Archives for category: Stand for Children

I received the letter at the bottom of this post at the beginning of January. I thought it deserved a response.

This was my response:

Dear Jonah,

You don’t know me but I have followed your career. As the son of illustrious parents, much was expected of you.

Stand for Children was a great idea, when it actually defended children and public schools.

But somewhere along the way, you changed and Stand for Children changed. In 2007-08, you began to accept gifts of millions of dollars from “ultra-wealthy political donors,” and you began leading campaigns against teachers, their unions, and public schools. You demanded test-based evaluations of teachers, a useless metric that punished teachers who taught the neediest children. You boasted at an Aspen summer meeting in 2011 (which I attended) that you had outsmarted the Chicago Teachers Union by hiring all the best lobbyists. The big political donors gave you money to support pro-charter candidates in school board races.

Early supporters of Stand for Children started to call it “Stand on Children.”

I agree with all the goals you describe in your letter, and I must ask you if you will continue to promote charter schools, even though they drain money from public schools; whether you will continue to support test-based evaluation of teachers, even though it has consistently failed; whether you will continue to support school board candidates who favor charter schools and privatization.

If you truly intend to reject donations from “ultra-wealthy political donors,” if you truly reject all forms of privatization, including charter schools, if you truly mean to demand “that politicians at all levels do everything possible to protect and strengthen public education, support children and families’ well-being, and reduce the prevalence of racism,” then we can stand together. Please let me and the Network for Public Education know where you stand on the issues that could unite us.

Diane Ravitch

On Thu, Dec 30, 2021 at 10:36 AM Jonah Edelman <> wrote:


Reflecting on 2021, I see reasons for hope. The widespread availability of vaccines. A return to in-person learning. An economy that rebounded with record speed due to bold government action.

At the same time, there is cause for grave concern. Tens of millions of children and young people are struggling to recover academically, socially, and emotionally from the pandemic. Tragically, instead of using their power to help children and young people get on track, politicians are passing bans on conversations about race and discrimination that deny children the honest and unbiased understanding of the past they need to create a better future. At the same time, extremists are targeting and harassing school board members, principals, teachers, parents, and even students who want an accurate portrayal of U.S. history with diverse viewpoints.DONATE

Public education is the pathway to economic opportunity and the backbone of a healthy democracy.

That is why we must stand together against the politicians, media moguls, and ultra-wealthy political donors who are stirring up fear and hate and conspiring to make public education a political battleground at the expense of our children’s learning and well-being.

And it is why, together, we must continue to use our collective voice and votes to ensure that politicians at all levels do everything possible to protect and strengthen public education, support children and families’ well-being, and reduce the prevalence of racism and the harm it does to us all.

We are deeply grateful for your partnership and support, and we hope you will continue to stand with us in 2022.

Standing together with you,

Jonah Edelman

Stand for Children

2121 SW Broadway #111

Portland, OR 97201

Last week, I posted my thoughts on “Who Demoralized the Nation’s Teachers?” I sought to identify the people and organizations that spread the lie that America’s public schools were “broken” and that public school teachers were the cause. The critics slandered teachers repeatedly, claiming that teachers were dragging down student test scores. They said that today’s teachers were not bright enough; they said teachers had low SAT scores; and they were no longer “the best and the brightest.”

The “corporate reform” movement (the disruption movement) was driven in large part by the “reformers'” belief that public schools were obsolete and their teachers were the bottom of the barrel. So the “reformers” promoted school choice, especially charter schools, and Teach for America, to provide the labor supply for charter schools. TFA promised to bring smart college graduates for at least two years to staff public schools and charter schools, replacing the public school teachers whom TFA believed had low expectations. TFA would have high expectations, and these newcomers with their high SAT scores would turn around the nation’s schools. The “reformers” also promoted the spurious, ineffective and harmful idea that teachers could be evaluated by the test scores of their students, although this method repeatedly, consistently showed that those who taught affluent children were excellent, while those who taught children with special needs or limited-English proficiency or high poverty were unsatisfactory. “Value-added” methodology ranked teachers by the income and background of their students’ families, not by the teachers’ effectiveness.

