Stand for Children’s stands

or, Follow the money.

Today’s publication of Massachusetts not getting Round 1 Race to the Top money, and the push that is sure to follow from Stand for Children, moves me to make sure we know who is influencing us. Cross-posted on who-cester.blogspot.com.

A few days ago, a commenter asked why Stand for Children came out in support of taking the federal turnaround funds that would require Worcester to implement one of the four federal turnaround models. My response was they want the federal money. It’s a bit more complicated than that.

Stand for Children has two arms: the Leadership Center is a registered non-profit 501(c)3, and the advocacy arm (which goes by just “Stand for Children”) is 501(c)4, which means that they [unlike 501(c)3's] may lobby for and against legislation. However, that arm is not a charity, and so donations to that arm are not tax-deductible(they also don’t have to be made public).

Foundation Center has online the 990–federal tax forms–of many non-profits. Stand for Children’s forms (they file two 990′s each year, one for each arm) tell the money story.

The 501 (c) 4 advocacy arm brought in $564,095 in membership dues (if you’re a local member, you sent in a check) and spent $498,465, largely, interestingly, on fundraising, office work, supplies, and travel. (That’s all on page 1 of the form; you can see the breakdown by state for Washington, Oregon, and Massachusetts on page 2. The breakdown of “other expenses is on page 10) In other words, about as much was spent on bringing in the money as money that came in.

The members are not funding the organization.



So what money is the organization running on, if it isn’t donations from members?

The Stand for Children 2008 annual report lists the major donors to the charitable arm (p.10).The list of donors of a quarter of a million dollars or above reads as follows:

Joshua and Anita Bekenstein

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

New Profit, Inc.

Moving over to the 2008 990 form, you’ll see (page 1) that the charitable arm brought in about $3.6 million that year, and spent nearly all of it.

So even if we assume that each of the above donors gave only $250,000, it’s clear that just those three donors gave nearly a quarter of the funding for Stand’s work in 2008.

So who are these donors?

The Bekensteins, who a quick Google search will turn up on plenty of donation lists, are best known otherwise for Mr. Bekenstein’s position in Bain Capital, founded, among others, by Mitt Romney. If you look farther down the donor list for Stand, you’ll see Bain’s charitable arm on there, too.

Bain Capital got a great deal of press during Romney’s presidential run for their history of buyouts that led to layoffs.  They also took a number of previously public companies private.

Bain also has an educational and governmental consulting business, where, as they say, “Recently, the use of stimulus funds and regulatory reform has further  blurred the lines between public and private entities.”(This gets us into the Bridgespan group, which is more than fodder for another post, as they’re connected not only to Bain, but also to the Broad Foundation and elsewhere.) Yes, they stand to make money on everything from Race to the Top to School Turnaround Grants.

New Profit refers to itself as a “social entrepreneurship” organization and speak of “advancing a national social innovation agenda.”

I think we all know who Bill Gates is, but what you may not know is that the Gates Foundation was the funder of grants for states in writing their Race to the Top applications, largely because the policies of Race to the Top, from expansion of charters to tying of perceived teacher proficiency to student test scores, lined up with the Gates Foundation vision of education.

Steve Ballmer, next on the list, is the CEO of Microsoft (who, interestingly enough, has been donating in Portland’s school board race, too).

The Denherts founded Hanna Andersson.

Michael Krupka is with Bain Capital, as is Jonathan Lavine. Lavine serves on Stand for Children’s Leadership Center Board of Directors. (A number of people associated with Bain have previously served on Stand for Children’s Board.)

Reuben Munger manages Bright Automotive, but has a history in investment.

Farther down, Paul G. Allen is a co-founder of Microsoft.

There’s a great deal of money here coming from two places: Microsoft and Bain Capital.

All of it can be declared as a charitable donation by the giver.

And added together, it’s a large piece of the operations budget of Stand for Children

It’s corporate money.

It’s a corporate vision.

Education, however, is a civic endeavor. Corporate influence in education, whether it’s an insistence that education be measurable on charts that go eternally up, or that those whose numbers don’t go up be fired,clouds what ought to be a common endeavor.

The places where Stand for Children in the past has stood for what is clearly in the interest of Worcester’s schoolchildren–the push to raise investment in education, the work against Question 1–undoubtedly are grassroots endeavors. Local people worked on issues that clearly mattered greatly in the education of our local children, and they were representing their own, and local children’s interests, in doing so.

The places where Stand’s public advocacy has been confusing locally–raising the charter cap, pushing federal policy–it’s worth looking at where the money and the influence come from.

It isn’t Worcester (or Gloucester, or…)

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16 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

    Eugenics advocate Bill Gates.  Hey, I HATE the concept of killing people off just because elite people like Bill don't think they can control all of us peasant riff raff.

    Not enough they made inferior software and have imbedded the Satanic concept of people ownership common in the entire IT world.  Well that makes everything Gates does evil, truely evil.

