Archives for category: Stand for Children

Karen Lewis is the inspiration for today’s teacher’s strikes.

She is one of a kind.

She is a hero, a woman of courage, character, integrity, intellect, and steel.

The Chicago Teachers Union just released this video tribute to Karen.

Karen is a product of the Chicago Public Schools. She went to elite Ivy League colleges, first to Mount Holyoke, then transferred to Dartmouth College, where she was the only African American female in the class of 1974.

Karen returned to Chicago and became a chemistry teacher in the Chicago Public Schools, where she taught for 22 years.

In 2010, an upstart group of unionists called the Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE) ousted the leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union and elected Karen Lewis as its president. The new leadership cut its own salaries and began building relationships with community organizations and parents.

The city’s political and financial elite rewrote state law in hopes of preventing the union from striking. Assisted by Jonah Edelman of the turncoat “Stand for Children,” the city’s financial elite hired the state’s top lobbyists (so that none would be available to help the union), raised millions of dollars (outspending the unions), and passed a state law saying that teachers could not strike unless they had the approval of 75% of their members. They thought this was an impossible threshold. Jonah Edelman, seated alongside James Schine Crown, one of Chicago’s wealthiest financiers, boasted of their feat at the Aspen Institute in 2011. Surrounded by their union-hating peers from other cities at the Aspen Ideas Festival, Edelman said “If It Could Happen Here, It Could Happen Anywhere,” meaning that with enough financial and political clout, unions could be crushed. (The event was transcribed by Parents Across America and blogger Fred Klonsky copied the video before the Aspen Institute took it down). Edelman subsequently apologized for his candid remarks, but Stand for Children has continued to act as a proxy for philanthrocapitalists. (The Aspen video and Edelman’s apology is here on Fred Klonsky’s blog).

Needless to say, the elites were shocked when Karen Lewis and her team called for authorization to strike and won the support of more than 90% of the union’s membership.

In 2012, the union struck for 10 days and won important concessions, including protections for teachers laid off when Rahm Emanuel closed schools, prevention of merit pay (which she knew has failed everywhere), and changes in the teacher evaluation system. The union had carefully built relationships with parents and communities, and the strike received broad public support.

In 2014, Karen Lewis was urged to challenge Rahm Emanuel in the 2015 mayoral election. She set up an exploratory committee, and early polls showed she was likely to win. But in the fall of 2014, Karen was afflicted with a cancerous brain tumor. She was 61 years old. She stepped down as president of the CTU. She is cared for by her devoted husband, John Lewis, who was a physical education teacher in the Chicago Public Schools.

Karen Lewis exemplified courage, fearlessness, Resistance, leadership, and concern for teachers and children.

Every teacher who took the bold step of striking to improve the conditions of teaching and learning in their school  stands on the shoulders of Karen Lewis. Every teacher and parent who wears Red for Ed is in the debt of this great woman.

She is our hero. She should be the hero of everyone who cares about the rights of children and the eventual triumph of the common good.

Watch here to see Karen Lewis before her illness, speaking at the first annual conference of the Network for Public Education in Austin Texas on March 1, 2024. Her speech was preceded by that of John Kuhn, superintendent of a school district in Texas. Karen starts speaking about the 14-minute mark. Both are worth watching.

I interviewed Karen Lewis at the second annual conference of the Network for Public Education in Chicago in 2015. You can see it here. 

And this is my account of how I met Karen for the first time and why I love her.

She inspires me every day. I miss her very much.






















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.


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.




Darcie Cimarusti writes in Valerie Strauss’s Answer Sheet about the calculated devastation done to Indiana’s once-great public schools by privatizers, chief among them Mike Pence, former governor Mitch Daniels, David Harris of the Mind Trust, and Stand for Children (which long ago abandoned its credentials as a progressive organization).

Darcie is a school board member in New Jersey, an education blogger, parent, and part-time staff at the Network for Public Education, where her work has been invaluable.

