Thursday, May 29, 2014

Maya Angelou: Be The Possible, Be The True, Be The Miracle

Please read this. Please.

What might yearly failures on forced college and career readiness assessments have done to a young Maya Angelou? What messages would today's increasingly rote education system, and her likely inability to submit to such a system, have imprinted on her young, developing mind? 

I hope EVERY teacher and EVERY parent will think about her life story before they cede more and more of their student's or their children's education to the assembly line model we are adopting in this country, where we demand children meet certain standards by certain ages or risk being labeled "not proficient" or worse yet, a "failure".

Please remember her story when you look at a child. Always look for their potential, and realize it may not manifest when and how you think it should, or when state and federal education departments insist it should. 

And please understand their potential may not be reflected on a standardized test.

Each and every child has their own path and their own story. Children can not and should not be reduced down to data points to satisfy the accountability needs of administrators and politicians.

Be the person who believes in a child. Be the person who supports a child. Be the person who encourages a child.

For that child could be the next Maya.
Her own story served as a cautionary tale not to discount the potential of any individual. When she was about nine years old she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend, and became selectively mute after the rapist’s subsequent murder, believing she was responsible for his death because she named him. Living in poverty in rural Arkansas, and selectively mute, she had the odds stacked against her. By the time she was sixteen, she was a single mother in San Francisco. In these situations, there were “rainbows” – people who believed in her, supported and encouraged her.
Angelou closed by calling for educators to recognize their power: "We are the possible. We are the true. We are the miracle."
Maya Angelou at ASCD Conference in Chicago, March 2013
Photo credit David B. Cohen

Friday, May 16, 2014

Newark Mayoral Race: Wall Street Outspends Unions 8:1

I've written posts here, herehere and here about the unprecedented amounts of Wall Street cash that gushed into the Shavar Jeffries campaign in the last months of the Newark mayoral race. Scholastic Education Blogger Alexander Russo took to his blog and to twitter yesterday to ask how much the union spent to support Baraka.
I had certainly thought that I should take this on as well, to show both sides of the story, so this was just the goading I needed.

What did I find, you may ask?

First, let's total up the Wall Street contributions to Jeffries according to the most up to date Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) filings.

As I reported the night of Baraka's victory, in the weeks leading up to the campaign Education Reform Now's total donation to Super PAC Newark First had swelled to $3,050,000, and Bloomberg had kicked in an additional $400,000 all on his own.

I had reported previously that other Wall Street types, such as Morgan Stanley's John Mack, had contributed another total of $198,000, which brought the Newark First Super PAC amount, just from the ed reform/hedge fund crowd, to $3,648,000.

Add that to the $804,740 contributed directly to Jeffries' campaign from other financial moguls, and we're at $4,452,740.

But wait, we're still not done.

Last night I went through the direct contributions to Jeffries' campaign since my last post, and amazingly enough, even more money men (and women) have come from all over the country to bestow their gifts upon Newark.

I hate to belabor a point, but once again, not a soul from Newark. Instead, huge donations rolling in from Greenwich, CT; Boca Grande, FL; Denver, CO; and San Francisco, CA. 

Oh, and don't miss the first name on the list. Yes, that's Philip Anschutz.  The man who brought you Waiting for Superman and Won't Back Down, was also trying to bring you Shavar Jeffries. 

When we add this new amount to our previous total we come to a cool $4,779,040.

Yes ladies and gentlemen, that's almost five million dollars, just from the Wall Street boys and their buddies.

To elect a mayor.

In Newark.

The Union Goldrush for Baraka

This morning I asked Russo how much he thought the union may have contributed to Baraka.
Wish I had put money on this with Russo, because I'd finally be able to say I made some money blogging!

I've scoured the ELEC reports, and I can't come up with anything even remotely close to the money spent on Jeffries.

Here's the union money donated directly to his campaign. I added in PAC money too, because quite honestly, the number was so low it was kind of embarrassing.

I then scoured every single Independent Expenditure (ie. Super PAC) filing.

I found three that had spent money for Baraka.  

