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Update: Edelman Apologizes For "Arrogance In My Tone"

Picture 61 Jonah Edelman's Stand For Children has largely gotten away with a series of slip-ups and tactical mistakes over the past few months but the organization and its leader may not escape from this most recent incident entirely unscathed. 

In an emailed apology Edelman confirmed to me is genuine he expresses regret for among other things "an arrogance in my tone" in remarks he made at the Aspen Ideas Festival a couple of weeks ago -- a video that I've had posted on my site since last week but others think was taken down from the Aspen site (unconfirmed).

Read on for more about the Edelman video, and the history of recent slipups of which this would seem to be just the most recent, the nagging questions about whether the Illinois law that Edelman has touted as transformational may instead be incremental, and the likely impact of the video and the unusual apology.

Does Edelman come off as wildly arrogant in the Aspen video?  Yes.  I posted video of the talk on my Chicago schools blog on Tuesday as everyone was coming back from the 4th of July weekend, which several readers noted was borderline offensive to teachers unions, etc.

Is the apology legit?  Apparently so.  Edelman responded that it was his.  Here's one of several places that have posted the apology, in which he goes on at some length to explain his real meaning and the tone of the video. 

Is this the first time Edelman and SFC have slipped up in recent months, in ways large and small?  No.  They pushed for quick passage of a reform package of changes in Illinois in December and January during the last moments of the previous legislature, which was roundly criticized for a sloppy and premature push (and its focus on a strike ban, which came out of nowhere).  They called for a press conference to announce the groundbreaking results of the Illinois negotiations but the deal wasn't done and no one had told his legislative leader.  Most of all, they have oversold the Illinois package as being transformative and groundbreaking -- which it doesn't seem to be in reality -- when its main appeal was that it was done collaboratively and passed unanimously.  (I wrote a post raising some questions about the viability of implementing the law, and a DFER member wrote about similar concerns a few weeks later.)

Is the video some sort of fatal mistake for Edelman or SFC?  Likely not.  It would have been a major setback had the IL legislation still been in play.  It will likely be used in other SFC states where reform has not yet passed. But supporters will continue to support Stand For Children, critics will continue to demonize the organization. 

Previous Posts:

Critique Of IL Reform Law Lacks Common Sense

Reform -- Or Reform "Lite" -- In Illinois?


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great comment from special ed advocate rod estvan about the edelman video and
his apology:

I would not characterize Jonah Edelman's Aspen presentation as being arrogant. As I stated in my original post on this video he was overly honest. Mr. Edelman self-criticizes his attributing motives or perspectives to the unions involved in these discussions that led to SB 7. He writes: "I was wrong to make assumptions or comments about the unions’ political strategy." Well I do not agree in the least.

What Mr. Edelman described in detail at the Aspen conference was the tactical approach Stand for Children used to effectively remove the CTU's right to bargain for anything more than wages and burden the union with an impossibly high strike vote requirement. Anyone who has lobbied in Springfield on a contentious bill, and I confess I am a registered lobbyist, has to make assumptions about the motivation of groups opposing your bill. In fact it is normally part of the lobbying process to attribute certain motives to your opponents publicly in order to gain political advantage for your bill. Politics is not bean bags after all, the stakes are often high.

So in my opinion Mr. Edelman does not have to apologize for these characterizations, but rather he needs to understand that in the legislative process some things are better not said, even in the Globe tavern in Springfield after five beers, let alone on video. One of those things that should have not been said by Mr. Edelman were his characterizations of discussions relating to the Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives and comments on funding of candidates. There was nothing illegal in any of those discussions described by Mr. Edelman, but it did make the Illinois General Assembly Democratic leadership look like they were simply for sale.
Now there are numerous journalists in Illinois who believe that our General Assembly is effectively just how Mr. Edelman portrayed it. But journalists do not need votes from these legislators to move bills and have the luxury of running their mouths, political action committees do not.

Stand for Children is a PAC and a powerful one in terms of funding apparently, but it has made clear to many members of the Assembly through this video that they cannot be trusted to keep what should not be said publicly just that - not said. So now every member who speaks to Mr. Edelman or his contracted lobbyists has to measure what they say for fear it will show up on video tape, simply put that is not good for a PAC.

Have I had discussions with members of the Assembly that I would not disclose, you bet I have and so does everyone who lobbies for any issue in Springfield. The simple rule of thumb is if a member of the Assembly wants to disclose a discussion relating to lobbying that is their prerogative and as a lobbyist you must accept that. However, you have not been elected and do not have to right to make decisions for elected officials as to what discussions can be disclosed.

Rod Estvan

cross posted from D299

As a non-educator and just a member of a Florida community watching with consternation State and federal education reform initiatives, I have been learning about people who I never heard of before. Mr. Edelman is a new name to the list and so is Stand for Children, a powerful PAC "in terms of funding." This specific piece of information is significant. There seems to be quite a few in this category acting as though they have to "right to make decisions for elected officials" these days.

Whether Edelman was arrogant, honest, or indiscreet means absolutely nothing to me. The narrative of education reform seems to tilt too much on the personal and insufficiently on the facts related to initiatives.

Mr. Edelman and Mr. Estevan have also provided illuminating insight into what Michelle Rhee has been up to via the StudentsFirst lobbying in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee, etc.

We may eat sausage, but it's not that often that we see how it's made. Not pretty.

here's a rough transcript of some of edelman's remarks -- unchecked by me, so caveat lector:


"There was nothing illegal in any of those discussions described by Mr. Edelman, but it did make the Illinois General Assembly Democratic leadership look like they were simply for sale."

It made the GA look for sale? I think it states fairly clearly that they ARE for sale. So, illegal, no, for sale, yes. In other words, we are being lead, school reform is being lead, by people whose only qualification is they have money. Politicians clearly do not understand the issues, and sure the corporate anti-union reform movement has a few "let's get dirty and roll up our sleeves" types which are pulled out sometimes to make the case for authenticity, but let's be honest, this corporate reform movement is being driven by wealthy people. So the next question is why? What is their stake in this and what are their blind spots? How much do they really understand the issues involved with educating poor children?

Hi Alexander -- Cross-posting from your Chicago blog: I have a question about one of Edelman's comments.

Here's the quote from the transcript I made. It's at 9:11 of the 14.44-minute clip, and it's very clear. I capitalized the words I'm asking about.
So in the intervening time, Rahm Emanuel was elected mayor ... and he strongly supports our proposal. Jim [apparently Crown] … talked about THE TALKING POINT THAT WE MADE UP and he [Emanuel] repeated about a thousand times, probably, on the campaign trail about the Houston kids going to school four years more than the Chicago kids.
Edelman says quite clearly and calmly (and I think with a faint smile) that "we" made up this claim. Do you think you could ask him about that strategy and what else they made up? I know it's par for the course in the sausage-making world, but I'm still interested in the fact that it's so cold-blooded.

By the way, there's now another transcript -- the full hour of the Edelman/Crown panel, I believe from the NEA -- and it doesn't have the "we made up" wording -- the sentence is rather garbled and simply omits those words in their version. But mine is accurate; you can hear it clearly.

here's the statement from the three main teachers' unions in IL about edelman's "false statements" and distortion of the process


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