DFER absent from Ward 5 race, but financial reports offer clues about which candidates education reformers favor

Democrats for Education Reform are dumping gobs money in local races. The total from March to mid-June, according to the latest DC chapter financial reportamounts to just under $1 million – a significant increase from the amount the organization spent in 2020, when two of the three candidates they backed for the DC Council lost.

This cycle, the pro-charter and anti-union group chose the mayor Muriel BowserPresident Phil Mendelsonand competitor of district 3 Eric Goulet as their favorites. They did not weigh directly in Ward 1, but financial reports show that DFER-DC transferred $50,000 to the LGBTQ Victory Fund PAC, which has spent about $72,000 proof Salah Czaparyformer DC police officer challenging Ward 1 council member Brianne Nadeau.

The race in Ward 5 is conspicuously absent from the sphere of influence attempted by DFER. Perhaps DFER-DC learned its lesson by 2018 when he supported Adrian Jordan more Zachary Parker in the Ward 5 State Board of Education race and lost. Or maybe he took the hint from a candidate forum hosted by DC for Democracy last November, where each of the candidates vying to replace Ward 5 council member McDuffie from Kenya said they would reject DFER approval (although Vincent Orange gave a different answer to the Washington Teachers Union).

So what are DC voters to do if they can’t rely on a national education reform group to guide them to the polls? Candidates’ campaign finance reports and responses to questionnaires offer some clues.

At first glance, it may seem that Faith Gibson Hubbard best aligns with DFER priorities (although she said she would reject their approval). Gibson Hubbard just got out of the Bowser administration and supports municipal control of schools (just like two of his opponents Orange and Gordon Andrew Fletcher). She also has a sizable list of contributions from charter school leaders and promoters, including Patricia Brantley, Stacy Kaneand catherine bradley, founder of CityBridge Foundation, which provides a lot of support for charter schools. Bradley has also personally donated tens of thousands of dollars to DFER over the years. Former DC Chancellor Kaya Hendersonwho oversaw the closing of underperforming schools in DC and generally supported performance-based standards and charter school expansion (all DFER priorities), also participated.

For WTU Board Members Laura FuchsHenderson’s gift alone was enough to disqualify Gibson Hubbard.

“Team Green has clearly aligned with Faith,” says Fuchs, a Woodson High School teacher, who lives in Ward 5. “And Team Green, to me, is DFER.”

But for Ronald ThompsonGibson Hubbard’s donors matter less than his work around education.

“I understand that Faith just got out of the Bowser administration, but she had a record before that,” says Thompson, Ward 5 resident and Greater Washington organizer. “Faith has a file and a resume saying I want to see more neighborhood schools.” (GGWash Parker approvedand Thompson speaks for himself.) Gibson Hubbard did not return a phone call seeking comment.

As for Parker: the current SBOE representative in Ward 5 who defeated the DFER candidate in 2018 and who has a approval of the WTU (the natural enemy of the DFER), appears as an obvious adversary for the pro-charter group. Unlike his rivals in the Ward 5 council race, Parker has also expressed support for weakening the current setup of mayoral control of schools.

But Parker also has contributions from Bradley and other charter school executives and teachers, and not just in 2022. His 2018 SBOE campaign ended in debt. And in order to help repay what he owed to sellers, education reformers launched a fundraiser for him in 2019. Bradley is at the top of the list of donors.

Scott Pearson, executive director of the Public Charter School Board, also donated $200. As did Naomi Sheltonwho is now CEO the National Charter Collaborative, and Josh Hendersonformer government relations officer for the PSCB. Sekou Biddlea former board member who taught at KIPP DC before becoming the charter’s director of community outreach, also contributed.

Incidentally, the Office of Campaign Finance discovered several recordkeeping and accounting errors in Parker’s 2018 campaign, including large cash withdrawals and transfers from the campaign account to Parker’s personal account. . Parker and his treasurer, Theodora Brown, provided explanations and endeavored to solve the problems. The OCF auditor determined that the campaign did not act unethically and that the errors “could be attributed to a lack of internal control procedures”. OCF finally suspended fines and recommended that Parker and Brown take additional campaign finance training (which they did, Parker says).

During an interview this week, Parker describes the 2019 fundraiser as a way to build relationships and trust. “I was paying out of pocket to pay salespeople, and I didn’t want to just leave people with a bill,” he says, in a subtle dig at Orange, which must always several suppliers of his campaigns of the past years.

“Since that time, my work on the SBOE speaks for itself,” adds Parker. “I don’t think the education reformers are rallying behind me.”

But Parker’s critics say his day job with Achievement Network, a non-profit organization that produces and promotes standardized tests, is further evidence of its links to DFER priorities; they also point his lack of support for a moratorium on charter school openings. Gibson Hubbard, on the other hand, supports a moratorium.

Fuchs, a fierce critic of the type of testing pushed by ANet, does not dwell on these points.

“He says what I want to hear, so I hope it’s okay,” she says. “[Endorsing Parker] was not a difficult choice for the union.

Fuchs says she admired the work of Gibson Hubbard as the first SBOE-appointed chief student advocate. But she adds that she is unable to forgive Gibson Hubbard’s support for Bowser’s plan to reopen schools during the pandemic.

“I was like, ‘She’s doing a great job, advocating for parents,'” Fuchs says. “And then she took a job with the mayor and started toeing the party line. If you hang out with Bowser, you don’t hang out with me.