February 07, 2018

Following the firing of Families for Excellent Schools CEO Jeremiah Kittredge for “inappropriate behavior” and “additional factors” and the collapse of FES, fingers are deservedly pointing at Kittredge. But understand this: Kittredge was a hiree, a staffer, an employee, an agent, toting water for the Financial Privatization Cabal. Forget Kittredge. Heed the Cabal.

There has been some outstanding work on the fall of FES by Eliza Shapiro and Caitlin Emma of Politico New York and by Kathleen McNerney and Max Larkin at WBUREDify (see here). But Kittredge didn’t invite himself into Massachusetts. Strategic Grant Partners did that when they fronted Families for Excellent Schools $1,450,000 in 2013 and 2014 “to help launch of Massachusetts site.”

Also, the Walton Family Foundation spent like a drunken sailor on FES, “over $13 million between 2014 and 2016 alone.” So let’s take a look at giving to privatization fronts operating in Massachusetts from the 2015 Form 990-PF tax returns of the Walton Family Foundation and Strategic Grant Partners.*

Of course the CEO is important and Kittredge certainly had a distinctive management style. But we're talking a dark money political front here - you can always hire another CEO. Or if there’s too much heat just shut down and rebrand the money under a new name. The Waltons are now bankrolling Massachusetts Parents United, whose state director held the same job in 2016 for FES. Disney is right: it’s a small world after all.  

This isn’t about Kittredge, it’s about the money behind the facade. The hedge fund financiers on the FES Board are the ones who should be answerable – the Board, the Waltons, Strategic Grant Partners - the Financial Privatization Cabal. They are the principles, Kittreddge was the agent. 

Follow the money. He who pays the fiddler names the tune.

"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." – Justice Louis D. Brandeis

[Full disclosure: as an educator in the UMass system, I am a union member. I write about dark money (and other things). I don't write about education policy.]

* Except for Pioneer the donees operate nationally, though the SGP grants were specifically for Massachusetts operations. SGP did not give to Stand for Children in 2015 but SGP funded its operations for a ballot fight with the teachers unions in 2011-2012 (never too late to investigate that one, OCPF).

Strategic Grant Partners, Families for Excellent Schools, Walton Family Foundation

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