The most came from Working Families Alliance, which ran a series of ads against Jeffries and his Wall Street connections

Working Families Alliance is a 501C4, and as such is not obligated to list their contributors. Their website gives a pretty good indication where their money likely comes from, and while it does include unions, it comes from other sources as well, including environmental groups.
New Jersey Working Families was founded in 2007 by union organizers, parents, environmentalists, and ordinary New Jerseyans who want to ensure that our state and local government serve the interests of working families instead of big business. Since that time we’ve spearheaded the state’s campaign for revenue solutions that would help us create jobs and reinvest in schools, public safety and health care by asking the wealthy and corporations to pay their fair share. 
The smallest amount came from the Committee for Economic Growth and Social Justice, which has ties to Union County Democratic Senator Raymond Lesniak. They spent $69,860 on TV ads and canvassing.

And no matter how hard I tried, the only direct union money I could find came from AFT, and it was a mere $92,900 from the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, AFT Solidarity 527 PAC.

Here's what all this looks like.

Super PACs spent $572,761 to support Barka, and the local teacher's union and a couple of PACs chipped $31,450 directly into his campaign. This makes a grand total of $604,211.

That's it.

If there was some avalanche of union cash in this race, I sure as heck can't find it. If someone can point me to it I am happy to be proved wrong, and I will post new totals and amounts if indeed union spending came anywhere near the Wall Street spending.

But from what I can see, Baraka and the big, bad unions were outspent by about 8:1.

If anything, I think those of us who support public education should be kind of pissed they didn't spend a whole lot more.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Baraka Triumphs Over Wall Street Ed Reform Juggernaut

Ras Baraka has won the election! The DFER/Education Reform Now money was all for naught!

And they kept pouring it in until the very last minute.

Since I last wrote about the DFER money filling the coffers of the Jeffries campaign, more reports have been filed with the Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC). 

And wow. Just wow.

Education Reform Now's total, as of May 9th, stands at over 3 MILLION DOLLARS!

And look who dropped in close to half a million, just 4 days before election day.

Michael Bloomberg.

But tonight proved that their money was unable to buy the hearts and minds of the people of Newark.
Jeffries canvassers hold up 'V' for Victory
with Ras Baraka
This is a huge victory for the people of Newark, and a massive loss for the plutocracy that tried to steal this election out from underneath them.

And this is a tremendous win for public education advocates, and they are rejoicing all over the country.

I will sleep a whole lot better tonight, secure in the knowledge that the tides may just be turning on this ed reform nonsense. After all, these are business men, and they don't like to lose money. They threw a lot into the kitty, and they've got nothing to show for it.

Well done, Newark. Well done indeed.

Monday, May 12, 2014

A Look Inside What $2M DFER Dollars Is Buying In Newark

As I detailed last week, Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) spawn Education Reform Now (ERN) dumped over 2 million dollars into the Super PAC called Newark First to defeat unabashed public education supporter, Ras Baraka.

I thought it would be interesting to see what kind of bang ERN is getting for their $2 million bucks, so let's look at how the money is being spent.

In the Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) filings expenses are broken down as either 'Support Jeffries' or 'Oppose Baraka'. So here is a breakdown of the expenditures of the Newark First Super PAC, between April 1 and May 5.

It is no surprise that almost one-quarter of the money went to opposing Baraka, and that the vast majority of the money has gone to incessant TV ads. What did come as a bit of a surprise was that over $300,000 has been spent thus far on "field services."

All of the entries for "field services" are paid out to "Block by Block". Their website states they provide "safety, cleaning, hospitality and outreach solutions for Downtown Improvement Districts". 

Block by Block does indeed have a presence in Newark

Newark Downtown District

Block by Block is pleased to once again be working with the Newark Downtown District to be part of the great things happening in downtown Newark. Block by Block will be providing the organization, structure, and support to establishing a first class cleaning program.
Cleaning Ambassadors will be responsible for removing litter, weeds, and graffiti, while emptying trash cans and providing a number of special projects to greatly enhance the appearance of the district. (emphasis mine)
Hmm. Well, that's a little weird. Has the Jeffries campaign commandeered a Block by Block crew to canvass the streets of Newark for his campaign?

