Posts Tagged ‘Stand for Children’

Update on SFC phone blitz

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

We were using the phone last night sometime after 7 pm when our SFC call came in. The voice mail message that “Jackie” left for us said she was sorry she missed us but that she was with Stand for Children and that if we, like them, want better education for children, we should look at their web site.

While local SFC leaders are claiming that they “just want to have an open conversation” about ways to improve schools, they seem pretty fixated on the turnaround model. It’s certainly front and center on their web site, and they make it sound so reasonable:

“We need to create quality neighborhood schools where we can continue to keep our students in the same classroom while improving the conditions around them, from better facilities to specially trained principals and teachers to updated curriculum.  This is where public turnaround schools come into play.

“The idea of a ‘turnaround’ school has a lot of misconceptions, but has seen success in many Chicago public schools and has firm roots on what is in the best interest of children. A public turnaround school keeps children in their neighborhood school but changes the culture in the school to create high expectations and proven best practices for learning.

“Staying in his or her neighborhood school and investing in the neighborhood school is good for the child and good for the neighborhood. Do you agree? Join us as we fight for quality public school options. We need parents and community members coming together to say, “YES! My child deserves a great school!”

Here’s what they don’t mention about turnarounds in this pitch:

Oh, and they don’t mention that ALL THE SCHOOL STAFF gets fired when a turnaround comes in.

That kind of takes the fuzz off of their warm and fuzzy vision, doesn’t it?

We trust parents to see wade through the hype, but with all the money that’s being thrown at this project, we’re going to have to pull on our hip boots.

$tand for Children calling 50,000 Chicagoans tonight

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

This is the kind of thing a group can do when it’s getting big bucks from Bill Gates, WalMart and other folks who are working to destroy public education.

Saying that they just want to hear from parents, and “help” them, the astroturf group Stand for Children has paid for a radio ad blitz supporting school turnarounds, and follows that up tonight with a telephone blitz on the South and West sides of the city. Will you be one of the 50,000 they call?

If you do get a call, you may want to ask them about what happened to the SFC chapter in Portland, Oregon (where the group originated) and why several active parent members felt the need to resign. Here’s what one former SFC member said:

Parents and community members most likely do not know that SFC now has private equity investors and venture philanthropists on the board, making decisions for the organization as it grows new chapters. And, grow they will, as they have announced the need to hire a National Expansion Manager, having raised over a million dollars in funding from the Walton Foundation, and over three million dollars from the Gates Foundation. My fear is that unwitting parents and community members will join SFC because they want to rectify the problems they see every day in their children’s public schools, such as underfunding, lack of arts programs, large class sizes, and cuts to the school year, only to find that they get roped into very different goals.

Or, you might want to ask them about disgraced national SFC leader, Jonah Edelman, who admitted last year that SFC, “in lockstep with Advance Illinois,” manipulated the Illinois state legislature to pass SB7, a bill which essentially gutted teacher union rights in Chicago. On a public panel last summer,  Edelman said:

“we interviewed 36 candidates in targeted (Illinois legislative) races. … I’m being quite blunt here. The individual candidates were essentially a vehicle to execute a political objective, which was to tilt toward Madigan. The press never picked up on it…. (The SFC/AI proposal) most importantly called for the reform of collective bargaining throughout the state, essentially proposing that school boards would be able to decide any disputed issue and impasse….out of nowhere, there were hearings on our proposal. In addition, we hired 11 lobbyists, including four of the absolute best insiders, and seven of the best minority lobbyists – preventing the unions from hiring them. We enlisted a state public affairs firm. We had tens of thousands of supporters. … We raised $3 million for our political action committee. That’s more money than either of the unions have in their political action committees. And so essentially what we did in a very short period of time was shift the balance of power….we had clear political capability to potentially jam this proposal down their throats the same way pension reform had been jammed down their throats six months earlier.

Now, how is this group planning to listen to and help parents???

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

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

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:

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


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 | 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!

Jonah Edelman’s Illinois Way – model for the nation?

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

UPDATE: Story carried in both the Trib and Sun-Times this am…


We’ve just convicted yet another Illinois governor. This one was a Democrat. The last one was a Republican. We need to realize that it’s not about political party these days, it’s only – and completely – about who’s buying.

Makes the Tea Partiers seem like they’re on to something, doesn’t it?

In case you’re not already convinced that our state legislature is a disaster, or you think Blagojevich was just an aberration. read this transcript prepared by Parents Across America’s Caroline Grannan of comments national Stand for Children leader Jonah Edelman made at a recent Aspen Institute conference about their “victory” over teachers/unions in SB7. Here are some quotes:

Jonah on SFC’s dropping $600 million on Illinois state legislative races in the fall of 2010:

(W)e interviewed 36 candidates in targeted races. … I’m being quite blunt here. The individual candidates were essentially a vehicle to execute a political objective, which was to tilt toward Madigan. The press never picked up on it. We endorsed nine individuals – and six of them were Democrats, three Republicans – and tilted our money toward Madigan… That was really an show of – indication to him that we could be a new partner to take the place of the Illinois Federation of Teachers. That was the point. Luckily, it never got covered that way. That wouldn’t have worked well in Illinois – Madigan is not particularly well liked. And it did work.

