Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Founder of organization that "partners" with Metro Schools says Stand for Children pays for political influence

Stand for Children has endorsed Karl Dean for Mayor, and it benefits from a partnership with the Mayor's Office, the Metro Nashville Public School District, and the Nashville Chamber of Commerce under the boundary-obfuscating umbrella, "One Nashville." Questions have been raised here about SFC's role in local politics, and SFC has defended itself against those questions.

I'm not sure that the local office can as easily deflect news that their national CEO admitted to an audience a few days ago that SFC spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a handful of Illinois state races and backed down labor unions (the latter statement he has apologized for). The video that includes Stand for Children CEO Jonathan Edelman selling a Colorado audience on how his organization was boss in Illinois:

So, the logical questions at this point for Nashvillians include: will Stand for Children Tennessee and the Nashville branch itself be using "the best insider and minority lobbyists" to "jam their proposals down our throats"? Will SFC use the networks of students and parents it has been organizing under the pretense of fully funding schools and improving public education to check teacher unions and push agendas that benefit the Nashville Chamber of Commerce or Karl Dean?
Nashville's "single portal" for public schools promotes SFC
Will Stand for Children attempt to "go to war" here rather than work collaboratively on education legislation that promotes the common good? Will they be threatening to go out and find candidates to bankroll who support their legislative steamrolls?

Asking these questions is not accusing the Nashville chapter of guilt by association. Edelman is the CEO of Stand for Children. He is the guy who prompts their mission, develops their strategy and gives them their marching orders. Stand for Children endorsed Karl Dean, who is running practically unopposed, and in so doing they endorsed his commitments to building a school system in service to big business and his commitments to privatizing public education. Would they go as far as Edelman did to realize the Dean vision for public schools?

As a public school PTO member, I intend to keep an eye on how Stand for Children reps engage our organization. I intend to pay attention to what they prompt us to do and to whether they listen to feedback. I have concerns that their partnership with the Mayor's Office and the Chamber may dictate and filter community feedback they are open to. I also have concerns that they may pay to play school board and council members. I do not trust the notion of education policy developed through a single portal constructed by the Courthouse elite. And I intend to protest loud and long at the slightest whiff of what SFC's CEO pulled in Illinois.

In Memphis, SFC is holding a workshop "to help people (ages 13-18) become leaders in their schools." The devil is in the details of what their brand of leadership entails. Let's hope that it is not an Edelman model of leadership. In Nashville, SFC lobbies us to vote them up in rankings for a quarter of a million dollars under the auspices of "children having their very own community organizer for better schools":

Getting more money may or may not provide our kids their own community organizer. But it will definitely give SFC even more influence than they have as a partner in One Nashville and as a strong player on the political scene.

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