Did CPS share parent phone numbers for anti-CTU propaganda campaign?

UPDATE: After being rebuked by Alexander Russo, I edited the title of this post since it did not accurately reflect the content of the article. However, the fact that CPS claims they had nothing to do with this is not exactly convincing (see, for example, CPS’s denying they were involved in paying people to testify at school closing hearings).

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Well, it’s looking as though the big bucks CPS and its corporate sponsors spent on discouraging a teacher strike authorization vote were wasted.

For example, many CPS parents received a robo call over the weekend from Ed Reform Now. Raise Your Hand shared around an audio clip of the recorded message — the speaker identified herself as Jennifer Herron, a parent and Local School Council member. PURE was able to determine that a person with that name did run for the LSC at Wildwood Elementary School this past spring. Jennifer repeated the City Hall mantra that teachers hold off on a strike authorization vote until the arbitrator’s report is in (read the full text here).

As Raise Your Hand has so clearly put it:

“The vote today does not mean that there will definitely be a strike. It only authorizes a strike in the event that the two parties cannot come to an agreement when fact-finding is completed later this summer. We urge both sides to take every measure possible to avoid a strike.

“If the CTU waits until mid-July to vote, all of the teachers who are away will be counted as NO votes. The many who are retiring won’t get to cast a vote. In other words, all members will not be able to vote. Per recent legislation, the CTU now needs to get 75% of their full membership to vote- not just 75% of those who vote.”

Jennifer’s ad was paid for by Ed Reform Now, a group tightly connected to Democrats for Education Reform (DFER). That’s the group so right-wing that real California Democrats sent the local chapter a cease-and-desist order to stop using the term Democrat (a report I shared a few weeks ago).

According to this tax return for ERN posted in the DFERWatch web site, the group’s income jumped from about $1 million in 2009 to $9 million in 2010, and about half of that income was spent on one contract with a public relations firm. This is education reform?

So, a few questions:

How did Ed Reform Now get the phone numbers of CPS parents?¬†When PURE was doing a survey of parents a few years ago we were not allowed to use CPS’s data base of parent addresses – the survey had to be sent out by CPS. For CPS to give out phone numbers to an outside group looks like a huge breach of protocol and privacy. If they allowed Ed Reform Now to use their robo call system, that’s also a problem.

Why is Ed Reform Now getting in the middle of our Chicago school business? Their Board of Directors are all hedge funders. They claim no local branch – the branches they list on their web site are in Colorado, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Wisconsin and Washington.

Here’s a post I wrote a while ago when Stand for Children went into Colorado– it mentioned Education Reform Now as a partner. Our PAA Denver member tells me that ERN is based in Colorado.

This kind of stuff only reinforces the impression we all have that these groups are just one big mushroom-like entity with various versions popping up here and there, their names made up by throwing the words “Children” “Reform” “First” “Students” etc. up in the air and calling the sub-group by the first two or three words that fall to the ground. They are funded by the same billionaires, push the same ALEC-written laws, and falsely claim to be speaking for parents.

Well, isn’t it time to scrape that fungus off of our public education system? Grilled mushrooms sound mighty tasty to me right about now.

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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.