The Co-Opting of “Stand For Children?”

One of the legislative battles we expect to heat up after the session begin next week is over the role and promulgation of so-called “innovation status” public schools. Under the 2008 Innovation Schools Act, districts and individual schools can submit an “innovation plan” allowing significant structural changes in the way the school operates, including waivers of contracts made with local teachers. Under the law, a vote of 60% of “personnel at the affected school who are members of the collective bargaining unit” is required.

Under a new bill we’re told will be introduced by Republican Sen. Nancy Spence in the coming session, any new school opened in the state could opt for “innovation status” without a vote of affected staff. Given the advantage this would give administrators over teachers in negotiations as school districts grow, what we’re talking about is a massive hit on the rights of teachers to negotiate the terms of their employment.

Safe to say, this isn’t what teachers who have been cooperating with the teacher evaluation reforms passed in 2010 under Senate Bill 191 expected in return. And that leads us to the moral of this story–how much reform is enough? And who is really pushing for this stuff?

The legislation from Sen. Spence mentioned above is being promoted by the education reform advocacy organization Stand for Children. Stand for Children has a generally sterling reputation as a nonpartisan group whose interests are genuinely rooted in improving education outcomes in public schools. Over the years, though, Stand for Children’s mission appears to have shifted as increasing amounts of corporate and identifiably conservative funding began to pour in. Critical insight into this transition from a Fall 2011 article in Rethinking Schools:

Stand for Children was founded in the late 1990s as a way to advocate for the welfare of children. It grew out of a 1996 march by more than 250,000 people in Washington, D.C. The aim of the march was to highlight child poverty at a time when Congress and the Clinton administration were preparing to “end welfare as we know it.” Jonah Edelman, son of children’s and civil rights activist Marian Wright Edelman, co-founded the group and continues to serve as CEO. Stand’s first chapter was in Oregon, but the group now operates in eight additional states: Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington…

Stand’s effectiveness is reliant on a public perception that it represents the interests of parents. But in fact, Stand’s agenda is now closely aligned with those who call for privatization, charters, vouchers, and an end to teachers’ unions. [Pols emphasis]

This is true throughout the country. For example, Stand’s most significant work in Colorado was their support of Senate Bill 191, a landmark piece of legislation that bases 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation on student achievement data. As Dana Goldstein explained in a recent American Prospect article, this may lead the state to test every student, in every grade, in every subject-including art, music, and PE. The poisonous debate around the bill vilified those in opposition and demoralized teachers across the state. One teacher, recalling the negotiations over the bill, told Goldstein, “I’ve chosen a profession that, in the public eyes, is worse than prostitution.”

Stand’s Colorado operations are funded in part by the Walton Family Foundation and the Daniels Fund, two right-wing philanthropies that have pushed for vouchers and charter schools…11 of the 14 board members of Stand for Children and the Stand for Children Leadership Center have joined the organization since 2006.

It’s important to understand that even though the Colorado Education Association and other teacher’s unions opposed Senate Bill 191, everyone involved with that, including principal sponsor Sen. Mike Johnston, will tell you their participation in implementing those reforms has been constructive. SB-191 continues to be a sore point in some relations between teachers and their traditional Democratic allies, but organizationally, teachers have accepted its basic premise. Though routinely vilified, teachers are just not the enemy of reform they’re portrayed to be.

Meaning that there’s no reason to cut them out of the process of setting up new schools. There’s no reason to do this at all except to take advantage of a bipartisan desire for education reform, and co-opt that desire to regurgitate the whole litany of decades-old right wing attacks on public school teachers. We think the public will go so far in support of the reform agenda and then stop–as was discovered this year in the Jefferson County School Board races. The same is true of reform-minded Democrats who supported SB-191 with varying degrees of reluctance–but may be beginning to understand that some of their “allies” want to go much father than they do.

27 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. DavidThi808 says:

    We’ve got everyone working to make SB-191 effective. Yes it would be great if it was happening faster but by educational system measures it’s running at light speed. People should be focused on making SB-191 as effective as possible.

  2. dwyer says:

    STAND endorsed in the recent DPS school board race and I believe gave money and volunteer support.

  3. sxp151 says:

    As I’ve said before, I strongly discourage all of my students from going into teaching, and have told the Colorado Democratic Party repeatedly that I will not donate to them.

    Looking forward to many of the Democrats on this site telling me how awful teachers are, again.

