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'Billionaires Boys [and Girls] Club' lands with a SPLAT!#$ in the middle of Illinois politics... Illinois Education Association take on the Stand for Children/Jonah Edelman scandal

One day before both the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune carried major stories about the unfolding story prompted by Stand for Children's Jonah Edelman through his remarks at the Aspen Institute, the Illinois Education Association has responded in a statement to its members, allowing comments on its website. In the statement, Ken Swanson, outgoing IEA President, even goes so far as to respond to internal union critics who had opposed the leadership's negotiating on seniority and tenure in Springfield.

Now that the recent Aspen Institute remarks of Jonah Edelman of Stand for Children have become an Illinois political scandal, Edleman's motives for outing the Stand for Children (and billionaire union busters) strategy are in question. Some observers believe that Edelment was miffed because his strategic genius was unrecognized at the June 13, 2011 signing of SB7 at Kimberly Lightford's alma mater middle school in Maywood Illinois. Above, Edelman was barely visible (behind Gery Chico) in the back row of the dignitaries and was not recognized to speak during the event, which featured most of the political leaders (minus Mike Madigan) and most of the union leaders (minus Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis) who figured in the major media event. Above, left to right, front, State Senator Kimberly Lightford, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, illinois State Rep Linda Chapa La Via, and former Chicago school board preisdent Gery Chico. Edelman head (the guy with the glasses) can be seen behind Chicago, but the people in the back row of the front rows were not speaking at the event, which went on for more than an hour. According to the IEA, when Governor Quinn finally began signing the copies of the legislation, Edelman rushed to get himself positioned for the cameras near the governor, stepping on the toes of the IEA's Audrey Soglin (far right above) in his rush to get there. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.In her masterful study "The Death and Life of the Great American School System," historian Diane Ravitch has fund listing the work of the Gates, Broad, and Walton foundations on behalf of corporate "school reform." She calls the chapter on them "The Billionaire Boys Club." But Ravitch didn't know that a second group of billionaires (and some merely multi -multi millionaires) was home grown in Chicago and working in Chicago and Illinois to slant all "school reform" talk in the direction of corporate talking points, charter school, union busting and attacks on teachers and teacher unions. Thanks to Stand for Children, the Aspen Institute, and Jonah Edelman, Ravitsch's work can no be updated to include names like Pritzker (eleven of whom are listed in the latest Forbes list of America's billionaires; one of whom has been appointed by Rahm Emanuel for a seat on the Chicago Board of Education), Crown (one of the families — like the Pritzkers — whose fortunes began with the Chicago crony capitalism and kleptocracy of the 1930s and 1940s — and a bunch of recent superrich, who have made Chicago their base since the Reagan years undermined American democracy and began the processing of enriching the few at the expense of virtually everyone else. Names like Kennth Brody, Ken Griffin, and John Channing, all of whom are super wealthy but only one of whom (Griffin) makes the billionaires' list are now attached to the union busting agenda of the school reformers, from Stand for Children and Advance Illinois to Rahm Emanuel and his millionaire supporters and scriptwriters.

The IEA response to the recent comments by James Crown and Jonah Edelman about how Stand for Children, in alliance with Advance Illinois, got a "school reform" bill (SB&) through the Illinois General Assembly by dividing and conquering the Illinois teachers' unions, is now public, although most of the groups responding are ignoring what may be the 600 pound gorilla in the room, the billionaires and multi-millionaires who bankrolled Jonah Edelman's group beginning in September 2010 and ballooning in December 2010, just prior to the deadline for such massive contributions to any group.

The way the money came in, it is clear that James Crown, the current most visible public face of the billionaire Crown family of Chicago (Materials Service was the beginning of the Crown fortunes) did the calls that enabled Stand for Children to donate more than a half million dollars to Illinois politicians during the final weeks before the November 2, 2010 election. That $600,000 went not only to helping elect some candidates, but to establishing Stand for Children as one of the best financed "education reform" groups in the USA. And it was all done by a half dozen people, led by some of America's wealthiest individuals. In September 2010, the following people made major donations to the Stand for Children PAC:

James Crown (President, Henry Crown and Company), $50,000 on September 27, 2010.

Paul Finnegan (Co-CEO, Madison Dearborn Partners), $200,000 on September 29, 2010.

Matthew Hulsizer, (CoFounder/CEO", PEAK6 Investments), $100,000 on September 27, 2010.

George Ruhana (Partner/CEO Options House LLC), $26,000 on September 27, 2010.

Leo Smith (A charter school teacher at Perspectives Charter Schools), $25,000 on October 12, 2010.

