What’s up with Up for Ed?
Last month, I attended two different events dedicated to the discussion of public education. They were separate and unrelated, but each event featured one of the two co-founders of a local group called Up for Ed.
Theresea Drew sat on a panel hosted by Voice of San Diego, and Shelli Kurth was one of three attendees hand selected to ask a question during the Michelle Rhee event, the welcoming remarks for which were given by the former leader of the supposedly defunct pro-charter group San Diegans 4 Great Schools. (One of my Twitter followers approached me before the event started, shook my hand and said ominously, “We are in the belly of the beast.” No doubt, I believe what she said was true.) At any rate, when Kurth took the microphone to speak, she identified herself only as a parent (I’d love to know where her children go to school) and not as a founder of Up for Ed, which happened to be a co-sponsor of the event.
I thought this was a curious omission. I mentioned this in my recap of the event, and went a few rounds on Twitter with Up for Ed. Interested to know why Kurth wouldn’t mention her affiliation at the time of her public question to Rhee, and curious about where Up for Ed stands on certain issues that are left unaddressed on it’s website, I emailed Kurth. I wrote:
Your website states as core values, “Great School and Great Teachers, Kids-First Decision Making and Parents as REAL and POWERFUL Stakeholders.” Yet nowhere on your site do you state which reforms you support in order to achieve these core values. You say your in favor of parent empowerment, yet nowhere in your mission statement do you say what that means to your organization. So, I‘m writing you now to try to understand where Up for Ed stands on various issues. I’m curious to know what Up for Ed’s position is on the following:
2. High stakes testing
3. Teacher assessment using HST
4. School Closings/Conversions of schools to privately run charters
5. Lifting the caps on public funding of charter schools
Also, is Up for Ed affiliated with the Los Angeles group Parent Revolution?
Finally, when Shelli spoke publicly at the Michelle Rhee event last night, she introduced herself as a parent, but did not include that she is a co-founders of Up for Ed, one of the sponsors of Rhee’s listening tour. Why this omission?
I received a response from Up for Ed’s PR person offering a chance to discuss these questions over coffee. Unable to do this until after the holidays, I reiterated that my questions were pretty straightforward, and that I didn’t think they necessitated a face-to-face meeting. Never mind that I’m a journalist; as a parent who might be looking to affiliate with some sort of education reform group, these questions are not unreasonable. Why would they hedge unless there was something to hide?
Long story getting longer, I did receive an email from Kurth filled with platitudes, talking points, and——one of my questions answered. “In regards to the Michelle Rhee event,” Kurth added as a post script, “It was requested that I identify myself simply as a parent.” That passive voice is so forgiving, isn’t it?
I’ve since emailed to ask who requested that Kurth identify herself “simply as a parent.” Was it the Rhee people? And if not the Rhee people, then who? Was it her people? And who are her people? So far——and not surprisingly——it’s tumbleweeds and crickets from Kurth. And I definitely don’t expect any more answers after I write this, which is okay with me since the evasiveness, combined with what Drew and Kurth are willing to say to other journalists, speaks very loudly indeed.
Please join me for a quick detour, won’t you?
The re-branded and newly named U-T San Diego published a piece yesterday about a tussle between parent groups and the teachers union. There are so many ways to dissect this particular piece of journalism, but the gist is that certain parent organizers—who don’t like unions other than “parent unions”—are unhappy with the way the teacher’s union is depicting the new parent trigger law in their member newsletter.
The union views the parent trigger law as another effort to privatize schools (which it is), and is making sure its members understand its implications. Bill Freeman, president of the San Diego Education Association went so far as to call the parent trigger a “fake democracy.” Which is just, you know, BULLS EYE.
The parent groups interviewed for the article see things another way, however, stating “[t]he parents want union leaders to retract the articles published in their newsletters and issue new communication to members that offer unbiased news about the law.” I suppose that unbiased news about the law and other education reporting should come from…the Doug Manchester owned U-T San Diego?
But enough detour. Can you take a guess at who the parents are in this story? That’s right: Shelli Kurth and Theresa Drew of Up for Ed. Working in conjunction with Parent Revolution (shocker), which answers one of my unanswered questions. And then, too, there was this very important bit that pretty much answers all of my other questions: “Up for Ed organizers received seed money from businessman and charter school advocate Rod Dammeyer, who worked with San Diegans 4 Great Schools and that group’s failed effort put a measure on the next ballot that would allow voters to expand the city school board with appointed members. ” (Bold face type is mine, typos are not.)
The dots are all there. They just need to be connected.
To be clear, I don’t have a problem with Up for Ed’s point of view, other than I think they’re wrong, and I’m going to speak out about it. What I do have a problem with is the lack of transparency that seems to define Up for Ed, San Diegans 4 Great Schools, Parent Revolution and the entire “reform” movement more interested in equivocation and trickery than anything else when it comes to realizing their end goals.
Parents: If you’re going to pick a side, it’s good to know who you’re dealing with.