St. Louis Teach for America

St. Louis Regains Elected Board, But TFA Snags Two Open Seats

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We learned just last July that the Billionaire Reformers had created another organization to disrupt public education, called The City Fund. This is a ragtag collection of guys who had disrupted public education in several cities and had pooled their talents to collect an initial downpayment of $200 million from their sponsors. They shook the money tree and $200 million dropped down. Who is behind this new group? The Hastings Group (Netflix founder Reed Hastings), the John and Laura Arnold Foundation (ex-Enron billionaire), the Gates Foundation, the Dell Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation. The usual Destroy Public Education crowd. Their target cities: Nashville, Denver, St. Louis, Newark, Atlanta, Indianapolis, and San Diego.

Their first conquest: St. Louis.

St. Louis has been under state control since 2007 and has struggled to regain an elected board. The district was ripped off by “reformers,” who brought in the Alvarez & Marsal consulting firm to run the district. A&M installed the former CEO of Brooks Brothers clothing store as the superintendent, outsourced as much as possible, laid off 1,000 teachers, hired TFA, closed public schools, brought in charters, collected multi-million dollar fees, and left the district in worse shape. Jeff Bryant summarizes the sad story here. One six-school for-profit chain, Imagine, was kicked out of St. Louis in 2012, having profited handsomely on real estate deals but produced poor results.

St. Louis public schools have made large strides in the past decade, thanks largely to Superintendent Kelvin Adams, who has led the district since 2008 and restored stability.

St. Louis is expected to regain an elected board in the next few months, and in last week’s election, two seats were open. Sadly, two TFA veterans won them. They had the money and the usual promises. 

Here are the winners, described by a local parent group the day before the election.

“Tracee Miller’s candidacy is problematic. She appears to have only had negative experiences with SLPS [St. Louis Public Schools] as a Teach for America corps member who taught in the district for three years, a program coordinator and advocate for her godson. One would expect someone running for school board to have more measured experiences with the district, something positive as well. That does not appear to be the case with her. She reported being banned from her godson’s school.

”This reporter has known dozens of SLPS parents who over the years have made irritating pains in the neck, not to mention other parts of the body, of themselves while advocating for their children to school principals and district administrators, without getting themselves banned. Banning unfortunately happens from time to time but it is rare. A parent has to cross a line for that to happen. Not knowing the specifics of Miller’s case, it is not possible to judge whether she was treated fairly. However, experience instructs my judgment that one can make quite the pest of oneself and not get banned. It is possible and even necessary at times to be a forceful advocate for one’s own and even other parents’ children and get downright unpleasant in so doing and not get banned from district buildings. A board member has to be able to work with people to accomplish anything. Between leaving teaching when she was not allowed to implement her own curriculum in her class, and getting banned from her godson’s school, Miller may be indicating that she lacks collaborative skills.

“After working for SLPS, she in her own words, “moved into a position as a program coordinator with a national education nonprofit organization, where I managed math intervention programs in East St. Louis, St. Louis, Boston, and Holyoke Public Schools.” That was Blueprint Schools Network, which made a bad situation worse at Boston’s Paul S. Dever Elementary School. If you want to read more about that education privatizer’s impact in Boston see Miller currently works for the privatizing virtual school education powerhouse Khan Academy.

“She acknowledged a large donation from Leadership for Educational Equity, an organization affiliated with Teach for America which funds T4A alumni running for school boards across the country. She did not report the total amount of two checks, $1,500 at the Better Budgets, Better Schools candidate forum when asked and claimed that it was a loan which she would repay. She did not report those contributions as loans on her campaign finance reports.. They are listed as direct contributions. That amounts to about a quarter of the $6,000 she raised from friends and relatives around the country which has allowed her to pay for ads on Face Book. On line campaigning is very effective with younger voters and may well get her elected which would be unfortunate. She has the passion but does not appear to have the temperament to be an effective board member.

“Former Teach for America Corps Member Adam Layne sees no conflict of interest with his serving on the board of the soon to open Kairos charter school, which will draw students and resources away from SLPS while serving on the elected SLPS school board. He speaks with convincing passion about his reasons for serving on the charter school board. He has yet to articulate equal passion when discussing his reasons for running for our elected Board Of Education. A candidate running for the St. Louis Public Schools Board of Education, ought to hold the SLPS as their primary priority. That does not appear to be the case for Layne.

Lastly, Layne is being supported in his campaign for school board by $20,000 in untraceable dark money from a shadowy organization named Public School Allies. Allies don’t hide their faces. Last November Missouri voters overwhelmingly rejected the injection of dark money in our political campaigns by passing the CLEAN ballot initiative. Why elect a school board candidate who does not share those ideals?”

Both were elected.

Layne candidly admitted he supports anti-union right-to-work laws, which the public recently rejected in Missouri.

Why do so so many TFA alums turn out to be right-wingers? Is that part of their training?

Layne’s Dark money came from City Fund, so score a victory for the billionaires.

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