Sacramento-based StudentsFirst is seeking to expand its political clout in California by asking its members to contribute to a new election campaign fund. The advocacy and lobbying organization wants to set up a small contributor committee, Californians for Putting Students First, that would give money directly to state and local candidates.

“This committee will be able to make direct contributions to candidates, giving us a powerful new tool to push education reform in the Capitol,” read an e-mail to members.

With a large number of smaller donations, we can show that fixing education in the state is a priority by highlighting our most important resource: you and your fellow members.”

Created by former Washington, D.C., school chancellor Michelle Rhee, StudentsFirst is active in 18 states, including California. The group advocates for the elimination of teacher tenure; teacher evaluations that include test results as a factor; results-based teacher pay; parental choice that includes charters and vouchers; and pension reform. StudentsFirst supported the adoption of Gov. Jerry Brown’s Local Control Funding Formula.

StudentsFirst already has been a big campaign donor, though mainly to races outside California. Education blogger and author Alexander Russo reported that in the 2012 campaign cycle, StudentsFirst donated about $3.7 million to 105 candidates, including about $1 million to three Democratic candidates to the California Assembly, two of whom, Cheryl Brown, D-San Bernadino, and Ian Calderon, D-Whittier, won. In addition, it gave money to school board races in West Sacramento and Burbank. It also gave $350,000 to the Coalition for School Reform, a political action committee that donated millions last year to candidates for the Los Angeles Unified school board. The biggest donation to that committee was $1.35 million by then-New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

StudentsFirst made the California contributions through a separate independent expenditures committee, or super political action committee, called Parents and Teachers for Putting Students First. StudentsFirst gave the PAC $2 million in 2011-12 (go here for contributions the committee made in 2011-12 and here for contributions in the current, 2013-14 election cycle). Independent expenditure committees aren’t bound by campaign donation limits but they also can’t donate directly to candidates or coordinate their efforts with the candidates’ campaigns.

Because StudentsFirst created the super PAC, it didn’t have to list the names of individual donors. That would change under two bills before the Legislature. Senate Bill 27, introduced by Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, would require non-profits that gave at least $50,000 per year to an independent expenditure committee to list the donors who gave $1,000 or more, with additional disclosure of top 10 donors who gave at least $10,000 each. Senate Bill 52, by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, would require an ad paid for by an independent expenditures committee to disclose the top two donors.

Donors to the new campaign committee, Californians for Putting Students First, will be limited by state law to giving $200 per calendar year. If it qualifies as a small donor committee, with at least 100 donors giving at least $50 each, the new campaign fund will be able to bundle donations to individual candidates. The big advantage of creating a small donor committee is that it can contribute $8,200 per election and $16,400 per election cycle (the primary and the general election) directly to the campaign of a candidate for the Legislature. That’s twice what a standard political action committee can give. The committees can also give twice the $6,800 donation limit per election that individuals, businesses and standard political action committees can give to races for state constitutional offices such as lieutenant governor and attorney general.

The exception is the race for governor; both standard political action committees and small donor committees can give up to $27,000 per election for governor. Campaign donation restrictions for school board races – if there are limits at all – are up to the districts to set.

StudentsFirst spokesman Francisco Castillo said that StudentsFirst has not set a fundraising goal for the new campaign committee. The first report to the state will be in late March. StudentsFirst reports having 250,000* members in California, but this total includes anyone who receives e-mails from the organization. It also has outreach directors who organize locally, Castillo said.

*Correction: An earlier version mistakenly said there were 350,000 members.

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  1. CarolineSF 3 years ago3 years ago

    I've read on this very forum several times that LAUSD administration -- management, nothing to do with unions -- dropped the ball catastrophically in following up on reports about Mark Berndt. It's appalling no matter who did it, but blaming the unions for management's lapses doesn't jibe with the facts as I've read them here. I'll just point out that what I post here doesn't encompass the scope of what I do and don't criticize, discuss … Read More

    I’ve read on this very forum several times that LAUSD administration — management, nothing to do with unions — dropped the ball catastrophically in following up on reports about Mark Berndt. It’s appalling no matter who did it, but blaming the unions for management’s lapses doesn’t jibe with the facts as I’ve read them here.

    I’ll just point out that what I post here doesn’t encompass the scope of what I do and don’t criticize, discuss or experience.

    My topic here is StudentsFirst’s longtime false claims about its membership and newly revealed fakery about its popularity on Facebook, which are relevant to this thread.

    Replies

    • Floyd Thursby 3 years ago3 years ago

      OK Caroline, but would you spend time making fundraising calls asking for $100 donations from poor and middle class people to reform LIFO, so that we could have a broad based movement to fix it? Or if Students First and Students Matter go away because they are bad because they get donations from rich people and someone allegedly posted false likes, which very few intellectuals pay any attention to, then will you just quietly … Read More

      OK Caroline, but would you spend time making fundraising calls asking for $100 donations from poor and middle class people to reform LIFO, so that we could have a broad based movement to fix it? Or if Students First and Students Matter go away because they are bad because they get donations from rich people and someone allegedly posted false likes, which very few intellectuals pay any attention to, then will you just quietly focus on other things and spend no time trying to reform LIFO in an alternative way, and then in 10 years we have the exact same LIFO system we have now?

