Report: Outside money pouring into Mpls. school races

Why would a couple of national organizations care about a school board race in Minneapolis?

Sarah Lahm, a member of Act for Education, is claiming that organizations affiliated with Teach for America, an organization some teachers say undermines their status by promoting the privatization of public education, are funneling money into the local campaign.

The outside money flowing to the Samuels campaign follows a relatively recent national pattern that’s played out in places such as Texas, Oregon, Colorado and New Jersey, where local school board races have been heavily influenced by the political and financial heft of outside groups.

Significantly, the 50CAN Action Fund report noted above shows that, of the $14,350 given to Samuels’ campaign, $10,000 comes from the pockets of California billionaire and Teach for America board member Arthur Rock. Rock is also listed on a separate campaign finance report as having given $1,000 to establish the “Leadership in Educational Equity” (LEE) Political Action Committee in the Twin Cities.

LEE is the political arm of Teach for America, and its involvement in local school board races is documented in James Cersonsky’s American Prospect article “Teach for America’s Deep Bench.”

The SFER Action Fund, which also campaigned this summer on behalf of Samuels, filed its own campaign finance report in Minneapolis in August. The report shows that SFER received $26,000 in outside money, some of which it spent on such things as paid canvassers and campaign infrastructure, and $4,350 of which it passed along to the 50CAN Action Fund for “walk literature.”

Local Republican financier Benson Whitney, chair of the board of the education reform organization MinnCAN (the state-level branch of 50CAN) and a supporter of Samuels, gave $2,500 of the $26,000, while California charter school investor and SFER board member Adam Cioth provided the other $23,500 in funds.

Lahm claims the support is intended to further the proliferation of charter schools in Minneapolis.

Related: A 'crazy' amount of money is being spent on Minneapolis school-board races (MinnPost).