Massachusetts Ballot Question #2 – Charter School Industry pours record breaking $26 million into stunning loss

As Diane Ravitch reported,

Voters in Massachusetts overwhelmingly defeated Question 2, by a margin of about 62%-38%. Question 2 would have permitted the addition of 12 charter schools every year into the indefinite future.

A vibrant coalition of parents, educators, and students withstood a barrage of dark money and won. They organized, mobilized, knocked on doors, rallied, and they won. More than 200 school committees passed resolutions against Question 2. None supported it.

The bottom line that unified opponents of the measure was that charters would drain funding from the public schools.

As of November 1, 2016, the charter school industry had raised in excess of $26 million to fund their effort to undermine public education in Massachusetts.  Much of the money came from the infamous New York based billionaires and hedge fund managers who have been funding the charter school industry and their allies in the corporate education reform privatization “movement.

The following chart identifies the major sources of money that drove the record spending by the charter school industry.


Charter School Industry Entity Amount Raised Major Sources of Funds
Yes on Two $710,100
Alice Walton $710,000
Campaign for Fair Access to Quality Public Schools $2,418,518.04
Jim Walton $1.125 million


Alice Walton (Transfer from Yes on Two $710k)
MA Charter Public Schools Voter Education Fund $150k


Massachusetts Charter Public School Assoc., Inc.  $100k


Great Schools Massachusetts $100k
Paul Sagan $100K
Charles Longfield $100k
Lawrence Coolidge $25K
Charles  Ledley $26k (Plus $40k to Great Schools Massachusetts
Great Schools Massachusetts  



Families For Excellent Schools Inc. and Families for Excellent Schools Advocacy, Inc. (NY)  $17.2 million


Strong Economy For Growth $1.1m


Expanding Educational Opportunities  575k


Great Schools For Massachusetts $501k


Michael Bloomberg (NY) $490K
Education Reform Now Advocacy (NY) $314k


John Arnold (TX) $250k
Edward Shapiro $225k


Bradley Bloom $150k
Ray Stata $100
Campaign For Fair Access To Quality Public Schools $100K


Cohasset Vc, Ltd (Dallas TX) $100k


Shari Redstone $100k
Robert Small $75k
Abigail Johnson $60k
Stephen Mugford $60k
Daniel Loeb (NY) $50k
George Conrades $50k
Longwood Ventures Partners $50k
Ross M Jones $50k
Advancing Obama’s Legacy on Charter Schools Ballot Committee $722,040
Education Reform Now Advocacy         $155K


Campaign For Fair Access To Quality Public Schools $567k
Expanding Educational Opportunities $575,000
Suffolk Cares, Inc.                   $100K


State Street Bank and Trust Co.       $100K


Partners Healthcare            $100K


The Kraft Group$100k


Emc Corporation         $75K


Massmutual Financial Group  $50K


Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated   $50K



As for why the Charter School Ballot Question #2 went down to a stunning defeat, Edushyster, the Massachusetts based education blogger, provides a full analysis in the recent blog post entitled, What Went Down in Massachusetts.

Edushyster writes;

I could give you a long list of reasons why Question 2 went down in flames. It was a complicated policy question that should never have made it onto the ballot. Yes on 2, despite outspending the ‘no’ camp 2-1 couldn’t find a message that worked, and was never able to counter the single argument that most resonated with voters against charter schools: they take money away from public schools and the kids who attend them. #NoOn2 also tapped into genuinely viral energy. The coalition extended well beyond the teachers unions that funded it, growing to include members of all kinds of unions, as well as social justice and civil rights groups, who fanned out across the state every weekend. By Election Day, the sprawling network of mostly volunteer canvassers had made contact with more than 1.5 million voters.

One, two, three part strategy
Question 2 was just one part of an elaborate three-pronged strategy dreamed up by charter advocates in Massachusetts, most notably our own Secretary of Education, James Peyser, to get rid of the charter cap. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s education reform eminence Chester Finn helpfully explaining in his new book how Massachusetts charter advocates had decided that things would go down:

There we see a coherent three-part strategy, beginning with a legislative move to amend the Bay State’s charter law. In case lawmakers balk, a ballot initiative is in the works, as is a legal move involving a prominent Boston firm that has filed a class-action suit to lift the charter cap, arguing that it unconstitutionally denies children access to an adequate education. As part of all three efforts, Families for Excellent Schools is organizing parents and other charter supporters to participate in an advocacy campaign.