      This is important. Do you have an alternative to them doing it, or is your alternative the status quo?

      I think blaming administration is not fair. It costs over $100,000 on average to fire a teacher. Administrators often decide it’s not worth the time, cost and trouble. To make firings more common, and any profession should be fired more than 2 a year out of 600,000 for performance, 9 total, we need to make it easier.

      Yes, administrators could do better, but why make it so hard if the goal is to create a profession where teachers are nervous to take a day off when not really sick, and feel pressure to drive test scores up and teach children to do better, work harder, and feel pressure to teach to their best ability? If you get the first crack at a new job, then why feel nervous to upset the principal and get a bad reference? I’m scared of a bad reference, and it makes me work harder. Shouldn’t every teacher worry if I don’t impress this principal, the principal at that school I want to transfer to, maybe a job we could make pay more to help troubled schools, they may look at my reviews on ratemyteacher.com, they may ask past principals how I did, they may look at how often they had to pay a sub to cover my illness, they may check the test score improvement of the kids I taught and compare those to other teachers?

      Or should we continue with a system where they can only consider how many years they have taught?

      Are you looking for a more acceptable way to do it, or are you looking to criticize every suggestion and maintain the status quo?

  2. Floyd Thursby 3 years ago3 years ago

    To address Navigio directly, I think you are dishonestly looking for anything negative to say about anyone who tries to improve teaching quality and make it possible to fire bad teachers without spending 100k+. You're no better than Republicans who spend hundreds of thousands on private investigators and whine about something every opponent has done and tries to create scandals out of thin air, Bill Ayers, Kenya, etc., on Obama. Gray Davis was recalled for … Read More

    To address Navigio directly, I think you are dishonestly looking for anything negative to say about anyone who tries to improve teaching quality and make it possible to fire bad teachers without spending 100k+. You’re no better than Republicans who spend hundreds of thousands on private investigators and whine about something every opponent has done and tries to create scandals out of thin air, Bill Ayers, Kenya, etc., on Obama.

    Gray Davis was recalled for this. He said he was from the left but he made a big deal about Simon being beneath consideration because of a business dealing, but the fact was, he had negative firebombed the previous candidate too over an old tape before they’d changed their view on abortion. Then a study showed he had negative firebombed everyone he’d ever run against, including Democrats in parties. As a liberal Democrat, I felt if he was so outraged at Simon running, he should have let the previous guy run and focused on the issues. I was actually happy he lost and I’m very liberal.

    I think that anyone who opposes LIFO will somehow be objectionable to you and Caroline. I think you are dishonestly searching for something negative to say, not focusing on the issue.

    Polls have shown over 3/4 of California voters want to change teacher tenure and LIFO and make it less burdensome to fire bad teachers. However, the union does some bad too. You don’t like to talk about it, but they lobby behind the scenes to defeat things and pressure politicians to vote for LIFO without considering if it helps or hurts chidlren. The union isn’t perfect, but you never criticize them. They lied about Prop H about neighborhood schools in San Francisco and spent over $800,000 distributing fliers saying kids would switch mid year, which was a lie. They won by 153 votes out of 180,000, which clearly means most San Franciscans supported neighborhood schools for new admissions. They try to decide who gets on the board that negotiates on behalf of children, yet there are no children groups donating to the school board.

    So let’s look at it this way. Anyone who ever for any reason tries to oppose LIFO you’ll look for something nasty to say, not focus on the issue.

    Replies

    • navigio 3 years ago3 years ago

      Floyd, you're incredible. I asked a simple, one-sentence question specifically addressing your response to Caroline and instead of answering you respond with a multiple paragraph rant about everything except what I asked. And to add insult to injury, you accuse me of being off topic and on tangents. Truly hilarious. If you think I'm merely a 'union hack' you haven't been paying attention. And to answer your last paragraph, what I oppose is people making changes for … Read More

      Floyd, you’re incredible. I asked a simple, one-sentence question specifically addressing your response to Caroline and instead of answering you respond with a multiple paragraph rant about everything except what I asked. And to add insult to injury, you accuse me of being off topic and on tangents. Truly hilarious.

      If you think I’m merely a ‘union hack’ you haven’t been paying attention.

      And to answer your last paragraph, what I oppose is people making changes for the sake of changes alone instead of to improve things for kids. If someone does that in the name of ‘LIFO’ then I’ll criticize them. But note it will not be about LIFO per se. Subtle but visible difference to those who read closely enough.

      Anyway, back to the regularly scheduled program…

  3. Floyd Thursby 3 years ago3 years ago

    Caroline and Navigio, I don't think you are being intellectually honest here. Caroline, you make a big deal on any misdeed you see, and you know as well as I this was probably some supporter who did this, not Rhee. You don't look at articles and post every time you're outraged, you look for these articles to nitpick against anyone with the courage to change the status quo. I looked at this article and … Read More

    Caroline and Navigio, I don’t think you are being intellectually honest here. Caroline, you make a big deal on any misdeed you see, and you know as well as I this was probably some supporter who did this, not Rhee. You don’t look at articles and post every time you’re outraged, you look for these articles to nitpick against anyone with the courage to change the status quo.

