Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) continues to pour big money into political campaigns

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)


Figures that the super-rich would turn privatization of public schools into a game

Attention all charter school and education reform advocates! 

It’s not too late to get your tickets to the Seventh Annual Take’em to School Poker Tournament, a major fundraiser for Education Reform Now, a member of the charter school advocacy conglomeration that includes Democrats for Education Reform, Education Reform Now Advocacy (and indirectly Students for Education Reform.)

Together, these corporate-funded education reform groups have spent tens of millions to push their anti-student, parent, teacher and public school agenda that includes support for the Common Core, the Common Core testing scam and the privatization of public schools through the massive expansion of privately owned, but taxpayer funded, charter schools.

Education Reform Now and its affiliated entities have also bankrolled anti-union, anti-teacher ads in Chicago, New York and elsewhere, as well as, funneling massive amounts of money to support or oppose candidates based on their position on education reform issues.

With Education Reform Now’s “Seventh Annual Take’em to School Poker Tournament” coming up on Wednesday, July 20, 2016 at Gotham Hall in New York City, charter school owners and their funbders and allies have a plethora of sponsorship opportunities to choose from.

For $250,000 you can nab 10 seats at the poker tournament, 10 rebuys (a technique for expanding your winnings), 10 cocktail tickets for non-poker players and the honor of having not one, but two, “special guests” sit at your table.  [Education Reform Now hires famous people, usually sports stars and actors, to attend the event and sit and play with the wealthy donors]

For $100,000 you get the same benefits, but alas, the company of only one “special guest.”

Other Sponsorship levels include a $50,000 package, a table of 10 poker seats for $20,000 or a single poker seat for $1,000.

Last year’s Education Reform Now Event Chairs were education reform extraordinaire hedge-fund managers, John Sabat (SAC Capital Advisors LP), Michael Sabat (Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.) and Whitney Tilson (Kase Capital).  Other members of the event committee included John Petry and Joe Williams.

Petry is the co-founder of Democrats for Education Reform, the co-chair of Education Reform Now and a founding board member of Eva Moskowitz’s notorious Success Academy charter school chain.

Like Petry, John and Michael Sabat are closely associated with the Success Academy charter schools and both are members of the Education Reform Now Board of Directors.

Whitney Tilson is another co-founder of Democrats for Education Reform and has been a board member of the KIPP and Academy Charter Schools Chains.  In addition, Tilson has been a leader of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Joe Williams served as the president of Education Reform Now and Education Reform Now Advocacy.

In an article entitled, Inside A Big Poker Tournament With Hedge Funders, Poker Pros, And Legendary NYC Athletes, Business Insider reported that the event raises “funds for Education Reform Now, an advocacy organization that’s committed to making sure all kids can access high-quality public education.”

The article conveniently overlooks that fact that the charter school industry fails to provide equal educational opportunities for children who require special education services, those who aren’t fluent in the English Language and those who are forced out of charter schools for failure to survive the abusive disciplinary policies.

According to published reports, in addition to raising money for Education Reform Now, the education reform industry group sponsoring the poker tournament also provides a variety of prizes for tournament participants including seats at the World Series of Poker Main Event, vacations, golf outings, and “power lunches” with hedge fund managers like David Einhorn (Greenlight Capital), billionaire Seth Klarman, Leon Cooperman (Omega Advisors) and Bill Ackman (Pershing Square Capital Management.)

As Bloomberg News has reported, the Education Reform Now Poker Tournament also includes,

 “Blackjack tables, a putting hole, a silent auction offering a Joe Namath football jersey signed by him, models in cocktail dresses, and masseuses, clothed primly in what looked like hospital scrub tops. For food: hamburgers, fries, fajita bar, macaroni and cheese. Also John Allan’s, a salon for men, provided manicures and shoe shines for male guests.”

