Stand for Children
Stand for Children purports to be a grassroots organisation representing parents and teachers who are standing up for children's educational rights. However it promotes the business agenda and is funded by wealthy foundations, businesses and wealthy individuals.
On its website the organisation claims:
Stand for Children harnesses a decade of disciplined state and local advocacy and organizing with a proven track-record for catalyzing political victory. Working together with parents, communities and our advocacy partners, we elect state legislators and local officials who will be champions for education; deliver policy victories at the state level; and follow through to ensure new policies are effectively implemented in the classroom.
Major funders of Stand for Children include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation. In 2010 it received over $7 million from these and other foundations and another $3.5 million from businesses, organizations and individuals.
In Illinois, Stand for Children's Political Action Committee (PAC) collected $3 million in its first five months to become the best funded PAC in the state, "thanks to a handful of Chicago area millionaires and billionaires who donated as much as a half million dollars to Stand for Children just before Illinois law changed putting a cap on the donations".
Although not all of the Stand for Children candidates won [in the 2010 elections], the organization's ability to make large six-figure contributions to Illinois politicians bought access to Illinois political leaders, including House Speaker Michael Madigan.
Much funding for Stand for Children has come from people in the financial sector:
Stand for Children's (c)3 wing, known as the Leadership Center, counts among its donors at least seven individuals who have worked at or have connections to Bain Capital, a Boston-based financial-services firm. (Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney co-founded Bain Capital.)
Among them are Jonathan Lavine, a managing director at Bain's credit affiliate, who with his wife has given at least $800,000 to Stand for Children since 2006 and who sits on the board of directors of Stand for Children's (c)3 organization, and Joshua Bekenstein, Bain's managing director, who with his wife has given at least $1 million since 2006... Donors to Stand for Children's Illinois PAC, for instance, include Paul Finnegan, the co-chief executive officer of Madison-Dearborn Partners, a Chicago-based private-equity firm, and John Canning, the chairman of the same firm.
In 2010 achievements of Stand for Children in the ten states it operates in included:
- Passing SB 191, The Great Teachers and Leaders Law, in Colarado "which requires annual evaluations of teachers and principals to determine effectiveness"
- "Defeating a proposed moratorium on new charter schools in Denver"
- Electing 15 Stand for Children endorsed candidates to the Colorado House and Senate
- Electing 7 Stand for Children endorsed candidates to the Washington legislature
- Re-electing 9 Stand for Children endorsed candidates to the Oregon state legislature
- promoted adoption of the national Common Core education standards
According to Jonah Edelman, the co-founder and CEO of Stand for Children (pictured), "Across the country, Stand for Children helped elect legislative candidates who voted for key changes in public schools". These were changes that reinforced reforms sought by business leaders, particularly ensuring that teachers would be judged by student performance in standardised tests.
One of its aims in Illinois was proposed legislation, Performance Counts, promoted with Advance Illinois (founded by the Joyce Foundation and the Gates Foundation). According to Stand for Children:
Performance Counts rewards strong teacher performance by tying teacher tenure and layoff decisions to performance (based on multiple measures, not just standardized test scores), streamlines and improves the process for dismissing ineffective teachers with tenure, and improves the teacher contract negotiation process to put student well-being at the center of negotiations and, specifically, enable Chicago Public Schools to substantially lengthen their unconscionably short school day and year.
Edelman caused Stand for Children some embarrassment when he made a much publicised speech boasting of its political tactics and success in Illinois in July 2011:
We decided to get involved with mid-term elections, which many advised us against doing because we were new to town, we don't know the landscape. But my position was we had to be involved to show our capability to build some clout.
Edelman decided that Madigan would remain as House Speaker after the election and that Stand For Children could win his favour by campaigning for candidates that supported him.
We endorsed nine individuals, and six of them were Democrats, three Republicans, and tilted our money to Madigan... That was really as show of, an indication to him, that we could be a new partner to take the place of Illinois Federation of Teachers - that was the point.
Luckily, it never got covered [by the media] that way...
After the election, Advance Illinois and Stand had drafted a very bold proposal we called Performance Counts... a very, very bold proposal for Illinois, and one that six months earlier would have been unthinkable, undiscussable.
And after the election, I went back to Madigan and I confirmed, I reviewed the proposal, and I confirmed his support, and he was supportive. The next day he created an education reform committee and his political director called to ask for our suggestions for who should be on it...
In addition we hired eleven lobbyists, including the four best insiders and seven the best minority lobbyists, preventing the unions from hiring them. We enlisted a statewide public affairs firm...
And so essentially what we did in a very short period of time was shift the balance of power. I can tell you there was a palpable sense of concern if not shock on the part of the teachers' unions in Illinois that Speaker Madigan had changed allegiance, and that we had clear political capability to potentially jam this proposal down their throats...
Despite the lobbying and financial donations, the legislation was not passed but it meant the unions were willing to negotiate:
The unions were thrilled to come to the table and discuss things that again nine months earlier they would not have been willing to discuss... And - with Advance and Stand working in lockstep, and that unity is so important, that partnership, caucusing before every meeting and caucusing after every meeting, making plans - they essentially gave away every single provision related to teacher effectiveness that we had proposed...
Edelman also boasted that what they had achieved in Illinois, they would also achieve in other states:
I mean the thing about the way we work is we're doing this level of work in every state that we're in... So in Washington state right now, we've got exactly the same goal, and it's another state that doesn't lack for financial resources, it's about achieving the same kind of reallocation. We could readily outspend the Washington Education Association.
Massachusetts, very similar. It might be a ballot measure in Washingon, it might be we have a measure on the ballot, and we use it as a lever in Massachusetts. It'll look a little bit different, but it's essentially the same.
Iowa is another state, you know, Democratic senate, feel like we could do the same. Very, very major reform potential there.
- 'Stand for Children', Wikipedia
- 'Tom Olson, another former Stand for Children member, speaks out', Parents Across America
- 'Volunteer: Why I stopped helping Stand for Children (update)', Washington Post, 14 July 2011.