What made me really curious about all this money going to "Field Services" was the following report from Bob Braun:
The other day I was driving on Central Avenue toward downtown. I stopped for a light and saw a young man in a bright orange t-shirt walking in the opposite direction, carrying a substantial pile of bright orange Shavar Jeffries posters. He came to a garbage can and openly and methodically tore the posters up and threw them up in the trash. I reached for my phone to take a picture but the light changed, cars behind me honked, and the young man disappeared. So, help me out here--was he a Jeffries $11-an-hour employee taking the money and walking away without working? Was he an undercover Ras supporter pretending to be a Jeffries supporter? Did he start out as one but end up as the other? Curious. I wish the billionaires who are perpetrating this fraud on the people would use their money to help children rather than to buy Shavar Jeffries. (emphasis mine)
Sounds like one of the canvassers wasn't too committed to the cause.

I really wanted to understand how the $320,000 for "field services" was being spent, so I embarked on a quest to track Block by Block down.

I found it strange that the address listed for the payments to Block by Block wasn't in Newark, but rather at 820 Bear Tavern Road in Ewing, NJ. 

First I just tried to look up Ewing address in the ELEC filings.

Nothing. Not a single reference online anywhere.

Next I called Block by Block's headquarters in Louisville, KY and spoke with a lovely woman. She said she was unaware of any canvassing going on in Newark, or of an office in Ewing, but that the company has many "managers" and that these "managers" work out of "clients' locations" and that each "client" has a different location.

A dead end, so I actually drove to the address in Ewing.

Nothing. No sign of Block by Block.

When I got home I called the management company of the building and spoke with another lovely woman.

Nothing. Never heard of Block by Block.

Undaunted, and even more curious, I looked for a press contact for the Jeffries campaign. On the Jeffries website all of the news articles were posted by someone named Francesca Larson. I looked her up and found out she is a Partner at Mosaic Strategies Group. I gave a call and spoke to CEO and Founder Geoffrey Borsha, who was lovely, too and very helpful, but he didn't know anything about Block by Block either. He informed me that they were just the media folks putting together the website, and that the press contact was actually LupĂ© Todd. He would be happy to get my questions to her and have her call me back.

So far nothing from Todd. 

(It is interesting to note that Todd was Press Secretary for Corey Booker during his successful run for Mayor back in 2006.)

I'll update this post if I hear back from Todd, but I'm not exactly holding my breath. But it seems we may now know why Bob Braun saw someone tearing up Jeffries' posters and tossing them in the trash. I'm thinking these hired guns don't have much, if any, connection to this race, to Jeffries, or even the city of Newark for that matter.

The DFER crowd really have upped the ante this time around. When DFER supported Corey Booker for Senate, they spent a mere fraction of what they are spending in an attempt to make Jeffries mayor.
The group's founders "knew each other before, but they got involved in politics together to support Cory Booker," said Joe Williams, the executive director of dfer. The pac poured some quarter-million dollars into Mr. Booker's Senate campaign, Mr. Williams estimated.(emphasis mine)
Yet Jeffries wants the people of Newark to believe the hedge fund managers are having no impact on this election. A quote from today's NJTV report on the last days of the campaign is beyond insulting to anyone paying attention to the money gushing out of Wall Street and into Newark.
When we win tomorrow, it’s gonna be because of the people of Newark. There’s no hedge fund or Wall Street person going into that booth tomorrow,” Jeffries said. (emphasis mine) 
While Jeffries is certainly correct that the hedge fund/Wall Street crowd won't be in the voting booth tomorrow, because not a single one of them lives in Newark, the real issue is that the hedge fund elite don't need to step into a voting booth to influence an election. That is the only power you and I have, dear reader, but their power is much greater. 

And Jeffries damn well knows it. 

Their power is in the millions they have spent on TV ads, radio time, direct mailers and $320,000 to buy anonymous phone bank workers and mystery canvassers to get out the vote and distribute campaign materials.

Well, except for the posters that get ripped up and thrown in the trash.

