Here's an EdWeek piece
about these groupsHere is Diane Ravitch
characterizing them and their funders as a group:
It is about the three biggest foundations in the education field: the Gates Foundation, the Walton Foundation, and the Broad Foundation. Over time, the funding priorities of these foundations have begun to converge around charters and teacher evaluation as the keys to school reform. Walton adds vouchers to the mix, but otherwise shares the agenda. The agenda looks amazingly like the Mitt Romney policy agenda, i.e., the Bush education agenda, the Milton Friedman choice agenda.
The new advocacy groups are not disparate. They are critics of public education. They think it is a failure. They are critics of teachers’ unions. They oppose seniority and tenure. In fact, they don’t think teachers should have any job protections whatever. They think teachers are paid too much. They take test scores as the ultimate measure of education quality. They don’t question the validity or reliability of standardized tests. They think that high test scores equals high achievement.
They don’t like local school boards because they slow down the rush to charters.
What do they favor? They favor charters. Some, not all, favor vouchers. They favor privatization. They favor the removal of teacher certification. They want teachers’ compensation tied to student test scores. They favor merit pay. They favor firing teachers whose students don’t get higher scores. They favor closing schools whose students get low scores. They favor No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. They like mayoral control. They have no objection to for-profit organizations taking over schools or providing online instruction.
The new advocacy organizations differ around the edges, but mostly they are pushing an agenda that will privatize public education and de-professionalize teaching.
From the web site:
The American Center for School Choice advocates expansion of public support for families to choose the schools that they believe will best serve their children, because the education of the child is a fundamental responsibility of the family, and enabling parents to choose the school that will best help them to fulfill this responsibility will strengthen our families, our schools, and our communities.
Parental responsibility is in itself a basic human good, and parental choice in education is widely available, widely practiced, and supported by public policy --- but only for families with sufficient resources to live near a desirable public school, to pay tuition for private education, or to attempt the difficult task of home-schooling.
ACSC exists to make the American public freshly aware that a better public policy is that which enables all parents, not just those who are financially fortunate, to choose the school that will best help them to fulfill their responsibility toward their children.
Very odd organization. It appears to have a huge staff with titles that suggest many more staff, but according to the 990 linked on the web site salary expenses are low and the executive director doesn't seem work much.
And there's no mission statement.
LinkAnother face of Democrats for Education Reform
Education Reform Now (ERN) envisions an America whose commitment to social justice is realized by every child having the social and economic opportunity afforded by a quality public education, regardless of race, gender, geography, or socio-economic status. Achieving this vision necessitates a powerful chorus of voices within the education policy debate advancing a true agenda of reform, and speaking up on behalf of America's children. Education Reform Now seeks to empower individuals with reliable information so that the chorus may be informed and impactful.
The New Jersey branch of ERN is building a movement - with a focus on the state's largest city, Newark - to bring together committed individuals who are dedicated to the ideal that every child deserves an excellent education. With your help, we can create strong momentum to support progressive education policy, celebrate high performing educators and schools beating the odds, and encourage true accountability across the state. Sign up below to join today.
"In too many cities and neighborhoods, parents are unable to enroll their kids in the best public schools -- there just aren't enough seats. We're working to make sure all families have a range of high quality schools to choose from, because our kids shouldn't have to rely on a lottery or the ZIP Code of their home to get a great education."
With education issues high on the agenda for the upcoming legislative session, two new groups that favor charter schools and vouchers have spent lavishly on Tennessee House and Senate races.
The Tennessee PAC affiliated with StudentsFirst, a Sacramento, Calif.-based organization led by former Washington, D.C., Chancellor of Schools Michelle Rhee, has pumped $376,266 into Tennessee this year. That sum includes contributions to a handful of local school board contenders in Nashville and Memphis but far more to candidates seeking state legislative seats. Most of the recipients are Republicans.
StudentsFirst’s Tennessee PAC, formed last year, spent $66,150 in the Volunteer State over the past month alone, according to financial disclosures submitted last week.
During the same four-week time frame, a PAC called Tennessee Federation for Children, a branch of a Washington organization that expanded to Tennessee this spring, accounted for $145,302 in contributions and other expenditures. The group spent $248,539 in Tennessee altogether this year, with money going to direct mail efforts and to pro-voucher candidates.
“The hope is that we can get them elected and that we’ll form a very strong and committed educational ‘choice’ majority in the legislature,” said Malcom Glenn, communications director for the American Federation for Children. Its Tennessee PAC contributed $10,000 to the PAC of Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, $7,200 to the PAC of House Speaker Beth Harwell and $2,500 to District 20 Senate candidate Steve Dickerson of Nashville, among a long list of others.
“We support all school options, including vouchers,” Glenn said.
The activity of these two PACs — neither of which existed last election cycle — comes as several hot-button education debates have exploded in Tennessee this campaign season, especially in Nashville. Decisions could be coming next year on whether to authorize public vouchers to help bankroll private schooling in Tennessee and on a proposal to create a new state panel to authorize charter schools.
“We’re committed to being a part of this conversation to make sure we can improve the options that families have right now,” said Brent Easley, hired as the new Tennessee director of StudentsFirst in October. He characterized its level of activity in Tennessee as “middle of the pack” compared to its involvement in other states.
StudentsFirst’s contributions in Tennessee, which also predated the August primaries, include: $11,500 to Dickerson, who is seeking to move departing Sen. Joe Haynes’ seat to the Republican column; $10,000 to both the House and Senate Republican caucuses; $13,500 to Republican Rep. Joey Hensley; $6,500 to Rep. Billy Spivey; and $4,000 to Rep. Jim Gotto, who is in a competitive race to reclaim his Nashville seat.
Statement of Principles
A first-rate system of public education is the cornerstone of a prosperous, free and just society, yet millions of American children today – particularly low-income and children of color - are trapped in persistently failing schools that are part of deeply dysfunctional school systems
. These systems, once viewed romantically as avenues of opportunity for all, have become captive to powerful, entrenched interests
that too often put the demands of adults before the educational needs of children. This perverse hierarchy of priorities is political, and thus requires a political response.
Both political parties have failed to address the tragic decline of our system of public education, but it is the Democratic Party – our party – which must question how we allowed ourselves to drift so far from our mission. Fighting on behalf of our nation's most vulnerable individuals is what our party is supposed to stand for.
Democrats for Education Reform aims to return the Democratic Party to its rightful place as a champion of children
, first and foremost, in America's public education systems.
We support leaders in our party who have the courage to challenge a failing status quo and who believe that the severity of our nation's educational crisis demands that we tackle this problem using every possible tool at our disposal.
We believe that reforming broken public school systems cannot be accomplished by tinkering at the margins, but rather through bold and revolutionary leadership. This requires opening up the traditional top-down monopoly of most school systems and empowering all parents to access great schools for their children
We know that decisive action today will benefit our children, our party and ultimately our nation.
What We Stand For
We support policies which stimulate the creation of new, accountable public schools and which simultaneously close down failing schools We support mechanisms that allow parents to select excellent schools for their children, and where education dollars follow each child to their school.
We support governance structures which hold leaders responsible, while giving them the tools to effectuate change. We believe in empowering mayors to lead urban school districts, so that they can be held accountable by the electorate.
We support policies that allow school principals and their school communities to select their teams of educators, holding them accountable for student performance but allowing them flexibility to exercise sound, professional judgment.
We support clearly-articulated national standards and expectations for core subject areas, while allowing states and local districts to determine how best to make sure that all students are reaching those standards.