Recently, there's been some buzz around the semi-national organization, Stand for Children. ( I say "semi-national" because they are only involved in 9 states but have received a lot of national attention.) An Oregon parent activist, Susan Barrett, wrote in the Washington Post blog, Valerie Strauss' The Answer Sheet, about her experience with Stand. She explains her experience of believing in Stand only to find that their Board is full of private equity investors and their local staff tried to manipulate parents into lobbying teachers and parents for a reform agenda.
Who is SFC? From their website:
Stand for Children is an innovative, grassroots child advocacy organization. Our mission is to use the power of grassroots action to help all children get the excellent public education and strong support they need to thrive. Our members believe we need to stand up for our children now - particularly for their education from pre-school through high school - to create a better future for America.
We build effective local and statewide networks of grassroots advocates capable of convincing elected officials to invest in and reform children’s programs. Following specific priorities chosen by our members, we focus on securing adequate funding for public schools and reforming education policies and practices to help children thrive academically, giving them the opportunities they need to become successful, productive citizens.
I first became aware of Stand when they came into Washington state years ago. They, like TFA, have some very nice and very sincere people working for them. Like TFA, they constantly use words like "relentless", "empower", "status quo" and "fearless." There is something more than a little cult-like in how these groups all have the same talking points.
If you look at their website, there's not much about what they actually do. They want to get parents to front for their legislative agenda. Word is that not many teachers join Stand as they are not a friend to unions. (You have to wonder about the number of these so-called education groups that do not support teachers currently in the system.)
They, again like, TFA, are about creating an army of like-minded people who want to push the ed reform agenda and in SFC's case, via laws. They lobby legislators, throwing hundreds of thousands of dollars their way to win influence.
This is not a crime. This happens all the time in politics.
However, that there are so many powerful groups/entities in this country all focusing on one way to "better" education, is troubling. Their leader, Jonah Edelman, recently got caught on videotape explaining to a group of people how he had manipulated various people (including legislators) to get reform legislation passed in Illinois. It was quite a performance. He has since apologized and spoke of being "blunt", "presumptuous" and "arrogant." But at least he was honest about what Stand is doing. In the videotape, he said:
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, who was expecting … that all our money was going to go to Republicans. 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.
The other criticism in this whole affair is how well he manipulated the unions and they fell for it. Can't blame a guy for trying and it worked but he has now earned Stand a great deal of suspicion.
I would urge you to consider letting your state legislative reps know that around education legislation they should view Stand and their lobbying with a great deal of skepticism and to remember who the REAL parent groups are - PTA and CPPS (and maybe Parents Across America - too new to tell).
(To note: there is a group, Stand with Children, that is a Catholic organization for marriage only between a man and a woman.)