Jonah on Madigan rushing to appoint a new committee and setting up hearings just for SFC and Advance Illinois:

The next day he created an Education Reform Commission and his political director called to ask for our suggestions who should be on it. And so in Aurora, Ill., in December, out of nowhere, there were hearings on our proposal.

Jonah on his political acumen:

We hired 11 lobbyists, including four of the absolute best insiders, and seven of the best minority lobbyists – preventing the unions from hiring them.

Speaker Madigan had changed allegiance … we had clear political capability to potentially jam this proposal down (the unions’) throats

Jonah on the nature of the relationship between the “independent, nonpartisan” Advance Illinos group and the “grass roots” Stand for Children group:

And so over the course of three months, with Advance Illinois taking the negotiating lead … and Advance and Stand working in lockstep – and that unity’s so important, that partnership … (the unions) essentially gave away every single provision related to teacher effectiveness that we had proposed.

Jonah on the importance of friends and family:

Jo Anderson, the former head of the Illinois Education Association, now works with Arne Duncan in the Department of Education, and his son Josh is the head of Teach for America in Chicago.

Jonah on Rahm Emanuel’s deeply held beliefs about education:

So in the intervening time, Rahm Emanuel was elected mayor … and he strongly supports our proposal. Jim [apparently Crown] … talked about the talking point that we made up and he [Emanuel] repeated about a thousand times, probably, on the campaign trail about the Houston kids going to school four years more than the Chicago kids.

To our surprise and with Rahm Emanuel’s involvement behind the scenes, we were able to split the IEA from the Chicago Teachers Union.

Jonah on the “model” process by which all parties were at the table, leading to a law that is so powerful in its fairness and expression of collaborative policy making that it is no doubt already raising test scores across the state:

We’d done our homework – we knew that the highest threshold of any bargaining unit that had voted one way or the other on a collective bargaining agreement on a contract vote was 48.3%. The threshold that we were arguing for was three-quarters, so in effect they couldn’t have the ability to strike even though the right was maintained. And so in the endgame, the Chicago Teachers Union took that deal, misunderstanding, probably not knowing the statistics about voting history – and the length of day and year was no longer bargainable in Chicago.

The unions cannot strike in Chicago. They will never be able to muster the 75% threshold necessary to strike. And the whole framework for discussing impact – you know, what compensation is necessary – is set up through the fine print that we approved to ensure that the fact-finding recommendations, which are nonbinding, will favor what we would consider to be common sense.

Jonah on the promise that this piece of (^@& will be coming to your state soon:

We’ve been happy to dole out plenty of credit and now it makes it hard for folks leading unions in other states to say these types of reforms are terrible because their colleagues in Illinois just said these are great. So our hope and our expectation is to use this as a catalyst to very quickly make similar changes in other very entrenched states.

Disaffected Stand for Children member shares her story

Friday, July 8th, 2011

In a story that will no doubt be repeated many times over in as time goes on, a long-time member of the Portland, Oregon chapter of Stand for Children, Susan Barrett, shares her disappointment in the direction the group has been taking. Her eloquent story appeared today on the Parents Across America blog.

Here are some excerpts:

Being a SFC member has meant fighting for the needs of children and better public schools for all students in this state (see this pdf.) However, things have started changing here in Oregon, and I worry that SFC is headed down the path that disaffected parents, like me, identify as the corporate reform movement.

Parents and community members most likely do not know that SFC now has private equity investors and venture philanthropists on the board, making decisions for the organization as it grows new chapters.

My fear is that unwitting parents and community members will join SFC because they want to rectify the problems they see every day in their children’s public schools, such as underfunding, lack of arts programs, large class sizes, and cuts to the school year, only to find that they get roped into very different goals. With SFC inspiring many of its members to run for school board seats, and the funding it gives through its PAC, I worry we will lose a truly democratic discussion and action on education weighted in favor of corporate reforms.

I think about the visits from the Policy Director of the New Teacher Project, and the former aide to New York City charter operator, Eva Moskowitz, who said she was moving to Portland and trying to set up a chapter of Democrats for Education Reform, the pro-charter, hedge-fund driven organization.  I think about their push for Oregon to submit a Race to the Top application, (which the state did initially, but it failed); and how the organization acted as the “social justice partner “of Waiting for Superman. and urged parents to attend the film. Only recently did I come to realize that the SFC Portland Director, Tyler Whitmire, is the daughter of Richard Whitmire, author of The Bee Eater, a book lavishing praise on Michelle Rhee.

Perhaps if SFC replaced their Board Chair, Julie Mikuta, who is also partner at New Schools Venture Fund, which finances charter schools, with someone who has actually made meaningful improvements in public education, they could inch their way back to this work. They could also replace Emma Bloomberg, the daughter of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, another billionaire charter school supporter, as well as Steve Jobs’ wife, and two other board members who are private equity investors, in exchange for people who are stakeholders with a broader perspective and real experience in education.

Read the full piece here.

Historic school reform or a distraction?