    I looked at this article and it’s more biased to the left than Fox News is to the right. Her whole premise is that corporations are trying to take over and no one cares about education.

    The unions and far left had a monopoly on education and tripled spending per pupil after adjusting for inflation from the ’60s to 2000. We still had a huge achievement gap, blacks reading at the level of white 8th graders in 12th grade, etc.

    Caroline, have you ever had your child have a bad teacher? You had no complaints about Mark Berndt getting $40,300 to resign before he was sent to prison for 26 years for molestation, paid by LAUSD. You’ve had no complaints about bad teachers staying on for years. You have no complaints about most California kids studying 5.6 or fewer hours a week while those who make UCs study over 20 and the average Asian 13.8. You have no complaints about only 91 teachers being laid off statewide in 10 years, 19 for performance.

    You are just looking for ways to nitpick to maintain the status quo.

    You talk about funding and poverty. Washington DC gets 30k per student and got no results, in terms of test scores. Your most extreme wet dream of a result in terms of a liberal approach would be tripling spending. I think that would do less for the achievment gap than spending what we do now and putting more towards tutors, not bureaucrats (over half of spending doesn’t go to the school now but to administrative offices), getting all kids to study and read 20+ hours a week, and coming up with a real rating system by which some teachers are let go even after 30 years or more after tenure, if they aren’t doing a good job any longer, just like all other professions.

    Replies

    • TheMorrigan 3 years ago3 years ago

      I do not mind that you oppose LIFO, Floyd. However, you do no favors to “your side” when you throw out inappropriate sexual language as a means to mischaracterize the opposition’s rationale.

      • Floyd Thursby 3 years ago3 years ago

        Navigio, let me put it this way, I think it's a red herring. I don't think you only oppose Students First for individualized reasons. Let's find other groups who have tried to reform tenure and LIFO, which very much hurts chidlren's education. OK, Students Matter is illegitimate because they are funded by a couple rich people? Do you realize how hard fundraising really is? Will you volunteer hundreds of hours … Read More

        Navigio, let me put it this way, I think it’s a red herring. I don’t think you only oppose Students First for individualized reasons. Let’s find other groups who have tried to reform tenure and LIFO, which very much hurts chidlren’s education. OK, Students Matter is illegitimate because they are funded by a couple rich people? Do you realize how hard fundraising really is? Will you volunteer hundreds of hours to make fundraising calls to raise $100 at a time from many middle class people for an alternative, more broadly based method of reforming LIFO? That’s what it would require, but most people would quietly disappear, and the result would be more status quo. You say it like it’s imperfect and if you criticize it, a better option will emerge. My assumption is that no serious attempt to reform LIFO will emerge with any chance of success, that we will get more status quo.

        I don’t think it is possible to have something not funded by wealthy individuals. Maybe a parent whose kids had bad teachers will with the lottery and do it, but then I guess it would still be bad because they would then be rich. It would take hundreds of people thousands of hours each over years to have a broad based movement to reform LIFO without relying on the rich. Will you spend hundreds of hours and also try to convince people you know to do so, so we can have a movement funded by poor people to do the same?

        Or will you change to paying attention to other things and let LIFO quietly linger?

        It’s an important question. What is your ultimate goal in complaining about who is doing so?

        There are people doing so in other states, different people. Do you oppose or support them? Do you oppose Geoffrey Canada? Do you oppose Students First?

        What is your ideal world? How would you formulate a movement to reform LIFO you wouldn’t complain about for individualized reasons on blogs?

    • Don 3 years ago3 years ago

      In fairness, I see no bias in Mr. Fensterwald’s reporting in this article.

  4. CarolineSF 3 years ago3 years ago

    This is pretty funny -- StudentsFirst has zillions of "likes" on Facebook, but apparently there's some process where you can buy "likes" through offshoring operations. StudentsFirst's "likes" are coming from Bangladesh and Turkey. http://www.mommabears.org/1/post/2014/03/pitiful-popularity-contest-for-faux-parents.html Read More

    This is pretty funny — StudentsFirst has zillions of “likes” on Facebook, but apparently there’s some process where you can buy “likes” through offshoring operations. StudentsFirst’s “likes” are coming from Bangladesh and Turkey. http://www.mommabears.org/1/post/2014/03/pitiful-popularity-contest-for-faux-parents.html

  5. Floyd Thursby 3 years ago3 years ago

    Caroline, I think you go out of your way to find something negative about anyone who tries to change things for the better. I think we all agree more than 91 of 600,000 educators should have been fired in the past 10 years in California, 19 for cause. I think we all agree it was morally outrageous for 12% to call in sick the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, and that there are bad teachers who … Read More

    Caroline, I think you go out of your way to find something negative about anyone who tries to change things for the better. I think we all agree more than 91 of 600,000 educators should have been fired in the past 10 years in California, 19 for cause. I think we all agree it was morally outrageous for 12% to call in sick the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, and that there are bad teachers who keep their job far too long and hurt kids, and too many substitute days because teachers don’t feel at all nervous about calling in sick because 0 days or 14 for the year, they get the same money and promotion and reputation doesn’t matter, seniority does.

