned when Booker opposed his Senate colleague Jeff Sessions, the right-wing racist Trump tapped to be the next attorney general. But however laudable, Booker’s actions didn’t take much in the way of courage.

“Booker’s funders — hedge-fund managers and pharmaceutical barons — don’t care about such theatrics. They’re more concerned that he vote Big Pharma’s way and keep up his role as a leading member of Democrats for Education Reform, a pro-privatization group. They want to make sure he continues attacking teachers’ unions, the strongest bulwark against privatization.

“Their aim is to undercut public schools and foster union-free charter schools, freeing the rich from having to pay teachers as unionized public servants with pensions.

“So in the fight against Trump and DeVos, we can’t give Booker and his anti-union ilk a pass. As enablers of DeVos’s privatization agenda, they too must be delegitimized.

“Public education depends on it. The beautiful school where I send my children depends on it.“

The Democratic Party in Colorado and California have passed resolutions attacking Democrats for Education Reform as a phony, corporate-controlled front organization and demanded that it stop sullying the Democratic Party by using its name.

In New York, where hedge fund money flows freely to DFER, it continues to be a political player, having no popular political base but owning corporate politicians who wants its campaign contributions. It has filled the vacuum left by the collapse of the phony “Families for Excellent Schools,”also funded and owned by billionaires who never set foot in a public school.

Now DFER in New York is speaking out to call for more school closures and more privately owned charter schools.

If only New York’s Democrats had the fortitude of their counterparts in California and Colorado and were brave enough to call out DFER as DINOS, whose only purpose is to destroy public schools in communities of co,or.

Democrats for Education Reform is a political action group that raises money for Democratic candidates who will support high-stakes testing and charter schools.

Here is its list of candidates for the 2018 elections.

Most notable on the list:

DFER endorsed Marshall Tuck for State Superintendent of Instruction in California. The Network for Public Education Action Fund and the Los Angeles Times endorsed his opponent Tony Thurmond.

DFER endorsed Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut for re-election. When the ESSA bill was written to replace NCLB, Murphy introduced an amendment (“the Murphy Amendment”) to retain all the punitive features of NCLB. Fortunately, his amendment was defeated.

DFER endorsed Senators Corey Booker (NJ) and Michael Bennett (CO) for re-election. No surprises there. Both are well-known supporters of school choice. Booker has even supported vouchers and charters.

DFER endorsed Congressman Bobby Scott for re-election. He is the chair of the House Education Committee.

Regaining control of the House and possibly the Senate this fall override any concerns I have about these candidates. If I lived in their state or district, I would vote for them. But if any of them aspire to higher office, I will do whatever I can to stop them because privatizers should not be rewarded.


Steven Singer reviews the decision by the Colorado Democratic party to tell the “Democrats for Education Reform” to stop calling themselves “Democrats.” DFER, he writes, is neither “Democrat” nor is it advocating for “education reform.” It is a group of wealthy hedge fund managers who pour large amounts of money into election to promote standardization, profitization, and privatization. They are clueless about the value of public schools and about the needs of students and teachers. They don’t care. They have money and they do what they want, without regard to collateral damage.

He writes:

Henceforth, “Education Reform” shall be Education Sabotage – because that’s really what it is.

It is about deliberately obstructing goods and services that otherwise would help kids learn and repurposing them for corporate benefit.

Likewise, I propose we stop using the term “School choice.” Instead, call it what it is – School Privatization.

Anyone who uses the older terms is either misguided or an enemy of authentic education.

Perhaps this seems petty.

They’re only words, after all. What does it matter?

It matters a lot.

As Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote:

“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.”

We cannot effectively fight the forces of segregation, standardization and privatization if we have to constantly define our terms.

Professor Maurice Cunningham of the University of Massachusetts, who specializes in the deployment of Dark Money to promote school privatization, has suggested the term “Financial Privatization Cabal.” Great term, too many syllables.

We could just call them the “Privatizers,” because that is the word that represents the common goal of DFER and Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump, Scott Walker, Rick Scott, and the other thieves of language and the common good.


Democrats for Education Reform is an organization founded, funded, and led by hedge fund managers who support charter schools and high-stakes testing. They raise money to elect likeminded people across the country and are a key part of the Dark Money world of fundraisers for privatization of public schools.

On Saturday, the Colorado Democratic Party passed a strong resolution opposing privatization of public schools and demanding that DFER stop calling themselves “Democrats.”

Here is the story of the state Democratic convention, as reported in Chalkbest.

Colorado has been fertile ground for corporate reform, and DFER has been a source of funding for candidates for the state board, the Denver board, and other critical races. Senator Michael Bennett, once a superintendent of the Denver public schools, is a DFER favorite. So are two current candidates for governor, Jared Polis (who is so rich he doesn’t need DFER money) and former TFA State Senator Michael Johnston, who drafted the state’s harsh and ineffective teacher evaluation law.