All of these claims were propaganda that was skillfully utilized by people who wanted to privatize the funding of public education, eliminate unions, and crush the teaching profession.

The response to the post was immediate and sizable. Some thought the list of names and groups I posted was dated, others thought it needed additions. The comments of readers were so interesting that I present them here as a supplement to my original post. My list identified No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and Common Core as causes of demoralization that tied teachers to a standards-and-testing regime that reduced their autonomy as professionals. One reader said that the real beginning of the war on teachers was the Reagan-era report called “A Nation at Risk,” which asserted that American public schools were mired in mediocrity and needed dramatic changes. I agree that the “Nation at Risk” report launched the era of public-school bashing. But it was NCLB and the other “solutions” that launched teacher-bashing, blaming teachers for low test scores and judging teachers by their test scores. It should be noted that the crest of “reform” was 2010, when “Waiting for Superman” was released, Common Core was put into place, value-added test scores for teachers were published, and “reformers” like Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, Joel Klein, and other became media stars, with their constant teacher-bashing. For what it’s worth, the National Assessment of Educational Progress flatlined from 2010 onwards. Test score gains, which were supposedly the point of all this “reform” activity, were non-existent on the nation’s most consequential test (no stakes attached).

Readers also blamed demoralization on teachers’ loss of autonomy, caused by federal laws and the testing imposed by them, and by the weakness of principals and administrators who did not protect teachers from the anti-education climate caused by NCLB, RTTT, ESSA, and the test-and-punish mindset that gripped the minds of the nation’s legislators and school leaders.

Readers said that my list left off important names of those responsible for demoralizing the nation’s teachers.

Here are readers’ additions, paraphrased by me:

Michelle Rhee, who was pictured on the cover of TIME magazine as the person who knew “How to Fix American Education” and lionized in a story by Amanda Ripley. Rhee was shown holding a broom, preparing to sweep “bad teachers” and “bad principals” out of the schools. During her brief tenure as Chancellor of D.C., she fired scores of teachers and added to her ruthless reputation by firing a principal on national television. For doing so, she was the Queen of “education reform” in the eyes of the national media until USA Today broke a major cheating scandal in the D.C. schools.

Joel Klein, antitrust lawyer who was chosen by Mayor Bloomberg to become the Chancellor of the New York City public schools, where he closed scores of schools because of their low test scores, embraced test-based evaluation of schools and teachers, and opened hundreds of small specialized schools and charter schools. He frequently derided teachers and blamed them for lagging test scores. He frequently reorganized the entire, vast school system, surrounding himself with aides with Business School graduates and Wall Street credentials. Under his leadership, NYC was the epitome of corporate reform, which inherently disrespected career educators.

Michael Bloomberg, former Mayor of New York City, billionaire funder of charter schools and of candidates running for state or local offices who supported privatization of public schools. He claimed that under his leadership, the test-score gap between different racial gaps had been cut in half or even closed, but it wasn’t true. He stated his desire to fire teachers who couldn’t “produce” high test scores, while doubling the size of the classes of teachers who could. His huge public relations staff circulated the story of a “New York City Miracle,” but it didn’t exist and evaporated as soon as he left office.

Reed Hastings, billionaire funder of charter schools and founder of Netflix. He expressed the wish that all school boards would be eliminated. The charter school was his ideal, managed privately without public oversight.

John King, charter school leader who was appointed New York Commissioner of Education. He was a cheerleader for the Common Core and high-stakes testing. He made parents so angry by his policies that he stopped appearing at public events. He was named U.S. Secretary of Education, following Arne Duncan, in the last year of the Obama administration and continued to advocate for the same ill-fated policies as Duncan.

