Jan 172013

A recent Washington Post article about Michelle Rhee makes the following claim:

Rhee, as the chief executive of StudentsFirst, which employs 124 and is based in Sacramento, earns an annual salary of $61,000, according to federal tax filings.

My best guess is that the reporter looked at the Form 990 for StudentsFirst Institute (a 501c3). That form covers October 12, 2010 through July 31, 2011 and lists Rhee’s salary as $61,250, plus an additional $1,250 from related organizations (StudentsFirst, a 501c4). However, it’s pretty likely that – at least for the years after 2011 – Rhee’s salary will be a good deal higher than that. The IRS applications for StudentsFirst and StudentsFirst Institute1, available through the NY Charities Bureau website, offers additional information.

From the StudentsFirst application:

StudentsFirst Institute

Note that it is actual or estimated compensation.

And the StudentsFirst Institute application:


There are (probably) two possibilities here: Rhee will be making about $200k in FY 2012, or she’ll be making about $125k. The former is simply adding the anticipated $75k from StudentsFirst in 2012 and $125k from StudentsFirst Institute (although no year is listed). The second possibility is that the $125k reported on the StudentsFirst Institute application includes any payment from StudentsFirst. Either way, the $61,000 “annual salary” is likely a good deal off.2

Secondly, a recent Nation article makes the following claim about Students for Education Reform (SFER):

SFER has received $1.6 million from Education Reform Now…

But that number isn’t quite accurate. Education Reform Now is the fiscal sponsor of SFER, a set-up that (I think) would allow SFER to receive funds before they had fully established a 501c3. From the ERN 2010 Form 990:

Screen Shot 2013-01-16 at 12.13.49 AM


Screen Shot 2013-01-16 at 12.13.30 AM

So that $1.6 million is for StudentsFirst and SFER. I’m not sure how much ERN received for SFER, but it almost certainly wasn’t a full $1.6 million.

For those with an interest in SFER’s funding, the only donation I’ve seen (on a Form 990) is $100k from Jonathan Sackler and Mary Corson’s Bouncer Foundation in 2011. That foundation’s Form 990 is available here. Sackler is also a SFER board member. The Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation also lists SFER as a funded organization, but the foundation’s Form 990 for 2011 isn’t available yet and the website doesn’t list a dollar amount.

I tend to not thing either one of these inaccuracies is that big of a deal, but it does indicate – at least to me – that some of the information about organizations in the non-profit sector is either not that accessible, or people don’t know where to look for some of this information. Heck, I’ve spent a reasonable amount of time reading through this kind of stuff and I still get tripped up at times.

  1. For some reason the IRS application lists the organization as “StudentsFirst Initiative” in a number of different places on the form.
  2. For what it’s worth, I don’t think Rhee is doing this for the money, and her salary – either $125k or $200k per year – isn’t out of line given the budgets of SF and SFI.
 January 17, 2013  Posted by on January 17, 2013 3 Responses »
Nov 122012

During the 2012 election cycle, Stand for Children spent about $750,000 on Washington state elections. The Washington Education Association (WEA) spent around $2 million. Most of Stand’s money came from in-state donors, although a few out of state donors also contributed: Reed Hastings ($50,000), Stacy Schusterman ($25,000), Katherine Bradley ($5,000) and Pamela Welch ($100).

Here is a rundown of the candidates Stand supported, the amount of financial resources dedicated to either supporting the candidate or attacking the opposing candidate, and the outcome of the race1:

WEA didn’t endorse or support Clibborn, King, or Wilcox – but all three ran unopposed. Eric Pettigrew ran against a candidate that WEA didn’t support or endorse, Tamra Smilanich. The Pettigrew-Smilanich race wasn’t even close: Pettigrew won 88% to 12%. Aside from those four candidates, WEA also supported and endorsed all of the winning candidates listed above.

More importantly, Stand spent a heck of a lot of money supporting two candidates: Republican Rob McKenna’s gubernatorial bid, and Republican Dawn McCravey’s bid for a State Senate seat.2 WEA supported the opposing candidates in each race: Democrat Jay Inslee and State Senator Rosemary McAuliffe, chair of the Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee. The WEA-supported candidates won both races.

Of the approximately $700k that went to supporting Stand’s candidates or attacking the opposing candidates, only $25,300 went to winning candidates. Only $16,900 went to candidates that didn’t have the support of WEA – and $10,100 of that money went to candidates who ran unopposed.

It wasn’t a total loss for Stand considering Initiative 1240, which would allow charter schools in the state and a clear favorite of Stand, appears to have passed by a slim margin.

Not to bring up a rather unfortunate episode in Stand’s history, but here is a comment from Jonah Edelman’s now infamous appearance at the 2011 Aspen Ideas Festival:

So in Washington state right now, we’ve got exactly the same goal [raising money to support candidates], and it’s another state that doesn’t lack for financial resources, it’s about achieving the same kind of reallocation. We could readily outspend the Washington Education Association.

Stand didn’t outspend WEA. Edelman was either bluffing, miscalculated, or the damage the Aspen video did to his (and Stand’s) reputation scared off potential (promised?) donors.

One of Jonah’s other remarks at the Aspen Ideas Festival was that you have to play win-lose politics with the unions in some states. He specifically mentioned Washington, Oregon and California. There’s a reasonable amount of overlap between the candidates Stand supported (albeit with far fewer resources) and the candidates favored by WEA. However, in terms of the two high-power candidates Stand clearly preferred in Washington state, WEA came out the clear victor.

  1. At the time of posting, the Benton race was too close to call. Stand also contributed $5,000 to another PAC, Revising the Status Quo, which supported Cann with $4,000 in direct mailers. I did not include that $4,000 in the totals below. I also excluded about $50,000 in contributions to other PACs or independent expenditures that did not list a specific candidate.
  2. Most of the money Stand spent in this race went to attacking State Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, including mailers and this video.
 November 12, 2012  Posted by on November 12, 2012 Comments Off