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Campbell Brown’s Union-Busting Org, Partnership for Ed Justice, Is Dead.

March 20, 2019

Partnership for Educational Justice (PEJ) was a nonprofit created in December 2013 by former journalist (and now, former ed reformer) Campbell Brown. Incorporated in Delaware under the name All Kids Matter, PEJ (then All Kids Matter) received some of its initial funding from a previous Campbell Brown nonprofit, Parents Transparency Project (PTP).

If all of this nonprofit-begetting-nonprofit history is a challenge to follow, perhaps this excerpt from my December 01, 2016, post on this blog:

In June 2013, Campbell Brown formed the lobbying nonprofit, Parents’ Transparency Project (PTP), and registered it in Delaware. It reported total revenue of $1.2 million for June thru December 2013 and had one major expense of $1.1 million:

PTP is apolitical (Schneider’s note: supposedly meaning “non-political”) watchdog group whose mission is to bring transparency to the rules, deals, and contracts negotiated between our state and local governments and the teachers’ unions, and to help parents get a clear understanding of how the education bureaucracy works. PTP used media to generate public pressure against the DOE, the UFT, and city and state government of New York to be transparent and accountable in their procedures, contracts, and legislation affecting our students and their school system.

In October 2013, Mother Jones published an enlightening article on Brown’s PTP, which supposedly aimed to cleanse New York classrooms of union-protected sexual predator teachers. An excerpt:

Early one morning in July, former CNN anchor Campbell Brown appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, pen in hand, notes fanned out in front of her. Viewers might have mistaken her as a fill-in host, but Brown had swung by 30 Rock in her new role as a self-styled education reformer, a crusader against sexual deviants in New York City public schools and the backward unions and bureaucrats getting in the way of firing them. “In many cases, we have teachers who were found guilty of inappropriate touching, sexual banter with kids, who weren’t fired from their jobs, who were given very light sentences and sent back to the classroom,” Brown, the mother of two young sons, explained.

Brown was there to plug her new venture, the Parents’ Transparency Project, a nonprofit “watchdog group” that “favors no party, candidate, or incumbent.” Though its larger aim is to “bring transparency” to how contracts are negotiated with teachers’ unions, PTP’s most prominent campaign is to fix how New York City handles cases of sexual misconduct involving teachers and school employees—namely by giving the city’s schools chancellor, a political appointee, ultimate authority in the process. …

Brown’s group paints the unions as the main obstacles to a crackdown on predators. Yet Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, says that the union’s New York City chapter already has a zero-tolerance policy in its contract, and that AFT only protects its members against “false allegations.” New York state law also mandates that any teacher convicted of a sex crime be automatically fired. It is the law, not union contracts, that requires that an independent arbitrator hear and mete out punishment in cases of sexual misconduct that fall outside criminal law. The quickest route to changing that policy may be lobbying lawmakers in Albany, not hammering teachers and their unions.

Brown did not want to lobby lawmakers in Albany. Instead, she pretty much closed PTP shop in 2014 in order to create another nonprofit.

According to the PTP 2014 tax form, PTP began 2014 with the $88,000 left over from 2013. Turns out PTP paid $30,000 of that $88,000 to Brown’s next nonprofit, the Partnership for Educational Justice (PEJ).

Brown began PEJ in December 2013 under a different name, All Kids Matter, Inc., and incorporated it in Delaware. In February 2014, she changed the name to Partnership for Educational Justice (PEJ).

In March 2014, Brown filed for nonprofit status for PEJ under a New York City address. Brown reported that she expected PEJ to raise $3 million in grants and contributions from 12-19-2013 to 11-30-2014; $4 million from 12-01-2014 to 11-30-2015, and $5 million from 12-01-2015 to 11-30-2016.

Brown included the following description of PEJ’s purpose on the nonprofit application:

Inspired by the work of similar impact litigation around the country, the Applicant will seek to use the litigation process, combined with a public communications campaign, to reform harmful education laws and regulations that prevent our schools and school districts from providing all students with an excellent education. Through its public communications campaigns, the Applicant will seek to build relationships with families, community stakeholders and organizations — with the goal of forming effective working coalitions that will increase pressure on lawmakers and other decision makers to reform our educational system.

The Applicant’s initial focus will be on defending human and civil rights of children in New York State public schools. More particularly, the Applicant will help fund and support litigation challenging New York State education laws that operate to keep grossly ineffective teachers in public school classrooms. The Applicant hopes to be able to build on its initial activities in New York and to expand its activities into other states around the country.

In all events, the litigation promoted, supported or engaged in by the Applicant will be undertaken to benefit the general public. For example, in selecting rights to be defended, the Applicant will consider whether the litigation will have a substantial impact beyond the interest of the specific named plaintiffs. In addition, the selection of cases will be made by the Board, which is unrelated to, and independent of, any commercial entity retained by the Applicant. The Applicant does not expect to receive financial support from any of the persons being represented.

The Applicant will not, itself, provide legal representation to others, although it will institute and support litigation in order to defend children’s human and civil rights.

The “similar impact litigation” that inspired Brown’ s PEJ likely includes the case, Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association, which was considered a victory for organized labor when the US Supreme Court deadlocked 4-4 in March 2016over unions’ collecting fees from nonmembers when nonmembers benefited from union advocacy, and the teacher tenure lawsuit, California’s Vergara case, which the California Supreme Court decided in August 2016 not to hear. Thus, the ruling on appeal (which was in favor of California teacher job protections) was allowed to stand.