Because maybe Newark isn't for sale after all.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Charter School Growth Fund Creating New Breed Of Super CMOs

You may have noticed, dear reader, a theme running through a few news stories about the NJDOE's recently announced charter closures. Small, independent charters are being given the boot, somewhat unceremoniously and precipitously, to make way for what are essentially big box, prefab, chain Charter Management Organizations (CMOs). 

Phill Dunn from the Courier Post wrote a great piece about how Camden's City Invincible Charter School turned out to be not so invincible in the face of the CMO onslaught, and John Mooney pointed out a similar dynamic in Newark.
The Christie administration’s policies toward charter schools continued to stir debate this week, as a second school shuttered by the administration in the last month questioned whether it was being punished for – among other things -- not being part of a large charter network.
It was announced this week that the Greater Newark Charter School, opened in 2000 and one of the state’s oldest charter schools, was not approved for its five-year renewal in April, ostensibly due to low achievement levels and a lack of plans to remedy them. 
But its director said yesterday that the school is appealing the decision, contending that the state Department of Education did not follow its usual protocol in reviewing the school.
Christopher Pringle, the school’s director, said the school had fallen below set benchmarks in a single area for the first time in its 14 years. He questioned if the state was favoring schools that were part of large charter networks over the smaller independent schools. 
(emphasis mine)
 Even Carlos Perez of the New Jersey Charter Schools Association seems a bit concerned.
The executive director of the state’s charter school association said the issues point to the changing face of the charter movement in New Jersey. 
“New Jersey has had a unique history, in that in most other states, there has been more a mix, while in New Jersey, there were very fewer (charter management organizations),” said Carlos Perez of the New Jersey Charter Schools Association. 
“Now, that’s changing, and while it may seem like major growth, it’s really us just catching up with other states.” 
Perez said he hopes that the smaller, independent charters will continue to thrive. 
“They have been the life-blood of the movement,” he said. “And after all, the big organizations all started as smaller ones in the beginning.” (emphasis mine)
While Perez may "hope" the mom and pop charters of yesteryear live on in New Jersey, if I were him I wouldn't hold my breath. And I disagree that the growth of CMOs in New Jersey is "really us just catching up" with the rest of the country. 

There is a well connected, well funded effort underway, and it seems that not even a change in Commissioner can stop the train that Cerf and his cronies have set in motion.

NACSA's One Million Lives Campaign

Remember way back in December of 2012, when I wrote about the One Million Lives campaign?

One Million Lives press conference
with Cerf and Richmond
In case you missed it, here is all you really need to know summed up in a single sentence from the One Million Lives press release.
NACSA today launched its “One Million Lives” advocacy campaign, designed to provide better schools to one million children by opening more good charter schools and closing more failing charter schools.
You don't have to read too far behind the rhetoric to figure out that the ultimate goal is to close a bunch of "failing" (read small independent) charters in order to open a whole bunch of "good" (read big CMO) charters.

Who spearheaded the One Million Lives campaign, you may ask? Why, that would be none other than ex Commissioner Cerf, and his pal Greg Richmond, President and CEO of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA). 
Profits over children

You see New Jersey, these guys are much smarter than you. You may have been sold on the idea of charters as small laboratories of innovation, but Cerf and Richmond have much, much different ideas. 

And their ideas are about to come to life in New Jersey, with a little help from people with much, much more money than you'll ever see if your lifetime.

The Charter School Growth Fund

It is going to take some minds much greater than mine to figure this out completely, but let's get the story rolling while I look for some clever people who understand finance and numbers to help me completely unpack this. 

Here's what I know so far.

The Charter School Growth Fund (CSGF) is all about expanding CMOs across the country.
The Charter School Growth Fund (“CSGF”) is a non-profit fund working to transform K-12 education by investing in innovative charter school networks that offer outstanding educational options for under-served students. Founded in 2005, our mission is to invest philanthropic capital in the nation’s highest performing charter school operators to dramatically expand their impact on low-income and minority students. We provide financing, business planning support, coaching and other resources that portfolio members require to build networks of high-performing schools. (emphasis mine)
Invest philanthropic capital... dramatically expand impact... build networks of high-performing schools...