The Indianapolis story is especially sad, because the privatization movement was bipartisan. Democrats joined in the plunder with Republicans. Please bear in mind that David Harris of Mind Trust claims to be a Democrat, even though he has paved the way for privatization and continues to do so, and Bart Peterson was the Democratic mayor of Indianapolis. Both of them might just as well be on the staff of Betsy DeVos.

Here is an excerpt from this excellent post:

In 2001, charter school legislation was passed in Indiana, and thanks to [David] Harris’s lobbying, [Bart] Peterson was made the first mayor in the nation with the authority to authorize charters. Harris was named the state’s charter schools chief, reviewing applications and making recommendations to Mayor Peterson. By 2002, the state’s first three charter schools opened.

While still employed by the city of Indianapolis, Harris came up with a plan to “create a venture capital fund to greenlight new school-reform nonprofits,” and in 2006, the Mind Trust was born. The Indianapolis Star editorial board praised Harris’s plan, writing, “The Mind Trust has done this city a tremendous favor with today’s release of its dramatic plan to overhaul Indianapolis Public Schools.”

With millions of dollars from local foundations, specifically the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation and the Lilly Endowment, the Mind Trust enticed national reform entities to Indianapolis, including Teach For America, the New Teacher Project and Stand for Children.

With the arrival of Oregon-based Stand For Children, Indianapolis school board elections started to take on a decidedly different tenor. Until 2010, a few thousand dollars was all that was needed to win a seat. That all changed when Stand For Children, an education reform 501(c)(4), started pouring tens of thousands of dollars into the 2012 elections. Stand’s tax return that year reported that the election of three Indianapolis school board members was a top accomplishment for the organization.

In 2013, reform-minded Superintendent Lewis Ferebee was appointed, and Stand for Children endorsed and financially supported additional candidates in 2014 and 2016, ensuring a pro-reform board majority to support Ferebee and the Mind Trust’s agenda.

Stand for Children also spent $473,172 lobbying Indiana lawmakers on Public Law 1321, which was passed in 2014. Public Law 1321 was based on a 2013 model policy drafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Koch-funded member organization of corporate lobbyists and conservative state legislators who craft “model legislation” on issues important to them and then help shepherd it through legislatures. Public Law 1321 allows Indianapolis and other districts across the state to create Innovation Network Schools — schools that are overseen by the school district but managed by private operators. These include privately operated charter schools that gain instant access to existing public buildings and resources.

IPS opened the first Innovation Network school in 2015. Fast-forward to 2018, and the district website lists 20 Innovation Schools in total. The Mind Trust has “incubated” and helped IPS open many of those Innovation Schools, including Daniels’s Purdue Polytechnic High School, with seven more schools in the pipeline.

While the Mind Trust and Stand for Children would have Indianapolis residents believe these reforms are community-driven, in essence, the influence they wield over IPS and the school board is not dissimilar to what happens when a state takes over a school district. The Mind Trust and its web of connections in the statehouse, the mayor’s office, the Chamber of Commerce and countless other high-level organizations, institutions and foundations, both around the city and nationally, determine much of what happens in IPS.

But the longer the Mind Trust operates in the city, the clearer it becomes that these forces are focused on turning IPS schools over to private operators, and often the operators selected by the Mind Trust fail to demonstrate levels of student success higher than the schools they are tapped to replace.

For example, the Mind Trust recruited Matchbook Learning and named it a 2017 Innovation School Fellow, awarding founder Sajan George $400,000 to develop a turnaround school plan for IPS.

George, a favorite son of the national reform crowd, also received start-up funds from The NewSchools Venture Fund and the Gates Foundation Next Generation Learning Challenges. He was a keynote speaker at the annual conference of the American Federation for Children (AFC), the school choice juggernaut founded by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, when AFC’s conference was held in Indianapolis last year.

Matchbook Learning calls itself a “national nonprofit charter school turnaround management organization,” but in 2017 it operated only two schools — Merit Prep in Newark, New Jersey and Michigan Technical Academy in Detroit, Michigan. Both of Matchbook’s schools were hybrid charters, where students learn in a brick-and-mortar building but receive the majority of their instruction virtually. Both were closed by the end of the 2016-17 school year for lack of growth and poor performance.

