DFER -- 'Democrats for Education Reform' -- is pouring millions of dishonest dollars into negative campaigning against City Council progressives like 45th Ward Alderman John Arena

It's been about five years since the multi-million-dollar group calling itself "Democrats for Education Reform" (DFER) first began, and almost as many years since the group first arrived in Illinois. DFER propagandists for charter schools and union busting began taking the podium at Chicago Board of Education meetings in the person of a woman named Rebecca Nieves Huffman.

Since 2011, DFER's Rebeccas Nieves Huffman, above, has spoken at Chicago Board of Education meetings, attacking the Chicago Teachers Union and the public schools. DFER's push for more charter schools and against the city's real public schools has been a constant since Richard M. Daley was mayor. But in 2015, DFER escalated its slanders doing expensive negative mailings against members of the City Council Progressive Caucus. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Nieves-Huffman's carefully scripted remarks always preached "choice" (meaning charter schools) and lots of good stuff for poor and minority families (meaning charter schools and anti-union schools). During the Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012, she was a public voice denouncing the city's real public school teachers, claiming at the time she was a "public school parent."

But since January 1, 2015, DFER Illinois has been more active than ever, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in direct mailings slandering progressive aldermen like John Arena, 45th Ward alderman. (Disclosure: this reporter lives and votes in the 45th Ward and has been supporting John Arena since his first election victory in 2011). On February 17, 2015, our home, which includes two registered voters, received not one but two mailings from DFER attacking John Arena. In the current aldermanic race, John Arena is facing three opponents. The DFER mailings are not talking about John's opponents, but only attacking John Arena. They are "attack ads," negative campaigning. There is no disclosure in the mailing as to how DFER is funded.

One of the many negative ad attacks against 45th Ward alderman John Arena lies about Arena's voting records. The "choice" for "low income parents" referred to in the anti-Arena mailing by DFER (above) is charter schools. Along with several other progressive aldermen, John Arena has blocked the expansion of charter schools into the 45th Ward, despite attacks like those above.From the beginning, DFER has been massively funded by Hedge Fund billionaires and others who have also been supporting the corporate "eduction reform" policies of Barack Obama and Arne Duncan. From the national to the local level, and now in Chicago's wards, DFER has been pouring money.

The expensive attacks against progressives have been taking place across the city, and so Substance is assembling what we are calling the 'BULLSHIT BOX' of negative ads and mailings such as those that have been launched against John Arena in the 45th Ward. During the final week of the 2015 municipal election campaign in Chicago, we expect that the negative ads will expand in all directions, since the DFERs and other supporters of Rahm Emanuel and his ilk have tens of millions of dollars from the plutocracy to spend, while the dollars on the side of the people's forces are limited.


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