I don't know about you, but I'm stuck on the word invest. This is from the CSGF website, under "Why Invest?".
CMOs have demonstrated the ability to scale effective school models in a way that is unprecedented in U.S. education. During the scale-up phase, however, philanthropic investment in CMOs addresses a critical financing need. It addresses the central operating deficit between when a CMO staffs up to undertake an expansion campaign and when the central office breaks even on management fees from schools in the network.  This philanthropic contribution is temporary, however, because management fees come out of public revenuesan income stream that should sustain network operations at full scale. (emphasis mine)

Somewhere in this spiel about "market share" and "expansion campaigns" lies the fact that CSGF gives CMOs a leg up over the little guys when they "invest in the scale up of 40 to 45 of the highest performing and most promising CMOs across the country."

So who has heeded the call and invested in CSGF?

All the folks you'd assume - Broad, Gates, Walton and a whole host of others (click the link above - the list is extensive). 

In fact, Walton heir Carrie Walton Penner, recently described as an "uber education policy wonk", is married to the co-chair of CSGF, Greg Penner.

According to CSGFs 2012 990, CSGF reported a mind blowing $180,609,418 in assets.  

In the same year the Walton Family Foundation gave a $10,000,000 "contribution", there was a $650,000 "donation of Wal-Mart stock", and CSGF was still paying off a $10,000,000 Walton Family Foundation loan made in 2007, accruing "3% interest per annum".  

There are loans from Broad and Gates that are also accruing interest.

The 2011 990 reflects a mere $139,397,825 in assets, but Walton "contributed" a whopping $32,715,000 that year.

There is some serious money flowing through the CSGF.

The National Impact

It should come as no surprise that CSGF and NACSA have teamed up to directly lobby legislatures in states like New Jersey to expand CMOs and close "failing" (again, read small, independent) charters. Here you can read their full, joint report, titled Replicating Quality: Policy Recommendations to Support the Replication and Growth of High-Performing Charter Schools and Networks”.

From the press release:
State policies must change to differentiate and grow high-performing charter schools and weed out the low performers according to a report released today by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) and the Charter School Growth Fund (CSGF). (emphasis mine)
It looks like City Invincible and Greater Newark have been "weeded out" to make way for bigger, better CMOs.

If legislators have any doubts that NACSA and CSGF are indeed right, and bigger IS better, Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) has written up a study which conveniently concludes that CMOs receiving CSGF money are the best and the brightest! (I've written about CREDOs credibility problems here, here and here.)

Few observable attributes of CMOs provide reliable signals of performance. We sought to identify attributes of CMOs that were associated with the overall quality of their portfolio. For the most part, most of the factors we examined had no value as external signals of CMO performance. Specifically, there is no evidence to suggest that maturity, size (by either number of schools or total enrollment) or the spatial proximity of the schools in the network have any significant relationship to the overall quality of the CMO portfolio. Operating in multiple states dampened a SMO's results on average. One bright signal was found in having a CMO be the recipient of a Charter School Growth Fund; those CMOs that were supported by the Charter School Growth Fund had significantly higher learning gains than other CMOs or independent charter schools.(emphasis mine)
Well, there you have it! CREDO says they can't really put their finger on anything in particular that makes a CMO better than an independent charter, but if the CSGF dumps a bunch of money in they perform better than other CMOs or mom and pop charters.

I guess that means more market share for CSGF CMOs, huh? 

How convenient.

The New Jersey Impact

So let's take a look at the CMOs that are moving and shaking in New Jersey.

Uncommon Schools, which runs the 9 North Star Academy charters in Newark, (as well as charters in Boston, New York City, Rochester and Troy, NY) has some pretty big plans for Camden.
Uncommon has proposed to launch 5 schools in Camden, ultimately serving grades K-12 and beginning with one elementary school serving Kindergarten in Fall 2014.
TEAM, currently a network of 6 KIPP schools in Newark, is looking to open 5 charters in Camden as well.
Not only are networks like Uncommon and TEAM spreading from Newark to Camden, but other CMOs are crossing state lines to set up shop in New Jersey.