Hybrids such as Matchbook have performed no better in the state of Indiana. An Indiana State Board of Education evaluation of performance data from the 2016 and 2017 school years concluded that “students in virtual and hybrid charter schools do not perform as well as those in brick-and-mortar charter schools.” In 2017 there were five hybrid charters in the state, and according to the state’s own grading system, two hybrid schools received D’s, and the other 3 received F’s.

Matchbook Learning, thanks to the support of the Mind Trust, was granted a charter by the Indianapolis Charter School Board, and selected by the IPS board to “restart” Wendell Phillips School 63.

At School 63, 85 percent of students were black or Hispanic, and 76 percent of students qualified for the federal free-lunch program for children from low-income families. The school was identified as “underperforming” after five years of F’s using the same grading system that gave hybrid charter schools such as Matchbook D and F grades as well.

Despite Matchbook’s history of failure in two different states, and the abysmal performance of hybrid charters across Indiana, only one board member voted against Matchbook’s takeover of School 63 — Elizabeth Gore. Gore, elected to the board in 2016, is the only currently seated board member elected without the financial support of Stand for Children.

“I refuse to turn over the school to a company that obviously has problems to an academic program that I feel has no accountability, a record or sustainability for improving children’s academic growth,” Gore said.

The 2018 election looks like it is shaping up to potentially derail the vision of Indianapolis as a national model for the reform movement. With three of seven seats up for election, and Elizabeth Gore demonstrating she’s not afraid to vote against the Stand for Children-beholden board majority, the balance of power on the board could easily shift.

The Denver School Board is supposed to be bought and paid for by Dark Money, so public education advocates rejoiced when they elected one person to the seven-member Board.

Jeannie Kaplan, a former member of the board and now a tireless activist, tells the story here. She says it was EXTRAORDINARY!

“Dr. Carrie Olson, 33 year DPS teacher, soundly defeated incumbent, “reformer,” Mike Johnson., and she did so with $33,747 in her campaign war chest and a completely volunteer “staff.” The dollars and vote totals cited in this post can be found here and here. As of the last campaign finance report Mr. Johnson had raised $101,336 on his own and was the beneficiary of $42,777 from Democrats for Education Reform( DFER) dark money and $6320 Stand for Children dark money. His 11,193 votes cost his campaign $13.44 each; Carrie’s 11,121 votes cost her $2.73 per vote. He spent almost 5 times as much per vote as she. Extraordinary.”

Jeannie’s underfunded (almost unfounded) Group is called ODOS (Our Denver Our Schools). In one race, it supported a dynamic high school graduate named Tay Anderson. The union, however, decided to support a candidate who is from TFA and works for the TFA leadership training program, which grooms TFA Teachers to get involved in political roles. The latter candidate swamped poor Tay, and now TFA has two seats on the Denver board.

As you can see, Denver is a hotbed of political intrigue and big money.

But ODOS is celebrating because it elected one member to the board.

Given the odds, that was quite an accomplishment.

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.

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.

This very important post was written for this blog by Jim Scheurich on behalf of himself, Gayle Cosby, and Nathanial Williams, who are identified in the text. They are experienced in the school politics of Indianapolis, a city whose school system is being systematically dismantled and privatized. They have been active in the fight against what they call the DPE (Destroy Public Education) model in their city. Their experience and insights are extremely informative, especially their recognition that the DPE movement is not limited to Indianapolis; it has gone national. Indianapolis is only one of its targets. The business community, civic leaders, political leaders, DFER, the Mind Trust, and Stand for Children have joined together to Destroy Public Education. As they attack democratic institutions, they falsely claim that “it is all about the kids” and they claim they are advancing civil rights. Instead, it is about money and power and gentrification. As the paper points out, it used to be possible to run for the IPS school board with less than $5,000. Since the DPE crowd arrived, it costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to try for a seat on the local school board. Consequently, the DPE crowd has bought control of IPS.