    Who cares if wealthy individuals do the right thing and help the poor or poor people all put in $50. Even if they do, you dismiss them as suckers somehow. You nitpick at everything. The Students Matter lawsuit, the most courageous in California in decades with the most potential to help poor children, wouldn’t have happened if we went by your self-appointed requirement that it should only happen if everyone donates $50. The teacher’s union requires dues, so they can raise money automatically, so if it is then wrong for anyone to counter that with a big donation, nothing ever changes.

    You don’t realize it but by holding any movement to fix LIFO to a super high standard, OK, it has to be equally funded by poor and middle class people, never hurt anyone’s feelings who is a bad teacher, and never do a number of myriad of other things you gripe about, judge anyone by a statistic, etc.

    But you’re playing into the status quo. We aren’t going to close the achievement gap or the gap in income between white and black or raise test scores overall if we find some excuse to criticize every movement that tries to fix things.

    Sorry Caroline, the status quo had a long time to do right. The union could go against individual bad teachers but chooses not to, making themselves look bad. My son was a victim of this. I decided never to take them at their word again that there’s another way to get rid of bad teachers. Fool me once, you know the rest. The NCLB inspired knowledge we have only reflects what was already true before that. Nitpicking about every little thing is never going to help the poor. You are very selective and unwittingly support the status quo by whining about little things. Who cares if rich people help, some actually care about the poor a lot. Bill Gates showed a lot of character donating almost all of his fortune to charity and capping his kids’ inheritance at less than 1% of his net worth, something very few of the wealthy do.

    Look, you can barely get poor people to come to a parent teacher conference or a PTA meeting. Saying we have to delay any reform to help them until they all unify to donate to match the union is basically saying, hey poor people, go way, leave us alone, if you get a bad teacher you’ll take it and like it. You aren’t helping anyone but the status quo with this constant nitpicking.

    Replies

    • navigio 3 years ago3 years ago

      Floyd, Do you really think it does not matter who wants to change public education, nor what their motives are?

  6. CarolineSF 3 years ago3 years ago

    As what StudentsFirst refers to as a "member" (that is, someone whose name and e-mail address they've captured by devious means, as I believe is the case with pretty much 100% of this operation's alleged "membership"), I just got their solicitation for a small donation. Why won't "Shelli K.," this alleged parent from San Diego who's making the request give her last name, and why are they asking for money from me when the Waltons … Read More

    As what StudentsFirst refers to as a “member” (that is, someone whose name and e-mail address they’ve captured by devious means, as I believe is the case with pretty much 100% of this operation’s alleged “membership”), I just got their solicitation for a small donation. Why won’t “Shelli K.,” this alleged parent from San Diego who’s making the request give her last name, and why are they asking for money from me when the Waltons et al. are giving them millions?

    Their pitch:

    By donating $5, $25, $50, $100, or any amount up to $200 per calendar year limit, you can help ensure that the voices of students and parents are represented in the Capitol.

    I’m proud to say that I’ve already donated. Will you join me?

    I won’t rest until my kids are receiving the best possible education. And I know that I’m not alone in that commitment. By uniting as one voice, we can build an education system that truly puts students first.

    Respectfully,

    Shelli K.
    Public School Parent – San Diego

  7. Don 3 years ago3 years ago

    I am "fighting that innovation". I don't give a charter a pass simply because I subscribe to the charter concept in theory. In that sense I don't hold the teaching profession responsible for the failures of its leadership to abide by its own self-monitoring rules while fighting to retain every last teacher regardless of how egregious the action. Currently I'm holding my child's charter liable for charter promises they made but didn't keep. The charter and … Read More

    I am “fighting that innovation”. I don’t give a charter a pass simply because I subscribe to the charter concept in theory. In that sense I don’t hold the teaching profession responsible for the failures of its leadership to abide by its own self-monitoring rules while fighting to retain every last teacher regardless of how egregious the action.

    Currently I’m holding my child’s charter liable for charter promises they made but didn’t keep. The charter and the authorizer must abide by the laws that govern them and the contracts they sign. I believe those laws should be tightened up, but like you said, there isn’t much accountability all the way around. That said, I respectfully caution you not to indulge yourself in sweeping generalizations. There all over a 1000 charters in California and they run the gamut. I don’t claim that Medicare should be wiped out because a provider is committing fraud and I won’t castigate the entire charter universe because some charters are violating the Ed Code or the charter document. Speaking of which, I have spend years fighting Ed Code violations of TPSs so this goes both ways. Believing as a prerequisite to misguidance works both ways, too.

    When you say charters were co-opted you indulge your own beliefs – that all charters are scams. There are many very well-respected charters even if it is hard to understand or agree on what makes any school good. I’ve noticed how charter critics point to standardized test scores for accountability, but many of those same critics criticize for high stakes NCLB testing, as do I. So which is it?