And then there is Touchstone Education. Initially approved to open charters in Newark and Trenton, Touchstone opened only Merit Prep Newark in September of 2012. Before they have even proven themselves they have asked the state for another location in Newark.

What, if anything, do the CMOs that are spreading like a virus have in common?

You guessed it. CSGF is "investing" in each and every one of them.

Planned Impact:

In 2013, CSGF made a second investment in Uncommon Schools to support the growth of 11 schools and USI’s creation of 4,493 new seats. USI will eventually have 45 schools serving over 18,000 students.

Planned Impact:

At full capacity in 2013, five TEAM schools will form a full pre-K–12 system serving more than 2,200 students or over five percent of Newark public school students.

Planned Impact:

Mastery plans to expand 20 schools serving 12,000 students in 

Planned Impact:

Ascend plans on growing from six schools today to 17 schools in 2018, when the network will serve 8,500 students.

Planned Impact:
During the first phase of Touchstone’s growth, it plans to launch six schools in New Jersey that will ultimately create over 3,600 new seats of student capacity in blended learning secondary schools. Touchstone hopes to develop the next evolution of the “no excuses” school, where students’ progress on unique learning paths based on their specific needs with the expectation that all students exit prepared for college.

Protected From Up On High

Seems pretty clear, that if your CMO has been anointed by the CSGF and their myriad investors, your schools not only have a better chance of surviving, but of attaining and maintaining "market share" in one or more cities.

Over the coming weeks and months I will be following the rise (and fall) of some of these CMOs gaining traction in New Jersey, and I will be looking more in depth at CSGF and their sphere of influence.

I hope you'll stay tuned.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Education Reform Now Dumps $2.1M Into Newark Super PAC To Defeat Ras Baraka

Just yesterday the Star Ledger reported on the intriguing campaign finance issues swirling around the Newark mayoral race.
On the other side of the city, Baraka charged that Jeffries was hiding the identity of his donors through an independent expenditure group — Newark First — which records show has raised more than $1.3 million from a handful of donors, including an $850,000 contribution from Education Reform Now, a politically active education reform organization. (emphasis mine)
But it looks like they may not have dug deep enough.

According to ELEC filings, between April 11, 2014 and May 1, 2014, DFER aligned Education Reform Now, has poured over $2 million dollars into the Super PAC Newark First. 

As I wrote yesterday, on April 11th (the same day the money started rolling in) Joe Williams, Education Reform Now President and DFER Executive Director, sent out a rallying cry for Jeffries.
Joe Williams made his pitch on the DFER website on April 11th, touting Jeffries' "reform cred."
Raised by his grandma in Newark’s South Ward, Shavar has dedicated his career to helping kids as president of the city’s Boys and Girls Club, head of Newark’s School Advisory Board, and founding board president of TEAM Academy Charter. Yet despite his reform cred, he remains in a close race leading up to the May 13th election. His opponent, Ras Baraka, promises to undo progress made during Cory Booker’s tenure, and has $ pouring in from the Newark Teachers Union endorsing his campaign. Donate just $10 to Shavar by clicking here. (emphasis mine)
Looks like they were able to shake loose a little more than $10. $2,099,990 more to be exact.

The $2.1 million from Education Reform Now is certainly the largest donation to Newark First, but it's just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the hedge fund/investment bank/education reform juggernaut that has been unleashed in this mayoral race.

Jenna, John, Christy and Stephen Mack
The Mack family alone, lead by ex Morgan Stanley CEO and current Cuomo advisor John Mack, has donated $172,000 to Newark First. Multiple donations have come in from Jenna, Stephen and John Mack, ranging from as little as $5,000 to as much as $126,000, between March 27,2014 and April 25, 2014.

Lee Ainslie, CEO of Dallas, TX hedge fund Maverick Capital, kicked in another $26,000, bringing the total contributions from the financial sector to Newark First to $198,000

And this is just the money that went into the Super PAC! What about the money donated directly to the Jeffries campaign?