Over the years, some of the corporate sponsors of this boondoggle event include Eagle Capital Management, Capstone, Goldman Sachs Group, Tiger Global Management, Visium Asset Management, Hutchin Hill Capital, Magnitude Capital, SAC Capital Advisors, First New York Securities, Tricadia Capital Management, EcoR1 Capital, AB Bernstein, Point 72 Asset Management, Murdick Capital, Morgan Stanley, Magnitude Capital, Kase Capital and Greenlight Capital.

Regular sponsor and participants also include Charles and Rebecca Ledley.  Charles Ledley has been on the Board of Education Reform Now (former chair) and Democrats for Education Reform, while Rebecca Ledley has been on the board of a Massachusetts charter school chain and the board of Students for Education Reform. (See Wait, What? posts, SFER – The $7 million+ “student run” Corporate Education Reform Industry Front Group and MORE ON SFER – Corporate Money in the 2015 Denver Board of Education Election)

For additional background on Education Reform Now and its related organizations  see the 2013 Salon article, Wall Street is designing the future of public education as a money-making machine,

  • Democrats for Education Reform: Since its inception in 2006, this PAC has opened chapters in 13 states, funneling millions of dollars to candidates who support charter schools, vouchers, performance pay, parent trigger laws, and other neoliberal “reforms.”DFER’s board members are mostly hedge fund managers with vested interests in charter schools. Boykin Curry, whose portfolio is valued at $20 billion, co-founded Public Prep, a network of charters in Manhattan and the Bronx. Whitney Tilson, also a hedge fund manager, sits on the board of KIPP-NYC, a cluster of schools in a national charter franchise founded by TFA alumni. It’s no surprise then, that one of their first projects as members of DFER was to successfully push to raise the cap on charter schools in New York City.
  • Education Reform Now: The nonprofit arm of DFER that advocates for the same “reforms,” with a budget of over $6 million. ERN was the face of DFER’s push to increase charter schools in New York, and has funded similar campaigns everywhere that DFER has peddled its influence. ERN has also proselytized market-based education reforms through projects like, a campaign to promote the documentary Waiting For Superman. (That domain name now leads to a spammy-looking blog about gambling.)DFER and ERN share an executive director and two board members, one of whom, Charles Ledley, is married to Rebecca Ledley. She sits on the board of a charter school management organization in Massachusetts, as well as the board of Students for Education Reform.
  • Students for Education Reform: Founded in 2009 by two Princeton undergrads who made the Forbes 30 under 30 list—possibly because their organization’s revenue skyrocketed from $30,000 to $1.8 million in one year. SFER purports to be a “student-led movement to end educational injustice.” But their work seems to come down to shuttling politically ambivalent students around to lobby against teachers’ unions. SFER is also connected to Teach For America: Its latest tax records list TFA CEO Matt Kramer as a board member, though according to a SFER representative, his term has ended. Other board members of note include Jonathan Sackler, who sits (along with Dave Goldberg) on the board of New Schools Venture Fund, which invests in charter schools and education technology companies.
  • Education Reform Now Advocacy, Inc.: This outfit is a shell of a nonprofit created by the same folks who started DFER and ERN in 2006. The organization seems to have been dormant for awhile, perhaps in part because its name doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. Interestingly, its 2008 tax return contains a pointed statement of purpose that diverges from the feel-good rhetoric espoused by its more active sibling organizations. This shady quadruplet does not aim to “return the Democratic Party to its rightful place as a champion of children,” as DFER’s website claims. It is concerned simply with, “Promoting policies and state and federal level [sic] to increase the number of charter schools and strengthen teacher evaluations in K-12 public schools.”

Fellow education blogger Peter Greene has also written about Education Reform Now’s poker extravaganza.  See Reformster Poker Benefit

MORE ON SFER – Corporate Money in the 2015 Denver Board of Education Election

Last week’s Wait, What? post entitled, “SFER – The $7 million+ “student run” Corporate Education Reform Industry Front Group,” provided an update on how charter school advocates and the broader education reform industry is using a variety of advocacy groups to back their effort to privatize public education and undermine the teaching profession.

