An Open Letter to SF Families and Community Members about Innovate

Who is Innovate?

Over the past few weeks, SF Families Union has been working with parent leaders, educators, and local California NAACP education directors to investigate a Walton (Walmart) Family-funded organization named Innovate Public Schools.

We have learned Innovate has been infiltrating San Francisco schools and parent advocacy groups in an effort to collect parent contacts. They recently came with the press and their own paid photographer to a School Board meeting to demand a new KIPP Charter School.

Innovate “Public” schools has very deep pockets and its founder, Matt Hammer, has connections to Michelle Rhee, charter schools, and Betsy DeVos through his partnership with such organizations as the Philanthropy Roundtable

Smoke and Mirrors

The very next day, one of our members, an SFUSD parent and bilingual educator, posted a blog about her experiences with Innovate in a “parent led” meeting at Everett Middle School under the false pretense of being a “Innovate Parent Research Meeting”. The meeting was co-facilitated with one of our district assistant-superintendents. Both central and site staff involved with the meeting were unaware of Innovate’s mission to drive charter expansion in our district.

This amazing parent/educator has graciously published a write up of her observations of the Everett meeting in both English and Spanish below:

In addition to portraying itself as a SF “parent” organization speaking for Black & Latinx parents, Innovate staff and “Innovate parents” have been meeting with school board members, supervisors, legislators, non-profit partners and even public school staff under the same false pretenses. 

They are inviting San Francisco VIPs to meetings and then using photos of them to portray support for expanding charter schools. This has been very confusing to SF community organizers and parent leaders who are fighting to every day to uplift the voices of Black and Latinx families in our district and in our schools. Unfortunately, Innovate is taking advantage of the good will of our true community advocates to further it’s goal of promoting charter expansion in our district by charter management chains. 

Innovate’s Mission: Covert Corporate Takeover of our Schools

Do not be mistaken, Innovate is out to take over our public education system. If they are successful in their aims, the “new schools” they seek to create will undoubtedly come at the expense of schools serving our most marginalized students. We will follow in the unfortunate footsteps of Los AngelesSan Jose and Oakland who are currently facing a rash of charter takeovers and school closures.

 

Image courtesy of “19 Journey for Justice Alliance (2014). Death By A Thousand Cuts: Racism, School Closures, and Public School Sabotage. Voices from America’s Affected Communities of Color. Read the full report at: http://www.issuelab.org/resource/death_by_a_thousand_cuts.

Fake Grassroots Organizing

Innovate may say it is a “parent empowerment” organization, but based on its founding documents its true focus is on “…education reform that will support the creation of new charter schools…”. Not only are they are heavily pushing news charters, they are also charterizing schools from the inside. In case you wanted to see their lay of the land, it looks something like this.

Innovate Public Schools founding documents.

SF Families members have reached out to CA NAACP Education Chair, Julian Vasquez Heilig, Ph.D., who has been supporting us in our efforts to push back on charter “reformers”. The CA NAACP is so supportive of our efforts, he even wrote a post to share with other SFUSD officials and community members:

“Parents and community members in San Francisco have called recently concerned about an “astroturfing” organization that has received several hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Walton Family Foundation seeking to “organize” and “innovate” in the Bay. It appears that the billionaires boy club has taken to heart calls for community-based reform (at least the appearance) as an alternative to top-down reform.”

[Read more here.]

Innovate and similar charter expansion proponents use “astroturfing” (or fake grassroots activism) to lobby elected officials for charter expansion.

Definition courtesy of Merriam Webster. To see more go to: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/astroturfing

Are We At War?

Innovate has in its own words described its strategy as an “air war” and “ground war” to create “actionable demand” for charter expansion. Look at the Innovate website and you will see a board composed of people and organizations whose mission is charter school expansion (see attachment). According to reports, Innovate is currently advocating for more KIPP schools, and specifically supporting KIPP’s petition to bring a new elementary to our district. This petition was unanimously denied a charter by all members of the SFUSD Board of Education.

Additionally, Innovate is notorious for creating “parent-friendly” reports sharing inaccurate and misleading data about SFUSD schools, which intentionally devalue SF families, schools and educators.

We Won’t Let Innovate’s Corporate Tech Bullies Push Us Around! Stand Up for Democratically Controlled PUBLIC Schools!

We are a diverse city, but San Franciscans have one thing in common: We don’t take kindly to outside corporate interests privatizing our right to have a voice in our public institutions—and especially our public schools!

There are several things you can do to push back on Silicon Vally billionaires angling for a land grab of our public schools.

Get educated/Share what you learn:

Check out these resources below to get you started. Make sure to share them in the comments below. Tweet, Post and Share on Twitter, FB, Instagram and all your parent email groups. Use the hashtag #SFNotforSale.

Who is Innovate?

Below is a compilation of research by SF Families parents and educators and our supporters. Click this link to download a Pdf.

Be a Part of the Community Schools Conversation!

SF Families Union agrees with teachers, NAACP leaders, and others working for educational equity. We believe our schools should be accountable to the communities they serve. Thus, we strongly support Community Schools. We will be sharing more about this in the coming months as we reach out to work with other parent leadership organizations and community partners across San Francisco, including Coleman Advocates, Parent for Public Schools, district and local Parent Teacher Organizations and Associations to define what WE mean by “community schools.”

Sign up to be on our email listserv to stay up to date on posts and actions. Click here to go back to our home page and scroll down to sign up NOW!

What resources do you have to share about the harms of charter expansion in our district? What are the benefits of democratically controlled community schools? Please share links and resources below! 

Learn More:

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