National Teachers Union Funds Philly Groups Fighting Education Reform

Several different organizations “came together” last week to protest a conference of philanthropists looking to fund successful education solutions in Philadelphia. Many of those organizations, however, are receiving funding from a common source:  the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).

The national teachers union has contributed to many of the groups involved in education protests in Philadelphia blaming Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, Mayor Michael Nutter, and Superintendent William Hite for the $304 million budget gap the school district is facing. AFT is calling for them to “stop blaming teachers” by asking for pay cuts and work-rule reforms.

According to AFT’s Labor Organization Annual Report, AFT will pay nearly $100,000 to three of the groups that are listed as “partners” on the website Fund Philly Schools:  the Philadelphia Student Union, ACTION United, and Youth United for Change.

AFT contributed $25,252 to ACTION United, a former ACORN group, for “representational activities.” They contributed $21,736 for “representational activities” and awarded a $25,000 grant to Youth United for Change. And another $20,000 is earmarked for the Philadelphia Student Union under AFT’s accounts payable aging schedule.

AFT also contributed to the Jewish Labor Committee ($7,500), Jobs with Justice ($21,000), and Working America ($5,000) — the community affiliate of AFL-CIO. Though AFT contributed to each group’s national branch, each of them has a local branch also listed as a partner on Fund Philly Schools.

Those contributions show at least nine of the 14 organizations on have financial ties to the AFT, including the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) and AFT Pennsylvania.

AFT also contributed $11,158 to Ceisler Media and Issue Advocacy LLC in Philadelphia, a company that “execute[s] strategic public affairs, grassroots and issue management programs on behalf of clients.” The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers is listed as a client on its website.

The Fund Philly Schools website was created over the summer and has since launched an ad campaign attacking the governor and the mayor as well as the superintendent and the school district’s School Reform Commission. Last week, Fund Philly Schools ran a full-page, color ad in the Philadelphia Inquirer attacking the conference at the Union League, where philanthropic organizations such as the Gates Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation were gathered to discuss successful education tactics in public, private, and charter schools.

It is unclear who financed the newspaper ad, though the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers paid for the earlier television ads.

The Fund Philly Schools website does not have contact information or administrative information save the list of “partners.” The website itself, however, is licensed to Adelstein | Liston, Inc., a Chicago-based media and strategic communications consulting firm. AFT is listed as a client on its website, and according to AFT’s annual report, they paid Adelstein | Liston nearly $400,000 last year. Adelstein | Liston also served as the senior strategy team for President Barack Obama’s re-election effort and works with the AFL-CIO.

Besides financial ties, all these groups spout the same talking points, claiming that Corbett has cut $1 billion from education funding and that Nutter has taken his side — a myth Media Trackers previously debunked.