Posts Tagged ‘astroturf groups’

My coffee with an SFC creep

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

Yesterday I had coffee (well, more on that later) with a top organizer for Chicago’s astroturf branch of Stand for Children. He had asked to meet in response to my blog about SFC’s recent telephone blitz in Chicago’s West and South sides. My post questioned the stated purpose of the calls, which they claimed were to “listen to and help parents.”

I wasn’t sure what his agenda would be. Maybe he would try to spread some rich SFC public relations fertilizer. Maybe he was on a fishing expedition to see if he could get me to talk about our anti-corporate reform strategies.

I was pretty sure, though, that he would start out with an attempt at the classic organizer “one-on-one” in which the organizer tries to build a relationship with a potential group member by asking personal questions.

That wasn’t going to go anywhere.

I cut to the chase and asked what his agenda was. I was pretty surprised at what he said.

He said it was to find out what happened to PURE and what were the “lessons learned.” He stated that he had “heard all about PURE” from a reporter, and he had looked at our filed reports on line and knew all about our finances. “Oh, yes, I know that PURE used to have hundreds of thousands of dollars and that has all gone away.”

I was completely dumbfounded. Seriously? He thought I would share information about PURE with an organization whose agenda PURE was so opposed to?

Not to mention the fact that we have been very upfront about our organizational struggles, from the lovely story Ben Joravsky wrote in 2008 when Chicago foundations first began to slam their doors in our face due to our opposition to Mayor Daley’s school actions, to our recent fundraising appeal letter. It’s no secret that we are operating on a shoestring.

It’s also no secret that PURE is still powerful. In fact, when I later talked to the reporter that he named as his source for this “inside info” about PURE, I learned that he had been asking why the media regularly turns to PURE for parents’ perspectives on education.

Anyway, back to the coffee.

He said, “So, you refuse to share information?”

I said that there was no way I would give any information about PURE to someone I considered a sell-out who worked for such a sleazy organization.

He responded that this was a personal attack. I said, yeah, I know.

He tried to wield another organizer schtick, that there are “no permanent friends or permanent enemies.”

That’s about the point at which I decided that there was no point in continuing the conversation and I left. Please know that I paid for my own coffee – didn’t want anything bought with dirty SFC money, yucchhh.

Unfortunately, I must report that my grand gesture fell a little short when I realized half a block away that I had left my coat with my car keys in the pocket on my chair! I’ve never mastered the grand gesture….



Rrrowr! Parent trigger front group “outraged” by PURE/PAA position

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

Choppers and charters

Even though the story was not even carried in the Tribune print edition, the World’s Greatest Newspaper ran a letter today tearing into a recent Trib blog post about the PURE/Parents Across America position against the parent trigger.

Here’s how they put it: “As parents, we are outraged by statements in a story you ran about PURE’s fight against parent engagement in schools.”

Right. That’s PURE – always fighting against parent engagement.

They go on:

We want to set the record straight. Charter schools are public schools open to any student who lives in Chicago. No tuition. No entrance exams. No excuses. Public charter schools are part of CPS and serve neighborhood kids just like regular CPS schools.

Well, except that some charter schools DO have entrance exams – KIPP is a notable example – and many charge significant fees which families must pay or the student is removed from the school. Oh, and then there’s the fact that charters counsel and push students out – that’s not being “open to any student” and is certainly not the way regular CPS schools serve neighborhood kids.

We need each and every option that delivers results, rather than adults promoting an “us vs. them” mentality.

Right, they oppose the “us vs. them” mentality – that’s why they wrote this letter stating their “outrage” over a parent group expressing an opinion that differs from theirs on this controversial experimental strategy.

It’s time for the grown-ups to start acting like adults. It is time that parents have the power to fix our failing system through the means they like best.

Sure. The best way to show that you’re grown up is to demand that things happen the way that you “like best,” without respect for facts, research, or track record.

Astroturfers unmasked

So, who are these outraged grown-ups? It’s always a hoot to dig a little into the folks who make up these small bands of ragtag “advocates” to see who Bill Gates is using to spread his message. My favorite used to be Rev. Patricia Watkins, who started out wearing a lot of hats for such groups as SAGE and Advance Illinois. Of course, she went on to run for mayor and to famously defend herself against Carol Moseley Braun’s “strung out on crack” crack.

Like Watkins and her multiple hats, most of the signatories of today’s Tribune letter pop up whenever charter schools need to put a parent face on.

Some are members of (though they don’t mention that) – an outgrowth of the expensive, orchestrated media push around the movie “Waiting for Superman.”

The group was recently highlighted on the web site for Michelle Rhee’s new billion dollar public school bashing venture, Students First. Don’t miss the video of noted non-parent Father Michael Pfleger speaking passionately about the need for school choice – including parochial schools like his St. Sabina Academy – and several of the parents noting that they send their children to private, not public schools.

Some “donewaiters” — most of whom are employees of charter schools or charter promoting agencies — also wrote a letter to the Sun-Times last December pushing for more charter schools. is affiliated with Education Reform Now, whose president is former NYC Schools Chief Joel Klein, a huge privatizer.

A little more digging found these interesting tidbits:

  • Trib Letter signer Denise P. Brown was recently a candidate for alderman in the 16th Ward (she lost).
  • Signer Pastor John Zayas is closely associated with recent mayoral candidate Pastor Wilfredo de Jesus. Both men’s churches are listed as favorites of the motorcycle and car hobbyists club, Christ for Life, which describes itself as (and I am not making this up) an interdenominational ministry that does not discriminate based on denominational affiliation, race, disability, skill level, experience, or make or model of vehicle(s).

Gotta love the charter movement.

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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.