  4. ArapaGOP says:

    Thanks for the CEA talking points, but it’s not going to work. Innovation is what’s working, and the only people who don’t realize that are members of (or bankrolled by) the teacher union. We need every school able to innovate, and until the yoke of union control can be broken once and for all, let’s at least make sure that every new school in Colorado gets that opportunity.

    This is not a fight the liberals and unions can win.

    • cunninjo says:

      We have no clue what types of innovation work. Even in successful innovation schools and successful charter schools we really don’t know what about those schools makes them successful.

      Research shows that charter schools as a whole consistently perform worse than traditional public schools, so how do you justify your statement that “innovation is what’s working”? You can’t just say “we need every school able to innovate”.

      We need to determine what specific “innovations” are the most effective and replicate those on a larger scale. But when when we just let schools implement a slew of reforms we can’t measure which specific reforms are most effective. We can’t account for other factors. This bill has nothing to do with improving education. It is solely about breaking the union because they vote for Democrats.  

      • Aristotle says:

        and not facts or figures.

      • ArapaGOP says:

        Innovation status, a designation under state statute, allows schools to have more autonomy with hiring, budgets and curriculum, and freedom from some union rules.

        The research began in 2010 and is being conducted by the University of Colorado but is being led and paid for by a partnership of Denver Public Schools, the Colorado Education Association, the Denver Classroom Teachers Association and A-Plus Denver.

        When the work began, there were eight innovation schools in DPS. There are now 21 innovation schools in Colorado, 19 of which are in DPS.

        The findings outlined in the report – Crafting an Innovation School – suggest that most innovation schools have strong and positive school cultures.

        Is it too much to ask for you to look these readily available news stories for yourselves instead of demanding “proof” of something you can read in readily available news stories? You’re the ones who look foolish.

    • sxp151 says:

      without the teachers.

      • GalapagoLarry says:

        The education-corporate complex, that is.

        Education by computers. There’s lots of money waiting to be transferred from taxpayers to computer manufactures, sales people, take-home supporting textbooks and materials, and then, of course, standardized testing, testing, testing. Oh, and then corporate test scoring and analysis, and consultants by the dozen, which the corporations are more than ready to provide and which rightwing boards pushed into office by rightwing vultures are more than ready to buy.

        Privatise! Suck taxpayer money from public institutions to corporations until the instutions are too weak to fulfill their missions; declare them broken, and let the corporations rule our lives.

        We think the public will go so far in support of the reform agenda and then stop

        Stop when? After it’s too late? It’s time to backtrack on this whole “reform” bullshit right now.

        How much do you want to bet Spence’s bill was written by ALEC?

    • dwyer says:

      How’s that sheriff thing going down out your way?

      Got that all worked out?  How ’bout you clean up your own backyard….

  5. John Tzekara says:

    I know a few parents involved with Stand.  All of them saw the group as another sort of Parent-Teacher group and don’t really get the national agenda the organization has taken on.

    If you haven’t seen the video of Jonah Edelman, the head of Stand, talking in Aspen, it puts a lot of things in perspective.  Edelman talks about how the organization formed alliances solely on political objectives and that they didn’t care about individual candidates — it’s a pretty brutal raw politics speech (which he later apologized for and tried to explain away).

    Jump to the 3rd minute if you’re in a hurry:

  6. wade norris says:

    writing about this.

    Stand for Children is part of the same ‘reform’ efforts that Michelle Rhee and shows like “Waiting For Superman” (funded by our own Phil Anschutz) aim to implement – and what ends up happening is that these groups who are proposed as ‘democratic’ reforms are discovered to be nothing but Right wing funded Union busting tactics.

    Beware of the Democrat that brings these reforms, and follow the money. (notice the push back Rahm is getting in Chicago)


  7. nancycronk says:

    for being open-minded about the education reform issue. I have been a huge fan of children’s rights champion Marian Wright Edelman for decades. As you mentioned, her son Jonah is the CEO of Stand for Children. There is no way I could ever get behind their group; the general values are great, but I believe it to be a front for a pro-corporate agenda, and that is not going to help our kids learn. The last thing our students need are more people running the schools who HAVE NO CLUE.  

  8. ColoMod says:

    “The same is true of reform-minded Democrats who supported SB-191 with varying degrees of reluctance–but may be beginning to understand that some of their “allies” want to go much father than they do.”

    I tend to support many reform policies but this  bill seems like bad news even to me.

    Perhaps it would be easier to implement said changes if we actually had the money to implement them…

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