Tellingly, Finn’s explication of Team Charter’s strategerizing is in a section entitled *From Grass Tops to Grass Roots.* A model of the *new parent power,* Families for Excellent Schools has successfully organized parents in NYC, most of whom already send their kids to charter schools, to demand more and more charter schools. Here they are marching across the Brooklyn Bridge, 30K strong. Now here they are, arriving in Albany by the busload. Theirs is a powerful spectacle, until one looks too closely and notices that the guys on the walkie talkies are all white and that the parents were told that they had to attend, or that the mayor wants to close their schools, and that their own charter schools had to be closed for the day in order to create the powerful spectacle.

In the spring of 2014, Peyser, who sat on the national board of Families for Excellent Schools, was imploring Boston’s charter schools to *take control of their own destiny by becoming a more potent political force.* By that summer, FES had a Boston offshoot, *seeded* thanks to the largesse of the New Schools Venture Fund, where Peyser worked, and the same Republican philanthropists who would get the #YesOn2MA ball rolling. And yet FES was an expensive flop from the start. What went so wrong? Much of the blame can be laid at the feet of the group’s astonishing odiosity. Like refusing to say what they were about. Their first big event, a lavishly choreographed rally at Boston’s Faneuil Hall, made no mention of charter schools. Then there was *Unify Boston,* a months-long petition drive in which organizers gathered signatures from parents who wanted great neighborhood schools. When group leaders informed staff members that the actual goal of the campaign was to lift the charter cap, a revolt broke out. *It’s like they think people of color are stupid,* said one former FES organizer.

In the end, charter advocates couldn’t marshal a parent army for the same reason that has undone one ambitious #edreform vision after another: their logic model was flawed. *People aren’t against charter schools,* Yawu Miller, the managing editor of the Bay State Banner, Boston’s African American newspaper, told me when I interviewed him earlier this fall. *But they don’t want to see the kind of expansion that’s being proposed now. They think there’s a threat to the district school system if that happens.* As Miller pointed out, his son is on the waitlist for several charter schools. So is Save Our Schools parent organizer Malikka Williams. In fact, it turns out that almost everyone in Boston is on some kind of waitlist. Calculate the number of students who are waiting for in-demand Boston district schools the same way that charters do and you end up with a number in excess of 20,000.

You can read more of Edushyster’s analyses at:

Additional Background on this nationally significant effort can be found via the following articles

How Long-Time Charter Funders Are Upping the Ante in Their Bid to Blow the Bay State’s Charter School Cap

Playing Three Card Monte With Dark Money

As MA Question 2 Funding Nears $32 Million, DFER Files a New Ballot Committee


Pass the Salary (cross-posted from EduShyster)

For those still digesting and cleaning up from yesterday’s festivities, here is a fun blog from EduShyster, fellow blogger and public education advocate who calls Massachusetts home.  I recommend everyone sign up for her blog, which can be found at:

Just in time for the holidays, a reform groaner for the groaning board

Reader: if your holidays are anything like mine then you are looking forward to consuming an entire box of Asti Spumante engaging in a vigorous back-and-forth about education policy with your extended family. But with so many great ideas out there for improving our failed and failing public schools, how to settle on just one??? Fortunately our friends at the Teacher Salary Project have done some extensive menu planning for us and have prepared a veritable buffet of topics to discuss at the table. Unfasten your eat belt, reader: it’s time to pass the salary.

Teacher turducken
Shall we begin with a canapé of context? The Teacher Salary Project starts with an idea that everyone in the whole family can get behind: teachers are *rilly* important, especially the excellent ones who are putting kids on a path to 21st century outstandingness. Except that the salaries that teachers are make are anything but excellent which causes excellent teachers to leave and excellent would-be teachers to avoid the profession entirely, depriving 21st century bound kids of their prospective excellence. Sounds great, right? Alas, the Teacher Salary Project fits squarely into a category of holiday fare I’ve come to know and love as *reform turducken*: one reformy idea stuffed into another and into another, all clad in an innocuously glistening exterior.

