Archives for category: Stand for Children

T.C. Weber is the father of public school students in Nashville. He blogs as “Dad Gone Wild.” He is a strong advocate for public schools.

In this great post, he describes the apprehension and the excitement of the recent school board election, which pitted Stand for Children against public school parents in Nashville.

Stand for Children pumped $200,000 into the election in hopes of defeating the incumbent members who support public schools.

SFC had the money, but it didn’t have the votes. SFC got its tail kicked by the people of Nashville.

Or, as T.C. Weber says, the people of Nashville said to SFC, as only Southerners can, “Bless Your Heart.”

He writes:

This summer, Nashville has been embroiled in a bitter school board race that lined up the charter school supporters against the incumbent board members who are skeptical of charters. Five seats on the MNPS school board were up for grabs, with incumbents – and ardent public school supporters – in four of them. But District 5 was up for grabs because incumbent Elissa Kim chose not to run again. Two main candidates quickly emerged, with Miranda Christy falling into the charter supporter camp and Christiane Buggs more closely aligned with the incumbents running for re-election. Adding fuel to the fire was national education reform advocacy group Stand For Children, who flooded the race with cash.

The race this summer was absolutely insane. Like you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up insane. You had SFC flooding people’s mailboxes daily with opposition fliers, some even arriving the day after the election. You had a challenger in one race who probably should have been more forthcoming about his questionable past. There was the apparent coordinating between Stand For Children and a well-respected non-profit organization, not to mention an email that showed charter school leaders working to get school board members elected who were sympathetic to their issues. The local teachers union mistakenly sent out mailers that gave the impression that Buggs was an incumbent. The most vocal of the incumbents, who was endorsed by the local paper, became the recipient of a hit piece by that same newspaper four days before the election – a piece that revealed no new information and left out the fact that several of its sources were on the opposition’s payroll. Luckily, the local alternative newspaper rose to the challenge and pointed out the omissions. Two days before the election, a parent, along with Tennessee Citizen Action filed a petition for an investigation into potential campaign finance violations by Stand For Children.

On the eve of the election, I was filled with trepidation, praying that SFC wouldn’t be able to buy more than two seats on the board. Then the craziest thing happened: the voters cast their votes, and they saw through all the distractions to send a loud and clear repudiation of SFC and their cohorts. Jill Speering won with over 60% of the vote. Amy Frogge won with over 60% of the vote. Christiane Buggs won with over 50% of the vote in a four-person race. These are not close margins. The only race that was close was Will Pinkston’s race. He won by 36 votes, but considering all that he faced in the week leading up to race, it was amazing he was even standing. SFC had only one victory in this school board race when Sharon Gentry won, though she was not a beneficiary of their financial generosity, having received only $6k that came with their endorsement. But her challenger, Janette Carter, still managed to amass 3,200 votes out of roughly 8,000, with many of those votes coming from the congregations of local AME churches. Not a good sign for Gentry.

The results are a clear reaffirmation of the issues public education advocates across the city have been working on for the last several years. What makes things even more special is that this wasn’t a victory by one small group of advocates in one district. No, this was a true grassroots collection of city-wide advocates focusing not just on their district races but on all races. Over the last several months, through social media, these separate individuals from different pockets of the city reached out to each other and banded together across the city for the cause of public education. No one had the luxury of drawing a paycheck from a foundation. The work on these winning campaigns was all done by volunteers.

Let Nashville stand as a national warning to corporate reform: Hands off our public schools! The public paid for them, the public pays for them, and you can’t take them away.

An informed public will not give away its public schools to corporate charter chains, entrepreneurs, and non-educators seeking fame and fortune.

As T.C. Weber put it:

Today is a good day. Not just for Nashville, but for everybody throughout the country who believes in public education. What has happened in Nashville is proof that the conversation about what is needed in public education is changing. People are recognizing that the policies of the reform crowd are not good for kids. We need to seize on this momentum to drive home policies that are good for kids, like equitable funding for our schools, increased daily recess time, decreased emphasis on testing, empowering teachers, and more. Reformers like to point to Nashville as a “model” for their success stories. This election now provides a model on how to fight back and win against corporate reform.

We need to remember, though, that these victories are hollow if we just celebrate the political wins and then don’t show up to put in the work in at our schools. Nobody believes that our schools are currently the best that they can be, nor do we deny that for years they have come up short for many children of color. By recognizing those facts and using the support we’ve created, we can finally address those shortcomings in a meaningful manner. It would be a great tragedy if we as citizens failed to grasp this opportunity.

