Earlier this week the Rag examined Fullerton City Council candidate Jonathan Mansoori’s campaign finance filings to discover that his candidacy is being significantly financed by a political action committee (PAC) called Leadership and Equity in Education California (LEEC-PAC), who have so far given over $ 25,000.00. The Rag also noted that Mr, Mansoori denied receiving any “big money” in a video recorded and posted by the Fullerton Observer well after his campaign would have been aware of the large donations from LEE-PAC Instead, he stated that his biggest contributors were friends and family.
Just who are LEEC-PAC, and why are they spending so much money to get a political unknown elected to office in Fullerton? LEEC-PAC is the political arm of Leadership for Education Equity, who are Jonathan Mansoori’s current employers. More about them and their connection to the national program Teach for America below, but first let’s examine who is supporting LEEC-PAC itself.
According to the California Secretary of State’s website LEEC-PAC received major contributions from some very wealthy and prominent individuals. who have one thing in common besides being uncommonly rich–they are all big supporters of charter schools. Among them, are venture capitalist Arthur Rock. That’s the same Arthur Rock who made the cover of Time Magazine as a pioneer investor in Apple Computer (he supported firing Steve Jobs from Apple in 1985), and other Silicon Valley companies.
In addition to it’s PAC, LEE also has its own foundation. One prominent board member of the LEE Foundation is Arthur Rock. If that isn’t a direct enough connection, consider that Jonathan Mansoori’s campaign received a contribution of $ 950.00 directly from Arthur Rock.
Also funding LEEC-PAC is former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg ($ 180.000.00), and Wal-Mart Board/family members Steuart Walton, and Carrie Penner. Big names, and scary ones for anyone who values public education, for a previously unknown candidate’s city council campaign.
Leadership for Educational Equity itself, according to its website “is a nonpartisan, nonprofit leadership development organization working to end the injustice of educational inequity by inspiring and supporting a diverse set of leaders with classroom experience to engage civically and politically” with a mission “To inspire a diverse, enduring movement of leaders to engage civically within their communities to end the injustice of educational inequity,” and “…That’s why we have made it our mission to empower Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE) members – who are Teach For America corps members and alumni – to grow as leaders in their communities and help build the broader movement for educational equity.”
Jonathan Mansoori is both a Teach for America (TFA) alum and a current employee of Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE), where he has served as a “Regional Manager” since September, 2015. It may not be unusual for a candidate’s employer to kick a little money to a political campaign (I guess?), but over $ 25,000.00 from an employer’s PAC? That’s unusual. Even Jennifer Fitzgerald’s employer Curt Pringle makes sure to get his clients to foot the bill for her campaign.
Founded in 1989, Teach for America, according to Wikipedia, recruits “recent college graduates and professionals to teach for two years in urban and rural communities throughout the United States…Corps members do not have to be certified teachers, although certified teachers may apply…All corps members are required to attend an intensive summer training program to prepare for their commitment. Details vary by region, but typically include a five-day regional introduction, a five to seven week residential institute, including teaching summer school, and one to two weeks of regional orientation.”
You read that right, TFA sends recent college graduates without teaching credentials into difficult teaching environments after a seven week summer course. Charter schools reportedly like TFA teachers because they work more cheaply, sometimes making as much $ 15,000.00 less than their credentialed counterparts.
“Teach For America teachers are placed in public schools in urban areas such as New York City and Houston, as well as in rural places such as eastern North Carolina and the Mississippi Delta. They then serve for two years and are usually placed in schools with other Teach For America corps members.”
Jonathan Mansoori introduces himself as a former middle school teacher, but his whole teaching career seems to have been just the obligatory two year stint required by TFA before he went about “finding his identity as a community organizer.” According to his Linkedin profile, he spent a summer as a TFA Fellow before working for Green Dot Public Schools for eleven months. Green Dot describes themselves as “the leading charter school operator in Los Angeles and one of the top three largest in the nation. (Strangely, his profile contains specific activities for each of his previous jobs, but virtually nothing about his current position as “Regional Manager” for LEE.)
TFA alumni work as community organizers for LEE, whose PAC LEEC then supports those same TFA alumni when they run for office, equally fresh-faced and apparently equally inexperienced, with huge donations from charter school supporters. A four year old article form The American Prospect speculates that LEE/TFA could represent “the Trojan horse of the privatization of public education,” by electing TFA alumni to office. Is the what we want on the Fullerton City Council?