    As for being shady, there’s plenty of that to go around. How about the untold millions spent to elect pro-teacher union candidates to public office to buy influence, money derived and deducted from public service paychecks in the form of union dues without the consent of the wage earner and used to buy elections for partisan political purposes for which many union members might not agree.

    Again, you are correct – believing is a prerequisite to being misguided.

    Replies

    • navigio 3 years ago3 years ago

      Hi Don. You misunderstood me. The innovation I suggested fighting is the charter concept itself, not individual schools. My comment about the lack of accountability was directed at TPSs, not charters (charters are allowed to skirt much of the TPS accountability). In addition, my comment about co-opting was not about individual charter behavior but the impact of the law that allows charters to exist. Both things I mentioned are a result of the dynamic that policy creates … Read More

      Hi Don. You misunderstood me. The innovation I suggested fighting is the charter concept itself, not individual schools.

      My comment about the lack of accountability was directed at TPSs, not charters (charters are allowed to skirt much of the TPS accountability).

      In addition, my comment about co-opting was not about individual charter behavior but the impact of the law that allows charters to exist. Both things I mentioned are a result of the dynamic that policy creates (even when individual charters don’t explicitly behave in a way that exacerbates that).

      The charter movement justifies its existence partially (maybe even primarily) on the ‘failure’ of the TPS system based on test scores. Any pointing to test scores for charter accountability is simply to ask for consistency, ie to use the same metrics. It does not have to mean that the process of using test scores for accountability purposes is valid.

  8. CarolineSF 3 years ago3 years ago

    I'd describe it this way (whether "going out of my way" or not): The set of "reform" packages promoted by such operations as StudentsFirst are far-right ideas that have been embraced by many self-professed liberals, for whatever reasons. The ideas were generated by ultra-right think tanks and are in line with far-right principles, and they clash sharply with the traditional principles of liberal politics. Discuss among yourselves. My point here, again, is that StudentsFirst is not collecting … Read More

    I’d describe it this way (whether “going out of my way” or not): The set of “reform” packages promoted by such operations as StudentsFirst are far-right ideas that have been embraced by many self-professed liberals, for whatever reasons. The ideas were generated by ultra-right think tanks and are in line with far-right principles, and they clash sharply with the traditional principles of liberal politics.

    Discuss among yourselves.

    My point here, again, is that StudentsFirst is not collecting money or membership from “regular people.” It has fake membership “lists” and is funded by a few ultra-wealthy donors and foundations, and it’s questionable whether it has ANY actual membership or support from “regular people.” There have been a couple of media attempts to look into that, and StudentsFirst really doesn’t even try to make a case if its initial claims of having grassroots support are questioned.

    BTW, StudentsFirst funder John Arnold, formerly of Enron, is currently in media news that tarred PBS’ reputation. He donated several million to fund a PBS special on pensions. As Arnold is an outspoken critic of public-employee pensions and PBS professes ethical purity, PBS was embarrassed, was slapped down by its ombudsman, and returned Arnold’s money.

    Replies

    • Don 3 years ago3 years ago

      Caroline, your first paragraph is a vague statement if I ever heard one. You seem to be trading in stereotypes more than information. I'd hardly call Obama a self-professed liberal in the pejorative sense. It is possible that these misguided individuals actually believe exploring alternatives and have legitimate concerns and solutions. Compared to old guard stalwarts, maybe they are bolder and more willing to expand the strict confines of party politics if children … Read More

      Caroline, your first paragraph is a vague statement if I ever heard one. You seem to be trading in stereotypes more than information. I’d hardly call Obama a self-professed liberal in the pejorative sense. It is possible that these misguided individuals actually believe exploring alternatives and have legitimate concerns and solutions. Compared to old guard stalwarts, maybe they are bolder and more willing to expand the strict confines of party politics if children can benefit.

      Charters exist because of the intransigence and monolithic quality of unions and bureaucracies, not because they generated from a right wing think tank. Ideas don’t magically become policies. That some charters will fail is predictable. Public education has always been an experiment. The latest innovations are not challenged by progressives because they might fail, but because they might succeed.

      My younger son attends a charter middle school and though it is a good school in many respects, I am shocked at the lack of accountability and oversight that is allowed to persist. I’m no gung-ho charters-at-all-costs proponent. The state and the district level charter authorizers need to do their due diligence and make sure these school are not free to act a private schools with public money just as TPSs are required to be accountable. There should be no difference and if there is, well, that is not a problem with the charter concept as much as the implementation. Self-regulation is an oxymoron.

      • navigio 3 years ago3 years ago

        I think believing is a prerequisite to being misguided. That doesnt preclude being misguided. Reformers have politicized their concerns. That makes them inherently illegitimate. No one to blame but themselves on that one. Charters were co-opted to be used as an 'end-around' on the cost of unions and bureaucracies. Whether they are intransigent or monolithic is beside the point. And now they are being co-opted as a means for segregation. You may be right that progressives do … Read More

        I think believing is a prerequisite to being misguided. That doesnt preclude being misguided.