Nearly $3 million additional cash was funneled into Stand for Children in December 2010, at the time the group was preparing for the Illinois "School Reform Committee" hearings and to get their "Performance Counts 2010" legislation through the Illinois General Assembly's lame duck session in December 2010. Despite the dollars and the intense pressure, "Performance Counts" did not become law.

Rather than summarize the Illinois Education Association report, statement, and comments, below is the precise material posted by the IEA on July 12, 2011, along with some of the comments that had been posted as of the beginning of July 13, 2011.

Illinois school reform bill.... Updated: Edelman caught misrepresenting Illinois school reform bill

July 12, 2011 By IEA Communications (6 Comments)

The leader of the education reform group Stand for Children (SfC) has been caught on video misrepresenting the education reform bill signed into law last month. On the same video, Edelman suggests that his organization tried to pay for political influence during the 2010 election. (Read the joint statement from the Illinois education unions on the Edelman comments)

Jonah Edelman is CEO for Oregon-based Stand for Children, an education reform group that sought to pass education reform legislation in Illinois in late 2010 after spending more than $600,000 on a handful of state legislative races.

Despite building the state’s largest political war chest and suggesting his organization had the power to “potentially jam this proposal down [the education unions’] throats,” SfC failed to get its bill passed. Instead, SfC was forced to collaborate with a coalition of education employee unions, lawmakers, school administrators and other education stakeholders who had been working together for years, on a comprehensive reform package that puts students first.

Senate Bill 7 (SB7), the bill that emerged from the talks, differed greatly from the SfC proposal: It maintained the right to strike, due process rights (tenure) and retained seniority as a component in personnel decisions. The bill passed with the overwhelming support of both political parties and cited as a model for reform.

But, at an Aspen Institute event last month, Edelman told a much different story, in which he suggested that his organization purchased political influence, imposed its will on the unions and achieved all of his goals.

It was a stunning series of half-truths and tall-tales. When a video of the Aspen appearance appeared on the Internet, Edelman was forced to recant and apologize.

Among the highlights of his emailed apology:

I deeply regret that I had an “us vs. them” tone. That tone contradicts my deeply held view that key aspects of the current education system are the problem, not teachers’ unions, and that the us vs. them far too often prevents real dialogue that results in better solutions like Senate Bill 7.

… I’m disappointed in myself for the way I framed the Senate Bill 7 story – a framing that does not reflect the good-faith and substantive negotiations that drove this process on all sides.

… I was wrong to state that the teachers’ unions “gave” on teacher effectiveness provisions when the reality is that, indeed, there were long, productive negotiations that led to a better outcome than would have occurred without them.

… I was wrong to make assumptions or comments about the unions’ political strategy.

…I know from conversations with (IEA and IFT leaders) that Illinois’ union leaders are deeply committed to teaching and learning, that they have exhibited that consistently in the past, and that they exhibited that commitment in spades throughout the negotiations on a series of Senate Bill 7 provisions that will improve teaching and learning.

I want to apologize specifically to (leaders and staff of IEA, IFT and CTU) who represented their membership and negotiated creatively and seriously to help craft a bill that addressed tough issues in a fair and thoughtful way.

Pay to play?

Edelman’s apology for misrepresenting the negotiations with unions did not explain other comments made in Aspen suggesting that his organization attempted to purchase political influence.

Edelman’s threats to lawmakers who didn’t go along with his anti-union proposal last year were noted by, among others, Sen. Kimberly Lightford, who presided over the SB7 negotiations.

At the IEA Lobby Day last May, Lightford called out Edelman for engaging in ”Pay to Play” politics.

Video highlights of Sen. Lightford’s remarks at IEA Lobby Day and Edelman at the Aspen event

Complete Jonah Edelman email 6-10

What SfC proposed vs what unions agreed to in SB7 (final)

IEA COMMENTS: Jean Luft says:

July 11, 2011 at 11:23 am

This is a great response from IEA to the Jonah Edelman’s video that makes false claims about the Stand For Children’s work in IL. IEA is truly the organization that STANDS for Children, Public Schools and Teachers in Illinois. IEA is standing proud for the truth!

Jerry Mulvihill says:

July 11, 2011 at 10:42 pm

The IEA Leadership’s hands are so dirty on this issue. As a local member, I BEGGED and pleaded with IEA to not take part in ANY talks regarding teacher’s right to tenure, seniority and evaluations. Instead of being heard and respected as a long time devoted member, I found out that President Swanson and possibly others called me names behind my back and brushed me aside as if I did not matter. They took independent straw polls instead of listening to members like me and undermined the legislative platform process simply so that they could do whatever they felt was in their interest. Time and again I was told that being at the table was the answer. Now I don’t know who to believe. IEA leadership – Ken Swanson, Audry Soglin, Cinda Clickna have as much credibility in my eyes as Edelman.