In addition to background about SFER, using information from the Minnesota Post, the Wait, What? post included a review of how the conglomerate of entities (e.g. SFER, SFER Action Network, DFER, Education Reform Now, Education Reform Advocacy, 50CAN, MNCAN and its leaders) funneled campaign donations into Minnesota to support pro-education reform candidates running for the Minneapolis Board of Education.

The “student-led” SFER and many of the same education reform elite were deeply involved in trying to impact the political outcome in Colorado as well.

Colorado 2014-2015

When parents, teachers and public school advocates in Denver, Colorado decided to challenge the city’s pro-education reform school board in this year’s local election, the corporate-funded “education reformers” kicked into high gear.

Helping to lead the campaign effort was none other than Students for Education Reform (SFER), the corporate-funded, pro-charter school, pro-Common Core, pro-Common Core testing and anti-teacher “education reform” advocacy group.

On June 19, 2015, SFER staff set up a new political action committee aptly named “STUDENTS FOR EDUCATION REFORM (SFER) ACTION COMMITTEE.”

According to the registration documents filed with the Colorado Secretary of State’s Campaign Finance Division, the purpose of the new SFER PAC was simple enough;


Registered at SFER headquarters in Manhattan, the Colorado Students for Education Reform (SFER) PAC listed Alexandra Wolk as the entity’s registration agent and Edda Veloz as the PAC’s filing agent.

Edda Veloz works as SFER’s national Finance Director in New York City.

Andrea Wolk, a long-time member of the SFER organization, served a spokesperson for yet another SFER front group called CCEJ.  One online report produced by SFER states that,

 “Community Campaigns for Educational Justice (CCEJ) is a not-for-profit project of Students for Education Reform, a 501(c) (3) nonprofit group. SFER (Students for Education Reform) is a student-led movement that champions educational equity…SFER organizes students to be a powerful force for K-12 education policy and political change, through campus chapters that work at the national, state, and local levels to organize and advocate for great teachers and quality school choices for all kids.”

In the 2013 Denver School Board race, the CCEJ and SFER campaign efforts actually generated a complaint with the IRS that charged the group with violating its 501(c) (4) non-profit status by engaging in prohibited campaign activities.

The group apparently learned their lesson because for the 2015 campaign cycle SFER formed a Colorado Political Action Committee.

That said, the money to pay for their campaign activities still came from SFER’s national organization.

In the case of Colorado’s Students For Education Reform (SFER) PAC, the national SFER Action Network transferred $40,000 to pay for the campaign to support “pro-education reform” candidates with another $1,300 plus coming from Education Reform Advocacy Now, Inc.

Education Reform Advocacy Now Inc. is part of the massive three-headed corporate education reform behemoth that includes Education Reform Advocacy Now, Inc.; Education Reform Now, Inc. and Democrats for Education Reform, the related Political Action Committee that donates directly to pro-corporate education reform candidates and supports opponents of candidates who don’t support the reformer’s efforts to turn schools into little more than testing factories, while diverting scarce public funds away from real public schools and redirecting them to privately owned charter schools.

Education Reform Now, Inc. also serves as the mothership for SFER and its political arm, the SFER Action Network, having served as SFER’s original funder and original fiscal agent.

In addition to collecting over $41,000 from the national education reform organizations, the Students For Education Reform (SFER) PAC in Colorado also received more than $17,000 via in-kind services from SFER itself, most of which was to pay for SFER staff assigned to the Colorado campaign, along with the payments for voter lists, rent and other costs related to their “independent” expenditure in support of Denver’s pro-education reform candidates.

Among the invoices paid by the national SFER Action Network to benefit the Colorado campaign was a check to the NYC based media company, Greenlight Media, although, despite state law, none of SFER’s reports indicate which candidates these expenditures were meant to help or hurt.

