October 25, 2016

Governor Charlie Baker appeared on his monthly Ask the Governor segment with Jim Braude and Margery Egan on WGBH’s Boston Public Radio last Wednesday and advocated strongly for a yes vote on Question 2, charter schools. Governor Baker is the best thing Question 2 has going for it – he speaks with clarity and passion – though perhaps too forcefully on how Question 2 made it onto the ballot in the first place.

At about the 39:50 mark Mr. Braude asked Governor Baker if he regrets putting Question 2 on the ballot, since it appears that it may be defeated. My (amateur) transcript of the governor’s response:

First of all, we’re going to win. It’s not a mistake. Secondly there was a group of families – families –  who are part of that waiting list community who put this question on the ballot. They did most of the the heavy lifting associated with collecting the signatures and all the rest.

In politics it can be those with a passionate interest who force an issue onto the agenda. Just listen to the governor’s remarks and you’ll recognize that those hungering for better schools for their kids would be a logical part of such a movement.

A part, but how much of a part? Great Schools Massachusetts used to be known as Public Charter Schools for Massachusetts and that is the ballot committee that managed signature gathering in 2015. Here is an excerpt from its 2015 year-end report with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance:

There needed to be more signatures gathered in 2016 so here is an excerpt from Great Schools 60 day report with OCPF:

That would make $305,000.00 in 2015 and $109,000.00 in 2016 for a total amount of $414,000.00 for signature gathering. Who paid for all of this?

Here are the major contributors to the ballot committee from its end of year 2015 OCPF report:

None of them (except Ledley) appear as contributors to any of the ballot committees formed in 2016 to support passage of Question 2. But six of them – Bekenstein, Edgerley, Helman, Jacobson, Klarman, and Dupre – are also contributors to Strategic Grant Partners, the 501(c)(3) that in its Fiscal Years 2013-14 sent Families for Excellent Schools of New York $2,135,000.00 “to help support launch of Massachusetts site.” As of the October 20, 2016 OCPF report, Families for Excellent Schools has contributed $13,125,000.00 to Great Schools Massachusetts – every penny in dark money.

The other major component of grassroots politics is the canvass so let’s look at what the OCPF reports for Great Schools says about that. First, the 60 day report:

Next, September 20:

GSM doesn’t have a line for Canvass in its Oct. 5 report so fast forward to Oct. 20:

That is just short of a half million dollars for canvassing but it may not be the extent of it on the pro-2 side. As I noted in Playing Three Card Monte with Dark Money, the Campaign for Fair Access to Quality Public Schools ballot committee, fueled with contributions from WalMart heirs, has paid Five Corners Strategies $450,000.00 for “campaign management.” Five Corners specializes in grass roots campaigns for “Fortune 500 companies, business associations, trade organizations, and national real estate developers.”

It’s grassroots campaigning, Fortune 500 style.

Louis D. Brandeis: "We must make our choice. We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."

[Full disclosure: as an educator in the UMass system, I am a union member. I write about dark money, and not charter schools. I've never written about charter schools, nor taken a position on them. I have taken a position against plutocracy and in favor of democracy, and thus against dark money. Additional disclosure: a relative is employed by Five Corners Strategy.]

Campaign for Fair Access to Quality Public Schools, Great Schools Massachusettts, Families for Excellent Schools

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