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The Dark Money Behind Union-Owned NPE? Ridiculous on Its Face.

January 19, 2020

On January 16, 2020, in an exchange with Forbes education contributor, blogger, and retired Pennsylvania English teacher Peter Greene on Twitter, Education Post CEO Chris Stewart asked about “dark money” behind groups supported by Greene:

Started in 2014, Education Post is an ed-reform blog and the brainchild of California billionaire, Eli Broad. Right out of the starting gate, EdPost (actual nonprofit name, Results in Education Foundation) had $5.5M to play with in its first year.

EdPost’s first CEO, Peter Cunningham, was paid $1M for 2 1/2 years of blogging. Moreover, in his position as a founding member of EdPost’s board, Stewart was compensated a total of $422,925 for 40 hrs/wk across 30 months as “outreach and external affairs director.” (To dig into that EdPost history, click here and follow the links.)

In ed reform, blogging pays juicy salaries.

But lets turn our attention to “groups that you (Greene) support” and their dark-money, cash-flushiness.

The first organization that came to my mind was the Network for Public Education (NPE), founded in 2013 by education historian Diane Ravitch and retired California science teacher, Anthony Cody.

The short answer is that NPE is not funded by the “dark money” effort of millionaires and billionaires doling out money to puppet-string a school privatization agenda.

However, let us see exactly who funds NPE and who (like Stewart) is rolling in the dough as a result.

To begin, NPE (EIN 35-2532243) was granted nonprofit status in December 2015. It’s related lobbying nonprofit, NPE Action (EIN 81-1289955) was granted nonprofit status in August 2016.

Prior to 2016

Prior to NPE’s receiving its nonprofit status, in FY2013 and FY2014, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) gave NPE $100,000 each year ($200,000 total) via the Arizona nonprofit, Voices for Education– Arizona First (EIN 86-0996116), which identifies itself on its 2014 and 2015 tax forms as NPE’s “fiscal sponsor.”

In FY2015, CTU gave NPE (now with its nonprofit status in place) another $140,000, making CTU’s total contribution to NPE to date $340,000.

In FY2014, the Massachusetts-based Schott Foundation for Public Education (total revenue $5.1M) gave NPE $10,000. (By the time that the tax form was filed, in May 2016, NPE had received its nonprofit status, which accounts for NPE’s nonprofit tax number appearing on this Schott FY2014 tax schedule.) In FY2015, Schott (total FY2015 revenue $5.5M) gave NPE another $10,000.


According to NPE’s 2016 tax filing, total revenue was $555,540; of this amount, $526,712 was from contributions and grants.

Diane Ravitch was president and was not compensated.

Carol Burris was executive director and is the only compensated person listed on the tax form; her total 2016 compensation was $41,108 (40 hrs/wk), most of which was spent working for NPE (33 hrs/wk), and the remainder, for NPE Action (7 hrs/wk).

NPE Action reported total 2016 revenue of $126,056.

Also in 2016, Pathfinder Fund, a Massachusetts-based private foundation ($66K in total revenue) gave NPE $5,000.

Another private foundation, the Nebraska-based Sherwood Foundation (total 2016 revenue $159M) gave NPE a $65K “operating grant.”

Finally, the California-based Schwab Charitable Fund (total FY2016 revenue $3.1B) gave NPE $15,000.


According to NPE’s 2017 tax form, total revenue dropped to $286,621, just about half of its 2016 total revenue. Executive director, Carol Burris, continued to be the only paid board member at $60,333 total compensation for 40hrs/wk (32 hrs/wk at NPE and 8 hrs/wk at NPE Action).

NPE Action’s total revenue for 2017 was $200,945.

As to grants from other nonprofits: In 2017, Pathfinder Fund (total revenue now up to $106K) gave NPE another $5,000, for a total to date of $10,000. Sherwood Foundation (total revenue now $178M) increased its NPE operating grant to $90,000.

Schwab Charitable Fund (total FY2017 revenue $3.3B) gave NPE $15,300, and Schott (total FY2017 revenue $3.5B) gave NPE $30,000 “to support research and a state report card on school privatization.”

Finally, the lobbying nonprofit related to Schott, the Opportunity to Learn Action Fund (total FY2017 revenue $250,000) gave NPE Action $14,000 “to support public education.”


NPE total revenue in 2018 was $255,375, slightly less than it was in 2017. Too, NPE exec dir Carol Burris took a cut and added work hours: 42 hrs/wk between NPE (28 hrs) and NPE Action (14 hrs) for $55,000 in total compensation.

As to contributions and grants from other nonprofits, as of this writing, there is only one: The Sherwood Foundation (total revenue $195M) gave NPE another $90K operating grant.