On election day, I heard a story about a mom who watched the conversation unfold this summer and as a result, felt empowered enough to pull her child from a perceived high-performing school in order to enroll her in their neighborhood school. Another neighborhood leader was so inspired by the election results that she is planning to commit to recruiting young families to support their neighborhood school. We need more of those stories, and if we keep working together and remembering what’s important, we will hear them. It really feels like a new day is dawning. And Stand for Children… as they not-so-nicely say here in the South, bless your heart.

Amy Frogge is a member of the Metro Nashville School board. She is a lawyer and a parent of children in the Nashville public schools. When she was first elected four years ago, the charter industry spent $125,000 in an effort to defeat her. At the time, she was running as a concerned parent who thought there was too much testing, and she was unaware of the battles behind the scene between privatizers and supporters of public schools. She was outspent 5-1, and yet she won. For the past four years, she has been an intrepid supporter of public schools and has helped to repel the rapacious charter movement. For her courage and dedication to children, she is on the honor roll of this blog.

In the election this past week, the “reformers” spent $150,000 to taker her out, and she won again, overwhelmingly.

She was attacked by the local newspaper and by mailers that smeared and defamed her. There were even “push polls,” in which voters were falsely told that Amy defended child molesters and pornographers. Amy has never had criminal clients, and she is not currently practicing law (her husband was a public defender). Other pro-public school candidates were targets of similar smear tactics. It was an amazingly dirty campaign, funded by the usual corporate types, which funneled their money through Stand for Children.

The people of Nashville gave a sound thrashing to Stand for Children and its dirty politics and dark money.

How did Amy do it? She mobilized parents to work as volunteers in her campaign. Stand for Children dubbed them “an army of moms.” Great name!

To see a picture of Amy and some of her “Army of Moms,” look at her Facebook page.

I made an error in reporting the Nashville election results. One of Stand’s pro-charter candidates, incumbent Sharon Gentry, was re-elected. However, another pro-charter incumbent, Elissa Kim, stepped down and her seat was won by former teacher Christiane Buggs. (Kim was until recently head of recruitment for TFA nationwide.) Buggs will be an ally of the pro-public school members. There are nine board members. Only three are strongly pro-charter.

A great night for Nashville public schools, and a great lesson about how parents can beat Dark Money.

Great news from Nashville!

All four incumbents on the Metro Nashville school board won re-election. They were opposed by well-funded charter advocates.

The corporate reform group Stand for Children funneled $200,000 into the Nashville contest to try to defeat the pro-public school incumbents.

Across Tennessee, the corporate reform candidates fared poorly, despite SFC’s $700,000 of dark money.

“More than $750,000 buys plenty of campaign mailers and advertisements. But it doesn’t necessarily buy election wins.

“Stand For Children, an education advocacy organization, found that out the hard way Thursday night. After spending a small fortune, all four candidates it backed in the Metro Nashville school board election and a handful of state GOP primary challengers lost their races.

“I think Nashville has become a model of how you defeat an obscene amount of dark money in local school board elections. At the end of the day, there’s a certain sanctity between public school parents and their locally elected school board. And it’s not for sale to the highest bidder,” said Jamie Hollin, a former Metro councilman and political operative.

“Noting he’s a proud public school parent, Hollin added, “I am particularly proud to put the nail in the coffin of the charter school movement in Nashville.”

“Stand for Children, which advocates for charter schools as well as prekindergarten programming and other education issues, financially supported 10 school board or statehouse candidates in the primary, specifically spending more than $200,000 on school board races. Only one who faced an incumbent won: Sam Whitson easily defeated embattled Rep. Jeremy Durham, who had suspended his re-election campaign after an attorney general investigation detailed allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct by Durham against 22 women.

“Metro school board incumbents Will Pinkston, Amy Frogge and Jill Speering defeated their Stand for Children-backed opponents, Jackson Miller, Thom Druffel and Jane Grimes Meneely, respectively. Only the Pinkston-Miller race was close, with Pinkston winning by 36 votes. Miranda Christy, the Stand for Children-supported candidate in the race to replace retiring board member Elisa Kim, lost by more than 30 percentage points to newcomer Christina Buggs.”

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

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

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

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

Yesterday we learned that billionaires have assembled a fund of $725,000 (so far) to defeat Washington state Supreme Court justice Barbara Madsen. The money is being funneled mostly through a group called “Stand for Children.”

