The game is over for Illinois Democrats for Education Reform.

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In December of 2014 Greg Hinz reported in Crain’s:

A group that hopes to counterbalance the financial weight of the Chicago Teachers Union in upcoming aldermanic races has received its first big campaign donation.

Democrats for Education Reform-Illinois on Dec. 4 reported receipt of a $100,000 check from a unit of its New York-based parent.The donation ends a dry spell for the group, which last spring had talked about pulling in up to $1 million to put donate to candidates for aldermen who agree with the group’s pro-reform, pro-charter school views.

Still, $100,000 buys something in Chicago, and if the group reaches the “mid-to-high six figures” that spokesman Owen Kilmer expects, it will have an impact.

Look for the group to make its first endorsements—and donations—in about a week.

“One of our goals is to make sure the CTU does not have a monopoly on the schools debate,” Kilmer says. “We already have a couple of races we’re looking at,” including contests in the 16th, 37th and 45th Wards, he notes.

Meanwhile, CTU has begun to make its endorsements, so it looks like the fight is on.

But on March 6th, DFER reported to the Illinois Board of elections that they are shutting down their PAC.

As for their focus in the last election on defeating Tony Foulkes in the 16th and John Arena in the 45th Ward? It didn’t work.

As Ben Joravsky wrote back then:

The bottom line is that Arena is way low on the list of people to blame for the travesty with the mental health clinics. If DFER really wanted to champion the cause of poor mental health patients, it would send out a flyer ripping the mayor. After all, it was his idea to close those clinics.

In fact, I put this idea to Owen Kilmer, DFER’s spokesman. I believe his response was along the lines of “Kiss my  . . . ”

Let’s just say my interview with Kilmer, an old pal, quickly descended into a shouting match. Don’t you just hate when that happens?

He said DFER has dropped its campaign against Foulkes since Thompson’s death. But Arena remains in its sights.

“Our focus is to unseat Arena, who has to be one of the most anti-education reform alderman in the City Council,” Kilmer said. “We’ll use every issue at our disposal.”

I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree on this point. I don’t think DFER is going after Arena because he’s any “worse” than any other progressive alderman on charter schools or teacher accountability or whatever rocks your boat. Most progressive aldermen see eye to eye on these things.

I say DFER is targeting Arena because it thinks he can be ousted—just as it thought Foulkes was vulnerable when Thompson was still alive.

By beating Arena the organization would send a message to other aldermen who might dare to oppose the mayor on issues such as charter schools.

Arena won.

And it looks like the ones who got a message is the now departed DFER.


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