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Taking Off the Gloves

Susan Notes:

First I posted this in Outrage of the Day, but then I moved it here--because I consider this Action Research, the kind of research academics should undertake before we are totally buried.

Here are a few reasons why what Chester Finn reveals (below) about the tax status of Michelle Rhee's new organization is so important. Important and dangerous.

1) The identity of donors can remain secret;

2) Students First is a PAC, meaning its purpose is to get the politicos she likes elected [could this be Bloomberg's first move toward the Presidency?]

3) The press won't mention any of this, but will continue to portray Michelle Rhee as the Queen of Reform.


As I showed in my article Race to the Top and the Bill Gates Connection Extra!, Sept. 2010 (published by FAIR: Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting) education reporters love PACS. Space constraints prevented the publication of sidebars, which were picked up by Substance. These sidebars reveal that in some 700 articles on Race to the Top and the Common Core Standards published between between mid-May 2009 and mid-July 2010, 154 education experts (eliminating politicos and union hacks) were cited. Twenty-three of these "experts" were cited five or more times. For example, Chester Finn, Mike Petrilli and Andy Smarick at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute were cited 49 times. Education Week wants you to know that Smarick is a "prolific writer on Race to the Top." Might there be more telling information here? When citing Finn (president of the Fordham Institute), Sam Dillon and Tamar Lewin at the New York Times identify him simply as "president of an education research group in Washington." In another article, Dillon identifies him as "former assistant secretary of education who has long called for national standards," and in another, a "writer of an influential education blog."

Sometimes, Education Week quoted Fordham Institute people in three articles in the same issue.

But it gets worse. Take a look at these two sidebars and think about the spin put on how these individuals are identified; think about how it affects the reader's ability to understand what they say about Race to the Top and the Common Core Standards.

Michelle Rhee has already been crowned queen of education reform by Oprah, Time, and Newsweek. Prediction: Now she will be quote incessantly in the press as the reform guru. Incessantly. With no mention that her goal is put certain politicos in office. Instead, she'll be tagged as the woman who wants to save America's schools.

Sidebar 1 Democrats for Education Reform, a [rotten-to-the-core] Political Action Committee


Charles Barone


  • of Democrats for Education Reform, a New York-based advocacy group (Greg Toppo,
    "Race to the Top education grant propels reforms," USA Today, Nov. 4, 2009)


  • federal-policy director for Democrats for Education Reform, a New York City-based political action committee (Erik W. Robelen, "Education Stakes High in 2010 State Elections," Education Week, Dec. 16, 2009)


  • director of federal policy for Democrats for Education Reform, an advocacy group that has been tracking states' efforts (Amanda Paulson, "Education reform: California to join Race to the Top rush," Christian Science Monitor, Jan. 5, 2009)


  • director of federal policy for Democrats for Education Reform, a political action committee that has been highly critical of teachers' unions (Stephen Sawchuk, "Two State Unions Balking at 'Race to Top' Plans," Education Week, Jan. 6, 2010)


  • director of federal relations for Democrats for Education Reform (Alyson Klein, "District-State Tension an Issue in Race to the Top," Education Week, Jan. 14, 2010)


  • the director of federal legislation for Democrats for Education Reform, a political action committee based in New York City (Alyson Klein, "Education Dodges Obama's 'Freeze' Pledge," Education Week, Feb. 3, 2010)


  • of Democrats for Education Reform, a group that supports Race to the Top (Nick Anderson, "Virginia's effort for Race to the Top funds modest so far," Washington Post, Feb. 8, 2010)


  • helped craft the existing teacher-quality provisions in the NCLB law as an aide to Rep. George Miller, now the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee. Washington-based research and advocacy group (Stephen Sawchuk, "Obama's Teacher Plans Stress Competitive Grants," Education Week, February 24, 2010)


  • director of federal legislation for the New York City-based political action committee Democrats for Education Reform (Michele McNeil and Lesli A. Maxwell, "Local Buy-In Helps Two States Win Race to Top," Education Week, March 29, 2010)


  • director of federal legislation for the New York City-based political action committee Democrats for Education Reform (Lesli A. Maxwell and Michele McNeil, "$3.4 Billion Is Left in Race to Top Aid," Education Week, April 7, 2010)


  • director of federal legislation for Democrats for Education Reform, a New York City-based political action committee that finances Democratic candidates who support charter school expansion, among other policies. (Alyson Klein, "Push to Renew ESEA Faces Steep Policy, Political Hurdles," Education Week, May 19, 2010)


  • director of federal policy for Democrats for Education Reform, a New York City-based political action committee that's been tracking and critiquing the Race to the Top competition (Michele McNeil, "Race to Top Round Two Heating Up," Education Week, April 28, 2010)


  • director of federal policy for Democrats for Education Reform (Amanda Paulson, "How Race to the Top is recasting education reform in America; States are submitting their applications for Round 2 of the Obama administration's $4.3 billion Race to the Top Program," Christian Science Monitor, June 1, 2010)


