CATALYST: Stand for Children Illinois says (without evidence) that 'Turnarounds' are 'proven...', but they don't support Rent A Protests and Rent A Preachers

[Editor's Note: It's always interesting to us when a lawyer repeats some marketing claim and deliberately leaves out the evidence. But that's what's happening in Illinois right now, now that the new executives at "Stand for Children" are preparing to organize their "parents" in support of Chicago "turnaround" and on behalf of the firing of more Chicago union teachers. Following the release of the Edelman/Crown tape from the Aspen Institute last summer, a number of critics pointed out the racist nature of the Stand for Children agenda and the vicious irony of the current corporate version of "Stand" based on the group's history. And it's not always that we cheer Catalyst's reporting, but their recent story (January 11, 2012) "Stand for Children launches campaign on school turnarounds" is a hoot and very much worth sharing with all Substance readers. We've also included the "Comments" registered as of our posting of this (January 13, 2012, about 4:30 a.m., although we note that only two of the comments identify the commenter. As Substance readers know, unlike Catalyst, Substance requires those who comment to give their first and last names, as do Julie Woestehoff and Rod Estvan. We have no idea who "anonymous" is, but left in all of him/her/it for readers to read. Catalyst has done a fair job here, So here it is... The Black Commentator critique of Stand for Children (July 2011) is at the following URL for those who can't get to the hotlink:§ion=Article]

Stand for Children Launches Campaign on School Turnarounds, By Candelaria Rosales and Sarah Karp, January 11, 2012

After scoring a legislative win with a recently-enacted state law limiting teacher tenure and strike rights, the well-heeled education advocacy group Stand for Children is turning its attention to issues specific to Chicago—including school turnarounds.

On Wednesday [January 11, 2012], the group announced that it is launching a radio campaign to “educate Chicagoans about the value of public turnaround schools.” Group leaders also plan to host “telephone town hall meetings” where CPS officials and community leaders can discuss with residents of the South and West sides the “need for quality schools.”

Executive Director Mary Anderson says turnarounds — in which the entire staff of a school are fired and must reapply for their jobs — are a proven way to improve schools. CPS officials have proposed turning around 10 schools this year, including two high schools.

Anderson emphasizes that Stand for Children supports neighborhood schools, and supports turnaround schools because they improve them.

“We believe every child should be able to walk out their door and go to a good school,” she says.

The new leadership of Chicago's Stand for Children, Juan Gonzelez (left) and Mary Anderson (right) waited to get in to the October 26, 2011 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education. Later, Anderson took a reporter's interest in comments to the press by CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey, until asked by a Substance reporter whether she was a reporter. Anderson, a lawyer whose most recent job was in the office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, moved into the leadership of Stand for Children in Chicago after the organization's purge of Letoy Ridgnal and others following the revelations by James Crown and Jonah Edelman of Stand for Children's anti-union and corporate funded agenda, which included a discriminatory piece of legislation directed, in the most racist way, against the Chicago Teachers Union. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.In addition to holding their own events, Anderson says that Stand for Children will get the parents they work with out to the community and public hearings on the school actions.

“We want to make sure their voices are heard,” she says. However, Mary McClelland, the director of communications for Stand for Children Illinois, says Stand for Children did not work with or support the parents who were bused into the community meetings last week. But Anderson notes that Stand for Children is not working alone on the turnaround campaign. Some faith-based and community leaders will be on hand to talk to parents who join the tele-town halls.

One of the people who will be joining the conversation is Chris Harris, pastor of the Bright Star Church of God and the chairman of the Bronzeville Community Action Council. Harris also serves on the local school council for Woodson Elementary School, which is slated to be turned around. He did not return calls confirming his involvement.

Anderson notes that not everyone who is participating agrees completely with Stand for Children’s position. “We just want to have an open conversation,” she says. Chicago’s Stand for Children office has been laying the ground work for the campaign for months, making connections with a variety of parent and advocacy groups. But some of the most already-established parent groups are hesitant to join forces.

In other states and cities where the Portland-based Stand for Children is active, the organization started by working with parents before moving into advocacy, McClelland says. Stand for Children has affiliates in eight other cities. She says the organization began by pushing legislation in Illinois because “the political opportunity” was available.

“We are now going back to what we do best,” she says.

In recent months, to get the work going, Stand for Children hired Chicago Director Juan Gonzalez, who spent time organizing for the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. Gonzalez, who grew up in California, hired two local organizers.

