My Reply to Stand for Children

By Susan Barrett

I appreciate that Oregon’s Stand for Children (SFC) chapter has responded to my post, but unfortunately this only further confirms for me that they have no interest in changing their agenda. In the past few days, I have been contacted by other parents who agree with me that Stand is not representing their concerns.

For example, not once have I heard a parent say, “Gee, if only we had more Teach for America teachers, things would be better.” Yet, that is exactly what Sue Levin, the Oregon Executive Director of Stand advocated for in March of this year.

As for kicker reform, Stand replied that there was only one proposal brought forth. Yes, but the biggest complaint I heard as a team leader was, “why isn’t Stand bringing forth proposals?” With all their money and staff, the only answer we have heard is “we are not a think tank.” Well, what do they do with all that money?? With their national presence and vast funding, they really could be a force for good and for parents who certainly don’t have the time and resources to undertake this research.

When I and fellow members rallied with our “blue umbrellas” for kicker reform, we had no idea that the proposal ultimately meant less revenue for our schools. This experience taught me an important lesson about paying attention to such details, and I just want others to learn from this. My state representative voted against this kicker proposal because it would do more harm than good.  Fortunately, he has proposed realistic plans to raise revenue for education and other necessary social services that I and other parents can enthusiastically support.  So, while it is true that there is not enough money currently raised by the state to pay for services, it doesn’t mean we should sit and do nothing, and it certainly doesn’t mean we should support lowering taxes on the wealthiest citizens.

You already saw their reply that they will wait for revenues to rise before they fight forcefully for school funding. A fellow parent was told by Sue Levin that it would be 10+ years before demographics shifted in Oregon so meaningful tax reforms could be enacted to achieve stable and adequate funding for schools. It is completely unacceptable to do nothing for 10+ years. Disagree they may, but I hope to work with parents and legislators willing to do the hard work necessary to support our schools.

As for their board, when I sent my concerns to Sue Levin, I stated, “I am not saying Stand shouldn’t have any philanthropists, equity investors, or “reform” minded individuals on its board, but they shouldn’t make up the whole lot. If you are truly looking to make improvements for kids, your board should represent a broader perspective.” A diversity of opinions can make for a healthy debate, but the board doesn’t appear  diverse in its background or views.

I agree that funders do not make decisions for an organization, but funders also will not accept proposals that don’t align with their objectives. The question for me was whether SFC was more aligned with the goals of funders donating millions of dollars to them, such as Walton and Gates, or more aligned with the concerns of members. If anyone agrees that SFC is representing their voice as stakeholders in public education, stay a member. If not, come work with like-minded parents and community members!

Which leads to my last point…when I wrote my original post, I had yet to review the now infamous video of Jonah Edelman, the founder of Stand for Children, discussing how he conned the teachers’ unions in Illinois. While I am an optimist and held out hope Stand might revert to its original direction that I truly admired, this was the final blow for me. I tried to call and cancel my membership yesterday. Unfortunately, they were closed all week for “staff development.” I bet they had much to talk about.

If you’d like to join Susan Barrett in working for progressive change for Oregon schools, please email her at barrettpdx@gmail.com

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