Betsy DeVos, Trump’s Secretary of Education despised public schools, unions, and teachers. She never had a good word to say about public schools. She wanted every student to attend religious schools at public expense.

Eli Broad and the “academy” he created to train superintendents with his ideas about top-down management and the alleged value of closing schools with low test scores

ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council), which writes model legislation for privatizing public schools by opening charters and vouchers and lowering standards for teachers and crushing unions. More than 2,000 rightwing state legislators belong to ALEC and get their ideas directly from ALEC about privatization and other ways to crush public schools and their teachers.

Rupert Murdoch, the media, Time, Newsweek, NY Times, Washington Post for their hostility towards public schools and their warm, breathless reporting about charter schools and Teach for America. The Washington Post editorialist is a devotee of charter schools and loved Michelle Rhee’s cut-throat style. TIME ran two cover stories endorsing the “reform” movement; the one featuring Michelle Rhee, and the other referring to one of every four public school teachers as a “rotten apple.” The second cover lauded the idea that teachers were the cause of low test scores, and one of every four should be weeded out. Newsweek also had a Rhee cover, and another that declared in a sentence repeated on a chalkboard, “We Must Fire Bad Teachers,” as though the public schools were overrun with miscreant teachers.

David Coleman, the architect of the Common Core, which undermined the autonomy of teachers and ironically removed teachers’ focus on content and replaced it with empty skills. The Common Core valued “informational text” over literature and urged teachers to reduce time spent teaching literature.

Margaret Raymond, of the Walton-funded CREDO, which evaluates charter schools.

Hanna Skandera, who was Secretary of Education in New Mexico and tried to import the Florida model of testing, accountability, and choice to New Mexico. That state has one of the highest rates of child poverty in the nation, and the Florida model didn’t make any difference.

Governors who bashed teachers and public schools, like Chris Christie of New Jersey, Andrew Cuomo of New York, and Gregg Abbott of Texas

“Researchers” like those from the Fordham Institute, who saw nothing good in public schools or their teaching

Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, who turned Denver into a model of “reform,” with everything DFER wanted: charter schools and high-stakes testing.

Poorly behaving students and parents who won’t hold kids accountable for bad behavior

Campbell Brown and the 74

The U.S. Department of Education, for foisting terrible ideas on the nation’s schools and teachers, and state education departments and state superintendents for going along with these bad ideas. Not one state chief stood up and said, “We won’t do what is clearly wrong for our students and their teachers.”

The two big national unions, for going along with these bad ideas instead of fighting them tooth and nail.

And now I will quote readers’ comments exactly as they wrote them, without identifying their authors (they know who they are):

*Rightwing organizations like the American Enterprise Institute, (AEI), the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, the Heritage Foundation, even the allegedly Democratic-leaning Center for American Progress (CAP) for publishing white papers masquerading as education research that promotes privatization.

*Wall St moguls who invented Social Impact Bonds (SIBs) to gamble on & profit from preK student test scores.

*Rogues Gallery. One body blow after another. A systematic 💦 water boarding with no respite. And then we add the Broad Foundation who sent Broad-trained “leadership” so drunk on arrogance and ignorance that the term “School Yard Bully” just doesn’t capture it.
Operating with the Imprimatur and thin veneer of venture capital, plutocratic philanthropy, these haughty thugs devastated every good program they laid eyes on. Sinking their claws instinctively into the intelligent, effective and cultured faculty FIRST.A well orchestrated, heavily scripted Saturday Night Massacre.

*Congress and the Presidents set the stage, but the US Department of Education was instrumental in making it all happen. They effectively implemented a coherent program to attack, smear and otherwise demoralize teachers. And make no mistake, it was quite purposeful

*This list is incomplete without members of Democrats for Education Reform. Add in Senator Ted Kennedy, whose role in the passage of No Child Left Behind was critical. Same for then Congressman and future Speaker of the House, John Boehner, who noted (bragged!) in his recent autobiography that he was essential in keeping President George W. Bush on track with NCLB.