This has been a terrible year for my union and unless rank and file start drawing the line together I feel that this may just be the beginning of the end for IEA. A dark, dark day indeed.

REPLY

Ken Swanson says:

July 12, 2011 at 11:48 am

I want to take the unusual step of responding to a posting. I generally read but refrain from commenting on what members say at our website. It is an opportunity for members to voice their thoughts. In this particular case I should add perspective regarding Mr. Mulvihill’s posting.

It is true this member has over the past two years vocally opposed first our involvement in the PERA legislation and subsequently the process leading to SB7. He was a leader at the IEA in 2010 attempting to pass a motion that would have called upon IEA to work to repeal the PERA evaluation law we helped craft. That was OVERWHELMINGLY rejected by the RA.

We did do polling over the holiday break this past winter to ascertain whether or not the decision of the Executive Committee to have us engage in trying to bring IFT and CTU together to in proposing an alternative to Stand’s “Performance Counts.” It was NOT a “straw poll”. It was scientifically conducted by outside professional pollsters and specifically targeted K-12 full time classroom teachers, the very members who would be most impacted by Performance Counts. The polling data showed significant majorities supported moving in the direction we did.

Also, keep in mind we followed our own governing documents including IEA Resolutions, Legislative Platform, and Priority One as we crafted Accountability for All and as we engaged in the process that produced SB7. So, at all times we operated within the guidance the RA, the highest governing body in IEA, has provided. We kept the Executive Committee informed as moved along and gave thorough updates with opportunity for questions from the Board at the Board meetings in January, February, March the night before the RA, and again at the May meeting. In addition a thorough update was given at the RA this March. At no point did the ExComm, the Board, nor the RA give us any directive to do anything other than pursue the course of action taken.

The untruths uttered by Jonah Edelman in the now infamous video, comments for which he has extensively apologized and tried to take back, are stunning in their breadth and depth. They seem to reveal a person so possessed by his own sense of mission, that he is willing to distort and lie to look better to the finite pool of large checkwriters that “reformers” like he and Michelle Rhee have to compete with to get the checks written to them instead of someone else. It isn’t just IEA, IFT, and CTU that are appalled at what Jonah said at Aspen. In the days ahead it will become clear other credible parties who were part of the process are not happy with him either.

Keep in mind another motivation that might at least partially explain Jonah’s whale of a fairy tale is to review what happened at the SB7 bill signing: Neither he nor Stand were referenced by Gov. Quinn as he spoke that morning. He was NOT given a chance to speak. Robin Steans spoke from Advance Illinois, but he did not. When it was time for the actual signing, Quinn first called up children in attendance and then the adults were to fill in behind. Jonah very aggressively maneuvered his way to the photo op literally stepping on Audrey’s foot as he did so. A pathetic performance actually.

I share all this to try to give some context to what might have motivated Jonah to do what he did. I look at it this way, he has done us all a favor by exposing himself for what he appears to be and sincere reformers, our NEA and AFT brethren across the country, and politicians in every state can see what they will be dealing with if/when Jonah tries to come to their state.

But back to IL and IEA. Yes, I did inadvertently send out an email by mistake that referenced Mr. Mulvihill by something other than his name. I regret that, it was human error on my part. However, you should know that that happened after months of having this individual demand my immediate resignation as president, calling me the worst president in IEA history, a traitor, and other less flattering characterizations. We are all only human and sometimes we all respond on an emotional level to personal attacks. What you have not seen in the past months are multiple postings he has written to this website that could not be posted due to the unprofessional nature of the content including profanity. I personally made the decision this one would be posted in the interest of free expression. I believe, however, you all are entitled to both sides of the story.

Mr Mulvihill is certainly free to disagree with the outcome of SB7. He is free to believe a different course of action should have been taken. He is not, however entitled to his own set of facts. We were told in no uncertain terms by our best friends in the legislature that if we did not come to the table with meaningful reform ideas the first week of January, Performance Counts would be legislation by the time the new legislature was sworn in later in January. The IEA/IFT/CTU presentation of Accountability for All STOPPED Stand and Performance Counts in its tracks. Our intervention resulted in a process that brought everyone to the table and thus we have SB7, NOT Performance Counts. If any member reading this has not yet read all the documents in the Members Only part of this website please do. When you read the comparison between what would have happened to children and ourselves under Performance Counts vs what will be implemented under SB7 you will see there are dramatic differences.

