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Charter schools, testing to evaluate teachers, and privatization... Stand for Children called out for pushing corporate agenda in Massachusetts

Shades of Illinois, Colorado, and Oregon, now the Massachusetts "Stand for Children" rank and filers are challenging the group's corporate agenda, following a move by the Stand for Children leadership in Massachusetts to break from an agreement on a major issue of "school reform." Once again, as in Illinois, the millions of dollars behind Stand for Children trump any remaining pretext to the group's being "grass roots." As of 2012, its Astroturf to the core.

Stand for Children's apologists and supporters include wealthy lawyers with a touching personal narrative like Jesse Ruiz (above left), who is now the charter school promoter serving as vice president of the Chicago Board of Education. Above, Ruiz practices his oleaginous verbal skills on teachers who were protesting the well funded Stand for Children event at Chicago's Roosevelt University on April 14, 2012. Substance photo by Kati Gilson. An Open Letter from former Stand for Children members

As parents, teachers, and community members, we are Massachusetts grassroots activists for education. We read bills, testify at hearings, write letters to the editor, pore over budgets, speak at town meetings, make phone calls, and hold fundraisers. Many of us have done so for years.

It was as part of this work and with great hope that we joined Stand for Children. And—initially—Stand helped us do great work. We cast a critical eye on education bills at the State House and testified as needed. We turned back ballot initiatives that would have gutted education funding. We closely watched local budgets to keep dollars close to classrooms. We put our voices, time, money, and reputations into building Stand for Children. Because we were united and we spoke from our experience, we were heard.

Along the way, we learned a great deal about the legislative process, education funding, and policy. We learned to research our positions, present them, and back them up.

But in 2009, while we struggled to give voice to the needs of our schools, Stand’s staff was turning away from our concerns, announcing that it expected its members to forgo community advocacy in favor of a new, special agenda. This agenda, emerging seemingly out of nowhere, touted more charter schools, more testing, and punishing teachers and schools for low student scores.

None of these initiatives arose from the needs of our communities. Indeed, we understood well their dangers. Yet all of them became the positions of Stand for Children. Policy proposals no longer came from the local level. They were dictated from the top.

What accounted for this shift? We were mystified at first. But we’ve since learned that Stand abandoned its own local members – us – to follow the lure of millions of dollars from Bain Capital, the Walton Foundation, Bill Gates, and others who had an agenda in conflict with our previous efforts.

The ballot initiative brought forward by Stand for Children is just the most recent example.

Stand was one group of many at the table when the new Massachusetts educator evaluation system was hammered out over several months last spring. Unions, principals, state officials, parents—all contributed. But when the new regulations were finally announced, one group walked away—Stand for Children.

Immediately, Stand filed for a ballot initiative and used some of their new corporate money to hire people to collect the signatures. It cost them $3 a signature, but they have plenty more. They are following the master plan revealed in Colorado by their national CEO, Jonah Edelman, a month before it was announced Massachusetts.

The proposed ballot measure attempts to blow up the collaborative work that created the new regulations last spring. It does nothing to improve teaching in our schools. What it does is put the careers of our teachers at the mercy of an untested rating system, violating the recommendations of the people who designed that system.

We fear the result would be to drive some of our best teachers away from the schools that need them most.

This ballot measure fits the ideology of its corporate sponsors, but it is not what we want for those who teach our children. Most of all, it is not what we want for our children.

Therefore we the undersigned, as former members and leaders of Stand for Children, urge Massachusetts voters to oppose this ballot measure.

/This letter has been signed by 30 former members and staffers of Stand for Children. We are collecting signatures at the Citizens for Public Schools site . One comment added to the above was posted recently:

Stand for Children tricked a LOT of people including local school committee members and parents here in Lowell…and they tricked *me*.

There is a part of me that thinks this may have been the goal all along, that they wanted to build the reputation of a grassroots, parents-oriented advocacy group and growing on the backs of heavy hitters like Citizens for Public Schools and local officials and parents around the state, then shifting to their real agenda. That’s the cynical side of me. Maybe it was a shift that occurred midway through, but I dunno. Something smells REALLY fishy.



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