Pro charter school group backs Romney big time

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New report shows StudentsFirst NY contributed over $2 million to defeat Obama

By Nico Simino

A new report released this month shows that the pro-charter school group, StudentsFirst NY, is not only backing Mitt Romney for president, but that the group also contributes more campaign funds towards Republicans candidates than Democratic ones.
The report, done by the advocacy group, New Yorkers for Great Public Schools (NYGPS), alleges that StudentsFirst NY are “advocating actions that will treat public schools the way Romney’s Bain Capital treated companies.”
The report documents that StudentsFirst NY board members and donors have contributed over $2 million towards defeating President Obama, and that 68 percent of the candidates StudentsFirst supports nationally have been Republicans.
“Our eyes are wide open we can see clearly by following the money that StudentsFirst NY and Romney are in bed together,” said Zakiyah Ansari, Advocacy Director for the Alliance for Quality Education.
“The vow of the Super PAC, StudentsFirst NY, to raise $50 million is an attempt to buy our NYC public schools, like a corporate takeover.”
“The last thing our city needs is a group like StudentsFirstNY, run by hedge fund managers who have no idea what life is like for New York City parents and students, interfering in our schools,” said Juan Pagan, parent leader of New York Communities for Change.
The report also details a list of activities StudentsFirst is engaged in, including supporting market-driven restructuring and privatization of schools that Mayor Bloomberg has been trying to implement throughout the last ten years.
Members of StudentsFirst’s board include Former NYC schools Chancellor, Joel Klein. While Klein was chancellor, he approved a school data collection program called Aris, which was partially developed by News Corp, whose CEO Rupert Murdoch is a big money donor to StudentsFirst NY.  Klein eventually moved on to head News Corp’s education division, which recently re-branded itself as ‘Amplify’.
Amplify is seeking to offer digital learning tools to kindergarten through 12th grade students, which is part of the News Corp’s strategy to tap into the multibillion-dollar public education market.
“Parents and students and communities need our schools to succeed. StudentsFirstNY is not prioritizing the needs of our students. We shouldn’t have to struggle to make our voices heard over all of the money that the people behind StudentsFirstNY are planning to pump into elections,” said Elizabeth Lee, Program Manager for the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families.
Part of the NYGPS report compares efforts of closing struggling schools and firing unsuccessful teachers to Bain’s practice of closing factories and outsourcing labor “as a way of reducing costs to maximize short term profit.”
StudentsFirst NY, which was formed this April, is the New York state chapter of the national StudentsFirst organization headed by former Washington D.C. education Chancellor Michelle Rhee. According to their website, Students First’s mission is:  “to build a national movement to defend the interests of children in public education and pursue transformative reform, so that America has the best education system in the world.”
NYGPS is a coalition of dozens of community organizations, unions, civil rights groups, immigrant organizations, student organizations, parent groups, education advocates and political advocacy organizations that are committed to turning around the direction of school reform in New York City schools.