‘ROUNDING THE GLOBE’-10: What does STAND stand for?
There are a host of journalistic sins. When it comes to its coverage of education policy, the Boston Globe has committed all of them: selective sourcing in news, exclusion of dissenting viewpoints on the op ed page, blatant misstatements in editorials. I have tried to document a portion of this entrenched pattern of bias in previous blogs.
Today’s blog concerns an act of journalistic malfeasance that deserves wide exposure, and for which the Globe should be held accountable big time. No, accountability isn’t only for teachers. The sin in this case is hard to forgive. For a newspaper, it’s a felony. Call it: “Incuriosity, in the First Degree.”
In the run-up to the passage of the new Education Reform Act last January, which increased the power of superintendents over staffs in underperforming schools and overturned the charter cap-goals the Globe and its allies devoutly sought as they helped stampede the state into a panicky pursuit of federal RTT dollars¬-the paper cited the support of the grassroots parents’ group Stand for Children (STAND) in its pro-reform law coalition of the willing.
But who or what is Stand For Children. Is it a grassroots group, as it claims? Or is it a corporate astroturf phenomenon, a la the Tea Party? Or is it a new kind of political foliage for which no species name has yet been agreed upon?
The mission statement of this multi-state group appears on its web site:
The organization’s history is also provided:
Until recently, Stand For Children’s main focus involved lobbying for adequate funding of public education, a priority still emphasized on its web site. But in the past year some significant changes have in blowing in the wind.
Members have noted that the group’ priorities appeared to shift in the run-up to the new ed reform bill. The leadership informed the membership that STAND was now advocating for policies like lifting charter caps and for pursuing accountability through testing. Debate, discussion, and dissent were not encouraged. Quite the contrary
In only a few moments of Internet research I found what was easily and equally accessible to any curious Globe reporter: STAND’s advisory board in Massachusetts:
Glenn Parker, chair, private investor
Phil Dretler, President & CEO of Educventures
Phillip Harrell (Internet executive, PJ Herrell Consulting)
Diane Hessan, technology entrepreneur, has served on Boards of
Massachusetts Hi Tech Council and The Progressive Business Leaders Network
Susie Heyman, Newton School Committee
Trish Kennealy, Philanthropist
Ann C Kubik, Obstetrics and Gynecology *
Jonathan Lavine, Bain Capital *
Linda Lynch, Fisher Lynch Capital
Kristin Mugford, Bain Capital
Rubin Munger, Bright Automotive *
Eileen Ridden, Private Investor
Greg Shell, Research analyst at Granthan, May, Van Otterloo & Co LLC (GMO)
* Ex officio
Clearly, the advisory group draws heavily from the business community. In most cases, the “advisors'” education policy expertise is left to the imagination. The only “educator”–and that’s stretching it-is Ms. Heyman who until recently served on the Newton School Committee, a district with no charter funding or testing concerns.
So let’s sum up.
STAND was enthusiastically represented by the Boston Globe as a state-wide grassroots parent group that supported the passage of the recent ed reform bill. Its membership was used by the paper as grassroots example of parents who were sick and tired with the status quo in the state’s schools.
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to readers, STAND had undergone a transformation. From a group largely concerned with equal and adequate funding of the public schools, the leadership changed its focus to advocacy for testing and charters.
It does not appear that the membership was consulted about this change in any systematic or democratic way. Some members report being informed. Moreover, different local chapters were played against in each other in an effort to discourage dissent and silence parents opposed to the current charter funding formula and to excessive testing.
The Boston Globe did not seek out these facts. Appearance was all. The paper was happy use STAND in its legislative campaign, and, judging from the boasts on their web site, the STAND leadership was thrilled to be used. Why muck up the love fest with investigative reporting? Some STAND members remain confused to this day about their own organization. They haven’t quite caught up with the change, which is perhaps the leadership’s intention. Now these members simply want to know what STAND stands for.
So what is STAND? Astroturf? No, not quite. Grassroots? Well, sort of. After all, there are sixteen local chapters. Perhaps STAND could most accurately be identified as a new hybrid variety or, better yet, as a Crabgrass Movement. The grass is there, no question. It looks like a lawn, it feels like a lawn, but, jeez, it’s kind of been taken over.
For the story-behind-the story about STAND fundraising, see Tracy Novick’s excellent piece, which was posted this morning on BlueMassGroup (March 30, 2010).