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This is cross-posted on theAFL-CIO blog.

My mother is a high school teacher. Growing up, the joy that she took in her students learning each day was inspiring (and still is!). She spent thousands of dollars of her own money on classroom and after school activities, countless days and weeks over the summer poring over classics so she could better educate her seniors on their Advanced Placement (AP) work and endless nights and weekends creating her own supplemental material when the textbooks just weren’t engaging enough (think sketch comedies using characters from The Iliad and The Odyssey).

Inspired largely by my mom, when I got to college in Chicago, I promptly signed up to be a part-time teaching assistant in the Chicago Public School system.

I spent about 15 hours a week, often more, in elementary school classrooms or after-school programs for just about my entire college career.

I realized that while many teachers might not have quite the same quirky sense of humor as my mom, she was far from unique in her passion and dedication to her students and her profession.

So, I decided to become a teacher, and I joined Teach for America in Philadelphia, where I taught middle school (primarily special education) for two years. I know firsthand how some change could benefit out education system. And I know the people fighting to fix it.

They’re teachers.

In the past few days, the online activist organization change.org started running a petition by Stand for Children, a billionaire-funded “education reform” group founded by Jonah Edelman, that Chicago teachers say directly interferes with the collective bargaining process between the Chicago Teachers Union/AFT and the School Board. AFT has come out in strong support of the Chicago teachers.

This isn’t the first time Change.org has gone the wrong way on education: For months, the organization has run petitions for StudentsFirst, a group founded by Michelle Rhee. Rhee’s time as the chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools was rife with anti-teacher policies, including illegally firing teachers. With the Stand for Children petition, it appears that Change.org is escalating its support for anti-teacher policies despite its stated progressive agenda.  

I love change.org. I’ve watched the organization grow from a scrappy start-up to an online powerhouse, hell-bent on making the world a better place. The organization has scored innumerable victories, many of them alongside people fighting for justice in the workplace, and the energy and creativity its staff bring to their work is inspiring. I’m friends with many of them, and I can say without a doubt that they are some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met.

That’s why the situation right now is heartbreaking to me.

Let’s be clear. It’s unacceptable that Change.org supports an organization attacking a union in the middle of workers' negotiations with their employer, period. But Stand for Children, StudentsFirst and the gaggle of groups promoting similar agendas have crafted their messaging in such a way that many progressive activists are fooled. These groups seek to portray the impression that they are romantic heroes out to save students from the crumbling education system. Their foes? The greedy, incompetent teachers who are fighting back against anything that could save the educational system. So maybe Change.org was just fooled into thinking this was happening here.

So let’s look at what’s at stake in this battle. According to Chicago teacher Jennifer Johnson:  

At stake in this negotiation is how much funding the Chicago Public School District will provide for basic art and music instruction, school nurses, counselors, playgrounds and libraries.

Ninety-eight of our Chicago schools don't have playgrounds, and 160 schools don't have libraries at all. Forty percent of our schools do not have full-time art and music programs. These are some of the important issues that teachers would like to discuss at the bargaining table, not just to improve working conditions for teachers but to ensure that our students receive the education they deserve.

These are the words of a nine-year veteran of the Chicago Public Schools. I think it’s pretty clear who is actually standing for children and putting students first right now: the teachers.

Please sign this petition asking Change.org to stop supporting deceptive, union-busting groups like Stand for Children, and share it with your friends.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Are you sure it's still up? (0+ / 0-)

    I cannot find any such petition on the change.org site. Doesn't mean it's not there, but I've tried several searches and get no such results.

    from a bright young conservative: “I’m watching my first GOP debate…and WE SOUND LIKE CRAZY PEOPLE!!!!”

    by Catte Nappe on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 09:08:00 AM PDT

    •  It's geo-targeted to Chicago (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Catte Nappe

      I can find a screenshot, but if you're not in Chicago you can't see the actual petition. They're not denying that it's up, either -- change.org has basically responded and said that stand for children doesn't violate their client policy, which I think is a very creative reading of their client policy.