        Reformers have politicized their concerns. That makes them inherently illegitimate. No one to blame but themselves on that one.

        Charters were co-opted to be used as an ‘end-around’ on the cost of unions and bureaucracies. Whether they are intransigent or monolithic is beside the point. And now they are being co-opted as a means for segregation. You may be right that progressives do not want to see that particular ‘innovation’ succeed (again). But you are wrong that people challenge reform because they are afraid it will succeed where success is measured by the education and well-being of our children. (and if your charter school is working the way it was actually intended, then perhaps you should be fighting that innovation as well?)

        Charters have been given freedom to lack accountability. That is one of their points. If you are questioning whether that is a good idea, then you should be questioning whether charters should exist at all.

        Lastly, TPSs are not required to be accountable. They are merely required to report some stuff to the state and discuss some things in public. Most of what matters is obscured or not reported at all. A true measure of ‘accountability’ would be some sort of real response to a documented failure (however failure happens to be measured). Instead we simply ignore that documented failure, or worse, make things even harder on schools as a ‘punishment’ instead of helping them to succeed.

      • TheMorrigan 3 years ago3 years ago

        It is a mistake to think that charters only exist as a means to circumvent unions and state/local bureaucracies. We must not forget the following: 1) They also exist as a shady means to tap into state education dollars. There have been several cases here in CA and all over the US. Those involved in these practices do not care about children at all. They only care about profits and skimming as much off the top … Read More

        It is a mistake to think that charters only exist as a means to circumvent unions and state/local bureaucracies. We must not forget the following:

        1) They also exist as a shady means to tap into state education dollars. There have been several cases here in CA and all over the US. Those involved in these practices do not care about children at all. They only care about profits and skimming as much off the top as possible.

        2) While this may not be the case in CA, in many states charters exist as a means to introduce controversial topics (e.g. creationism)or questionable practices into the curriculum.

        Charters are “supposed” to be a garden of innovation. However, it hasn’t actually worked out that way.

  9. Don 3 years ago3 years ago

    Yes, it is the same Arnold of Enron, not nearly as distinguished as its sounds as the name rolls off the tongue. Manuel, I’m not giving anyone a pass. It is nothing new to point out, but it should be remembered that these “reforms” are not a conspiracy of the right as Caroline frequently describes it. It is the left in the form of Obama that has turn NCLB from a wimp to an iron-pumping bully.

  10. Don 3 years ago3 years ago

    Huff Post reporter Joy Resmovitz reported on the Students First donor list. According to Resmovitz, megamillionaires John Arnold of Texas and New Jersey hedge fund mogul David Tepper are among top donors. Both gave heavily to Obama. Caroline, you are probably right that the Walton/Gate/Broad's support Students First, though I don't know for sure because only Broad is mentioned as having been a start-up supporter in this article. But you sure seem to want to go … Read More

    Huff Post reporter Joy Resmovitz reported on the Students First donor list.

    According to Resmovitz, megamillionaires John Arnold of Texas and New Jersey hedge fund mogul David Tepper are among top donors. Both gave heavily to Obama.

    Caroline, you are probably right that the Walton/Gate/Broad’s support Students First, though I don’t know for sure because only Broad is mentioned as having been a start-up supporter in this article. But you sure seem to want to go out of your way to characterize Students First as a right wing organization. I think it is more apt to say that the political allegiance of the left and the right on Obama education policy and NCLB before it is a singularly bipartisan effort and that Rhee’s organization receives funds from a large cross-section of wealthy individuals and organizations.

    Replies

    • Manuel 3 years ago3 years ago

      John Arnold gave to Obama? So? Obama's educational policy is NCLB on steroids and Obama appointed Duncan to carry it out. I don't believe that all Democrats are happy with that appointment and policy. BTW, isn't this the same John Arnold who recently had his money returned by a PBS arm because he wanted to influence the resulting report? Isn't this the same John Arnold who was a trader with Enron? I don't give Arnold a pass for … Read More

      John Arnold gave to Obama? So?

      Obama’s educational policy is NCLB on steroids and Obama appointed Duncan to carry it out. I don’t believe that all Democrats are happy with that appointment and policy.

      BTW, isn’t this the same John Arnold who recently had his money returned by a PBS arm because he wanted to influence the resulting report? Isn’t this the same John Arnold who was a trader with Enron?

      I don’t give Arnold a pass for giving money to StudentsFirst because he also gave to Obama.

      Yeah, this is a singularly bipartisan effort by DINOs and RINOs to support what is essentially the privatization of public education. Why else has “education” been seen as a fertile field by many investors ever since NCLB demanded 100% proficiency by this year?

  11. el 3 years ago3 years ago

    It seems to me, from the day it started, the effect if not the purpose of Students First was to take money from parents - and away from kids and local schools - and give it to boost the influence of Michelle Rhee. I remember the first article in Newsweek (2010) that was frankly a long press release gushing over this new organization that wanted to raise literally "a billion dollars" its first year - never … Read More

    It seems to me, from the day it started, the effect if not the purpose of Students First was to take money from parents – and away from kids and local schools – and give it to boost the influence of Michelle Rhee.

