Thursday, January 12, 2017

Lily Eskelson along with 2000 angry parents & teachers urge Zuckerberg not to hire Campbell Brown -- and to curtail the propagation of fake news

More than 2000 concerned parents and teachers signed our petition urging Mark Zuckerberg NOT to hire Campbell Brown to head his new “news team”.  They live throughout the country in 46 states and DC, and  in 10 different countries plus Puerto Rico.  Many commented that they would boycott Facebook unless Zuckerberg reversed his decision.The message they signed onto is below --- as well as the signers' names and outraged comments.

Now,  I just received a copy of an email sent to Zuckerberg from Lily Eskelsen Garcia, the President of the NEA as well -- which is below.

From: Lily Eskelsen <>
Date: Thursday, January 12, 2017 at 1:34 PM
To: Mark Zuckerberg ;
Subject: From the NEA President on how to change everything

To Mark Zuckerberg:

I’m reaching out to you, personally.  I’m sure you’ve seen the on-line petitions of educators denouncing the hiring of Campbell Brown by Facebook as its head of news partnerships.  It’s not hard to understand why.

Here’s the thing.  At the National Education Association we’ve been trying to break through all the empty rhetoric of “failed public schools” and “the only solution is privatization” and “educator unions protect the status quo”… and, well, you get it.

No, we don’t have the billions that helped fund Campbell Brown’s crusade against public schools and organizations like mine, but we do have important answers to what we know will improve schools – if only someone would think to ask a teacher!

My years working with homeless children were my inspiration to run for an NEA office.  My union was the only organization that was going to see a leader in a 6th grade teacher from Utah.  I represent millions of hard-working teachers who leave the classroom at the end of the day and go home to plan the next day’s lessons at the kitchen table; who call Mom about a problem we need to solve together; who pull out of our own pockets at the grocery store to buy what we need for our students’ Science Fair.

We don’t recognize ourselves in the words coming out of Campbell Brown’s mouth.  We know they are unfair and biased.  We know that she knows that much of what she repeats is untrue, not supported by research or evidence, and so we don’t trust her.

I’m not sure why she was chosen for the Facebook team.  I only know that she has done untold harm to our serious work to make every public school as good as our best public schools, and she’s insulted educators in a way that builds a false narrative that public education should be shut down and turned over to the corporate world.

We know the truth.  If you are interested in true research, experience and evidence, we would jump at the chance to show you what educators are inventing, creating, giving birth to… and any other metaphor that you can think of that shows that we’re not waiting for permission, let alone for a politician, to tell us what to do.  We’re already doing whatever it takes to give every student what he or she needs to live the lives they decide to live.  You won’t see it on the news.  This revolution is quiet and deep and changing the world.

We’re the ones who know the names of our kids.  We’re the ones who know what we’re talking about.  If you want to talk about how you can help with something real, please just let me know.  What we have to say will change everything, and we need friends of education and believers in our students to be our true partners.


Lily Eskelsen Garcia

Thank you Lily!!! Indeed, Campbell Brown has "insulted educators in a way that builds a false narrative that public education should be shut down and turned over to the corporate world."

The devastating impact of Facebook on the Presidential race through the dissemination of fake news has been widely reported.  More false or highly biased articles were read and shared in the last few weeks before the election than those published by legitimate news operations.   Yet Campbell Brown is the last person who should be enlisted in order to  improve the image of Facebook and its credibility -- "to help news organizations and journalists work more closely and more effectively with Facebook" as she described her new job on Facebook.

Not only does Brown has deep Republican connections -- her husband, Dan Senor, was an adviser to George W. Bush and Mitt Romney, and sits on the board of the pro-charter school organization started by Michelle Rhee, StudentsFirstNY  -- but she herself is a fierce propagandist for corporate reform and the privatization of public education through the expansion of charter schools and vouchers.

