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Democrats for Education Reform also known as DFER

From: Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) candidates in Washington State

Be aware that there are candidates supported by Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) in Washington State. This organization funds efforts to privatize public schools.


According to DFER Watch:

Democrats for Education Reform is a political action committee supported largely by hedge fund managers favoring charter schools, merit-pay tied to test scores, high-stakes testing, school choice (including vouchers and tuition tax credits in some cases), mayoral control, and alternative teacher preparation programs.

Diane Ravitch describes DFER in her post Follow the Money.

If you want to know why so many politicians think so highly of charters, there is a basic rule of  politics that explains it all: Follow the money.

The most visible organization promoting corporate reform is called Democrats for Education Reform, known as DFER (commonly pronounced “D-fer”). DFER is the Wall Street hedge fund managers’ group. It always has a few non-hedge funders on the board, especially one or two prominent African-Americans, to burnish its pretentious claim of leading the civil rights movement of our day. Kevin Chavous, a former council member from Washington, D.C., fills that role for now, along with the DFER stalwart, Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark. DFER has its own member of the U.S. Senate, Senator Michael Bennett of Colorado. It has also raised money generously for Congressman George Miller, the senior Democrat on the House Education and Labor Committee.

This group bankrolls politicians, woos them, raises campaign cash for them, and persuades them of the advantages of turning the children of their district over to privately managed schools. Watch their website to see which politician they favor this month and scan those they have recognized in the past.

In New York City, Hakeem Jeffries, DFERs’s candidate for U.S. Congress, announced his support for tax credits for religious schools on the day after he won the election. His support for charter schools was already well known.

And in California, the Los Angeles County Democratic Party demanded that DFER no longer use the word “Democrats” in describing the organization. Here is an excerpt of that letter:

To: Mr. Kevin P. Chavous

Chair, Democrats for Education Reform

Re: Demand that You Cease and Desist from Your Unlawful Use of the Name of the Democratic Party in Your Organization’s Name in Los Angeles County

Dear Mr. Chavous:

It has come to my attention that your organization, Democrats for Education Reform, is unlawfully using the name of the Democratic Party and operating in Los Angeles County without a charter.

Under California Elections Code Section 20201, it is unlawful for any person, including an association, to use the name of the Democratic Party to solicit funds for any purpose whatsoever without a duly authorized charter from a statutorily recognized chartering authority. In addition to being a civil wrong, such actions are also a misdemeanor pursuant to Elections Code Section 18360.

Under Elections Code Section 20201 and the bylaws of the California Democratic Party, the Los Angeles County Democratic Party (LACDP) is the entity which has the principal legal authority to charter Democratic organizations operating in the County of Los Angeles. The Democrats for Education Reform has violated Elections Code Section 20201 by failing to obtain a charter from the LACDP or any other authorized chartering entity.

Use of the name of the Democratic Party, and any variations thereof, such as “Democratic” or “Democrat,” is in derogation of the Democratic Party’s common law trademark in its name. The Democrats for Education Reform’s use of this trademarked name without the authorization and consent of the LACDP or any other chartering entity is legally sanctionable. The Democrats for Education Reform’s trademark violation is further exacerbated by the Democrats for Education Reform’s use of the Democratic Party name to promote the candidacy of state candidates, such as that of Mr. Brian C. Johnson’s campaign for the California State Assembly.

Please be advised that if by May 10, 2012, your organization has not removed all reference to the Democratic Party and the words “Democratic” or “Democrat” from your name, including on any and all communications by Democrats for Education Reform (for example, websites, emails, mailers, notices, etc.) and by amending any statement of organization (California Secretary of State Form 410) with the California Secretary of State, the LACDP will take appropriate steps to remedy Democrats for Education Reform’s unlawful conduct.

The Democrats for Education Reform just published its Hot List of candidates for this election cycle and to follow are candidates that DFER is supporting in Washington State:

Sylvester Cannwho is running for the Washington State House in Seattle’s 46th District.

McAuliffe outmaneuvered the reformers earlier this year when they were trying to push through a charter school bill. Stand for Children and ALEC are Cann’s main backers.

Cyrus Habib who is running for an open Washington State House seat in the 48th legislative district.

Eric Pettigrew, Representative of the 37th District in Seattle

Here is DFER’s description of Pettigrew:

… in a state with a dearth of education reform leadership, he’s a real pioneer.

… Eric has been working with other education reformers to lift Washington’s ban on public charter schools. After his Democratic colleagues killed his charter school bill in the last legislative session, he urged education reformers to put charter schools before the voters. And he bravely stepped up to be a spokesperson for Initiative 1240.

What I find interesting is that these are minority candidates. Pettigrew was an obvious target because he represents a district that has a diverse population made up of many minority cultures…and he’s African-American. This community is one of the targets for privatizers with their charter chains. He has  close ties with the League of Education Voters (LEV) and found himself in quite a kerfuffle over a pamphlet that LEV distributed throughout his district.

Cynical? Absolutely. I see how the Broad Foundation uses their freshly “trained”  minority superintendents as front people to push their agenda in urban areas and how Kevin Johnson gets trotted out whenever there is a minority audience to cater to as was done in Seattle last year by the League of Education Voters. Mr. Johnson spoke at a mostly African American church in Seattle to a mostly minority audience about how wonderful charter schools would be for his people and then flew back to Sacramento.

Yes, I’m cynical and disgusted with the way wealthy and privileged reformer/privatizers use people and with how some people will allow themselves to be used for relatively small gains.

By the way, Lisa Macfarlane is the Washington State Director of DFER.

Post Script:

My father used to remind me that it was Africans who sold their own people “down the river” to people who put them onto boats and took them to be sold as slaves in what was to be the United States and islands in the Caribbean.

He saw that in his own life. When he and my mother were in a position to, they would take students in and help them get through college. There was always someone in the house who was going to the University of Southern California, my Dad’s alma mater where he became the first All-American in football against all odds. Having those students with us enriched our lives as it did theirs. Men would come up to me after my dad died and tell me how he saved them from the streets or drugs as “coach” at Jefferson High School in Los Angeles where he taught History and coached the football team. He would also open the gym on Saturday’s so that the students, the “young men” as Dad referred to them, would have something to do instead of being on the streets and getting into trouble. He also encouraged and supported some of the male students to pursue gymnastics and on his own time each year would take them to Tucson to participate in a gymnastics clinic. Dad continued until the age of 73 when he died. At that time he was the Director of Head Start in Northern California, helping young children get a fair start with their schooling.

He believed that he should help others along as he had been given a hand.

So, when I see people who are in a position to help and instead sell their own people down the river for a few tokens, I am disappointed and angered.

Dora Taylor

Post Script:

Additional articles about DFER:

How DFER Leaders Channel Out-of-State Dark Money

Who are Democrats for Education Reform?
And why do they keep bashing public schools and unions?

DFER and Education Policies

Charter Schools’ New Cheerleaders: Financiers

Anti-Union Ads in Chicago Paid for By Hedge Funds, Billionaires


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