Jonah Edelman’s Stand for Children bankrolling Chicago turnarounds.

Jonah Edelman: “I came. I saw. I spent three million bucks.”

Following his success in doing a bamboozle on the IEA and the Illinois General Assembly in getting Senate Bill 7 passed, Jonah Edelman’s Oregon-based Stand for Children is using its deep $3 million pockets to back Rahm Emanuel’s plan for turnarounds.

Catalyst reports:

Stand for Children was a staunch supporter of Senate Bill 7, which limited teacher tenure and made it more difficult for teachers to strike. Senate Bill 7 also gave Chicago school leaders the power to unilaterally lengthen the school day, which had previously been a subject in collective bargaining.

After the bill was passed last year, in a speech in front of the Aspen Institute, Executive Director Josh Edelman described how his group outfoxed the CTU in getting the bill passed and bragged that the bill would effectively prevent the teachers from ever striking.

Edelman wound up apologizing for his remarks, but his descriptions left a bad taste for many, including lawmakers who worked on Senate Bill 7.

Local activists have also been skeptical of Stand for Children because of its supporters. Though the Illinois chapter has not raised much money this year, last year it collected more than $3 million from local deep pockets including Sam Zell, formerly of the Tribune Co., and the Pritzker and Crown families.http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/notebook/2011/04/12/stand-children-illinois-raises-3-million (Penny Pritzker was appointed to the Chicago Board of Education by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.)

Jitu Brown, an education organizer from the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization, says his organization and Stand for Children differ on how they see education issues. KOCO was founded in 1960 by community and religious leaders, and Brown notes that it is a grassroots organization that wants to see more investment in neighborhood schools.

Stand for Children, in his view, is trying to push a top-down, corporate agenda that ultimately harms neighborhood schools and teachers.

Julie Woestehoff, executive director of Parents United for Responsible Education, says her group will never work with Stand for Children after Edelman’s speech. She says the group wants to destroy teachers unions as well as the democracy in the school system.

“Stand for Children comes into states with a pre-determined agenda and centrally-written legislative proposals,” she says.

Jonah Edelman. He’s baaaaack! Sort of.

Stand for Children’s Jonah Edelman.

Like Jaws II, just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…

This morning’s NY Times recounts the mess Jonah Edelman of the Oregon-based Stand for Children made of things for the reformers last year.

The mess followed my posting of a video presentation that Edelman made at an Aspen conference. He described how his group was behind the passage of Illinois’ Senate Bill 7 which took away teachers tenure and seniority rights and made the right to strike more difficult for Chicago teachers.

He gave details of how he bamboozled Michael Madigan. Although I have to wonder about who bamboozled who.

And most embarrassing for the IEA, he described how IEA Executive Director Audrey Soglin and then-president of the IEA Ken Swanson were willing partners in the Stand for Children reform efforts.

The video, taken as Mr. Edelman spoke at a sparsely attended panel discussion at the Aspen Ideas Festival, was uploaded to the Internet. Mr. Edelman later apologized for his remarks, and Stand for Children went into damage control.

Once the video went viral, Edelman was forced to send an apology to readers of this blog. Then he sent the apology to other sites. But those who at first welcomed him and his $3 million dollar school reform war chest ran away from him as if he had a communicable disease.

Soglin and Swanson said they had no idea what Edelman was up to and feigned outrage that they had been used. Although they still, to this day, support the results of Senate Bill 7.

Now it seems that Stand for Children is back for another run at things in Illinois.

Stand for Children recently hired Mary Anderson as its Illinois executive director. Ms. Anderson is a former senior adviser to Attorney General Lisa Madigan, which could help politically if Stand for Children hopes to regain the trust of Ms. Madigan’s father, House Speaker Michael Madigan. In recent months, Ms. Anderson’s name has replaced Mr. Edelman’s on announcements from Stand for Children offices here.  Mr. Edelman remains the head of the national organization, but Ms. Anderson has become the face of the group in Illinois.

But the organization’s agenda, and how smoothly it can still navigate Capitol corridors, remains to be seen. The group’s political action committee has $3 million left over from earlier fund-raising efforts.