      •  Thanks (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        johnny wurster

        The change.org policy seems broad enough to encompass a pretty wide range of clientele. Doesn't look likely they'd be persuadable to your point.

        As there are many organizations who share our values and advocate solutions for social change in the public good, sometimes there are disagreements about how to bring about that change. Change.org does not take an official position on the means or tactics social change organizations use to achieve their goals, provided these organizations are ethical in their practices and policies. As an open platform that enables social change organizations to promote their causes to people around the world, we empower our members to decide which campaigns deserve their support.
        http://www.change.org/...

        from a bright young conservative: “I’m watching my first GOP debate…and WE SOUND LIKE CRAZY PEOPLE!!!!”

        by Catte Nappe on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 09:22:25 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  If you believe (0+ / 0-)

          that union busting and attacking teachers are ethical practices and policies to achieve the goals of social change, and your vision of social change is privatizing public education, then sure. But that doesn't seem to be in line with anything else change.org has stood for thus far, and I'm deeply saddened that this is where they chose to draw the line.

          •  On the upside (0+ / 0-)

            They seem to be grappling with that issue. They are recognizing the problems inherent in rapid growth. Hopefully ongoing feedback will help them refine their mission and definitions.

            from a bright young conservative: “I’m watching my first GOP debate…and WE SOUND LIKE CRAZY PEOPLE!!!!”

            by Catte Nappe on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 05:38:15 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks again (0+ / 0-)

        Very helpful. It sounds like the feed-back has at least given them something to think about, and they are thinking about it.

        from a bright young conservative: “I’m watching my first GOP debate…and WE SOUND LIKE CRAZY PEOPLE!!!!”

        by Catte Nappe on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 09:25:45 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  In fact, are you sure it was a change.org petition (0+ / 0-)

    The one linked to at Stand for Children is their own petition.
    http://stand.org/...

    from a bright young conservative: “I’m watching my first GOP debate…and WE SOUND LIKE CRAZY PEOPLE!!!!”

    by Catte Nappe on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 09:10:53 AM PDT

    •  yep, that's how change.org's business model works (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Catte Nappe

      For sponsored petitions, like Stand for Children's, change.org charges for each email of the person signing. Many organizations don't put change.org's petition widget on their site because then they're paying for their own traffic instead of change.org's.

  •  I signed a petition for Change.org (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nekaro

    several months ago and suddenly I started receiving email/spam from Stand for Children.  Change.org is one of those places that after you sign one of their petitions they shuttle you on to the next petition.  "Want to sign this one?"  Click.  "How about this one?"  Click.  Usually they are all for pretty worthy causes, but I caught myself when a petition for Stand for Children came up.  

    No way will I ever sign anything even remotely attached to Michelle Rhee.  

    Then the spam started.  I put their name in my junk folder and now it all goes straight to there.  Plus, I try to find a different route other than Change.org to sign petitions, now.  

    "When I give food to the poor they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." Dom Helder Camara

    by koosah on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 09:28:23 AM PDT

  •  What is the substance of the Stand petition? (0+ / 0-)

    What are they petitioning for?  

  •  As far as I can tell (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    koosah

    the mission of Students First is to aggrandize Michelle Rhee by siphoning money away from local education needs into her foundation.

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 10:10:50 AM PDT

  •  I was happy to sign (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nekaro, koosah, Catte Nappe

    and I was glad to find a place over on their site to comment. I was livid when I got a petition from Michelle Rhee's group.  I despise and resent that phony.  I despise anyone who calls themselves "teacher" and then uses duct tape over the mouths of young children.  I started teaching (5th) grade at age 21 right out of college.  Even then I had the mind, the heart and the soul to instinctively know to never hurt a child in that or any way.    I taught for over 40 years. I am proud to say I was a public school teacher and I am proud to say I was a member of the union, many years as the school rep for the union.  I have had many accolades (from students, parents, admin and peers) as have many of my former colleagues.  Yet somehow this incompetent Rhee gets a seat and a voice in education reform????  How?  Why?  Corporate money, that's how.  It sickens me that I even got on a list for her Student's First and I was happy to let Change.org know how unhappy I was about their choices.

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