Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Families for Excellent Schools (FES), Facing Backlash from Public and Skeptical Press, Backs Off Charter Rallies

A MODEST LOBBY DAY - POLITICO New York's Eliza Shapiro: In lieu of the massive rallies it has held biannually since 2013, the charter school advocacy group Families for Excellent Schools will hold a modest "lobby day" on Jan. 20 in Albany, POLITICO New York has learned. The influential charter group recently decided to put its rally strategy - which has achieved diminishing returns - on hold. Rather than bus tens of thousands of parents and teachers to Albany, lobby day will put FES' legislative efforts more in line with other advocacy groups - education-related and otherwise - whose members convene at the Capitol each winter. While FES typically held its Albany rallies late in the legislative session, close to final budget negotiations, next month's rally day will be held as other groups are flooding the Capitol to meet with lawmakers in the wake of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's State of the State on Jan. 13, when he will lay out his legislative agenda.
Yes, closing down schools and force marching parents, children and teachers to Albany raised too many eyebrows.
All the rallies have been technically organized by FES but are overwhelmingly attended by Success students, parents and teachers.
The Eva backlash is also affecting FES which may not want to be so tied so publicly to toxic Success.

 More from Politico:
The influential charter group recently decided to put its rally strategy — which has achieved diminishing returns — on hold.

An October 2014 rally in Manhattan focused on failing district schools as an indirect means to advocate for more charters, but the "Don't Steal Possible" slogan revealed little about the group's specific policy goals to improve struggling schools.
A rally in March, in Albany, had an identical message; the group's CEO, Jeremiah Kittredge, became so visibly frustrated with reporters probing the group's vague policy goals that FES has not made him available to speak with the media at public events since.
Two rallies were held in New York City this fall; one for students and parents, the other for teachers. The teacher-led rally was intended as a show of force against the United Federation of Teachers, but garnered the most attention for its customized selfie sticks and photo booths. 

The events also present a biannual logistical feat for FES.
The rallies require FES to transport thousands of children who are given matching T-shirts, hats and signs to a public square with a massive stage and sound system. The rallies also always feature a prominent musical guest, from the DJ Questlove to the early-aughts R&B star Ashanti to singer Jennifer Hudson. Representatives for FES have repeatedly declined to give any details on the cost of the events, and have declined to say whether the musical guests' performances were donated. 
But, sources said, the cost of the rallies is not the reason they are being put on hold. While FES' leaders will not disclose its donors, sources indicate that the group is funded by a group of hedge fund managers that give to other education reform causes. FES broke a state lobbying record last year, and helped education reform groups outspend the city and state teachers' unions.
None of the rallies since March 2014 has been accompanied by pro-charter legislation, nor have they attracted politicans with the same influence and star power as Cuomo. The sole legislative exception is the modest boost in the charter cap the Legislature approved earlier this year. Still, the change was small enough that teachers unions took credit for preventing a significant cap lift. 
The events have also been complicated by the fact de Blasio has let charter schools grow and operate virtually untouched by the administration since his kerfuffle with Moskowitz in early 2014.
Outspending the teacher unions takes away a major talking point for the deformers.

For those of us opposing the union leadership, the massive amount they DO spend and get so little for it is a major talking point.

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