Jonah won’t be making any video presentations, however.

Corporate union bashers, triangulating Democrats and the IEA leadership sing praises of SB7, do a “Kumbaya.”

Jonah Edeleman wasn’t invited to the DC party.

Senator Lightford is here. Oh, look! There’s Audrey Soglin. And Elliot Regenstein from the Clinton think tank,  The Center for American Progress. The lovely lady from Chicago’s upper crust, Advance Illinois, Robin Steans couldn’t make it. But Robin sends her love.

Jonah was going to be invited. But you know Jonah. He got all full of himself. He even tried claiming the party was HIS idea. Jeez, that guy.

The party is to celebrate Illinois’ Senate Bill 7. And launch it nationwide.

Darling. You remember Senate Bill 7, don’t you? That’s the bill that we got the unions to fall for. No more striking in Chicago. Gahd! I hate strikes. Remember that time when the teachers and the garbage collectors went out at the same time? I had to take care of my own kids all day and take out my own trash at the same time! Do you know what lunch at the Walnut Room costs for all the kids, their friends and me? For chicken pot pie!*

Anyway, it is just a lovely affair.

I was worried. Only a few days ago Audrey was complaining that all that fuss about Jonah might set back future party planning for decades.

I’m soooo glad she’s feeling better.

*An actual comment made to me when we went on strike in 2003.

Why does saying, “I’m sorry,” get you out of being indicted?

It seems that Rupert Murdoch took a page out of the Jonah Edelman playbook. He took out advertisements in various papers the other day and said, “I’m sorry.”

Will that save him. It mght.

It seems to have worked for Stand for Children’s Jonah Edelman, who sent an apology to the readers of this blog last week.

In spite of the fact that IEA union leaders claim Edelman’s video was all a lie, I’m not so sure.

Take this excerpt.

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. (My emphasis)

Was this illegal pay-to-play? It sounds almost Blagovian.

Could have been. It doesn’t appear we will ever know. Except for a one article in the Sun-Times and one in the Trib, the media has been remarkably silent on the Edelman episode. Nobody seems interested in a follow-up.

All you have to do is say, “I’m sorry.”

Ed “reformers” throw Edelman overboard.

Ed Sector, a leading voice for education “reformers” has tossed Stand for Children’s Jonah Edelman overboard.

Talk about kicking a guy when he’s down.

Many self-styled reformers are now mortified by Edelman. Despite his self-renunciation, it is the first version of his comments that activist teachers and their advocates are seizing on as accurate. They seem to confirm their worst fears that all reform policies and legislation focused on improving teacher effectiveness are really just poorly disguised attacks on teachers unions by wealthy philanthropists

Audrey Soglin, the executive director of the Illinois Education Association, was deeply involved in drafting the legislation and she said Edelman’s narrative sets “true collaborative” work on improving education “back light years.” Instead of learning from Illinois, unions in other states will be more likely to dig in their heels. When “we can’t collaborate,” she said, “kids suffer, the profession loses, schools don’t improve and real reform can’t take effect.”

Edelman set collaboration back “light years?” Ouch.

Edelman, the IEA leadership and pensions.

Hang with me this morning. I’m going to wander a bit.

The other morning a friend reminded me that we sometimes get so involved in the technical minutiae of school issues that we lose sight of the bigger picture.

Teacher pensions for example.

So, “What’s the deal with teacher pensions?”

It’s part of the Jonah Edelman story (of course!), and I’ll get to how in just a bit.

Why do public service workers, teachers in this case, get state pensions?

Because as a community we have come to agree that teaching is special work. It takes nothing away from the value of other work. But work for the common good is different. We take on the task of teaching our community’s children. It is hard work. It can be immensely satisfying work. And it serves a higher good.

Historically, as a society we have generally agreed that although teachers do not get compensated as well as those in the private sector,  we did not expect our teachers to work for less now and be left to live in poverty in their retirement years.

Up until now when a teacher began their career, they and the community agreed that while the teacher will not get rich from what they do, they will be provided with a package that includes deferred compensation in the form of a decent pension.

