Standing for Corporate America Addendum

After looking further into Stand for Children, there are several other points and updates I think are worth sharing.

First, Tom Olson, another former Portland Stand for Children volunteer, has publicly left the organization and has written a revealing open letter to SFC CEO Jonah Edelman. His letter further elucidates how the Portland chapter’s shift in priorities occurred:

[In early 2010,] Holly [Pruett] was the Oregon Stand for Children Executive Director. But, mysteriously, a new “player”, Sue Levin, arrived to begin help you firm up your top down “reforms.” She initially served as the “coach” of the State Race to the Top Team. When we asked if she was now a Stand staff member or a Stand consultant, staff members said that they simply didn’t know. When we read a draft of the Race to the Top proposal, we attempted to provide constructive advice, which, again, was rejected out of hand—particularly by “coach” Sue Levin.

Abruptly, Holly announced her resignation as Executive Director, surprising all the volunteers. We saw no open process to secure her replacement. You (Edelman) did not engage the grass roots volunteers in advising about priority job criteria, nor did you engage them in any search or interview process.

Then you anointed Sue Levin as Holly’s replacement. We were appalled that she had virtually no experience leading grass roots organizations. Instead, we were told that she had a truly impressive background as an “entrepreneur” (a phrase we began to hear you use quite frequently during your transformation during 2009-10). Levin had been the founder and CEO of a women’s apparel company, Lucy, Inc. Prior to that, she had been a Women’s Sports apparel VP at Nike, Inc. Grass roots leadership experience? Absolutely none. Connections with millionaires? A whole bunch.

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Another important way to understand how Stand for Children has changed is by looking at the members of its National Board of Directors. Though the Board has always had former CEOs and prominent corporate reformers, they did not dominate the SFC board until the last several years.

In 2006, Laurene Powell Jobs joined the board. She also serves on the board of Teach for America—the teacher-training program that many have criticized for pushing out veteran teachers in poor urban areas and replacing them with cheaper, inexperienced Ivy league graduates who receive a grand total of five weeks training from TFA. Both Powell Jobs and Julie Mikuta, who joined the SFC board in 2007, are integrally involved with the NewSchools Venture Fund. NewSchools is a venture philanthropy firm, started by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and financed by many of the same donors that give to Stand for Children—Bill Gates, the Walton Family—as well as other major funders of corporate education reform—SunAmerica and KB Homes founder Eli Broad and Gap Founder Donald Fisher for example. The multi-million dollar fund pours this money into charter schools and “human capital” projects with the aim of using market models and corporate management to drastically reshape the education system.

In 2010, Emma Bloomberg, the daughter of billionaire New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of the wealthiest individuals in the United States, became the newest member of Stand for Children’s National Board. Emma Bloomberg is a program officer at the Robin Hood Foundation, another venture philanthropy organization who’s Board of Directors is dominated by corporate titans like General Electric CEO Jeffery Immelt and JP Morgan CEO Jes Staley.

Other board members of the two organizations include private equity investors, “social entrepreneurs,” and leaders from the private sector including Don Washburn, former executive Vice President of Northwest Airlines, and David Pollock, former CEO of Stormwater Management. The National Board of the Stand for Children Leadership Center includes Vanessa Kirsch, the President and founder of New Profit, Inc. and Jonathan Levine, the managing director of Bain Capital. Both New Profit and Bain Capital are huge investors in SFC and were discussed in my last article.

Jonah Edelman’s mother and Civil Rights heroine, Marian Wright Edelman, has not been on the board since 2006. Excluding CEO Jonah Edelman, 11 of the 13 board members of Stand for Children and the Stand for Children Leadership Center were not with the organization in 2006. And with the exception of SFC’s two founders, nearly every board member comes from a business or venture philanthropy background.

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Lastly, my previous article did not cover any of SFC’s activity outside of Oregon and Illinois. SFC also currently operates in Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington. Below is a brief summary of their anti-union and anti-teacher activities in these other seven states:

Arizona: The Arizona Stand for Children was founded in 2009 and is part of the Policy Innovators in Education (PIE) Network. PIE is of course funded by the big three foundations—Gates, Walton, Broad— among others. PIE’s organizers guide encourages its affiliates to recruit CEOs and business leaders to lead their organizations and discourages groups from having too many educators on their governing boards. For more on PIE go here. The Arizona’s chapter’s achievements include SB 1040, which ties teachers pay partly to student test scores using flawed value-added models.