Think National, Fight Local:

Fighting a National Neoliberal “Destroy Public Education” Model at the Local Level

Jim Scheurich, Gayle Cosby, and Nathanial Williams
Indianapolis, Indiana, Community & University Activists

The three of us have been collaboratively fighting the national neoliberal “Destroy Public Education” (DPE) model in Indianapolis, Indiana, for several years (we dislike calling it a “reform” model given the generally positive connotations of that word that obscure the truth about these efforts).

Gayle was an Indianapolis Public School (IPS) school board member from 2012-2016. She was initially funded to win her board seat by the local DPE initiative in 2012, but she soon realized what they were up to and turned into a vocal critic, publically speaking and organizing against them. Also, she is now an Urban Education Studies (UES) second year doctoral student at Indiana University – Indianapolis (IUPUI). Nathanial “Nate” Williams is a long time Indianapolis activist, starting as a Black Student Union activist in his undergraduate years at the same university. He graduated with his doctorate from the same UES doctoral program in 2015 and became a professor at Knox College in Illinois, though still maintaining his activism in Indianapolis as much as possible. I, Jim Scheurich, am a professor who came to Indianapolis in 2012 to coordinate the UES program after having been an educational leadership professor at Texas A&M for eight years and at the University of Texas at Austin for twelve years.

The three of us began meeting to share data and information a couple of years ago. It became clear that the local DPE’s deceptive messaging needed to be publically critiqued. The two “non-profit” organizations doing most of the DPE work in our community are the Mind Trust, which works to incubate and fund new charter school ideas and to facilitate partnerships with the Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS), and Stand for Children, a national organization headquartered in Oregon and working to dupe parents into loving the “choice” model or, as we call it, the DPE model in 11 states. In order to share this critique with the community, we began doing public forums and using social media.

However, what we want to focus on here is the national “model” that is being applied in Indianapolis. While Nate and Gayle began to “see” this early on, our understanding of it has only gotten stronger. We now believe there are a range of tactics or elements implemented across all the cities where the DPE model is being applied. We are not saying there is one set of tactics or elements (organizations, policy, rhetoric, etc) that is being applied everywhere, overseen in some tightly controlled way by one “headquarters” entity. While such a dominant, controlling entity may exist, we do not know about it. Probably the closest to such an organization is the Center for Reinventing Public Education (CRPE), located at the University of Washington, as they list 39 cities (though we believe there are more following mainly the same “model”) and their characteristics ( (you have to click on “View Network Overview” to see all 39.)

The point to remember with all of the “model” tactics or elements is that they all converge on destroying traditional public education and privatizing and profitizing public education, and they often do so in a way that local people do not fully comprehend because of the slick marketing and messaging. Indeed, their public relations efforts are usually good to excellent, which commonly includes the appropriation of civil rights and community-oriented language.

Here, then, is our initial list of the “model” tactics or elements with some brief discussion on each, particularly in reference to Indianapolis. But one effort we really need is for activist researchers, community or university based, to send us your data from as many cities as possible. We need local community and university researchers to collaborate in developing the data from each individual city, and then we will synthesize all that data to further define and verify our contention that there is a national model, however decentralized in application. We will return to this point after our list.

1. Increasing integration of traditional public schools and charter schools, but with a favoring of charter schools. Here in Indianapolis, there is a step by step effort to enhance charters and dismantle the traditional district. Charters often get cozy deals from the school district that benefit them with dollars, busing, support, and students, while traditional schools serving the same student populations are squeezed financially and closed. Also, there has been the development of measures to have charters created by the district, which, in Indianapolis, are called “innovation” schools (we will cover this further below).