Brown's own news blog, The 74, has received funding from billionaire privateer Betsy DeVos, Trump's appointee to be the Secretary of Education, and Brown sits on the board of Devos' lobbying organization, American Federation for Children.  DeVos also sponsored Campbell Brown's GOP presidential candidate forum held in New Hampshire in 2015.

Rather than step back from the controversy over the DeVos nomination, Brown wrote the following in her defense:

The suggestion that Betsy’s work with children is ideologically or financially driven would be disputed, I’d guess, by just about everyone who has spent time alongside her during the past 30 years as she founded, helped run and advised education groups and initiatives that have helped improve education across the country — including thousands of teachers and poor families.

Part of the difference between the politician’s and practitioner’s view of her efforts stems from the fact that she understands what things are supposed to look like at the school level and has been single-minded in improving opportunities there for children.

Politically, that means she can be agile when she needs to be and dig in on core principles when she must. She is tenacious in defending the best interests of children rather than interest groups and their political patrons.
There are very few education advocates in DeVos' home state of Michigan that would agree with this -- as she has singlehandedly used her great wealth to pursue her free market ideology in favor of the untrammelled expansion of for-profit charters in the state, while draining millions from public schools and facilitating corruption and subjecting children to deficient learning conditions.  If DeVos gets her way, the federal government will fund vouchers to allow taxpayer money to flow to private and religious schools as well.   It was just reported that the DeVos family and the organizations they run have donated to 10 out of the 12 Republican  Senators on the HELP committee that will hold hearings on her nomination next week -- and nearly $1 billion to 28 Senators who will vote on her confirmation.

Campbell Brown has also launched a series of baseless lawsuits in several states, attacking teacher tenure as somehow illegal or unconstitutional, through an organization called Partnership for Educational Justice.  Before this, she started something called the Parent Transparency Project, which, like the Partnership for Educational Justice, ironically refused to divulge its donors.  She used this organization to charge that NYC public schools were overflowing with teachers who were sexual predators, and she fiercely advocated for the law to be changed so that teachers could be fired at will if accused of abuse --  without any hearings or due process necessary.  As Mother Jones reported,

Shortly after it was launched... PTP trained its sights on the New York mayoral race, asking the candidates to pledge to change the firing process for school employees accused of sexual misconduct. ... PTP spent $100,000 on a television attack ad questioning whether six candidates, including Republican Joe Lhota and Democrats Bill de Blasio and Anthony Weiner, had "the guts to stand up to the teachers' unions." 

Pro-charter, anti-union school billionaires already have an outside influence on education reporting via mainstream media outlets financed by their foundations.  The Gates and Walton Foundations not only fund the 74, but also National Public Radio, Education Week and Chalkbeat, to name a few.   The Gates Foundation also supports the awful Media Bullpen, run by the pro-charter group Center for Education Reform, which grades every education article according to how closely it adheres to the privatization anti-union ideology. Even the Education Writers Association receives money from the Gates and Walton Foundations, who sponsor workshops and seminars on topics relevant to their concerns.

While Education Week and NPR usually include disclaimers when running pieces about Gates or Walton initiatives, the same cannot be said of Chalkbeat or some of the others.  The NY Times itself  publishes a regular column by Tina Rosenberg, who co-founded and runs Solutions Journalism, an outfit also funded by Gates Foundation -- and Rosenberg often hypes Gates education projects in her columns without disclosing any conflict of interest, as I discussed here.

So we not only suffer from too many billionaires who use their wealth to influence education policy in this country, but try to control its reporting as well.  The addition of Facebook to this mix will only worsen the trend.  Sadly, despite the many articles discussing Zuckerberg's hiring of Campbell Brown, the only media outlets to explore the negative implications given her unrelenting campaign to privatize our schools were Vanity Fair  and Huffington Post.

Here is the petition and the names and comments of the more than 2000 angry parents and teachers who signed it.  If you'd like to add your name, you can do so here.

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