Colorado: Colorado SFC is also a member of the PIE Network and was also founded in 2009. Colorado SFC helped push through Stand’s biggest anti-teacher victory next to the legislation in Illinois: Senate Bill 191. SB 191 ties 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation to their students’ test scores. The bill also makes it harder for teachers to receive their due process rights (tenure) and makes it possible for teachers to lose those rights if they get two years of poor evaluations (that are now 50% based on their student’s test scores). For more on SB 191 go here, here and here.

Indiana: SFC came to Indiana in 2011. The executive director of Indiana SFC is Linda Erlinger, a former Development Director for Teach for America Chicago and the executive director of the midwest DonorsChoose.org. Stand entered Indiana just as Republican Governor Mitch Daniels and the Republican-controlled legislature passed legislation that created the nation’s broadest private school state voucher system, expanded charter schools, limited collective bargaining, and signed a bill that tied teacher evaluation and pay to student test scores. With $400,000 in grants from the venture fund Mind Trust and the Joyce Foundation, SFC, rather than try to fight any of these devastating attacks on public education, set up shop to focus on building support for SB 1, the Republican bill instituting merit pay for teachers.

Massachusetts: Massachusetts SFC is also a member of the PIE Network and started activities in the state in 2009. Along with the Greater Boston, the Metrowest, and the Metro South Chamber’s of Commerce, Massachusetts SFC was a member of the Race to the Top Coalition, which helped push through legislation in the Massachusetts legislature to help make the state more attractive to those awarding federal funding from Obama’s deeply flawed Race to the Top program. In doing so, they supported legislation that expanded charter schools in Massachusetts. More recently they touted the newly approved teacher evaluation rules that tie evaluations to student test scores as another victory.

Tennessee: The Tennessee chapter is one of SFCs oldest, founded in 1999. It therefore, like the Oregon chapter, has a longer and more complicated history that is beyond the scope of this addendum but would make a great article for someone else to explore (I’m a bit Standed out at the moment). The most recent activity of the Tennessee chapter, like in Massachusetts, has been focused on pushing legislation that would help win Tennessee a Race to the Top grant. They helped push the First to the Top Act of 2010 that tied test scores to teacher evaluations and put punitive measures in place that punished schools with low test scores by closing them and turning them over to charter operations. For more on Tennessee go here, here, and here.

Texas: SFC came to Texas in 2011 at a time when massive budget cuts were devastating schools throughout the state. SFC’s website declares that “while we can’t prevent cuts at this point, we can still have an impact on how the cuts are carried out.” So SFC championed Senate Bill 4, that (surprise, surprise) tied 30-50% of a teacher’s evaluation to their students’ test scores. According to SFC’s website they also supported an addendum to Senate Bill 8 which removed teacher seniority protection. Tellingly, SB 8 also included unpaid furlough days and salary cuts to teachers salaries, despite the fact that Jonah Edelman and SFC publicly state that they support paying good teachers more.

Washington: Washington SFC began in 2009 and is also a member of the PIE network. They supported SB 5399 and HB 1609 that attacked teacher seniority rights. They also helped the Washington Race to the Top efforts that included legislation to “turnaround” schools that performed low on standardized tests. And though the Oregon chapter helped pass the only “tax the rich” measures in the nation that provided desperate funds for public schools (without making a deal with the Devil ala Race to the Top), Washington SFC maintained “a neutral position” on a similar measure, I-1098. Could this possibly be because Bill Gates, who would see his tax rates rise under I-1098, lives in Washington?

Special thanks to Ken Libby, education journalist and blogger at Schools Matter, for sharing his research on Stand for Children with me. Several parts of this addendum were written using Ken’s research.

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  1. […] advocacy organizations to further his agenda. For more on Stand for Children see my posts here and here. For more on the Gates Foundation check out this.—AS […]



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