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

From the way our esteemed Illinois politicians and their supporters have been preening the past couple of days, you’d think they had cured cancer or ended racism. Nope, it’s what they and the media have been relentlessly calling a “historic” new education reform law.

I haven’t been quite so impressed.

Here’s the letter I sent to the Sun-Times and Tribune today:

“Parents across Chicago are scratching our heads today wondering what all this “historic school reform law” hoopla is about.

Will the new school reform law provide schools with adequate funding? Illinois currently ranks 49th out of 50 states in paying its share of school funding, and 34th in per pupil spending, although our state is the seventh wealthiest in the nation.

Will the new law cut back the amount of testing in schools? Will we now offer our children more art, science, history, sports and other programs that have been lost as schools increasingly focus on test preparation?

Will our children’s teachers have enough supplies and equipment or more mentoring and high-quality professional development? Will classes be kept to an optimally small size? Will it help build trust among teachers, administrators, and parents?

Will our children be safer going to school? Will they have more support services to address their emotional needs or more after school and summer programs to keep them off the streets?

Will parents have more opportunities for involvement or a more respected voice in school decision making?

No. This law clearly fails to address the main concerns of parents about schools or the major areas where education researchers believe schools need to improve.

The new law will make it more difficult for teachers to strike. While no one wants a teachers’ strike, it’s been 24 years since the last strike in Chicago.

The new law will make student test scores a significant factor in teacher evaluations, even though research shows that judging teachers on test results is unreliable, ineffective in raising student achievement, and only serves to increase testing pressure. The new law also makes seniority less important in firing decisions. While no one wants their child to have a bad teacher, parents do want teachers with solid credentials and experience. Too often in the recent past, districts have fired excellent older teachers in what looks more like a cost-cutting move than an effort to place the “best and the brightest” in front of our children. We now worry that the most gifted potential teachers will simply choose another profession.

For all these reasons, the new “reform” law looks more like an attempt to distract parents and the public from the real work of school improvement, and not a historic step for education.


One more point. Much is being made of the “collaborative” nature of the process that created this law. Not exactly. First, Advance Illinois and Stand for Children tried to push their own, union-destroying version of the law through during the 2010 Christmas holidays via a new “Education Reform” Committee set up for that purpose by Speaker Mike Madigan. To their credit, a few lawmakers refused to play along with that, but the message was very clear that the $600,000 that SFC dropped on the November state legislative election was going to buy them something very much like what they initially demanded.

The meetings held to hammer out the final law took place in Springfield over the course of weeks, so the only groups that had a real voice in the process were those with the money to have a team of lobbyists there at all times. The  Tribune reported, for example, that SFC hired a dozen lobbyists to manage their interests.

So, is it real collaboration when only heavily resourced groups can participate? And is it really collaboration when one of the parties has a gun to its head?

What’s up with the CTU and SB7 – the former “Performance Counts” bill?

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

Yesterday at a Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates meeting, the membership voted to rescind their leaders’ endorsement of Senate Bill 7 and fight it instead.

What’s going on here?

First, let’s step back a few paces.

Back in mid-December of last year, several business-backed “education reform” groups tried to push through a piece of teacher-bashing legislation called “Performance Counts” during the Christmas and New Year holidays. They must have expected that teachers would be caught flat-footed and that no one else would care enough to fight it.

They were wrong. A lot of people turned out in far west suburban Aurora for the hearings, and we were able to slow the process down.

Still, there was a great deal of pressure to come up with some kind of bill. We were told that something would be passed, so people could either be part of it or sit on the sidelines.

The way things work in Springfield (and probably everywhere else) is that when there is an effort to pass a law that has strong opposition, some legislator will pull together a working group including folks on different sides of the issue, and they will hammer out a compromise bill.

Everyone involved feels a great deal of pressure to sign on to the final product. Often some participants quickly regret agreeing to what’s usually not a very good deal for at least one side, and then, more often than not, the language is changed as it moves through the legislative process anyway.

CTU, the IEA, and the IFT were able to get rid of only a few of the worst elements of the original “Performance Counts” bill, but they did agree to endorse the proposal that became SB7.

Shortly after doing so, CTU leaders and CORE (the caucus to which the current CTU leadership belongs) began to regret having agreed to the final proposal. And yesterday, the CTU membership voted to rescind their endorsement.

Here’s what CORE said about SB 7 in an e-mail sent just before the House of Delegates meeting:

We know that President Lewis worked tirelessly and fairly to get a bill that we could all live with, but lawyers and outsider groups like Advance Illinois and Stand for Children did not play fair by adding last-minute language. Now, we have a bill awaiting a vote in the House that will hurt our ability to fight for our rights:

1. Two or three omitted words mean that courts could require a nearly unanimous vote of our members should the Board force our union into a strike situation.

2. Some slippery language about bargaining procedures could let the Board delay strike action until well into the school year – when it would be more disruptive to teaching and learning.

3. One sentence of legalese on page 107 of the bill could negate the hundreds of grievances CTU has filed on behalf of teachers illegally fired last summer.

What now?

The fight is on in Springfield. It will be an uphill battle, but we just won on vouchers, so, who knows???

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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.