It’s spring, and the astroturf is sprouting like crabgrass!

It seems that every time you turn around, there’s another astroturf education group sprouting up. The fertilizer, of course, is the money of wealthy privatizers and union busters, not to mention the rich manure of corporate reform rhetoric.

In New York, there’s StudentsFirstNY, founded by Michelle Rhee and Joel Klein. This is a new local branch of Rhee’s national Students First group which claims 1 million members, though many of those names are collected by unwitting people who go to change-org to sign another petition and then get redirected to Rhee’s page.

The national Campaign for Achievement Now started in Connecticut but with funding from the Gates Foundation is targeting other states including North Carolina. These groups are known by the -CAN acronym, i.e. ConnCan, CarolinaCAN. Like Students First, they exist to push a pro-privatization legislative agenda. Read more here about ConnCAN.

Then there’s another new national campaign called Parents Know Best, run by the wealthy DeVos family’s American Federation of Children. I’m sure they do think that parents know best as long as they are  fed a steady diet of slick anti-teacher and pro-charter and school choice rhetoric. Interestingly, their message echoes PAA’s – that parents’ voices are missing from the national education debate. Wish we had the DeVos money helping US make our voices heard….

It’s gotten to the point where you have to worry that, if a group has the word “students,” “children,” “reform,” or “first” in it, you’ve got to first hide your children!

And now they’re going after college kids.

The latest eruption is called Students for Education Reform, and they are sponsoring a kick-off event Saturday at Roosevelt University in Chicago in conjunction with Stand for Children (event flier).

This is a local chapter of a suspiciously new network of college campus affiliates with a suspiciously familiar agenda. SFER’s web site claims it already has chapters in 28 states, although several of its key web site sections remain under construction. For example, you can apply for a job with SFER – no lack of funds for staff here – but the “advocacy” section is “coming soon.”

A glance at the gauzy statements on the SFER site can’t hide the real agenda of this Stand for Children clone. Code words like “choice,” “stronger teachers,” “parent empowerment,” and “data” sugar coat their drive to destroy teachers unions, expand charter schools and vouchers, and make standardized testing an even greater focus of schooling. That agenda becomes clear when you look a bit further into the site.

But it’s unlikely that a lot of the students being recruited for this modern-day Moonie group understand exactly what they’re signing up for.

A small group of real grass-roots folks will be sharing information about Stand for Children and other predatory “reform” groups outside of the SFER event at 10 am Saturday morning at 430 S Michigan (at Roosevelt U). Why not join them and help spread the truth about the value of real grass over fake? After all, it’s spring, the perfect time to start planting.

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