Raise your tip jar
But how to get your loved ones to talk teacher salary turkey? The Teacher Salary Project has thought of everything, starting with a toast—to teachers and their excellence and to the excellent salaries they should be earning. Then you’ll want to back up your toast with talking points and fact-based research helpfully tailored to compliment whatever political demographic you’ll be breaking bird with this Thanksgiving. Got a table full of conservatives? No problem—give them the great news about the two GOP governors who are leading the way to raise teacher salaries out of the swamp from which they just finished lowering them. Are they still hungry? Toss em a little red meat in the form of this study by Hoover Institute economist Eric Hanushek that found that great teachers increase students’ future earnings. What do you mean, is there more? Of course there’s more—like this McKinsey report on attracting and retaining top grads to a career in teaching.

Tasty tidbits 4 all
Well convincing the red state relatives was easy enough. Now, once you’ve retrieved your back-up wine box from the Subaru it’s time to work your magic on the moderates at the table.

Mention that for a small state to move salary scales to professional levels, it would cost the same as a single day in Afghanistan. Seconds, anyone? How about the news of places that have raised salaries through slashing administrative costs, early retirement packages, or bonds? Or offer up this tasty tidbit from Public Impact that shows states and districts how to raise teacher salaries by 20 to 130 percent with the money they have now.

Wow—that does sound like a tasty tidbit! Good thing the moderate wing of your family is tripped out on tryptophan or somebody might have a pesky question or two, like how does everyone get a bigger piece of pumpkin pie if the pie stays the exact same size? And is that whipped cream extra fluffy or just packed with merit? Perhaps it’s the Asti Spumantewriting but the Joyce and Gates-funded Public Impact and its husband/wife *thought leader* team (who just happen to sit on the board of the Teacher Salary Project) sound awfully familiar.  Why, is it time for another toast already? ¡To the Opportunity Culture! ¡Long may she reign!

Are you going to eat that?
By now you should be picking up on a theme—and it’s not just my, ahem, unhealthy interest in turkey-shaped-cakes. Peel back the Teacher Salary Project’s shiny skin—the documentary film, the involvement of writer Dave Eggers (of whom I’m a big fan)—and the *meat* of the campaign has a familiarly reformy flavor that has little if anything to do with raising teacher salaries. In fact the hater at the table (OK, it’s me) might point out that the entire thrust of our years-long-reform-a-thon is to figure out how to pay the majority of teachers less so as to free up dough for extra *stuffing*: the ever-expanding schmorgasboard of gizmos, test-preppery and achievement gap closure devices that our students so fiercely and urgently need. And don’t forget the gravy. A reformer can’t live by stuffing alone!

The Blogger EduShyster’s Article: “Steve Perry Talks to White People”

If you’ve read  yesterday’s post“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!” (aka the Steve Perry story) and reviewed the other Wait, What? blog posts on Hartford, Connecticut’s Capital Prep Principal, Steve Perry, you have a pretty good sense of how this self-righteous, holier than thou, bully handles himself.

But perhaps the best portrayal of Steve Perry can be found in the article written by fellow public education advocate and blogger, Jennifer Berkshire. (The blogger also known as EduShyster).

In a blog written last April, EduShyster wrote about Steven Perry’s trip to Minnesota.

Steve Perry’s true character comes through loud and clear in the post entitled, “Steve Perry Talks to White People.”

“This week found America’s “most wanted educator” venturing to perhaps the reformiest place in America: Minneapolis. There, Dr. Steve Perry delighted the reformer-heavy crowd with his unique brand of high-octane, high-expectations roof raising, including referring to teacher unions as “roaches” and regaling the audience with tales of children who are literally dying from excuses. In this special guest post, an embittered veteran teacher (is there any other kind???) weighs in on what she and her low-achieving colleagues learned from Dr. Perry’s visit—or what they would have learned had they not been too lazy to attend. *

Imagine our delight when an email from Minneapolis Public School alerted us that the famed education motivational speaker, Dr. Steve Perry, was not only coming to Minneapolis to speak, but that we had a chance to win a free ticket!  Was it possible that we would get to see the man whose “heart pumps passion and produces positive change” in the flesh??? Our expectations were high—then came the excellent news. Thanks to the generosity of The Minneapolis Foundation, we were in!

