For some time, folks have said “Enough is enough”. Change.org, a progressive online webpage for various activist petitions has been used as a platform to promote Michelle Rhee’s organization Students First and Stand for Children up until just yesterday. Both organizations are well-known for promoting corporate/business-driven policy agendas in public education through pressure for privatization and union-busting.
Over a year ago, I remember parent activists in Parents Across America discussing this issue and how folks needed to contact change.org to build pressure for….well….change. Part of the frustration was that Students First and Stand for Children’s petitions used deceptive, manipulative wording to lure in unsuspecting folks who likely would not have signed their petitions if they knew the political nature of both organizations. Being that change.org spreads a large amount of information to folks outside the usual activist choir, this seemed logical.
Fast forward to the last month. Jennifer Johnson, a teacher in the Chicago Public Schools active with the Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE) in the Chicago Teachers Union, collectively built a public campaign with other teachers and activists to address this issue. The following video was uploaded by Ms. Johnson and CTU allies to spread the message. I gladly spread the campaign information in solidarity, being that I was like-minded with the cause. The campaign quickly went viral (currently approaching 5,000 signatures) and the pressure was brought to bear on change.org who then announced that they were dropping Students First and Stand for Children as clients.
Before anyone could even try to reel in the enthusiasm and excitement with this small victory, Ms. Johnson intelligently sent out an email to all who signed titled, “A Win and A Warning”. In it, she reminded folks to stay grounded in reality, writing,
Though this is good news, we still need to be very realistic about Change.org and their willingness to repeatedly dupe signers into supporting petitions that appear to be progressive but are really backed by corporate and anti-labor organizations. While this is a great step, we still don’t have a clear indication from Change.org on where they draw the line on anti-worker organizations and groups that advocate against collective bargaining
We also have a long way to go in the struggle to achieve major, broad victories in building concrete improvements in teaching and learning conditions in our schools. In addition, we must push back against those that wish to privatize said schools and reclaim educational policy as primary stakeholders in this wider critical process. If we can take anything away from this small victory with change.org it’s the sometimes-needed reminder that when dedicated folks join together in concrete action victories are possible and can be realized. With the current state of politics in public education, sometimes we all need that reminder in order to collectively roll up our sleeves and fight the very necessary fight that we engage in daily.