Are secret donors trying to buy voucher/charter support?

Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown wrote last week about a campaign fundraising group, For A Better Chicago PAC, which has made generous donations to 16 aldermanic candidates (list below) while refusing to disclose where their money came from. They claim an exemption under a loophole for non-profits, though that claim is being challenged by the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform in a formal complaint with the State Board of Elections.

Brown has written about this group before. Their leader, Gary Goldner, ran Mayor Daley’s 2003 re-election bid and Rahm Emanuel’s successful bid for Congress in 2002.

Brown reports that it is unclear what FABC-PAC wants, “although most say it is a pro-business group with a particular interest in charter schools.”

Here’s the group’s education “platform,” which uses all the buzz words of voucher/charter and pay-teachers-for-test score promoters without specifically mentioning that agenda:

Since mayoral control of the Chicago Public Schools system was restored in 1995, many schools have made tremendous progress. At the same time, parents in many neighborhoods still do not have viable options for sending their children to a school that provides a world-class education, whether it is a public, neighborhood, magnet, selective enrollment, charter or specialized school.

For a Better Chicago PAC advocates that during these dire times, while more and more children are failing to make adequate progress in the classroom, nothing can be considered, ‘off the table.’ If Chicago is to maintain its position as a truly world-class city, we must provide our children with a world-class education. We cannot have a world-class education system without teachers who are supported, well-trained and compensated fairly for student growth. Now is the time for bold and innovative reforms that reward teachers and schools that show significant progress while holding failures accountable.

Receiving FABC-PAC funds are candidates Carrie Austin (34th), Anthony Beale (9th), Howard B. Brookins Jr. (21st), Will Burns (4th), Willie Cochran (20th), Tim Cullerton (38th), Deborah Graham (29th), Michelle Harris (8th), Lona Lane (18th), Fredrenna Lyle (6th), Roberto Maldonado (26th), Emma Mitts (37th), Genita Robinson (2nd), Debra Silverstein (50th), Latasha Thomas (17th), and JoAnn Thompson (16th).

Each of them reported receiving $10,000, except for Maldonado, who got $25,000.

Stand for Children cousin?

FABC-PAC sounds like a cousin to Stand for Children, the Oregon-based, Bill Gates-funded group that gave more than half a million dollars to state legislative candidates, which almost immediately bought them a place at the grown-ups table at the “Education Reform” hearings last December out in Aurora.

But at least we know who supplied a lot of that half million, the Crown and Pritzker families, who are also big donors to Rahm Emanuel’s mayoral campaign

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Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.