By my estimation, combing through all the ELEC filings to date, education reformers and Wall Street whizzes have ponied up another $800,000+ directly to Jeffries.


Combing through the list is fascinating, a veritable Who's Who of Ed Reform and Wall Street. Even Michael Bloomberg threw in $15,000! Notice the Mack family has donated directly to Jeffries' campaign as well, another $26,000 a piece for John and his wife Christy, which brings the Mack family total to an even $250,000. A nice, round quarter million dollars.

DFER made a direct $14,000 contribution to the campaign in late March, and both Joe Williams and Whitney Tilson made small personal contributions of $500 each. Ed Reform superstar and DFER co-founder Boykin Curry makes an appearance with $26,000, as does Booker supporter and hedge fund manager Bill Ackman. Contributions from Ackman, his wife, and others from his Pershing Square Capital Management total over $100,000.

The Doris and Donald Fisher Fund ($26,000) and MCJ Amelior Foundation ($75,000 total from Raymond, Patricia and Christine Chambers), were both early donors to the Newark Charter School Fund.

Donors hail from San Francisco and Palo Alto, CA; Baltimore, MD; Rye and New York, NY; and Montclair and Morristown NJ, but not a single one of these big money donors actually lives or works in Newark. 

The reform and hedge fund donations to the Newark First Super PAC and those made directly to the Jeffries campaign, create a $3.1 million dollar war chest to defeat Ras Baraka. 

(I say this with the caveat that this figure is just me pouring over ELEC filings, so there are donations I surely missed and who knows how much more has come in since the last reports were filed.)

The real question is, what does $3.1 million dollars buy these plutocrats?

Bob Braun has it just about right on that one.
They are all rich, hedge-fund managers who have absolutely nothing in common with the people of Newark–but they are providing the money to buy themselves a mayor and to ensure Cami Anderson imposes her plan to destroy neighborhood public schools.
The more charters there are in Newark, the more money hemorrhages out of Newark, and back into the pockets of Wall Street. The $3.1 million is an investment. An investment to ensure that the money keeps flowing. 

Baraka is the tourniquet the neighborhood public schools need, to secure the funding in the schools where the students need it the most. 

Don't let the hedge-fund managers and ed reformers buy the destruction of public education in Newark. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

DFER Trying To Steal Election From Ras Baraka

The Newark mayoral race is heating up with less than a week to go, and there has been plenty of discussion about an influx of cash to the Jeffries campaign and questions as to where the money is coming from.
Newark First, an independent group of Jeffries' supporters, launched an advertising campaign Wednesday attacking Baraka's record of managing city finances. 
"Who will move Newark in a new direction? Not councilman Ras Baraka," the narrator said. "Jeffries is a different kind of leader. 
The group has raised more than $1.3 million. Its donors include several financial executives and an $850,000 donation from Education Reform Now, a politically active education reform organization, according to its election filing report. 
Newark First has spent almost $425,000 on the election, the report says. (emphasis mine)
Wow! 850,000 from Education Reform Now!! What's that?

Why, inquisitive reader, that would be a 501c3 affiliated with none other than Democrats for Education Reform. You see, Education Reform Now's President just so happens to be DFER Executive Director Joe Williams. Williams is also President of a related 501c4, Education Reform Now Advocacy. 

And in case you're not up on DFER, I'll let DFER Watch fill you in on exactly who they are and what they stand for.
Democrats for Education Reform is a political action committee supported largely by hedge fund managers favoring charter schools, merit-pay tied to test scores, high-stakes testing, school choice (including vouchers and tuition tax credits in some cases), mayoral control, and alternative teacher preparation programs.
2009 tax documents reveal the direct relationship between DFER, Education Reform Now, and Education Reform Now Advocacy.

The same documents reveal a direct connection between Education Reform Now, Students First and Students for Education Reform (SFER).