  • director of federal policy for Democrats for Education Reform, a Washington-based nonprofit group (Moira Herbst, "Obama's 'Race to the Top' Education Fund Draws Fewer States," Bloomberg BusinessWeek, June 2, 2010)


  • of Democrats for Education Reform, a group that supports Race to the Top (Nick Anderson, "Md., D.C. continue their Race to the Top," Washington Post, June 2, 2010)


  • director of federal legislation for Democrats for Education Reform, a New York City-based political action committee that supports candidates who favor policies such as expanding charter schools (Alyson Klein, "Education Initiatives Hit Political Head Winds," Education Week, June 16, 2010)


  • director of federal legislation for Democrats for Education Reform, a New York City-based political action committee often at odds with teachers' unions (Michele McNeil,"Race to Top Buy-In Level Examined," Education Week, June 16, 2010)


  • Democrats for Education Reform

    Joe Williams


  • Executive Director, Democrats for Education Reform (Sam Dillon, "Dangling $4.3 Billion, Dangling $4.3 Billion, Obama Pushes States to Shift on Education," New York Times, Aug. 17, 2009)


  • of Democrats for Education Reform, an advocacy group ("Ready, set, go; Reviving America's schools," The Economist, October 3, 2009)


  • executive director of Democrats for Education Reform, a group often critical of the teachers' unions (Sam Dillon, "After Criticism, the Administration Is Praised for Final Rules on Education Grants," New York Times, Nov. 12, 2009)


  • executive director of Democrats for Education Reform, a group often critical of the teachers' unions (Sam Dillon, "After Criticism, the Administration Is Praised for Final Rules on Education Grants," New York Times, Nov. 12, 2009)


  • executive director of Democrats for Education Reform, a New York City-based political action committee (Erik W. Robelen, "Stimulus Is Spurring Legislation," Education Week, Jan. 6, 2010)


  • executive director of the New York-based Democrats for Education Reform (Jessica Fender and Jeremy Meyer, "Colorado scrambles for dollars with new school reform plan," Denver Post, Jan. 19, 2010)


  • executive director Democrats for Education Reform, a New York City-based political action committee (Lesli A. Maxwell, "District Stances on Race to Top Plans Vary," Education Week, Jan. 20, 2010)


  • executive director Democrats for Education Reform (Patrice Wingert,"Next Bunch of Obama Education Reforms to Offer More Carrots," Newsweek, Jan. 27, 2010)


  • executive director Democrats for Education Reform a New York City-based political action committee that supports policy measures such as charter schools and merit pay (Michele McNeil, "Dueling Objectives Mark Stimulus at Halfway Point," Education Week, Feb. 10, 2010)


  • executive director of the political action committee Democrats for Education Reform (Michele McNeil, "Duncan Carves Deep Mark on Policy in First Year," Education Week, Jan. 20, 2010)


  • Democrats for Education Reform, a political action group (Greg Toppo, "Mass firings at R.I. school may signal a trend; Administration takes a hard line on accountability," USA Today, Feb. 25, 2010)


  • executive director of Democrats for Education Reform (Stacy Teicher Khadaroo, "Race to the Top: Which states made the list of finalists?" Christian Science Monitor, March 4, 2010)


  • executive director of Democrats for Education Reform, a group that favors charter schools and stronger teacher evaluation systems (Neil King Jr. and Barbara Martinez, "Education Finalists Picked," Wall Street Journal, March 5, 2010)


  • of Democrats for Education Reform (Editorial, "No State Left Behind?" Wall Street Journal, March 6, 2010)


  • of Democrats for Education Reform (Meredith Kologner, "City Eyes Own 'Race' Bid. Next Round Could See NYC vs NYS for Ed Funds," New York Daily News, April 1, 2010)


  • president of pro-charter group Democrats for Education Reform ("GREAT RACE; Can NY fix schools?" Crain's New York Business, April 5, 2010)


  • Executive director, Education Reform Now (Rachel Monahan with Bill Hammond, Bill to Lift Charter Cap Aims to Win Fed Cash," New York Daily News, May 1, 2010)


  • (Stacy Teicher Khadaroo, "Race to the Top: Which states made the list of finalists?" Christian Science Monitor, May 4, 2010)


  • of Democrats for Education Reform, a New York-based political action committee. (Greg Toppo, "Stimulus funds up the ante for public schools; Educators pressed to make big improvements in two years," USA Today, May 5, 2010)


  • executive director of Democrats for Education Reform, a national political action committee (Stacy Teicher Khadaroo,"Colorado latest battleground for teacher performance," Christian Science Monitor, May 7, 2010)


  • executive director of a political action committee that advances what has become a favorite cause of many of the wealthy founders of New York hedge funds: charter schools; former education reporter for the New York Daily News (Trip Gabriel and Jennifer Medina, "Charter Schools' Unlikely New Cheerleaders: Financiers," New York Times, May 10, 2010)


  • executive director of Democrats for Education Reform, a pro-charter group (David Saltonstall, "Battle Over Airwaves Pits UFT vs. Pro-Charter Forces," New York Daily News, May 18, 2010)


  • Democrats for Education Reform (Steven Brill, "The Teachers' Unions' Last Stand," New York Times Sunday Magazine, May 23, 2010)


  • Sidebar 2
    Experts quoted in the press receiving 5 or more citations and how the press identified them


  • Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform


  • Charles Barone, director of federal policy, Democrats for Education Reform


  • Michael Cohen, president of Achieve Inc.


