Saturday, July 06, 2013

Q: IS STUDENTS FIRST (a/k/a Michelle Rhee, Inc.) A 501(c)(3) or a 501(c)(4) NONPROFIT? A: YES!

●●smf: A story in LA SCHOOL REPORT (follows) says that StudentsFirst, the education reform advocacy nonprofit founded by  tiger-mom and ®eform darling Michelle Rhee spent $3.7 million in support of political candidates who promote their agenda.

Wait a minute….Traditional education-oriented nonprofits such as PTA, ‘friends-of’, school booster clubs and even most charter schools are 501(c)(3) – and are forbidden by the tax code from supporting or even endorsing political candidates.

Nonprofits who are allowed to support candidates are 501(c)(4) – these tend to be be organizations like Labor Unions and The Coalition for School Reform – politically active groups that use (and sometimes abuse) the 501 (c)(4) IRS regulations (and the Citizens United decision) to promote their agenda while concealing their donor base.

●●For more than you ever wanted to know about the IRS tax code and political  “donations” see this:  Outside the Beltway: 501(c)4 vs 501(c)3 vs 527 (NOTE: You may need to consult Jose Cuervo to help understand.)

But here’s the answer to the question posed in the headline: StudentsFirst has it both ways!

There is StudentsFirst Institute (501c3) and StudentsFirst (501c4) They are two different organizations run by two different boards of directors (which are exactly the same) and hopefully keeping two different sets of books. Just like the show biz!

They have their Kate …and Edith too!

Blogger/Researcher Ken M. Libby writes []::

“Most education advocacy organizations post a list of board members on their website. For example, Education Reform Now, Stand for Children, 50CAN, Fairtest, Democrats for Education Reform, and the Alliance for School Choice all make information about board members available on their website.

“StudentsFirst does not make this information available on their website. However, the IRS applications for StudentsFirst Institute (501c3) and StudentsFirst (501c4) list the following board members1:

  • Michelle Rhee – President
  • David Coleman – Treasurer
  • Ann-Margaret Michael – Secretary
  • Jason Zimba – Director

“Coleman, Michael, and Zimba all work for Student Achievement Partners*. And yes, that’s the David Coleman from the Common Core State Standards (nice profile from Dana Goldstein here). Zimba was involved in the writing of the math standards for CCSS. Michael is the operations manager for SAP and Coleman’s assistant.

“I’m not pointing this out to suggest a conspiracy is afoot. But it’s strange that such a high-profile reformer with a serious budget couldn’t put together a more diverse board from the get-go. And why no disclosure on the website?”

Update (5/19/12): A tweet from Coleman’s newly-created Twitter account: @studentsfirsthq ‘I told Students First months ago that my service on Board would end; was told new Board to be named in June’,”

* Another Nonprofit: Student Achievement Partners is a nonprofit organization that assembles educators and researchers to design actions based on evidence that will substantially improve student achievement. Founded by three of the contributing authors of the Common Core State Standards, Student Achievement Partners is devoted to accelerating student achievement by all students by supporting effective and innovative implementation of the Common Core


StudentsFirst 2012: 100 Pct Democratic, 66 Pct Win Rate

Posted on July 1, 2013 by LA School Report |

Sacramento-based education reform advocacy nonprofit StudentsFirst spent 42 percent of its $3.7 million spending in support of Democratic candidates in the 2012 campaign cycle, according to documents obtained by LA School Report editor Alexander Russo — but in California that figure was 100 percent:


In California, the organization funded three Democratic candidates (Brian Johnson, Cheryl Brown, and Ian Calderon) in 2012.  Two out of the three won their races, a 66 percent win rate, compared to 84 percent across 14 states where the organization played a role.


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