This is one of those stories that shows how far some people will go in America to make a buck—even if it means profiting at the expense of children, or exploiting the legacy of the civil rights movement.
Stand for Children is an unassuming name for an organization. Just taken at face value, one would conclude that the Portland, Oregon-based nonprofit aspires to accomplish what the title suggests. Their website says SFC is “an innovative, grassroots child advocacy organization. Our mission is to use the power of grassroots action to help all children get the excellent public education and strong support they need to thrive. Our members believe we need to stand up for our children now – particularly for their education from pre-school through high school – to create a better future for America.”
Now, that all sounds good, until you dig deeper. The co-founder and CEO of SFC, Jonah Edelman, is the son of Marian Wright Edelman, the well-respected civil rights activist and head of the Children’s Defense Fund. Critics charge that Stand for Children started out on the right side of the issues, devoting itself to progressive issues such as class sizes, affordable children’s healthcare and adequate funding for schools. But then, things changed when they started taking the money, and lots of it— from wealthy interests who arguably care nothing about poor children of color in the inner cities, and care a great deal about a vision of privatization that extracts profit from the public schools.
In an infamous YouTube video that went viral, Edelman discussed his strategy in Illinois at a July 10 Aspen Institute event. That strategy was essentially to mislead the teachers unions, do a number on them, and pay off the state legislators to pass SB7, an extensive school reform bill. The original bill would have stripped teachers of their right to strike, eliminated seniority as a factor in layoffs, and denied teachers their due process rights that come with tenure. What this has to do with the interests of children is anybody’s guess. A weaker version of the bill that passed still undermined labor rights by restricting seniority and the right to strike.
Typically, when Edelman goes into a state, he sets up a PAC, raises a ton of money and hires the best lobbyists money can buy. He benefits from his mother’s Rolodex and the cache her name and reputation brings to the table. SFC spreads money around in the community, in an attempt to soften up the black clergy and community leaders and get them on board as partners. And they bribe public officials to pass union-busting legislation.
In Illinois, SFC raised $3 million late last year and hired 11 lobbyists. They approached Illinois Speaker Michael Madigan—who failed to garner union support that year for passing pension reform— and donated $610,000 to nine state campaigns in both major parties. Read the rest of this entry →