    I remember the first article in Newsweek (2010) that was frankly a long press release gushing over this new organization that wanted to raise literally “a billion dollars” its first year – never mind that it’s not actually possible to spend that kind of money wisely or effectively in a new startup – and thinking that the picture they chose to illustrate the story – Michelle Rhee standing in front of a bunch of chalk outlines of kids – was inadvertently an extremely apt representation of what this whole adventure was about.

    http://www.newsweek.com/why-michelle-rhee-isnt-done-school-reform-68975
    “We’ll ask people across the country to join StudentsFirst—we’re hoping to sign up 1 million members and raise $1 billion in our first year.”

    Replies

    • CarolineSF 3 years ago3 years ago

      Belatedly catching up — El, it’s unlikely that StudentsFirst gets money from ordinary parents or ever intended to; last I heard, it would not reveal its funders, but they’re undoubtedly the usual Gates/Koch/Broad/Walton pantheon. As I posted earlier, StudentsFirst has never been seen legitimately asking people to join. It uses devious means to capture the names of people who did not knowingly intend to join and calls them its members.

  12. Paul 3 years ago3 years ago

    Thank you for the information, John and CarolineSF. I had no idea that StudentsFirst had taken up the banner of pension reform. I have always doubted StudentsFirst's claim that making the rest of teachers at-will (where today the young, those who change districts, and those who work for charter schools are at-will) would improve the quality of the teacher workforce. I think that making all teachers at-will would increase turnover and discourage young people with other options … Read More

    Thank you for the information, John and CarolineSF.

    I had no idea that StudentsFirst had taken up the banner of pension reform.

    I have always doubted StudentsFirst’s claim that making the rest of teachers at-will (where today the young, those who change districts, and those who work for charter schools are at-will) would improve the quality of the teacher workforce. I think that making all teachers at-will would increase turnover and discourage young people with other options from risking a short career in teaching. Neither of those outcomes would benefit students.

    Now, I cannot in my wildest dreams see how further reducing teachers’ pensions would benefit students. When compensation is reduced, fewer people sign up, and the ones who do are not “choice” candidates, but people with no alternatives.

    Pension reform (AB 340) already means that California public school teachers beginning work after 2012:

    – receive pensions calculated at a lower percentage of a lower base pensionable salary
    – have to work two years longer before retiring
    – do not receive service credit for unused sick leave

    Interestingly, the ordinary (recession notwithstanding) cost of a STRS pension used to be 18.5% of pay, with the 8% employee, 8.25% district, and 2.5% state contributions perfectly adequate. Pension reform reduces the ordinary cost for new teachers to 16% and mandates that they cover 50%. This leaves total district/state costs for new teacher pensions at 8%, or just 1.8 percentage points above what costs would be if teachers participated in Social Security. (The employer Social Security contribution is 6.2%, and 8 – 6.2 = 1.8 percentage points.) What private-sector employer of professionals could get away with spending just 1.8% of payroll on 401(k) matching?

    Clearly, the political agenda of StudentsFirst has more to do with keeping teachers poor than with helping students.

    Replies

    • John Fensterwald 3 years ago3 years ago

      Paul: We're heading off in a tangent here talking about pensions, a subject I'll be returning to in several days. But it's important to note that AB 340, which affects all new public employees, not just teachers, was Gov. Brown's and the Legislature's response in 2012 to the crisis in pension funding created by granting higher benefits during the dot-com years (not as much for teachers and administrators as for firefighthers, cops and other public … Read More

      Paul: We’re heading off in a tangent here talking about pensions, a subject I’ll be returning to in several days. But it’s important to note that AB 340, which affects all new public employees, not just teachers, was Gov. Brown’s and the Legislature’s response in 2012 to the crisis in pension funding created by granting higher benefits during the dot-com years (not as much for teachers and administrators as for firefighthers, cops and other public workers) followed by the Great Recession. CalSTRS’ investments shrank 40 percent, creating what is now a $71 billion unfunded liability. The contributions of 18.5 percent of pay that you refer to could rise to 32 to 34 percent of pay in the next few years, requiring an additional $5 billion in payments annually. Most of that additional money will likely come from the state and school districts as employers and not from current teachers. StudentsFirst is hardly alone in calling for pension reforms in California and elsewhere.

      • Paul 3 years ago3 years ago

        Hi, John. I just wanted to point out that it's disingenuous for a group to call itself StudentsFirst when part of its platform now includes reducing teacher compensation, in this case, pensions. If relevant to your forthcoming article, I think it would be very important to help readers distinguish: - the ordinary cost of pensions for teachers first employed post-2012 (16% of pay); - the ordinary cost of pensions for teachers first employed before 2013 (18.5% of pay, … Read More

        Hi, John. I just wanted to point out that it’s disingenuous for a group to call itself StudentsFirst when part of its platform now includes reducing teacher compensation, in this case, pensions.