2. Usually a single funding conduit to which national and local wealthy, white individuals and organizations can contribute for the local DPE initiatives. This is especially useful for huge increases in the funding provided for school board elections. This conduit usually has a 501c4 to hide the sources and expenditures of the funds. Stand for Children plays that role here, as well as in Nashville, where they got a hand slap for violating local election laws ( In addition, Stand for Children is meeting some resistance in Denver and Chicago school board elections. Also, according to grassroots and university activists, the Skillman Foundation is playing a similar role in Detroit.

3. Local and national wealthy, white, conservative collaboration. Collaboration between local white, wealthy conservative power elite and national white, wealthy conservative (sometimes rightwing) power elite. Here in Indianapolis, this includes Chamber of Commerce, Board of Realtors, and Lilly. Nationally, it often includes Gates, Dell, the Koch brothers, the DeVos family, the Bradley Foundation, the Friedman Foundation, the Heritage Foundation, and the Walton family, or billionaire oligarchs as some would suggest.

4. Huge infusion of new dollars into school board elections. A huge increase in dollars is devoted to getting DPE-supported candidates elected to the school board, most of which flows through the single funding conduit discussed above. This increase in funding is phenomenal in Indianapolis. Before DPE became operational in Indianapolis, a local citizen could win a school board election with ~$5,000. Starting in 2012, Stand for Children was spending literally hundreds of thousands per candidate for each election and has spent over $1.5 million for all their candidates over the past three elections. As a result, Stand for Children has funded the campaigns of six of the seven current IPS board members, and it shows in their voting records.

5. Development of a network of local organizations or affiliates that all collaborate closely on the same local agenda. In Indianapolis, these include Stand for Children, Democrats for Education Reform (a cover for so-called members of the Democratic Party to support DPE; in 8 cities), Teach for America, Teach Plus, local charter schools, the Indianapolis Mayor’s office, the Chamber of Commerce, etc. The network will create some new organizations for a specific purpose, and then that organization, having served its purpose, will disappear. For example, Democrats for Education Reform operated in Indiana until the first wave of DPE candidates were elected in 2012. It then mysteriously ceased to exist, after contributing thousands of dollars to candidates. While the Mind Trust does have a diagram of its partners on its website, most local people do not know that a whole range of organizations are closely collaborating on the same agenda.

6. Teach for America (and all other instant-teacher-certification programs) and Teach Plus are integral parts of the DPE “model” agenda almost everywhere, whether they bear the same organizational name or work under a different name. These types of organizations provide new (typically short term), low salary teachers, especially for charters and especially to bust teacher unions and undermine university-based teacher preparation programs. Teach Plus is an organization that began in Boston and was incubated by the Indianapolis-based Mind Trust. It works by taking new teachers and paying them a stipend to research educational issues (of the pro-DPE variety) and teaching them to lobby at the statehouse for those issues. Together, they have funding support from the same funding sources as DPE initiatives nationally.

7. Innovations Schools. So-called “Innovation” schools are being set up across the country. For us here in Indianapolis, this is a way to set up charters within the school district. The school board signs a contract with an organization to run a charter within the district. That organization then has its own board, which has oversight over all aspects of the school. The Indianapolis School Board no longer has any control over the school, except for being able to get out of the contract if performance requirements are not met. In addition, that school can pay any charter management organization or its own organization whatever it wants. Thus, this within the district charter school is no longer under the control of the district and is now a source of profit for the “non-profit” organization, typically seen in the form of over-inflated CEO salaries at the top of the charter organization. Provocatively, the state legislation that made this possible comes from ALEC (the right wing American Legislative Exchange Council that has led the takeover of state government by the right wing with funding from the Koch Brothers and other billionaire oligarchs). ALEC calls this “The Innovation Schools and School Districts Act.” ( This is a good example of an initiative that looks local, but was actually created nationally.

