Is Stand for Children Fighting for Educational Equity?

If you’re an educator, education student, or are just interested in the education system, Rethinking Schools is a magazine you might want to subscribe to.  I just received my fall issue and stole a moment away from work and babies to read an article that caught my eye: “For or Against Children?: The Problematic History of Stand for Children.”  I will disclose that I have been a dues-paying member of Stand for Children, was a little more active as an active before the babies were born, and often have someone from the organization attend a class session in my Capstone course to talk about advocacy.  This article raised some questions for me that I had already and gave me some new ones to ponder.  As someone invested in the idea of educational equity, I want to be part of organizations that really are working to support underserved, under-supported students in addition to working toward a strong educational system for all.  And now I’m not sure if this organization really has that at heart…something to ponder going forth.  I do believe that specific political action taken by grassroots groups is one of the best ways to do anything about education in our city…but I may be on the look out for new groups to join…

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts,

Zapoura

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4 thoughts on “Is Stand for Children Fighting for Educational Equity?

  1. I read the referenced article, “For or Against Children?: The Problematic History of Stand for Children” by Ken Libby and Adam Sanchez that appeared in Volume 26 No.1 – Fall 2011 edition of Rethinking Schools. Libby and Sanchez heavily criticize Stand for Children and state, “putting kids first is no longer the focus of Stand for Children.”
    I disagree with Libby and Sanchez. I am a parent in Illinois with children in public schools. I am not a member of Stand or any education reform group. I am a parent who became involved in my children’s education.
    A focal point of the criticism is the amount of money that Stand has raised. But Libby and Sanchez did not objectively compare Stand revenues to teacher unions and teacher union Political Action Committees (PACs) revenues. Teacher Unions and their PACs on an annual basis accumulate and expend far more money than Stand, and have been doing so for decades.
    Education policy in the United States is in exchange for campaign contributions and votes, the same way all policy is enacted in the US that involves politics. Politicians have known this forever, the unions have known and practiced this for decades, and it apparently just dawned on Stand for Children last year. Teacher unions provide the most campaign contributions and votes to politicians in the United States, and that’s overall, not just limiting ourselves to education. Teacher unions are the most powerful political influence in the United States. Not millionaires, Wall Street, or any other entity, but teacher unions. And this happens at the national, state, and local level. The unions are the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, and their state affiliates, and their local school district affiliates. Deducted from each teacher paycheck are three different dues: local school district union, state union, national union. These unions in turn contribute money to their political action committees (PACs). Teacher unions and their PACs spend FAR more on lobbying in any one year time frame than Stand for Children and all the other groups trying to improve public education combined. This is fact revealed by public records (IRS 990, IRS 8871, IRS 8872, State Board of Election records, County Board of Election Records, EIN, LM-1, LM-2, LM-3, etc.) which Unions and//or Political Action Committees are required to file.
    Education reform in Illinois, Senate Bill 7, could not have happened without Stand for Children. Stand for Children and Advance Illinois worked with the unions to enact education reform. For decades the unions BLOCKED education reform in Illinois. Only after Stand for Children provided sizeable contributions to state politicans, did the politicans begin hearings for education reform.
    Libby and Sanchez state about Illinois reform, “The policies pushed by these corporate reformers have been touted as “miraculous” by business leaders, but have created a horrendous environment for Chicago teachers.” That’s not what I have heard. Advance Illinois and others have been very frustrated at the lack of progress being made in Chicago, despite spending millions of private dollars. Chicago teachers have a 200 page collective bargaining agreement to protect themselves, and while they may have some frustration it is far from a “horrendous” environment”. Collective bargaining rights are very strong in Illinois and remain so after passage of SB7.
    The full 1 hour Aspen video was fascinating to me. Never before had I understood the extent of politics in education. Stand simply used techniques that teacher unions have been doing for decades, but there was no mention of that by Libby and Sanchez, again, no objective comparison.
    The Unions have many full time lobbyists spread throughout the United States. In Illinois alone I believe IEA has 5 or 7 lobbyists who are full time employees, not to mention additional lobbyists with whom they contract.
    Another criticism is Stand’s approach fails to bring parents, teachers, and communities together. False. All those stakeholders were involved in Illinois SB7 reform.
    Stand is attempting to improve the quality of education a child receives. I am for that.
    There are no easy answers to public education, it is very complex. But just letting the unions get whatever they want with little to no checks and balances is not the answer. Stand provides one of those checks and balances and is advocating on behalf of parents, whereas the unions primarily advocate on behalf of their dues paying teacher members, as former NEA General Counsel Bob Chanin so well articulated in his farewell speach which made its way to YouTube.
    The so-called “corporate cash” is coming from foundations and in some cases those foundations are of individuals, not companies. Do you object to “corporate cash” being used to feed starving people, to provide literacy, to provide immunizations and other healthcare?
    As for Parents Across America, they received a start-up donation from the National Education Association.
    I could go on and on. Bottom line, Libby and Sanchez did not write an objective article. I am happy with Stand for Children in Illinois, thank goodness they are here.

    • Thank you so much for your thoughts here, Mark. I especially appreciate the solid comparisons you make between the article and what you’ve seen happening in Illinois on the ground.