A final thought about whether IEA should have engaged in the reform process. Had Stand not come to IL, there STILL would have been reform legislation proposed this year by others. There was no way a significant income tax increase was going to be passed without major reforms. As you have seen, that extended to other areas like workman’s comp and not just education. That is why we were heavily involved in crafting SB2288 which would have been the reform measures accompanying HB174, our school funding bill, had it passed in the previous legislative year.

IEA has been engaged in the reform arena for years and I believe it is a very good thing for our members that we were well positioned to stop Stand/Performance Counts and participate in a process in which we had a positive impact. I believe it will be essential for IEA to continue to lead, to engage, and be strategic in protecting public education and member interests in the challenging years ahead. Those who believe we should just say NO and take our chances are entitled to their opinion. I believe them to be wrong and as I leave the Presidency at the end of this week I have absolutely NO doubt that what we did in the 2010 election when IEA made the difference and elected Pat Quinn over Bill Brady and our strategic decision to engage in an effort stop Performance Counts and help shape something better will serve IEA membership and our students well in the years ahead. Thanks for reading this.

REPLY

Maureen says:

July 12, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Ken and Audrey,

I listened to Mr. Edelman’s recording and am not sure whether I am happy or appalled at the way he called Audrey “pragmatic”. I believe it was a compliment, but presented in such a manner as to be damaging.

Well, I do think you both are pragmatic and so am I — and that is a very good thing to have in a leader. New and non-members often cite their perception that the tenure process protects medocrity and incompetence and is a reason not to join our Association. Current members often voice extreme disatisfacton with low performing colleagues who maintain their positions because administration does not want to undergo the lengthy termination process. As a Local President, I have had vast amounts of my personal time consumed in this process as well. I am glad that we have chosen to address these issues. I am proud that we were able to lead the way.

I only wish we could have done this sooner and without the Outsider, who has now significantly diminished our ability to present our process as a model for NEA.

I also celebrate the benefits brought to us through this and the PERA provisions such as tenure portability, the requirement for TRAINED evaluators, training for School Board members, and the probationary period for principals.

Funny, I would never have framed this as “education reform”. Perhaps tenure reform, personnel policy changes, etc. The only real systemic reform I have seen begun in education in years is Response to Intervention!

I regret that you have had to suffer from a member’s anger and frustration while navigating such difficult waters this past year. It is a part of leadership that we do not like to share so as not to discourage future leaders, but it can be hurtful and discouraging. Ah well, remember how heartfelt the tributes have been to you! And I will watch the website to see if the other parties, or even Mr. Madigan, have any comments!

Many, Many Thanks,

Maureen

REPLY

Rainy Kaplan says:

July 12, 2011 at 4:02 pm

As a member of the Executive Committee, I can attest to Ken’s statements that we were kept in the loop since the beginning regarding this issue. The Executive Committee and the Board of Directors had many discussions regarding SB 7 and Stand for Children/Performance Counts.

I would urge members to watch the videos, read the Performance Counts/SB 7 Comparision and other materials in order to determine for themselves who has been misrepresenting the truth. Mr. Edelman is the one who has apologized.

REPLY

Holly Veach says:

July 12, 2011 at 4:31 pm

As a member of the IEA Executive Committee, I feel compelled to respond to Mr. Mulvihill’s comments. IEA was proactive in utilizing our organizational resources to form a coalition of unions working together to stop Stand for Children. The work done by our leadership and staff prevented SFC from successfully pushing Performance Counts through the Legislature in January. One only has to view the recent video of SFC leader, John Edelman to understand that just saying NO was not a viable option in stopping the inevitable assault on our members’ union rights with SFC’s agenda and resources.

The IEA response to the SFC Performance Counts Agenda and subsequent Accountability for All that resulted in SB7was a transparent and strategic process. As a member of the IEA Executive Committee, I was proud to witness all facets of our organization collectively work to improve public education and protect our members’ rights. The IEA leadership of Ken Swanson, Bob Blade, and Cinda Clickna worked diligently to educate and involve our members, governance, and staff on the facts and important historical significance of SB7. IEA Executive Director, Audrey Soglin and Legal Counsel, Mitch Roth worked above and beyond the regular work day and even sacrificed Christmas Break in order to draft the Accountability for All Language. Many of our members appreciate the numerous hours our leaders, managers, and staff work on behalf of our organization.

This has been a phenomenal year for IEA. Our other state affiliates hold us in high regard and respect our success in bringing all stakeholders to the table and successfully stopping the Stand for Children Agenda.



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