8. Unified enrollment. This is a CRPE term ( What it basically means is an online system through which parents can choose among both charters and district traditional schools. This sounds parent and student oriented, but it further cements charters and traditional schools into one so-called “choice” system, allows for manipulation of the racial and class make up of schools to serve gentrification, and often devolves into parents bidding for seats in the “best” schools. (We could offer more critique of this system, but no space for that here.) In Indianapolis, we do not have a fully developed one, but we are on our way with Enroll Indy. We believe this idea originated in New Orleans’ all charter district, where it is called EnrollNOLA. Los Angeles is considering it, but fighting over whether to include or exclude charter schools ( Other cities that have or are considering this are Baltimore, Camden, Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, Hartford, Memphis, New York City, Neward, Oakland, Philadelphia, Portland, Rochester, San Antonio, and Washington, DC—a regular roll call of DPE cities (

9. Support for gentrification. Though many of the organizations involved in DPE vehemently state that one of their primary aims is integrated schools and equitable opportunities for all students, this is simply not the case. Indianapolis (and many other cities) are in various stages of gentrification of the inner city core. Population migration combined with school choice and, in some cases, unified enrollment (though not fully implemented here yet) has resulted in significant and intended racial isolation of white students in the district. Locally this is evidenced by the Indianapolis Mayor’s Office Neighborhoods of Educational Opportunity (or, NEO) plan, which is an educational reform (DPE) plan developed in hopes of raising the tax base in the inner city of Indianapolis (see: In the case of IPS, this gentrification, a la school choice, has left us with “highly desirable” magnet schools where a majority of the students are white. This conflation of “white” and “high performing” or “highly desirable” has led to further segregation of our public school students.

10. Business as best model for schooling. In Indianapolis, the Mind Trust and Stand for Children persistently claim that a business model is the best model for how to do schooling. However, particularly over the past decade or two, we now have extensive research in the U.S. and across the world as to the characteristics of schools that serve all children well, but there is no education research we know of that supports a business model as the best model for high quality schooling that serves all students well.

In your city, you may have some of the same elements of the DPE and some different than the ones in Indianapolis. Our point is that there is a kind of national menu of elements and tactics that local DPE initiatives are utilizing, and local folks do not usually know this. Indeed, our experience is that most local folks do not even know that the same kinds of neoliberal DPE efforts are being used in other cities.

Accordingly, we think it is critical that local people understand the national nature of what is occurring. We also think it is critical that those of us paying attention to the national level are communicating about this national menu of elements. Locally, one of the messages we are trying to communicate is that what we are fighting is a national “model,” not a locally derived one, as is typically communicated to the local community. This is especially important because our local DPE effort, led by the Mind Trust-Stand for Children Network, deceptively tries to portray itself as a local community effort dedicated to the local community.

To further our efforts to fight this anti-democratic, anti-community local-national effort to privatize and profitize public schools, we are asking other local communities to check this menu list of tactics and elements we have offered. Let us know which ones we have named that you have and which ones you have that we have not listed. If folks will do this, we can build a national data base that can be shared. Just send us the numbers for the ones you have, like you might have in your city #’s 1, 2, 4, 6, and 10, and then tell us a little about ones you have that we do not have listed here. Please send all such communications to Jim Scheurich at

At the recent school board meeting of Indianapolis Public Schools, Professor Jim Scheurich of Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis got up to speak. The story he tells is similar to what happened in Denver, where Stand for Children, DFER, and other conduits for anonymous donors bought every seat on the elected school board, swamping the opposition with cash they could not match.

This was his testimony:

“My name is Dr. Jim Scheurich.

“I have been a professor of education for 25 years, first at the University of Texas at Austin and then at Texas A&M University and now at IUPUI.

“Throughout those 25 years, I have studied school success in urban districts, even winning a couple of major national awards as a scholar.

“Based on having studied some of the best urban districts in the country, I would have to say that the IPS school board and administration are among the lowest quality I have seen.

“This conclusion is particularly evident in the many negative issues that have arisen in the school closing processes and decisions.

“What I want to address about these negative issues is how we came to have this particular school board that follows an agenda that consistently disregards what the community wants, like closing legacy high schools.

“Up until 2010, an ordinary citizen of Indianapolis could win a school board seat for $3-5,000.
Starting in 2012, Stand for Children and the Mind Trust provided over $50,000 each for their candidates. Over the last 3 elections, Stand for Children and the Mind Trust have provided around $1.5 million to elect all but one school board member, Elizabeth Gore.

