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Left In Lowell » Blog Archive » Stand for Children’s Crazy, Destructive Agenda (Updated x2)

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May 16, 2012

Stand for Children’s Crazy, Destructive Agenda (Updated x2)

by at 9:35 am.

EDIT: In regards to signing the open letter as per the end of this post, they say they are having trouble with their website so if you want to be sure your signature gets on their list, send an email with full name and city to guisbond@mit.edu.

Update II: Also, see bottom of post for a video from Citizens for Public Schools, one of the orgs fighting the ballot initiative.

I don’t know if you even know who Stand for Children is. Some of you reading, however, will. I was approached by Stand via trusted local officials when they were trying to get a regional organizing group started up here. They’d hired someone to start talking and organizing up here and after coffee with them, and a long conversation, it seemed good, it came through a very trusted source, and so I signed up for small recurring donations.

This was a number of years ago, before Stand for Children turned into what appears to be a vampire.

Stand for Children has a long history, going back into the early 90s, about working on improving education for all, especially for the poor. What happened to them is nothing less than literally, the life being sucked out of its carotid artery, exchanged for diseased blood, so that the organization could rise again, faster, stronger, and ready to devour the very people it once fought to protect.

Now, they are Scott-Walkering our state with a ballot initiative, trying not only to destroy teachers unions and public schools with “reform” that we know won’t solve anything, but doing it on the backs of the stellar reputations of the state’s education advocacy groups, elected officials, and individuals. Including this blog, and myself.

But now the wheels are coming off the bus, so to speak. You might have remembered Jack’s post from October 2011 where he talks about Stand and the ballot initiative they want to foist on our state. (There are some really, really excellent comments on that post. Go read it. Also read this article linked in comments by pablo, about the funding shift and Stand’s about-face.)

There is a LOT more after the flip.

This letter from former members of Stand for Children, posted also on BMG, tells the story (bold text mine):

As parents, teachers, and community members, we are Massachusetts grassroots activists for education. We read bills, testify at hearings, write letters to the editor, pore over budgets, speak at town meetings, make phone calls, and hold fundraisers. Many of us have done so for years.

It was as part of this work and with great hope that we joined Stand for Children. And—initially—Stand helped us do great work. We cast a critical eye on education bills at the State House and testified as needed. We turned back ballot initiatives that would have gutted education funding. We closely watched local budgets to keep dollars close to classrooms. We put our voices, time, money, and reputations into building Stand for Children. Because we were united and we spoke from our experience, we were heard.

Along the way, we learned a great deal about the legislative process, education funding, and policy. We learned to research our positions, present them, and back them up.

But in 2009, while we struggled to give voice to the needs of our schools, Stand’s staff was turning away from our concerns, announcing that it expected its members to forgo community advocacy in favor of a new, special agenda. This agenda, emerging seemingly out of nowhere, touted more charter schools, more testing, and punishing teachers and schools for low student scores.

This was not what I, nor so many elected officials, parents, teachers, and administrative staff, signed up for. Certainly, these vultures (that’s how I think of them now) came at the most progressive elements with a nice story, perhaps heartfelt at the time, about how we were all going to work together to improve schools and help our kids be even better than they already are as students and as future citizens. No mention of charters, at-will teacher employment (read: easy firing), or anything remotely like that.

The letter continues:

None of these initiatives arose from the needs of our communities. Indeed, we understood well their dangers. Yet all of them became the positions of Stand for Children. Policy proposals no longer came from the local level. They were dictated from the top.

What accounted for this shift? We were mystified at first. But we’ve since learned that Stand abandoned its own local members – us – to follow the lure of millions of dollars from Bain Capital, the Walton Foundation, Bill Gates, and others who had an agenda in conflict with our previous efforts.

The ballot initiative brought forward by Stand for Children is just the most recent example.

Stand was one group of many at the table when the new Massachusetts educator evaluation system was hammered out over several months last spring. Unions, principals, state officials, parents—all contributed. But when the new regulations were finally announced, one group walked away—Stand for Children.

Immediately, Stand filed for a ballot initiative and used some of their new corporate money to hire people to collect the signatures. It cost them $3 a signature, but they have plenty more. They are following the master plan revealed in Colorado by their national CEO, Jonah Edelman, a month before it was announced Massachusetts.

The proposed ballot measure attempts to blow up the collaborative work that created the new regulations last spring. It does nothing to improve teaching in our schools. What it does is put the careers of our teachers at the mercy of an untested rating system, violating the recommendations of the people who designed that system.

We fear the result would be to drive some of our best teachers away from the schools that need them most.

This ballot measure fits the ideology of its corporate sponsors, but it is not what we want for those who teach our children. Most of all, it is not what we want for our children.

Therefore we the undersigned, as former members and leaders of Stand for Children, urge Massachusetts voters to oppose this ballot measure.

The letter is then signed by 30 former members and staffers of Stand for Children.

I emphasized certain phrases because I want you to really understand the story. Stand for Children brought together all these pro-education elements, worked with them, helped them with their agendas to improve education. But when recent negotiations for reform were happening, even though it included many of the new corporate anti-public-ed elements they wanted to push for - Stand walked away from the table. Stand wants to totally dismantle that reform in exchange for extremist reform a la the sort of (constitutionally illegal) thing Scott Walker imposed on Wisconsin in his public union busting.

Now, I’d like to be optimistic and say that this shift in their goals, while provoking total whiplash, happened after they began their work with Massachusetts communities and advocacy groups. But my cynical side smells something fishy. We’ve had far too many of these sneaky initiatives - like ALEC, which has been in the news lately - funded by the very same sorts of very rich far-right ideologues who appear to be behind Stand for Children’s “shift” in policy goals.