Across the Hudson in New York the connections between Students First, DFER and Education Reform Now have been no secret. 
The future of the fight over public schools has a fresh, highly visible face, and it’s called StudentsFirstNY.
But the new school-reform supergroup, founded by former New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and ex-D.C. schools chief Michelle Rhee, is in fact not that new at all. It builds directly one of the biggest lobbying forces in New York State, called Education Reform Now.
In the last two years, Education Reform Now and the associated Education Reform Now Advocacy have spent more than $10 million to influence state law on hiring and firing of teachers, as a counterforce to the state’s two major teachers’ unions.
Last week, Education Reform Now’s sibling political group, Democrats for Education Reform,  announced that it will be joining forces with StudentsFirstNY as part of a new statewide coalition, to be known as the New York State Education Reform Council.
“We’re going up against one of the most powerful interests in Albany,” said Joe Williams, who directs both Education Reform Now and Democrats for Education Reform, to the New York Post. “We don’t stand a chance if we’re not aligned and focused.” (emphasis mine)
Read the whole article linked above from The New York World, it is a real eye opener for sure. It draws clear lines between the money flowing into these groups and their education reform agenda in New York and across the nation.
Williams told The New York World that Klein’s new group and his old one will likely share some of their funders and board members. “I imagine there will be a large overlap among the donors,” he said. “But it’s not clear yet what role we’ll actually play.”
Education Reform Now does not disclose its donors, but among those who have publicized contributions are the Bill and Melinda Gates, Walton, Starr, Broad and Pershing Square foundations. (emphasis mine)
So if New York is any indication, the money flowing into the Jeffries campaign is a combination of Wall Street money and Broad, Walton, Gates etal. money. 

I know, a real shocker, right?

But in case you're still not convinced, check out the timing of these direct pleas for contributions.

Joe Williams made his pitch on the DFER website on April 11th, touting Jeffries' "reform cred."
Raised by his grandma in Newark’s South Ward, Shavar has dedicated his career to helping kids as president of the city’s Boys and Girls Club, head of Newark’s School Advisory Board, and founding board president of TEAM Academy Charter. Yet despite his reform cred, he remains in a close race leading up to the May 13th election. His opponent, Ras Baraka, promises to undo progress made during Cory Booker’s tenure, and has $ pouring in from the Newark Teachers Union endorsing his campaign. Donate just $10 to Shavar by clicking here.
Six days later on April 17th DFER Board member Whitney Tilson made a similar plea, and called Jeffries "a courageous reformer."
But to win, he needs a lot of money fast, as the election is less than two months away, so I hope you’ll join me in supporting him – just click here: 
(emphasis mine)
When Joe Williams and Whitney Tilson put out the call, it's not hard to imagine that millions come rolling in very quickly.

Lo and behold, on April 21st reports began surfacing that $1.3 million had been dumped into the Jeffries war chest by "super PAC, Newark First."
Contributors included several financial executives and Education Reform Now, a New York City-based group begun by financial fund managers who support charter schools. The organization has spent $444,000 on TV ads and field organizing to back Mr. Jeffries, the filing shows.
In case you're thinking the claim in the graphic above from the Baraka campaign that the "shadowy group" behind Newark First is trying to "buy control of Newark's government" is far fetched, perhaps a final look at Education Reform Now's two biggest expenditures in 2012, as reported on their 990, will convince you that it's not.

Almost $5 million to "increase the number of public charter school [sic] and strengthen teacher evaluation procedures" and half a million to try to shut up Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis. (Good luck with that one guys!)

Education Reform Now has a very clear anti union, pro reform agenda, which fits in just perfectly with Governor Christie and Superintendent Cami Anderson's One Newark plan, and they are attempting to steal the Newark mayoral race from Ras Baraka. Baraka has made it clear that he will lead a "full scale campaign for local control of schools" which will not bode well for the continued state takeover in Newark or One Newark.
Governor Christie is clear in his disdain and disregard for the citizens of Newark. He did say, "We run the school district in Newark, not them." He has disenfranchised the people of Newark by installing leadership at every level that believes this as deeply as he does and goes to every end to exclude, marginalize, and eliminate anyone who does not(emphasis mine)
And it looks like Governor Christie and Cami Anderson have found an ally in DFER and Education Reform Now for eliminating Ras Baraka.

Don't let them win, Newark.

Chose Ras.