  2. I only got this later

    but Denver may bear some warning, as well.

    • Response to article by Tracy Novick

      Stand for Children is an independent, grassroots child advocacy organization.  Our mission is to use the grassroots action to help all children get the excellent public education and strong support they need to thrive.  Stand is a 501c4 organization, and in order to remain independent, we do not accept any government funding.  Our direction is not determined by any one individual or group, but rather by a diverse group of staff and members.  Our decisions represent what we believe is in the best interest of children and are made based on alignment of research, best practices, and member input.

      Stand also has a 501c3 arm, Stand for Children Leadership Center, whose mission is to develop leaders who use the power of grassroots action to help all children get the excellent public education and strong support they need. Gifts to Stand for Children Leadership Center are tax-deductible.  Through the Stand for Children Leadership Center, leaders are trained to do three critical things: -Recruit people with similar values -Identify effective, achievable solutions to problems facing their communities children -Educate decision makers and voters to achieve those solutions

      Stand's finances are transparent and available to the public.  If you would like to learn moreabout our funding sources, please read our 2008 annual report http://www.stand.org/Document.Doc?id=1884.  To learn more about Stand for Children and our work, please visit www.stand.org.  

      • How are you different then, say, AHIP?

        Stand for Children is "grassroots".  So is AHIP's pet "American Health Solution".

        Stand for Children doesn't take government money.  Neither does America's Health Insurance Plan.

        Its direction is determined by members.  So is that of Stand for Children.

        Both groups name funding sources.  It's a legal requirement, and nothing to brag about.

        I don't really have an opinion for or against this group, but a generic and contentless "response" like this that at best makes SforC as morally pure as America's Health Insurance Plans doesn't make me rush to embrace you.

        sabutai   @   Tue 4 Dec 7:00 PM
  3. Nice job, Tracey

    You are a breath of fresh air on the Worcester School Committee!

    Keep up the great work!

  4. Stabbing with wooden knives

    To those of you who do not know anything about writing grant proposals, I'd like to add my two cents.

    Foundations do not look for nonprofits to sponsor; rather, nonprofits look for foundations.  This search is arduous and frequently goes nowhere.  A decent organization such as Stand for Children finds funding by embracing its own mission and seeking foundations that are willing to fund that mission.

    Guilt by association, which seems to be the intention of the original post, is a tactic I've seen far too often to deride the work of hard-working, intelligent people who want to improve failing systems.  

    The Gates Foundation (the world's largest private funder of international children's health initiatives), funds organizations that want to lay the groundwork for a healthier education system in the US.  Contrary to the poster's suggestion, there is no nefariousness to the time-limited support Stand for Children receives from the Gates Foundation.

    One last thing: I know quite a few people in Medford who work for Stand for Children.  They are, to me, among the most conscientious advocates for education excellence in this city.  Enough with the wooden swords already.

    • Medford, and, I think, Worcester

      ..has had many conscientious advocates involved. They also are among those who have been concerned about the direction Stand is going, when the work at the state is conflicting with the advocacy they are doing on the ground.

    • One last thing...Jim is misinformed

      The Stand chapter in Medford has serious issues with the statewide Stand program

    • maybe I can help clarify the concerns here....

      What if there are hard-working and well-meaning Stand members in Medford and elsewhere who see that charter schools, given the way they are funded in Massachusetts, are draining funds from the traditional Medford Public Schools? What if they have read research that show charter schools, on average, perform no better than traditional public schools and sometimes perform worse? What if they see that charter schools, on average, tend not to educate the most challenging and expensive to educate students, leaving them for the traditional publics to try to serve with diminishing funds?

      What if they are disturbed to see Stand, which they joined in hopes of working with others to bolster public schools in Medford and statewide, endorse the growth of the charter school movement, when they feel that the charter movement is undermining the public schools, which serve 97% of our students? What if they feel that their voices and views on this issue are not valued as much as those of major funders like Gates and others who are affiliated with charter management organizations and other entities  that are pushing for more charter schools?

      It's not about conspiracy theories or charges of evil intent on the part of Gates or others, it's a question of how ordinary citizens can have a say in our civic discourse about public education. How do ordinary citizens have a real say when foundations and others with tremendous financial power and influence are on the other side of a contentious and important issue the likes of charter schools and their impact on our public schools and our democracy.

      I think Diane Ravitch expresses it well here, in a Democracy Now! interview about a section of her new book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System. The section is called "The Billionaires Boys Club":

      "The Billionaires Boys Club" is a discussion of how we're in a new era of the foundations and their relation to education. We have never in the history of the United States had foundations with the wealth of the Gates Foundation and some of the other billionaire foundations-the Walton Family Foundation, The Broad Foundation. And these three foundations-Gates, Broad and Walton-are committed now to charter schools and to evaluating teachers by test scores. And that's now the policy of the US Department of Education. We have never seen anything like this, where foundations had the ambition to direct national educational policy, and in fact are succeeding.

