A well-heeled political action committee is celebrating some big wins in the election this week.
The education reform group Stand for Children, credited with helping to win major education reform legislation in Springfield last year, endorsed 14 “education champions”—six Democrats and eight Republicans— in legislative races across Illinois. All of them won Tuesday.
Stand for Children put more than $420,000 into the election, including $150,000 in contributions to the leadership of both major political parties.
“We were very excited about the results,” said Mary Anderson, Stand for Children’s Illinois director. She said the group chose to get involved in contested races where there was a clear difference between candidates’ views on education.
“There were some definitely significantly competitive races, and we were not afraid to go in there. Once we got in a race we wanted to win it, and we made sure that our candidates made it over the finish line,” said Anderson.
Stand for Children was the largest single donor to a number of the candidates it endorsed. In the north suburban 31st Senate District, a $30,000 donation from Stand for Children accounted for around 38 percent of Republican Joe Neal’s war chest. Neal won handily in a four-way race.
“I was extremely pleased with all their support,” Neal said. “My views on education were views they had the same views on. They knew I’d be a good legislator to help the education system and to help focus on the kids in the school system.”
Stand for Children was a big donor in the 2010 elections, too, despite not having an office in the state at the time. After dropping more than $600,000 in General Assembly races then, the group pushed for and won landmark legislation that overhauled teacher tenure in the state, allowed Chicago’s school day to be lengthened and made it more difficult for teachers to strike.
They’ve since set up an office in Chicago and have focused on organizing parents. The group has been supported by the city’s elite, including the Pritzker and Crown families.
Going into this election cycle, Stand for Children’s political action committee had nearly $3 million in the bank. Rudy Lozano’s opponent for state representative, Silvana Tabares, got $50,000 of that. Lozano narrowly lost his bid to represent the 21st District in the Illinois House, though he blames that mostly on a newly drawn district and the Southwest Side regular Democrats, who supported Tabares.
Lozano received campaign contributions and endorsements from a bevy of unions, including the Chicago Teachers Union. He said he went in for an interview with Stand for Children during the group’s endorsement process. But he said he disagrees with Stand on how to get high-quality schools for poor children.
“I don’t agree we should be holding teachers accountable for how students perform in the classroom because there’s so many more factors involved in standardized tests,” said Lozano, who has worked as a teacher and counselor at three Chicago alternative schools. “There’s so many more factors that I think play into our educational system and performance, especially in low-income communities, Latino communities, immigrant communities. I don’t think it’s fair to hold teachers accountable to that, let alone take away their tenure after they’ve worked for so many years in their field," said Lozano.
Anderson says Stand for Children will create a “team” within the General Assembly to push its key reforms. Those include longer school days and school years, changes in how teachers are evaluated and paid, implementation of the Common Core standards, and more school choice in the suburbs, including charter schools and selective enrollment schools. Anderson says lawmakers will also make sure last year’s reform legislation is not weakened.
Stand for Children-endorsed candidates, with the amount the group contributed to the candidate's campaign:
Edward Acevedo (D – 2), $2,500
Adam Brown (R – 102), $12,000
Ken Dunkin (D – 5), $5,000
Jim Durkin (R – 82), $7,500
Stephanie Kifowit (D - 84), $7,500
Christian Mitchell (D - 26), $50,000
Ron Sandack (R - 81), $5,000
Silvana Tabares (D – 21) $49,470
Kirk Dillard (R - 24), $10,000
Sam McCann (R – 50), $10,000
Karen McConnaughay (R – 33), $20,000
Joe Neal (R – 31), $30,000
Michael Noland (D – 22), $7,500
Carole Pankau (R – 23), $50,000
Republican State Senate Campaign Committee, $25,000
Citizens to Elect Tom Cross (Republican House Leader) (R-84), $50,000
Democratic Party of Illinois, $50,000
Citizens for John Cullerton (Senate President) (D-6), $25,000
Source for campaign contributions: Illinois State Board of Elections