Why are the billionaires eager to oust Judge Madsen? She wrote the 6-3 decision in 2015 that declared that charter schools are not public schools under the Washington state constitution and are not eligible to receive public funding devoted solely to democratically governed public schools. For daring to thwart their insistence on charter schools, the billionaires decided that Judge Madsen had to go.

But what is this group “Stand for Children” that is a willing handmaiden to the whims of billionaires who hate public schools?

Peter Greene explains its origins as a social justice organization some 20 years ago, founded by Jonah Edelman, the son of civil rights icon Marian Wright Edelman and equity advocate Peter Edelman. Josh’s pedigree was impeccable, and Stand for Children started as a new and promising civil rights organization.

But somewhere along the way, SFC took a radical change of course. It began receiving buckets of money from the Gates Foundation and the Walton Foundation. By 2010, Oregon SFC was advocating charters, cybercharters, and a reduction in the capital gains tax. Flush with reformer cash, it became active in many states, opposing unions, supporting charters, removing teacher job security.

Strange.

The apple has fallen very far from the tree.

SFC endorsed the anti-public school, anti-union propaganda film “Waiting for Superman.”

SFC crowed about pushing legislation in Illinois that would cripple the Chicago Teachers Union. It opened a campaign in Massachusetts to reduce teacher tenure and seniority rules, threatening a referendum unless the unions gave concessions. Jonah Edelman boasted at the Aspen Ideas Festival in 2011 about his role in spending millions, hiring the best lobbyists, and defeating the unions.

Be sure to read the 2011 article by Ken Libby and Adam Sanchez called “For or Against Children? The Problematic History of Stand for Children.” They captured the beginning of the transition of the organization to a full-fledged partner of the billionaire reformers.

Old friends, now disillusioned, call Stand for Children “Stand ON Children.”

Greene lists the members of the current board. All corporate reformers and corporatists, not a single educator.

Greed is the root of a lot of evil. It turns good people bad if they can’t resist its lure.

T.C. Weber, a Nashville public school parent who writes a blog called “Dad Gone Wild,” writes that Nashville is a much overlooked epicenter of the corporate reform movement.

Nashville has, for the last several years, been an under-the-radar playground for the education reform movement. People may be familiar with the stories of New Orleans, Newark, Los Angeles, and lately, Denver, but the battles have been just as fierce in Nashville. Things ratcheted up in 2008 when Karl Dean was elected mayor. Dean fancied himself as a bit of the next coming of Michael Bloomberg when he opened up the doors wide to the education reform movement and invited them in with open arms.

Those were the salad days for the reform movement in Nashville. Nobody could really predict the unintended consequences of many of the policies, and they all sounded so great, there was little opposition. Teach for America was invited to town with full mayoral support along with the New Teacher Project. Dean set up the Charter Incubator, which was designed to help grow more charters faster. Next thing you know, Ravi Gupta and Todd Dickson showed up in town to great fanfare with their charter school models. Life was good for the reformers. Then came the overreach.

In 2012, Great Hearts Academy was invited by a group of wealthy charter school advocates to open a charter school in Nashville. One that would be located in an affluent part of town but wouldn’t offer a transportation plan. The proposed school was also lacking a diversity plan. That’s when the battle lines began to be drawn. Previously, charter schools were something that happened to those “other people,” but now they were coming to middle class neighborhoods and people were starting to question why. Great Hearts’ application was denied after a fierce public battle, and despite a hefty fine imposed on Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) from the state, the days of easy expansion for charter schools came to an end. People had gotten a look behind the curtain and weren’t impressed.

Over the last four years, it has been one fight after another over charter schools. Fights that were often initiated by the charter community’s over-zealousness for expansion. Despite numerous studies showing the negative financial impact that charter expansion would have for MNPS, then-Mayor Dean and others continued to push for more expansion. Unfortunately for them, parents had begun to read the research and fight back. Over time, the efforts of charter operators to expand have been met with dwindling success until this year, when no new charter school applications were approved.

Now reformer money is rolling in to elect new school board members who will support charter expansion. Oregon-based Stand for Children is leading the way with corporate donations to school board candidates committed to privatization.

Back tracking just a bit, 2012 saw the first of the big dollar school board elections in Nashville. In District 5, Elissa Kim brought in just shy of $84K and ended up winning the election. Interestingly enough, District 9 candidate Margaret Dolan raised over $100k, but still lost to Amy Frogge, who raised only $17,864. The 2014 election saw a little less money invested and allowed the charter contingency to pick up two backers in Mary Pierce and Tyese Hunter. This year also saw a proliferation of negative mailers from outside groups. In all fairness, candidate Pierce did renounce negative mailers sent out by Michelle Rhee’s Students First organization during the campaign. Despite picking up these two seats, charter supporters were losing the fight for more charter growth and public sentiment was beginning to turn. This was largely due to board members Will Pinkston and Amy Frogge being far more effective at making the argument for temperance in charter growth than their opponents did for expanding.