      The Obama administration appointed somebody from the NewSchools Venture Fund to run this so-called "Race to the Top." The NewSchools Venture Fund exists to promote charter schools. So, what we're seeing with the proliferation-with this demand from the federal government, if you want to be part of this $4 billion fund, you better be prepared to create lots more charter schools. Well, it's all predetermined by who the personnel is. And, you know, so we see this immense influence of the foundations. And I think that with the proliferation of charter schools, the bottom-line issue is the survival of public education, because we're going to see many, many more privatized schools and no transparency as to who's running them, where the money is going, and everything being determined by test scores.

  5. a year ago

    Like many others, I had supported Stand's advocacy work at the State House to promote public education funding.  My red flag regarding Stand occurred almost exactly a year ago when I received an email regarding a vote that was to come up at Lexington Town Meeting. The vote in question was an amendment (non-binding resolution) to the budget to urge the legislature to give towns the ability to modify health care benefits (e.g., join the GIC) without having to go through coalition bargaining.

    The email was advocating in support of the resolution even though, as it noted, "Stand members in Lexington have not taken a vote on local advocacy on this issue." Apparently, the vote to support "Stand's statewide policy agenda" was good enough to move forward with this.

    My problem with the resolution was that it was going to be ineffective (and, as of this day, that's still the case) and would only result in a poke in the eye to the town's employees, especially the teachers. Why piss off these people (and there were plenty of them in the audience that night) even if you support the intention of the resolution?

    And why was Stand even getting involved? The email also stated, "This issue is not about collective bargaining, it's about kids," but that's a weak attempt at proof by assertion. It seemed as if Stand had gotten so myopic about education funding that they weren't looking at the big picture. In this case, the fact that the rights and benefits of the people teaching the kids has a major impact on the quality of the education.

    In the end, the resolution passed, and, as predicted, the only result was an unhappy bunch of town employees.

  6. A different perspective . . .

    I'm a member of Stand for Children and here in Mansfield we are actively working with Stand for Children on many education issues including the very significant local school budget gap that puts many of our phenomenal teachers at risk of losing their jobs.

    As a local chapter we create and drive our own local agenda and make our own decisions while also supporting the state level Stand for Children agenda.  We are a grassroots advocacy group of parents and citizens working to improve education for all students.  Stand for Children has taught us advocacy skills that we need.  These critical advocacy skills have given us the strong voice to take action with our agenda and do something today to protect our schools.

  7. Stand, Corporate money, and Astro-turf

    Several Stand members have posted here, expressing the belief that they are in control of Stand's agenda.  Stand members in my town once shared their belief, but no longer.

    I'm a former Stand member from Gloucester, a city that a few years ago sent nearly 300 people to a Stand rally in Boston--the largest Stand contingent from any city in the Commonwealth.  Today, Stand could hire a Volkswagon Beatle to drive Gloucester members willing to attend a Stand-sponsored event, and still have room to pick up a hitch-hiker.

    The membership crash in our city followed the realization that Stand was intent on a state-wide agenda that was immediately and overwhelmingly harmful to the fiscal health of our schools, viz., Stand was intend on expansion of charter schools.  Gloucester membership was told that we could either get with the program or we could dissolve.  We choose the latter course, both because Stand's program imperiled our neighborhood schools, because the program appeared likely to harm the large majority of students in the public schools throughout the state, and because the agenda was clearly hammered together by staff without significant membership input.

    We have since learned, as noted by Tracy Novick, that Stand's national board is rife with deep-pocket contributors who are committed to a corporate-style education reform agenda, including charters, choice, and merit pay for teachers.  Their contributions to Stand, like any industry's contributions to legislators, has got to raise the suspicion that the organization's agenda is tainted.

    The Nation reported last year the efforts of the so-called Democrats for Education Reform, a corporate-style ed reform group, to purchase grass-roots cred by donating $50K to Al Sharpton's group.  Stand's national board appears to aim at the same kind of goal: strategic contributions to enlist the support of grass-roots organizations to an agenda framed by Wall St. philanthropists.

    Stand's turnaround came in an "emergency" meeting held in August, 2009.  There, staff sprung a proposal on mostly new leadership, suggesting that it was imperative to endorse the Governor's charter proposal before leaving the meeting, in order to "have a seat at the table", and a chance for the Federal grant money. They left the new leaders with the impression that the organization would flounder if they didn't endorse charter schools, and do it immediately without consultation with members in their communities.  Shamefully, leaders consented to this preassure.  

    Stant staff didn't mention, as now seems clear, that in addition to their arguments from expediency, they also were being pushed by their national board, who held purse strings.  Thus the "emergency".  This meeting caused most in Gloucester to doubt the credibility of the organization as a grass-roots enterprise!

    More importantly, it has compromised an organization that engages many fine people, betraying their committments to high quality public education for all children.

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