Families for Excellent Trains

The campaign to lift the charter school cap in Massachusetts goes off the tracks…

Around the 20 minute mark of Arne Duncan’s talk, I began to choke. I’d made it through Duncan’s endorsement of Question Two, the ballot initiative to lift the cap on charter schools in Massachusetts, and the occasion for last week’s *Education Party* thrown by Democrats for Education Reform. It was when duncanDuncan started to talk about the need for school reformers to genuinely engage parents and families—*I’m not talking about astro-turf*—that the dryly bitter chuckling sound I’d been making escalated into something more profound. You see, that very morning, the Boston Globe had run an expose on the *family* at the very center of Question 2: a husband/wife team of GOP operatives who have orchestrated seemingly every aspect of the campaign.

There are other families involved, of course. Like Republican philanthropists Seth Klarman and Joanna Jacobson, whose largesse got the multi-pronged effort to lift the charter cap rolling, and who are referred to in the trove of internal emails the Globe made public as Klarman and JJ. And there is Families for Excellent Schools, whose CEO, Jeremiah Kittredge, is CC’d on all of the emails, along with a small army of lobbyists, PR hacks and the heads of a handful of Boston charter schools. An exemplar of the new *parent power,* FES was transplanted here from NYC, thanks to the aforementioned largesse of the aforementioned families, to marshall an army of parents behind the effort to lift the charter cap. The group quickly became known for such innovative marshalling techniques as automatically enrolling parents whose kids attended Boston charter schools in the parent army. Continue reading →

The Shill-y Season

Where does Democrats for Education Reform’s single-issue extremism lead? 

At a time when Democrats and their party are, by virtually every index, moving left, a powerful center-right pressure group within the liberal universe has nonetheless sprung up. Funded by billionaires and arrayed against unions, it is increasingly contesting for power in city halls and statehouses where Democrats already govern…

Entering-Somerville.jpg (500×332)Quick reader: why does this pithy description of the charter school lobby, quoted from a recent op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, sound, um, so accurate? If you answered *because this is exactly what’s playing out in Massachusetts,* you would be correct. To see for ourselves, we need travel no further than Somerville, MA, which is the site of a somewhat, ahem, unusual political showdown. In one corner is Senator Pat Jehlen, a longtime progressive leader in the state Senate and public education champion. Her opponent, Leland Cheung, is a former Republican legislative candidate from Virginia turned Harvard student turned Cambridge City Councilor turned Democrat for Education Reform. Thirsty already, reader?  Continue reading →

Damn It Feels Good 2 Be A Reformer

My day (and night) of living large

reform robeReader: since the moment I first learned of the deluxe camp for education reformers in the Adirondacks being hosted by my friends at Democrats for Education Reform, I longed to join in the fun. But there was a problem. As a member of the press (technically) and a low net worth individual (most definitely), the exclusive doors of Camp Philos were shut tight against the likes of me. Then, genius struck, as it so often does around the cocktail hour. If I couldn’t actually attend Camp Philos, could I not try on DFER’s *reform robe* for a day (and a night)? Why yes I could!  Continue reading →

Piketty in the Pines

Going camping with the 1%one percent_flame4 (1)

Reader: even upon today’s comically overpopulated education reform landscape, the men of Democrats for Education Reform or DFER (say it with me: DEE furr) stand alone. That’s because, with their unapologetic ties to all things hedge fundy, DFER man’s net worth towers above even his well-off reform-minded peers. Also, that master of the universe quality, so handy for picking winners and dumping losers, isn’t always so pleasant when viewed from close up. In other words, DFER man is a type a-hole. Let’s get to know him, shall we? Continue reading →

Biz School Boyz 4 Reform

In their first official foray into Massachusetts politics, DFER spent big but came up short.

Say you’re a young man who is all about *crushing* the achievement gap and you just happen to have a cool $20K of daddy’s money to plunk down in order to influence an important local election. But who do you support? Do you go with the first-generation Haitian-American who would be the first minority OR woman to represent a part of Boston still scarred from the busing wars of the 1970’s? Or do you go big and bold, backing the white guy with the Irish name from a powerful South Boston family of the sort that has dominated this part of Massachusetts for decades? Continue reading →