As it happens, the state has not kept its part of the agreement. While teachers pay into their pension plan at nearly 10% of their salary, the State of Illinois has rarely paid its promised share of 6%.

As a result, the pension system is not nearly fully funded.

But it is not in crisis. Even if nothing changes, the system can continue to pay out to retired teachers what is owed to them for many, many years.

Some in the legislature have claimed it is a crisis. But as Naomi Klein, author of  The Shock Doctrine, has taught us, a crisis for some is an opportunity for others.

And so the social (and real) contract between the community and its teachers is under attack.

Corporate money bags, like those in the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, see the underfunding of the pension system as an opportunity to privatize pensions.

Step one in the plan to break the historical social contract with teachers occurred in 2010 when Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan pushed a two tier pension system through the General Assembly. Now any new teacher must work until they are 67 years old and will then receive only 60% of what a presently retired teacher receives from the pension plan.

Step two was attempted in the last session of the General Assembly when Madigan, House Republican leader Tom Cross and Civic Committee President Ty Fahner, crafted a three-tier pension system bill. Overwhelming public opposition forced them to retreat. But they will be back in the Fall veto session to try again.

In the now infamous Aspen presentation by Stand for Children’s Jonah Edelman, he describes how he entered into Illinois politics in 2010.

… when Bruce Rauner [apparently Chicago venture capitalist Bruce V. Rauner] … asked, after seeing that we passed legislation in several states including Colorado, that we look at Illinois, I was skeptical. After interviewing 55 different folks in the landscape – the Speaker of the House, Senate President, minority leadership, education advocates … I was very surprised to see that there was a tremendous political opening that I think Bruce wasn’t even aware of.

The Illinois Federation of Teachers, still inexplicably, went to war with Speaker Madigan [Michael J. Madigan, D-Chicago, Speaker of the Illinois House], who Jim cited as a very, very powerful figure – speaker for 27 years with the exception of of a couple years … over an incremental pension reform. And Jim [James Schine Crown, Chicago financier and member of Aspen Institute Board of Trustees, who is at the speakers’ table with Edelman] and many others are diehard advocates for pension reform in Illinois, and the pension reform that happened in 2010 is not the reform that’s needed in Illinois, but it was a first step, only affecting future employees.

The union could have – well, probably should have – thanked Madigan for not going further. Instead, they decided that the $2 million they had been giving him reliably for election campaigns – they would take that away … that they would refuse to endorse any Democrat who voted for that legislation, even those that had been loyal supporters for years. They went to the AFL-CIO trying to get them to do the same.

What was the role of the IEA in this? Edelman doesn’t say.

But I was present at the IEA Representative Assembly in 2010 when then President Ken Swanson went to the delegates and asked for a change in the legislative platform. Until then the legislative platform of the IEA reflected the social contract and said that there could be no compromise on teacher pensions.

Swanson wanted that language removed so that IEA lobbyists could sit at the table to negotiate a reduction in pension benefits with Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton and the General Assembly.

Over some of our objections, the delegates approved the language change.

Days later, in legislative action that took less than 24 hours, the General Assembly passed the two tier pension bill. Although the IEA lobbyists were not invited to the table, the vote by the IEA Representative Assembly was a clear signal to Madigan and others that the IEA would not cause any problems as a result of the pension vote.

As Edelman says, the IEA has a history of being “pragmatic.”

The Illinois Federation of Teachers was irate. They took the position that they would not contribute to the campaigns of legislators who sold out teachers on the pension plan.

But from the IEA there was nothing.

Would things have been different if there had been united political action between the IFT and the IEA? We will never know because the IEA leaders sat on their hands.

This is what Edelman described as a “tremendous political opening.”

We get to see the IEA leadership playing that role again in the SB7 negotiations when they put the screws on the CTU’s Karen Lewis over the Chicago strike language.

Edelman again:

We came with a fall back of binding arbitration when we saw that the IEA was willing to do a deal and just focused on Chicago. They, interestingly, pressured the Chicago Teachers Union to take the deal. Karen Lewis, the head of the Chicago Teachers Union, who’s a diehard militant, was focused on maintaining her sense of her members’ right to strike. Her sense was that binding arbitration was giving away the right to strike.

