Portland struggles with Stand for Children scandal – Colorado braces for same

For a small city, Portland OR is dealing with a big dust-up – the Stand for Children scandal. SFC originated in Portland, and was respected and popular among parents as a strong advocate for fair school funding and other important school supports until it was hijacked by the corporate school “reformers.”

Yesterday, the Portland Tribune reported on the coincidental timing of an essay by disaffected SFC-Portland parent leader Susan Barrett, which was posted first on the Parents Across America web site and then on the Washington Post Answer Sheet blog, and on SFC CEO Jonah Edelman’s recent bout with foot-in-mouth disease, boasting about how he and SFC bought off several Illinois legislators and gained influence with Speaker Mike Madigan in order to shove SB7 “down the throats” of the teachers unions.

The Portland paper writes:

Since the controversy ignited around Stand and Edelman, other dissatisfied organization volunteers have come forward. “The organization totally changed from a true grass-roots volunteer decision making group to one that now pushes a national reform agenda funded by corporate and Wall Street millionaires,” semi-retired educator and Canby education consultant Tom Olson told the Portland Tribune this week. “The central plan now is communicating that public schools don’t need additional money to help kids succeed – only more “reforms” that are thinly veiled union bashing.”

Here’s one of the many responses to Susan’s essay on the PAA web site:

My experience, and those of many of us in Massachusetts, parallels yours closely, Susan. We, too, had some solid grassroots work with Stand prior to Stand selling out to the corporate agenda in the last two years. We were blindsided, it would be fair to say, by the sudden reversal to an agenda that we were told we would endorse, like it or not. In fact, it was endorsed in our names at the state level. It became particularly clear to me exactly what Stand thought of local members when I was told by a Stand staffer at a public hearing at the State House that I “could not” identify myself as a member of Stand for Children and testify contrary to their position.

The graphic you see above is more proof that SFC is still expanding despite the bad publicity exposing their true intentions to destroy public education.

The background says One Chance Colorado. The fine print (in white on the graphic) says: Advocacy Campaign Overview – July 11, 2011 – A coalition of 501c3 organizations including Stand for Children Colorado, Colorado Children’s Campaign, Colorado Succeeds/BizCare, Democrats for Education Reform-Colorado, Get Smart Schools, Education Reform Now, and A+ Denver, will lead a (sic) advocacy campaign to increase public support for education reform initiatives. The campaign will launch July 26, 2011.

We're hearing from Colorado allies that SFC is using the same astroturf tactics there that they have in Illinois and elsewhere - partnering with other groups that receive big corporate funding to push a corporate-reform agenda of union-busting and teacher-bashing legislation, while frustrating real change at the school level.

Here’s what they’re planning to do in CO under that “One Chance Colorado” threat:

CONFIDENTIAL – NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION
Advocacy Campaign Overview
July 11, 2011

Core Messages

Central Frame: Every child has only one chance at get a great K-12 education. That’s why we need to improve Colorado’s schools now.

Problem: Half of Denver’s children are reading below grade level and half won’t graduate from high school. For too many kids in Colorado, the chance to succeed in school and in life is never even in sight.

Solution: Every child in every neighborhood deserves a school with great teachers and leaders who will renew focus on the fundamentals of reading, writing and math – today, not tomorrow.

We get there by…
• calling for accountability at every level, from teachers to principals to politicians to parents.
• recruiting and supporting great teachers, and replacing consistently ineffective ones.
• investing in good schools – neighborhood and charter – and rapidly addressing underperforming schools.
• setting aside adult politics and putting children first.

One Chance – Colorado will include paid media, earned media, social engagement, and field organizing components.

Paid Media: TV, online and outdoor (billboards, bus stops)
Earned Media: media relations activity to generate coverage toward the overall campaign objective
Social Engagement: campaign website, email marketing, and Facebook/Twitter outreach
Field Organizing: at least one rally; other activity as feasible

Coalition

The One Chance-Colorado Campaign is fully funded and the materials have been developed. But, the campaign coalition is open to 501(c)(3) organizations that support the need to reform Colorado’s public education system in order to expand opportunity for all children. For more information, please contact:

Lindsay Neil, Executive Director
Stand for Children Colorado
lneil@stand.org | 303.725.3677

So, keep your eyes open, America – you may see SFC heading your way with their “core message” and their “full funding”- or there may be another hijack of a formerly respectable local organization. These school pirates have too much money to give up – so get your whack-a-mole paddle ready!

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About the PURE Thoughts blogger
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.