Among the individuals who received compensation for their Colorado campaign work was a SFER “Field Specialist” out of Washington D.C.; SFER’s “Colorado State Captain,”; a former-charter school employee who listed his occupation as a campaign organizer for the Flores for Denver campaign and a series of workers, some of whom list their title as “SFER Fellow” in their online public biographies.

Meanwhile, in addition to the Denver campaign work being funded through the SFER PAC, Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) was also engaged in a major effort to support the same set of pro-education reform candidates running for the Denver school board.

Filing under the name of “Raising Colorado,” the DFER PAC spent $87,667.

The registration documentation listed DFER’s State Director as the registration agent and all of the money used to fund the campaign activities came via a donation from Education Reform Advocacy Now, one of DFER’s two related nonprofit corporations.

Interestingly, according to their campaign finance reports, DFER’s “Raising Colorado” PAC also made a payment to New York’s Greenlight Media.

Unlike the SFER PAC, the DFER PAC actually fulfilled its legal obligation by reporting that the funds were spent in support of pro-corporate education candidate Lisa Flores.

The DFER report highlights the potential violation of law by SFER’s failure to attribute its expenditures to Flores, even though money went to the same vendor and one of those being paid by SFER PAC continues to list their job title as a Flores Campaign Organizer in an online resume.

Those who are watching the education reform industry’s massive effort to “transform” public education in the United States won’t be surprised to learn that the influx of SFER, DFER money into the Denver Board of Education election was just the tip of a much bigger attempt by the Corporate Education Reform Industry to control the outcome of recent Colorado elections.

As Chalkbeat, the online education media outlet explained;

Since Raising Colorado first registered with the secretary of state in June 2014, it has raised $765,020 and spent $603,047 in various races over the last two election cycles.

The group spent more than $200,000 to back one successful and one losing Democratic candidate in November 2014 State Board of Education races. Raising Colorado also spent money to oppose GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez and supported some Democratic legislative candidates. The group also spent more than $47,000 supporting another unsuccessful Democratic state board candidate during the primary election earlier in 2014.

According to the State of Colorado campaign finance reporting system, DFER also has at least two other PACS registered in Colorado; Democrats for Education Reform Political Committee and Democrats for Education Reform Small Donor Committee.

Donors to Colorado’s Democrats for Education Reform Political Committee include contributions from Enron Billionaire-turned charter school and education reform financier Texan John Arnold and his wife, along with Connecticut’s Alex Johnston, the former CEO of Jonathan Sackler’s ConnCAN charter school advocacy group.  Johnston is presently an education reform consultant.

Campaign finance filings for Democrats for Education Reform Small Donor Committee indicate a significant number of its contributions actually came from DFER staff from around the country including DFER’S out-going executive director Joe Williams.  Connecticut’s Alex Johnston also shows up as a donor what is, in essence, DFER’s third PAC in Colorado.

While Students for Education Reform (SFER) will pontificate that they are “all about the children,” their political activities in Minneapolis, Denver and elsewhere tell a very different story.

Check back for more about SFER’s role in political campaigns.

SFER – The $7 million+ “student run” Corporate Education Reform Industry Front Group

An update on Students for Education Reform, Inc.

SFER is a model of how the Pro-Charter School and Corporate Education Reform Industry works to control the narrative surrounding public education while seeking to “win the hearts and minds of federal, state and local policymakers.

Dedicated to promoting the privatization of public education, more taxpayer funds for privately owned, but publicly funded charter schools, the Common Core, the Common Core testing scheme and a host of anti-teacher initiatives, Students for Education Reform, Inc. (SFER) was created in late 2009,  according to their narrative, by a couple of undergraduate students at Princeton University.

Claiming to have over 100 chapters across the country, the “student run” advocacy group has, as of late last summer, collected more than $7.3 million since its inception to fund their “education reform” activities.

