On April 19, 2012, 60 college students held a rally at the State Capitol demanding that the Legislature pass Governor Malloy’s“Education Reform” bill.
Students For Education Reform’s Connecticut director claimed that students were coming from a dozen different Connecticut campuses and that the cost of the rally included $10,000 for all the buses and then some for sandwiches for all the participants.
Although the Governor could not make time for Michelle Rhee’s “Education Reform” Rally last month, he was able to come out and speak to the students at this rally saying “this package that we put together will move Connecticut from where it is in the back of the pack to where it should be at the front of the classroom.”
Now, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make the event but had I been there; here is the interview I believe I would have had with the event’s coordinators.
**Question: So you are from Students for Education Reform?
SFER Answer: Yes, yes we are. We’re Students for Education Reform but you can call us SFER. We are a grassroots organization that has become “the nation’s largest student-led education advocacy group.”
**Question: That’s impressive. So what’s your policy agenda?
SFER Answer: As Connecticut college students we “are calling for education reform that includes teacher tenure reform, strong school choice, and turnarounds in the schools and districts that need it most.” Oh and our “policy agenda includes ensuring teacher and school leader effectiveness, quality school choices for every family, and meaningful standards and assessments in every state.”
**Question: That sounds sort of like what ConnCAN has been saying.
SFER Answer: ConnCAN?
**Question: Yes, ConnCAN (the charter school advocacy group) that was set up by Achievement First (the charter school management company that runs 20 schools in Connecticut and New York). Achievement First is on track to collect millions if Malloy’s “Education Reform” bill passes.
**SFER Answer: Ah, no you have it wrong. We are Students for Education Reform, “the nation’s largest student-led education advocacy group” and we are for “teacher tenure reform, school choice and turnaround programs” like the Commissioner’s Network plan.
**Question: OK, who is on your Board of Directors and how did you get set up?
SFER Answer: We have lots of supporters and partners. Some of the most successful corporate leaders are on our board. For example Brian Olson, Co-founder or Viking Global Investors, Jonathan Sackler, a director at Purdue Pharma and Matthew Kramer, President of Teach for America are all on our board.
**Question: So let me get this right. Brian Olson, the Chairman of ConnCAN is on your Board of Directors. Jonathan Sackler, who set up Achievement First, set up ConnCAN and set up 50CAN to bring the ConnCAN message to other states is on your board. And Matthew Kramer who is also on the 50CAN’s Board are all Board members for Students for Education Reform.
SFER Answer: Ah, yes, we are a grassroots group.
**Question: And where do you get your funds?
SFER Answer: Well I can’t tell you that exactly but I can proudly say our funding partners are 50CAN, ConnCAN, Teach for America, Stand for Children, Kickboard and the Breakthrough Collaborative?
**Question: And you have paid staff?
SFER Answer: Yes we do, we have at least seven full-time people including Catharine Bellinger, Co-founder and Co-Executive Director; Alexis Morin, Co-founder and Co-Executive Director; Jerelyn Rodriguez, National Program Director; Matt Stern, NY State Program Director; Kevin Coughlin, CT State Program Director; Adam Roof, MA State Program Director and James Chang, MN State Program Director.
**Question: Finally, I see Students for Education Reform registered to lobby as of February 21, 2012 and by March 30th had only spent $344.25.
SFER Answer: Yes, that is correct.
**Question: And yet two weeks later you held a rally that you had been working on for quite some time. You spent $10,000 for busses and additional money to feed students and none of the activities took place in March since you would have had to file those expenses on the March 30th Ethics Filing.
SFER Answer: Ah, we’re are a grassroots group.
**Question: Do you understand that like a number of other “education reform” groups you’ve now broken Connecticut law and could be fined $10,000 per violation?
SFER Answer: Ah, we’re a grassroots group?
Let’s see, I wonder how many investigations the Ethics Commission can have going at one time?