It fits too neatly with the sort of attacks on our democracy that we’ve seen from the likes of the Koch brothers and ALEC and SuperPACS.

Perhaps the funding shift, which started in 2005, didn’t filter down to the statewide org until that moment that Stand walked away from the reform discussions. Perhaps not. But I suspect that on the national level, the shift occurred long before I had my coffee with the organizer they’d hired for Lowell. (Who, by the way, herself seemed genuine.)

Whatever the internal story of the organization is, however, one thing is very plain. Stand for Children is now as dangerous to our children as the poisonous chemicals beneath our sinks. If you want to protect our kids - and notice I do not say “protect our teachers” but our KIDS - then you must oppose their insidious ballot initiative. Far from solving anything at all, their sort of “reform” will only turn Massachusetts into a state with last-rate education. Since we’re number one in the nation right now, I think we’re doing just fine with the schools and the reform we have, a balanced approach that promotes success without further harming the very schools in the deepest trouble. (We might even find that even our reform went a bridge too far, but I guess the next few years of test scores and measurements will tell.)

You can, and you should, go sign the open letter here as well (I have). (Note that your comment with your signature won’t show up right away.) Even if you never were a member or a donor, please do. If you are or were a member or donor, though, you should especially sign. You should feel pretty angry that such an organization with such a great history has become one of the front line organizations promoting the dismantling of our state’s pretty stellar public school system.

Update: a video from Citizens for Public Schools:

7 Responses to “Stand for Children’s Crazy, Destructive Agenda (Updated x2)”

  1. Publius Says:

    Perhaps Stand for Children decided that he educational model they were advocating for at its inception wasn’t working. SFC apparently came to the conclusion that teacher accountability is a better model. Maybe 10 years from now, it would look as a much improved model over the current system. After all, the accountability model couldn’t do any worse

    I doubt that they were bribed into it. SFC took a different tack and the money followed. There is no evidence that SFC changed its positions to attract money. Bill Gates is not exactly a conservative and I doubt that Bain and Walton foundations fall into that category either.

    Why isn’t it okay to change your mind? Or is changing your mind only okay if is changed to your way of thinking?

  2. Lynne Says:

    Oh come on. Please! Don’t be so naive. Of COURSE the several millions of dollars received by known hostile-to-public-schools organizations…like the Waltons Foundation…and Bain…would totally change everything.

    Something like 11 of the 14 board members are post-switchover. That’s not a change of mind, that’s a change of leadership.

    Anyway, it is awful to ask people for their money, time, and reputations when you wind up advocating for the exact opposite of everything they stand for, and everything you yourSELF stood for prior. It was a lighting strike of change, not some mild disagreement on general policy. It’s a shift so fundamental, as to belie any pat justification as you seem wont to give them.

    Not to mention, the schools are doing JUST FINE thanks for asking. We don’t NEED a radical shift and busting our teacher’s unions to accomplish better reform. Our kids are tops in the nation - high up in the WORLD. Why on this green earth would you want to mess with that?

    This is ideological, and it’s theft, because if we close down our public schools in favor of often FOR PROFIT charter schools, we’re basically handing over the future of our kids to largely unaccountable privateers, with very dicey outcomes at best.

    Thanks, but no thanks to experimenting on our kids. As Governor Patrick says, you only get to go through the second grade once. If you aren’t given the best chance then, it will never come again.

    This rush to break up unions and privatize our schools is a corporate-driven, ideological one, not an empirically-proven one.

  3. Lynne Says:

    But the Koch brothers thank you.

  4. Paul Schlichtman Says:

    When Stand for Children showed up on the scene, Arlington was one of their first stops. Lots of folks got on board the Stand bandwagon, and it really looked like a good thing. They were focusing on grass-roots issues, and were doing really good things like supporting local overrides.

    They also organized some really great rallies. They brought boatloads of people to stand on the Common, across from the statehouse, to protest the drastic FY 2004 local aid cuts. This was a group that had all the signs of a grassroots organization that could mobilize folks and effectively move against a hostile agenda on the state level.

    In some ways, I found them to be maddeningly grass roots. We were fighting silly mandates and local aid reductions, and my local chapter decided they wanted to focus on wellness policies. Okay, it’s grass roots democracy, even if it wasn’t always focused on what I thought were the levers of change.

    I don’t recognize that organization. They transformed into a top-down, corporate funded organization with a right of center view of K-12 education. Right now, the organization seems to have more in common with Scott Walker instead of their (former) members and folks in Massachusetts.

    Lynne, you were right to get involved in Stand for Children. Stand was wrong for leaving you, and your values, behind.

  5. Lynne Says:

    Thanks Paul, that makes me feel a little less snookered. After reading just what happened in 2009, I feel that I’ve seen this story before…in other places…locally and otherwise. Follow the money.

  6. Lynne Says:

    But it is a cautionary tale and very relevant with us facing the ballot init.

    I hate hate hate hate ballot initiatives. Direct democracy only works IN THEORY. On a large scale, all you have is non-specialists (the public) having to make big decisions about the direction society will go. There’s a reason I “hire” (read: vote) for people to go to Beacon Hill - so they can STUDY issues. I know that doesn’t always work out the way we want, but the alternative is to ask me to understand every motivation behind a ballot initiative such as the “right to repair” which supposedly is going to benefit small mechanics…what do *I* know from mechanics and their business?


  7. joe from Lowell Says:

    After all, the accountability model couldn’t do any worse

    When was the last time you were in a classroom? Because I don’t think you know what you’re talking about.

    You know all of those countries that score better than us on education results? Zero (0) of them use the so-called “accountability model.”

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