        If relevant to your forthcoming article, I think it would be very important to help readers distinguish:

        – the ordinary cost of pensions for teachers first employed post-2012 (16% of pay);

        – the ordinary cost of pensions for teachers first employed before 2013 (18.5% of pay, lowest among the state’s three main public plans, as benefit enhancements were predominantly for PERS, not STRS);

        – the extraordinary (due to the recession) unfunded liability, for the pre-2013 set only; and

        – the employee and employer (district + state) contribution rates (which haven’t changed yet and, when they do, will inevitably leave the post-2012 new teachers paying more than their normal share of the cost of their own reduced pensions, to fund the intact pensions of the pre-2013 set and the unfunded liability on the latter).

        The before-and-after normal cost percentages and reduced benefits are described here: http://www.calstrs.com/whats-new/calstrs-releases-summary-pension-changes-and-funding-resolution#nomobile

        The sick leave provision is described in a separate document, easy to find.

        A while back, the STRS actuarial report about the unfunded liability was posted on EdSource. It contained salient observations such as: that STRS is no more generous than a typical private-sector retirement arrangement, and that STRS, because it is investment-based rather than pay-as-you-go, yields a larger benefit at a lower total cost than Social Security.

        Benefit levels, employee contribution rates, employer contribution rates, and enhancement information (3% at 50 formula for for most PERS public safety workers in the wake of September 11, 2001, no history of employee contributions for many transit and public safety workers in PERS, and the long employer and employee contribution holiday for UCRS in the 1990s) are easy to obtain for the three main public plans, PERS, UCRS and STRS. By any measure STRS has always been the least generous, which really makes pension reform sting.

        • John Fensterwald 3 years ago3 years ago

          True, Paul. Benefits from CalSTRS have been less generous.

  13. CarolineSF 3 years ago3 years ago

    Some months ago, EdSource today quoted a very high alleged membership number provided by StudentsFirst without questioning it, and a series of responses set the record as straight as possible on the veracity of these alleged numbers. I don't think the problem is just the sending out of e-mails to people who haven't requested them; it's listing people as members who have not requested membership or approved being listed as members. Under the circumstances, many/most of … Read More

    Some months ago, EdSource today quoted a very high alleged membership number provided by StudentsFirst without questioning it, and a series of responses set the record as straight as possible on the veracity of these alleged numbers.

    I don’t think the problem is just the sending out of e-mails to people who haven’t requested them; it’s listing people as members who have not requested membership or approved being listed as members. Under the circumstances, many/most of them are likely not to KNOW they’re listed as members. Clearly, StudentsFirst’s claims of membership numbers are not accurate or reliable.

  14. navigio 3 years ago3 years ago

    I want to run for political office if for no other reason than to reject donations from groups who want to influence me. If it were possible for me to think any less of students first, this would be why.

  15. CarolineSF 3 years ago3 years ago

    (Sorry if I sound harsh, but this really isn’t a small point. I recognize that EdSource got snookered once by them and is now trying to be more precise. But in my opinion sources that lie to the press should be dealt with much more forcefully than this.)

    Replies

    • John Fensterwald 3 years ago3 years ago

      I don’t know about being snookered, but I am seeking a clarification from StudentsFirst if it sends out emails to people who have not requested them. I am someone who registered for emails in order, as a reporter, to receive information about the organization. (That’s how I found out about the new campaign committee.) As the story indicates, StudentsFirst counts me as a member.

      • Manuel 3 years ago3 years ago

        But are you or have you ever been a… member, John?

        (Yes, I have no sense of decency 😉 )

        • John Fensterwald 3 years ago3 years ago

          I suppose, Senator, it depends how you define member.

          • Manuel 3 years ago3 years ago

            Well played, John, well played…

      • Linda Lipscomb 3 years ago3 years ago

        It sent one to me – and I don’t know them from Adam. Linda

  16. CarolineSF 3 years ago3 years ago

    StudentsFirst didn't give you accurate information, John, and you need to correct it. I'm listed as a StudentsFirst member and I get the organization's e-mails, and I never in any way knowingly signed up to receive e-mails from the organization. Diane Ravitch (possibly the nation's most prominent opponent of the policies promoted by StudentsFirst) has said she's also listed as a member. There has been much discussion of the organization's strategy of posting petitions on Change.org with … Read More

    StudentsFirst didn’t give you accurate information, John, and you need to correct it.

    I’m listed as a StudentsFirst member and I get the organization’s e-mails, and I never in any way knowingly signed up to receive e-mails from the organization. Diane Ravitch (possibly the nation’s most prominent opponent of the policies promoted by StudentsFirst) has said she’s also listed as a member.

    There has been much discussion of the organization’s strategy of posting petitions on Change.org with titles that sound pro-teacher and pro-public school; paying to have those petitions “pushed” to people who sign other education petitions; and then capturing the names and claiming them as members. That appears to be how names are captured, but it’s not the same as knowingly signing up to receive e-mails. (There is no process of actively signing up involved, and there are no requests for dues.)

    In many years as an advocate active in education policy issues until I took a job in 2012 that required me to step back from activism, I never saw a sign of an actual membership recruiting drive by StudentsFirst.

    It’s a serious, valid question (I’m not being snarky) whether StudentsFirst has any legitimate members at at all.