*Let’s not forget Senate Chair Patty Murray. She has been an important player in keeping the worse of Ed Reform legislation alive.

*You have presented a rogue’s gallery of failed “reformers” that have worked against the common good. In addition to those mentioned, there has also been an ancillary group of promoters and enablers that have undermined public education including billionaire think tanks, foundations and members of both political parties. These people continue to spread lies and misinformation, and no amount of facts or research is able to diminish the drive to privatize. While so called reformers often hide behind an ideological shield, they are mostly about the greedy pursuit of appropriating the education that belongs to the people and transferring its billions in value into the pockets of the already wealthy. So called education reform is class warfare.

*The Clintons, whose 1994 reauthorization of ESEA set the stage for NCLB

*Don’t forget the so called ‘liberal’ media, publications such as the New York Times and the Boston Globe who have published pro charter piece after pro charter piece, while simultaneously dumping all over public schools

*I’d like to include a cast of editorialists like George Will, Bill Rhoden, and many others, who have parroted the plutocratic-backed Ed Reform line. Armstrong Williams would certainly be part of this.

*Going back even further into the origins of this madness, I would add to Diane’s excellent rogues gallery those unknown bureaucrats in state departments of education who replaced broad, general frameworks/overall strategic objectives with bullet lists of almost entirely content-free “standards” that served as the archetype of the Common [sic] Core [sic] based on the absurd theory that we should “teach skills” independent of content, all of which led, ironically, to trivialization of and aimlessnessness in ELA pedagogy and curricula and to a whole generation of young English teachers who themselves NOW KNOW NEXT TO NOTHING OF THE CONTENT OF THEIR SUBJECT, typified by the English teacher who told one of the parents who regularly contributes comments to this blog, “I’m an English teacher, so I don’t teach content.” So, today, instead of teaching, say, Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” as part of a coherent and cumulative unit on common structures and techniques and genres of poetry, one gets idiotic test-practice exercises on “inferencing” and “finding the main idea,” with any random piece of writing as the “text.”

*It’s driven by how teachers have been treated the past 4-5 years, especially during the pandemic. Teachers are first responders. We should have been on the list of first-to-be-vaccinated. Schools should have strict mask and vaccine mandates. Teachers are professional educators. We should not be told what and how to teach by ignorant, conspiracy-driven MAGA parents. Public education is a cornerstone of democracy, and we teachers are motivated by a sense of civic duty. We are demoralized by attempts to destroy public education, led by anti-education bible-thumping “leaders” like Betsy DeVos and (in my home state) Frank Edelblut. Public education is being dismantled by gleeful right-wingers, while naive, well-intentioned moderates wring their hands and do little to defend it. It’s tiring to be under constant attack on the front lines, with no support. That’s why teachers are leaving today.

*One tiny example of a routine phenomenon. Teachers got the message pretty clearly: They were at the bottom of the pecking order. The absolute bottom. Micromanaged and undercut at every turn.Excellent points. The heavy handed top-down, bureaucratic demands for “data,” basically serve one goal, to justify the existence of administration.Don’t forget the voracious appetite of publishing companies…We had a district administrator prance around in our “professional; development days” tell use could not read novels or other picture books to the students…ONLY USE PEARSON.”And then 7 or so years later, the district made us THROW OUT every book from Pearson, and they bought new crap curriculum…that program was written by testing industry, not educators, I think it was “Benchmark,” real junk.

*I’d like to mention how I often lose my student teachers when they see the edTPA requirement. They switch majors, and the teaching pool gets even smaller.

*After Skamdera in NM came the TFA VAM sweetheart Christopher Ruszkowski. At least he had 3 years in a classroom, Skammy had none, but the Florida model, you know?

