Mergers and acquisitions

NYC-based education reform group folds into Stand For Children

John Legend Talks About Stand for Children from Stand for Children on Vimeo.

With both of its founders off the education stage, the Education Equality Project gracefully closed its doors this week when its remaining board members joined Stand for Children, a national school reform advocacy group.

Board members announced the news in a press release today, although insiders said the partnership was considered a done deal for several months. EEP has been without a staff since December and has been looking for suitors to meet its lofty national ambitions ever since.

By tapping into EEP, Stand For Children will gain three board members — including Grammy Award-winning R&B singer John Legend — and access to a powerful and diverse Rolodex of influential people who could help it establish beachheads in more states.

Unlike some reform groups that frequently challenge teachers unions, Stand For Children, founded in 1996 in Oregon, has prided itself on generating local support and collaborating with unions as it promotes legislative change. That reputation was challenged this summer after the group was revealed to have lobbied aggressively against Illinois teacher unions to get a reform bill passed.

Jonah Edelman, Stand For Children’s founder and CEO, said today that the new partnership with EEP would help the groups extend their influence in more states, particularly southern states where the influence of reform groups has been less strong.

“Together, we’re positioned to shape the national debate on public education while building powerful statewide organizations across the country that will make a profound impact for students, from the state capitol to the classroom,” Edelman said in a statement.

EEP had national ambitions when former New York City Chancellor Joel Klein and the Rev. Al Sharpton forged a partnership in 2008 to close the racial gap in student achievement. The group immediately assembled a powerful advisory board and quickly collected hundreds of signatures of support from education officials and advocates from around the country.

But the field of states-based national organizations — such as Democrats for Education Reform, Stand for Children, and 50 Can —was growing crowded, and EEP failed to gain traction. Last year, the Klein-Sharpton partnership dissolved when Sharpton left the board. After that, the coalition’s spirit as a bridge-builder also dissipated.

Two EEP board members who run their own national advocacy groups — StudentsFirst’s Michelle Rhee and DFER’s Joe Williams — did not join Stand For Children’s board. Nor did Klein, who now runs an education division at Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. A person who works in the education advocacy field said he thought Klein “wanted to throw his eggs in a new basket.”

In an interview, Edelman said that too often education advocacy organizations “work in silos.”

“This is the opposite,” Edelman said. “These are two organizations with a similar mission deciding to come together and work together.”

Rise & Shine

While you were waking up, the U.S. Senate took a big step toward confirming Betsy DeVos as education secretary

Betsy DeVos’s confirmation as education secretary is all but assured after an unusual and contentious early-morning vote by the U.S. Senate.

The Senate convened at 6:30 a.m. Friday to “invoke cloture” on DeVos’s embattled nomination, a move meant to end a debate that has grown unusually pitched both within the lawmaking body and in the wider public.

They voted 52-48 to advance her nomination, teeing up a final confirmation vote by the end of the day Monday.

Two Republican senators who said earlier this week that they would not vote to confirm DeVos joined their colleagues in voting to allow a final vote on Monday. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska cited DeVos’s lack of experience in public education and the knowledge gaps she displayed during her confirmation hearing last month when announcing their decisions and each said feedback from constituents had informed their decisions.

Americans across the country have been flooding their senators with phone calls, faxes, and in-person visits to share opposition to DeVos, a Michigan philanthropist who has been a leading advocate for school vouchers but who has never worked in public education.

They are likely to keep up the pressure over the weekend and through the final vote, which could be decided by a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence.

Two senators commented on the debate after the vote. Republican Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who has been a leading cheerleader for DeVos, said he “couldn’t understand” criticism of programs that let families choose their schools.

But Democrat Patty Murray of Washington repeated the many critiques of DeVos that she has heard from constituents. She also said she was “extremely disappointed” in the confirmation process, including the early-morning debate-ending vote.

“Right from the start it was very clear that Republicans intended to jam this nomination through … Corners were cut, precedents were ignored, debate was cut off, and reasonable requests and questions were blocked,” she said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Week In Review

Week In Review: A new board takes on ‘awesome responsibility’ as Detroit school lawsuits advance

PHOTO: Erin Einhorn
The new Detroit school board took the oath and took on the 'awesome responsibility' of Detroit's children

It’s been a busy week for local education news with a settlement in one Detroit schools lawsuit, a combative new filing in another, a push by a lawmaker to overhaul school closings, a new ranking of state high schools, and the swearing in of the first empowered school board in Detroit has 2009.

“And with that, you are imbued with the awesome responsibility of the children of the city of Detroit.”

—    Judge Cynthia Diane Stephens, after administering the oath to the seven new members of the new Detroit school board

Read on for details on these stories plus the latest on the sparring over Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos. Here’s the headlines:


The board

The first meeting of the new Detroit school board had a celebratory air to it, with little of the raucous heckling that was common during school meetings in the emergency manager era. The board, which put in “significant time and effort” preparing to take office, is focused on building trust with Detroiters. But the meeting was not without controversy.

One of the board’s first acts was to settle a lawsuit that was filed by teachers last year over the conditions of school buildings. The settlement calls for the creation of a five-person board that will oversee school repairs.

The lawyers behind another Detroit schools lawsuit, meanwhile, filed a motion in federal court blasting Gov. Rick Snyder for evading responsibility for the condition of Detroit schools. That suit alleges that deplorable conditions in Detroit schools have compromised childrens’ constitutional right to literacy — a notion Snyder has rejected.


In Lansing

On DeVos

In other news