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Families for Excellent Schools (FES) Is Shutting Down. Marvelous.

February 5, 2018

On February 05, 2018, the New York Times published an informative article regarding the breaking news that charter-school-proliferator, Families for Excellent Schools (FES), is closing its doors.

The New York-based FES has been closely aligned with StudentsFirstNY and with charter boss Eva Moskowitz, who not surprisingly chose to distance herself and her Success Academies charter chain from FES CEO Jeremiah Kittredge, who faced accusations of inappropriate sexual behavior toward a “non-employee.” However, as the Times reports, it seems that the FES decision to close is more likely related to its drops in funding.

In October 2014, I wrote about FES and some of its connections, including with StudentsFirstNY and Moskowitz. An excerpt:

WNYC reporter Robert Lewis captured much of the above FES grant information in his March 2014 article:

The Walton Family Foundation, of Walmart fame, has given more than $700,000 over the past two years. …

According to the records that are available, other large donations to the organization (FES) include $200,000 in 2012 from the Broad Foundation; $200,000 from the Peter and Carmen Lucia Buck Foundation in fiscal year 2012-13; $100,000 in 2012 from the Moriah Fund; $25,000 from the Ravenel and Elizabeth Curry Foundation in fiscal year 2011-12; $19,000 in fiscal year 2011-12 from the Tapestry Project; $50,000 in fiscal year 2012-13 from the Vanguard Charitable Endowment Program; and $1,000 in 2012 from the Dalio Foundation. 

Lewis also notes the following:

Families for Excellent Schools shares an address with the New York arm of StudentsFirst….

This sharing of an address is strong evidence that FES is Astroturf reform from its outset. Yet there is a bossy center around which FES and its fiscal feeders appear to revolve. Consider a few board connections from among organizations listed above.

Tapestry Project’s executive director is attorney Eric Grannis.

Grannis is …Eva Moskowitz’s husband.

The Tapestry board also includes Gideon Stein, who sits on Moskowitz’s Success Academy board. He and a number of other Steins also sit on the Moriah Fund board.

And Eva Moskowitz sits on the StudentsFirst NY board.

And FES shares an address with StudentsFirstNY:

345 Seventh Avenue, Suite 501, New York, NY.

Eva at the bossy center. But that center is very much a collaboration involving Moskowitz, and StudentsFirst, and money from both philanthropies and hedge-fund managers.

I also wrote this at the end of the same, 2014 post:

A few final thoughts regarding 325 Seventh Avenue, Suite 501, and the organization that instigated this post, FES:

FES appears to be little more than a Moskowitz- and StudentsFirst-associated mushroom organization designed to offer the illusion of multiple (grass roots) organizations rallying behind “school choice.”

Though it might seem that it is not possible to know who is supporting FES, it is possible to make some telling connections via examination of 990s and physical addresses– especially shared addresses.

Those trying to hide from public view behind one organizational front might find themselves exposed via association with another.

The perils of layered corruption, eh?

As it turns out, FES overstepped in Massachusetts in 2016, the result being that its lobbying arm, FES Advocacy, was forced to disclose its hidden donors.

Indeed, FES Advocacy, found itself in trouble for illegally concealing donor identities as it poured money into Massachusetts’ November 2016 “Question 2” ballot initiative for charter school expansion, which failed 62% to 38%.

As the September 2017 Boston Globe reports, FES paid a historically steep fine for its donor-hiding violation:

Families for Excellent Schools-Advocacy, a nonprofit that was the single largest funder behind Question 2 in Massachusetts, was slapped with a $426,466 fine, the largest in the 44-year history of the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance.

As noted below, FES Advocacy also agreed to dissolve.

As the February 05, 2018, New York Times article adds, those hidden donors whose money was funneled from FES Advocacy into Massachusetts to promote charter expansion were probably not too keen on having their identities revealed:

In the [Question 2] aftermath, the state’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance concluded that Families for Excellent Schools-Advocacy had violated the state’s campaign finance law….

To resolve the case, Families for Excellent Schools-Advocacy agreed to dissolve, and Families for Excellent Schools agreed not to fund-raise or engage in any election-related activity in Massachusetts for four years.

Families for Excellent Schools-Advocacy was also forced to disclose its donors, which, according to Maurice Cunningham, an associate professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts Boston, may have been the biggest blow of all.

“You can only surmise they had a couple of dozen extremely angry wealthy people,” he said. “That is just not good for fund-raising.”

This single Question 2-related campaign filing has NY-based FES Advocacy donating $5.75 million to the PAC, Great Schools Massachusetts.

Big money coming into FES and FES Advocacy (the power center of FES). Then FES Advocacy oversteps, and, as a result, it is forced to dissolve.

Plus, its loaded, charter-advancing donors are exposed. I wonder why this would be such a problem: If they love charters so much that they want to spend millions spreading the charter love, then why not do so openly… unless, of course, the reason is to impose a cheapened, bottom-line, business model of education on other people’s children… but I digress.

Without FES Advocacy– and with the awful FES Advocacy press with that Massachusetts mega-fine– FES lost its market-based, charter-proliferating edge.

The allegations against Kittredge may have simply been a toxic, embarrassing last straw that caused the likes of Moskowitz (and likely, her cadre of hedge-funder pals and other wealthy donors) to separate from FES, thereby effectively finishing off FES.

Good bye, FES.  No tears here.

RIP

_______________________________________________________________________________________

I wrote a few books. Here’s one on the history of charter schools and vouchers:

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

And here are two more: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. Swell stuff.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

7 Comments
  1. One FEStering Boil lanced …

  2. Becky McCullough permalink

    FES leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth–it seems they may have changed names and leadership. Dumping Kittredge was a good idea. http://blogs.wgbh.org/masspoliticsprofs/2017/12/11/bay-state-action-fund-has-families-excellent-schools-risen-dead/

  3. Christine Langhoff permalink

    Here in Boston, UMass Professor Maurice Cunningham has done a bang-up job of exposing the dark mony shenanigans of FES, and its apparent permutations of avatars as it seeks to assume alternative identities. Worth a read:

    http://blogs.wgbh.org/masspoliticsprofs/author/mcunningham/

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