As of this writing, Brown’s PEJ has filed lawsuits in New York, Minnesota, and New Jersey. In October 2016, a Minnesota judge tossed out the Minnesota suit for not connecting student test score outcomes with the state’s tenure laws. According to PEJ, the parents in the PEJ-backed MN lawsuit “are preparing to appeal.”

According to Minnesota ed advocate Sarah Lahm, PEJ’s Minnesota lawsuit died a quiet death. From Lahm’s March 14, 2019, Progressive.org post:

In a February 28 statement posted to the Partnership for Educational Justice website, the group acknowledged that a Minnesota appeals court dismissed the Forslund case and, in response, the plaintiffs have declined to pursue any further legal action.

So, the purpose of Brown’s PEJ was to weaken teachers unions; however, it seems that PEJ just couldn’t bring about the union-busting that Brown and her PEJ funders and allies had hoped. According to PEJ’s terminal tax form (December 01, 2016, to August 31, 2017), Brown was still listed as a director; however, as of January 2017, her attention had been turned away from union busting (and from being editor at yet another nonprofit, the 74 Media) and toward being the “head of news partnerships” at Facebook.

As for PEJ, well, it just couldn’t go on. Its total revenue fell dramatically from 2015 to 2016; in 2015 (actually December 2014 to November 2015), PEJ garnered $4.7M in contributions and grants; in 2016 (Dec 2015 to Nov 2016), PEJ revenue dropped markedly, to $901K– with PEJ ending the year in the red (-$400K). In its final year (Dec 2016 to Aug 2017), PEJ listed only $500K in revenue and again ended its year (this one shortened to eight months) in the red (redder, at -$690K, but the same total to the dollar as its net assets, thereby leaving and end-of-year fund balance of zero).

On its terminal tax form, PEJ’s explanation for its short year is simply, “Organization has been dissolved as of August 31, 2017.”

RIP

Even so, PEJ still has a functioning website with contact info redirected to “media@50can.org”– 50CAN being connected to none other than Jonathan Sackler, of the Purdue-Pharma-OxyContin-producing Sacklers.

Jonathan Sackler is “incubating” a new ed reform org that happens to involve two ed reformers looking for a new reform gig, one of whom was once on the PEJ payroll. From my March 08, 2019, post on Jonathan Sackler:

What I also noticed is that a number of the ed reform orgs that Sackler once supported are now either out of commission or absorbed by other entities (e.g., Families for Excellent Schools, Black Alliance for Education Options, StudentsFirst, Partnership for Educational Justice, Excel Bridgeport). Still, that does not mean that Sackler is not ready to offer his OxyContin-derived bucks to help re-form reform. Consider this May 11, 2018, Chalkbeat article, entitled, “Two Former Staff Members at Families for Excellent Schools Planning a New Pro-Charter Org”:

Two former top staffers at the recently shuttered Families for Excellent Schools are working to start a new pro-charter advocacy group, according to multiple sources with knowledge of their plans.

Reshma Singh, who was the chief growth officer at Families for Excellent Schools, and Sean Andersen, who was its chief program officer, are leading the new effort. And while the scope and approach of their new organization are still unclear, the connections the pair have to the education reform world suggest the group’s impact will be felt even as it faces tough political headwinds in some states.

The group is being incubated at 50CAN, an education advocacy group with a presence in several states and where Andersen and Singh are currently employees.

According to Singh’s Linkedin bio, prior to her time with now-inoperative Families for Excellent Schools, Singh was the founding executive director of another nonfunctioning ed reform nonprofit,  Partnership for Educational Justice.

Is the third time the charm?

According to her Linkedin bio, Singh’s new org is P.A.C.E. Education Strategies, designed to boost the grass-rootsiness of ed reform. From PACE’s web site:

We believe the key to upward mobility in America is a great education. But today, more than sixty years after Brown v. Board of Education, access to a quality education is still determined by a student’s race, income, and zip code.

Despite these persistent challenges, there are bright spots all across the country. There are innovative public schools run by dedicated and visionary leaders that are preparing thousands of students for college and a successful life. There are parent-led organizations fighting for opportunity in their communities.

These leaders give us hope. But they face so many barriers that can keep their work from succeeding. Whether it’s an entrenched political opposition or the devastating impact of apathy from those in power, creating bold educational change can feel like rolling a boulder uphill.

That’s why we exist – to help local leaders who are fighting to change the status quo in our education system. And by doing so, we will move towards a nation where every child has access to a great public school.

Sure, PEJ is dead, but there’s always room (and money, even opioid-derived) for an ed-reform spinoff, a corporate-reform makeover.

Throwing public education under the bus can be so difficult on the passionate ed reformer.

Some must reinvent themselves as ed reformers, at least for awhile.

Then they can exit that passion and become Facebook execs.

campbell brown 4

Campbell Brown

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Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

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From → Litigation, Tenure

5 Comments
  1. Rest In Perdition

  2. Being a paid puppet and a liar was lucrative for Campbell Brown. Her net worth is reported to be $8.5 million.

    https://ans-wer.com/campbell-brown.html

  3. Wow! Mercedes Schneider long ago joined the list of the greatest muckraking investigators that the United States has ever produced. She’s up there with Ida Tarbell, Nellie Bly, Ida B. Wells, Upton Sinclair, Ambrose Bierce, and a few other brilliant, passionate, indefatigable heroes in the war for truth in these United States. This piece is another of the many, many examples of Dr. Schneider at her best. Beautifully done.

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