      I posted the article to start a discussion with my students (and any interested members of the public)– certainly not to blast Stand. I have been impressed with their work and have felt like the organization was one of the few that I’ve seen concrete results from in Oregon (getting politicians elected who support education, helping to get ballot measures passed, etc). I like what you said: “Stand provides one of those checks and balances and is advocating on behalf of parents, whereas the unions primarily advocate on behalf of their dues paying teacher members.” We do need checks and balances and those should come in all types of organizations.

      Maybe what I’d really like to see is more organizations in my area that are doing this work…with an array of approaches, funding, community members, etc. Especially as someone who does most of her work in the classroom, I applaud anyone who is on the ground working to fight for what is best for all Oregon students.

      Or maybe the question that keeps coming up in my classroom (how to mobilize the communities with the most need) is the same question here. In order to put children’s health care (something the article referenced) or (fill-in-the-blank) on the agenda of any grassroots organization, we have to step up and say that’s what we’re really interested in…and then follow up with action.

      You’ve got me thinking, and I’m going to take this continued discussion to my classroom next Monday! I’m sure there’s more to follow…

      -Zapoura

  2. I dug up some additional information. Again referencing the article “For or Against Children?: The Problematic History of Stand for Children”. Addressing the issue of the amount of money that Stand raised. I looked up how much money that unions raised.

    $366,933,105 NEA Form 990 for 2008 CY, or Tax Yr 9/1/08 – 8/31/09 Line 12.
    $ 48,327,911 IEA Form 990 for 2008 CY, or Tax Yr 7/1/2008 – 6/30/2009, Line 12.
    $ 87,051 My local school district union, Tax Yr 9/2010, Form 990.
    $415,348,067 Total
    Form 990 = Financial reporting document required by IRS
    CY = Calendar Year
    Yr = Year
    IEA = NEA’s Illinois state affiliate.
    Year 2008 was used because I didn’t have a more recent year available.
    The above are the annual revenues of the organizations to whom teachers in my disrict contribute union dues. That’s far from the amounts of money raised by teacher unions in the United States. To get that total you would add to the total the amounts raised by AFT (the other main teacher union in the USA), all the state union affiliates for NEA and AFT, and all the local school district affiliates for the NEA and AFT. And then add the amount of money raised by PACs, subtracting the amount that union’s and PACs shuffle between each other to give a more accurate picture of the amount of money that unions and their PACs receive annually.

    Now let’s compare that to the amount of revenue that Stand for Children raises. Note it’s for year 2010 not 2008-9, but I can’t imagine there would be a huge difference from the unions 2008 figures and their 2010 figures. Stand’s fiscal year ends 12/31/2010. These figures are from Stand’s 2010 Annual Report on their website at http://www.stand.org/Document.Doc?id=3084 and http://www.stand.org/Page.aspx?pid=1354. Go to http://www.stand.org, select About Us, select Publications, select Publications Directory.

    In 2010 Stand raised 11,075,400. That included $3,507,000 from individuals, businesses, and organizations and $7,316,000 in grant funds from foundations.

    In a one year timeframe. Stand raised $11 Million. IEA union raised $48 Million. NEA union raised $366 Million.

  3. I joined Stand as a member in 2004 and became a team coordinator. I joined because I was drawn to the idea of parents, community members, and teachers working together to be one loud and persuasive voice for kids. I did not have children at the time. I was in it for all kids.

    Flash forward seven years. I now have two children and I am a member of the Stand Staff, working as the Portland Organizer. I still believe in Stand’s mission, and am proud of the work we do. And while I am very much motivated by what I see as the needs of my own children, I am still, without a doubt, in it for all kids. My colleagues are as well. When we are out in the field organizing, attending staff meetings, retreats, or phone conferences, the focus is on the work we are doing here in Portland and across the state, the conversation is about working for all kids. We are looking at data showing how different subgroups are performing, and asking ourselves what we can do to make sure all kids have the opportunity to succeed.

    So when I hear you ask “Is Stand an organization that is working to support underserved, under-supported students in addition to working toward a strong educational system for all?” I want to jump up and shout “Yes! We are!” Across Oregon we are working to champion policies and initiatives that will help close the achievement gap, support effective teachers and principals, and bring much needed resources to our schools. In Portland, that means pushing the district to maximize instructional time for our high school students, advocating for the creation of Academic Priority Zones, and working with our amazing partners in CEP (Community Education Partners) to raise awareness about, and provide support and resources to address, the problem of disparate discipline.

    On November 30, from 6:30-8:00 at Concordia University, Stand, the Black Parent Initiative (“BPI”) and Reaching and Empowering All People (“REAP”) will host a Community Conversation on the achievement gap. The goal is to have an open and honest conversation about what the achievement gap is, and how it affects all of us, and how parents can get involved to make a difference. I invite you and anyone else who is interest to join us, participate int he conversation, and see what Stand is working on.

    Finally, the rethinking schools raised concerns about Stand’s funding. Please check out our Oregon blog for a breakdown of our 2010 revenue: http://orblog.stand.org.

    Emily Nazarov

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