July 3, 2013

[Marcel Neergaard taking a stand over StudentsFirst's recognition of a homophobic state representative as "reformer of the year."]

If ever there was an organization that stands out as one that should never have been granted nonprofit status and doesn't deserve to continue having it, it's StudentsFirst. One look at their 2011 tax disclosures reveals a fat, political, ideological organization. StudentsFirst not only crosses the line, they stomp on it and erase it for their own benefit.

Even though Rhee didn't meet her fundraising goal of $1 billion in the first year, she still had a hefty haul. Donations were $15 million from July 2011 to July 2012, compared to $4.6 million the year before. In the current year, we know the Walton Foundation kicked in $8 million, which will help with the goalsetting for this year, but still falls far short of Rhee's lofty claims. No disclosures are available at this time for sister organizations StudentsFirst Institute and Great New England Public Schools Alliance, which could bump the overall fundraising totals upward, but still short.

That didn't stop Rhee from sending over a third of the donations and grants to politicians.

The documents show how the organization has spent its money. StudentsFirst spent about $638,000 on Change.org petitions and paid $302,000 to lobbyist Bradley Tusk and $2 million to the public relations firm SKD Knickerbocker. According to bloggerAlexander Russo, the group gave candidates $3.7 million in campaign contributions in 14 states -- 42 percent to Democrats, 58 percent to Republicans.

In addition to that, StudentsFirst put $2 million into their own SuperPAC. Big donations also found their way into into the Michigan GOP administrative account, StudentsFirstNY, Tennessee House and Senate Republican Caucus funds, and more.

I'm still working on how spending all of this money on political races somehow puts StudentsFirst. I do know that $15 million goes a long way for many, many strapped school districts who are struggling to keep class sizes reasonable, music and art programs and more. Imagine what good could be done with that money.

Instead, a nonprofit organization set out to buy politicians in order to privatize schools. This is the real scandal right here.

Can you help us out?

For 18 years we have been exposing Washington lies and untangling media deceit, but now Facebook is drowning us in an ocean of right wing lies. Please give a one-time or recurring donation, or buy a year's subscription for an ad-free experience. Thank you.


We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Any comments that are sexist or in any other way deemed hateful by our staff will be deleted and constitute grounds for a ban from posting on the site. Please refer to our Terms of Service for information on our posting policy.