*Children’s behavior is in large part in response to the drill and kill curriculum and endless testing and teaching to the test that has been driving public education since NCLB and the back-to-basics movement that ushered it in. No room for creativity, no room for self expression, no room for innovation. Highly scripted Curriculum like Open Court turned children into little automatons, barking their answers like well trained dogs and turned teachers into task masters. It was a drive to dummy down the curriculum for fear of teaching too much free thinking. And a drive to turn teachers into testing machines and teacher technicians, easily replaced by anyone who can walk in a classroom and pick up the manual. Only it doesn’t work. It was and is developmentally inappropriate and the resulting rebellion in the classrooms if proof of that. No wonder teachers are leaving in droves!

*Under threat of closure of the MA school board in the mid 1800s, Horace Mann turned to the cheapest labor he could find, literate northern females, and deployed the Protestant ethic “teacher as a calling” trope to institute state free-riding on teachers (as opposed to the free-riding of which teachers are accused). Everything in this piece is correct except for the “almost” in the final paragraph. There’s no “almost” about it … free-riding on teachers is an operational feature of a system imported from Prussia, designed to produce cheap, obedient labor by underpaying women. As of 2012, teachers would need to make around 1/3 higher salaries to be paid on the same level as their professional peers. Everyone mentioned in the article is simply this generation’s enactment of the long-standing, systemic class war that preys on gender and race to continue and exacerbate inequity. While naming the current situation is very important, we also need to discuss, address, and shift these deep issues.

*It’s the boiled frog effect over the last 50 years that began as a response to mini-courses, sixties curriculum, obsession over college attendance, professors and teachers walking out to protest with their students, Viet Nam… and the Civil Rights Act. Since 1964, Intentional segregation influenced Local, state, and federal decision making on transportation, health care, insurance, zoning, housing, education funding, hiring, and more. When whites fled the cities and insured two sides of the tracks in towns and two systems evolved, quick fixes became that accumulation of bad decisions and leadership – and slowly, slowly, deterioration became acceptable.

*The list is not dated. It’s illustrative of the accumulation of negativity, quick-fix seeking, acronym-filled, snake-oil salesmen, desperate mayors and governors, obsession with rankings, publisher fixation on common core, NCLB votes hidden under the shadow of 9/11, and keep-everyone-happy state and national professional organizations.

*At the end of 2021 it is far right and left of politics and their rhetoric like CRT and homophobic slurs. So much for especially the “Christian Right.” In their god’s (yes lower case since not The Lord Jesus Christ’s New Testament words of love) name they exclude instead of include to share the good news/word.

*Data, data, data. Yesterday, I commented that I feel sympathetic toward the anti-CRT petitioners. I do. They’re not bad people. They’re just afraid of changing social rules. Their actions are demoralizing, but not dehumanizing. Wealthy corporations and individuals on the other hand , through their untaxed foundations, gave carrots to governments the world over to give the stick to education so that greater profits could be made through privatization and data monetizing. I was once called a 2. I was once labeled the color grey. I was numbered, dehumanized by test score data in an attempt to make education like Uber or Yelp. Not just demoralized, dehumanized. It’s not just who but what dehumanized teachers. It was the wrongheaded idea that education can be measured and sold by the unit. That idea was insidious. The marketing ploy to make my students into consumers who consider their efforts junk unless they are labeled with the right number or dashboard color was insidious. I have no sympathy for the investor class. They are not people with whom I disagree about social issues; they are hostile, corporate takeover wolves out to tear the flesh of the formerly middle and deeply impoverished classes for profit. Not one of the investors in education “reform” or any of their revolving door bureaucrats is any friend of mine. The list of who is long. The list of what is short.

*Jonah Edelman (Founder, Stand on Children); brother Josh Edelman (Gates Foundation: Empowering-?!–Effective Teaching; SEED Charter Schools); Charles & David Koch. Pear$on Publishing monopoly&, of course, ALEC (interfering in our business for FIFTY long years!)

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.”