“This means that six of the seven board members became board members through the purchase of our local democracy. This means they owe their allegiance to the agenda of Stand for Children and the Mind Trust and NOT to the Indianapolis community.

“It seems to me that the big money election of these six board members is certainly anti-community and anti-democracy.

“But this is not the end of this scary story.

“The $1.5 million spent on the last three elections flowed through Stand for Children that used a tax designation, 501c4, to hide the source of that money and the ways they spend it.

“Why would Stand for Children and the Mind Trust try to hide the sources and spending of all of this money if they are as community oriented as they say they are?

“What they don’t want you to know is that much of this big money is coming from wealthy individuals and organizations from all around the country.

“Because then you might ask why do wealthy folks who may never set foot in Indianapolis want to buy our school board?

“You also might ask why the same wealthy folks from around the country are doing exactly the same agenda in 35 other urban centers.

“Why are wealthy folks from around the country purchasing so many urban school boards? Why are these 35 purchased school boards following the same agenda, like closing legacy high schools and supporting the opening of charter high schools?

“We in Indianapolis do not want to follow some national agenda created by wealthy individuals and organizations from outside Indianapolis.

“Instead we want to follow an agenda that is Indianapolis centered and focuses on the voices and needs of ordinary Indianapolis people of all races and incomes.

“And, thus, what we don’t need is any closing of our legacy high schools.”

This may be the most important post you read today.

Maurice Cunningham, a professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts, began investigating the millions of dollars pouring into the state during the referendum on charter schools last fall. He wondered why so many billionaires from other states wanted to expand the number of charter schools in Massachusetts. He continued his investigation after the election and has lifted the curtain on groups like Families for Excellent Schools, Stand for Children, and Educators4Excellence, and Leadership for Educational Excellence (a group connected to TFA).

He began researching the intersection between philanthropy and dark money.

My descent into darkness led me to decipher the hidden funding of Families for Excellent Schools, a New York based organization that poured over $17 million in dark money into the Great Schools Massachusetts ballot committee for 2016’s Question 2 on charter schools. That brought me to the initial funding to get FES up and running in Massachusetts, which came from a Boston based Internal Revenue Code 501(c)(3) charity called Strategic Grant Partners. The investments from SGP are consistent with the practice of wealthy individuals using charitable entities to influence the direction of public policy, a topic I explored in Unmasking the Philanthrocapitalists Who Almost Bought Massachusetts Schools. One way for wealthy individuals to grease the path to their public policy goals is to fund organizations that undermine teachers unions, a topic I took up in Philanthrocapitalists Brandish BEANball at BTU.

In the course of this research I have created a database of all Strategic Grant Partners’ publicly available grants since its inception, from its Form 990PF tax returns. The non-profit has dispensed many grants for family support and educational purposes over that time to about seventy grantees, only five of which I would characterize as engaging in political activities: advocacy/organizing/mobilizing for three of them, adding lobbying activities for two, Stand for Children and Families for Excellent Schools. There were no grants to political activities organizations until Stand for Children in 2009, and then no other such organization received a grant until 2013 when Education Reform Now and Families for Excellent Schools received funding.

He concludes:

The Stand for Children and Families for Excellent Schools initiatives both led toward the ballot box and thus we could look at OCFP reports; but these days the reports only tell us which dark money front is laundering for which elegantly named shell. That’s the tip of the iceberg. But there is much more.

Professor Cunningham, keep up the research. Check out Donors Trust, another group that bundles dark money for school privatization. Add ALEC and its donors.

Dark Money wants to destroy our public schools and our democracy.

The people behind these activities use “civil rights” rhetoric to advance anti-democratic goals. They are thieves of democracy.

Amy Frogge is an elected member of the Metro Nashville school board. She is a lawyer and a parent. In her first election, she was outspent overwhelmingly by corporate reform forces, although she was unaware of their push for privatization. In her second election, Stand for Children poured huge sums into the effort to defeat her, but once again she won handily.