Vanessa Quintana, a political activist who was the formal sponsor of the minority report, was a student at Denver’s Manual High School when it was closed in 2006, a decision that Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, then Denver’s superintendent, defended at an education panel Friday.

“She said that before she finally graduated from high school, she had been through two school closures and a major school restructuring and dropped out of school twice. Three of her siblings never graduated, and she blames the instability of repeated school changes.

“When DFER claims they empower and uplift the voices of communities, DFER really means they silence the voices of displaced students like myself by uprooting community through school closure,” she told the delegates. “When Manual shut down my freshman year, it told me education reformers didn’t find me worthy of a school.”


Leonie Haimson writes here about the stunning rebuke administered by the Colorado Democratic Party to “Democrats for Education Reform” last Saturday. 

It is hard to overstate the commanding position of DFER in that state. Senator Michael Bennett is DFER-approved. So are two of the leading Democrats running for Governor. DFER’s Dark Money has captured the Denver school board.

Until now, no one has stood up to them. No one could match their cash.

Will DFER survive this denunciation? Of course. But their stamp of approval might turn into a stigma for real Democrats. Real Democrats do not support the DeVos privatization agenda. Real Democrats support public schools u dear democratic control.

Leonie writes:

”Let’s hope that the Colorado vote is a turning point, and that it is no longer politically or ethically acceptable for progressive Democrats to act like Republicans when it comes to education policy.”

Wouldn’t that be great?


The group that calls itself “Democrats for Education Reform” represents hedge fund money and Wall Street and advocates for charter schools and high-stakes testing. Although it has no evident connection to education other than its name, it has funneled campaign contributions and Dark Money into state and local elections to support privatization of public schools. It has strongly backed test-based evaluations of teachers, despite the evidence against it.

Today, the Colorado Democratic Party voted on a minority report critical of DFER. The motion required a 2/3 voice vote. It passed easily.

The motion said:

”We oppose making Colorado’s public schools private, or run by private corporations, or segregated again through lobbying and campaign efforts of the organization called Democrats for Education Reform and demand that they immediately stop using the Party’s name, I.e., “Democrat” in their name.”

To learn about DFER, read this:

Click to access IntendedConsequencesofDFER.pdf




I posted the 2012 Democrats for Education Reform list of electoral favorites, which included Cong. George Miller of California, then chair of the House Education Committee and an architect of NCLB; Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who fought to keep high-stakes testing and NCLB punishments in the new ESSA and is now a possible candidate for president in 2020. A few years ago, the California Democratic Party passed a resolution denouncing DFER for advancing corporate policies and urged them to drop the D from their name.

Miller was the most powerful Congressional Democrat on education issues, and Nancy Pelosi follliwed his lead. Virginia Congressman Bobby Scott is now chair of the committee, and he too was on the DFER LIST.

A reader who lives in Miller’s district describes what happened:

“Miller was my Congressman. I too had an unpleasant encounter with him at a local hearing where he showed up to personally push to convert one of the high schools in my district to charter. Since then that high school has among other things, experienced huge teacher turnover. Key senior classes have had multiple substitutes with “emergency crediamtials.” They hired an “executive director” whom they pay a quarter million dollars a year,! whose primary job seems to be opening more charters in our county who will hire him as a “consultant” and who hired his wife as an administrator for a salary of $170,000 per year. He also recently put one of the Candidates for Superintendent if the County Office of Education on his payroll as an “Assistant Prinicipal”. The County Office approves charters if they are turned down at the District level.”

Rachel Levy, a mother and public school activist in Virginia, explains here the lesson of the recent Democratic campaign for governor: Real Democrats support public schools.

Dr. Ralph Northam, Lt. Governor, was a strong supporter of public schools. He won the support of the Virginia Education Association and public school allies across the state.

Tom Perriello had the support of veterans of the Obama administration, Elizabeth Earren, and Bernie Sanders. He also had ties in the past with DFER.

Northam won handily.

Will the national Democratic Party get the message?

Real Democrats support public schools, teachers, and unions. Real Democrats do not support charter schools, high-stakes testing, VAM, or privatization of public schools by charter.

Colorado Senator Michael Bennett was previously superintendent of schools in Denver. There he set off the school choice frenzy and led the parade to open charters. Now he finds himself trying to explain that he is different from Betsy DeVos. He is a Democrat, one of DFER’s champions. She is a Republican, Trump’s pick as Secretary of Education. He sold out public education. She wants to privatize it. She loves vouchers. He doesn’t. She is a choice ideologue. So is he.

See the difference? Look closer. No, closer still. I know it’s hard but keep trying.