Since its formation in 2006, Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) has raised over $690,000 for its federal political action committee. In addition to the federal DFER PAC, the organization has formed numerous political action committees at the state level including, DFER Colorado, DFER Colorado Small Donor Committee, DFER Connecticut PAC, DFER DC Independent Expenditure Committee, DFER DC PAC, DFER Illinois PAC, DFER Illinois Independent Expenditure Committee, DFER Massachusetts Independent Expenditure PAC, DFER New Jersey PAC, DFER Louisiana PAC, DFER New York PAC, and DFER Washington State PAC.
DFER is the political action committee front for the corporate education reform movement’s Education Reform Now, Inc. (ERN), a 501(c)(3) and Education Reform Now Advocacy, Inc. (ERNA), a 501(c)(4).
DFER uses Education Reform Now and Education Reform Now Advocacy as “Dark Money” groups to funnel millions of dollars into lobbying and political campaigns on behalf of the charter school industry. In 2016, Education Reform Now Advocacy dumped nearly half a million dollars into the charter school industry’s failed effort to lift the cap on the number of charter schools in Massachusetts. As a dark money group, ERN and ERNA refuse to disclose the names of their donors.
Funded by major Wall Street executives and the education reform foundations, DFER and its related entities lobby for charter schools, the Common Core testing scheme, teacher evaluations based on scores and school vouchers. They are perhaps best known for their opposition to democratically elected boards of education. Instead they push for mayoral controlled schools.
Whitney Tilson, a co-founder of DFER, “explained the hedge funders interest in education saying that “Hedge funds are always looking for ways to turn a small amount of capital into a large amount of capital.”
As the Center for Media and Democracy noted, “The Board of Directors for Education Reform Now (ERN) consists almost entirely of Wall Streeters who made their fortunes through financial groups and hedge funds, such as Sessa Capital, Gotham Capital, Covey Capital, Charter Bridge Capital, Maverick Capital and others.” Major donors to DFER, ERN and ERNA include corporate executives with Anchorage Capital Partners, Greenlight Capital, Pershing Square Capital Management, as well as a variety of other hedge funds.
Media mogul Rupert Murdoch is another donor to the charter school group. It was Murdoch who famously stated, “When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone….”
As federal campaign finance reports reveal, the donor list to Democrats for Education Reform is a who’s who of the charter school industry including Charles Ledley, John Petry, Joel Greenblatt, Christopher Stavrou, David Einhorn, Katherine Bradley, Dan Loeb, Boykin Curry, James Mai, Brian Zied and many others.
Charles and Rebecca Ledley, a major force behind the charter school industry’s Question #2 campaign in Massachusetts, are the single largest contributors to the DFER Federal PAC, having donated at least $70,000 to the committee.
The primary beneficiaries of the corporate education reform group’s largesse include Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Corey Booker (D-NJ), Mark Pryor (D-AR) and Charles Schumer (D-NY). Another DFER favorite is Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
More on DFER can be found at Wait, What? including; With money from Walmart’s Walton Foundation – They call themselves Democrats for Education Reform and Figures that the super-rich would turn privatization of public schools into a game and Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) explains why Common Core testing is so important and Charter School Political Action Committees target Connecticut legislative races and DFER NEWS: Adam Goldfarb, former Chief of Staff to Governor Dannel Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, lands COO post at Democrats for Education Reform (DFER)