According to the organization’s most recent Internal Revenue Service (IRS) 990 reports (2014), in addition to the $5.7 million that has flowed into SFER’s coffers as of September 1, 2014, an additional $1.6 million has been collected by a closely-related company called the SFER Action Network Inc. which appears to serve as the political arm of SFER and formed in 2013.

Although Students for Education Reform is “run” by students, the self-described “grassroots” group is governed by a Board of Directors that is made up of some of the biggest corporate executives and players associated with the Corporate Education Reform Industry.

SFER’s website reports that the present Students for Education Reform Board of Directors includes;

April Chou (Chair) – The Chief Growth Officer at the KIPP Bay Area Charter School chain.

Adam Cioth (Treasurer) – The founder of Rolling Hills Capital hedge fund and a major funder of the public school privatization movement.

Christy Chin – The Managing Director of the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, the philanthropy arm of the venture capital firm, Draper Richards.  The Foundation is one of SFER’s funders.

Stuart Cobert – The Deputy General Counsel at the Unilever Corporation.

Justin Cohen – The President of Mass Insight, a major corporate education reform consulting company.

Shavar Jeffries – Recently appointed President of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), Jeffries was recently the unsuccessful “education reform” candidate for Mayor of Newark, New Jersey.

Nancy Poon Lue – A Partner in the Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund

And Chris Stewart, Director of Outreach and External Affairs for the Gates Foundation funded Pro-Corporate Education Reform Blog called Education Post.

Until recently the SFER Board also included acclaimed education reform financier Jonathan Sackler (Whose activities include funding the Achievement First Inc. charter school chain, forming ConnCAN and 50CAN and serving on the Board of The New Schools Venture Fund) and Rebecca Ledley (A member of the UP Academy Charter School Company and spouse of Charles Ledley, who serves on the Board of Directors of Education Reform Now (ERN) and its affiliate, Democrats for Education Reform (DFER.)

Earlier SFER Board members included Brian Olson, who presently serves as Chairman of ConnCAN and Matthew Kramer, President of Teach for America. Kramer also served with Sackler on the 50CAN Board of Directors.

The Board of Directors for SFER’s political arm, SFER Action Network Inc. is chaired by SFER’s Board Treasurer, Adam Cioth.  SFER Action Network’s Board also includes SFER Board members Chris Stewart a Rebecca Ledley.

Other members of the SFER Action Network Inc. Board include Meg Ansara and John Petry.

Ansara is a Washington D.C. consultant who worked with the education reform group Stand for Children for many years.

Petry is infamous for his relationship with Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy charter school chain and his role in getting her company off the ground and supporting it through the years.  Perty is also the co-founder of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER.) and previously served as Chairman of Education Reform Now. (ERN)

So where is SFER getting its money?

Although SFER claims to have sprung up on its own, its formation  can be traced directly to Education Reform Now (ERN) which served as SFER’s initial fiduciary and has provided SFER with at least $1.6 million since its inception.

Education Reform Now (ERN) is actually a conglomerate of three different corporate entities.

As Nation Magazine and others have reported, Education Reform Now (ERN), Education Reform Now Advocacy, Inc. and Democrats For Education Reform (DFER) are all part of the same “Education Reform” advocacy apparatus.

DFER, the group’s Political Action Committee has spent millions to undermine public education and support pro-corporate education reform candidates and initiatives.

For example, DFER spent about $1 million on television attack ads against the Chicago Teachers Union during that union’s successful strike.

DFER also joined with the Koch brothers, ALEC and a series of anti-union, right-wing groups to fund efforts to limit the ability of organized labor to use payroll deductions for political activities.

Like many other corporate education reform groups, SFER has been especially aggressive in working to keep people from identifying where the front group gets its funds.

An earlier version of SFER’s website reported that the entity’s “funding partners” included 50CAN, ConnCAN, Teach for America, Stand for Children, Kickboard and the Breakthrough Collaborative.”