That’s why, along with their opposition to vouchers and their insistence that the state properly fund public education, both Pinkston and Frogge have found themselves subject to a well-financed attack in their respective bids for re-election. Pinkston, specifically, is a prized target. His opponent, a small businessman with 5 children in MNPS, has somehow managed to raise $90K despite never having run for office before. That’s the kind of money you need for a statewide election, not a local school board position. It begs the questions why and how did the candidate become that skilled a fundraiser? With final disclosures still a week away, it’s not hard to envision the campaign beating the 2012 record of $113k raised. That’s just obscene. To make things worse, Pinkston and Frogge are not alone in facing abnormally well-funded opponents.

Nashville has a school board election coming up in August. It will determine whether the charter industry is permitted to invade the city with a free hand (the existing charters are already skimming the kids they want).

T.C. Weber, a Nashville parent, sums up here the current landscape of candidates.

Three current school board members are fighters for public education: Amy Frogge, Will Pinkston, and Jill Pinkston.

They are standing for re-election. Help them stave off privatization of the public schools.

Several candidates are endorsed by the nefarious and devious “Stand for Children.” Stand is popularly known as “Stand on Children.” Don’t vote for anyone they endorse, because they will fight for privatization and for anti-teacher policies. Stand for Children is supported by the billionaires. They do not stand for your children.

Jeannie Kaplan served two terms as an elected member of the Denver school board. Denver is a reform hotspot. It has been under the firm control of reformers for the past decade. Kaplan says it has been a disastrous decade that has brought union-free charters, constant testing, but no improvement for the children.since the reformers regularly flood Denver school board elections with cash for their candidates, they will be in control for an even longer time. How many years must reformers be in total control until they can declare that every child has an excellent school without regard to zip code? Mayor Bloomberg had 12 years of unfettered power in NYC (Joel Klein was there for 9 of those years) and the happy day has still not arrived.

 

In this post, Kaplan describes what happened to District 4 in Denver, the epicenter of reform. She sums it up in three words: Disruption, disenfranchisement, and drama.

 

It begins like this:

 

 

“This is a saga about Disruption (school closings and openings, extraordinarily high teacher and principal turnover, destruction of neighborhood schools), Disenfranchisement (two board resignations in four years, two representatives chosen by the Board of Education, not the voters), and Drama (the most recent Board vacancy replacement appears to never have undergone the most basic background check which is mandatory for all Denver Public Schools – DPS – employees and volunteers. The seat became vacant in February 2016 and remains vacant as of May 2.)”

 

Read on: You will encounter your old friend Stand on Children (know to its critics as Stand ON Children).

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Despite pressure from the big spenders at Stand for Children and other titans of corporate reform, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed the legislation allowing parents to opt out of state tests.

 

Federal officials had warned that the bill, which also reduces the consequences for schools where many students skip tests, could lead the federal government to withhold millions in federal education funding.

 

House Bill 2655, which was strongly backed by the Oregon Education Association, prioritizes the rights of parents to exempt their children from that one aspect of public schooling over the desire of school accountability proponents to get complete reading and math test results for all students each year.

 

But Brown said she wants Oregon educators to make the case to parents that taking part in state tests is valuable so that they will opt for their children to keep taking the exams.

 

The new law means that, beginning next spring, schools will have to notify every family at least 30 days before state testing begins about what the tests will cover, how long they will take and when results will be delivered. Those notices will also tell parents they can exempt their child from the tests for any reason.

 

Friends in Oregon: Forget the governor’s misgivings! Opt out is the best tool you have to protect your children from the current national mania for standardized testing. Opting out will curb the overuse and misuse of standardized testing. Former Texas state commissioner of education Robert Scott memorably said in 2012 that the educational industrial complex was out of control and that testing was “the heart of the vampire”

 

He also said:

 

The assessment and accountability regime has become not only a cottage industry but a military-industrial complex. And the reason that you’re seeing this move toward the “common core” is there’s a big business sentiment out there that if you’re going to spend $600-$700 billion a year in public education, why shouldn’t be one big Boeing, or Lockheed-Grumman contract where one company can get it all and provide all these services to schools across the country.

 

I mean, that’s really what you’re looking at. We’re operating like a business.

 

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