Archives for category: Stand for Children

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.

In 2012, Bill Gates and friends spent close to $20 million to win a referendum allowing charter schools, after losing the previous three such referenda. To their chagrin, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that charter schools are not public schools because they do not answer to elected school boards. Thus, they are not entitled to receive public funding intended for public schools. This made Gates and friends really angry.

Now, Peter Greene tells us what Gates and friends are doing about the mess. They are spending another load of money to oust judges on the State Supreme Court, to punish them for daring to deny public funding to privately managed charter schools. They are literally trying to buy control of Washington’s highest court.

So here’s Chief Justice Barbara Madsen, the author of the 2015 decision that ruled Washington’s charter law unconstitutional. She is being opposed by Greg Zempel who doesn’t like how capricious and random the court’s decisions are. Zempel has been backed by a pile of money from Stand for Children, an Oregon reformster group that has funneled money to his campaign from Connie Ballmer, wife of former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer; Reed Hastings, founder and CEO of Netflix; and Vulcan Inc., owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. Vulcan and Ballmer were big financial backers of the charter law that was struck down.

Also facing reformster-backed challenge is Justice Charlie Wiggins (who is nothing if not a snappy dresser). Charteristas must sense a vulnerability because as we come down to the wire, they have pumped almost a million dollars into the campaign of Federal Way Municipal Court Judge Dave Larson. Vulcan tossed in $300K and Gates threw in $200K of his own. Meanwhile, one more fly-by-night PAC, Judicial Integrity Washington has dropped $350K on a tv ad smear campaign against Wiggins featuring ads that other members of the legal community likened to the infamous Willie Horton ads used against Dukakis way back in the– well, shut up, kid. Some of us remember that.

Parent activist Dora Taylor in Seattle writes that Bill Gates is so eager to gain control of the Washington State Supreme Court that he is backing a climate-change denier for a seat on the state’s highest court.

So we know that billionaires can buy legislators; they do that all the time. Now will they be able to buy Washington’s highest court, which had the nerve to stand up for public education as defined in the state constitution?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Piazza wrote this summation of his research for the blog:

Stand for Children: Misadventures in Massachusetts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.


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.