Gonzalez says that he and the organizers have spent time going out to churches and schools presenting their agenda and signing up members and supporters. Gonzalez says the group has signed up more than 4,000 supporters and members. Being a member of Stand for Children is akin to being a member of the Sierra Club, in that parents are basically pledging to support the agenda of Stand for Children, Gonzalez says. Gonzalez and Anderson describe their agenda like this: They want to make sure that students have access to quality schools, they support the longer school day that Mayor Rahm Emanuel is pushing and they want to make sure that students are prepared for high school and college.

“We want to get past the noise,” Anderson says.

Yet some of Stand for Children’s agenda can be interpreted as having a particular point of view. For example, “access to quality schools” can mean more charter schools, if a group sees them as quality schools. Also, the drive for the longer school day has wound up pitting CPS against the Chicago Teachers Union, which won a state labor board complaint that accused the district of sidestepping the contract by urging teachers to vote for waivers allowing a longer day this year.

The group also works with parents to become more effective leaders. “We prepare them to speak in public, how to address the board and the media,” Gonzalez says.

In recent months, Gonzalez and other Stand for Children staff have been present at Chicago Board of Education meetings, along with parents supporting such issues as a longer school day.

But as they maneuver around the city, Gonzalez is aware that the organization carries with it a negative weight, especially among unionized teachers and grassroots organizations. Stand for Children was a staunch supporter of Senate Bill 7, which limited teacher tenure and made it more difficult for teachers to strike. Senate Bill 7 also gave Chicago school leaders the power to unilaterally lengthen the school day, which had previously been a subject in collective bargaining. After the bill was passed last year, in a speech in front of the Aspen Institute, Executive Director Josh Edelman described how his group outfoxed the CTU in getting the bill passed and bragged that the bill would effectively prevent the teachers from ever striking. [The URL for the Jonah — not Josh — Edelman/James Crown Aspen Institute speech is§ion=Article].

Edelman wound up apologizing for his remarks, but his descriptions left a bad taste for many, including lawmakers who worked on Senate Bill 7.

Local activists have also been skeptical of Stand for Children because of its supporters. Though the Illinois chapter has not raised much money this year, last year it collected more than $3 million from local deep pockets including Sam Zell, formerly of the Tribune Co., and the Pritzker and Crown families. (Penny Pritzker was appointed to the Chicago Board of Education by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.)

Jitu Brown, an education organizer from the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization, says his organization and Stand for Children differ on how they see education issues. KOCO was founded in 1960 by community and religious leaders, and Brown notes that it is a grassroots organization that wants to see more investment in neighborhood schools.

Stand for Children, in his view, is trying to push a top-down, corporate agenda that ultimately harms neighborhood schools and teachers. Julie Woestehoff, executive director of Parents United for Responsible Education, says her group will never work with Stand for Children after Edelman’s speech. She says the group wants to destroy teachers unions as well as the democracy in the school system.

“Stand for Children comes into states with a pre-determined agenda and centrally-written legislative proposals,” she says.

Stand for Children leaders provided a list of 14 organizations that the group has worked with, including Northwestern Settlement House, the Illinois PTA and the Illinois Network of Charter Schools.

Some organizations on the list, however, stress that they don’t support Stand for Children’s entire agenda. The Black Star Project put together a forum on Senate Bill 7 with Stand for Children.

Black Star Project president Phillip Jackson says he wanted to do the forum to inform the African-American community about the bill.

“We didn’t take a side. We didn’t promote an agenda or one side or another,” he says.

Jackson says he would work with the organization again if an issue came up that he wanted to inform the community about or promote. But he also says he works with the teachers’ union and other groups when they are on similar sides of an issue. Gonzalez, however, is not fazed by the skeptics.

“My experience is that everyone is skeptical of the new kids on the block,” he says. “How we are received will depend on what policies we advance and what impact they have. We need to build a base.”

Reporter Lindsay Abbassian contributed to this story.

COMMENTS TO CATALYST AS OF JANUARY 13 BELOW HERE. (Please note that unlike Substance, Catalyst allows anonymous comments).

#1 Anonymous wrote 17 hours 19 min ago

We are skeptical of new kids

We are skeptical of new kids on the block if they are cynical, arrogant adults who are happy to buy off people and hurt children to push a billionaire agenda.

I hope everyone working for Stand for Children have really looked at the Edelman video. They are the enemies of democracy and the enemies of parents, children and communities. They are well paid and get to hang out with the cool 1%, but good luck looking yourself in the mirror ever again.