However that information has disappeared from SFER’s present website.

What is known is that the Walton Foundation (Wal-Mart Family) gave SFER $250,000 in 2012, $650,000 in 2013 and $300,000 in 2014.

During the same time period, the Walton Foundation also gave 50Can $8.5 million and another $6 million to Education Reform Now.  Some of those funds may have made their way to Students for Education Reform (SFER.)

SFER may also have collected Gates Foundation funds, Gates provided 50CAN with more than $2.4 million between 2012 and 2014.

Another donor of record to SFER is The New Schools Venture Fund which is not surprising since Jonathan Sackler served on both organizations’ boards and Adam Cioth and Brian Olsen are members of the New Schools Venture Fund Leadership Council.

A description of how SFER works can be found in a 2014 Minnesota Post article entitled, “A ‘crazy’ amount of money is being spent on Minneapolis school-board races;  Reporting on massive amount of outside money was being spent on the race for the Minneapolis school board, the Minnesota paper reported;

The Student for Education Reform (SFER) Action Network Fund reported receipts of $26,000, $23,500 of which was a single donation from Adam Cioth and the remainder from Ben Whitney.

An investment banker, Cioth sits on SFER’s board. He is active both in the charter and traditional public school sectors, as well as the nonprofit startup New Schools Venture Fund. Ben Whitney headed up George Bush’s 2004 Minnesota campaign and chairs the board of the education advocacy group MinnCAN.

According to the disclosures, the SFER effort donated $16,000 worth of canvassing to MinnCAN’s political committee, the 50CAN Action Fund. It also paid for $4,350 worth of 50CAN literature and spent $5,000 for voter files and organizing software.

In addition to SFER’s contributions, the 50CAN Action Fund reported receiving $4,305 in cash from the student group and $10,000 from Arthur Rock, a San Francisco venture capitalist who sits on the board of Teach for America.

The 50CAN Action Fund took in a total of $35,000 and spent some $13,000 on campaign materials.

Local Republican financier Benson Whitney, chair of the board of the education reform organization MinnCAN (the state-level branch of 50CAN) and a supporter of Samuels, gave $2,500 of the $26,000, while California charter school investor and SFER board member Adam Cioth provided the other $23,500 in funds.

Another leading example of how SFER works can be found via the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), the corporate funded group seeking to “transform” the teaching profession by undermining teachers, teacher education programs and attacking teacher unions.

NCTQ’s dedicates a page on their website to proudly proclaim their allies and partners include…. Students For Education Reform (SFER) along with a list of other education reform groups including;



Democrats for Education Reform

DFER Colorado

DFER Illinois

DFER Massachusetts

DFER Michigan

DFER New Jersey

DFER New York

DFER Rhode Island

DFER Tennessee

DFER Washington

DFER Wisconsin

Education Reform Now

Educators 4 Excellence

MarylandCAN: Maryland Campaign for Achievement Now

Mass Insight Education & Research Institute

MinnCAN: Minnesota Campaign for Achievement Now

NYCAN: New York Campaign for Achievement Now

PennCAN: Pennsylvania Campaign for Achievement Now

RI-CAN: Rhode Island Campaign for Achievement Now


When Diane Ravitch was asked about SFER in an interview she responded;

“I find it bizarre that students at any level would demand more standardized tests, and would demand that teachers be held accountable based on student test scores…Why would students promote a method that testing experts say is inaccurate for measuring teacher quality and that promotes narrowing the curriculum and teaching to the test?” – Diane Ravitch

To read more about Students for Education Reform (SFER) check out the following links;

Astroturf Activism: Who is Behind Students for Education Reform? (The Nation)

$tudent$ for Education Reform  (EduShyster)

How $tudent$ 4 Education Reform Jumped the Shark (EduShyster)

How to spot a fake ‘grassroots’ education reform group (Washington Post)

Students For Education Reform? Not the Change We Need (Good Magazine)

Rethinking “Youth-Led” – Students for Education Reform (Gen Y Not)

[Brownie,] I mean Congressman Jared Polis you’re doing a heck of a job

Colorado’s Democratic Congressman has earned his place in the corporate education reform industry’s Hall of Shame by calling Diane Ravitch an “evil woman” and claiming that he couldn’t “think of anybody else who has caused more harm to public schools, except maybe Koch brothers.”