This takes us up to the present moment. This summer the IEA and the IFT will be meeting with legislative leaders, the Civic Committee and others to talk about the pension bill that will come before the Fall General Assembly session.

With the IEA leadership’s history, what teacher can afford to be sanguine?

Will new IEA President Cinda Klickna be as “pragmatic” as past-President Ken Swanson?

Edelman on the SB7 negotiations:

And so over the course of three months, with Advance Illinois taking the negotiating lead … and Advance and Stand working in lockstep – and that unity’s so important, that partnership … they essentially gave away every single provision related to teacher effectiveness that we had proposed.

Here are the discussion items for the 11/10 IEA Board of Directors meeting. Would Stand for Children have a problem with any of it?

Ken Swanson and the IEA leadership claim that not only was Jonah Edelman arrogant in his talk at Aspen, he lied as well.

Here is a way you can make a judgment call on what was true and what was false in Edelman’s description.

What I am including in this post is the discussion agenda for the November 2010 IEA Board of Directors meeting. Would Jonah feel right at home in a meeting like this? You bet he would.

My emphasis in bold.

1. Establish incentives to attract effective teachers to struggling, low performing schools.

2. School consolidation to streamline administrative services, thereby significantly reducing costs.

3. Streamline dismissal processes in return for due process and just cause for all employees and dropping the term tenure.

4. A constitutional amendment on the 2012 ballot that would move us from a flat tax to a progressive income tax.

5. Spearheading a coordinated effort with the rest of labor to grow our own candidates for the General Assembly.

6. Promoting a pension ramp restructuring, and looking at the taxation of pension benefits above a given threshold for all retirement income. This would come with a guarantee that those dollars would go directly into funding the pension funds without a shell game with offsetting reduced contributions by the state.

7. RIFs (Reduction in Force layoffs) and recall based on something besides seniority.

8. Garnering broad based community engagement in schools.

“So in Aurora, Illinois in December out of nowhere there were hearings on our proposals,” said Jonah Edelman on the Aspen video.

Not quite out of nowhere, it appears.

Did Edelman really get the IEA to do what it didn’t already want to do? Let’s look.

You might say that, in spite of Jonah Edelman’s bragging about how he manipulated the state’s union leadership, it was they who used him.

In fact, everybody in this story seems to have used, or were thinking they were using somebody else. Madigan, Emanuel, and Edelman were all thinking they were doing it to the other guy. It turns out that who really were got were the teachers of Illinois.

Because back in November, before the table sitting with Stand for Children and Advance Illinois, IEA President Ken Swanson was already ready to move the organization to surrender tenure and seniority rights in exactly the way Senate Bill 7 demands.

Back in October of 2010 Swanson called a meeting, reported here, and presented the IEA Board of Directors with a list of Challenging Questions which mirrored what Edelman would later think was his agenda.

I wrote at the time:

And are our members pleased that our leaders were discussing challenging issue #3?

“Streamline dismissal processes in return for due process and just cause for all employees and dropping the term tenure.”

I remember the days when our IEA was spending its time organizing about the issue of teacher retention.

Now, our leadership has bought into the Reformy notion that the problem is that not enough teachers are being fired.

Tenure isn’t just a term. Tenure is a right guaranteed by law.

What is “just cause?”

I only know it as a term used by many charter schools that have refused to agree to tenure rights and seniority.

What does it mean? Not much or hard to tell.

But we do know what tenure means. It doesn’t have to be exchanged for due process. Tenure already includes due process.

Illinois’ tenure laws exist throughout the state, at New Trier on the north shore and in Edwardsville downstate.

Our union ought to be pointing out that there is no correlation between tenure and poor student performance. Tenure exists to make sure that good teachers aren’t dismissed by vindictive or ignorant administrators.

It is nothing short of crazy that our Board of teachers spent time discussing the pros and cons of how to speed up the firing of teachers.

This is why Swanson’s claim that Edelman’s story is a lie rings hollow. And all those IEA Executive Committee members who are circling the wagons around Swanson and Soglin know it’s BS, because they were part of the discussion and planning.