Summary of NPE/NPE Action Contributions and Grants to Date

To date, NPE/NPE Action has received so modest an amount of money from so few nonprofits across a number of years that a glance shows that NPE is hardly a dark-money-propped outfit:

  • Chicago Teachers Union: $340,000
  • Opportunity to Learn Action Fund: $14,000
  • Pathfinder Fund: $10,000
  • Schott Foundation: $20,000
  • Schwab Charitable Fund: $30,300
  • Sherwood Foundation: $245,000
  • TOTAL: $659,300

In addition, examination of the few nonprofits contributing to NPE demonstrates that these organizations are not buying NPE. There is simply not enough money coming in to support such an argument.

However, what really shows that NPE is no ed-reform-funded, billionaire puppet is the fact that only one NPE board member is compensated– executive director, Carol Burris– and that for her full time service, she is nowhere close to receiving a six-figure salary and is instead compensated on par with a full time classroom teacher in my native Louisiana. (Note that Burris’ $55K in NYC spends like $20K in Louisiana, so her NYC $55K is certainly token pay.)

Addedum 01-20-20: See Carol Burris’ comment in comments section of this post for more info about NPE’s funding at its outset, and a bit more on 2018 funding and her 2018 salary.

But, Oh, the Teachers Union!

In the tweet posted at the outset of this piece, Peter Green was responding to another person, Teach for America (TFA) alum and 50CAN media director, Ned Stanley:

Ed reformers love to talk of public ed orgs being “funded by the teachers union,” as though The Union is some single, ultimate enemy, when the teachers union is largely funded by the teachers.  But then, ed reformers see career teachers as the enemy, and they view teachers unions as the enemy united.

Ed reformers are fine with those outside of public education– like the Waltons, and Gateses, and Broads– tossing their cash into the ring, and they are fine with taking that cash to provide themselves with salaries the size of which no classroom teacher will ever see. But when those with careers inside of the classroom form a union, it must be for selfish, self-serving ends (like a living wage, or the right to uninterrupted planning time, or sufficient supplies and auxilliary supports, and safe, clean, physical spaces).

Teachers unions are chiefly funded by teachers. By extension, then, any organization financially supported by teachers who belong to a teachers union is an organization “indirectly funded” by a teachers union.

Walton good. Broad good. Gates good.

Union bad.

From its pre-nonprofit inception (2013) to 2018 (its latest tax filing), NPE received $340,000 from a teachers union, CTU.

Based upon tax filings for 2016, 2017, and 2018, NPE’s total revenue was $1.1M (comprised of $555,540 from 2016 + $286,621 from 2017 + $255,375 from 2018)– enough to have paid former EdPost CEO Peter Cunningham’s 2 1/2-year total compensation and virtually nothing else.

But we all know that those luxurious ed reformer salaries come from exclusive concerted efforts (dare I say, unions) of millionaires and billionaires, not teachers.

Time to Fess Up

As for NPE, the majority of its funding does not come from a teachers union, but it may come from teachers who fund their unions, so I suppose 50CAN Ned gets “duh” credit for his tweet.

As for Citizen Stewart: He has all that he needs to rip NPE apart for hiding its dark money to such a degree that it has managed to conceal that profound river of One-Percenter cash even from itself.



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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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  1. Oh yeah? Well, it’s come to our attention that Randi Weingarten might have once bought Diane Ravitch a cup of coffee. So, clearly, Ravitch is in the pockets of the union.

    –Dudley “D for Disruption” Profit, intern at the Fordham Institute for the Payment of Big Bucks to Officers of the Fordham Institute, totally “owned” by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (“All your base belong to us”)

  2. Daedalus permalink

    Psychological projection is a powerful thing. That’s why those hell-bent on ‘reform’ assume that, ” when those with careers inside of the classroom form a union, it must be for selfish, self-serving ends “. They can’t imagine any other motive.

  3. Surprised to see this but some good sleuthing! The one year of high income included the transfer of funds from Voices to NPE as an independent organization. It was when NPE was a project of Voices that most of the CTUF funding happened and most of it went to fund our conference. Since we have become an independent organization we received grants from CTUF the first year only. None of our money is “dark” NPE received no union funding in 2018 and 2019. NPE Action got a small AFT grant in 2018 for the conference.
    I did not take a cut in salary that year–it was just the way pay periods fell. I work very hard because I love public education very much and I do not want to see our country lose it. And it keeps this 66 year old off the streets :). Carol

  4. I second this!!! Mercedes and Carol, thank you for all that you do!!! Such brilliance and perseverance from both of you!

  5. Roger Fierst permalink

    There should be millions going to NPE so they can continue their excellent representation of public education. No one seems to be excited that the anti public education Waltons received an estimated $6 billion from the recent tax give away by the federal government. That gives the Waltons more resources to create havoc for public schools and others. Hopefully there are more foundations who will contribute to NPE as they continue their great efforts on behalf of public education.

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  1. 2020 Medley #2 | Live Long and Prosper
  2. Mercedes Schneider Compares the Money Behind EdPost and NPE | Diane Ravitch's blog

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