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Education Reform Now: Manufacturing Grass Roots Support for La. BESE Candidates Castille and Orange-Jones

September 29, 2019

DC/New-York-based Education Reform Now (ERN) is a 501c3 nonprofit associated with Democrats for Education Reform (DFER). Both are led by Shavar Jeffries (see here and here).

ERN advertises itself as “a national think tank and advocacy organization.”

The “advocacy” comes from an associated 501c4 (lobbying nonprofit), ERN Advocacy.

“Public school choice” is a major DFER/ERN/ERN Advocacy push, and DFER is open about actively promoting its priorities at the federal and state levels.

In Louisiana’s 2019 state board (BESE) elections, ERN Advocacy is supporting two candidates: Kira Orange-Jones (Dist 2) and Preston Castille (Dist 8) (see here also).

Castille is a Baton Rouge lawyer who also happens to be Immediate Past Chairman of the Board of Directors of New Schools for Baton Rouge (NSBR) and Chairman of the Board for Helix charter schools. (Aside: Another BESE candidate, Ronnie Morris of District 6, is also connected to a recently-approved BASIS charter school in Baton Rouge as its treasurer.)

Castille’s time on NSBR board was shared with Louisiana businessman Lane Grigsby, whose recently-disbanded Empower Louisiana PAC funneled $3M in out-of-state billionaire cash into Louisiana’s 2015 BESE race.

It’s a small corporate ed reform world, after all.

ERN Advocacy’s other BESE prize, Kira Orange-Jones, is a Teach for America (TFA) executive director who is married to former New Mexico acting chancellor, Christopher Ruszkowski.

First elected to BESE in 2011, Orange-Jones has trouble attending BESE meetings, keeping her address straight, and submitting timely ethics filings. Sloppy at best; deceptive at worst.

According to its 09/12/19 La. campaign finance filing, ERN Advocacy is also supporting a number of other candidates in Louisiana’s October 12, 2019, election. For Castille, Orange-Jones, and these others running for election in October 2019, New-York-based ERN Advocacy has donated $185K.

The NY-based, corporate-ed-reform entity is the sole donor to its ERN Advocacy PAC in Louisiana.

Some ERN Advocacy spending highlights for Castille and Orange-Jones:

  • In an classic corporate-ed-reform style, ERN Advocacy used its NY money to pay Chicago-based JBC Campaigns LLC over $100K for “canvassing and grass roots consulting” for Castille ($50K) and Orange-Jones ($52K).
  • Encintas, CA-based Carr Marketing received $4,400 for “persuasion calls” on behalf of Castille and Orange-Jones.
  • ERN Advocacy also paid $700 to Clifton Consulting (Austin, TX) for “communications training” for Castille.

Manufactured grass roots brought to you by Loads of Cash from Not Here.

Vote informed, Louisiana.

Rotten apple,isolated on white with clipping path.

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Interested in scheduling Mercedes Schneider for a speaking engagement? Click here.

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Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

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.

both books

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

3 Comments
  1. Kristi permalink

    Could you do an investigation into this new Wit & Wisdom curriculum we’re being forced to use? I bet there’s an interesting money trail there too.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Jim and Alice Walton Drop $200K to Support (In Part) La. BESE Candidates Kira Orange-Jones and Preston Castille | deutsch29

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