Lisa Macfarlane, who helped co-found LEV, has moved on and is now the head of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) with this modest-sounding goal:
"..a political organization focused on encouraging a more productive conversation within the Democratic Party on the need to fundamentally reform public education. DFER operates at all levels of government to educate elected officials and support reform-minded candidates for public office."
Basically, a PAC for ed reform. (One thing that strikes me is all these ed reformer love a new org; I'm thinking it makes it look - to elected officials - like "hey, look at all these groups for ed reform" when it is generally the same 25 people.)
There is a national DFER and it's supported by the infamous Koch brothers as well as Steve Klinsky, a former hedge fund manager and founder of the for-profit charter company, Victory Schools, Inc. He gave the max he could to DFER but it was the only Democratic group he supported - all his other donations went to Republican candidates and PACs.
Interestingly, Tom Van Der Ark (former Federal Way superintendent and former first head of the education division of the Gates Foundation and a serious do-nothing) said this recently:
"I'm touring high performing California charter schools with Washington legislators today along with the fledgling WA DFER steering committee. Washington is one of a handful of states that does not allow charter schools."
I wonder who those legislators could be - I'm thinking probably Rodney Tom, Eric Pettigrew and Sharon Tomiko-Santos.
Vander Ark is a one-two punch of activist/businessman for public education. He also said that one question charters can't answer is if they "take money from already cash-strapped districts. The answer to that objection depends on whether you think public education exists to serve students or district employees. DFER stands squarely on the side of children and families."
That's pretty breathtaking in its arrogance. Everyone who believes that what we have now, and what we are moving towards with new reforms that don't include charters, that we are only for district employees? And aren't we supposed to be supporting our teachers and staff? Or is that "district employees" is code for unions?
That actually sounds like an argument from the right and not the left and that should be a big red flag to anyone paying attention.
Now this PAC was called to my attention by Michelle Buetow (not letting any grass grow under her feet) and she and I both had gone to the new DFER website and seen the list of who was on the steering committee for the Washington DFER. It had Chris Korsmo, Mrs. Vander Ark and Shannon Campion of STAND. But boy, that got taken down fast and now it looks like Lisa is a one-person office. Hmmm.