In this post, which appeared on her Facebook page, she explains why she loves public schools and why her children are thriving in them.

Like many parents, I initially worried about enrolling my children in our zoned public schools, because I heard negative gossip about local schools when we first moved to our neighborhood. But our experiences in local public schools have been overwhelmingly positive. This year, my daughter is a 7th grader at H.G. Hill Middle School, and my son is a 4th grader at Gower Elementary School. They have attended our zoned neighborhood schools since pre-k (my son) and kindergarten (my daughter). Our local schools are Title 1 schools (Gower recently came off the Title 1 list) serving widely diverse populations.

If you have not considered Nashville’s zoned public schools, you really should. These are just a FEW of my children’s experiences in our schools:

My children have taken many educational field trips over the years. My son has traveled to Chattanooga to visit the Challenger Space Center and the Creative Discovery Museum. My daughter has visited the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Discovery Park of America in Union City, TN, and Wonderworks in Pigeon Forge, TN. This year, she is heading to Six Flags for a second time with her middle school band. (Last year, she played at Six Flags over Atlanta, and this year, she’ll play at Six Flags over St. Louis.) As part of this year’s band trip, she’ll also tour The Gateway Arch and Museum of Westward expansion.

Here in Nashville, my children have taken field trips to the Adventure Science Center and planetarium, Traveler’s Rest (to learn about history), the Nashville Zoo, Cheekwood Botanical Gardens, the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, and the Schermerhorn Symphony Hall (where they learned about instruments from a symphony member and a Nashville sessions player). They have sung with their elementary school choir at the State Capitol, Nashville City Hall, and the County Music Hall of Fame. They have both studied songwriting in a special segment which brings professional songrwriters to their school to set their songs to music. This year, my children both participated in the Project Based Learning Expo at Trevecca Nazarene University, where my son presented a project on the book “I am Malala” and my daughter presented a project on Samurai.

My children have both performed in a 1950s-60s music revue and in numerous choir and theatrical performances. My son played “The Prince” in “Cinderella” last year at Gower and this year will play “Scar” in “The Lion King.” His drama teacher suggested him for a NECAT children’s show, so he also went to a studio this fall to film a television production.

In elementary school, my children helped hatch baby chicks in the classroom in spring. The teacher that hatches chicks also operates an animal camp each summer at her nearby farm, where children learn about both farm animals and exotics- and also just spend time playing in the creek! My children have also attended other summer camps through the school, including Camp Invention, where they built their own pinball machines and more.

My daughter now plays in three bands at her middle school: the 7th-8th grade band, the Honor Band, and a rock band. She recently participated in a band competition at MTSU and was thrilled when her middle school band won awards. My daughter has learned to play three different instruments and also has been invited to sing solos with her rock band (for which she also plays the piano). She has played soccer, played basketball, and currently runs track at H.G. Hill Middle, where she also serves as a Student Ambassador and gives tours of the school to prospective families.

My children have both participated in numerous clubs at their schools, including robotics/coding (my son can now code games on his own), cartooning club, gardening club, and the Good News Club. In Encore, my daughter built rollercoasters to learn about physics, and my son has extracted DNA from strawberries. My son was excited to learn today that he will soon study special effects makeup in his drama class, and he will also soon participate in the school’s “Wax Museum”: In 4th grade, every student dresses up as an historical figure and shares that person’s story with those who come to tour the “museum.”

My children have experienced ALL of this because of public education in Nashville. They are learning SO much- not only academically, but also about their community and the larger world from their friends who come from many different countries and speak many languages. I believe the education my children have received in our often underappreciated zoned schools rivals any they would receive from private schools in Nashville or the more coveted public schools in more affluent areas of Middle Tennessee. My children are both doing well academically, and they are getting all they need to be happy, well-rounded, and confident.

Public schools rock!

Please support our public schools! Our public school teachers, leaders and staff work hard to serve our children well.