Change.org, a petition based social advocacy site, promotes organizations focused on corporate education at the expense of progressive values. The company recently ran a petition by Stand for Children – Illinois, an innocuous and misleading name, demanding the Chicago Board of Education and teacher’s union go back to the bargaining table. Harmless enough but the text of the petition reveals the organization’s for-profit and anti-teacher agenda, forcing a Chicago teacher to create a petition against Change.org on Moveon’s Signon petition site.
The letter sent to the board of education and the Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis reads:
400,000 Chicago students could be locked out of Chicago classrooms because contract negotiations are starting to break down, causing a premature strike-authorization vote to occur before anyone knows what is in the contract proposal. We strongly call for all parties to bargain in good faith to reach a new agreement. Don’t hold our students hostage in a negotiation where they have no voice!
These words are the same talking points used by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, calling the vote premature and saying the students are being held hostage. Advocates of so-called “education reform” like to claim neither side looks out for the students’ interests. Meanwhile, CTU’s demands include lowering the student to teacher ratio, programs to educate the whole child, and improving the conditions of schools.
Change.org’s promotion of Stand for Children-Illinois runs counter to the company’s state mission.
We accept sponsored campaigns from organizations fighting for the public good and the common values we hold dear – fairness, equality, and justice. We do not accept sponsored campaigns from organizations that consistently violate these values, support discriminatory policies, or seek private corporate benefit that undermines the common good.
Chicago Public Schools teacher, Jennifer Johnson decided to demand Change.org’s founder and CEO, Ben Rattray, stop promoting anti-labor groups.
I’m a public school teacher who has taught high school History for 9 years in Chicago. I am one of many teachers who are tired of being blamed for everything that is wrong with public schools when our system is underfunded and our efforts under supported. I and other teachers have been trying to honestly negotiate with the school district, but they refuse to negotiate over the actual conditions in our schools. The district refuses to negotiate with teachers to fully provide and staff schools so that students receive basic art and music instruction or a reasonable number school nurses and counselors, playground and libraries. Forty percent of our schools do not have full time art and music programs. Ninety-eight of our schools don’t have playgrounds and 160 schools don’t have libraries at all.
The state of public schools in Chicago is not a result of teachers getting rich. Who goes into teaching expecting to retire a millionaire? The lack of music and art programs comes from state and city budget cuts. The City of Chicago has diverted hundreds of millions of dollars from property taxes into a corporate slush fund for the Mayor. Tax Incremental Financing districts (TIFs) were supposed to help blighted areas but now serve to give millions to profitable companies. But it is the teachers union who is somehow at fault?
Sponsored campaigns (read paid campaigns) provide a great way for organizations to grow and spread their message. Sadly, Stand for Children does not uphold to common values stated by Change.org. Fairness, equality, and justice do not exist in the organization run by Jonah Edelman, who gave a very blunt speech last year.
So our analysis was he’s still going to be in power, and as such the raw politics were that we should tilt toward him, and so we interviewed 36 candidates in targeted races. … I’m being quite blunt here. The individual candidates were essentially a vehicle to execute a political objective, which was to tilt toward Madigan. The press never picked up on it. We endorsed nine individuals – and six of them were Democrats, three Republicans – and tilted our money toward Madigan, who was expecting because of Bruce Rauner’s leadership … that all our money was going to go to Republicans. That was really an show of – indication to him that we could be a new partner to take the place of the Illinois Federation of Teachers. That was the point. Luckily, it never got covered that way. That wouldn’t have worked well in Illinois – Madigan is not particularly well liked. And it did work.
After the election we went back to Madigan, and I confirmed – reviewed the proposal that we had already discussed and I confirmed the support. He said he was supportive. The next day he created an Education Reform Commission and his political director called to ask for our suggestions who should be on it. And so in Aurora, Ill., in December, out of nowhere, there were hearings on our proposal. In addition, we hired 11 lobbyists, including four of the absolute best insiders, and seven of the best minority lobbyists – preventing the unions from hiring them. We enlisted a state public affairs firm. We had tens of thousands of supporters. … We raised $3 million for our political action committee. That’s more money than either of the unions have in their political action committees.
Edelman readily admits to buying off legislators in order to get a venture capitalist’s (Bruce Rauner) ideas enacted in Illinois. Edelman continues:
So in the intervening time, Rahm Emanuel was elected mayor … and he strongly supports our proposal. Jim [apparently Crown] … talked about the talking point that we made up and he [Emanuel] repeated about a thousand times, probably, on the campaign trail about the Houston kids going to school four years more than the Chicago kids.
Dividing schools and taking away the rights of teachers only disenfranchises students. It takes away the person they interact with the most outside of their own parents! The steady increase in charter schools (who can pick their students) has further depleted resources in deteriorating public school buildings. Politicians want to listen to campaign contributors and lobbyists, instead of investing and trying to improve upon what is already in existence.
Change.org says they do not take any official position and only asks that the organizations are ethical in their practices and policies. Edelman’s blunt admissions show that Stand for Children is anything but ethical.
Stand and other organizations want to promote an education agenda that follows the same ideals of Michelle Rhee and her tenure in D.C. Her success though, falls short of her claims. The achievement gaps she left in D.C. point to failures of her leadership and ideology, not successful reforms.
For Change.org to promote and accept money from organizations like Stand for Children and StudentsFirst flies in the face of it’s own mission statement. The mere presence of these petitions deceives progressives and should be taken down. Sign the petition to stop these kinds of petitions! Yes, a little meta but it does make a difference.
*Full disclosure – I write as a freelancer for Care2.com’s Causes & News site. I have petitioned for the company to drop StudentsFirst and engaged internally my frustrations with their promotion of Rhee’s organization as well.
© Aaron Krager 2008-2014 | Have any questions? Send me an email.