Congressman Polis, who has set up charter schools in Colorado and other western states, is also a foot solider for the conservative, education reform political action group called Democrats for Education Reform.”

Now, thanks to a great piece written by fellow pro-public education blogger Jason Stamford, whose blog is called “Behind Frenemy Lines,” we learn that Congressman Jared Polis has a history of fawning over Michelle Rhee, the head of the corporate education industry movement.

Jason Stamford writes;

Does Rep. Jared Polis really support public schools, or just his corporate-driven view of privatization and reform? A year ago, Rep. Polis, a Democrat on the House Education Committee, did an AMA on Reddit in which he clearly endorsed Michelle Rhee’s reign of error in Washington, D.C. which has since been discredited as largely the product of upper-middle class white people putting their kids back into the school system and a whole lot of cheating. (Read more about that here.)

In any case, here’s Polis, who is currently helping rewrite the federal education code, writing that Rhee “did a great job in DC”. At least he didn’t say she did a heckuva job.

That Polis considers himself a fellow-traveler of Rhee explains why he called Ravitch, a plain-spoken grandma, education historian and former senior official at the Department of Education under two presidents, is an “evil woman.” And given the pass that most of the media give to education reformers such as Rhee, it explains why Polis got so prickly when challenged about his name-calling.

In fact, on the same day Rep. Polis was touring flood damage in his district with the Vice President (you know, of the United States of America, not the local Rotary Club), he still found time to email me. As I told him, I appreciate his transparency, but isn’t there something more important for a congressman to do when his district is flooded and the vice president is in town?”

You can read the full Behind Fremeny Lines post here:

And yet another Education Reform Group targets Connecticut

Governor Malloy, Commissioner Pryor, Paul Vallas, Steven Adamowski and Connecticut’s other “education reform” advocates must be jumping for joy thanks to the news that yet another national education reform group has announced that they are targeting the Connecticut market place for their activities.

Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) is known as one of the most anti-union, anti-teacher “education reform” advocacy groups in the country and, according to a recent job posting, they are now “looking for a dynamic and ‘jack of all trades’ state director to lead its CT expansion efforts.  The Director will have direct access to DFER national’s political, policy, communications, and back-office supports.”

Democrats for Education Reform is not associated with the Democratic Party, although there are a number of Democrats who support DFER and are supported by them.  Corey Booker, Commissioner Stefan Pryor’s last boss, for example, has served on the advisory boards of both DFER and ConnCAN.

DFER is actually two groups in one, a 501(c) 3 “non-profit” called Education Reform Now and a 501(c) 4 foundation called Education Reform Now Advocacy.  It is a format familiar to Connecticut, since we have Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN) and Connecticut Coalition for Advocacy (ConnAD).

Not surprisingly, DFER’s board of directors is made up of the usual type of corporate executives and education reformers, with no experience in education.

DFER’s chair is Kevin Chavous, a former Washington, DC City Council, Boykin Curry (Eagle Capital Funds), Tony Davis (Anchorage Capital Group), Charles Ledley (Highfields Capital Management), Sara Mead (Bellwether Education Partners), John Petry (Columbus Hill Capital Management) and Whitney Tilson (T2 Partners, Tilson Mutual Funds).

In addition, most also serve on various charter school boards with Tony Davis serving on one of Achievement First’s boards.

Meanwhile, for any education reform advocates out there looking to join that anti-public education effort, Connecticut’s new DFER Director will be expected to provide the following services: Continue reading “And yet another Education Reform Group targets Connecticut”