We are pleased to be able to accommodate your request for a free ticket to “The Leadership Factor with Dr. Steve Perry,” the first in a series of Minnesota Meetings, on Monday, April 22, at 7 p.m. at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul.  We are grateful to The Minneapolis Foundation for coordinating this free ticket opportunity as part of the RESET Education campaign. Thank you for your interest!

There was just one problem. The Minneapolis Foundation and team RESET clearly forgot we’re union teachers—with tenure— and hence, lazy, unmotivated, deficient in excellence and “part of the problem.” Also, we learned that wine boxes were not allowed in the auditorium, which caused our motivation to plummet. So we stayed home and followed the play-by-play on Twitter…Alas the scene was a familiar one as we know our local achievement gap score settlers all too well. Shall we introduce them now?

  • Beth Hawkins, a “reporter” for MinnPost,  published by Joel Kramer, who is the father of…
  • Eli Kramer, Executive director of Hiawatha Academies. Eli’s charter school coincidentally receives lots of good press from his father’s paper.  Eli is also a TFA alumni and his brother, Matt Kramer, is the new co-CEO of TFA. It’s a bit confusing, but if you’re a regular EduShyster reader, you already know thateducation rephorm phever is hereditary in Minneapolis
  • Eric Mahmoud, excellently compensated charter school entrepreneur who also has a lucrative side gig.
  • Dr. Steve Perry, who requires no further introduction.

Wine boxes at the ready, we watched #resetedu unfold on Twitter. The night began with a flurry of reformy platitudes keen observations about low expectations and “belief gaps” causing the achievement gap, that zip codes shouldn’t impact the education of our kids, who are literally being killed with excuses. We were sad not to hear Dr. Steve Perry referring to union teachers as roaches for ourselves, but we at least got to read about it later. The Minneapolis Foundation, one of the main funders of RESET Education, tweeted this during the event:

@mplsfoundation22 [email protected] on effective teaching & data: “I know you think you can teach, but let’s look @ your data.” #realtalk #ResetEdu

Too bad the Minneapolis Foundation didn’t look at Perry’s data—or at allegations from parents that Perry routinely counsels out challenging students and oversees a hyperdisciplinary culture where humiliation is routine. Not only is Perry an inflammatory speaker, but like so many education reformers, he misrepresents data about his school and its wild success. In other words, armed with sound bites and street cred, he is a perfect emissary to carry forward the disingenuous reform agenda of RESET Education.(For more on RESET Education, including its reliance on misleading statistics, propaganda and flawed pedagogy, read Teach for America alum Gary Rubinstein’s analysis).

Besides the Minneapolis Foundation and Minneapolis Public Schools, RESET Education is comprised of an alphabet-soup of education reformers, including Achieve Minneapolis, Teach for America and MinnCAN, all of whom happen to be using an urgent, crisis, “social justice” message to push for publicly-funded, yet privately managed charter schools. RESET’s corporate sponsors include General Mills, Medtronic, and Cargill, while media partners include Minnesota Public Radio and MinnPost. When audio becomes available a link will be posted and you can listen along and play the edreform drinking game and take a drink from your wine box whenever teachers and their unions are criticized. You will also have time to RESET your thinking about continuing to contribute to Minnesota Public Radio.

Thank you RESET Education for helping to bring us closer to privatizing public education in Minnesota. Who knew if could be so easy?

Note: after the event, our local teachers union published a letter stating, “Dr. Steve Perry, a magnet school principal from Connecticut, and noted anti-union activist, spent the evening abrasively trashing teachers and our unions. He went as far as to say “we need to call out the roaches” when referring to teachers unions. Dr. Perry went on to blame teachers for the literal death of children. It was truly beyond the bounds of acceptable dialogue.”  In response, Minneapolis Public School Superintendent, Bernadeia H. Johnson, urged Minnesotans not to dismiss Dr. Perry’s “overall message of acting urgently to save a generation of young people because of the sharp rhetoric he used during his speech and the subsequent panel discussion.” Read the entire exchange here.

To read the full blog on EduShyster’s site go to:

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