The blood of the next kids hurt by turnaround and the violence as a result of the extended day will be on Mary Anderson, Juan Gonzalez and the Stand for Children team's hands. May people forgive your transgressions, your victims may not have the opportunity.


#2 Anonymous wrote 16 hours 36 min ago

Best Laugh of the Day

Stand decided to put legislative action before grassroots organizing because the "political opportunity" was there. And now they want to go back and get grassroots support. I couldn't stop laughing.


#3 Anonymous wrote 13 hours 34 min ago

New kids are needed. I've been curious about this organization ever since they came on the scene and I have to say, so far I'm impressed with them. Sure, it sounds like their national head said some politically stupid things on camera, but Illinois and Chicago needs a new kid on the block to shake things up. The same-old same-old with our schools and the same people always saying 'no' to everything allows for the system to continue to deteriorate.

Organizing parents to become more involved? Sounds like a good thing to me. People always complain that there aren't enough parents involved in the schools and when there is a group who seems to be actually working with parents to build their advocacy skills, we should welcome it. I may not agree with 100% of their agenda (but I agree with most), but so far I like their willingness to go out there, stick to their guns and fight for what they believe in.

Stick with it, kids, this is Chicago, your thick skin will treat you well.


#4 Anonymous wrote 2 hours 51 min ago

Well balanced article. i think catalyst wrote a well balanced article here and opened my eyes to a new perspective about Stand for Children. I'm curious to see what their parental engagement leads to. In regards to other organizations criticizing them, i find that unfortunate. There should be a way for groups to always work together. no permanent friends, no permanent enemies.


#5 Julie Woestehoff wrote 1 hour 54 min ago

Stand for Children a wolf in sheep's clothing

Parents need to open their eyes to the dangers of Stand for Children's inroads into Chicago, using their corporate sponsors' deep pockets to try to poison our public schools neighborhood by neighborhood. PURE works with all legitimate groups, but we will never stop exposing Stand for Children and others which are simply front groups for the Penny Pritzkers of this country. Read here

and here

about how the original Stand for Children group in Portland has been disavowed by its REAL leaders for perverting the group's original mission -- assuring that schools have adequate resources -- to what they now tout, privatization, more charter schools, and union busting,


#6 Anonymous wrote 1 hour 35 min ago

organizations criticizing other organizations

lame, makes me not want to be a part of pure and parents across america.


#7 Rod Estvan wrote 2 sec ago

Excellent article by Catalyst

As is known by some readers of Catalyst Access Living formally opposed SB7's provisions on limiting the CTU's ability to call a strike and the limitations placed on what are called "permissive" contractual negotiation areas, during the early legislative hearings. Hence our perspectives were to say the least different than those of Stand for Children. But the article written by Catalyst was very good because it presented the Stand for Children's position on the effectiveness of the turn around process allowed by NCLB to improve the education of children. This was the first time I had seen that position explained.

I can't claim to any expertise on the effectiveness of the practice of replacing close to full school staffs and instituting practices like AUSL network's PASSAGE program after reconstitution of a school on all children in these schools. But from the limited data I have seen for students with disabilities I have seen very limited improvement for students with IEPs via this process up to now. I believe that part of the observable problem including both the AUSL turn-around efforts and the CPS Office of School Turnaround's efforts are that they use the standard Danielson framework for teacher evaluation that does not get to the details of effective instruction for students with IEPs. There are Danielson evaluation approaches that are more specific to the actual work special educators do and these might be more effective.

Moreover, there is a teacher/student personalization in special education that is far more dynamic than for general education, so the damage of special education teacher removal can in some cases be very significant for individual students. There is also no doubt that completely inept special education teachers who lack true individual relations with students with disabilities and their families do exist and their removal may be of benefit to these children. It is very common for schools selected for turnaround intervention to have close to zero students with IEPs reading at state standards at any grade, so the special education component of any attempt to fix what is called a failing school needs to be a significant one. Currently that effort is lacking.

In the excellent article by Catalyst we see zero critical analysis on the part of either Stand for Children Executive Director Mary Anderson or its Chicago Director Juan Gonzalez of the existing turnaround process. We see abstract support for the process. Effectively Stand for Children is positioning its self as a counter point to the CTU's total opposition to the turnaround process. I would argue that this could be called perverse. I would also call situations where a school has completely broken down, where teachers have lost the ability to have even reasonably high expectations for children to also be perverse. The question Stand for Children will not ask and does not care to ask is how did in some cases numerous teachers effectively become lost souls? Stand for Children apparently does not care to ask that question because the answer can be dangerous for their paradigm.

Rod Estvan


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