  • Timothy Daly, president of the New Teacher Project


  • Chester Finn, president of Thomas B. Fordham Institute


  • Eric Hanushek, of Hoover Institution


  • Fred M. Hess, of American Enterprise Institute


  • E. D. Hirsch, founder of Core Knowledge


  • Caroline Hoxby, Stanford University economist


  • Jack Jennings. President of Center on Education Policy


  • Dane Linn, education division director, National Governors Association


  • McKinsey and Company [no identifier]


  • Mike Petrilli, with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute


  • Diane Ravitch, education historian


  • Andrew Rotherham, co-founder Education Sector; co-founder Bellwether Education


  • Jon Schnur, co-founder New Leaders for New Schools


  • Andy Smarick, with Thomas B. Fordham Institute and American Enterprise Institute


  • Kate Walsh, president of National Council on Teacher Quality


  • Joanne Weiss, Race to the Top director


  • Grover "Russ" Whitehurst, director of the Brown Center on Education Policy and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution


  • Gene Wilhoit, executive director of Council of Chief State School Officers


  • Amy Wilkins, vice president of government affairs and communications at Education Trust


  • Joe Williams, executive director, Democrats for Education Reform


  • If you aren't already outraged enough, during this year-long period of articles about Race to the Top and the Common Core Standards, the national press did not see fit to quote Richard Rothstein and David Berliner. Not once. Rothstein's co-authored report from the Economic Policy Institute LET'S DO THE NUMBERS: Department of Education's Race to the Top Program Offers Only a Muddled Path to the Finish Line was not mentioned in the press as they published 700 articles about Race to the top. Truth in Disclosure: Put Rothstein's name into a 'search' on this site and you'll get 138 hits.

    Chester E. Finn, Jr.

    By happenstance, the same day that Michelle Rhee announced formation of her new education-reform advocacy group, Students First, a committee of our own board okayed a staff (and attorney) recommendation that we engage in what the IRS calls a 501 (h)-- election, by which a non-profit charity such as the Fordham Institute can engage in a certain amount of lobbying without jeopardizing its tax-exemption.

    Michelle isn't even pretending that Students First will be a charity or that contributions to it--and she's aiming for a billion dollars--will be tax-deductible. She is incorporating it as a 501(c)4 organization, typically defined as a "civic league," which means that it won't pay taxes but may participate in political campaigns as well as nearly unlimited lobbying, and that it doesn't have to disclose the identity of its donors.

    She's doing it this way because she wants Students First to be a political-action organization that helps get the right people elected or defeated. As she wrote in this week's Newsweek, "We'll support any candidate who's reform-minded, regardless of political party, so reform won't be just a few courageous politicians experimenting in isolated organizations. . . .From the National Rifle Association to the pharmaceutical industry to the tobacco lobby, powerful interests put pressure on our elected officials and government institutions to sway or stop change. Education is no different."

    Organizations like Fordham cannot participate directly in elections, even if we can (now, and within limits) lobby for favorable legislation and other policy changes, but Students First can and will. So can--and do-- Democrats for Education Reform, the American Federation for Children Action Fund (a section 527 "political organization"), All Children Matter and a widening array of political-action-and-advocacy outfits supporting bold school reform.

    This signals a profound shift away from the traditional "research and education" agenda of foundation-supported non-profit groups working on school reform, with their polite op eds, their innumerable studies and reports, and their innumerable conferences and symposia attended primarily by people who already agree with their message.

    It's a shift toward political hardball--cash contributions to campaigns, outright advocacy of this candidate and denunciation of the other one, the shrewd use of paid lobbyists, influence-peddlers, campaign consultants, marketing experts, and public relations firms.

    Part of me wishes this weren't happening in education, as it has and is in just about every other sector of American life. Part of me wishes the old model would endure and in time prevail by virtue of its powerful analyses, moral superiority, and irrefutable arguments. But the times are changing and will continue to. Michelle Rhee learned this the hard way--and is taking off the gloves. We at Fordham are slow learners but we're taking off at least one glove. Others are out there punching--and more soon will be.

    — Chester E. Finn, Jr. with expansion by Susan Ohanian
    Flypaper
    2010-12-09
    http://www.educationgadfly.net/flypaper/2010/12/taking-off-the-gloves/


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